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Did Nixon’s ‘Laugh-In’ Cameo Help Him Win the 1968 Election?

May 16, 2018 in History

By Greg Daugherty

Comedians Dan Rowan, left, and Dick Martin, hosts of 'Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In' with then-Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon during a rally in Burbank, California, October 1968. (Credit: AP Photo)

Whatever else he may have been, Richard M. Nixon wasn’t generally known as a comedian. So many American TV viewers were surprised 50 years ago to see the Republican presidential nominee pop up on the hit comedy show “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.”

The date was September 16, 1968, less than a month after the turbulent riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and two months before the November elections. Nixon’s appearance was brief, about five seconds in all, but memorable. Like a long list of Laugh-In guests, he looked straight into the camera and delivered one of the show’s trademark phrases, “Sock it to me!” Even after a reported six takes, it sounded more like “Sock it to me?”—as if Nixon himself couldn’t believe he was saying it.

Nixon, who famously distrusted the media, chose his TV appearances carefully. According to the Associated Press, he hadn’t been on either “Face the Nation” or “Meet the Press” in two years. His aides reportedly advised against appearing on “Laugh-In,” too, given its liberal attitudes toward subjects like sex, recreational drug use and the war in Vietnam.

But Nixon went on anyway, talked into it by Paul Keyes, a “Laugh-In” writer who happened to be a close friend. Keyes thought the cameo would soften Nixon’s humorless image and win him votes in what was promising to be a close election. Keyes might also have mentioned that “Laugh-In” was the most-watched show on TV, reaching close to a third of U.S. households.

Even then, Nixon didn’t drop his guard. Offered a different “Laugh-In” line, “You bet your sweet bippy,” he rejected it, concerned that “bippy” might mean something naughty. His retinue of handlers also made sure that he didn’t appear as pale and sweaty as he had in his disastrous 1960 TV debate with John F. Kennedy. They posed him in a dignified gray-blue suit against a plain brown backdrop—not one of the colorful mod set designs the show was known for. Unlike “Laugh-In” cast members and other guest stars who delivered the line, Nixon wasn’t doused by water, dropped through a trap door, bombarded with marshmallows or subjected to any additional indignities—much as some in the audience might have enjoyed it.

“Laugh-In” producers offered Nixon’s Democratic opponent, Hubert H. Humphrey, equal time on their show, but Humphrey declined, supposedly considering it undignified. He did, however, appear on the Dick Clark music …read more

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150 Years Ago, a President Could Be Impeached for Firing a Cabinet Member

May 16, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

A political cartoon showing Vice President Andrew Johnson sitting atop a globe, attempting to stitch together the map of the United States with needle and thread. (Credit: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty images)

Today, President Trump’s cabinet looks more like a revolving door. Since taking office, he has fired an unprecedented number of cabinet members, including his Secretary of State and other key advisors. But if it were the 1860s, the president’s unilateral firings would have been an automatically impeachable offense, thanks to a law intended to restrict presidential powers—a law that almost got a sitting president booted out of office.

The Tenure of Office Act seemed simple—it prevented the president from firing cabinet appointments that Congress had previously approved. But when President Andrew Johnson defied it, a ludicrous standoff resulted. As a result of his combative attempt to skirt the law, Johnson was nearly impeached and has gone down in history as one of America’s worst presidents for his defiance.

Before the law was passed, presidents could fire cabinet members at will. But the law—created to stop Johnson’s attempts to soften Reconstruction for Southern states after the Civil War—wasn’t just any Congressional act. It resulted in an increasingly absurd spiral of one upmanship that culminated in a rare presidential veto, an even rarer congressional override, a sensational impeachment trial that was so well-attended that Congress had to raffle off tickets, and an ongoing conflict over executive power.

It all started when Johnson, a Southerner who stubbornly decided to support the North during the Civil War, was picked to run alongside Abraham Lincoln in 1864. The nation was in the midst of a roiling war, and Lincoln’s presidency was shaky as casualties racked up and opposition to his policies mounted. Lincoln needed to reach across the aisle, so he chose Johnson, a populist from Tennessee.

A political cartoon showing Vice President Andrew Johnson sitting atop a globe, attempting to stitch together the map of the United States with needle and thread. (Credit: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty images)

The strange vice-presidential pick worked, and Johnson got down to work as the Vice-President in 1865. But then disaster struck when Lincoln was assassinated. Johnson assumed the presidency, but it turned out his ideas about how to deal with the former Confederacy were quite different from his majority-Republican Congress.

Johnson didn’t want to …read more

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How Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking Helped Cause World War I

May 16, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Queen Victoria with the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George and Queen Mary) while on their honeymoon at Osborne House in the Isle of Wight, 1893. (Credit: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

If you were a royal in the late part of the 19th century, there’s a good chance you were related to Queen Victoria—and if Victoria was your grandmother, you were pretty much guaranteed a glamorous royal wedding to a prince or princess of her choosing.

“Victoria’s descendants effectively gained automatic entry into what amounted to the world’s most exclusive dating agency,” says Deborah Cadbury, author of Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking: The Royal Marriages That Shaped Europe. The outcomes of her grandchildren’s love lives were orchestrated by the queen herself, Cadbury says.

But those outcomes weren’t always happy—and by marrying off her grandchildren, Victoria inadvertently helped stoke a world war. Here’s how the queen’s matchmaking helped create—and destroy—modern Europe.

It wasn’t unusual for a monarch to be involved in her family’s marriages. The Royal Marriage Act of 1772 gave Britain’s monarch the chance to veto any match. But Victoria didn’t stop at just saying no. She thought that she could influence Europe by controlling who her family members married. “Each marriage was a form of soft power,” says Cadbury. Victoria wanted to spread stable constitutional monarchies like Britain’s throughout Europe.

Luckily, she had plenty of family members with which to do it. Victoria had nine children and 42 grandchildren. Eventually, seven of them sat on European thrones in Russia, Greece, Romania, Britain, Germany, Spain and Norway—and all would take sides during World War I with disastrous consequences.

Some of Victoria’s grandchildren followed their grandma’s orders without complaint. Her grandson Albert Victor was second in line for the throne and, at Victoria’s behest, asked Princess Mary of Teck to marry him. Victoria liked the German princess, who was also a cousin, because of her level headedness, and pressured Albert to marry her even though he was rumored to be gay. He dutifully proposed. Then, tragedy struck and he died suddenly of influenza in 1892.

Queen Victoria with the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George and Queen Mary) while on their honeymoon at Osborne House in the Isle of Wight, 1893. (Credit: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Victoria then pressured Albert’s brother, George, who was now second in line to the throne, to propose to Princess Mary. …read more

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Brown v. Board of Education: The First Step in the Desegregation of America’s Schools

May 16, 2018 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Linda Brown (L), with sister Terry Lynn, sitting on a fence outside of their school, the racially segregated Monroe Elementary School in Topeka, Kansas, 1953. (Credit: Carl Iwasaki/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

On May 17, 1954, Chief Justice Earl Warren issued the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education, ruling that racial segregation in public schools violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The upshot: Students of color in America would no longer be forced by law to attend traditionally under-resourced black-only schools.

The decision marked a legal turning point for the American civil-rights movement. But it would take much more than a decree from the nation’s highest court to change hearts, minds and two centuries of entrenched racism. Brown was initially met with inertia and, in most southern states, active resistance. More than half a century later, progress has been made, but the vision of Warren’s court has not been fully realized.

The Supreme Court ruled “separate” meant unequal.
The landmark case began as five separate class-action lawsuits brought by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on behalf of black schoolchildren and their families in Kansas, South Carolina, Delaware, Virginia and Washington, D.C. The lead plaintiff, Oliver Brown, had filed suit against the Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas in 1951, after his daughter Linda was denied admission to a white elementary school.

Her all-black school, Monroe Elementary, was fortunate—and unique—to be endowed with well-kept facilities, well-trained teachers and adequate materials. But the other four lawsuits embedded in the Brown case pointed to more common fundamental challenges. The case in Clarendon, South Carolina described school buildings as no more than dilapidated wooden shacks. In Prince Edward County, Virginia, the high school had no cafeteria, gym, nurse’s office or teachers’ restrooms, and overcrowding led to students being housed in an old school bus and tar-paper shacks.

Linda Brown (L), with sister Terry Lynn, sitting on a fence outside of their school, the racially segregated Monroe Elementary School in Topeka, Kansas, 1953. (Credit: Carl Iwasaki/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

With Brown v. Board the Supreme Court ruled against segregation for the first time since reconstruction.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board marked a shining moment in the NAACP’s decades-long campaign to combat school segregation. In declaring school segregation as unconstitutional, the Court overturned the longstanding “separate but equal” doctrine established nearly 60 years earlier in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). In …read more

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Hidden Pages in Anne Frank’s Diary Deciphered After 75 Years

May 15, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

The diary of Anne Frank. Found in the collection of Anne Frank House Museum, Amsterdam.Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

When Anne Frank was arrested in the “secret annex” she and her family had hidden in between 1942 and 1944, she had to leave her beloved diary behind. She had no idea she would one day become one of the Holocaust’s most famous symbols.

Now, officials from the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam have announced the discovery of two previously unknown pages of her diary—material that reveals an earthier side of its teenage author.

The previously unknown writing was discovered behind brown paper that covers up two pages in Frank’s diary. In 2016, conservators took photos of the condition of the diary during a routine check. This time, advanced imaging technology revealed the text beneath the pages.

The diary of Anne Frank. Found in the collection of Anne Frank House Museum, Amsterdam.Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Frank apparently began an entry on September 28, 1942, then ruined the pages. “I’ll use this spoiled page to write down ‘dirty’ jokes,” she wrote—then listed four, along with an imagined lesson on sex education and some information on prostitutes. “At the end she explicitly names her father, Otto, who had been in Paris and saw houses with prostitutes,” the Anne Frank House writes.

It’s not clear when Frank wrote each portion of the newly discovered text. Anne herself presumably pasted the paper over the written pages, though it’s not clear when or why. The Anne Frank House did not release the text itself along with the announcement.

At the time, Frank was 12 years old and curious about sex and relationships like other children her age. In her diary, she wrote about other jokes that were sexual in nature, discussed her changing body and menstruation, and explored her own budding sexual feelings toward members of the same and opposite sex.

VIDEO: Anne Frank Though German Jewish teenager Anne Frank did not survive the Holocaust, the memoirs from her two years in hiding live on forever.

Frank’s candid words on sex didn’t make it into the first published diary, which appeared in English in 1952. Though Anne herself edited her diary with an eye to publication, the book—released eight years after her death from typhus in the Bergen-Belsen<span style="font-weight: …read more

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At Stephen Hawking’s Funeral, Time Travelers Welcome

May 15, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

Cambridge Univ. physicist & author Prof. Stephen Hawkings, wheelchair bound due to ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig's disease), inside a lecture hall w. math equations on blackboard behind him.  (Photo by Terry Smith/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

The physicist Stephen Hawking—who died on March 14, 2018—was a pop cultural icon for his contributions to science and his unique sense of humor. Take this party invitation he sent out in 2009:

“You are cordially invited to a reception for time travelers hosted by Professor Stephen Hawking to be held in the past, at the University of Cambridge Gonville & Caius College.”

Was it an experiment, a joke, or a little of both? Either way, Hawking had indeed already thrown the party on June 28. He didn’t send the invitation out until after it was over to ensure that only time travelers would attend.

Cambridge Univ. physicist & author Prof. Stephen Hawkings, wheelchair bound due to ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease), inside a lecture hall w. math equations on blackboard behind him. (Photo by Terry Smith/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

Unfortunately, no one showed up, and he ended up waiting alone in a room decorated with balloons and a banner that said “Welcome Time Travelers.” But in a nod to this famous experiment, The Stephen Hawking Foundation has announced that time travelers are also welcome to attend his June 15 interment service at Westminster Abbey in London.

“We cannot exclude the possibility of time travel as it has not been disproven to our satisfaction,” a spokesperson for the foundation told the BBC. “All things are possible until proven otherwise.”

It could be that the foundation didn’t want to announce this fact until afterwards, as Hawking had done with his party. The foundation only addressed it after a London travel blog, IanVisits, noticed that when entering the online ticket raffle for the service, you could select a “birth year” all the way through 2038—seemingly opening up the event to people who haven’t been born yet.

VIDEO: A Brief History of Stephen Hawking A look at the astronomical life of iconic author, cosmologist and physicist Stephen Hawking.

When reporters reached out about the range of birth years, the foundation confirmed that the event was open to time travelers, while noting that none had yet applied (the raffle ends at midnight on May 15).

<span …read more

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7 Images That Changed Royal History

May 15, 2018 in History

By Hadley Meares

Portrait of Anne of Cleves, by Hans Holbein. (Credit: De Agostini/UIG/Everett)

Throughout history, royal families have carefully crafted their images, using artists and photographers to portray them in a majestic and iconic light. Sometimes these images had serious consequences—whether they were the ones intended or not. Here are the stories of some of the most powerful images in royal history.

Portrait of Anne of Cleves, by Hans Holbein. (Credit: De Agostini/UIG/Everett)

The Portrait of Anne of Cleves

Legendary painter Hans Holbein was in a difficult situation. In 1539, he was sent by Henry VIII of England to paint the unmarried Anne of Cleves, whose family was an important strategic ally of Britain. The temperamental Henry, with three wives already under his large belt, had been assured of Anne’s beauty. “Every man praiseth the beauty of the same lady as well for the face as for the whole body,” he was told by adviser Thomas Cromwell, “she excelleth as far the duchess [of Milan] as the golden sun excelleth the silver moon.”

Holbein’s painting was to serve as confirmation of these verbal reports. With Cleve’s court officials looking over his shoulder, Holbein was expected to paint Anne in a way that was both flattering and realistic. The resulting painting presented a pleasant, docile looking woman—and it seems Henry was cheered by what he saw. Two copies were made: one is now at the Louvre in Paris, and the other at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Although scholars debate how important Holbein’s work was in Henry’s decision making process, it is doubtful he would have agreed to marry her without having viewed the flattering portrait.

Unfortunately, upon their meeting on New Year’s Day, 1540, Henry was immediately repulsed by Anne’s actual appearance, shouting to advisors, “I like her not.” Their marriage lasted only six months, and their subsequent divorce would lead to two more marriages for Henry—and one more beheading—before his death in 1547. Fortunately, Anne would survive both Henry and all his other wives, and live a relatively happy and tyrant-free life in England.


Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie shortly before their assassination, and a page from Le Petit Journal, illustrating the assassination. (Credit: Henry Guttmann/Getty Images & Popperfoto/Getty Images)

The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg

On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir presumptive of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and his wife, Sophie, were fatally …read more

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The Ominous Link Between Superman, Career Washouts and Untimely Death

May 15, 2018 in History

By Ryan Mattimore

Kirk Alyn Superman

Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. But even Superman—or at least the actors who have played him—haven’t been able to escape one of Hollywood’s most legendary curses. This year the Man of Steel turns 80, and through the decades it has become apparent that a number of people who portrayed the character have fallen upon serious misfortune—from career washouts to untimely deaths.

Kirk Alyn was the first actor to portray the iconic crimefighter, starring in two 15-episode film serials for Columbia Studios starting in 1948: Superman and Atom Man vs. Superman. Having begun his career as a chorus boy and then on Vaudeville, he worked his way up through the acting ranks until a co-starring role in a Republic Studios serial gave him a big break. Studio executives from Columbia Pictures viewing it took note of the actor’s resemblance to Clark Kent, and soon cast him as the mild-mannered reporter. But since Alyn wasn’t well-known, the studio kept his name out of the credits as Superman.

After playing the Man of Steel for three years, he couldn’t shake his Superman image or parlay that role into a larger, more varied career. Because audiences had trouble picturing him as other characters, he only scored small roles in B pictures. “Playing Superman ruined my acting career,” Alyn said later. “I was bitter for many years.” He even saw his cameo role as Lois Lane’s father cut from the 1978 film version. In his final years he struggled with Alzheimer’s disease and died in relative obscurity.

Kirk Alyn played Superman in two early film serials, starting in 1948. He later said, ‘Playing Superman ruined my acting career.’ (Credit: Everett Collection)

George Reeves, the first television Superman, starred as the bulletproof do-gooder in both a 1951 film and the “Adventures of Superman” TV show that ran for six years starting in 1952. The hugely popular show made Reeves—who started his film career with a bit part in Gone With the Wind—into a household name. However, like Alyn before him, he had a hard time shaking his superhero image. Test audiences responded negatively to his appearance in the classic WWII film From Here to Eternity because they had a hard time picturing Superman at war. After five successful seasons, “Superman” was canceled in 1958 and Reeves struggled to find work …read more

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Frank Sinatra’s Mob Ties and Other Secrets from His FBI File

May 14, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Frank Sinatra was many things: A crooner who could make bobby-soxers faint, an Academy Award-winning actor, the elder statesman of the Rat Pack. At the height of his career, it was rumored that “every woman wants to have him; every man wants to be him.” But his fans and detractors weren’t the only people who wanted a piece of Old Blue Eyes: So did the FBI.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation tracked Sinatra for over 40 years, amassing a dossier of thousand of pages about his movements, words, and friendships. The files, which were made public after Sinatra’s death in 1998, cover Sinatra throughout his tempestuous career—and read like a thrilling account of a life he lead “his way.”

Sinatra rose to fame during the 1940s, and soon attracted the attention of the FBI for claims that he’d paid a doctor $40,000 to declare him medically unfit for World War II service. Though the FBI dismissed the allegations, calling his exemption for a punctured eardrum and psychological issues legitimate, rumors that he’d dodged the draft persisted throughout his lifetime and even hurt his career in the late 1940s.

Frank Sinatra signing papers before leaving his draft board in Newark, New Jersey. Speaking of his rejection, the singer said, “I am very unhappy about it. If I had been accepted, I would have preferred the Army or Marines.” (Credit: NY Daily News Archive/Getty Images)

His excuse for not serving may have been watertight, but Sinatra’s ties to known Mafia members and a revolving cast of characters connected to the underworld weren’t as squeaky clean. Sinatra’s FBI file reads like a guide to the era’s organized crime figures. Though Sinatra always denied he was connected to the mob, he did interact with famous Mafia figures like Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana, with whom he was close friends. 

Sinatra supposedly introduced Giancana to John F. Kennedy‘s campaign in 1960 in an attempt to deliver union votes to the future president. According to Sinatra’s daughter, Tina, he played a gig at Giancana’s Chicago club to repay the favor. Sinatra also introduced Kennedy to Judith Campbell Exner, Giancana’s girlfriend. During the years-long affair that followed, Exner allegedly acted as a liaison between Kennedy and Giancana, helping in a plot for the Mob to …read more

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Discovered: Eerie Outline of Horse That Died at Pompeii

May 14, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

(Photo: Parco Archeologico di Pompei)

Archaeologists who discovered the imprint of a horse killed in the Pompeii disaster have now cast a full-size plaster replica of the horse’s body print, the first to be found in the wreckage at Pompeii.

The horse with no name met its fate in 79 A.D., when the Mount Vesuvius volcano erupted, killing around 2,000 people in and around Pompeii. Though it’s far from the deadliest volcanic disaster ever recorded—that’d be Mount Tambora’s 1815 eruption, which killed roughly 100,000 people—archaeological discoveries have made it one of the most famous.

Researchers have already captured the final poses of some of the people who died in the Pompeii disaster by locating cavities where ashes formed around their now-decomposed bodies, and then injecting the cavities with liquid plaster. Now, they’ve used this technique to recreate the final pose of a horse that died in a stable in Civita Giuliana, outside the gates of Pompeii.

(Photo: Parco Archeologico di Pompei)

The horse was just under five feet tall, measured from the ground to its withers, or the base of the neck. That makes it a little smaller than modern horses (the famous racing horse Secretariat stood at five feet, six inches). But this isn’t surprising because the average size of horses increased over time as smaller types—like Dawn horses, which were closer to the size of modern dogs—became extinct. In fact, the Pompeii horse may have been larger for its time.

Researchers are certain this animal was indeed a horse because of the clear imprint that its ear made in the ground. They also think it may have been bred to be a parade horse, based on fragments of an iron and bronze harness found near its head.

Archaeologists have previously unearthed donkey and mule skeletons from the Pompeii disaster, but they’ve only successfully cast a few animals, like a pig and a dog. There are far more casts of humans, a preservation method that the archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli started in 1863.

The human casts are especially affecting because of their detailed facial expressions, preserved for …read more

Source: HISTORY