February 21st in history:
Richard Nixon became the first U.S. president to visit China on February 21st, 1972. Nixon’s historic week-long visit included a stop at the Great Wall of China.
A different kind of structure was discovered on this date in 1953. February 21st was the date James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the structure of a DNA molecule.
The Washington Monument was the world’s tallest structure when it was dedicated on February 21st, 1885, one day before George Washington’s birthday. The monument is about 40 feet taller than the previous record-holder, the Cologne Cathedral in Germany.
George Washington was once played by Kelsey Grammer in a TV movie about Benedict Arnold. Grammer is best known as Frasier Crane on “Frasier” and “Cheers,” and Sideshow Bob on “The Simpsons.” He was born February 21st, 1955.
February 17th in history:
Thomas Jefferson was elected president by the U.S. House on this date in 1801. The House had to break an electoral tie between Jefferson and Aaron Burr. As a result, Burr became vice president.
A helicopter buzzed the White House on February 17th, 1974, during the final months of Richard Nixon’s presidency. The chopper was stolen and flown by a disgruntled Army private named Robert Preston.
Actor Robert Preston was starring in the original Broadway production of “The Music Man” in February of 1958. For those who couldn’t go to Broadway, television was growing in popularity as an entertainment medium. On February 17th, 1958, Pope Pius XII declared St. Clare of Assisi the patron saint of television.
If there were no such thing as TV, there would be no “Larry the Cable Guy.” Larry, known in real life as Dan Whitney, celebrates his birthday on this day (1963).
February 14th in history:
James K. Polk posed for photographer Mathew Brady on February 14th, 1849, less than a month before leaving the White House. It appears to be the first time that an incumbent U.S. president posed for a solo photograph. President Polk had been photographed earlier in his term, in a group shot with members of his cabinet.
Television cameras came to the White House on Valentine’s Day, 1962, for a prime-time tour of the mansion, hosted by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. The tour was shown on all three major networks.
George Washington never slept in the White House, but George Washington Slept Here was the name of a popular movie starring comedian Jack Benny, born February 14th, 1894. Benny had a weekly show on radio, and then TV, for over 30 years, built around his character of a cheapskate who played the violin badly and always claimed to be 39 years old. Benny’s hometown of Waukegan, Illinois, named a school after him in the 1960s. The sports teams at Benny Middle School are nicknamed the 39ers.
Jack Benny was born in Chicago, not Waukegan. On his 35th birthday in 1929, seven men were shot to death in a Chicago garage, in what became known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the most famous gangster-related murders of the 1920s. The victims were associated with the “Bugs” Moran gang in Chicago. Rival gang leader Al Capone was blamed for the killings. In the 1959 comedy Some Like It Hot, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon escape Chicago by posing as women after witnessing the Massacre.
February 6th in history:
Ronald Reagan served two terms in the Oval Office after successful careers as a radio announcer, an actor, and Governor of California. The 40th president was born in Tampico, Illinois, on this date in 1911.
The 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution took effect on February 6th, 1933. The amendment clarified the order of succession to the presidency, and moved the start of a presidential term from March 4th to January 20th.
Cardinal Achille Ratti succeeded to the position of pope on February 6th, 1922, taking the name Pius XI. It took 14 ballots for the College of Cardinals to elect Ratti.
James II succeeded his brother, Charles II, as king of England on this date in 1685.
And Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of King George VI, became Queen Elizabeth II of England on February 6th, 1952. That was the second birthday of the daughter of another “King”: singer Natalie Cole, whose father was Nat “King” Cole.
February 1st in history:
President Abraham Lincoln signed the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, on this date in 1865. The 2012 Steven Spielberg movie “Lincoln” mostly deals with President Lincoln’s fight to pass the amendment.
The 1939 film “Young Mr. Lincoln” was directed by John Ford, born February 1st, 1894. Ford is best known for his Westerns, and won four Oscars for directing in his career. He won his last directing Oscar, for “The Quiet Man,” in March of 1953…the same year he made “Mogambo,” starring Clark Gable, born on this day in 1901. Gable won an Oscar for the comedy “It Happened One Night,” but his most famous role in a 30-year movie career was as Rhett Butler in the Civil War romance “Gone With the Wind.”
Ford also won an Oscar for the Dust Bowl drama “The Grapes of Wrath,” based on a John Steinbeck novel. The title comes from the first verse of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which put new words to the tune “John Brown’s Body.” Julia Ward Howe’s lyrics for “Battle Hymn” first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly magazine on February 1st, 1862.
The University of Minnesota Marching Band routinely performs “Battle Hymn of the Republic” at Minnesota Gopher football games in Minneapolis. For the 2018 Super Bowl in Minneapolis, singer Justin Timberlake was chosen to star in the halftime show, 14 years after his controversial February 1st, 2004 appearance with Janet Jackson at Super Bowl XXXVIII. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fined CBS for broadcasting the brief moment where Timberlake tore part of Jackson’s costume, exposing her breast, in what became known as a “wardrobe malfunction.”
January 29th in history:
In 1845, readers of the New York Evening Mirror got their first look at a new poem by Edgar Allan Poe, called “The Raven” — published in the January 29th edition. Because Poe lived for many years in Baltimore and is buried there, the Baltimore Ravens football team was named in honor of the poem.
Baltimore-born Babe Ruth became one of the first five inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame on January 29th, 1936. The Babe and Honus Wagner tied for second place in that first hall of fame election behind long-time Detroit Tigers star Ty Cobb.
And January 29th is the birthday of the actor who often wore a Tigers baseball cap in his TV role as “Magnum, P.I.,” Detroit native Tom Selleck (1945).
January 27th in history:
The three astronauts who were scheduled to fly on the first Apollo mission died in a launchpad fire on January 27th, 1967, less than a month before the planned mission. Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee were unable to escape from the Apollo capsule after a flash fire broke out during an equipment test. A pure oxygen atmosphere inside the capsule was blamed for helping the fire spread quickly.
The fire happened the same day in 1967 that an Outer Space Treaty was signed by the U.S., the Soviet Union, and Great Britain. Dozens of other countries have signed it since then. The treaty bans countries from putting weapons of mass destruction into Earth orbit, and from using the moon for military purposes.
The Vietnam War officially ended on January 27th, 1973, when Vietnam and the U.S. signed the Paris Peace Accords. The treaties were signed one week into President Nixon’s second term, and five years after the Paris peace talks began.
The grave of Doors lead singer Jim Morrison has become a popular tourist attraction in Paris. Morrison’s career only lasted four years after the release of the first album by the Doors on January 27th, 1967.
The first Doors album featured the hit “Light My Fire.” On this date in 1984, singer Michael Jackson’s hair caught on fire as a result of pyrotechnics used while he was filming a TV commercial for Pepsi.