Saturday, July 9, 2011


Bennington Flag
A number of notable Americans (famous and infamous), American institutions, and American icons have been born or established on the Fourth of July.

1776    The United States of America, with the approval of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress

1802   Official opening of the United States Military Academy at West Point

1804   Nathaniel Hawthorne, author, Salem, MA, born as Nathaniel Hathorne, adding the “w” when he became published to create a professional distance. A few of his best-known works include the novels “The Scarlet Letter” and “The House of the Seven Gables,” and the short-story collection “Twice-Told Tales.”

1819    Edward Robinson Squibb, American pharmaceutical manufacturer, founder of E. R. Squibb and Sons, born in Wilmington, DE

Stephen Foster
1826   Stephen Foster, songwriter and composer, born in Lawrenceville, PA, became known as the “father of American music” with such pieces as “Oh! Susanna,” “Camptown Races,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” and “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair.”

1847    James Anthony Bailey, born in Detroit, MI, circus impresario and creator of the modern circus. His circus merged with P. T. Barnum’s Circus, and later merged with the Ringling Brothers’ Circus to form what we know today as Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus,

1848   The Washington Monument, the cornerstone of which was laid this day in Washington, DC

1867    Stephen Tyng Mather, born in San Francisco, CA, American industrialist and conservationist, organizer and first director of the National Park Service

Henrietta Swan Leavitt
1868   Henrietta Swan Leavitt, born in Lancaster, MA, American astronomer who started out at the Harvard College Observatory in 1893 as a human ‘computer’ to measure and catalog the brightness of stars. Her subsequent work broke ground for Edwin Hubble’s accomplishments.

1872    John Calvin Coolidge, Jr., 30th President, born in Plymouth, VT, known as “Silent Cal” for his taciturnity, is the only president born on Independence Day.

1878    George M. Cohan, born in Providence, RI, performer, entertainer. Cohan’s baptismal certificate - the only written record of his birth - states his birthday as July 3rd, but his vaudevillian, variety-show touring family always insisted that his birthday was Independence Day, marketing the boy with the patriotism thus engendered.

1880   George Mullin, born in Toledo, OH, history-making baseball pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, known for his fastball, pitched a no-hitter on the Fourth of July in 1912

1880   Patrick “Frisco” Rooney, Jr., born in New York City, vaudevillian dancer and actor in an Irish family of performers, called himself the first “jazz” dancer. He started dancing with his wife, then with his son Pat III, evolving from clog dancing to tap dancing.  W. C. Fields stated that “if you didn’t hear the taps, you would think [Rooney] was floating … “ Mickey Rooney is not related to Pat Rooney: Mickey, born Joseph Yule, took the name because of the fame of the Rooney family in the 1930s.

1881    Tuskegee Normal School (later Tuskegee Institute, today Tuskegee University) opened in Tuskegee, Alabama, the culmination of a dream of Lewis Adams, a former slave, and George W. Campbell, a former slaveholder, both men committed to the education of blacks.

Rube Goldberg cartoon
1883   Rube Goldberg, born in San Francisco, CA, satirical cartoonist who depicted easy tasks as ridiculously complicated as commentary on political issues of the day. A “Rube Goldberg machine” refers to a situation which resembles the contraptions in his cartoons.  Goldberg was also a sculptor, author, engineer, and inventor.

1895   “America the Beautiful” was first published by Katharine Lee Bates of Falmouth, MA, professor of English literature at Wellesley

1898   John “Johnny” Lee, Jr., African American actor who played Calhoun in “Amos ‘n’ Andy,” and is also known as the voice of Brer Rabbit in Disney’s “Song of the South.” Some records state that he was born in Missouri, others state his birthplace as Los Angeles, CA.

1902   Meyer Lansky, Polish immigrant who became the American crime syndicate chief known as “Mob’s Accountant” whose gambling empire stretched from Saratoga, NY, to Miami, FL, and west to Council Bluffs, IA, and Las Vegas, NV, from the 1930s through the 1950s, then lying low - his financial interests having failed - until his death in 1983.

1902   George Murphy, American actor/dancer and politician, born in New Haven, CT, who appeared in many big-budget musicals in the 1930s and 1940s. He was director of entertainment for the presidential inaugurations in 1952, 1956, and 1960. Entering politics in 1953, he became a US Senator in 1964, paving the actor-to-politician road for Reagan and others.

1905   Lionel Mordecai Trilling, American literary critic, author, and teacher, born in Queens, New York City. He taught at University of Wisconsin-Madison, Hunter College, Columbia University, and Harvard University, and was a member of “The New York Intellectuals,” a group of American writers and literary critics based in New York City.

Mitch Miller
1911    Mitchell “Mitch” William Miller, born in Rochester NY, of “Sing along with Mitch” fame, a musician, singer, conductor, record producer, “arts and repertoire” man, and record company executive. Although heavily parodied, he was one of the most influential figures in American popular music during the 1950s and 1960s, and launched the careers of many famous singers. He and his wife were married for 65 years; she died in 2000, and he died last year at age 99.

1918    Abigail Van Buren, the pen name of Pauline Esther (nee Friedman) Phillips, “Dear Abby” columnist, and her identical twin sister Esther Pauline (nee Friedman)Lederer, who used the pen name Ann Landers, also an advice columnist, born in Sioux City, IA

1924   Eva Marie Saint, Newark NJ, actress whose career has spanned seven decades, winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for “On The Waterfront” and starred in Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest.”

1927    Neil Simon, playwright and screenwriter, born in The Bronx, NY, whose work is evergreen on the world’s stages. He has received four Academy Awards, three Tony Awards, two Emmy Awards, and the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, as well as numerous other awards for his work.

George Steinbrenner
1930   George Steinbrenner, principal owner and managing partner of the NY Yankees, with entrepreneurial interests in the Great Lakes shipping industry. His 37-year ownership of the New York Yankees was the oldest in the baseball club’s history.

1943   Geraldo Rivera, broadcast journalist as well as an attorney, writer, war correspondent, and talk show host, born in Brooklyn, NY, sometimes associated with sensationalist news reporting. He’s been married five times, and engages in competition sailing.

1959   The 49-star United States flag was first flown over Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA, representing the addition of the State of Alaska, which was formally granted statehood on January 3, 1959. The stars were arranged in 7 even rows of 7 stars each. This model was used for only one year, when the 50-star flag was introduced on July 4, 1960.

1960   The 50-star United States flag was first flown over Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA, representing the addition of the State of Hawaii, which was formally granted statehood on August 21, 1959. Our current flag, it is our 27th flag, and ten presidents have served under it.  Its star pattern shows five rows of six stars each and four rows of five stars each.

Koko and her kitten
1971    Koko, the gorilla, born at the San Francisco Zoo, has learned to use American Sign Language and understands over 1000 words in ASL and over 2000 words in spoken English. Using sign language, Koko asked for a pet cat in 1984. She picked a gray male Manx kitten from an abandoned litter and named it “All Ball.” She signed her grief when the kitten was accidentally killed. The next year, she chose two more Manx kittens and named them “Lipstick” and “Smokey,” and cares for them.

Besides finding the basic facts at multitudinous “this day in history” sites, the information and photos for this post were found at Wikipedia, with the exception of the image of Koko, found at

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