Day By Day

Thursday, January 14, 2010

This Day In History

Today is "Dress Up Your Pet Day" an observance I suppose was created by pet shops as a way to sell goofy outfits. I certainly hope so, because otherwise it might well indicate a deep and abiding sickness at the core of our civilization.

On this day in 1784 the United States formally ratified a peace treaty with Britain bringing the Revolutionary War to an end. It had been a long hard struggle -- hostilities had broken out way back in 1775, but many people still think it was worth it.

On this day in 1963 George C. Wallace, a Democrat, was elected Governor of Alabama. His campaign slogan was "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!" This should serve as a reminder that Democrats historically have had a far worse record on civil rights than have Republicans. There is a nice little summary of the positions taken by leading political figures at the height of the civil rights struggle here. It's titled "Why Martin Luther King Was A Republican".

Entering the building: Benedict Arnold, born on this day in 1741. Arnold was a hero of the revolution, for a while at least. He distinguished himself as a courageous and effective military commander in the campaigns against Fr. Ticonderoga, on Lake Champlain, and the battles of Ridgefield and Saratoga where he was seriously injured. Unable to fight, he was reassigned to Philadelphia where he met the beautiful daughter of a prominent local Tory, Peggy Shippen. Soon they were married -- she was 19, he was 38. She was headstrong and high maintenance, he had little money. At some point Peggy introduced her husband to one of her exes, Major John Andre. It was he with whom Arnold conspired to betray the American defenses at West Point. When the plot was exposed Arnold's name became a byword for "traitor" in America, although he received honors from the British for his subsequent service in their army. Just what Peggy's role was in the entire affair is hard to judge, but she certainly left her mark on American history.

"Happy Birthday" to NBC's "Today" show which premiered on this day back in 1952. The host was Dave Garroway and comic relief was provided by J. Fred Muggs, a chimp who would occasionally go nuts on the set destroying equipment and biting reporters and visiting celebrities. These tantrums made J. Fred something of a hero to a lot of people. The Soviets said that he was a perfect representative for American culture. Here's a link to a video of J. Fred doing his thing on "Make the Connection" a quiz show hosted by Gene Rayburn. Ah, the days of live-TV.

And a special "Happy Birthday" to MoDo who was born fifty-eight years ago today. That's right, Maureen Dowd is rapidly approaching the status of senior citizen -- and she's still looking for the right guy. Better get cracking Mo, you're not getting any younger.