1776 – Betsy Ross sews the first flag of the United States of America

It is a matter of some debate as to whether or not Betsy Ross actually created the first flag of the USA. While it is clear that she did create a design of her own which was widely used thereafter (the distinguishing feature of the Betsy Ross Flag is the arrangement of the 13 stars (or mullets, to use the heraldic term) in a circle). But the story of her creation of the flag seems to have been created from whole cloth a generation or so after the event, and there are enough loose threads in the story to make it clear that it is at least partially false (for example, Betsy Ross never met George Washington, and the records of Continental Congress show no committee to design a flag at that time).

The story of Betsy Ross seems to have been embroidered in order to address the lack of female representation in stories of the revolution, while still being an acceptably feminine role model (by the standards of the day) who would not threaten the nation’s social fabric. And for over a century, it had that role sewn up, appearing in history books as fact. It is only more recently that a generation of historians needled by the inconsistencies have cut truth from fiction.

Referenced in:
Sufferin’ ’til Suffrage — Schoolhouse Rock

1865 – Alice in Wonderland is first published

Alice was written in 1865, three years after the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson first devised the story to entertain the real Alice and her sisters. He had originally told the tale to Alice and her sisters while he and the Reverend Robinson Duckworth rowed in a boat up the River Thames with three little girls: Lorina, Alice and Edith Liddell.

The girls loved it, and Alice asked Dodgson to write it down for her. After a lengthy delay — over two years — he eventually did so and on 26 November 1864 gave Alice the handwritten manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, with illustrations by Dodgson himself.

But before Alice received her copy, Dodgson was already preparing it for publication and expanding the 18,000-word original to 35,000 words, most notably adding the episodes about the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Tea-Party. In 1865, Dodgson’s tale was published as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by “Lewis Carroll” with illustrations by John Tenniel.

Referenced in:

Alice – Stevie Nicks
Alice in Wonderland – Lisa Mitchell

1916 — Eppie Lederer and Pauline Phillips born

Better known respectively by their noms du plume, Ann Landers and Dear Abby, Esther Pauline Friedman and Pauline Esther Friedman are perhaps the two best known advice columnists in American publishing history. Eppie’s “Ask Ann Landers” column ran from 1955 to 2002, while Paulione’s “Dear Abby” ran from 1956 until the present, although Pauline’s daughter took over the writing of it from 2000.

The twins were highly competitive, and writing two such similar columns led to a cycle of recriminations and reconciliations between them, but it didn’t stop either of them from becoming two of the most influential women in America. Both were refreshingly frank and unsentimental about dealing with people’s problems, but always empathetic. Eppie was more left-leaning, favouring, among other things, the legalisation of prostitution and equal rights for homosexuals, while Pauline’s characteristic style was marked by her brevity and somewhat abrasive humour. America felt that it could tell them anything, and both women were known to publish only some letters – the more personal and difficult problems would often receive direct letters (occasionally, in cases of great urgency, telegrams) in reply to their missives.

Referenced in:

The Chanukah Song (Part I) — Adam Sandler

1990 – “Die Hard 2: Die Harder” is released

The second film in the Die Hard series, this sequel went out of its way to draw attention to the fact that it was a sequel – lines like “how can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?” were a non-too-subtle reminder of that. That said, the film was reasonably successful commercially (if not artistically), and the franchise would continue.

Die Hard 2 is the most blatantly sentimental and patriotic of the Die Hard films – released on July 4, set on Christmas Eve – no tactic of cheap manipulation was left unused by writers or marketers for this one. But who cares? Bruce Willis shot bad guys and stuff got blowed up real good. What else do you want?

Referenced in:

Live Free Or Die Hard — Guys Nite