John’s Believe It Or Not… September 26th

In 1848 – Responsible Government is born as Baldwin & LaFontaine are asked by Lord Elgin to form Cabinet. In 1960 First Kennedy-Nixon debate. In 1580 Drake circumnavigates the globe. In 1957 Bernstein’s West Side Story opens. In 1969 The Brady Bunch premieres.

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It’s Tuesday! Did you know…

* 1848 – Responsible Government is born as Baldwin & LaFontaine are asked by Lord Elgin to form Cabinet.

In 1775-1776, the American Thirteen Colonies rose up in rebellion to throw off the yoke of British aristocratic control to establish themselves as sovereign and self-governed by way of democracy. In 1837 the twin colonies of Upper Canada (Ontario) and Lower Canada (Quebec) rose up in rebellion over similar issues. After having lost their precious American colonies, the British decided to nip things in the bud and appointed Lord Durham as the Governor General of the Canadas. His famous report urged Britain to establish a responsible government.

A responsible government occurs when the people’s elected Assembly must approve bills put forward by the executive council (cabinet) in order for them to become law. Failure of such a bill would mandate the resignation of the prime minister and cabinet. If no suitable replacements can secure the support of the Assembly, a new election must be called. 

The victory of the Reform Party (later became the Liberal Party) on 24 January 1848 was one of the most significant in Canadian history. For almost a year before the election it had seemed to the new governor general, Lord Elgin, that there was no real political life in Canada at all, as the moribund Tory ministry of William Henry Draper tottered to its fall.
Although the Reform (that is to say liberal) Party swept the constituencies like a broom (see Reform movement in Upper Canada), the principle that the majority party controls parliament was not yet established. The colonial government was still firmly in the grip of the governor, who was appointed by London. The governor, in turn, appointed members of the legislative council (today’s Cabinet). He chose or dismissed advisors and vetoed legislation at will.

The dramatic change from this autocracy to responsible government was achieved by the most remarkable political partnership in Canadian history — that of Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine. When the new parliament assembled at Montréal on 25 February, Baldwin rose to insist that the new speaker be fluent in both English and French and he nominated Auguste-Norbert Morin. The motion was seconded by LaFontaine and it carried to loud cheers from all parts of the chamber. It was not the first or the last time that the two men collaborated.

LaFontaine and Baldwin were of one mind in seeing that the most important issue in the Canadas was the achievement of responsible government. The two men had the highest possible esteem for one another and enjoyed a deep friendship for the rest of their lives.

The Baldwin–LaFontaine ministry of 1848 has earned in Canadian history the appellation of the “great ministry.” Its term saw not only the acceptance of the principle of responsible government but a record of legislation with which no other can compare: the establishment of a public school system, the founding of the University of Toronto, the organization of municipal government and the first real pacification of the French Canadians after a period of antipathy.

Statue of Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine by Walter Seymour Allward on Parliament Hill
Statue of Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine by Walter Seymour Allward on Parliament Hill (canada.com)

* 1960 First Kennedy-Nixon debate.

For the first time in U.S. history, a debate between major party presidential candidates is shown on television. The presidential hopefuls, John F. Kennedy, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, and Richard M. Nixon, the vice president of the United States, met in a Chicago studio to discuss U.S. domestic matters.

Kennedy emerged the apparent winner from this first of four televised debates, partly owing to his greater ease before the camera than Nixon, who, unlike Kennedy, seemed nervous and declined to wear makeup. Nixon fared better in the second and third debates, and on October 21 the candidates met to discuss foreign affairs in their fourth and final debate. Less than three weeks later, on November 8, Kennedy won 49.7 percent of the popular vote in one of the closest presidential elections in U.S. history, surpassing by a fraction the 49.6 percent received by his Republican opponent.

One year after leaving the vice presidency, Nixon returned to politics, winning the Republican nomination for governor of California. Although he lost the election, Nixon returned to the national stage in 1968 in a successful bid for the presidency. Like Lyndon Johnson in 1964, Nixon declined to debate his opponent in the 1968 presidential campaign. Televised presidential debates returned in 1976, and have been held in every presidential campaign since.

The Kennedy-Nixon debate was a defining moment of the 1960 presidential campaign.
The Kennedy-Nixon debate was a defining moment of the 1960 presidential campaign. (www.history.com)

* 1580 Drake circumnavigates the globe.

English seaman Francis Drake returns to Plymouth, England, in the Golden Hind, becoming the first British navigator to sail the earth.

On December 13, 1577, Drake set out from England with five ships on a mission to raid Spanish holdings on the Pacific coast of the New World. After crossing the Atlantic, Drake abandoned two of his ships in South America and then sailed into the Straits of Magellan with the remaining three. A series of devastating storms besieged his expedition in the treacherous straits, wrecking one ship and forcing another to return to England. Only the Golden Hind reached the Pacific Ocean, but Drake continued undaunted up the western coast of South America, raiding Spanish settlements and capturing a rich Spanish treasure ship.

Drake then continued up the western coast of North America, searching for a possible northeast passage back to the Atlantic. Reaching as far north as present-day Washington before turning back, Drake paused near San Francisco Bay in June 1579 to repair his ship and prepare for a journey across the Pacific. Calling the land “Nova Albion,” Drake claimed the territory for Queen Elizabeth I.

In July, the expedition set off across the Pacific, visiting several islands before rounding Africa’s Cape of Good Hope and returning to the Atlantic Ocean. On September 26, 1580, the Golden Hind returned to Plymouth, England, bearing its rich captured treasure and valuable information about the world’s great oceans. In 1581, Queen Elizabeth I knighted Drake during a visit to his ship. The most renowned of the Elizabethan seamen, he later played a crucial role in the defeat of the Spanish Armada. The explorer died 1596 at the age of 56.

The Golden Hind: 1580; Drake circumnavigates the globe:
1580; Drake circumnavigates the globe: (redlegagenda)

* 1957 Bernstein’s West Side Story opens.

On September 26, 1957, West Side Story, composed by Leonard Bernstein, opens at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway. For the groundbreaking musical, Bernstein provided a propulsive and rhapsodic score that many celebrate as his greatest achievement as a composer. However, even without the triumph of West Side Story, Bernstein’s place in musical history was firmly established. In addition to his work as a composer, the “Renaissance man of music” excelled as a conductor, a concert pianist, and a teacher who brought classical music to the masses.

Born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, to Russian-Jewish immigrants in 1918, Bernstein began piano lessons at his own insistence when he was 10. He immediately demonstrated an instinctive talent for music and by age 12 was studying at the New England Conservatory of Music. He studied piano and composition at Harvard but was encouraged by the American composer Aaron Copland and others to become a conductor after they observed Bernstein’s intuitive grasp of classical music and his unusual ability to play complex orchestral scores on the piano.

He studied conducting with Fritz Reiner and Serge Koussevitzky and in 1943 was hired as an assistant conductor for the New York Philharmonic. In the history of the orchestra, no assistant had been called on to conduct, but on November 14 fate smiled on Bernstein when guest conductor Bruno Walter fell ill. The night before, Bernstein had heard a singer perform one of his compositions and then, in typical Bernstein fashion, had stayed up late drinking and playing piano at the post-recital party. With three hours of sleep, a hangover, and no rehearsal, Bernstein was asked to conduct a complex program of Schumann, Strauss, Rosza, and Wagner that was going to broadcast from Carnegie Hall across the nation by CBS radio. The concert was a sensational success, and The New York Times published a front-page article the next day announcing the arrival of a great new conducting talent.

Refusing to restrict himself to conducting, he composed acclaimed symphonies, operas, and scores for ballets. He was also deeply interested in American popular music, and jazz influences can be found in many of his classical pieces. His best-known works were for Broadway, and the musicals he composed include On the Town (1944), Wonderful Town (1953), Candide (1956), and West Side Story (1957).

For West Side Story, a reinterpretation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet transposed onto New York’s West Side, Bernstein worked with the brilliant choreographer Jerome Robbins and the lyricist Stephen Sondheim. West Side Story tells the tale of a love affair between Tony, who is Polish American, and Maria, a Puerto Rican, set against an urban background of interracial warfare. With its gritty story and volatile dance sequences, West Side Story was the antithesis of traditional American musicals. Bernstein’s exhilarating, semi-operatic score runs throughout the play and keeps the tension and emotion high.

When it opened on September 26, 1957, West Side Story received a mixed critical response. Debuting one day after the forced integration of Central High School in Little Rock, the musical’s story of racial conflict was discomfiting to some. West Side Story won just two Tony Awards, for choreography and set design, but made an impressive maiden run of 732 performances. In 1961, a film version starring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer was an enormous hit and took home 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The stage version of West Side Story was soon revived, and the musical is still performed today.

Leonard Bernstein was also a talented educator who taught America about classical music with the television programs Omnibus and Young People’s Concerts. In 1973, he was invited to Harvard to lecture on linguistics and music. He died in 1990 at the age of 72.

Balcony scene from West Side Story
Balcony scene from West Side Story (commons.wikimedia.org)

* 1969 The Brady Bunch premieres.

On this day in 1969, American television audiences hear the soon-to-be-famous opening lyrics “Here’s the story of a lovely lady who was living with three very lovely girls…” as The Brady Bunch, a sitcom that will become an icon of American pop culture, airs for the first time. The show was panned by critics and, according to the Museum of Broadcast Communications, during “its entire network run, the series never reached the top ten ranks of the Nielsen ratings. Yet, the program stands as one of the most important sitcoms of American 1970s television programming, spawning numerous other series on all three major networks, as well as records, lunch boxes, a cookbook, and even a stage show and feature film.”

Created by Sherwood Schwartz (whose previous hit sitcom was Gilligan’s Island), The Brady Bunch followed the story of Carol (Florence Henderson), a widowed mother of three blonde daughters, who marries architect Mike Brady (Robert Reed), a widower and the father of three brown-haired boys. The blended family lives together in a suburban Los Angeles home with their cheerful housekeeper, Alice (Ann B. Davis). The show focused primarily on issues related to the Brady kids–Greg (Barry Williams), Marcia (Maureen McCormick), Peter (Christopher Knight), Jan (Eve Plumb), Bobby (Mike Lookinland) and Cindy (Susan Olsen)–who ranged from grade-school age to teenage. Although set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a time of political and social upheaval in the United States, The Brady Bunch generally avoided controversial topics and instead presented a wholesome view of family life, tackled subjects such as sibling rivalry (including Jan’s now-famous complaint about the focus on her sister: “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”), braces and dating.

After 177 episodes, ABC canceled The Brady Bunch and the last original episode aired on August 30, 1974. However, the show soon became a massive hit in rerun syndication. The show’s various spin-offs have included a 1977 variety program, The Brady Bunch Hour; a 1988 TV movie A Very Brady Christmas; the 1995 big-screen parody The Brady Bunch Movie (with Shelley Long and Gary Cole as Carol and Mike) and its follow-up A Very Brady Sequel (1996); and the 2002 TV movie The Brady Bunch in the White House. In 1992, Barry Williams published a best-selling memoir titled Growing Up Brady: I Was a Teenage Greg, which provided a behind-the-scenes look at the show and revealed that life behind the Brady Bunch cameras was less wholesome than it seemed on TV.

Mike Brady & Carol Martin The Brady Bunch 1969 #Wedding
Mike Brady & Carol Martin The Brady Bunch 1969 Wedding (Pinterest)

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology  http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php

* The Canadian Encyclopedia                   http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/the-friendship-that-brought-responsible-government-feature/

* This Day In History – What Happened Today                        http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/                  

Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

18 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… September 26th”

  1. Gosh, the first debate…it’s amazing to look back to a time when the debate meant something. To watch them now takes thicker skin and a colder heart than I possess. Thank you for the reminders and the joy of remembering the Brady Bunch and West Side Story. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved the first debate. I was in college and thought JFK was terrific. We all thought Tricky Dick came off like he was hiding something. What can you say about the Brady Bunch? Marsha, Marsha, Marsha. I saw West Side story many times and never tired of it. Good old Drake.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was too young to take an interest in those debates. Interesting that you felt that Nixon had something to hide – other critics put it down to discomfort with the cameras. Ah, the good old days when even Tricky Dicky had some class. Thanks John!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi, John! I haven’t been out and about on a regular basis, but my book deadline is now behind me, and I look forward to catching up in your classroom 🙂
    Loved the look at the Nixon/Kennedy debate. I had no idea the popular vote had been that close.
    And I also had no idea the Brady Bunch premiered so long ago. I still remember watching that on Friday’s nights at 8PM followed by the Partridge Family at 8:30.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good to have you back, Mae! You have been missed. I think a lot of us watched those two TV shows – back in the day! Yes, that election in 1960 was a cliffhanger! I certainly hope that the movement in the US to do away with the Electoral College is successful. It pretty much defeats the purpose of a ‘popular’ vote.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Originally, there was no popular vote for the office of president. He was elected solely by the Electoral College and the runner-up automatically became vice-president. Why? Ostensibly because the democratic process was not fully trusted to select the president wisely. You have to understand that the newly independent States loathed the British autocratic monarchy and in the original constitution there was no provision for a president. After seeing that didn’t work, they drafted a new constitution with an executive branch. However, they were afraid that a charismatic power-monger might sway voters, so they instituted the Electoral College and set up the system of checks and balances.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Looking at it that way it makes sense. I remember doing a report on it back in 10th grade and arguing that it was an antiquated system. Although, as a voting adult I’ve become accepting of it. i wonder if I’ll see a change in my lifetime

            Liked by 1 person

            1. You’re right, Mae – its antiquated like the ‘appointed’ Canadian Senate. There are lots of Canadians who want the Senate reformed into an elected body – but that change and the abolition of the Electoral College both require Constitutional amendments. They take forever if they happen at all.

              Liked by 1 person

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