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Radio City Music Hall Opens

radiocityOn December 27, 1932, Radio City Music Hall, a famous entertainment venue located in New York City‘s Rockefeller Center was opened. The hall was the number one tourist attraction in the city at one time, and gained the nickname the Showplace of the Nation.

In 1929, when the stock market in the United States had crashed and the Great Depression began, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., a member of the extremely wealthy Rockefeller family, was holding a $91 million, 24-year lease from Columbia University on a piece of property located in midtown Manhattan known as the “speakeasy belt.” Because the economy was starting to crumble, plans to gentrify the area and build a new Metropolitan Opera House at this location were thrown out. Rockefeller made a risky decision to build a series of spectacular buildings that would attract huge commercial tenants despite the bleak outlook of the forthcoming depression in a city that was full of vacant rental spaces.

The first tenant in Rockefeller’s complex was the Radio Corporation of America. RCA was a very young company who was producing popular radio programs and motion pictures through the National Broadcasting Company and RKO Studios, both of which were desired distractions in this depressed era. Rockefeller, RCA chairman David Sarnoff, and Samuel Roxy Rothafel, who was the well-known theatrical genius behind the Roxy Theater, teamed up to build an elaborate venue that would entertain, inspire, and elevate the deflated American public.

Originally named the International Music Hall, the venue was soon renamed “Radio City” due to the complex’s first tenants. The space was designed by architect Edward Durell Stone and interior designer Donald Deskey in a grandious Art Deco style. The main idea behind its construction was to build an elaborate tribute to “human achievement in art, science and industry.” Various materials were used in the construction including precious materials like gold foil and marble, and industrial materials including aluminum, permatex, glass, and cork. Deskey made art a major focus of the interior, enlisting fine artists to create murals, sculptures, and wall coverings to add to the already spectacular interior decoration. The most famous and noteworthy part of the interior is the Great Stage which measures 60 feet wide and 100 feet long and resembles a setting sun. Technical experts consider the stage to be the most well-equipped stage in the world featuring hydraulic-powered elevators which allow for incredible special effects and quick scene changes during performances.

For its opening in 1932, the first performance was an extravagant stage show featuring  Ray BolgerDoc Rockwell and Martha Graham. The high-class variety show that was presented was not successful because of its longevity and the individual acts seemingly getting “lost” in the huge space. Soon after, the theater changed its performances to include playing feature films with a concurrent stage show performance. This format continued until the 1970s, with four performances happening every day. In the 70s, the films the hall could secure for showing were limited due to new film distribution and their preference to only show G-rated movies. Because of this setback, regular film showings at Radio City ceased in 1979.

After the discontinuation of film showings, plans were made to convert Radio City into an office space. These plans were met with vehement opposition by preservation committees and commercial stunts, like one famous response by John Belushi on Saturday Night Live‘s Weekend Update. In 1980, the theater was renovated and once again opened up to the public. Under new management by the Madison Square Garden Company, Radio City still sometimes hosts feature films and film premieres, but the vast majority of performances are concerts and live stage shows. Various award shows have also been held in the venue such as the MTV Video Music Awards, the Grammy Awards, and the Tony Awards. The Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, which started in 1933, is still a major attraction and has featured the dance troupe The Rockettes since its inception in the 30s.

In 1999, Radio City went through another major renovation costing $70 million. The theater still boasts the title today as the largest indoor theater in the world.

Sources: Wikipedia, RadioCity.com, History.com

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First Airplane Flies

On December 17, 1903, the Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur, made the first successful flight of a gas-powered, self-propelled airplane. Although the plane only stayed aloft for 12 seconds and flew only 120 feet, it was still considered a successful first flight.

However, on the last of the three flight tests made that day, the plane flew 852 feet in 59 seconds. This historic flight in airplane history was even captured on film. Check it out!

If you happen to be traveling by plane today, take a moment to appreciate how quickly that plane gets you from point A to point B and to thank the Wright Brothers for making it happen.

 

Sources: History.com, Wikipedia, About.com

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Boston Tea Party Day

Boston Tea Party-1973 issue-3cHappy Boston Tea Party Day!

On December 16, 1773, colonists in Massachusetts protested against the East India Company’s monopolization on American tea importation, as granted by Parliament, by boarding three British tea ships in Boston Harbor and dumping 342 chests of tea into the harbor.

Click here to find out why!

Did You Know…that the Boston Tea Party was one of several tension-building events that lead to the American Revolutionary War between the North American colonies  and Great Britain? The Boston Tea Party was the turning point in which colonists started to consider forming a united resistance against British rule.

 

Sources: punchbowl.com, osmh.org, wikipedia.org, history.com
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Bill of Rights Day

On December 15, 1791, the United States adopted the Bill of Rights, enshrining in our Constitution the protection of our inalienable freedoms, from the right to speak our minds and worship as we please to the guarantee of equal justice under the law.”

- President Barack Obama, Presidential Proclamation, Bill of Rights Day 2011

On this day in 1791, the United States adopted the Bill of Rights, or the first ten amendments of the U.S. constitution.

Written and introduced to the first U.S. Congress by James Madison, who later became the 4th U.S. President, the Bill of Rights protect the individual rights of U.S. citizens by limiting the federal government’s power and granting some power to the states and the public.

Bill of Rights Day was created not only to commemorate the establishment of this significant symbol of freedom but to remind us of that freedom, which we sometimes take for granted.

Celebrate Bill of Rights Day by reading, understanding, and appreciating the Bill of Rights. If you’ve got a little more time, read the U.S. constitution while you’re at it.

Having trouble understanding the Bill of Rights or looking for fun yet effective ways to teach kids about the Bill of Rights? You’ll find plenty of educational resources at the Bill of Rights Institute.

 

Sources: Holiday Insights, Wikipedia, Bill of Rights Institute

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Joe DiMaggio Announces Retirement

idimagg001p1On December 11, 1951, Joe DiMaggio, American Major League Baseball center fielder, announced his retirement from the New York Yankees, the team he played on for his entire 13-year career.

DiMaggio joined his brother, Vince, in the Pacific Coast League, playing for the San Francisco Seals in 1932. After a 61-game hitting streak, he led the Seals to winning a PCL title in 1935 and was named the League’s Most Valuable Player. He was sold to the New York Yankees and made his major league debut batting behind Lou Gehrig in 1936. He was soon nicknamed the “Yankee Clipper” for his speed and range in the outfield. During his career, he was a three-time MVP winner and was selected to play in the All-Star Game every year of his 13-year career. He also helped the Yankees to win ten American League pennants and nine World Series championships. His biggest claim to fame is his MLB 56-game hitting streak (May 15 – July 16, 1941), a record he still holds today.

DiMaggio signed a record contract of $100,000 ($981,000 today) in 1949, and became the first baseball player to surpass $100,000 in earnings. Within the next few years, however, DiMaggio’s body began to fail him. He suffered from injuries constantly due to his predisposition to play through the pain. DiMaggio played poorly during his 1951 season because of his recurring ailments, and towards the end of the season a scouting report about DiMaggio written by a Brooklyn Dodgers scout was leaked and published in LIFE.

While the report did not paint DiMaggio’s playing abilities in the best light, most of the report was accurate. It reported that he “could not stop quickly or throw hard,” that runners could steal bases on him easily, and his reflexes had slowed. Even with his physical setbacks, DiMaggio still helped the Yankees win another World Series, hitting a home run in the fourth game. DiMaggio had already accepted that this was the end for him, and many of his teammates brought him bats and balls to sign during what they all knew was his last game.

Going out on a World Series win, DiMaggio held a press conference on December 11, 1951 in which he plainly read a short press release announcing the end of his career. He ended it by saying, “When baseball is no longer fun, it’s no longer a game, and so, I’ve played my last game.” He answered questions, posed for pictures, and when a fuse blew and the Yankee offices went dark, he quietly slipped out.

Joe DiMaggio has been remembered in many ways, including being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955, and his number (5) being retired from the Yankees. He has also been referenced in a number of songs, movies, books, and works of art.

Sources: Wikipedia, PBS, echarta Blog

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First Nobel Prizes Awarded

Dr. Francis Crick's Nobel Prize Medal on Heritage AuctionsEstablished by Alfred Nobel as part of his last will, the Nobel Prize is a set of five international awards that are bestowed annually to those who have made outstanding achievements and contributions in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and for peace. Recipients of a Nobel Prize receive a medal, personal diploma, and a cash prize.

Alfred Nobel was a Swedish scientist, inventor, entrepreneur, and author whose most notable invention was dynamite. Nobel originally created dynamite as an instrument to stop war and bring piece, but it became known more as an instrument for destruction. Nobel was condemned for his creation, most notably so in an 1888 obituary mistakenly written for Nobel instead of his brother. The obituary called Alfred Nobel a “merchant of death.”

Nobel feared that he would be remembered only as the man who invented such a deadly device, so his pacifist nature led Nobel to rewrite his will one last time. Nobel left 94 percent of his total assets to the establishment of five international prizes to be awarded annually. Because of ambiguities in his will, opposition by family members, and a lack of cooperation by the organizations that Nobel had named to award the prizes, it was five years before the Nobel Prize was established and awarded. The first Nobel Prizes were finally award on December 10, 1901, the fifth anniversary of Nobel’s death.

The lucky first recipients of this most prestigious award were:

  • German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen who received the first Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of X-rays.
  • Jacobus Henricus van ‘t Hoff, a Dutch physical and organic chemist, who received the first Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his contributions in chemical thermodynamics and discovery of osmotic pressure in solutions.
  • German physiologist Emil Adolf von Behring who received the first Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of a diptheria antitoxin, which he used to develop a serum therapy against diptheria, an illness that had caused thousands of deaths each year until then.
  • French poet and essayist Sully Prudhomme who received the first Nobel Prize in Literature for “his poetic composition, which gives evidence of lofty idealism, artistic perfection and a rare combination of the qualities of both heart and intellect.” (nobelprize.org)
  • The first Nobel Prize for Peace was awarded to two leaders in the late 19th century’s growing peace movement: Frédéric Passy, a French economist who co-founded the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and Jean Henry Dunant for founding the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Learn more about the Nobel Prize and all of the other recipients of this reward since 1901 at NobelPrize.org.

Sources: About.comWikipediaNobelprize.org

 

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First Human Heart Transplant

Lewis Washkansky, the first human heart transplant recipient.

Lewis Washkansky, the first human heart transplant recipient.

On December 3, 1967, the first successful human-to-human heart transplant was performed.

South African surgeon, Christiaan Barnard, performed the third successful kidney transplant in the world, and had been experimenting with heart transplants in animals for several years. He performed over 50 dog heart transplants. Many medical breakthroughs in heart transplantation had been made and most surgical teams were merely waiting for a suitable patient to perform the operation on and a donor. 53-year-old South African grocer Lewis Washkansky, who suffered from diabetes and incurable chronic heart disease, agreed to have the procedure. Barnard found a donor in Denise Darvall, a 25-year-old woman who was brain dead after being involved in a fatal car crash days before. Her father agreed to donate her heart for the operation.

Barnard performed the operation in 9 hours with a thirty-person team including his brother, Marius Barnard. The transplant was a success and Washkansky’s body did not reject the new organ due to the immunosuppressive drugs administered on him. Those same drugs, however, weakened Washkansky’s immune system and he contracted double pneumonia and died 18 days after he received his new heart. Though Barnard’s patient died a little over two weeks after the surgery, the heart functioned properly until the time of the patient’s death and Barnard became an overnight celebrity for the success of his operation. Barnard continued to perform heart transplants for many years after completing his first, and his patients’ survival rate continued to grow, with one of his patients surviving for 23 years after his transplant was performed.

The majority of surgeons were still weary on performing the procedure because of the high risk of organ rejection. Cyclosporine, an immunosuppressive drug that is highly effective, was developed in the 1980s and organ transplant surgeries became more common.

Although Barnard was internationally recognized through most of his life for this successful operation, his name lost some credit after he promoted the supposed anti-aging skin cream, Glycel. The product proved to do nothing at all to slow the aging process and its approval was withdrawn by the FDA. Although the credibility of Barnard declined before his death in 2001, this day is still considered a remarkable turning point in medical history.

Sources: History.com, Wired, Wikipedia

 

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Rosa Parks Arrested

Parks on a Montgomery bus after laws segregating buses were repealed.

Parks on a Montgomery bus after laws segregating buses were repealed.

On December 1, 1955, African-American woman Rosa Parks was arrested for her refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus to a white passenger.

In 1900, Montgomery, Alabama passed a city ordinance which segregated bus seating by race. The original ordinance stated that no one would ever be required to move or stand, but bus officials in Montgomery soon started the practice of making African Americans move when all the seats meant for whites were filled. Even though 75% of bus riders were black, they were required to sit at the rear of the bus, stand, or leave the bus if there were not enough seats provided for whites.

Parks first encountered bus driver James F. Blake in 1943 when she was asked to follow rules and enter the bus through the back door after she had already paid her bus fare. After Parks exited the bus, Blake drove away before she could get back on, leaving her to walk home in the rain.

Rosa Parks boarded a Montgomery bus after working all day on December 1, 1955. After paying her fare, she took a seat in the first row labeled, “Colored.” The busdriver (who was once again James F. Blake) noticed that some whites were standing and moved the sign back and demanded the blacks seated now in front of the sign, including Parks, move to make room for the white passengers. The three other black passengers seated in these seats complied with Blake’s demands, but Parks refused and was subsequently arrested.

After spending a day in jail, Parks was bailed out by a friend and the president of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP, Edgar Nixon. Nixon saw Parks’ case as an opportunity to fight back against the segregation and unfair treatment of African Americans who use the Montgomery public transportation system. Just three days later on December 4, 1955, the Montgomery Bus Boycott was announced with the Women’s Political Council being the first group to officially endorse the boycott.

While Parks was being tried for disorderly conduct the next day, members of the WPC distributed 35,000 leaflets asking African Americans of Montgomery to boycott riding the bus. Some commuters carpooled or took black-operated cabs, while the rest of the commuters walked – some walking up to 20 miles to get to work. The day proved to be a successful first day of boycotting, and the Montgomery Improvement Association was formed afterward, electing a young Martin Luther King, Jr. as their president.

African American leaders of the city decided that Parks would be the perfect plaintiff to fight fight Alabama segregation laws because she had a stable income, husband, and was savvy in political matters. The black community of Montgomery continued their boycott for 381 while Parks’ case was slowed down in appeals through the Alabama court system. The U.S. Supreme Court case Browder v. Gayle finally ruled that segregation on public buses was unconstitutional and the city was forced to repeal its former segregation law.

Parks became an important figure in the African American Civil Rights Movement and brought international attention to the plight of African Americans in the United States at this time. She is remembered and celebrated to this day with both the day of her arrest and her birthday officially becoming known as “Rosa Parks Day” in the U.S. states of  California and Ohio.

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James Naismith Dies

University of Kansas basketball team in 1899 with coach James Naismith.

University of Kansas basketball team in 1899 with coach James Naismith.

On November 28, 1939, James Naismith, better known as the inventor of basketball, died.

Naismith was born in Ontario, Canada in 1861. He attended McGill University in Montreal and became one of their all-star athletes, participating in Canadian football, lacrosse, soccer, rugby, and gymnastics for the school. After receiving his BA is Physical Education, he became McGill’s first Athletic Director, but left the school to become a physical education teacher at the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1891.

Because of the extremely cold New England winters, Naismith’s students were confined to the indoor gym and thus became too rowdy to handle. The head of the Springfield YMCA Physical Education gave Naismith 14 days to come up with a game that would occupy the students as an “athletic distraction” and would also keep track athletes in shape. He also specified that Naismith create a fair game that would not be as rough as other sports. Naismith was inspired in his game creation by a game he used to play as a child called, “duck-on-a-rock.” Players would throw a small rock at a “duck” placed on top of a larger rock in an attempt to knock the duck down. The three main components of the game were team spirit, marksmanship, and passing. He thought these three qualities would be a perfect way to distract the unruly students while maintaining a high level of physical activity.

The first game of basketball was played with two peach baskets fixed 10 feet above the ground, and a soccer ball. After making a few changes, like changing the baskets out for hoops with nets, Naismith wrote the 13 basic rules of basketball. Basketball was made international in 1893 by the YMCA movement. Naismith joined the faculty of the University of Kansas in 1898 and the men’s basketball program there started, just six years after Naismith wrote the official rules for the sport. Ironically, Naismith was Kansas’ only coach with a losing record in the game.

Basketball was introduced as an Olympic sport in 1936, and since then Naismith has received many awards and had basketball awards named after him. He retired from his duties at Kansas state in 1937, with almost 40 years as a member of the faculty and athletic direction under his belt. He died just 2 years later in 1939 from a brain hemorrhage in Lawrence, Kansas.

Sources: About.com, Wikipedia, Buzzle

 

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Pins and Needles Day

November 27 is Pins and Needles Day! When you hear “pins and needles,” you probably think of the common phrase used to describe waiting in anxious anticipation of something or that feeling you get when one of your limbs “falls asleep.” Pins and Needles Day was actually created to commemorate the opening of the pro-labor union musical Pins and Needles on November 27, 1937.

In the late 1930s, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union was holding their meetings in New York’s Princess Theater. The union soon decided to sponsor an inexpensive revue starring union workers. Pins and Needles spoofed current events in a critical yet lighthearted way from a pro-union stance. The show evolved and skits were adjusted to stay topical with what was going on in current events at the time. It became so popular that the workers were able to quit their jobs to perform on a full-time schedule. In 1938, the cast performed the revue at the White House for President Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor. The show closed on June 22, 1940 and ran for 1,108 performances. Now that’s something to celebrate!

Unfamiliar with the musical? Think of Pins and Needles Day as a day of anxious suspense or nervous anticipation… for the approaching holidays perhaps.  Or you can celebrate paresthesia, the tingly, prickly sensation you get when a limb  “falls asleep” and recovers from numbness, as this feeling is often referred to as feeling like “pins and needles.”‘

…Or if you like to sew and, thus, frequently use pins and needles, celebrate that: sew something!

Whichever option you choose to celebrate, Happy Pins and Needles Day!

Sources: Holiday Insights, Wikipedia

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