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History Trivia & Comment: Fun Facts, Useless Information, And Otherwise (10/12/2007)

October 12, 2007

On this day in …

– 1773, “America’s first insane asylum opens for ‘Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds’ in Virginia.” … Considering the state’s southern character, I have few doubts that it was likely first populated by uppity slaves, Native Americans, and early abolitionists.

– 1810, “First Oktoberfest: The Bavarian royalty invites the citizens of Munich to join the celebration of the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen.” … Since it’s Friday, here’s a date very worthy of remembrance!

– 1823, “Charles Macintosh [right], of Scotland, sells the first raincoat.” … Go figure that it was a Scot who come up with this first.

– 1892, “The Pledge of Allegiance is first recited in unison by students in US public schools.” … I wonder which John Birch Society member dug this up! I just can’t believe that this happened as early as 1892. I had been under the impression that the Pledge was a distinctly Cold War, public school education activity. Here’s what Wikipedia says about the Pledge’s origins: “The Pledge of Allegiance was written for the popular children’s magazine Youth’s Companion by Christian Socialist author and Baptist minister Francis Bellamy on September 7, 1892.” … Wait! … [Tim reads on in Wikipedia and then kicks himself—mocking himself over his claim to be an historian of education] … The “under God” addition in the early 1950s made me think that the Pledge was a Cold War product. … It’s always good to read a little further.

– 1935, “Opera singer Luciano Pavarotti was born in Modena, Italy.” … Moment of silence. … I loved Pavarotti. This is the first of two moments of silence here today—although the next is less in appreciation than outrage.

– 1960, “Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev disrupted a U.N. General Assembly session by pounding his desk with a shoe during a dispute.” … This still resonates as a jerk move. Even knowing the irony that his son is a kind of unabashed pro-American (history does mock us), the name of Khrushchev still smacks of Nixon-like paranoia/arrested development to me.

– 1969, “The Cleveland Browns play the New Orleans Saints in front of 71,274 people and win 27-17.” … This came from Wikipedia. It might be the single Most Useless Piece of Information I’ve ever encountered under the guise of trivia.

– 1970, “Vietnam War: US President Richard Nixon announces that the United States will withdraw 40,000 more troops before Christmas.” … Sounds eerily familiar to today’s situation in Iraq.

– 1998, “Matthew Shepard, a gay student at University of Wyoming, died five days after he was beaten, robbed and left tied to a wooden fence post outside of Laramie.” … Today’s 2nd moment of silence. … … As I recall how the young man was strung up on the fence, in a kind of crucified pose, I’m as shocked today with Matthew Shepard’s death as I was nine years ago.

– 1999, “The Day of Six Billion: The proclaimed 6 billionth living human in the world is born.” … I have no recollection of this—and it was only 8 years ago. Well, I guess that’s the point of these Friday posts!

[Sources: NYT, Wikipedia, Tim’s Occasional Wit]

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