Fascinating Facts

  • Happy Birthday to American football coach Vince Lombardi

    Vincent Thomas “Vince” Lombardi (June 11, 1913 – September 3, 1970) was an American football player, coach, and executive in the National Football League (NFL). He is best known as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers during the 1960s, where he led the team to three straight and five total NFL Championships in seven years, in addition to winning the first two Super Bowls following the 1966 and 1967 NFL seasons. The NFL’s Super Bowl trophy is named in his honor.  (more…)

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  • Charles Dickens Dies Today in 1870

    Charles John Huffam Dickens (Feb. 7, 1812 – June 9, 1870) was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the 20th century, critics and scholars had recognized his literary genius. His novels and short stories remain popular.

    Born in Portsmouth, Dickens left school to work in a factory when his father was incarcerated in a debtors’ prison. Despite his lack of formal education, he edited a weekly journal for 20 years; wrote 15 novels, five novellas, and hundreds of short stories and nonfiction articles; lectured and performed extensively; was an indefatigable letter writer; and campaigned vigorously for children’s rights, education, and social reforms. (more…)

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  • President Ronald Reagan Died Today in 2004

    June 5, 2004 — Ronald Wilson Reagan (February 6, 1911 to June 5, 2004) was an American politician and actor who served as the 40th President of the United States from 1981 to 1989. Before his presidency, he was the 33rd Governor of California, from 1967 to 1975, after a career as a Hollywood actor and union leader. (more…)

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  • Happy Birthday JFK

    John Fitzgerald “Jack” Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), commonly referred to by his initials JFK, was an American politician who served as the 35th President of the United States from January 1961 until his assassination in November 1963.

    The Cuban Missile Crisis, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the establishment of the Peace Corps, developments in the Space Race, the building of the Berlin Wall, the Trade Expansion Act to lower tariffs, and the Civil Rights Movement all took place during his presidency. A member of the Democratic Party, his New Frontier domestic program was largely enacted as a memorial to him after his death. Kennedy also established the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963. (more…)

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  • Barry Goldwater Dies Today in 1998

    Barry Morris Goldwater (January 2, 1909 – May 29, 1998) was an American politician and businessman who was a five-term United States Senator from Arizona (1953–65, 1969–87) and the Republican Party’s nominee for President of the United States in the 1964 election. Despite losing the election by a landslide, Goldwater is the politician most often credited for sparking the resurgence of the American conservative political movement in the 1960s. He also had a substantial impact on the libertarian movement.

    Goldwater rejected the legacy of the New Deal and fought through the conservative coalition against the New Deal coalition. He mobilized a large conservative constituency to win the hard-fought Republican primaries. (more…)

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  • Maya Angelou Dies Today in 2014

    Maya Angelou (Marguerite Annie Johnson; April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014) was an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and was credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees.

    Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her life up to the age of 17 and brought her international recognition and acclaim. (more…)

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  • Happy Birthday to American diplomat Henry Kissinger

    Henry Alfred Kissinger (born Heinz Alfred Kissinger on May 27, 1923) is an American diplomat and political scientist. He served as National Security Advisor and later concurrently as United States Secretary of State in the administrations of presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. For his actions negotiating an unsuccessful ceasefire in Vietnam, Kissinger received the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize under controversial circumstances, with two members of the committee resigning in protest. (more…)

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  • Happy Birthday to American essayist, lecturer, and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, born today in 1803

    Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882) was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He was seen as a champion of individualism and a prescient critic of the countervailing pressures of society, and he disseminated his thoughts through dozens of published essays and more than 1,500 public lectures across the United States.

    Emerson gradually moved away from the religious and social beliefs of his contemporaries, formulating and expressing the philosophy of transcendentalism in his 1836 essay “Nature.” Following this work, he gave a speech entitled “The American Scholar” in 1837, which Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. considered to be America’s “intellectual Declaration of Independence.” (more…)

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  • May 6, 1862 — American essayist, poet, and philosopher Henry David Thoreau dies today

    Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862) was an American essayist, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, and historian.

    A leading transcendentalist, Thoreau is best known for his book “Walden,” a reflection on simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay “Civil Disobedience” (originally published as “Resistance to Civil Government”), an argument for disobedience to an unjust state. (more…)

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  • Happy Birthday Golda Meir, the world’s fourth and only woman to be Prime Minister of Israel

    Golda Meir (May 3, 1898 – December 8, 1978) was an Israeli teacher, kibbutznik, stateswoman and politician and the fourth elected Prime Minister of Israel. Meir was elected Prime Minister of Israel on March 17, 1969, after serving as Minister of Labour and Foreign Minister. The world’s fourth and Israel’s first and only woman to hold such an office, she has been described as the “Iron Lady” of Israeli politics, though her tenure ended before that term was applied to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  (more…)

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  • Leonardo da Vinci dies today in 1519

    Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519), more commonly Leonardo da Vinci or simply Leonardo, was an Italian polymath whose areas of interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He has been variously called the father of palaeontology, ichnology, and architecture, and is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time. (more…)

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  • Catch-22 author Joseph Heller is born today!

    Joseph Heller (May 1, 1923 – December 12, 1999) was an American satirical novelist, short story writer, and playwright. The title of one of his works, Catch-22, entered the English lexicon, to refer to a vicious circle, involving an absurd, no-win, contradictory choice, particularly in situations in which the desired outcome of the choice is a bureaucratic or legal impossibility; regardless of the chosen option, therefore, a paradoxically negative outcome is a certainty. (more…)

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