Tidbits in Time Almanac

Today’s News in History

“Tidbits in Time” is from contributor E. Adrian Van Zelfden, Keeper of Days.

January 24, 1848
A contractor named James Wilson Marshall was building a sawmill for John Sutter in California. It was an innocent enough little project. But then he noticed some flakes of shiny metal in the water and realized they were gold. Well, he could sort of keep a secret, but the people he told could not. Word got out when store keeper Sam Brannan brandished a bottle filled with gold dust in San Francisco, spurring some 30.000 prospectors to rush to the area.

Listen to Today’s 4 min. History

January Day-by-Day

January 1, 2022 Someone asked me why and how I started the Tidbits in Time Almanac. The answer is I wanted to have some fun that involved mental stimulation. Why do something that’s not fun? I became interested in the life of Benjamin Franklin and his periodical “Poor Richard’s Almanack.” I greatly admired the old guy who was one of the founders of the country. He published in the Colonies for about 25 years, from 1732 until 1758, in his best year with about 10,000 subscribers. I first published in November 2007, and I hope to surpass his record. Mine is much different from his, because we now have the internet.

I try to find something for each day that fits the following four criteria. First, each and every tidbit has to be interesting; no boring stuff allowed. Second, each item has to be short; nothing can be so long that it eats up a lot of time for the reader or listener. Third, I have to be able to provide a link for each tidbit, so that the subscriber can click for more in-depth information, because I am going for autodidacts (self-learners). Finally fourth, it has to be sent out or broadcast for free, because I rely on generous readers and listeners to cover the costs with contributions. I am hoping that each subscriber will find something and say to himself or herself, “. . . that’s interesting . . ., or I never knew that before . . ., or that was fun.”

January 2, 1936 Roger Dean Miller was born in Fort Worth, Texas. His father died when he was about one-year old, and the family was left in desperate circumstances. He grew up as a farm boy in Erick, Oklahoma. He enlisted in the U/S. Army and served in the Korean War. After mustering out, he pursued a career as a singer and a songwriter, despite never learning to read or write music. His top songs were mostly of a country and western style. He recorded hit songs with “Dang Me,” “Chug-a-Lug,” and “King of the Road.” NBC featured Miller in his own weekly variety show, which fared well in 1966 but subsequently lost out in the ratings and was cancelled. Miller won eleven Grammy awards, both as composer and performer, in the categories of contemporary and country and western.

January 3, 1929 Gordon Earl Moore was born in San Francisco, California. After advanced degrees in chemistry and physics, he became the director of Research and Development at Fairchild Semiconductor. He told a reporter in 1965 that he thought the number of components on a single integrated circuit could double every year (smaller, faster, and more powerful). That came to be called Moores Law. Part of the prediction was that such rapid progress would only last for about ten years, but he should have been more optimistic. Moore later founded the Intel Corporation with Robert Noyce and Andrew Grove.

January 4, 1923 A country music variety show premiered on WBAP radio station in Fort Worth, Texas. It was shortly followed by the Grand Ole Opry radio program and the National Barn Dance radio program on other stations. One of their acts was the Light Crust Doughboys, sponsored by a flour company, and whose announcer was Wilbert Lee (Pappy) O’Daniel. The announcer composed a song, “Beautiful Texas,” and he used that song during his campaign for Governor. He won and was inaugurated in 1939.

January 5, 1779 Zebulun Montgomery Pike was born in Lamington, New Jersey. A great scout and explorer, he was involved with intrigue through his commanding officer, General James Wilkinson who was on the payroll of both the U.S. Army and Spain (Mexico). Wilkinson was in cahoots with former Vice President Aaron Burr in a nefarious scheme to secure land west of the Louisiana Purchase and recruited Pike to scout out the territory. It is unclear if Pike was aware of the conspiracy or was just an Army officer following orders.

January 6, 2000 AOL (you know, the people who sent you a free disk in the mail – or maybe more than one) and Time Warner agreed to merge after an opulent dinner at the mansion owned by CEO Steve Case. January 6, 2001 AOL and Time Warner got their paperwork and government approvals in place to complete their merger. January 6, 2002 AOL and Time Warner announced an enormous write-off on their accrual basis financial statements to record the decline in value since the recent merger.

January 7, 1941 Frederick D. Gregory, Jr. (USAFA 1964) was born in Washington, DC. After training as a helicopter pilot, he flew rescue missions in Vietnam in the H-43. He then cross-trained into fixed-wing aircraft, and later became an Air Force test pilot. He was selected by NASA as an astronaut in 1978. There is speculation that he was chosen partly because of his helicopter experience. He flew on three missions, STS-51-B, STS-33, and STS-44, spending 18 days and 23 hours in space.

January 8, 1933 Charles Osgood Wood, III (whose stage name was Charles Osgood) was born in the Bronx, New York. He spent a career in broadcasting. After a bunch of radio jobs, he had part of a career with ABC, then CBS. Moving from radio to television, he took his signature bow tie with him. In 1994, he took over the CBS Sunday Morning show. He retired from CBS after hosting that show for 22 years.

January 9, 1934 Bryan Bartlett Starr, son of an Air Force NCO, was born in Montgomery, Alabama. He played college football at Alabama and was a 17th round draft choice (200 overall) by the Green Bay Packers. He had many memorable games, but the NFL Championship on New Years Eve, pitting Bart Starr against Don Meredith and pitting Vince Lombardi against Tom Landry, called the Ice Bowl, is remembered to this day by all the little boys who sat with their fathers and watched it on small, black and white, Zenith TV sets.

January 10, 1901 A green and black oil mixture gushed out of the Spindletop well near Beaumont, Texas. Its initial flow was 100,000 barrels per day. The startled roughnecks fled as six tons of four-inch drilling pipe came shooting up out of the ground. After several minutes of quiet, mud, then gas, then oil spurted out. The Lucas geyser, found at a depth of 1,139 feet, blew a stream of oil more than 100 feet high until it was capped nine days later. The discovery of the Spindletop oilfield had an almost incalculable effect on the world. Investors spent billions of dollars throughout the globe in search of oil and natural gas. The cheap fuel they found helped to revolutionize American transportation and industry. Gulf, Amoco, and Exxon all got their start from this well.

January 11, 2007 J. K. Rowling finished the 7th and last book of the Harry Potter series in room 552 of Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Harry Potter books and movies made her a billionaire, the first book author to achieve that status. She had a troubled childhood, with a mother who suffered with multiple sclerosis for ten years prior to her death in 1990, and a strained relationship with her father. It was also in 1990 that during a four-hour delayed train trip from Manchester to London when the idea came fully formed into her mind for a story about a young boy attending a school of wizardry. She cites as prior authors she admired were J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

January 12, 1866 The Aeronautical Society of Great Britain was founded; later changing its name to the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS). The gold medal winners have included Wilbur and Orville Wright, Octave Chanute, Geoffrey de Havilland, Marcel Dassault, and Elon Musk.

January 13, 1404 The English Parliament passed the Act of Multipliers, which prohibited alchemists from turning base metals into gold. Nobody was ever arrested under this law. J. K. Rowling is probably glad they abolished that law before Harry Potter came along, because to transmute metals one would need a Philosophers Stone.

January 14, 1932 Donald Glenn (Big Daddy) Garlits was born in Tampa, Florida. Drag Racing became popular after World War II, when many pilot training airfields with unused runways became available. He gave up a career as an accountant (which might have made him more rich and famous) to race cars.

January 15, 1979 Andrew Christopher (Drew) Brees was born in Austin, Texas. He was a high school star quarterback, winning the state championship for Westlake High School in 1996. But he was not recruited locally, so he went to Purdue. He was a college star and went to the pros, eventually landing in New Orleans where he took the team to a Super Bowl victory in 2010. He holds four NFL records.

January 16, 1911 Jay Hanna (Dizzy) Dean in was born in Lucas, Arkansas. He was a champion pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, leading them to a World Series win. After his career as a player, he became a famous sports announcer, whose voice is well known to a whole generation of little boys who grew up during the years that baseball was America’s game.

January 17, 1921 The government of New Spain granted Moses Austin a permit settle 300 families in Texas. This momentous agreement began the process of Anglo-American colonization in the future state. The elder Austin died, however, before he could fulfill his part of the contract, and his son Stephen Fuller Austin was recognized as his successor. Although Mexican independence from Spain cast temporary doubt on the future of the contract, a special decree issued in April 1823 allowed the younger Austin to begin the colonization that led eventually to the Texas Revolution and the Republic of Texas.

January 18, 1991 Eastern Airlines ran out of money and shut down. It had begun as a mail carrier in the 1920s, and it was headed in its early days by WWI Ace Eddie Rickenbacker, and in later days by Astronaut Frank Borman. It had a themed ride If You Had Wings in Tomorrow Land and was the official Disney airline until 1989.

January 19, 1994 The outdoor temperature fell to Minus 37 Degrees F in New Whiteland, Indiana. And you thought it was cold in your neighborhood today?

January 20, 1706 Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston, Massachusetts. His “Poor Richard’s Almanack” made him a rich man. He borrowed the concept from Apollo Anglicanus and from Baltasar Gracian. Later Noah Webster published “The Old Farmer’s Almanac.” A modern version is the Tidbits in Time Almanac, which is delivered via email.

January 21, 1911 The first Monte Carlo Rally took place. For lovers of car racing, excursions to Monaco offer not only twists and turns, but also mountains, snow, and ice. And it is a glitzy, exciting event, with a great history.

January 22, 1973 The U.S. Supreme Court announced the result in the Roe vs. Wade case (410 U.S. 113), argued by Austin Attorneys Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, against Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade on behalf of a “Jane Roe,” whose real name was Norma McCorvey, who later recanted some of the key evidence in the case. This judgment made convenience abortions no longer subject to state law. The written opinion of the court was very convoluted, controversial, and it has caused a lot of confusion. The issue of abortion is at the U.S. Supreme Court again this month. How will they decide this time?

January 23, 1957 Caroline Louise Marguerite Grimaldi was born in the Palace in Monaco. She is the daughter of Ranier III, Prince of Monaco and Grace Kelly. Those who photograph royals have followed her from birth to the present day.

January 24, 1935 The first beer was sold in cans by the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company (later bought by Falstaff). It was a difficult process because the liquid had to be kept under pressure, and it reacted badly with contact to metal. Prior cans were too weak to withstand the pressure until Charles Stollberg of the American Can Company invented and patented a sturdier version. Later an interior veneer made with a dual coat process of enamel and Vinylite (the same polymer used for vinyl records) proved to be successful. Prohibition had been repealed on December 5, 1933, just in time for beer cans to come into general use.

January 25, 2006 Former Vice President Al Gore prophesied that the world had only 10 years left before a Global Warming Catastrophe. He said “within the next ten years, the world will reach a point of no return.” We are now beyond year sixteen. Gore is not the only False Prophet.

January 26, 1905 Maria Augusta Kutschera von Trapp was born on a train enroute from her parents village in Tyrol to a hospital in Vienna, Austria-Hungary. Some of her great-grandchildren live in the Austin, Texas area and are carrying on the family singing tradition.

January 27, 1980 Six U.S. diplomats assigned to Iran but not taken hostage, traveling on hastily contrived Canadian passports and forged Iranian exit visas, landed in Zurich, Switzerland, after eluding capture by the hostage takers. After masterminding the rescue, Canadian Ambassador to Iran, Ken Taylor, spirited his own people out of the country and closed the embassy later the same day. This came to be called the Canadian Caper.

January 28, 1912 A magnificent marble structure in Orange, Texas the First Presbyterian Church, was opened. It was the first building west of the Mississippi River that was equipped with air conditioning. Built by lumberman Henry J. Lutcher and his wife Frances, the dome of the church has the only opalescent glass dome in the U.S. Incidentally, there is no word in the English language the rhymes with Orange.

January 29, 1945 Jeffrey S. Feinstein (USAFA 1968) was born in Chicago, Illinois. Under the callsign of “Fang,” he became the last person to reach Ace status in the Vietnam War, knocking his fifth MiG-21 out of the air on October 13, 1972, as a Weapon Systems Officer aboard an F-4D.

January 30, 1882 Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born in Hyde Park, New York. When it came time to open his Presidential Library, he was reluctant to break up his collections. A lifelong collector, he had more than a million stamps in 150 matching albums. He also collected coins, medals, 1,200 naval prints and paintings, more than 200 model ships, armies of miniature donkeys, elephants, stuffed birds, birding guides, walking sticks, Christmas cards, and 37 books of photographs of naval vessels. The library would eventually hold more than 16 million pages of personal and official papers, and more than 45 tons of documents.

January 31, 1930 Scotch Tape was introduced. It had been invented by a college dropout, Richard Gurley Drew, a lab assistant at the Minnesota company that later became 3M. Most of us use his invention frequently throughout the year.