It’s Thoughtful Thursday! Did you know…
* 1855 – First Great Western Rwy train crosses 255 m. Niagara Falls suspension bridge to the USA. (First regular service of the Great Western Railway across the 255 m. (275 yards) long Niagara Falls suspension bridge, giving Ontario direct rail connection to New York; the world’s first wire cable suspension bridge; it was built across the Gorge from 1851-55 by engineer John Roebling, who later built the Brooklyn Bridge.)
* 1959 Barbie makes her debut. (On this day in 1959, the first Barbie doll goes on display at the American Toy Fair in New York City. Barbie’s appearance was modelled on a doll named Lilli, based on a German comic strip character. Originally marketed as a racy gag gift to adult men in tobacco shops, the Lilli doll later became extremely popular with children. Mattel bought the rights to Lilli and made its own version, which Handler named after her daughter, Barbara. With its sponsorship of the “Mickey Mouse Club” TV program in 1955, Mattel became the first toy company to broadcast commercials to children. They used this medium to promote their new toy, and by 1961, the enormous consumer demand for the doll led Mattel to release a boyfriend for Barbie. Handler named him Ken, after her son. Barbie’s best friend, Midge, came out in 1963; her little sister, Skipper, debuted the following year.)
* 1997 Rapper Notorious B.I.G. is killed in Los Angeles. (Christopher Wallace, a.k.a Biggie Smalls, a.k.a. the Notorious B.I.G., is shot to death at a stoplight in Los Angeles. The murder was thought to be the culmination of an ongoing feud between rap music artists from the East and West coasts. Just six months earlier, rapper Tupac Shakur was killed when he was shot while in his car in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. Ironically, Wallace’s death came only weeks before his new album, titledLife After Death, was scheduled to be released.)
* 1916 Pancho Villa raids U.S. (In the early morning of March 9, 1916, several hundred Mexican guerrillas under the command of Francisco “Pancho” Villa cross the U.S.-Mexican border and attack the small border town of Columbus, New Mexico. Seventeen Americans were killed in the raid, and the centre of town was burned. It was unclear whether Villa personally participated in the attack, but President Woodrow Wilson ordered the U.S. Army into Mexico to capture the rebel leader dead or alive. The expedition eventually involved some 10,000 U.S. troops and personnel. It was the first U.S. military operation to employ mechanised vehicles, including automobiles and airplanes. It failed and almost precipitated war between Mexico and the USA.)
* 1996 Comedian George Burns dies at age 100. (On this day in 1996, the legendary cigar-chomping performer George Burns dies at his home in Beverly Hills, California, just weeks after celebrating his 100th birthday. Born Nathan Birnbaum in New York City, Burns was one of 12 children. As a young child, he sang for pennies on street corners and in saloons, and at age 13, he started a dance academy with a friend. In 1922, Burns was performing the latest in a string of song-and-dance acts in Newark, New Jersey, when he teamed up with a fellow performer, Gracie Allen. Though Allen began as the straight one in their partnership, her natural comedic ability prompted Burns to rewrite their material to give her most of the punch lines. From then on, Burns played the straight man to Allen’s ditz, with hilarious results.
In 1988, Burns won an award for lifetime achievement from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He wrote two best-selling autobiographical works, including Gracie: A Love Story (1988) and All My Best Friends (1989), along with eight other books that earned him his well-deserved reputation as an invaluable first-hand observer of the history of 20th-century entertainment.)
Look who was born on this date!
* Amerigo Vespucci in 1454. (Italian Explorer: First person to demonstrate that Brazil and the West Indies did not represent Asia’s eastern outskirts as initially conjectured from Columbus’ voyages. Instead, he constituted an entirely separate landmass which was referred to as the New World. This second super continent came to be termed “America”, deriving its name from Americus, the Latin version of his first name.)
* Yuri Gagarin in 1934. (Russian Cosmonaut: He was the first human to journey into outer space, when his Vostok spacecraft completed an orbit of the Earth on 12 April 1961. Gagarin became an international celebrity and was awarded many medals and titles, including Hero of the Soviet Union, the nation’s highest honour. Vostok 1 marked his only spaceflight, but he served as backup crew to the Soyuz 1 mission (which ended in a fatal crash). Gagarin later became deputy training director of the Cosmonaut Training Centre outside Moscow, which was later named after him. Gagarin died in 1968 when the MiG-15 training jet he was piloting crashed. The Yuri Gagarin Medal is awarded in his honour.)
* Bobby Fischer in 1943. (American Chess Champion: Youngest grandmaster and the youngest candidate ever for the World Championship. At the age of 20 he won the 1963–64 U.S. Championship with 11/11, the only perfect score in the history of the tournament.)