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U.S. Surgeon General announces definitive link between smoking and cancer

September 18, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

United States Surgeon General Luther Terry knew his report was a bombshell. He intentionally chose to release it on January 11, 1964, a Saturday, so as to limit its immediate effects on the stock market. It was on this date that, on behalf of the U.S. Government, Terry announced a definitive link between smoking and cancer.

The link had long been suspected. Anecdotal evidence had always pointed to negative health effects from smoking, and by the 1930s physicians were noticing an increase in lung cancer cases. The first medical studies that raised serious concerns were published in Great Britain in the late 1940s. American cigarette companies spent much of the next decade lobbying the government to keep smoking legal and advertising reduced levels of tar and nicotine in their products. 44 percent of Americans already believed smoking caused cancer by 1958, and a number of medical associations warned that tobacco use was linked with both lung and heart disease. Despite all this, nearly half of Americans smoked, and smoking was common in restaurants, bars, offices, and homes across the country.

Dr. Terry commissioned the report in 1962, and two years later he released the findings, titled Smoking and Health, which stated a conclusive link between smoking and heart and lung cancer in men. The report also stated the same link was likely true for women, although women smoked at lower rates and therefore not enough data was available.

The news was major, but hardly surprising—the New York Times reported the findings saying “it could hardly have been otherwise.” Still, the Surgeon General’s report was a major step in health officials’ crusade against smoking. Though tobacco companies spent millions and millions and were largely successful in fending off anti-smoking laws until the 1990s, studies have shown that the report increased the percentage of Americans who believed in the cancer link to 70 percent, and that smoking decreased by roughly 11 percent between 1965 and 1985. California became the first state to ban smoking in enclosed public spaces in 1995. 25 more states have now passed similar laws, including 50 of the 60 largest cities in America. In 2019, the Surgeon General announced a link between serious disease and e-cigarettes, an alternative to smoking in which traditional tobacco companies have invested heavily.

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The Mendez Family Fought School Segregation 8 Years Before Brown v. Board of Ed

September 18, 2019 in History

By Dave Roos

Mexican American families in California secured an early legal victory in the push against school segregation.

in 2016. “This is theirs, not mine. They stood up against the establishment.”

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"Wheel of Fortune" premieres

September 18, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

Wheel of Fortune, the longest-running syndicated game show in American television, premieres on NBC on January 6, 1975. Created by television legend Merv Griffin and hosted since the early 1980s by Pat Sajak and Vanna White, Wheel is one of the most popular television shows in the world.

Griffin, who had already created another iconic game show, Jeopardy!, conceived of Wheel as a combination between Hangman and roulette. Contestants guess letters as they attempt to solve a Hangman-like puzzle, spinning the wheel to determine how much money they will earn for a correct guess, with the ultimate goal being to solve the puzzle and accumulate as much money as possible. Since the show’s inception, the price of a vowel has stood at $250 and has not been adjusted for inflation. The phrases “I’d like to buy a vowel” and “I’d like to solve the puzzle” have entered the American cultural lexicon.

Sajak and White, who joined in 1981 and 82, respectively, have become some of the most famous hosts in game show history. White, who operates the board and reveals letters as they are guessed, often contributes her own puzzles to the show. In over 6,5000 episodes, she has never worn the same gown twice. The show’s producers claim that over 1 million people have auditioned to be contestants and the show has paid out a total of more than $200 million. Painfully awkward or incorrect guesses by contestants have also been comedic fodder for generations of Americans.

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Pope Clement VII forbids King Henry VIII from remarrying

September 18, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On January 5, 1531, Pope Clement VII sends a letter to King Henry VIII of England forbidding him to remarry under penalty of excommunication. Henry, who was looking for a way out of his marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, ignored the pope’s warning. He went on to marry Anne Boleyn (and five subsequent wives), leading to his excommunication and one of the most significant schisms in the history of Christianity.

Catherine was the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain and the aunt of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, in addition to being the widow of Henry’s brother, Arthur. Increasingly concerned by his failure to produce a legitimate heir—although he publicly acknowledged an illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy—Henry searched for a way to end his marriage in a manner consistent with his Catholic faith. This was necessary for political reasons, as a monarch violating Catholic doctrine risked disgrace and condemnation by the pope. Henry was also by all accounts a fairly devout Catholic. He was a known opponent of the Protestant Reformation that was taking shape on the continent, earning the title of Defender of the Faith from Pope Leo X for a treatise he wrote attacking Martin Luther.

Henry sent emissaries to the pope in hopes of having his marriage annulled, and even prevailed upon Clement to establish an ecclesiastical court in England to rule on the matter. Clement, however, had no intention of nullifying the marriage. In addition to his doctrinal objections, he was more or less a prisoner of Charles V at the time, and he was powerless to stand in the way of Charles’ insistence that the marriage stand. Already infatuated with Anne Boleyn, who was known to have taken a keen interest in Luther and the Reformation, Henry had exhausted his options for remarrying within the church and decided excommunication was a fair price to pay for independence from the pope and the potential of fathering an heir.

Henry banished Catherine from his court and married Anne (secretly in 1532, and publicly the following year). In doing so, he fundamentally altered the course of Christian and European history. Subsequent to his remarriage, Henry issued a string of decrees that removed his kingdom from papal rule, ending the supremacy of the Catholic Church and creating the Church of England. Although the new church was, at first, extremely similar to Roman …read more

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Marian Anderson becomes first African American to perform at the Met Opera

September 18, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On the evening of January 7, 1955, the curtain at the Metropolitan Opera in New York rises to reveal Marian Anderson, the first African American to perform with the Met.

By then, Anderson was in the twilight of a career that was equal parts acclaimed and hamstrung by racism. First noticed by an aunt, who convinced her to join a church choir and helped her put on her first professional shows, Anderson spent her early career in the eastern United States. She was successful but consistently thwarted from mainstream stardom by racism and segregation, and she eventually decided to continue her career in Europe. She became a sensation there, particularly in Scandinavia, and major figures such as composer Jean Sibelius and conductor Arturo Toscanini praised her as a singular vocal talent.

Upon returning to the United States, Anderson performed regularly, but continued to be denied bookings, hotel rooms, and other basic opportunities that were afforded to whites. In 1939 the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to let her perform at Constitution Hall on account of her race. A group of supporters that included President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor, who resigned from the DAR in protest, helped her instead put on a concert at the Lincoln Memorial. Attended by 75,000 people, including prominent members of Roosevelt’s cabinet, and broadcast across the nation, the concert not only bolstered her fame but also thrust Anderson into the nascent struggle for civil rights.

Rudolf Bing became director of the Met in 1950 and was intent on signing Anderson to perform there from the outset. Though she had been courted by companies foreign and domestic, Anderson had shied away from opera in the past, feeling her voice was not right for it and deterred by the lack of roles for black singers. When Bing finally convinced her to sign with him, he did not tell the board of the Met until after the fact. He cast Anderson as Ulrica in Verdi’s Un ballo en maschera. The role, a witch-like figure often portrayed by white women wearing dark makeup, was not the lead, and it was freighted with racial stereotypes connecting primitive and “backwards” traditions with people of color. Nonetheless, her debut at the Met was a major moment in the history of integration of the arts, and the New York Times reported that Anderson’s performance left many audience members …read more

Source: HISTORY

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The 1936 Strike That Brought America’s Most Powerful Automaker to its Knees

September 17, 2019 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Over 136,000 GM workers participated in a sit-down strike in Flint, Michigan.

The General Motors body plant in Flint, Michigan was usually a thankless place, filled with loud sounds and the feverish, dangerous work of turning metal into auto bodies. But in January 1937, the sounds of whistling and conversation filled the air. Instead of toiling over dangerous machinery, workers gambled, wrestled and played ping-pong on the usually busy factory floor. “We made a ball out of it,” recalled Earl Hubbard, a GM worker, in an oral history.

The workers weren’t on vacation: They were on strike. Over 44 days in 1936 and 1937, members of the fledgling United Auto Workers union managed to bring an auto behemoth to its knees in a sit-down strike that became one of the most decisive victories in American labor history. Exhausted by the industry’s dangerous demands and sharpened by the Great Depression, over 100,000 auto workers changed labor history without picketing their plant. Instead of walking out, they simply sat down and refused to leave.

Early in 1935 in Flint, Michigan, the United Auto Workers staged the first successful sit-down, forcing General Motors to come to terms. It was a major victory and the sit-down spread to other areas.

Historically, striking workers had risked their lives on the picket lines. Though unions often formed in response to dangerous working conditions, going on strike exposed workers to the danger of physical violence from hired thugs or police that served as companies’ strong-arms. Unions had long struggled to create unions across industries. Instead, craft unions that organized workers across specialties were the norm.

The automobile industry had long discouraged unions. Workers knew they could lose their jobs for trying to organize, and faced corporate spies who reported any pro-union activity back to management. According to historian Timothy P. Lynch, General Motors invested $1 million in surveillance between 1933 and 1936. For many auto workers, unions simply weren’t worth risking their jobs—pay was relatively good, and when workers were laid off they were often rehired at higher rates once a company’s profits rose.

But then the Great Depression hit in 1929. Car sales collapsed, and the industry’s production levels sagged. Automakers slashed jobs, axing thousands of employees with no regard for seniority. Those who did keep their jobs tolerated abysmal working conditions, afraid to speak up lest they be laid …read more

Source: HISTORY

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The Allies Hoped Operation Market Garden Would End WWII. Here's What Went Wrong

September 17, 2019 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

It was a daring and massive offensive into Nazi-occupied Holland that ultimately became a costly failure.

In the weeks following …read more

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Solid Gold Toilet Stolen From Winston Churchill’s Family Palace

September 16, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

Someone is out there with a golden toilet that doesn’t belong to them.

The 18-karat-gold toilet disappeared from Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, on September 14—only two days after the palace installed it as part of an art exhibition by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan. The solid gold toilet has been valued at around $6 million. And because it is fully-functioning, the early morning theft caused damage and flooding to the historic palace.

The room in which the toilet sat was right next to the room where future prime minister Churchill was born on November 30, 1874. Churchill’s nanny raised him at the Oxfordshire palace in the years before he went away to boarding school, and the palace was also the home he returned to on school holidays. At age 33, he proposed to 23-year-old Clementine Hozier in the Temple of Diana summerhouse in the palace gardens.

“At Blenheim I took two very important decisions: to be born and to marry,” Churchill reportedly said of the estate. “I am content with the decision I took on both occasions.”

After hearing about the toilet theft at Blenheim Palace, Cattelan joked in a statement that the robbers are the “the real artists” for pulling off such a stealthy heist of his artwork, titled America. “From the speed the robbery was executed we can say for sure they are great performers,” he said. He also made a request: “Dear thieves, please, if you are reading this, let me know how much you like the piece and how it feels to pee on gold.”

READ MORE: 10 Famous Art Heists

“America”, a fully-working solid gold toilet, created by artist Maurizio Cattelan, is seen at Blenheim Palace on September 12, 2019 in Woodstock, England.

Churchill may not have grown up knowing how that felt, but he was nonetheless born into extreme opulence and political power. Blenheim Palace is the ancestral home of the dukes and duchesses of Marlborough, of which Churchill was a direct descendant (his paternal grandfather was the seventh duke of Marlborough). By the time Churchill was born, his family was already an established part of the ruling aristocratic class.

The palace was a gift from Queen Anne to Sarah Churchill, first duchess of Marlborough and one of the queen’s closest political advisors, after the duchess’ husband led the English to victory in the 1704 Battle of …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Groundbreaking novel "Don Quixote" is published

September 16, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On January 16, 1605, Miguel de CervantesEl ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha, better known as Don Quixote, is published. The book is considered by many to be the first modern novel as well as one of the greatest novels of all time.

The protagonist is a minor noble, Alonso Quixano, whose obsessive reading of chivalric romances drives him mad. He adopts the name Don Quixote and, along with his squire Sancho Panza, roams around La Mancha, a central region of Spain, taking on a number of challenges which exist entirely in his mind. Quixote attacks a group of monks, a flock of sheep, and, most famously, some windmills which he believes to be giants. The episodic story is intentionally comedic, and its intentionally archaic language contributes to its satirization of older stories of knights and their deeds.

The novel was an immediate success, although Cervantes made only a modest profit off of its publication rights. It was re-published across Spain and Portugal within the year. Over the next decade, it was translated and re-published across Europe and widely read in Spain’s American colonies. Over the subsequent centuries, critics have continued to praise, analyze, and re-interpret Don Quixote. Many analyses focus on the theme of imagination and the more subversive elements of the text, which has been taken as a satire of orthodoxy, chivalry, patriotism and even the concept of objective reality. The novel gave rise to a number of now-common idioms in Spanish and other languages, including the English phrase “tilting at windmills” and the word “quixotic.” Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, another novel frequently called one of the greatest of all time, was heavily influenced by Don Quixote, as was Mark Twain’s enormously influential The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which explicitly references Cervantes’ work. Cerebral, comedic and groundbreaking, Don Quixote has endured in a way that only a select few novels could.

READ MORE: After 400 Years, Investigators Find Remains of Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote’s Creator

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North and South clash at the Battle of South Mountain

September 16, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

General Robert E. Lee’s exhausted Confederate forces hold off the pursuing Yankees by closing two passes through Maryland’s South Mountain, allowing Lee time to gather his forces further west along Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg.

After the Second Battle of Bull Run, Virginia, in late August 1862, Lee decided to invade Maryland to raise supplies; he also hoped a decisive win would earn the South foreign recognition. As he moved, he split his army into five sections while the hungry Rebels searched for supplies. A copy of the Confederate plans accidentally fell into Union hands when the orders were left in an abandoned campsite outside of Frederick, Maryland. McClellan now knew that Lee’s force was in pieces, but he was slow to react.

As Lee moved into western Maryland, he left detachments to guard Crampton’s Gap and Turner’s Gap through South Mountain. If McClellan had penetrated the passes, he would have found Lee’s army scattered and vulnerable. South Mountain, a 50-mile-long ridge, contained several passes, but Crampton’s Gap and Turner’s Gap were the most important. The National Road ran through Turner’s Gap to the north, and Crampton’s Gap connected western Maryland to Harpers Ferry, Virginia.

The Union troops drove the Confederates away at Crampton’s Gap, but were initially unable to expel the Confederates from Turner’s Gap. However, the Rebels did retreat the next morning. Union losses for the day amounted to 2,300 dead and wounded, including the death of Major General Jesse Reno. The Confederates lost 2,700.

These engagements were a mere prelude to the Battle of Antietam. Although costly, they allowed Lee time to assemble his scattered bands at Sharpsburg.

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Source: HISTORY