Stories from January

It is of great consequence that January is the month of beginnings – the month to jumpstart newfound resolutions and plans, and the month that brims with hope and energy for the promising year ahead. We tear off old and yellowed calendars and mark our planners with renewed vigor because we know that a historical year is in store for us. However, we often forget that the past is as colorful as our tomorrows will be. Hence, we raise our glasses to the paradox that is January – it may be a month dedicated to the future (a month for the other months), but it also has its fair share of rich historical sightings and memorable days.


  1. Famous Deaths

Indian political and spiritual leader, Mahatma Gandhi, was assassinated on the 30th of January 1948. He was shot at close range (three gunshots) outside a building where a prayer meeting was about to take place. On the other hand, Sir Winston Churchill, the late British Prime Minister, died on the 24th of January 1965 due to a stroke.

Renowned poet Robert Frost and former President Theodore Roosevelt passed away on the 29th of January 1963 and on the 6th of January 1919, respectively – both dying from blood clots in the lungs.


  1. Legendary Births

Avid Tolkien readers celebrate the famed writer and professor’s birthdate on January 3, 1892. On the other hand, music enthusiasts have reason to rejoice on January 8, 1935 and January 27, 1756, when Elvis Presley (King of Rock n’ Roll) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (the great composer) were respectively born.

Famed civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on the 16th of January 1853, whereas inventor and writer Benjamin Franklin celebrated his birthday on the 17th of January 1706. Talk show hosts Oprah Winfrey and Ellen Degeneres also celebrate birthdays in January – on the 29th of January 1954 and on the 26th of January 1958, respectively.


  1. First Commercial Telephone Exchange

On the 28th of January 1878, the Boardman Building in New Haven, Connecticut became witness to the first commercial telephone exchange in the world. Prior to this, telephones invented by Alexander Graham Bell could only be leased and connected in pairs (say, from one business to another). Thus, the telephone switchboard manufactured by Civil War veteran George Coy, along with Herrick Frost and Walter Lewis, was revolutionary because it allowed only one telephone to connect to multiple subscribers. Soon thereafter, Coy’s company went on to produce the first-ever telephone directory in the world.


  1. California Gold Rush

People have long figured out that California hid massive amounts of gold, but it was only on the 24th of January 1848 when James W. Marshall spotted something shiny in Sutter Creek, California. A year after, President James Polk justified Marshall’s accidental discovery of gold, which happened while the latter was overseeing construction near the river. This nugget of news drove more than 100,000 people (mostly prospectors) from far and wide to try to make their fortunes from mining gold from the earth.


  1. Transcontinental Flight Record

The 19th of January 1937 was one for the books. Academy Award-winning movie producer and millionaire Howard Hughes flew his monoplane from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey in 7 hours, 28 minutes, and 25 seconds, which broke the record he set a year earlier by two hours. In addition to his transcontinental record, he also set the record for the speediest around-the-world flight in 1938 (he clocked in at 3 days and 19 hours). Ironically enough, Hughes died in 1976 while flying to a hospital as a passenger.


  1. The Challenger Disaster

In a chilling reminder of how one tiny mistake can have dire consequences, the Challenger Disaster claimed the lives of all seven astronauts aboard. Christa McAuliffe, a teacher from New Hampshire who had been selected to join the crew, also perished. The Challenger was a space shuttle orbiter that was launched into space on January 28, 1986. 73 seconds after take-off, the shuttle broke apart. It was found out that the temperature resistance of the O-rings, designed to separate sections of the rocket boosters, had been overlooked. This slight miscalculation led to one of the most horrific accidents in the history of science.


  1. Henry Ford’s Minimum Wage

The late 19th century to the early 20th was the age of business empires in America; Vanderbilt Rockefeller and Morgan were titans, and no one dared to rise against them. The living conditions of the workers were horrible, but a young upstart entrepreneur was about to change all that. Henry Ford, of Ford Motor Company fame and the spearhead of ‘welfare capitalism’ (designed to improve what his workers got) introduced on January 5, 1914 a higher minimum wage scale. Whereas before workers only got a measly average of $2.34 a day, Mr. Ford decided to raise it to $5, which challenged the way business was practiced back then.


  1. Sayanora Slavery

The Land of the Free was not always the land of the free. Slavery is as part of America’s history as is its tales of independence. Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation declared the slaves free, but the slave future after the civil war remained uncertain. Finally, on 1865, the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery. It was a great achievement for America, and this event was immortalized in the movie Lincoln.


  1. Roe Vs. Wade

The controversial case of Roe Vs. Wade was finally settled on January 22, 1973. The case concerned a pregnant single woman, Roe, who brought an action challenging the abortion laws of texas. In the hugely popular book Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, the Roe Vs. Wade case was cited as the cause for the change in America’s economic situation. Whether one is pro-life or pro-choice, the fact remains that the case is particularly significant as it is considered a landmark decision regarding abortion laws in America.


Shi Ailyn

By Shi Ailyn

Stephanie Pagdanganan

By Stephanie Pagdanganan

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