Charlie Chaplin first appearance as ‘Little Tramp’ (1914)

Today In History: On February 7, 1914, the silent film ‘Kid Auto Races at Venice’ premieres in theaters, featuring the actor Charlie Chaplin in his first screen appearance as the “Little Tramp,” the character that would become his best-known onscreen alter ego.

Charlie Chaplin first appearance as the 'Little Tramp' in "Kid Auto Races at Venice" (Feb. 07, 1914)

Charlie Chaplin first appearance as the 'Little Tramp' in "Kid Auto Races at Venice" (Feb. 07, 1914)

Charlie Chaplin first appearance as the
‘Little Tramp’ in “Kid Auto Races at Venice” (Feb. 07, 1914)

Today in History: May 7, 1915 – The HMS Lusitania Is Sunk

 

On the afternoon of May 7, 1915, the British ocean liner Lusitania is torpedoed without warning by a German submarine off the south coast of Ireland. Within 20 minutes, the vessel sank into the Celtic Sea. Of 1,959 passengers and crew, 1,198 people were drowned, including almost 100 children. There were 128 American casualties and the sinking turned sentiments against Germany, helping provoke the United States into entering WWI two years later.

The Lusitania at the end of the first leg of her maiden voyage, New York City, September 1907.

 

The Lusitania at the end of the first leg of her maiden voyage, New York City, September 1907.

Today in History: April 4, 1968 – Dr. Martin Luther King is Assassinated

Just after 6 p.m. on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. is fatally shot while standing on the balcony outside his second-story room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The civil rights leader was in Memphis to support a sanitation workers’ strike and was on his way to dinner when a bullet struck him in the jaw and severed his spinal cord. King was pronounced dead after his arrival at a Memphis hospital. He was 39 years old.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968)

 

Hosea Williams, Jesse Jackson, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr and Ralph Albernathy on the balcony at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis before the shooting.

Today in History: Hollywood Icon Elizabeth Taylor Dies – March 23, 2011

On this day, March 23, 2011, Elizabeth Taylor, Academy Award winning actress, aids activist, beauty and fashion icon, died at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California from congestive heart failure. The violet-eyed Taylor began her acting career as a child and spent most of her life in the spotlight. Known for her striking beauty, she was married eight times and later in life became a prominent HIV/AIDS activist. Taylor was seventy-nine years old.

Elizabeth Taylor studio publicity shot. (mid 1940’s)
Elizabeth Taylor

Today in History: Alcatraz Prison Closes

 

Panoramic View of Alcatraz

On March 21, 1963, Alcatraz Prison, known as “The Rock or “”America’s Devil Island”, in San Francisco Bay closes down and transfers its last prisoners. At it’s peak period of use in 1950s, Alcatraz housed over 200 inmates at the maximum-security facility. It remains an icon of American prisons for its harsh conditions and record for being inescapable. In 1972 Alcatraz became a national recreation area and received designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1986. Today, the island’s facilities are operated by the National Park Service as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Alcatraz Island 1940’s

 

Alcatraz Island 2005

Today In History: Albert Einstein born, March 14,1879

 

Albert Einstein (March 14, 1879 – April 18, 1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history. While best known for his mass–energy equivalence formula E = mc2, he received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect”. The latter was pivotal in establishing quantum theory within physics. Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity drastically altered man’s view of the universe, and his work in particle and energy theory helped make possible quantum mechanics and, ultimately, the atomic bomb.

Albert Einstein during a lecture in Vienna in 1921

Today in History: first successful voice transmission over Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone took place in Boston…..

 

On March 10, 1876, the first successful voice transmission over
Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone took place in Boston as his
assistant heard Bell say, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you.”

Alexander Graham Bell

First Barbie Doll goes on display – March 9, 1959

On March 9, 1959 the first barbie doll went on display at the American Toy Fair in New York City. This date is also used as Barbie’s official birthday. She wore a black and white striped one piece bathing suit, earings sunglasses and opened toed shoes, and was available as either a blonde or brunette. Eleven inches tall Barbie was the first mass-produced toy doll in the United States with adult features.

First edition Barbie Doll from 1959

American businesswoman Ruth Handler, who co-founded Mattel Inc. with her husband in 1945, is credited with the creation of the doll. After seeing her young daughter ignore her baby dolls to play make-believe with paper dolls of adult women, Handler realized there was an important niche in the market for a toy that allowed little girls to imagine the future. During a trip to Europe in 1956 with her children Barbara and Kenneth, Ruth Handler came across a German toy doll called Bild Lilli. The adult-figured doll was exactly what Handler had in mind, so she purchased three of them. She gave one to her daughter and took the others back to Mattel. The Lilli doll was based on a popular character appearing in a comic strip drawn by Reinhard Beuthin for the newspaper Die Bild-Zeitung. The Lilli doll was first sold in Germany in 1955, and although it was initially sold to adults, it became popular with children who enjoyed dressing her up in outfits that were available separately. Upon her return to the United States, Handler reworked the design of the doll with help from engineer Jack Ryan and the doll was given a new name, Barbie, after Handler’s daughter Barbara. Around 350,000 Barbie dolls were sold during the first year of production. By 1961, the enormous consumer demand for the doll led Mattel to release a boyfriend for Barbie. Handler named him Ken, after her son. Barbie’s best friend, Midge, came out in 1963 and her little sister, Skipper, debuted the following year. Mattel acquired the rights to the Bild Lilli doll in 1964 and production of Lilli was stopped. Since 1959, more than 800 million dolls in the Barbie family have been sold around the world and Barbie is now a bona fide global icon.

First editions of Barbie dolls from 1959

The Hula-Hoop is patented – March 5, 1962

 

On March 5, 1962 the hula hoop is patented by Wham-O toy company co-founder, Arthur “Spud” Melin. The hula-hoop gained international popularity in the late 1950s when a plastic version was successfully marketed by California’s Wham-O toy company. With give aways and national marketing and retailing, a fad was started in July, 1958. Twenty-five million plastic hoops were sold in less than four months, and in two years sales reached more than 100 million units. The hula hoop was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong in Rochester, New York, in 1999.

The hula-hoop craze of the mid 1950’s

The Lindberg Kidnapping – March 1, 1932

Today in History:

Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh

On March 1, 1932, in a crime that captivated an entire nation became known as “the crime of the century”, Charles Lindberg III’s eighteen month old son, Charles Lindberg Jr., was abducted from his family home in East Amwell, New Jersey, near the town of Hopewell, New Jersey. Lindbergh and his wife Anne discovered a ransom note demanding $50,000 in their son’s empty room. The kidnapper used a ladder to climb up to the open second-floor window and left muddy footprints in the room. For three days, investigators found nothing and there was no further word from the kidnappers. Then, a new letter showed up, this time demanding $70,000. After the ransom was paid, a note was given stating that the child was being held on a boat called the Nelly at Martha’s Vineyard. The child was supposedly in the care of two women who, according to the note, were innocent. Lindbergh went there and after an exhaustive search there was no sign of either the boat or the child. Over two months later, on May 12, 1932, his body was discovered a short distance from the Lindberghs’ home. A medical examination determined that the cause of death was a massive skull fracture. He had been killed the night of the kidnapping and was found less than a mile from home. The heartbroken Lindberghs ended up donating the mansion to charity and moved away.

Charles Lindberg Jr.

After an investigation that lasted more than two years, Bruno Richard Hauptmann was arrested and charged with the crime. A large amount of the ransom money was found in Hauptmann’s home. Other main evidence, besides the money, was testimony from handwriting experts that the ransom note had been written by Hauptmann. The prosecution also tried to establish a connection between Hauptmann and the type of wood that was used to make the ladder. In a trial that was held from January 2 to February 13, 1935, Hauptmann was found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to death. Hauptmann proclaimed his innocence to the end, even turning down a $90,000 offer from a Hearst newspaper for a confession and refusing a last-minute offer to commute his execution to a life sentence in exchange for a confession. He was executed by electric chair at the New Jersey State Prison on April 3, 1936, at 8:44 in the evening.

Bruno Richard Hauptmann

Newspaper writer H. L. Mencken called the kidnapping and subsequent trial “the biggest story since the Resurrection”. The crime spurred Congress to pass the Federal Kidnapping Act, commonly called the “Lindbergh Law”, which made transporting a kidnapping victim across state lines a federal crime.