Monday, March 19, 2012

This Day In History

1279 – A Mongolian victory in the Battle of Yamen ends the Song Dynasty in China. Having lasted for 319 years to that point, the Song Dynasty was notable for being the first government in world history to issue paper money as currency. This dynasty also saw the first known use of gunpowder, as well as the first discernment of true north using a compass.

1649 – The House of Commons of England passes an act abolishing the House of Lords, declaring it "useless and dangerous to the people of England." Oliver Cromwell was pretty much ruling the roost at the time as Lord Protector of England. When the monarchy was restored twelve years later, the House of Lords assembled again and returned to its former position as the more powerful chamber of Parliament – a position it would occupy until the 19th century.

1687 – Explorer Robert Cavelier de La Salle, searching for the mouth of the Mississippi River, is murdered by his own men. La Salle also explored the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada, as well as the Gulf of Mexico, claiming the entire Mississippi River basin for France. La Salle's final expedition was plagued by pirates, hostile Indians, and poor navigation. On this day in 1687, the 36 remaining men (out of the original 300) mutinied and La Salle was slain. Ironically, the remaining colonists were overtaken and promptly killed by Karankawa Indians the very next year.

1863 – The SS Georgiana, said to have been the most powerful Confederate cruiser, is destroyed on her maiden voyage with a cargo of munitions, medicines, and merchandise then valued at over $1,000,000. The wreck of the scuttled and burned Georgiana was discovered in 1965, ironically also on March 19th, and still lies in the shallow waters of the harbor in Charleston, South Carolina.

1865 – The Battle of Bentonville begins in Bentonville, North Carolina, near the town of Four Oaks. This Civil War battle lasted for two days until Confederate forces retreated. A month later, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston would surrender to Union General William T. Sherman right around the same time that General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant, ending the war.

1895 – Auguste and Louis Lumiére record their first footage using their newly patented cinematograph. This early film camera also doubled as a film projector and developer. The film was called Sortie de l'usine Lumiére de Lyon and was first publicly screened at L'Eden, the world's first and oldest cinéma, located in La Ciotat in southeastern France.

1918 – The U.S. Congress establishes time zones and approves daylight saving time. Before that, I suppose, the current time was deemed to be exactly the same everywhere; and nobody never got to spring forward in the spring or fall back in the fall.

1931 – Gambling is legalized in Nevada. And the rest is history....

1932 – The Sydney Harbour Bridge is opened. This bridge, located in Sydney, Australia, is currently the world's widest long-span bridge, the fifth longest spanning-arch bridge in the world, and the tallest steel arch bridge in the world. Impressive!

1941 – The Tuskegee Airmen, the first all-black unit of the Army Air Corp, is activated.

1954 – Joey Giardello knocks out Willie Tory in the seventh round at Madison Square Garden in the first televised prize boxing fight to be broadcast in color. Which basically means that viewers got to see blood in its actual color for the first time on television.

1958 – The Monarch Underwear Company fire in Manhattan leaves 24 dead, 15 injured, and countless others tragically underdressed. Okay, that was horrible, and I apologize. Moving on...

1966 – Texas Western becomes the first college basketball team to win the Final Four with an all-black starting lineup. I wonder how many racist basketball fans refused to put them in their winning brackets that year....

1978 – I was born. Big whoop.

1979 – The U.S. House of Representatives begins broadcasting its day-to-day business via the cable television network C-SPAN. I wonder if anyone has broken the news to the representatives yet – you know, that no one has ever watched a single hour of their day-to-day business because it's so boring it makes your eyes bleed.

1987 – Televangelist Jim Bakker resigns as head of the PTL Club due to a brewing sex scandal. Bakker hands over control to Jerry Falwell. Not the first time a "preacher" has fallen, making a laughingstock of himself and all Christians in the eyes of some, but definitely one of the most memorable in recent history.

2003 – President George W. Bush orders the start of war against Iraq. I'm not getting into the politics of this one – it's just not my thing. Obviously, some good things have come out of this decision (an evil man was taken out of power) and some bad things have happened as a result (many brave soldiers and some innocent people have perished).

David Livingstone, Scottish missionary and explorer  (1813)
Wyatt Earp, American marshal  (1929)
William Jennings Bryan, American statesman  (1860)
Irving Wallace, American novelist  (1916)
Richie Ashburn, major league baseball player  (1927)
Philip Roth, American author  (1933)
Ursula Andress, Swiss actress  (1936)
Sirhan Sirhan, assassin of Robert F. Kennedy  (1944)
Glenn Close, American actress  (1947)
Bruce Willis, American actor  (1955)
Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles football coach  (1958)
Hedo Turkoglu, Turkish-born NBA basketball player  (1979)
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers baseball player  (1988)

All information courtesy of the good folks at

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