Today in 1776, the Continental Congress authorized the first national Revolutionary War memorial in honor of Brigadier General Richard Montgomery, who had been killed during an assault on Quebec on December 31, 1775.
Congress voted to create a monument to Montgomery’s memory and entrusted Benjamin Franklin to secure one of France’s best artists to craft it. Franklin hired King Louis XV’s personal sculptor, Jean Jacques Caffieri, to design and build the monument.
Upon its completion in 1778, the Montgomery memorial was shipped to America and arrived at Edenton, North Carolina, where it remained for several years. Although originally intended for Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Congress eventually decided to place the memorial in New York City. In 1788, it was installed beneath the portico of St. Paul’s Chapel, which served as George Washington’s church as president in 1789, and where it remains to this day. Montgomery’s body, which was originally interred on the site of his death in Quebec, was moved to St. Paul’s in 1818.Caffieri also completed a bust of Franklin. Franklin gave seven copies of the bust to friends in the new United States; the original remains in Paris at the Bibliotheque Mazarine.
Today in1924, opening ceremonies of the first Winter Olympics were held in the Alpine village of Chamonix, France. Originally conceived as “International Winter Sports Week,” the Chamonix games were held in association with the 1924 Summer Olympics, held in Paris, and boasted 258 athletes (247 men and 11 women) from 16 nations, competing in a total of 18 events.
Competition began the next day with the 500-meter speed skating event, won by the American Charlie Jewtraw. Finland and Norway dominated the Games overall, however, winning 28 of the 43 medals awarded. The U.S. and Great Britain won four medals each, and Canada won their only medal of the games–gold–in the ice hockey competition, defeating the U.S. 6-1 in the final.
In one of the most unexpected stories to come out of the first Winter Games, the Norwegian-born American ski jumper Anders Haugen, captain of the U.S. Olympic team, came in fourth, but was awarded the bronze medal a full 50 years later, when a mathematical error was discovered that would have put Haugen in third place.
Today In 1971 at Los Angeles, California, cult leader Charles Manson was convicted, along with followers Susan Atkins, Leslie Van Houten, and Patricia Krenwinkel, of the brutal 1969 murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others.
In January 1972, Manson and three others were found guilty, and on March 29 all four were sentenced to death. The trial of another defendant, Charles “Tex” Watson, was delayed by extradition proceedings, but he was likewise found guilty and sentenced to death. In 1972, the California Supreme Court abolished the death penalty in California, and Manson and his followers’ death sentences were reduced to life imprisonment.
Today in 1949, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences held its first annual awards ceremony at the Hollywood Athletic Club in Los Angeles when only about 50,000 American households had TV sets.
Founder Sid Cassyd had originally objected to the idea of awards, arguing that the group’s primary goals should be cultural and educational; he eventually succumbed to the need for a highly visible event to raise the academy’s profile.
After rejecting 47 designs, Cassyd and his colleagues selected the now-famous statuette depicting a winged woman holding an atom in her extended arms. Created by the TV engineer Louis McManus (who used his wife as a model) the figure represented the collaborative relationship between art (the muse) and science (the atom). The name “Emmy” is a feminized version of “immy,” the shorthand term for the image orthicon tube that was used in TV cameras until the 1960s.
In 1957 a rival academy of East Coast TV in New York combined with Los Angeles and became the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
Today in 1959 an American Airlines Boeing 707 made the first scheduled transcontinental U.S. flight, traveling from California to New York.
Today in 1961 President John F. Kennedy conducted the first live televised presidential news conference, five days after taking office.
Rest in peace Alphonse Gabriel Capone, who once controlled organized crime in Chicago, died today at Palm Island, Florida, at age 48 from syphilis.
Al Capone was born January 17, 1899 at Brooklyn, New York. He is buried at Hillside, Illinois.