Today in 1969 “Sesame Street” debuted. The childrens program was the innovation of Joan Ganz Cooney, a documentary producer for public television. She took an inspiration from a popular TV comedy “Laugh In” and used short, humorous messages with puppets, or “Muppets” (a coined combination of marionettes and puppets) created by Jim Henson. The short segments were intended to fit the attention span of preschoolers.
The show also makes skits that try to instill civility, tolerance of differences (hence, the puppet characters are different colors), consideration of others, as well as exposure to numbers and letters.
Changing times have also introduced new puppet characters such as Kami (2002), an HIV-positive child; and Abbey Cadabby (2006), a role model for girls.
The show has had its critics. One is that the short segments hinder the development of a small child’s attention span. And who can forget the idiotic charge that Bert and Ernie are gay.
Today Sesame Street has an audience of 8 million in the US. The program is also broadcast in 120 countries.
Today in 1775 in Philadelphia, the Continental Congress voted that “two Battalions of Marines be raised” to act as landing forces with the Continental Navy. Both the Continental Navy and Marines were disbanded after the country won independence, in 1783.
July 11, 1798, President John Adams established the US Marines under the Department of the Navy as a permanent military force. The Marine Corp still regards today’s date, 1775, as its “birthday.”
Today in 1903 the US Patent Office granted Mary Anderson Patent #743,801, a “window cleaning device for electric cars and other vehicles to remove snow, ice or sleet from the window.” What we call today a windshield wiper.
Though wiper blades began to become standard by 1913, Mary Anderson did not make any money from her invention. Sadly, the patent expired before she could successfully sell her idea.
Today in 1975 “Edmund Fitzgerald” the 729-foot long fastest and largest ship on the Great Lakes sank in Lake Superior, taking all 29 crew members aboard. The ship met a storm of 60 mph winds and waves in excess of 15 feet. It is believed “Edmund Fitzgerald” took on a dangerous amount of water; the bow pitched down and could not recover. It lies at the bottom at 530 feet in two broken sections.
On July 4, 1995, the ship’s bell was recovered and on display at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, Whitefish Point, Michigan. The disaster is immortalized in Gordon Lightfoot’s ballad, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”
On November 29, 1966, the “Daniel J. Morrell” sank with all 28 aboard in Lake Huron.
Today in 2001, President George W. Bush addressed the United Nations about combating terrorism around the world. He pledged to take the fight against terrorism to any place where terrorists were harbored.
“The cost of inaction is far greater,” he said, “the only alternative is a nightmare world where every city is a potential killing field.” The speech was the first time Bush stated a policy of pre-emptive action against regimes that sponsored terrorism.
Today in 1984 at the Orange Bowl game the University of Maryland’s quarterback Frank Reich threw six touchdown passes against the University of Miami in the second half. At the second half the Maryland Terrapins were losing 0-31. The final score was 42-40.
For many fans and journalists the 1984 Orange Bowl is college football’s greatest and most exciting comeback game.
Reich went on to be the second-string quarterback for the Buffalo Bills. In 1993 he threw four second-half touchdown passes, coming back from a 3-35 deficit to beat Houston 41-38.
Today in 1964 Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara told reporters the United States had no plans to send combat troops into Vietnam. When asked whether the United States intended to increase its activities in Vietnam, he replied, “Wait and see.” By 1969, more than 500,000 American troops were in South Vietnam.
Happy birthday Roy Scheider, born today in 1932 at Orange, New Jersey. Scheider was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in “The French Connection” (1971) and nominated for Best Actor in “All That Jazz” (1979).
Scheider is probably best remembered for his role as police chief Martin Brody in “Jaws” (1975). His famous line, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”" when the giant shark appeared is reportedly ad-libbed.
Scheider died undergoing treatment for cancer on February 10, 2008 at Little Rock, Arkansas. He was age 75.
Rest in peace Henry Wirz, Swiss immigrant and commander of Andersonville prison (officially named Camp Sumter) who was hanged today in 1865 at Washington, D. C., for conspiracy to injure the health and lives of Union soldiers and murder. Wirz was born in Switzerland in 1823 and moved to the United States in 1849. He lived in the South, primarily in Louisiana, and became a physician.
The prison was designed to hold 10,000 men but the Confederates had packed it with more than 31,000 inmates by August 1864. As the Confederacy began to dissolve, food and medicine for prisoners were difficult to obtain. Thousands of inmates died. Wirz was, in part, a scapegoat and some evidence against him was fabricated entirely.
On the scaffold, Wirz reportedly said to the officer in charge, “I know what orders are, Major. I am being hanged for obeying them.”