1927 – Henry Ford publically apologises for his anti-Semitism

Henry Ford, famously the founder of the Ford Motor Company, was also something of an anti-Semite. The kind of something where he was the first person to publish the fraudulent and racist “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in America, serialising it in The Dearborn Independent, a newspaper he owned. They also serialised “The International Jew”, an anti-semitic work penned by Ford himself. The Independent was infamous for its anti-semitism, and in 1927, it was shut down for good after a civil lawsuit for libel.

A boycott organised by the Anti-Defamation League proved so damaging to Ford’s business interests that he actually apologised for the racism so frequently displayed in The Dearborn Independent, writing an open letter to Sigmund Livingston, the president of the ADL. Most people accepted the apology and let the matter rest there, although it has been claimed that the apology was faked by Ford’s employees, with even the signature a forgery. Privately, Ford spoke of his intention to republish some day, and at Nuremberg, some of the Nazis spoke of being inspired to their hideous genocide by reading “The International Jew”.

Referenced in:
Since Henry Ford Apologized to Me — The Happiness Boys

1945 – The Trinity nuclear test is carried out

The world entered a new age – the nuclear age – when the scientists and soldiers of the Manhattan Project test detonated the first ever atomic bomb at White Sands in Nevada. Less than a month later, two more bombs just like it would destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki, bringing World War Two to an abrupt end.

On the day, however, no one knew quite how destructive the bomb would be (some worried that it would ignite the entire atmosphere of the planet, for example), or how long its effects would last. But after the explosion, Robert Oppenheimer’s apropos quote from the Bhavagad Gita was generally agreed to be the most apt: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Referenced in:
Russians — Sting

1948 – “Key Largo” premieres

A classic film noir starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Key Largo was adapted from a successful Broadway play written by Maxwell Anderson. The play originally ran in 1939 and 1940 for 105 performances on Broadway. Several changes were made from the original to the screenplay, which was written by John Huston and Richard Brooks, and also directed by Huston.

The film was the fourth (and final) onscreen teaming of Bogart and Bacall. It netted Claire Trevor an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and grossed over eight million dollars in its American run. It is now recognised as one of the greatest films of the film noir era, and a classic of American cinema.

Referenced in:

Key Largo — Bertie Higgins

1951 – The Catcher in the Rye is published

On this day, in 1951, one of the all-time great classics of teen angst was published. J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” is a coming of age tale in which the protagonist, Holden Caulfield – who is surely one of the least likable and self-aware characters ever to find his home on the page – comprehensively fails to come of age over the course of a weekend spent in New York City.

That hasn’t stopped a million English teachers from setting this book as required reading in the decades since then, and its place in the canon of popular literature has long since been assured, if only by the book’s role in the death of John Lennon. As one of the poor bastard students who was required to read this book in high school, I may not be an unbiased judge, and I apologise for that – but all these years on, I still loathe the damn thing, albeit not as entertainingly as John Scalzi does.

Referenced in:

We Didn’t Start The Fire — Billy Joel

1981 – Harry Chapin dies in a car accident

Somewhere in the afterlife, Harry Foster Chapin is playing a screamingly funny, posthumously written song regarding his own death. Which he co-wrote with James Joyce.

Maybe.

Harry Chapin was an American folk singer, probably best known for songs like Taxi, W*O*L*D and 30,000 Pounds of Bananas. He is also the writer and original performer of Cats in the Cradle – not, as is often claimed, Cat Stevens. Chapin was a poet of the everyday, chronicling the hopes and fears, the failures and the triumphs, of Anytown, USA. His nuanced work remains an excellent anodyne to the more saccharine visions of the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies. He also wrote possibly the funniest song ever to describe a real fatal road accident (the afore-mentioned 30,000 Pounds of Bananas).

He was also a fierce idealist, working on the boards of many charities, and donating an estimated third of all his concert earnings to various charitable causes. He was particularly active in supporting the arts, and in the fight against poverty and hunger.

Chapin died in a car accident that was most likely caused by him suffering a heart attack behind the wheel. He was only 38 years old.

The world is poorer for his passing.

Referenced in:

Ode to Harry – M.O.D.

This is my blog, so this is not an apology, just an explanation: I feel very strongly indeed about the work of Mr. Chapin. And in 28 years, this is the first chance I’ve found to eulogise him. Now for the love of whatever you hold holy, track down his music. I can’t say for sure that you won’t be sorry, but I’d be extremely surprised if you were.