Today in 1964 the United States cut off military assistance to Britain, France, and Yugoslavia in retaliation for their continuing trade with the communist nation of Cuba. The action was chiefly symbolic, but represented the continued U.S. effort to destabilize the Cuban regime of Fidel Castro.
The amount of aid denied was miniscule–approximately $100,000 in assistance to each nation. None of the nations indicated that the aid cut-off would affect their trade with Cuba in the least. America’s decision to terminate the trade hardly had a decisive effect. Many commentators at the time concluded that the U.S. action was largely a result of frustration at not being able to bring down the Castro government.
The decision to cut off military assistance did little to help in this regard. The three nations continued their trade with Cuba and expressed their resentment at the U.S. action. The American obsession with Castro provoked the New York Times to observe that the U.S. policies toward Cuba “suggest an extraordinary sensitivity that does not in fact correspond to basic policy judgments.”
Today in 1856 the American Party, also known as the “Known-Nothing Party,” convened in Philadelphia to nominate its first presidential candidate.
The Know-Nothing movement began in the 1840s, when an increasing rate of immigration led to the formation of a number of so-called nativist societies to combat “foreign” influences in American society. Roman Catholic immigrants from Ireland and Italy, who were embraced by the Democratic Party in eastern cities, were especially targeted. In the early 1850s, several secret nativist societies were formed, of which the “Order of the Star-Spangled Banner” and the “Order of United Americans” were the most significant. When members of these organizations were questioned by the press about their political platform, they would often reply they knew nothing, hence the popular name for the Know-Nothing movement.
By 1855, support for the Know-Nothings had expanded considerably, and the American Party was officially formed. In the same year Southerners in the party sought to adopt a resolution calling for the protection of slavery, and some anti-slavery Know-Nothings defected to the newly formed Republican Party.
Former president Millard Fillmore of New York was chosen, with Andrew Donelson of Tennessee to serve as his running mate. In the subsequent election, Fillmore succeeded in capturing only the state of Maryland, and the Know-Nothing movement effectively ceased to exist.
Today in 1930 Pluto was discovered at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, by astronomer Clyde W. Tombaugh.
The existence of an unknown ninth planet was first proposed by Percival Lowell, who theorized that wobbles in the orbits of Uranus and Neptune were caused by the gravitational pull of an unknown planetary body. Lowell calculated the approximate location of the hypothesized ninth planet and searched for more than a decade without success. Using the calculations of Powell and W.H. Pickering as a guide, Tombaugh discovered the tiny, distant planet by use of a new astronomic technique of photographic plates combined with a blink microscope.
In August 2006 the International Astronomical Union announced that Pluto would no longer be considered a planet, due to new rules that said planets must “clear the neighborhood around its orbit.” Since Pluto’s oblong orbit overlaps that of Neptune, it was disqualified.
Today in 1929 he Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the winners of the first Academy Awards. The first award recipients’ names were printed on the back page of the academy’s newsletter. A few days later, Variety published the information–on page seven.
The first awards went to movies produced in 1927 and 1928. Though the announcements were made in February, the actual awards weren’t given out until May 16 in a ceremony and banquet held in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Some 270 people attended the dinner, many paying $5 each for a ticket.
The first Academy Award winners received gold statuettes designed by art director Cedric Gibbons and sculpted by George Stanley. The Academy’s first president, the silent film actor Douglas Fairbanks, handed out the statuettes to the winners, who included Janet Gaynor for Best Actress (for three different films: Seventh Heaven, Street Angel and Sunrise) and the German-born Emil Jannings (The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh) for Best Actor. Frank Borzage and Lewis Milestone both won Best Director awards, for Seventh Heaven and Two Arabian Knights, respectively. Best Picture honors went to Wings, the World War I drama directed by William Wellman.
In the second year of its awards, the Academy began releasing the names of each year’s winners to the press at 11 p.m. on the night of the awards ceremony. This practice ended in 1940 after the Los Angeles Times published the results in its evening edition, which meant they were revealed before the ceremony. The Academy subsequently instituted a system of sealed envelopes, which remains in use today. The awards weren’t nicknamed “Oscars” until 1931, when a secretary at the Academy noted the statue’s resemblance to her Uncle Oscar, and a journalist printed her remark.
The awards were broadcast on radio until 1953, when the first televised Oscars program aired. Since then, the Academy Awards have become one of the world’s most watched television events, drawing as many as 1 billion viewers worldwide.
Happy birthdayToni Morrison, Nobel Prize-winning novelist, born today in 1931 at Lorain, Ohio.
Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford to a welder father and homemaker mother. She graduated from Howard University in 1953, then took a master’s in literature at Cornell. She married architect Howard Morrison and had two sons.
Morrison published her first novel The Bluest Eye (1969) followed by Sula (1973). She first came to national attention when she won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Song of Solomon(1978). She also published Tar Baby (1981) and her 1987 novel, Beloved (1987) won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988.
Morrison won the Nobel Prize in 1993, becoming the first African-American to win the award, as well as the first American woman in general to win in more than 50 years.
Rest in peace Julius Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb,” who died today in 1967 at Princeton, New Jersey. He was age 62. Oppenheimer was cremated and his urn was dropped into the sea.
Oppenheimer was born in New York City on April 22, 1904. He was enlisted into the U.S. atomic weapons program in 1941. In 1942, the “Manhattan Project” was greatly expanded, and Oppenheimer was asked to establish and direct a secret laboratory to carry out the assignment. He chose Los Alamos, a site in the New Mexico desert. On July 16, 1945, the atomic bomb was exploded at the “Trinity” test site in Alamogordo, New Mexico, and only three weeks later the United States dropped the first of two bombs on Japan.
Oppenheimer regretted the use of the weapon he had helped build, and he worked with the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) to win approval for international control of atomic energy. In 1953, because of both his opposition to the hydrogen bomb and his admitted leftist leanings in the 1930s, Oppenheimer lost his security clearance and was ousted from the AEC. The case stirred wide controversy, and many people came to his defense. After leaving the government, he returned to teaching.
For his services as director of Los Alamos, Oppenheimer was awarded the Medal for Merit from President Harry S Truman in 1946. At the urging of many of Oppenheimer’s friends, President John F. Kennedy awarded Oppenheimer the Enrico Fermi Award in 1963. A little over a week after Kennedy’s assassination President Lyndon Johnson presented Oppenheimer with the award, “for contributions to theoretical physics as a teacher and originator of ideas, and for leadership of the Los Alamos Laboratory and the atomic energy program during critical years.”
Oppenheimer was nominated for the Nobel Prize for physics three times, in 1945, 1951 and 1967, but never won. An asteroid, 67085 Oppenheimer, was named in his honor, as was the lunar crater Oppenheimer.