Tom's Book of Days
      July 1-10  

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July 1



1941: The first television commercial airs.

1951: Mary Reeser, of St. Petersburg, Florida, spontaneously combusts.

1956: Elvis Presley appears on The Steve Allen Show, where he is not allowed to to dance (the disingenuous Allen--who will be quoted as saying "The fact that someone with so little ability became the most popular singer in history says something significant about our cultural standards"--will later deny that he "inhited" Presley in any way; in any case, Elvis dances not). Wearing white tie and tails, Presley sings Hound Dog to a basset hound; the dog wears a top hat. The next day, teenagers picket against NBC with signs reading WE WANT THE REAL ELVIS!

      You ain't nothin' but a hound dog cryin' all the time.
      You ain't nothin' but a hound dog cryin' all the time.
      Well, you ain't never caught a rabbit and you ain't no
            friend of mine.
      When they said you was high classed, well, that was
            just a lie.
      When they said you was high classed, well, that was
            just a lie.
      You ain't never caught a rabbit and you ain't no
            friend of mine.
            --written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller

1962: Algeria wins independence from France.


July 2


1843: An alligator falls from the sky during a Charleston, South Carolina, thunderstorm.

1937: Amelia Earhart disappears in the central Pacific.

1961: Ernest Hemingway sticks a shotgun in his mouth and kills himself. Boys should not play with guns.

1969: Brian Jones drowns at his estate in England (Cotchford Farm, which had once been owned by A.A. Milne).

1982: "LONG BEACH, Calif, July 2 (AP) A truck driver with 45 weather balloons rigged to a lawn chair took a 45-minute ride aloft to 16,000 feet today before he got cold, shot some balloons out and crashed into a power line, the police said. "I know it sounds strange, but it's true," Lieut. Rod Mickelson said after he stopped laughing. 'The guy just filled up the balloons with helium, strapped on a parachute, grabbed a BB gun and took off.'

      "The man was identified as Larry Walters, 33 years old, of North Hollywood. He was not injured."


July 3


Tom Stoppard

1754: George Washington surrenders to the French at Ft Necessity.
      The Seven Years' War (1756-1763), the European counterpart to America's French and Indian War (1754-1763), involved all the major European powers, but in North America the struggle was primarily between the British and the French (along with their Indian allies). Henry Wadsworth Longfellow would use the war-specifically the exile of Arcadia French from Nova Scotia--as the background for his poem "Evangeline" (1847).
      The initial dispute centered on control of the Ohio Valley. Acting Virginia Governor Robert Dinwiddie ordered a fort built at the junction of the Ohio and Allegheny rivers, near present-day Pittsburgh. It was quickly captured by the French, who named it Fort Duquesne. Lt. Col. Washington was charged with its recapture, and May 28, 1754, his party fired the first shots of the war, defeating a reconnaissance party of French and Indians south of the fort, killing 10, wounding 1, and taking 21 prisoners, while losing only one of their own men. Of this fight Washington said:

I heard bullets whistle and believe me there is something charming in the sound.

Unable to proceed against the superior French forces in the fort, Washington erects Fort Necessity about sixty miles to the south. Today, July 3, the French attack Fort Necessity, and by midnight Washington has had enough. After he surrenders Fort Necessity, the French let him return to Virginia with his men and guns.

1806: Michael Keens, a market gardener of Isleworth near London, exhibits the first cultivated strawberry.

Having frequently, in the course of many years' practice, observed the deterioration of several kinds of fruit, when propagated in the usual ways of slips, buds, cuttings, scions, or division of the parent root, I have for a considerable time employed myself in raising new varieties from seed, which has been not only a source of great amusement to me, but also very profitable in my profession.

1883: Franz Kafka is born in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

1937: Tom Stoppard is born in Zlin, Czechoslovakia.


July 4


crab nebula

crab nebula petroglyph

1054: The brightest known supernova explodes. According to a Song dynasty astronomer in China, it is visible even during the daytime. Needless to say, it is observed the world over — one depiction is on an Anasazi petroglyph from the Valley of Fire in the US southwest. It is now known as the Crab nebula (shown top left). The Crab is also one of the strongest radio sources known. Radio astronomers call it "Taurus A" because it was the first radio source to be identified with an optically known object. The remnants of the exploded star of 1054 are speeding away from the center of the nebula so fast that growth can be noticed in only a couple of decades. The 16th-magnitude pulsating star-the "stellar cinder"-at its core is called the Crab Pulsar; it is the most rapid pulsar known with a period of 33 milliseconds.

1776: In Philadelphia, the Second Continental approves the Declaration of Independence, which sets forth the principles behind the Congress's vote (on July 2) in favor of Richard Henry Lee's motion to declare the independence of the 13 colonies. One of its main purposes was to win support from France, from which the colonists sought military assistance. The document, drafted by Jefferson, is strongly influenced by French enlightenment philosphers, though perhaps the greatest influence is the English philosopher John Locke. Jefferson emphasized the contractual justification for independence, arguing that the government of King George III of England had abdicated its responsibilities, leaving the colonists had not only the right but the duty to revolt.
      The Congress rejected only two sections of Jefferson's draft outright: a derogatory reference to the English people, and a denunciation of the slave trade. The formal signing would begin on August 2.

1845: The U.S. Congress votes to approve the annexation of Texas. Originally a Mexican province, Texas has for nine years claimed to be an independent republic. Mexico vigorously disputes the claim.... The politics surrounding the annexation of Texas, and the US-Mexican War in which it played a key part, are strongly colored by the issue of slavery, already signaled by the Continental Congress's vote on the Declaration of Independence on this day sixty-nine years previous.

1855: Walt Whitman, 36, self-publishes Leaves of Grass (it doesn't sell).

1862, 1865: "On a golden afternoon," Charles Ludwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) tells Alice Liddell and her sisters the story of Alice underground. Three years later, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is published.

1884: In Paris, France presents the Statue of Liberty to the US.

1946: The Philippines gains independence from the US. Despite the fact that Filipinos had declared their independence from Spain, the Philippines had been transferred from Spain to the United States in the Treaty of Paris (1898), which closed the Spanish-American War.


July 5


Jean Cocteau

1889: Jean Cocteau (pictured) is born in Maisons-Lafitte near Paris.

1934: On "Bloody Thursday" in San Francisco, police shoot down striking longshoremen and supporters at Rincon Hill, killing two and injuring more than 100. Representatives of two chemical companies, the Lake Erie Chemical Company and Federal Laboratories, took the occasion to demonstrate tear-gas products for the benefit of the police. The Federal Laboratories representative, Joseph Roush, made this report to the home office:

I might mention that during one of the riots, I shot a long-range projectile into a group, a shell hitting one man and causing a fracture of the skull, from which he has since died. As he was a Communist, I have had no feeling in the matter and I am sorry that I did not get more."


July 6


coeur barbe poster

1535: Thomas More is beheaded for refusing to acknowledge Henry VIII as the head of the Church of England.

1894: US troops intervene in Nicaragua. This happens quite a lot.

1923: "Soirée du 'Coeur à barbe' (The Bearded Heart)" Dada event at the Théâtre Michel, with films by Hans Richter and Man Ray; music by Satie, Stravinsky, Darius Milhaud, and Georges Auric; cardboard costumes by Sonia Delaunay and Theo van Doesburg; and a performance of Tristan Tzara's three-act play Coeur à gaz. During course of evening someone shouts: "Picasso dead on the field of battle!" (referring to the death of Cubism), which shocks André Breton into jumping to the stage to come to Cubism's defense. During the commotion Breton hits the actor Pierre de Massot with his cane, breaking his arm and precipitating a full-scale riot that continues until the police, called by Tzara, arrive to restore order.

1965: A Hard Day's Night premiers.

2004: Oops. In a front-page article the New York Post announces that John Kerry has chosen Dick Gephardt as his Vice Presidential candidate.


July 7



1846: The US annexes California.

1901: Gary Cooper is born in Helena, Montana.

1934: F. Scott Fitzgerald tells Thomas Wolfe, as they lunch with Maxwell Perkins, "You never cut anything out of a book you regret later."

1936: Henry F. Phillips patents the Phillips-head screw and screwdriver.

July 8


a snail

1822: Percy Bysshe Shelley is drowned. He is cremated but his heart will not burn, and Mary Wollstonecraft carries it with her in a silken shroud for the rest of her life.

1881: The ice cream sundae is invented in Edward Berner's drug store in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Unable to serve flavored soda water on the sabbath, Berner pours chocoalte flavoring for sodas over ice cream. Since this is deemed somehow an acceptable work-around to the Blue Laws that prohibiting "sucking soda" on the Lord's day, the dish became known as a sundae.

In 1973 the Wisconsin State Historical Society would erect a historical marker in Two Rivers Central Memorial Park. It reads:

ICE CREAM SUNDAE - In 1881, George Hallauer asked Edward C. Berner, the owner of a soda fountain at 1404 - 15th Street, to top a dish of ice cream with chocolate sauce, hitherto used only for ice cream sodas. The concoction cost a nickel and soon became very popular, but was sold only on Sundays. One day a ten year old girl insisted she have a dish of ice cream "with that stuff on top," saying they could "pretend it was Sunday." After that, the confection was sold every day in many flavors. It lost its Sunday only association, to be called ICE CREAM SUNDAE when a glassware salesman placed an order with his company for the long canoe-shaped dishes in which it was served, as "Sundae dishes."

Ithaca, New York, also claims to have invented the sundae (in 1892), and Evanston, Illinois, is yet another pretender to the throne.

UPDATE, June 2006. Two River issues a Cease and Desist proclamation against Ithaca and other sundae claimants. Ithaca responds with this proclamation of its own.

1886: It rains snails in Cornwall, England.


July 9


johannes kepler

1735: Young Samuel Johnson marries Elizabeth Jervis Porter, a wealthy widow 20 years older than he. She calls him "the most sensible man I ever saw in my life."

1595: Johannes Kepler inscribes a geometric solid construction of the universe. Kepler is best known for his discovery of the three principles of planetary motion, by which he clarified the spatial organization of the solar system. (The orbit of a planet or comet about the sun is an ellipse (x2/a2 + y2/b2 = 1) with the sun's center of mass at one focus. A line joining a planet/comet and the sun sweeps out equal areas in equal intervals of time. The squares of the periods of the planets are proportional to the cubes of their semimajor axes:Ta2 / Tb2 = Ra3 / Rb3).
      Kepler is teaching a class, when an interesting notion occurs to him. What if each of the intervals between the six planets is governed by one of the five regular solids identified by ancient Greek geometry (pyramid, cube, octahedron, dodecahedron, icosahedron)? After all, these are the only regular solids that can be inscribed in a sphere. This insight will lead to the discovery of the principles of planetary motion and result in the Prodromus Dissertationum Mathematicarum Continens Mysterium Cosmographicum ("Cosmographic Mystery"), which will outline Kepler's conception of celestial harmony.


July 10


godiva by Jules-Joseph Lefebvre

Marcel Proust

LADY GODIVA DAY: In Coventry, England, tax protester Godiva's ride (see May 31) is re-enacted on this day. The image at left is by Jules-Joseph Lefebvre.

1871: Marcel Proust is born in Auteuil, near Paris.

Every reader is a reader of his own self."
      --Marcel Proust
1873: In Brussels, Paul Verlaine fires a pistol at Arthur Rimbaud, wounding him slightly. Boys shouldn't play with guns.

1888: Giorgio de Chirico is born.

1925: In Dayton, Tennessee, John T. Scopes, a high school science teacher, having been accused of teaching evolution in violation of a Tennessee state law, goes on trial. The law in question states "that it shall be unlawful for any teacher in any of the Universities, Normals and all other public schools of the State which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals." Clarence Darrow represents Scopes, William Jennings Bryan the state.
    Scopes will be found guilty and fined $100. On appeal the case will be thrown out on a technicality concerning the way the fine will be determined. Not until 1968 will the US Supreme Court rule that such laws are unconstitutional — a brief moment of sanity that will probably be reversed before long given the medieval cast of mind of the powers that be in the 21st century.

continue to July 11



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