Today in 1784 John Wesley chartered the first Methodist Church in the United States. Despite the fact that he was an Anglican, Wesley saw the need to provide church structure for his followers after the Anglican Church abandoned its American believers during the American Revolution.
Wesley remained within the Anglican fold and insisted that only ministers who had received the apostolic succession–the laying on of hands by an Anglican bishop to consecrate a new priest–could administer the sacraments. The refusal of the Anglican church to ordain Dr. Thomas Coke to preach to Americans newly independent from the British State Church, finally forced Wesley to ordain within his own Methodist conference in the absence of a proper Anglican bishop. He performed the laying on of hands and not only ordained Coke as the superintendent of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America but also commissioned him to ordain Francis Asbury as his co-superintendent.
Today in 1987 Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev indicated that his nation was ready to sign “without delay” a treaty designed to eliminate U.S. and Soviet medium-range nuclear missiles from Europe. Gorbachev’s offer led to a breakthrough in negotiations and, eventually, to the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in December 1987.
Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan had been wrestling with the issue of nuclear arms reduction in Europe since 1985, when they first met face-to-face to discuss the matter. A subsequent meeting in 1986 started with high hopes for an agreement, but the discussions broke down when Gorbachev linked the issue to U.S. termination of its development of the Strategic Defense Initiative (the so-called “Star Wars” anti-missile defense system). Both Reagan and Gorbachev faced pressures to reach a settlement. Reagan was under assault by “no-nuke” forces both in the United States and in Western Europe. Gorbachev wanted to achieve a cut in nuclear armaments, both to bolster his prestige on the world stage and to provide some much-needed relief for a Soviet economy sagging under the burden of massive military expenditures.
Gorbachev suggested that “the problem of medium-range missiles in Europe be singled out from the package of issues and that a separate agreement on it be concluded, and without delay.” In other words, he was dropping his insistence on including SDI in the negotiations. The two men met in December 1987 and signed the INF Treaty, by which the Soviets eliminated about 1,500 medium-range missiles from Europe and the United States removed nearly half that number.
Today in1982 the J. Paul Getty Museum became the most richly endowed museum on earth when it received a $1.2 billion bequest left to it by the late J. Paul Getty. The American oil billionaire died in 1976, but legal wrangling over his fortune by his children and ex-wives kept his will in probate until 1982. During those six years, what was a originally a $700 million bequest to the museum nearly doubled. By 2000, the endowment was worth $5 billion–even after the trust spent nearly $1 billion in the 1990s on the construction of a massive museum and arts education complex in Los Angeles.
Getty’s only stipulation was that the fortune be used “for the diffusion of artistic and general knowledge.” The laws governing trusts, however, say that the museum must spend 4.25 percent of its endowment three out of every four years in order to retain its tax-exempt status. In the first year after its endowment, that figure equaled $54 million; today the amount the museum must spend three out of four years is more than $200 million. The J. Paul Getty Museum’s greatest challenge is finding enough art and culture to buy–but not too much that other museums accuse the Getty of hoarding the world’s masterpieces.
The museum spent a good chunk of its endowment in the construction of the Getty Center, a six-building complex set on a hilltop in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles. The $1 billion complex opened in December 1997. Fourteen years in the making, the Getty Center includes a large museum, a research institute and library, an art conservation institute, a digital information institute, an arts education institute, a museum management school, and a grant program center. The buildings were designed in a modernist style by American architect Richard Meier.
Today in 1994 in the first military action in the 45-year history of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), U.S. fighter planes shoot down four Serbian warplanes engaged in a bombing mission in violation of Bosnia’s no-fly zone.
The NATO members approved the use of its military forces and in 1994 agreed to enforce U.N. resolutions enacted to bring about an end to the bloody conflict in the former Yugoslavia. In 1994 and 1995, NATO planes enforced the no-fly zone over Bosnia-Herzegovina and struck at Bosnian Serb military positions and airfields on a number of occasions.
On December 20, 1995, NATO began the mass deployment of 60,000 troops to enforce the Dayton peace accords, signed in Paris by the leaders of the former Yugoslavia on December 14. The NATO troops took over from a U.N. peacekeeping force that had failed to end the fighting since its deployment in early 1992.
Today in 1983, the celebrated sitcom M*A*S*H after 11 seasons aired a special two-and-a-half hour episode watched by 77 percent of the television viewing audience. It was the largest percentage ever to watch a single TV show up to that time.
M*A*S*H was based on the 1968 novel by Richard Hooker and the 1970 film produced by 20th Century Fox. Its title came from the initials for the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, an isolated compound that received wounded soldiers and was staffed by the show’s cast of doctors and nurses during the Korean War.
M*A*S*H premiered on the CBS television network in September 1972. Under threat of cancellation during its first season because of low ratings, the show turned things around the following year, landing in the top 10 in the ratings and never dropping out of the top 20 for the rest of its run. Actor Alan Alda (“Hawkeye”) began to take more creative control, co-writing 13 episodes and directing more than 30, including the series finale. Alda became the first person ever to win Emmy Awards for acting, directing and writing for the same show.
After earning consistently high ratings throughout its 11-year run, M*A*S*H enjoyed enduring popularity in the following decades, as it became one of the world’s most syndicated shows. It also spawned an unsuccessful spin-off, AfterMASH, which CBS aired from 1983 to 1985.
Today in 1964 Thelonious Sphere Monk’s portrait graced the cover of Time magazine
Beatlemania was at its peak but it was jazz that captured the imagination of a significant proportion of American music fans, and no jazz musician at that time was more vital, innovative and contemporary than Thelonious Monk.
Composer of such jazz standards as “‘Round Midnight,” “Blue Monk” and “Well, You Needn’t” Monk continued performing and pursuing a truly unique direction in jazz until his death on February 17, 1982.
Today in 1861 Congress created the new Territory of Colorado.
When the United States acquired it after the Mexican War ended in 1848, the land that would one day become Colorado was nearly unpopulated by Anglo settlers. Ute, Arapaho, Cheyenne, and other Indians had occupied the land for centuries, but the Europeans who appearanced there since the 17th century never stayed for long. It was not until 1851 that the first permanent non-Indian settlement was established, in the San Luis Valley.
In July 1858, a band of prospectors near modern-day Denver found gold in their pans. The influx of miners was termed the Pike’s Peak gold rush. By the spring of 1859, an estimated 50,000 gold seekers had reached this latest of a long series of American El Dorados.
The Congressional designation of new western states and territories had been bogged down for several years as southern and northern politicians fought over whether slavery would be permitted in the new western regions. By 1861, the South had seceded, clearing the way for the northern politicians to begin creating free-labor states. Congress combined pieces of Nebraska, Kansas, Utah, and New Mexico to make a large rectangle of land it designated Colorado Territory.
Today in 1844, President John Tyler cruised the Potomac with 400 others aboard the U.S. Navy’s new steam frigate USS Princeton. In attendance that day were political dignitaries and their guests.
The Princeton carried a brand new 12-inch, 27,000-pound cannon called the Peacemaker. The gun’s co-designer, John Ericsson, argued with the ship’s captain, who wanted to demonstrate the new weapon, over whether it was safe to discharge because it had not been sufficiently tested. Days before the cruise, Captain Robert Stockton had boasted about the Navy’s new ship and armament, which he had helped design, to congressmen and reporters. He and the crew were eager to show off the cannon’s ferocity, and despite Ericsson’s warnings, Stockton insisted on firing the cannon during the Potomac cruise. The first two successful and ear-splitting volleys sent the crowd into wild applause.
Halfway through the cruise, President Tyler, below deck, proposed a toast to the three great guns: the Princeton, her Commander and the Peacemaker. Then the secretary of war asked for a third firing toward Mount Vernon in honor of George Washington. Stockton gave the order to fire.
The third round proved deadly. In the worst peacetime disaster of its time, the cannon exploded, killing several aboard, including two members of Tyler’s cabinet.
Happy birthday Mario Gabriele Andretti, American world champion racing driver and one of the most successful Americans in the history of the sport, born today in 1940 at Montona, Italy.
Andretti is one of only two drivers to win races in Formula One, IndyCar, World Sportscar Championship and NASCAR (the other being Dan Gurney). Andretti’s sons Michael and Jeff also became race car drivers, as did his nephew John Andretti. In the early 1990s, all four men competed against each other in Champ Car events, the first family to accomplish such a feat. Andretti’s grandson Marco is also a race car driver.
Mario Andretti claimed the last of his 52 career Champ Car victories in 1993. He officially retired from racing in 1994, with a record 67 Champ Car pole positions won and 7,587 Champ Car laps led.