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: http://www.historynet.com/st-petersburgtampa-airboat-line-worlds-first-scheduled-airline-using-winged-aircraft.htm#sthash.tMG5wJQ7.dpuf – See more at: http://www.historynet.com/st-petersburgtampa-airboat-line-worlds-first-scheduled-airline-using-winged-aircraft.htm#sthash.tMG5wJQ7.dpuf

[2] THE VIRGINIA QUARTERLY REVIEW, Spring 2002.

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One response to “Historian’s Almanac: January 1, 2015

  1. I didn’t realize that “Catcher in the Rye” had provoked such outrage among parents in the 50’s. Perhaps, they were gentler times.

    Like

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