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Monday, 14 October 2013

Make a date - 1, 14 and 31 October

Some time ago I published a regular monthly column linking a set selection of dates in history. The series was popular. I'm busy coordinating the articles into book form. As today is 14 October, here are a number of linked events for that date plus two other October dates. To avoid repetition, I've simply indicated the relevant date in brackets. The three dates for this article are:

1, 14 and 31 October

October is supposed to be the scary month, a time of hobgoblins, ghosts and of course Halloween. They don’t get much scarier than those Nazi leaders who in 1946 were sentenced at the Nuremberg Trials (1). A couple of years earlier (14) Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, suspected of plotting Hitler’s assassination, was given the choice of a public treason trial and certain death by firing squad or suicide with honour. This much-revered soldier chose the latter.

A ruler who met a grisly end was Benito Mussolini; little did he know about his fate when in 1922 he became the youngest premier in the history of Italy (31). Familiar to all of us living in Spain, Francisco Franco, although a controversial leader, actually died in his bed: in 1936 he was named the head of the Nationalist government of Spain (1).
Benito Mussolini

Less fortunate was King Harold Godwinson, who in 1066 got one in the eye at the battle of Senlac Hill (14), seven miles from Hastings.

With one eye on history, Khruschev made several cataclysmic revelations about his predecessors in his 1956 speech, resulting in the body of Joseph Stalin being removed (31) from Lenin’s Tomb in 1961 because Stalin was suddenly a non-person.

A mere three years later, Leonid Brezhnev ousted Khrushchev (14), probably as a result of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis which began with a U2 flyover taking photos of Soviet nuclear weapons being installed in Cuba (14).

Indeed, October seems to be a month marked by achievements in transport.

To begin with, in 1811, the first steamboat set sail down the Mississippi, arriving in New Orleans (1) and the following year work on London's Regent’s Canal began (14).

In 1908 Ford introduced the Model T car (1) and a mere thirty-nine years later Chuck Yeager flew the X-1 plane faster than the speed of sound (14), heralding in the concept of the space-age. NASA was created (1) in 1958.
Chuck Yeager and the X-1
Eleven years later to the day, a passenger aircraft - the Concorde - broke the sound barrier for the very first time (1). Maybe it did become uneconomical, but what a beautiful plane!

Other technological things happened on our selected days in October too. The first electric lamp factory was opened (1) by Thomas Edison in 1880 and the first rectangular television tubes were manufactured on the same day sixty-nine years later.

Although refrigeration was in use at the turn of the century, it wasn't commonplace, but that was due to change when Acme Refrigeration (1) was incorporated in 1959.

Quite a bit of land changed hands this month, too. Alexander the Great increased his empire (1) by defeating Darius III of Persia (now Iran) in the battle of Arbela in 331BC and Spain ceded Louisiana to France via the Treaty of San Ildefonso on the same day in 1800.

Still on the same day, with the help of T E Lawrence, the Arab forces captured Damascus for the Allies in 1918, while thirty-one years later Mao Zedong declared the People’s Republic of China.
T.E. Lawrence
Eleven years after that (1), the British Empire was being given away - notably Nigeria and Cyprus gained their independence.
That favourite place for philatelists, the Gilbert Islands, lost the Ellice Islands when they took the name Tuvalu (1) in 1975. Independence occurred in 1978. Tuvalu means “group of eight” – there are eight inhabited islands in the group. In 2000 Tuvalu leased its internet domain name “.tv” for fifty million dollars (until 2012).

Four years later to the day – 1979 - America too gave back land, returning sovereignty of the Panama Canal to Panama. The canal was purchased by the US while Theodore Roosevelt was their charismatic president. In 1912, while campaigning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Roosevelt was shot by a saloon-keeper (14) but even with the flesh wound and the bullet still in him, Teddy Roosevelt delivered his scheduled speech.

Of course teddy bears were named after Roosevelt.

Another kind of bear cropped up in 1926 when A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh (14) was first published.
An earlier landmark in the publishing of a continuing character was Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, published (31) in 1892.

A similar publishing phenomenon is Ian Fleming’s James Bond; Patrick Dalzel-Job, whose exploits were the inspiration for the famous spy, died (14) in 2003 while coincidentally on the same day in 1927 the movie Bond Roger Moore was born.

Further to the magic of movies, The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson was born in 1961, perhaps appropriately on Halloween. Thirty-two years to the day later, Federico Fellini, the Italian director died. Magician Harry Houdini died the same day in 1926 after his appendix was ruptured. Houdini and Conan Doyle were acquainted; the former debunked spiritualists, while Conan Doyle believed in them.
The magic of Broadway was heightened by the great composer Leonard Bernstein, who died (14) in 1990 while two famous British singer/actors were born on the same day (1) - Julie Andrews in 1935 and Stanley Holloway in 1890.

So there’s probably something to celebrate among that little lot! You could even sing Celebrations! Cliff Richard was born (14) in 1940 but they don't know in which attic he keeps the painting. (Oscar Wilde was born in October too [1854] but two days later than Cliff).

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