March 6th 1981: Cronkite signs off
On this day in 1981 the legendary anchor of CBS Evening News, Walter Cronkite, signed off for the last time. Cronkite had been presenting the news for nineteen years and became known as ‘the most trusted man in America’. He is known for his departing catchphrase “And that’s the way it is”, followed by that day’s date. Cronkite reported on some pivotal moments in history including the Nuremberg trials, the moon landing and the Watergate scandal. He also got involved in the politics of the day, and is known for his denunciation of the Vietnam War which led President Johnson to bitterly remark “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America”. Cronkite is also remembered as the anchor who broke the story of the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22nd 1963. After his retirement, Cronkite continued to be an active figure in the American media and as a political activist. He died in 2009 in New York City, aged 92.
"This is my last broadcast as the anchorman of The CBS Evening News; for me, it’s a moment for which I long have planned, but which, nevertheless, comes with some sadness. For almost two decades, after all, we’ve been meeting like this in the evenings, and I’ll miss that…And that’s the way it is: Friday, March 6, 1981. I’ll be away on assignment, and Dan Rather will be sitting in here for the next few years. Good night”
March 3rd 1931: ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ adopted
On this day in 1931, the United States formally adopted 'The Star-Spangled Banner' as its national anthem. The song was written by Francis Scott Key, who was inspired after witnessing the defence of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. He was particularly moved by the sight of an American flag being raised over the fort in defiance of the British; this image inspired the poem which provides the lyrics to ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’. The tune came from a well-known 18th century British song. The anthem was a popular patriotic American song for many years, and was commonly used by the armed forces prior to its official adoption. In 1931, at the urging of many patriotic organisations, a congressional resolution was signed by President Hoover which affirmed Key’s song as America’s national anthem.
February 26th 1993: World Trade Center bombing
On this day in 1993 a truck bomb was detonated below the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. The bomb was intended to knock the North Tower into the South Tower to destroy them both but failed. The attack still killed six (including a pregnant woman) and injured over one thousand. The terrorist attack was planned by a group of conspirators and masterminded by Ramzi Yousef. In 1994, four men were convicted of carrying out the bombing and two more in 1997. The group were funded by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who would go on to be the principal architect behind the destruction of the Twin Towers on September 11th 2001. The memorial to the victims of the 1993 attack was destroyed on 9/11 but they are currently memorialised at the North Pool of the National 9/11 Memorial, opened in 2011.
"It felt like an airplane hit the building"
- eye-witness Bruce Pomper on the 1993 attack
February 24th 1803: Marbury v. Madison
On this day in 1803 in the case Marbury v. Madison the US Supreme Court established the principle of judicial review. The case arose when Secretary of State James Madison failed to deliver documents to Justice of the Peace for DC William Marbury which officially granted his title. The Court decided that the section of the 1789 Judiciary Act allowing Marbury to bring his claim to the Court was itself unconstitutional. On February 24th the Court ruled unanimously to this effect. The decision gave the Supreme Court the power to interpret the constitution and strike down laws as ‘unconstitutional’. Since then, the Court have made many high-profile rulings branding things unconstitutional. For example: school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954); school prayer in Engel v. Vitale (1962); teaching creationism in science lessons in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) and the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor (2013).
February 19th 1942: Japanese internment
On this day in 1942 US President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order 9066 which allowed the military to relocate Japanese-Americans to internment camps. Japanese-Americans were considered a national threat due the attack on Pearl Harbour which prompted the US to join World War Two. Other groups were also detained, but it was Japanese-Americans who were mostly targeted, with 120,000 being held in camps. In Korematsu v. United States (1944), the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the executive order. Those interned suffered great material and personal losses, with most losing a lot of property and some losing their lives to illness or the violence of sentries. The victims and their families eventually received an official government apology in 1988 and reparations began in the 1990s.
February 16th 1909: Richard McDonald born
On this day in 1909, the co-founder of the McDonald’s fast food chain was born in Manchester, New Hampshire. Richard and his brother Maurice established the first McDonald’s in 1948 in California. The restaurant became a franchise in 1953. The iconic Golden Arches were included in the restaurant designs at the suggestion of Richard McDonald. The brothers did not want to expand the chain too much, and only desired a small number of restaurants. Others, however, had bigger dreams for McDonald’s. In 1961, Ray Kroc bought the company from the brothers for $2.7 million and transformed the restaurant chain into a corporation. The business expanded from there, and in 1984 Richard was served the ceremonial 50 billionth McDonald’s hamburger. What began as a humble burger joint in the 1940s is now a corporate behemoth with a presence in 119 countries around the world. With around 68 million customers per day, McDonald’s draws huge profits - in 2012 its annual revenues were $27.5 billion. Maurice McDonald died in 1971 aged 69, and his brother Richard died in 1998 aged 89. The brothers began with a dream of becoming millionaires; they most certainly achieved this.
February 11th 1916: Emma Goldman arrested
On this day in 1916 the anarchist Emma Goldman was arrested for lecturing about birth control. She had become well known for her powerful speeches on philosophy, labour relations, atheism, sexuality and feminism. She and her peers also engaged in militant anarchism. Goldman and her husband plotted to assassinate industrialist Henry Clay Frick, and President William McKinley’s assassin Leon Czolgosz claimed to have been inspired by her. Goldman was an early advocate of free love and supporter of homosexual rights. She was arrested in 1916 for her lectures on birth control, under the pretense that she had been disseminating lewd and obscene literature. Emma Goldman spent her life in and out of prison, including some time for lecturing on contraception and opposing conscription during World War One. She was deported in 1919 and spent some time in Europe, including in Bolshevik Russia and Civil War Spain. In 1940, Goldman died in Canada aged 70.
"I could never in my life work within the confines of the State"
February 4th 2004: Facebook founded
On this day in 2004 the social networking site Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg. It was founded by Zuckerberg with his Harvard roommates Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz, Andrew McCollum and Chris Hughes. The site was initially just for Harvard students to communicate, but it soon spread throughout American universities and eventually worldwide. It quickly became one of the most used social networking sites and one of the most influential websites in history, contributing to the rise of social media. Facebook is a cultural staple which is now a useful social tool for many teenagers and adults. Far from its humble beginnings in Harvard, Facebook now boasts 1.23 billion active users worldwide.
10 years ago today
March 5th 1946: ‘Iron Curtain’ speech
On this day in 1946, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made his famous ‘Iron Curtain’ speech at Westminster College, Missouri. The term had been used prior to 1946, but this was the most public use of it. In the ‘Sinews of Peace’ address, Churchill used the term ‘iron curtain’ to reference a Soviet dominated Eastern Europe. At the time, the West still saw the Soviet Union as an ally after the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War Two, but Churchill’s speech heralded the onset of the Cold War tensions between the capitalist West and communist Russia. As the Cold War took hold, the phrase became popular as a reference to repressive Communist domination of Europe which hid Soviet actions and set a clear divide in Europe.
"From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the continent”
March 1st 1692: The Salem Witch Trials begin
On this day in 1692, three women were brought before local magistrates in Salem Village, Massachusetts, thus beginning the infamous Salem Witch Trials. The women were Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne and Tituba and all three had been accused of witchcraft after local girls began experiencing strange fits. Given the lack of medical knowledge at the time and the preponderance of beliefs in the supernatural, witchcraft was the only logical explanation for their condition. The accused women matched the description of the stereotypical witch: Good was a beggar, Osborne rarely went to church and Tituba was a slave of different ethnicity. The women were interrogated by magistrates John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin and Tituba eventually confessed to witchcraft, claiming Good and Osborne were her co-conspirators. The three were then sent to jail; Osborne died in jail, Good was hanged and Tituba (as a useful confessor) was kept alive and eventually released after the trials ended. This initial interrogation was followed by many more accusations of witchcraft throughout the village and the surrounding area, fueled perhaps by local rivalries, poisoned grain or just mass fear. The manhunt resulted in 19 ‘witches’ being hanged, one pressed to death and hundreds more imprisoned in horrendous conditions. The event is a famous example of mass hysteria and has become a cautionary tale for religious extremism and false accusations.
February 25th 1870: Hiram Rhodes Revels inaugurated
On this day in 1870 Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first African-American to sit in Congress, was inaugurated into the Senate. Before he was elected to the Senate, Revels was a Methodist minister and led black Union regiments during the Civil War. Revels gained his post after the Mississippi state legislature voted for Revels to fill one of the state’s Senate seats which had been vacant since Mississippi seceded. His appointment was initially resisted by the United States Senate, and his legitimacy was debated for several days. On February 25th, the Senate voted to allow Revels to take up his seat, with only Republicans voting for him and Democrats against. His inauguration that day received a standing ovation as the Senate witnessed the first African-American member of Congress joining their ranks. Revels served one term in the Senate, consistently pushing for racial equality, until he resigned in 1871 to become a college president.
February 20th 1872: Met opens
On this day in 1872, the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened in New York City. The museum was founded in 1870 by a group of American businessmen and artists who wanted to bring art to the American people, and was originally located in a building at 681 Fifth Avenue. The museum initially held a Roman stone sarcophagus and 174 paintings. As the museum expanded it had to move locations, finally settling on the eastern edge of Central Park. It now stands as one of the most renowned art museums in the world, housing over 2 million works.
"We have something to point to as the Museum, something tangible and something good."
- The Museum’s first President John Taylor Johnston describing his happiness on opening day
February 18th 1954: Church of Scientology established
On this day in 1954, the first Church of Scientology was established in Los Angeles. Scientology is a religion (though some have labelled it a cult) which was founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. Its main teachings are that humans are in fact immortal beings who have lost their true nature and need help to recover it through counselling. Members have to pay for these sessions during which they recount painful memories, which is intended to be therapeutic. The higher up in the levels a member gets, the more teachings they are told. One of the most famous of these is the belief that millions of years ago the intergalactic tyrant Xenu dropped people into volcanoes on Earth. The thetans (souls) then stuck to the bodies of the living, and continue to do so today. The organisation has a considerable celebrity following, with actors such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta as famous advocates of the Church. Scientology is very controversial; those who claim it is a cult maintain it exploits its members for financial gain, whereas its defenders insist it is a valid religion.
February 12th 1914: Lincoln Memorial groundbreaking
On this day in 1914 in Washington DC work officially began on the Lincoln Memorial. There had been many attempts by Congress to build a monument to the 16th President, and in 1910 a bill passed the Senate. On February 12th 1914, the 105th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, the groundbreaking ceremony took place. The next year on the same day the cornerstone was laid. The memorial was completed in 1922, featuring a statue of Lincoln and inscriptions of his famous Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural Address. The Memorial is now an iconic tribute to one of America’s greatest Presidents, and has been the site of numerous speeches, such as Martin Luther King’s famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech.
"IN THIS TEMPLE
AS IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE
FOR WHOM HE SAVED THE UNION
THE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
IS ENSHRINED FOREVER”
100 years ago today
February 9th 1964: Beatles on Ed Sullivan
On this day in 1964, the British band the Beatles made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in the USA. This performance, watched by a record 73 million (around 40% of the American population), began the so-called ‘British Invasion’. On February 7th the Beatles had arrived at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport to a crowd of over 4,000. They were beginning to take off in America, with their hit ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ having risen to number 1 in the charts. At the Ed Sullivan Show, the band performed hits such as ‘All My Loving’ and ‘She Loves You’. The Beatles were already popular in their native Britain, but their success in America forever established them as an internationally famous band. Thus the performance on the Ed Sullivan Show prompted the spread of ‘Beatlemania’ worldwide.
50 years ago today