2.02.2017 Day in History

Groundhog animalToday is World Wetlands Day and, in the U.S. and Canada, Groundhog Day; one thousand five hundred and eleven years ago, Alaric II of the Visigoths promulgated a compendium of Roman laws that helped him to hold on to a kingdom that included most of present-day Spain and much of what is now France; a thousand fifty-five years before this point in time, the twelfth Pope John appointed Otto Holy Roman Emperor after a lapse of four decades in imperial leadership, an appointment that preceded the new king’s conquest of Italy and extension of the Empire’s borders generally; in present-day Estonia and Latvia half a decade less than two and a half centuries subsequently, in 1207, the Pope ordered the creation of one of several Baltic principalities, in this case Terra Mariana, which soon enough became Catholic Church properties at the borders of the Holy Roman Empire; four hundred eighty-one years before the here-and-now, a Spanish conquistador led the founding of what became Buenos Aires, Argentina; six years

Buenos Aires Luis Argerich
Buenos Aires Luis Argerich

later, in 1542, across the Atlantic and across most of Mediterranean Africa, Portuguese adventurers made a successful incursion into Northern Ethiopia, capturing a hilltop Muslim fortification; exactly a hundred eleven years thereafter, in 1653, Dutch colonizers founded the City of New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island at the mouth of the Hudson River; Alexander Selkirk’s rescue half a century and a year further than half a decade after that, in 1709, from a shipwreck that had marooned him led to the inspiration of Daniel Defoe to write Robinson Crusoe; one hundred sixty-nine years back, Mexico acceded defeat in its war with the United States in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and a first shipload of Chinese laborers arrived in San Francisco en route to the gold mines in the State’s Sierras; two decades hence to the day, in 1868 eleven thousand miles away in Western Japan, imperial forces won a major victory against the Tokugawa Shogunate that led to the burning of Osaka Castle; eight years yet later on, in 1876, a National League of Major League Baseball first existed; six years subsequently to the day, in 1882 in Ireland, a baby boy uttered his first cry before he came of age as path-finding author James Joyce; just a year hence in 1883, another male infant opened his eyes who would rise as Johnston McCulley, the creator of Zorro on screen; another twenty-two years onward, in 1905, the girl child entered the world who would mature as the reactionary populist writer and thinker Ayn Rand; nine years farther forward from that conjunction, in 1914, Charlie Chaplin first appeared in a film; in the Eastern Baltic six years past that point in time, in 1920, Russia signed its first treaty, with Estonia, establishing a Tartu Treaty basis for international recognition of the Soviet Union, and France occupied the Northernmost port in Lithuania, which had been part of Germany prior to war’s end; James Joyce two years later, in 1922, first published his monumental Ulysses on his birthday, and a male child drew an initial breath who would develop theorems to show the fallibility of the math in which he was expert as philosopher and numbers wizard, Imre Lakatos; a year after that, across the Atlantic in 1923, a baby boy took his first breath en route to a life as poet and writer James Dickey; two years following that, in 1925, sleds and dogs and drivers succeeded in delivering diphtheria serum to Anchorage, Alaska in midwinter, establishing the basis for the regular Iditarod Race thereafter; four years yet nearer to now, in 1929, a girl child called out in Czechoslovakia who would mature as the innovative and respected filmmaker, feminist, critic, and screenwriter, Vera Chytilova; just seven hundred thirty days more proximate to the present pass, in 1931, a baby girl was born who grew up as journalist and acclaimed children’s author, Judith Viorst; exactly three years afterward, in 1934, the Export-Import Bank began operations; three hundred sixty-five days subsequently, in 1935, the inventor of the polygraph, Leonarde Keeler, operationally tested the first ‘lie-detector;’ two more years along time’s pathway, in 1937, a male baby came howling into the world whose fate was to make audiences howl with laughter as Tom Smothers; half a decade henceforth, in 1942, a male infant came along who would grow up as songwriter and crooner Graham Nash; just a year later, seven thousand miles East in 1943, the battle of Stalingrad definitively ended with the surrender of almost 100,000 German troops; sixteen years further on, in 1959, also in the Soviet Union, the so-called mystery of Dyatlov Pass, with the death of nine cross-country skiers, took place in the Northern Urals; eleven years hence, in 1970, Nobelist and philosopher Bertrand Russell drew his final breath; two years even closer to today, in 1972, angry Irish burned the British Embassy in Dublin during The Troubles; five years more fire chaos disaster propertyin the direction of now, in 1977, a Chicago legal secretary received the ax because she refused to make coffee for her boss, which led to his receiving the “Coffee Demerit Badge” for disrespecting his employee; a decade still farther down the pike, in 1987, over twenty thousand U.S. steelworkers returned to work from a strike for job security and better pay that was the longest steel walkout in U.S. history, and Scottish author Alistair MacLean died; seven hundred thirty-one days thereafter, in 1989, the final Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan; a year later still, in 1990, South Africa ‘unbanned’ the African National Congress, announced the pending release of Nelson Mandela, and essentially agreed to end formal Apartheid; a decade subsequent to that moment, in 2000, the first digital film projection device debuted in Europe; another two years on time’s pathway, in 2002, popular writer Claude Brown’s life came to an end; a dozen farther years toward today, in 2014, the iconic Seymour Philip Hoffman ended his days on Earth.