Today in 1937 GM president Alfred P. Sloan signed the first union contract of the American auto industry with the United Auto Workers.
The contract concluded a sit-down strike at the Fisher Body Plant No. 2 in Flint, Minchigan that began December 30, 1936. Violence erupted between police and stikers January 11. The governor called in the National Guard but decided against ordering troops into the the plant, as the public sympathized with the strikers. FDR helped with negotiations to end the strike.
Soon after, workers at Chrysler went on strike and won the right to have the UAW represent them. Ford Motor Company was the last hold-out of the “big three” but signed a contract with the UAW in 1941.
Today, the UAW has expanded to include workers beyond the auto industry and is officially known as the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America. The UAW has more than 500,000 active members and more than a half-million retired members in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.
Today in 1916 Emma Goldman, crusader for women’s rights, was arrested in New York City for lecturing and distributing materials about birth control. She violated the Comstock Act of 1873, which made it a federal offense to disseminate contraceptive devices and information through the mail or across state lines. Goldman was convicted and spent time in jail.
Goldman was born in Russia in 1869 and ended up in Rochester, New York in 1885. In New York, Goldman spent time working as a nurse and midwife among the poor. Her experiences convinced her that birth control was essential to women improving their lives and achieving economic and sexual equality. Goldman, a skilled writer, editor and orator, spoke publicly about contraception and was a mentor to Margaret Sanger, who founded the organization that would become Planned Parenthood. In 1916, Sanger opened America’s first birth-control clinic in Brooklyn, New York; law enforcement officials shut it down after 10 days. Sanger opened the first legal clinic in the United States in 1923. In 1936, in an amendment to the Comstock Act, American doctors gained the legal right to prescribe and distribute contraceptive devices through the mail and across state lines. In 1960, the FDA approved the first sale of a birth-control pill.
In addition to advocating for women’s reproductive rights, Goldman was an anti-war crusader. In 1917, she was arrested for protesting America’s involvement in World War I and the draft. She spent two years in prison and was deported back to Russia. Goldman lived the rest of her life in Russia, Europe and Canada, and died in Toronto in 1940 at age 70. She was buried in the German Waldheim Cemetery, near Chicago.
Today in 2008 J.R. R. Tolkien’s heirs joined a group of publishers and filed suit for $150 million against New line Cinema at a Superior Court of Los Angeles.
New Line, an independent movie studio owned by Time Warner since 1996, earned critical acclaim (and struck box-office gold) with three Lord of the Rings films directed by Peter Jackson: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003).
According to the lawsuit, the three films together grossed more than $6 billion internationally. (They were also nominated for a total of 30 Academy Awards. At the 2004 Oscars, The Return of the King won in all 11 categories it was nominated in, tying Ben-Hur and Titanic for the most Academy Awards ever.)
Film rights to Tolkien’s books were acquired in 1969 by United Artists.
United Artists sold the rights to the Saul Zaentz Company in 1976.
Miramax, then owned by Harvey and Bob Weinstein, licensed the rights in 1997.
Miramax sold them to New Line the following year.
The Saul Zaentz Company had already filed charges against New Line for preventing it from auditing the accounting for the movies.
Miramax also sued New Line, alleging that the other studio defrauded it of $20 million in foreign revenue from the Lord of the Rings films.
That lawsuit was settled after a counter-suit from New Line. The holders of a trust for J.R.R. Tolkien, who died in 1973, stated that they had failed to receive any money from the films. According to the literary-rights agreement signed in 1969, they said, the trust was entitled to 7.5 percent of the gross revenue from any film adaptation of Tolkien’s novels.
Think that’s the end of it? If life were so simple….
Supporting actors native to New Zealand (where the films were shot) had filed a lawsuit accusing the company of failing to pay them a share of an estimated $100 million profit made from film-related merchandise.
Director Peter Jackson settled a bitter and lengthy lawsuit against New Line in December 2007. He also co-wrote and co-produced the Lord of the Rings films and accused New Line of cheating him out of tens of millions of dollars after they sold subsidiary rights for books, DVDs and merchandise to other Time Warner companies for less than market value.
For Tolkien fans, the settlement of Jackson’s suit was good news, as it meant he could move with New Line’s anticipated version of Tolkien’s other classic novel, The Hobbit. Jackson will co-write and co-produce the film, but not direct. (Well, not directly direct, anyway.)
Meanwhile, New Line’s other legal troubles go on, a complicated legacy of Tolkien’s novels.
Today in 1960, President Eisenhower called the Payola scandal an issue of public morality and the FCC proposed a new law making involvement in Payola a criminal act.
During the hearings conducted by Congressman Oren Harris (D-Arkansas) and his powerful Subcommittee on Legislative Oversight—fresh off its inquiry into quiz-show rigging—the Payola was a blanket reference to a range of corrupt practices in the radio and recording industries. In the music business, Payola referred specifically to a practice that was nearly as old as the industry itself: manufacturing a popular hit by paying for radio play.
One disk jockey, Wesley Hopkins, admitted to receiving over the course of 1958 and 1959 $12,000 in “listening fees” from record companies for “evaluating the commercial possibilities” of records. Another DJ named Stan Richard also admitted to receiving thousands of dollars from various record promoters, and though like Hopkins he denied letting such fees affect his choice of which records to play on the air, he also offered a vigorous defense of Payola, comparing it to “going to school and giving the teacher a better gift than the fellow at the next desk.” He practically likened it to Motherhood and Apple Pie: “This seems to be the American way of life, which is a wonderful way of life. It’s primarily built on romance—I’ll do for you, what you will do for me.” It was this comment that prompted President Eisenhower’s condemnation of Payola.
Technically, the concern of the Harris Committee was abuse of public trust, since the airwaves over which radio stations broadcast their signals are property of the people of the United States. 1960 was also an election year, and Rep. Harris and his colleagues on the Subcommittee were eager to be seen on the right side of a highly visible “moral” issue. Though it is agreed that the famous hearings on Payola merely reorganized the practice rather than eradicate it, those hearings did threaten the career of American Bandstand’s Dick Clark and destroyed the man who gave rock and roll its name, the legendary Cleveland disk jockey Alan Freed.
Today in 1805 Sacagawea, the Shoshone Indian interpreter and guide to the Lewis and Clark expedition, gave birth to her child, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau.
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark met Sacagawea while spending the winter among the Mandan Indians along the Upper Missouri River, not far from present-day Bismarck, North Dakota. Still only a teenager, Sacagawea was the wife of a French-Canadian fur trapper, Toussaint Charbonneau, who had purchased her from Hidatsa kidnappers the year before. The Hidatsa had taken Sacagawea from her homeland along the Continental Divide in modern-day southwestern Montana and southeastern Idaho, where she was the daughter of a prominent Shoshone chief. Viewing such captives as little more than slaves, the Hidatsa were happy to sell Sacagawea and another woman to Charbonneau, who used them as laborers, porters, and sexual companions.
That winter, Lewis and Clark hired Charbonneau as an interpreter for their expedition provided he agreed to bring along his young wife. Lewis and Clark knew they would have to obtain horses from the Shoshone to cross the Continental Divide, and Sacagawea’s services as an interpreter could prove invaluable.
Two months before the expedition was to depart, Lewis and Clark found themselves with another co-traveler. Sacagawea went into labor. Lewis, who acted as the expedition’s doctor was called on for the only time during the journey to assist in a delivery. Lewis was anxious to insure his Shoshone interpreter was in good shape for the arduous journey and he later reported “her labour was tedious and the pain violent.” Told that a small amount of the rattle of rattlesnake might speed the delivery, Lewis broke up a rattler tail and mixed it with water. “She had not taken [the mixture] more than ten minutes before she brought forth.”
No one, it seemed, contemplated leaving Sacagawea and her infant son behind. When the party set out up the Missouri in April 1805, Sacagawea carried Jean Baptiste Charbonneau on her back in an Indian cradleboard. Nicknamed “Pomp” or “Pompey” by Clark, who developed a strong attachment to the boy, Jean Baptiste accompanied his mother on every step of her epic journey to the Pacific and back.
As hoped, Sacagawea’s services as a translator played a pivotal role in securing horses from the Shoshone. Jean Baptiste’s presence also proved unexpectedly useful by helping to convince the Indians the party encountered that their intentions were peaceful. No war party, the Indians reasoned, would bring along a mother and infant.
When the Corps of Discovery returned east in 1805, Charbonneau, Sacagawea, and Jean Baptiste resumed the fur-trading life. Little is known of Sacagawea’s subsequent fate; though a fur trader claimed she died of a “putrid fever” in 1812 at a Missouri River trading post.
True to a promise he had made to Sacagawea during the expedition, Clark paid for Jean Baptiste’s education at a St. Louis Catholic academy and became something of an adoptive father to the boy. Jean Baptiste learned French, German, and Spanish, hunted with noblemen in the Black Forest of Germany, traveled in Africa, and returned to further explore the American West. He died in 1866 en route to the newly discovered gold fields of Montana.
Today in 1990 James “Buster” Douglas defeated Mike Tyson, the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, in 10 rounds at a boxing match in Tokyo, Japan.
“Iron Mike,” Tyson seemed invincible and was considered a 42-1 favorite to win. However, from the start, Douglas managed to dominate the fight. Tyson, on the other hand, didn’t seem to have his heart in the fight, although he knocked Douglas to the ground at the end of the eighth round. Douglas was able to get up and went on to knock out Tyson and win the fight in the 10th round of the scheduled 12-round match. His victory was considered one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.
Douglas’s reign was short-lived. He fought Evander Holyfield in October 1990 and lost the fight in three rounds. Afterward Douglas announced his retirement from boxing, although he staged a brief comeback in the late 1990s.
The loss to Douglas was the beginning of a long, downward spiral for Tyson: In 1992, he was convicted on rape charges and served three years in prison. In 1996, he won the World Boxing Council title but lost to Evander Holyfield later that year. During a 1997 rematch, Tyson bit Holyfield’s ear and was temporarily banned from boxing. In 2002, after instigating a pre-fight brawl with Lenox Lewis, Tyson’s Nevada boxing license was revoked. The match was moved to Memphis, where Tyson lost the fight. In 2003, despite having earned hundreds of millions of dollars, he declared bankruptcy and in 2006, he was arrested on drug charges.
“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” — Thomas Edison
Happy birthday Thomas Edison, prolific inventor, born today in 1847 at Milan, Ohio.
Throughout his lifetime he acquired over 1,200 patents [another source says 1,093 patents] including the incandescent bulb, phonograph and movie camera.
Thomas Edison died October 18, 1931, at his home, “Glenmont” in Llewellyn Park, West Orange, New Jersey. He is buried behind the home.
Rest in peace Whitney Houston, one of the world’s top-selling singers from the mid-1980s to late 1990s, and actor, found dead in the bathtub of her suite at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, today in 2012. Houston’s death was the result of accidental drowning. Heart disease and cocaine, which was found in her system, were determined to be contributing factors. She was age 48.
Whitney Elizabeth Houston was born on August 9, 1963, in Newark, New Jersey, She was known for her soaring voice and beauty, won a total of six Grammy Awards and 22 American Music Awards (more than any other female), and is credited with influencing several generations of singers, from Mariah Carey to Jennifer Hudson. Her final album is “I Look to You” (2009).
Houston was buried next to her father at Westfield, New Jersey.