1897 – Moe Howard of the Three Stooges is born

Born Moses Harry Horwitz, Moe Howard and his brother, Shemp Howard, were two of the original Three Stooges, one of the most successful acts of the vaudeville era, and also one of the few to make the jump to cinema. Moe would come to be seen as the leader of the Stooges over the years, being the longest standing member of the lineup and frequently playing that role in their appearances.

Moe was one of the only two members of the Stooges to be in every lineup (Harry was the other, and a total of four other actors filled the third slot at various points). He was also the longest lived of the original Stooges, surviving until 1975.

Referenced in:
The Chanukah Song (Part I) — Adam Sandler

1897 — Johannes Brahms dies

A composer of the Romantic school, Johannes Brahms in his 64 years associated with many of the other greats of his era, such as Liszt and Schumann. His works include a dozen sonatas, four symphonies, four concertos, a number of waltzes and a great number of variations, a form which he is particularly known for.

Brahms developed cancer of either the liver or the pancreas which eventually killed him. He is buried in the Zentralfriedhof of Vienna, where he lived in his last years.

Referenced in:

Green Onions — The Blues Brothers
Decomposing Composers — Monty Python

1897 – Lasseter finds his elusive gold reef – or does he?

It’s one of the great legends of the Australian outback: Harold Lasseter’s lost gold reef has inspired blizzards of writing and several expeditions.

The story is that Lasseter discovered a large gold reef somewhere on the border of West Australia and the Northern Territory, while travelling overland from Alice Springs to Perth in 1897.

But here’s the thing: no one even looked for it until 1930, when Lasseter finally managed to persuade some backers to return to the Northern Territory. Lasseter was secretive, by all accounts, and eventually wandered off by himself, to die in the desert.

No gold was ever found in the area – and later surveys showed that the gold Lasseter had claimed to find there actually came from Kalgoorlie, thousands of miles to the south, and that it was geologically impossible for gold to be found in the area Lasseter claimed it was from.

Referenced in:

Warakurna – Midnight Oil

1897 – “Yes Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus” first published

It seems like such a cliché today, but 112 years ago, Francis Pharcellus Church, an editor of the New York Sun newspaper, was the first person ever to write that sentence, in an editorial entitled Is There a Santa Claus?

Church wrote the editorial, which featured that famous line, in response to a letter written by an eight year old girl named Virginia O’Hanlon. The editorial is written in the fine rhetorical style of the late 19th century, and as much as H.L. Mencken probably despised its sentimentality (one can almost hear him saying “Bah! Humbug!” upon reading it), he was in the minority.

Not only is it the most famous thing that Church ever wrote (or that the Sun ever printed), but it is also the most commonly reprinted newspaper editorial in the English language. Not a bad response for a little girl’s letter.

Referenced in:

Mrs. O – The Dresden Dolls