Day By Day

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On This Day In History

Today is a day without any official [or unofficial] designation, so feel free to make up your own pseudo-holiday and celebrate it in any way you want [remembering always to practice appropriate behavior, of course].

On this day in 1859, after dithering for several years, Charles Darwin finally published The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle For Life. The first printing sold out in a single day. The debate sparked by Darwin's theory of natural selection reverberates down to the present day and gives terminally silly people on all sides something about which to fulminate. For the life of me I cannot see why people think it matters whether or not a public figure fully accepts the Darwinian explanation of life's variety or not.

And on this day in 1871 the National Rifle Association was organized in New York City

And on this day in 1874 Joseph Glidden, an Illinois farmer, received a patent for barbed wire. His invention had an enormous impact on the settlement of the West and made him one of the richest men in the country.

And on this day in 1938 the Mexican government, taking advantage of the Roosevelt administration's preoccupation with domestic and European turmoil, nationalized oil fields along the U.S. border, negating leases previously obtained by several oil companies. In retaliation the U.S.A, the U.K., and the Dutch Republic imposed an international boycott on Mexican products. Eleven years later on the same day Britain nationalized its steel industry. Socialism was on the march.

And on this day in 1947 the "Hollywood Ten" [screenwriters and directors] were found in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify as to whether or not they were communists. Most of them were blacklisted and unable to work under their own names for several years. The political Left has worked hard and with some success to fix in the American mind the image of these guys as martyrs to right-wing fanatacism.

And on this day in 1963 Jack Ruby shot and killed Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, giving rise to numerous conspiracy theories that are still being argued to this day.

And on this day in 1966 a "killer smog" descended on New York City. More than 400 people died that day of respiratory failure and heart attack. People forget just how terribly polluted this country was half a century ago and how much it has cleaned up since then. I grew up near Pittsburgh and I remember.

And on this day in 1987 Li Peng succeeded Zhou Ziyang as Premier of the Peoples Republic of China.

Entering the Building:

Baruch Benedict de Spinoza [1632] -- perhaps the most important, and certainly the most radical, philosopher of the early modern period.
Zachary Taylor [1784] 12th President of the United States.
Henri Toulouse-Lautrec [1864]
Scott Joplin [1868] The "King of Ragtime" Here he is playing one of his most famous compositions, the "Maple Leaf Rag".
Ferdnand Braudel [1902] one of the greatest historians of the Twentieth Century.
William F. Buckley [1925] -- the man who stood athwart history and shouted "Stop!".

Leaving the Building:

John Knox [1572] Scottish Reformation clergymen and founder of the Presbyterian Church.
George Raft [1980] Actor who played numerous gangsters in the movies and was supposedly connected to gangsters in real life.
Warren Spahn [2003], "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain" -- all you needed for a rotation.