Today in 1936 the U.S. Baseball Hall of Fame elected its first members in Cooperstown, New York: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Matthewson and Walter Johnson. Today, selections to the Baseball Hall of Fame are still made by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America along with the Baseball Hall of Fame Committee on Baseball Veterans, established in 1953.
The Hall of Fame actually had its beginnings in 1935, when a private organization based in Cooperstown called the Clark Foundation thought that establishing the Baseball Hall of Fame would help to reinvigorate the area’s Depression-ravaged economy by attracting tourists.
To help sell the idea, the foundation advanced the idea that U.S. Civil War hero Abner Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown. The story proved to be phony, but baseball officials, eager to capitalize on the marketing and publicity potential of a museum to honor the game’s greats, gave their support to the project anyway.
Today, with approximately 350,000 visitors per year, the Hall of Fame continues to be the hub of all things baseball.
On this day in 1861, Kansas was admitted to the Union as a free state and 34th state (or the 28th state if the secession of eight Southern states over the previous six weeks is taken into account).
In 1854, Kansas and Nebraska were organized as territories with popular sovereignty (popular vote) to decide the issue of slavery. There was really no debate over the issue in Nebraska, where there was no slavery. In Kansas, the situation was much different.
Although most of the settlers were anti-slave or abolitionists, many fraudulent votes were cast from Missouri. This triggered the massive violence that earned the area the name “Bleeding Kansas.” One extreme example was the sacking of Lawrence in 1863, when pro-slave forces murdered nearly 200 men and burned the anti-slave town.
During the Civil War, Kansas suffered the highest rate of fatal casualties of any Union state, largely because of its great internal divisions over the issue of slavery.
Today in1979, Deng Xiaoping, deputy premier of China, met President Jimmy Carter, and together signed historic new accords that reversed decades of U.S. opposition to the People’s Republic of China. Later that year the United States granted full diplomatic recognition to China.
A major policy maker, Deng advocated individualism and material incentives in China’s attempt to modernize its economy, which often brought him into conflict with Mao and his orthodox communist beliefs. Deng sought to open China to foreign investment and create closer ties with the West.
Under Deng, China’s economy rapidly grew, and citizens enjoyed expanded personal, economic, and cultural freedoms. Political freedoms were still greatly restricted and China continued as an authoritative one-party state. In 1989, Deng hesitantly supported the government crackdown on the democratic demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. Later that year, he resigned his last party post but continued to be an influential adviser to the Chinese government until his death in 1997.
Today in 1845 Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem “The Raven,” beginning “Once upon a midnight dreary,” was published in the New York Evening Mirror.
Poe’s dark and macabre work reflected his own tumultuous and difficult life. He often portrayed motiveless crimes and intolerable guilt that induces growing mania in his characters and was a significant influence on such European writers as Charles Baudelaire, Stephane Mallarme, and even Dostoyevsky.
Today in1962, Peter Yarrow, Noel Paul Stookey and Mary Travers signed their first recording contract with Warner Bros.—the label they still call home half a century later. (Mary Travers passed away in 2009.)
Peter, Paul and Mary didn’t revolutionize folk music the way Bob Dylan did. Dylan’s songwriting fundamentally altered and then ultimately transcended the folk idiom itself, while Peter, Paul and Mary didn’t even write their own material. They were good-looking, crowd-pleasing performers, hand-selected and molded for success by Greenwich Village impresario Albert Grossman. Yet they helped make Dylan’s revolution possible, both by popularizing his songs and by proving the commercial potential of “serious” folk music.
Pete Seeger’s former group, the Weavers, had enjoyed enormous success in the early 1950s until their leftist background derailed their career during the Red Scare. Enter Peter, Paul and Mary and songs like “If I Had a Hammer” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” both from their debut album in 1962. In 1963, Peter, Paul and Mary would release their biggest hit ever: “Blowin’ in the Wind,” written by a new client of Grossman’s named Bob Dylan. It was the first sample of Dylan’s work that most of the world would hear.
Today in 1891 Hawaii proclaimed Liliuokalani as its queen. Renowned for her song Aloha Oe, she had a reign of only four years until she was forced to abdicate in 1895 by powerful businessmen who overthrew the monarchy.
January 29, 1919 – The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (Prohibition Amendment) was ratified. For nearly 14 years, until December 5, 1933, the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages were illegal in the United States. The Amendment had the unexpected result of causing enormous growth of organized crime which provided bootleg liquor to thirsty Americans.
“Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.” — John Adams
Happy birthdayThomas Paine, political activist, author, and revolutionary born today in 1737 at Thetford, England.
Paine immigrated to America in 1774 (with the help of Benjamin Franklin), served in the Continental Army but is known for writing “Common Sense,” (1776) the persuasive argument for American independence. He also wrote the “The American Crisis” series of pamphlets (1776-83 ["These are the times that try men's souls…"] and “The Rights of Man” (1791).
Paine eventually became unpopular for his heresy of criticizing George Washington. In a scathing letter to Washington:
“the world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an apostate or an impostor; whether you have abandoned good principles or whether you ever had any.” (1796)
Paine also lost friends when he attacked Christianity.
Paine died destitute June 8, 1809,at the age of 72, at Greenwich Village, New York City. Today a plaque marks the location. He was buried at his farm in New York.
In 1819, the English radical journalist William Cobbett dug up his bones and transported them back to England to rebury Paine on his native soil. The bones were still among Cobbett’s effects when he died over twenty years later. There is no confirmed story about what happened to them after that.
Happy birthday William McKinley, Union Civil War veteran, congressman, governor of Ohio, and 25th president, born today in 1843 at Niles, Ohio.
McKinley was elected in 1896 and 1900. Early in his second term, on September 6, 1901, he was shot and mortally wounded by an anarchist Buffalo, New York. He died eight days later at age 58. He is buried at Canton, Ohio.