Historian’s Almanac for August 3, 2013

 On this day in 1492 Christopher Columbus set sail from Palos, Spain.  Although he knew where wanted to go, he ended up [re]discovering the “new world.”  By doing so, Columbus proved what every woman knows; men simply refuse to ask directions.

In 1922, radio station WGY in Schenectady, New York broadcast the first full-length melodrama.  “The Wolf” was written by Eugene Walter in 1914.  Set in Canada, the play is about one man’s pursuit of revenge for the death of his sister, who was betrayed and deserted by a cad called “the Wolf.”

The first Mickey Mouse watch went on sale in 1933.  It sold for $12.75.  The Japanese Emperor Hirohito was given a Mickey Mouse watch in 1975 and wore it even on formal occasions.  A great crisis occurred in 1979, when the watch stopped running.  The precious watch was rushed to Tokyo for repair by experts on American watches.  All was well when it turned out that the watch only needed a new battery.  Today a vintage 1933 Mickey Mouse watch can be purchased on eBay for $1500.

Among the notable birthdays to celebrate is that of John T. Scopes, born on this day in 1900.  Scopes was serving as a football coach and substitute teacher at the Rhea County High School in Dayton, Tennessee in 1925.  The ACLU wanted to test Tennessee’s Butler Act banning the teaching of evolution in the public schools.  The merchants of Dayton wanted to put their town on the map.  Scopes agreed to test the law.  The result was one of the most sensational and widely known trials in American history, the so-called “Monkey Trial.”

The trial pitted two heroic figures against each other, William Jennings Bryan for the prosecution and Clarence Darrow for the defense.  Bryan was a three-time presidential candidate and defender of biblical inerrancy.  Darrow was a famous defense lawyer and libertarian.  The presence of H. L. Mencken, editor of the American Mercury, guaranteed the trial would be a national, if not international, sensation.

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