Monthly Archives: January 2015

Historian’s Almanac: January 4, 2015

Today is the fourth day of January, the first month in both the Julian and Gregorian calendars.  January is named after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions—doors, gates, passages, windows, etc., that sort of thing. Janus is an interesting character in Roman mythology, but that must wait for another time.

January is one of the seven months with thirty-one days.  It is the second month of winter and coldest month in most of the northern hemisphere.  Oh course, as one might expect it is the warmest month in most of the southern hemisphere, where it is the second month of summer.  It is the seasonally equivalent of July in the northern hemisphere, and, of course just the opposite in the southern hemisphere.

My reason for pointing out this trivia about January is because January 4, today, is National Trivia Day.  What other why to honor the holiday than to indulge oneself in a bit of really meaningless trivia.  January 4 is also National Spaghetti Day.  I guess that fact sets the menu for today.  However, if you want meatballs with your spaghetti, you may want to wait until March 3, when it will be National Meatball Day.

In his state of the union message in January, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty and outlined his agenda for transforming America into a “Great Society”:  “This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America.”  LBJ was not the first, nor the last, to make war on poverty and bring economic justice to the citizens of the United States.

President Johnson aspired to be a second Franklin D. Roosevelt.  He hoped that his Great Society would complete what President Roosevelt’s New Deal began.  It wasn’t to be, unfortunately.  The Vietnam War ruined LBJ’s efforts, just it one might say that World War II undermined FDR’s efforts.

I must not fail to mention that today is the birthday of Sir Isaac Newton, perhaps the greatest scientist of the modern era.  By synthesizing the discoveries of the sixteenth-century Scientific Revolution, Newton provided a model of the universe that remains valid today, contrary to whatever the followers of Albert Einstein may claim.

I honor the memory of Albert Camus who died on this day in 1960.  Camus was one of the greatest literary figures of the post-World War II period.  He remains one of the best known of the so-called existentialist authors.

Until next time, be good to all God’s creation and always walk under the mercy.

Historian’s Almanac: January 3, 2015

On this day in 1521 Pope Leo X (Giovanni di Lorenzo de’ Medici) issued the papal bull, Decet Romanum Pontificum, excommunicating the German Monk, Martin Luther.  Just over three years earlier Luther launched the Protestant Reformation, when he nailed his Ninety Five Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Saxony.

Luther called for the Church to take up the challenge of the wide spread corruption of church doctrine and leadership.  In order for reform to occur, the initiative had to come from the papacy.  That was unlikely at the time.  Leo X was himself an example of the corruption.

Leo X was the second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent (Lorenzo dé Medici), a key figure in the Italian Renaissance.  Leo took holy orders at age seven and was given the abbey of Fonte Dolce.  At eight years of age, he was nominated for an archbishopric, and at seventeen became the youngest cardinal, ever.  In all, he held nearly thirty church offices while still a teenager.

Ironically, shortly before his death, Lorenzo wrote to his son warning him that Rome was the sink of all iniquities and exhorted him to live a virtuous life.  Upon being elected Pope, Leo wrote his elder brother:  “Since God has given us the papacy, let us enjoy it.”

It is the birthday of J.R.R. Tolkien, born in Bloemfontein, South Africa in 1891.  Tolkien was a member of The Inklings, a literary circle associated with C.S. Lewis.  Owen Barfield, Charles Williams, and Hugo Dyson were among those meet regularly on Tuesday mornings at the Eagle and the Child, a pub in Oxford, England.   Tolkien is chiefly remembered as the author of The Hobbit (1937) and the classic trilogy, The Lord of the Rings (1954-1956).

“Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate
And though I oft have passed them by
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.”

It is the birthday of Victor Borge, (Borge Rosenbaum) born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1909.  Borge was a world-class pianist, conductor, and comedian.  Among his best known routines is “Inflationary Language and Punctuation”:

Until next time, be good to all God’s creation and always walk under the mercy.

Historian’s Almanac: January 2, 2015

It was on this day in 1839 that Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre (1787-1851), a French artist and photographer, took the first picture of the moon. 1st photo of moon Daguerre took the photo using a process he developed that became known as daguerreotypy.  The image, known as a daguerreotype, “was produced on a silver plate sensitized to iodine and developed in mercury vapor.”

Daguerre is also credited with taking the first photograph, a daguerreotype, of a person.  Two men, a bootblack polishing another man’s shoes, are seen in the lower left-hand corner of a photograph of the Boulevard du Crime in Paris 1st person phototaken by Daguerre in 1838. The appearance of the two men in the photo was no doubt by chance.

Today we remember  Tex Ritter (b. 1905), who went on to Cowboy Heaven on this

day in 1974.  Ritter began his career in 1928 singing cowboy songs on the radio.  He starred in a number of B-western movies during the thirties and forties, but it is perhaps as a cowboy and country singer that he is best remembered.  His recordings of “Rye Whiskey,” “Blood on the Saddle,” “Green Grow the Lilacs,” “Boll Weevil.” “Hillbilly Heaven,” and “High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darlin)” are all classics.  The last won an Oscar in 1953 for “Best Song.”  []  Tex Ritter died of a heart attack on January 2, 1974.

Today is the birthday of Josef Stalin (1878-1953) who said, “Death is the solution to all problems.  No man – no problem.”

Until next time, be good to all God’s creation and always walk under the mercy.


Historian’s Almanac: January 1, 2015

Today is the first day of AD 2015, or “In the year of our Lord, 2015.”  The “January 1” as the first day of the year was a gift of the Roman ruler Julius Caesar, who introduced the Julian calendar in 46 BC.  The “AD” was the creation of the 6th-century monk Dionysius Exiguus.  Since no one knows, or can ever know, the “first day,” it was necessary to have some common reference point from which to calculate time.  From the perspective of the “Age of Faith,” the Middle Ages in Western history, what better choice was there than the traditional birth year of Jesus Christ?

Among the many interesting historical events that occurred on January 1, one often forgotten piece of historical trivia is the inaugural flight of the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line, the first commercial airline.  It began operating regularly scheduled flights between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida, a distance of 23 miles, on January 1, 1914.  The new air service shortened the travel time between the 2 cities from 12 hours by train to a brief 22 minutes by air.  The price of a one-way ticket was $5.

Today’s passenger might question the comfort aboard the Benoist Model 14 aircraft.  The Benoist 14 was a sea plane that normally flew only 5 feet above the water.  Passengers sat on a wooden seat enjoying a cool breeze mixed with ocean spray.[1]

Among notable deaths on this date in history, I must make mention of Hank Williams (1923-1953), one of the best known country-western singers and author of many of the best remembered country-western songs.  Williams died on January 1, 1953 in the back seat of his Cadillac somewhere between Bristol, Virginia and Oak Hill, West Virginia while in route to Canton, Ohio, where he was scheduled to perform on New Year’s Day at the Windsor Theater.

Among the notable births on this day in history is that of J. D. Salinger (1919-2010), one of the most influential American authors of the 20th century.  Salinger is best remembered for his “sort of” autobiographical [Salinger] novel, CATCHER IN THE RYE, published in 1951.  The New York Times hailed it as “an unusually brilliant first novel.”  Others damned it.  It was banned from American schools as “unfit for children to read.”  One irate parent “counted 237 appearances of the word ‘goddam’ in the novel, along with 58 of ‘bastard’, 31 of ‘Chrissake’ and six of ‘fuck’”.[2]  The last has replaced “damn” as a common expression of frustration among today’s youth.

I close with a hearty New Year’s greeting and wish that this next year will be one of the good ones.

Until next time, be good to all God’s creation and always walk under the mercy.

[1] C.V. Glines, “St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line: World’s First Scheduled Airline Using Winged Aircraft,” originally published in the May 1997 issue of AVIATION HISTORY.  See more at: – See more at: