January 11, 1902 The first issue of Popular Mechanics hit the stands. This magazine brought science and technology into the world of ordinary readers, who eagerly absorbed the latest new developments. In September, 1903, the magazine went monthly, and today it is still popular, both on paper and in digital form.
January 11, 1935 Amelia Earhart flew her plane solo from Honolulu to Oakland, California, becoming the first person to do so. Three years before, she had been the first person to cross the Atlantic as a solo flier. Throughout her life, she set and exceeded many speed, altitude, and distance records.
January 12, 1926 Two comedians named Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll began a new radio series called "Sam 'n' Henry" about a couple of indigent characters looking for money. The wildly popular show soon changed its name to "Amos 'n' Andy." When the show moved to TV in 1951, black actors Spencer Williams and Alvin Childress replaced the white Gosden and Correll, who had been using black dialect for their characters.
January 12, 1971 The first episode of Norman Lear's "All In The Family" was broadcast, starring Carol O'Connor as Archie Bunker and Jean Stapleton as Edith. The show was based on a British sitcom, "Till Death Do Us Part", created by Johnny Speight. The show's use of provocative language and ethnic insults immediately made it the cause of much controversy.
January 13, 1920 An article in the New York Times ridiculed Clark University Professor Robert H. Goddard for claiming that rockets would work in space, where there is no air to push against. Almost fifty years later, after Apollo XI landed on the moon in 1969, the newspaper retracted the criticism and apologized.
January 13, 1957 The Wham-O company produced its first toy flying discs, called Pluto Platters. The discs were not a great success, and the company decided to focus on the new Hoola-Hoops instead. It was not until 1959, when the toy was renamed Frisbee (after a pie company) that the spinning, plastic flyers caught on.
January 14, 1952 At 7 AM, The Today Show premiered on NBC, hosted by Ed Garroway, who anchored until 1961. Garroway called it "a new kind of television." The live, two-hour morning news and interview program has been airing nonstop since then.
January 14, 1990 Matt Groening's irreverent cartoon parody, The Simpsons, began its life as a regular TV series on Fox, after appearing in 1987 as an occasional feature on The Tracey Ullman Show. The series broke new ground as a prime-time animated show, and went on to become a super-hot licensing property.
January 15, 1870 A cartoon by Thomas Nast, representing the Democratic Party of the United States as a donkey, appeared in Harper's Weekly. Although the donkey symbol dated back to the campaign of Andrew Jackson in 1828, Nast's cartoon triggered universal acceptance of the beast, which is still the party's mascot today.
January 15, 1943 The world's largest office building received the final touches as the air conditioning system was completed. Today, the 6.5-million-square foot Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, is still the headquarters of the United States military.
January 16, 1939 The never-ending struggle for "truth, justice and the American way" began with the first edition of the comic book "Superman", the first comic book devoted to a single super-hero. The "Man of Steel", a strange visitor from another planet with super powers and a tragic vulnerability to kryptonite, was invented by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who struggled for years to make their dream real.
January 16, 1964 A true Broadway legend began, with the opening of "Hello, Dolly!" starring Carol Channing as a brazen widow / matchmaker looking for a wealthy husband. The show ran for 2,844 performances, then returned in the 1990s, again starring Carol Channing.
January 17, 1893 A small group of armed men, mostly Americans, seized control of the Hawaiian Islands from Queen Lili`uokalani, who yielded in order to avoid violence. The bloodless revolution was motivated by economic concerns, and sponsored by American businessmen who wanted to control the sugar market.
January 17, 1929 E. C. Segar's Thimble Theater comic strip introduced a guest character, Popeye the Sailor Man. Thimble Theater's not around any more, but Popeye, Olive Oyl, Bluto, Wimpy, and the rest of the gang still live on. Popeye has even appeared on a postage stamp!
January 18, 1788 The first European settlers landed at Botany Bay, Australia. These were not voluntary emigrants; they were prisoners, and the settlement was a penal colony. Over the next 90 years, a staggering 162,000 convicts were shipped from England to Australia and Tasmania!
January 18, 1911 In a Curtiss pusher-prop aircraft, Navy Lt. Eugene Ely landed on a 119-foot wooden platform attached to a ship floating in the San Francisco Bay, the first such landing ever. The previous November he had succeeded in taking off from a ship.
January 19, 1840 An expedition of six ships, headed by explorer Charles Wilkes, sailed within sight of Antarctica, and proceeded to chart some of the coastline of the great southern continent. The expedition was the first maritime exploration funded by the US government.
January 19, 1937 Eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes set an aviation record by flying from Los Angeles to New York in seven hours, 28 minutes, and 25 seconds. Hughes was a passionate pioneer of aviation, who also designed the HK-1 "Spruce Goose", the largest aircraft ever built.
January 20, 1885 A patent is issued to LaMarcus Thompson for his "Switchback Railway," the first modern, gravity-driven roller coaster. The Coney Island, New York ride was a great success, carrying 12,000 passengers a day, and recovering construction costs in 20 days.
January 20, 1964 A new musical group from England made their debut with an album called "Meet The Beatles." Their first album, with 12 songs and only 27 minutes of music, sent the Beatles straight to stardom, reaching number one on the charts by February 15.
January 21, 1954 The USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-propelled submarine, was launched at Groton, Connecticut. Because of the nuclear power plant, the Nautilus could stay submerged for months at a time, unlike diesel- fueled subs, whose engines required vast amounts of oxygen.
January 21, 1976 Regular commercial service began on the supersonic Concorde SST aircraft. The flights carry up to 100 passengers between New York and Europe, on Air France and British Airways. The Concorde is still the only commercial faster-than-sound aircraft, although there are several new projects in development.
January 22, 1968 "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" debuted as a regular series on NBC, broadcasting from "beautiful downtown Burbank." The wildly popular show, which aired as a pilot special in 1967, became the highest rated comedy series ever, showcasing a regular cast of characters and well-known cameo guests.
January 22, 1973 In a vastly controversial ruling, the US Supreme Court ruled that abortion during the first six months of pregnancy is a matter of choice, and cannot be made illegal by states. The issue continues to be hotly debated today.
January 23, 1849 A Doctor Of Medicine degree was awarded to Elizabeth Blackwell at the Hobart College Medical Institution of Geneva, New York. She graduated at the top of her class, and she was the first woman doctor in the Western Hemisphere. Today, the Elizabeth Blackwell Award honors her achievement.
January 23, 1975 A police comedy called "Barney Miller" made its debut on ABC, beginning a successful eight-season, 170-episode run. The popular show starred Hal Linden as Barney and Abe Vigoda as Fish, plus a half dozen other strange characters. Nick Yemana's coffee was BAD!
January 24, 1848 Gold fever began in earnest with the discovery by James Wilson Marshall of a gold nugget at the sawmill of his partner, Johann August Sutter. Previous finds had not resulted in much gold, but this one did. The rush was on, and by 1849 gold miners (forty-niners) were arriving en masse in California.
January 24, 1908 The first troop of Boy Scouts was organized by Robert Baden-Powell, a British army general. He wrote a book for scouts called "Aids To Scouting," which included instructions for survival in the wild. In 1910, he founded the Girl Scouts as well. Today there are more than 25 million Scouts.
January 25, 1915 The first transcontinental telephone service was brought online, with Alexander Graham Bell himself speaking from New York to his assistant, Thomas Watson in San Francisco. The connection inaugurated what was then the world's longest telephone line.
January 25, 1961 President John F. Kennedy held the first presidential news conference that was broadcast live over radio and television. Reporters at the scene said the president's charisma and wit made him "an immediate sensation."
January 26, 1962 A NASA spacecraft called Ranger III lifted off from
Cape Canaveral, on its way to a planned crash landing on the moon. Unfortunately,
like many of the Ranger missions, this one failed, as the space probe missed
the moon by 36,800 kilometers
(about 22,870 miles).
January 26, 1959 A new series called "Alcoa Presents" premiered on ABC-TV. The show, which was later renamed "One Step Beyond," claimed to be based on "true events that are strange, frightening and unexplainable in terms of normal human experience."
January 27, 1888 After two weeks of discussions, 33 explorers, teachers, map-makers, financiers, and other well-traveled men officially incorporated the National Geographic Society in Washington, DC. The new organization would become the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institution in the world.
January 27, 1967 Three astronauts had just spent five hours conducting the first full electrical test of the new Apollo 1 spacecraft. At 6:31 PM, a fire broke out in the command module. All three astronauts were killed when the fire consumed the oxygen in the module.
January 28, 1908 Julia Ward Howe, who composed the famous "Battle Hymn of the Republic," was the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Howe had been the editor of the abolitionist newspaper, the Commonwealth, and was President of the New England Women's Suffrage Association.
January 28, 1986 The space shuttle Challenger was launched from Cape Canaveral, carrying seven crew members, including the first citizen astronaut, school teacher Christa McAuliffe. 73 seconds into the flight, at an altitude of ten miles, the main fuel tank exploded, killing all seven astronauts.
January 29, 1845 A poem under the pen-name of Quarles was published in the New York Evening Mirror. The work was a dark comic masterpiece, "The Raven," by Edgar Allen Poe, in which the narrator receives a mysterious black- feathered visitor, who answers all his questions with the same word... "Nevermore."
January 29, 1940 At the New York City Flower Show, the W. Atlee Burpee Seed Company displayed the first tetraploid flowers (flowers with four sets of genes). One flower, a marigold, was one and a half times the normal size. Today, many strains of flowers and vegetables have multiple sets of genes.
January 30, 1835 President Andrew Jackson was the first US president to become the target of an assassination attempt. The would-be assassin, Richard Lawrence, pulled a gun which misfired, then President Jackson struck him with his cane, then Lawrence pulled a second gun, which also misfired.
January 30, 1948 Peace activist and spiritual leader Mohandas 'Mahatma' Gandhi was gunned down by a Hindu fanatic while on his way to prayer in New Delhi, India. Gandhi's nonviolent methods of "passive resistance" were instrumental in liberating India from British rule.
January 31, 1958 The United States entered the space age by launching the first successful orbiting satellite, Explorer I, four months after the Soviet launch of Sputnik. Explorer I measured cosmic radiation, and lead to the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belt.
January 31, 1961 The United States sent the first animal into space. The chimpanzee, named Ham, was launched in a test of the Mercury/Redstone space capsule. Ham was recovered in good condition after the 16-minute flight, which took him to an altitude of 157 miles.
February 1, 1960 After being refused service at a whites-only Woolworth's lunch counter, four black youths staged the first "sit-in" in Greensboro, North Carolina. These four college students became heroes of the civil rights movement, and theirs was the first of many sit-ins.
February 1, 1996 By an overwhelming majority, the US Congress voted to rewrite the 61- year-old Communications Act. The new Telecommunications Act freed companies in the television, telephone, and computer industries to enter each other's fields and compete.
February 2, 1870 The "Cardiff Giant," a huge humanoid figure that was supposedly a petrified human, was revealed by its maker to be a hoax. The figure, which was nothing more than carved gypsum, was uncovered by workers after having been buried a year before in Cardiff, New York.
February 2, 1982, 12:30 AM (Eastern Time) February 1, 1982, 11:30
PM (Central Time) NBC-TV aired the first "Late Night with David Letterman."
Late Night is the home of "Stupid Pet Tricks," Dave's "Top Ten" lists,
and a host of other fun features, plus celebrity guests and musicians.
Letterman is now broadcast on CBS.
February 3, 1865 In an attempt to bring an end to the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln met with Confederate vice president Alexander H. Stephens on a ship near Hampton Roads, Virginia. Because Lincoln was unyielding on the subjects of emancipation and reunion, the conference failed and the war continued for three more months.
February 3, 1966 The first spacecraft to soft-land on the surface of another planet was the Soviet Luna 9, which touched down in the Ocean of Storms on the moon. Four petal-shaped panels opened out, stabilizing the craft and placing it in an upright position, and a rotating TV camera collected a panoramic view of the scene.
February 4, 1941 Representatives of six private social service organizations, including the Salvation Army, the YMCA, the YWCA, and the Traveler's Aid Association, met to form a new body, the United Service Organizations (USO). Its charter was to to handle the on-leave recreation needs for the members of the US Armed Forces.
February 4, 1945 The leaders of the US, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union met in Yalta to discuss the postwar arrangements for central Europe. The three leaders worked together to help the war-torn countries "solve by democratic means their pressing political and economic problems."
February 5, 1885 Belgian King Leopold II claimed the Belgian Congo of central Africa as his personal possession. His rule over this vast rain forest basin, more than three times the size of Texas, was brutal and oppressive.
February 5, 1953 Walt Disney's 14th animated feature, "Peter Pan," premiered at New York's Roxy Theater. The film was not universally applauded by critics, some of whom disliked Disney's stylization of the original play by J. M. Barrie.
February 6, 1868 A cartoon by Thomas Nast depicted a character with whiskers and a top hat and tails. This was the first printed illustration of Uncle Sam, one of America's most well-known mythical figures, who later appeared in government posters urging young men to join the military.
February 6, 1971 At the end of a four-hour walk across the dusty surface of Fra Mauro on the moon, astronaut Alan Shepherd produced a golf ball and a club. The third swing was a success, and the ball flew "miles and miles" through the near-vacuum.
February 7, 1964, 1:35 PM A British rock group called The Beatles were welcomed to the US by thousands of screaming fans who mobbed them at New York's Kennedy airport. The police were overwhelmed for hours. The Plaza Hotel, where they were staying, was also surrounded by fans.
February 7, 1984 Astronaut Bruce McCandless took the first ever untethered "space walk." During this first free-flight space activity he ventured 320 feet away from the space shuttle using the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU).
February 8, 1887 The US Congress passed the Dawes Act, an attempt to bring a sensible end to the system of land reservations and tribal government for native Americans, and to assimilate them into full citizenship. Though it was greeted with optimism, the Dawes Act led to unexpected difficulties later on.
February 8, 1915 D. W. Griffith's monumental silent film epic, originally titled "The Clansman," was released, then quickly retitled "The Birth of a Nation." The movie had a mixed reception. Some called it "the single most important film of all time," while others denounced it for its overt racism.
February 9, 1964 The Ed Sullivan Show gathered an unprecedented 73.7 million viewers for the first live American television appearance of the Beatles. During their five-song performance the crime rate in New York City plummeted.
February 9, 1986 Comet Halley (rhymes with "Sally") made its closest approach to the sun and began its return to deep space. During this pass, the comet's nucleus was photographed in stunning detail by the Giotto spacecraft, showing jets of dust and gas.
February 10, 1863 The great showman P. T. Barnum staged an extravagant wedding for two of his human exhibits, the very small people "Tom Thumb" (Charles Sherwood Stratton) and Lavinia Warren. The newlyweds received their 2,000 guests while standing on a grand piano.
February 10, 1962 The Soviet Union released captured US pilot Francis Gary Powers in exchange for Soviet spy Rudolph Abel, who had been held in the US. Powers, whose super-secret U-2 spy plane had been shot down by the Soviets, spent two years in a Soviet prison.
February 11, 1990 After 27 years in a South African prison, 71-year-old Nelson Mandela was finally released. Mandela was the leader of the outlawed African National Congress, which advocated an end to race discrimination. Now he is the elected president of South Africa.
February 11, 1997 The space shuttle Discovery was launched on mission STS-82, during which astronauts performed a record five extravehicular activities (EVAs) to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. 150 tools and crew aids were used during the EVAs.
February 12, 1909 The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded in New York City by a group of black and white people. 60 people signed the document that issued the "Call" for an organization to safeguard the rights of blacks. Today there are more than 2,200 branches of the NAACP: http://www.naacp.org/
February 12, 1924 George Gershwin's monumental Rhapsody in Blue premiered
at the Aeolian Hall in New York City. The performance, led by Paul Whiteman,
had to include improvised sections because the score was not yet finished.
The rhythms in the music were inspired by railroad sounds:
February 13, 1914 A group of songwriters led by Victor Herbert met in New York to establish the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP). The society protects the copyrighted musical compositions of its members. Today, ASCAP has over 80,000 members: http://www.ascap.com/
February 13, 1946 The world's first electronic digital computer,
the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator (ENIAC) was turned on
for the first time. This thirty-ton monster was about as powerful as the
tiny computers inside today's "singing" greeting cards. The story of ENIAC,
as seen by one of its creators:
February 14, 1876 At noon inventor Alexander Graham Bell applied for a patent for his new invention: the telephone. Two hours later his rival, Elisha Gray, applied for a similar patent. Bell's patent was granted. The Alexander Graham Bell Institute honors the great inventor: http://bell.uccb.ns.ca/
February 14, 1990 The far-flung space probe Voyager 1 was instructed to record a series of overlapping image frames, scanning outward from the sun. Together these frames formed the first image of the solar system as seen from the outside. The image included all the planets except Mercury, Mars, and Pluto: http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/photo_gallery/photogallery-solarsystem.html
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