Today in 1909, workers place the last of the 3.2 million 10-pound bricks that pave the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana (a town surrounded by the city of Indianapolis). Traction tests confirmed bricks were less slippery than gravel and sturdier than concrete. The speedway kept its brick track for nearly 50 years.
Today, the speedway has an asphalt surface. Most of the brick has been buried under asphalt, but one yard remains exposed at the start-finish line. Kissing those bricks after a successful race remains a tradition among Indy drivers.
Today in 1863, President Lincoln announced a grant of amnesty for Emilie Todd Helm, his wife Mary Lincoln’s half sister and the widow of a Confederate general. The pardon was one of the first under Lincoln’s Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, which he had announced less than a week before. The plan was the president’s blueprint for the reintegration of the South into the Union. Part of the plan allowed for former Confederates to be granted amnesty if they took an oath to the United States. The option was open to all but the highest officials of the Confederacy.
After her husband’s death, Helm made her way to Washington, D.C. She stayed in the White House and the Lincolns tried to keep her visit a secret. General Daniel Sickles, who had been wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg, told Lincoln that he should not have a Rebel in his house. Lincoln replied, “General Sickles, my wife and I are in the habit of choosing our own guests. We do not need from our friends either advice or assistance in the matter.” After Lincoln granted her pardon, Emilie Helm returned to Kentucky.
Today in 2005, King Kong, a remake of the classic 1933 film of the same name about a fictional giant ape who climbed the Empire State Building, opened in theaters.
The original King Kong, starring Fay Wray as the great ape’s love interest turned the larger-than-life gorilla into one of Hollywood’s most enduring icons. The 1933 film, which contains the now-famous line, “It was beauty killed the beast,” earned particular notice for its pioneering special effects. Wray was reportedly asked to make a cameo in 2005’s King Kong; before that could happen, however, she died at the age of 96 on August 8, 2004.
Directed by Peter Jackson (the filmmaker behind the multiple Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy), the 2005 King Kong remake starred Naomi Watts, Adrien Brody and Jack Black. The film was a box-office success and won three Academy Awards: Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Visual Effects.
Today in 1962 Mariner 2 passed within 22,000 miles of Venus and was the first robotic space probe to conduct a successful planetary encounter. The missions of Mariner 1 and 2 spacecraft are together sometimes known as the Mariner R missions.
Mariner 2 scanned the planet with its pair of radiometers, revealing that Venus has cool clouds and an extremely hot surface.
The spacecraft is now defunct in a heliocentric orbit.
Happy birthday General James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, aviation pioneer, Army Air Force officer, and Medal of Honor recipient, who was born today in 1896 at Alameda, California.
As Lt. Colonel, Jimmy Doolittle commanded the Doolittle Raid on Japan on April 18, 1942 and later headed the Eighth Air Force during the invasion of Normandy.
Doolittle died in Pebble Beach, California, September 27, 1993. He was age 96. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.
Rest in peace George Washington, who died today in 1799 at his home in Mount Vernon, Virginia. He was age 67. Washington was born February 22, 1732 at Pope’s Creek, Westmoreland County, Virginia. He is interned at Mount Vernon.