On January 17, 1920, the Eighteenth Amendment and Volstead Act went into effect, beginning the Prohibition era in the United States. With the quality and quantity of available spirits being squeezed dry, the daring residents of Templeton, Iowa, started producing a carefully crafted bootleg rye whiskey affectionately known as The Good Stuff.
This date also happened to be the birth date of the notorious bootlegger and Chicago gangster, Al Capone.
On this day:
1917 – The United States pays Denmark $25 million for the Virgin Islands.
The United States Virgin Islands (U.S.V.I.; also called the American Virgin Islands), officially the Virgin Islands of the United States, are a group of islands in the Caribbean that are an insular area of the United States. The islands are geographically part of the Virgin Islands archipelago and are located in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles.
The U.S. Virgin Islands consist of the main islands of Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas, and many other surrounding minor islands. The total land area of the territory is 133.73 square miles (346.36 km2). The territory’s capital is Charlotte Amalie on the island of Saint Thomas.
In 2010 the population was 106,405, and mostly Afro-Caribbean. Tourism is the primary economic activity, although there is a significant rum manufacturing sector. Farming is done on a relatively small scale on the islands of St. Croix and St. Thomas, although it has seen a slow revival in recent years.
Previously the Danish West Indies of the Kingdom of Denmark–Norway, they were sold to the United States by Denmark in the Treaty of the Danish West Indies of 1916. They are classified by the U.N. as a Non-Self-Governing Territory, and are currently an organized, unincorporated United States territory. The U.S. Virgin Islands are organized under the 1954 Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands and have since held five constitutional conventions. The last and only proposed Constitution, adopted by the Fifth Constitutional Convention in 2009, was rejected by the U.S. Congress in 2010, which urged the convention to reconvene to address the concerns Congress and the Obama Administration had with the proposed document. The convention reconvened in October 2012 to address these concerns, but was not able to produce a revised Constitution before its October 31 deadline.
1929 – Popeye the Sailor Man, a cartoon character created by E. C. Segar, first appears in the Thimble Theatre comic strip.
Popeye the Sailor Man is a cartoon fictional character created by Elzie Crisler Segar. The character first appeared in the daily King Features comic strip, Thimble Theatre, on January 17, 1929, and Popeye became the strip’s title in later years; Popeye has also appeared in theatrical and television animated cartoons.
Segar’s Thimble Theatre strip was in its 10th year when Popeye made his debut, but the one-eyed (left) sailor quickly became the main focus of the strip, and Thimble Theatre became one of King Features’ most popular properties during the 1930s. After Segar’s death in 1938, Thimble Theatre was continued by several writers and artists, most notably Segar’s assistant Bud Sagendorf. The strip continues to appear in first-run installments in its Sunday edition, written and drawn by Hy Eisman. The daily strips are reprints of old Sagendorf stories.
In 1933, Max Fleischer adapted the Thimble Theatre characters into a series of Popeye the Sailor theatrical cartoon shorts for Paramount Pictures. These cartoons proved to be among the most popular of the 1930s, and Fleischer—and later Paramount’s own Famous Studios—continued production through 1957. These cartoon shorts are now owned by Turner Entertainment, a subsidiary of Time Warner, and distributed by its sister company Warner Bros. Entertainment.
Over the years, Popeye has also appeared in comic books, television cartoons, arcade and video games, hundreds of advertisements, and peripheral products (ranging from spinach to candy cigarettes), and the 1980 live-action film directed by Robert Altman, starring comedian Robin Williams as Popeye.
In 2002, TV Guide ranked Popeye #20 on its “50 Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time” list.
1961 – U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivers a televised farewell address to the nation three days before leaving office, in which he warns against the accumulation of power by the “military–industrial complex” as well as the dangers of massive spending, especially deficit spending.
As early as 1959, Eisenhower began working with his brother Milton and his speechwriters, including his chief speechwriter Malcolm Moos, to develop his final statement as he left public life. It went through at least 21 drafts. The speech was “a solemn moment in a decidedly unsolemn time”, warning a nation “giddy with prosperity, infatuated with youth and glamour, and aiming increasingly for the easy life.”
As we peer into society’s future, we – you and I, and our government – must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without asking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.
A draft of the farewell address, showing handwritten edits.
The only general to be elected president in the 20th century, he famously warned the nation about the potentially corrupting influence of the “military-industrial complex”. This is frequently mischaracterized as a criticism of the arms industry, which it was not. He in fact declared such an industry to be necessary. His concern was of its potential for corruption:
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security alone more than the net income of all United States corporations.
Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet, we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved. So is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
He also expressed his concomitant concern for corruption of the scientific process as part of this centralization of funding in the Federal government:
Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.
In this revolution, research has become central, it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocation, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.
Yet in holding scientific discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.
Born on this day:
1560 – Gaspard Bauhin, Swiss botanist, physician, and academic (d. 1624)
Jean and Gaspard were the sons of Jean Bauhin (1511–1582), a French physician who had to leave his native country on becoming a convert to Protestantism. Gaspard was born at Basel and studied medicine at Padua, Montpellier, and in Germany. Returning to Basel in 1580, he was admitted to the degree of doctor, and gave private lectures in botany and anatomy. In 1582 he was appointed to the Greek professorship in the University of Basel, and in 1588 to the chair of anatomy and botany. He was later made city physician, professor of the practice of medicine, rector of the university, and dean of his faculty.
The Pinax theatri botanici (English, Illustrated exposition of plants) is a landmark of botanical history, describing some 6,000 species and classifying them. The classification system was not particularly innovative, using traditional groups such as “trees”, “shrubs”, and “herbs”, and using other characteristics such as utilization, for instance grouping spices into the Aromata. He did correctly group grasses, legumes, and several others. His most important contribution is in the description of genera and species. He introduced many names of genera that were later adopted by Linnaeus, and remain in use. For species he carefully pruned the descriptions down to as few words as possible; in many cases a single word sufficed as description, thus giving the appearance of a two-part name. However, the single-word description was still a description intended to be diagnostic, not an arbitrarily-chosen name (in the Linnaean system, many species names honor individuals, for instance).
In addition to Pinax Theatri Botanici, Gaspard planned another work, a Theatrum Botanicum, meant to be comprised in twelve parts folio, of which he finished three; only one, however, was published (1658), long after his death. He also gave a copious catalogue of the plants growing in the environs of Basel, its flora, and edited the works of Pietro Andrea Mattioli (1500–1577) with considerable additions. His principal work on anatomy was Theatrum Anatomicum infinitis locis auctum (1592).
1886 – Glenn L. Martin, American pilot and businessman, founded the Glenn L. Martin Company (d. 1955)
On May 10, 1912, Martin flew a self-built seaplane from Newport Bay, California to Avalon on Catalina Island, then back across the channel. This broke the earlier English Channel record for over-water flight. Martin’s total distance was 68 miles (109 km), with the Newport-Avalon leg taking 37 minutes. He picked up a bag of mail on the island on the way, and was presented with $100 ($2300 in 2011) prize for his achievement. In 1913, Martin was not as fortunate while competing in the Great Lakes Reliability Cruise, a 900 miles (1,400 km) race of seaplanes around the Great Lakes. Martin’s pontoon hit a wave at high speed and low altitude, causing the plane to somersault, and sink to the bottom with Martin, who escaped and attempted to salvage the plane to finish the race.
In 1912, Glenn L. Martin built an airplane factory in an old Methodist church in Los Angeles, California. To make money to finance this business, he began stunt-flying at fairs and local airfields. He saw an advertisement for a pilot/airplane owner to play a role in a movie. Sensing an opportunity to market his airplanes, he replied to the ad and got the part. He was to play the role of a dashing hero in the movie A Girl of Yesterday (1915) starring Mary Pickford. He soon found that it would be harder than he thought. In addition to flying Pickford around in his airplane, he had a scene where he had to kiss Frances Marion, who later became a legendary Hollywood screenwriter. Martin in describing his hesitance having to kiss Marion declared “my mother would not like it” which astounded Pickford. He worked up the courage however after persuasion by Paramount boss Adolph Zukor and completed the scene.
Martin held a record for longest American over-water flight, 66 miles. His company designed aircraft for the military, including bombers for both world wars. An early success came during World War I with production of the MB-1 bomber. The MB-2 and others were also successful. In 1932, Martin won the Collier Trophy for his involvement with the Martin B-10 bomber.
1922 – Betty White, American actress, game show panelist, television personality, and animal rights activist
Betty Marion White Ludden (born January 17, 1922) is an American actress, animal rights activist, author, comedian, radio host, singer, and television personality. Regarded as a pioneer of television, White was one of the first women to have control both in front of and behind the camera; and is recognized as the first woman to produce a sitcom, which contributed to her receiving the honorary title as the Mayor of Hollywood in 1955.
She is known for her Emmy Award-winning roles as Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1973–77) and Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls (1985–92). The Writers Guild of America has included both sitcoms in its list of the 101 Best Written TV Series Of All Time. A staple guest of many American game shows such as Password, Match Game and The $25,000 Pyramid, White has been dubbed the ‘First Lady of Game Shows’ and became the first woman to receive an Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show Host in 1983 for the show Just Men!. From 2010 to 2015, she starred as Elka Ostrovsky in the TV Land sitcom Hot in Cleveland, for which she has won two consecutive Screen Actors Guild Awards and she was nominated for an Emmy Award.
In a career that has spanned more than 75 years, she has received seven Emmy awards, three American Comedy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild awards, and a Grammy. She also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, is a Television Hall of Fame inductee (class of 1995), and a Disney Legend (class of 2009).
In 2013, the Guinness World Records recognized White as having the longest television career for a female entertainer.