Today In History – March 4, 2012

1791 – Vermont, the 14th state, was admitted to the union on this day. It sits way up in the northeast corner of the United States, adjacent to New York, nestled in the Green Mountains. No wonder it’s known as the Green Mountain State! Coincidentally, that’s what the French phrase ‘vert mont’ means. Montpelier is Vermont’s capital city. “Hail Vermont” is the state song which goes right along with the state motto: Vermont, Freedom and Unity. The hermit thrush stands alone as the state bird; and the red clover is the colorful state flower which attracts the state insect, the honeybee. The Morgan horse is the state animal, and the state tree … you guessed it … is the one that makes all that famous Vermont maple syrup, the sugar maple tree. Every now and then some of these state symbols make sense. 1829 – The ‘spoils system’ was introduced by President Andrew Jackson when he appointed Simon Cameron as a reward for political assistance. Today, many people are spoiled by the system of political appointments for a variety of reasons — usually financial contributions.

1877 – Emile Berliner, the man behind so many inventions, came up with a thing called the microphone. Good thing, too, because the Bell System — run by Alexander Graham Bell, of course — was in desperate need of something to save it from financial ruin and to help the progress of the telephone. So, the Bell Labs came up with a compact way to put Mr. Berliner’s microphone on a wooden box, a crank, an earpiece, a cradle hook for the earpiece and some wires and called it the telephone.

1880 – Halftone engraving was used for the first time as the “Daily Graphic” was published in New York City.

1881 – Eliza Ballou Garfield became the first mother of a U.S. President to live in the executive mansion. She moved into the White House with her son James, the President.

1925 – Calvin Coolidge took the oath of office in Washington DC. The presidential inauguration was broadcast on radio for the very first time.

1930 – ‘The Redhead’, Red Barber, began his radio career this day. Barber broadcast on WRUF at the University of Florida in Gainsville. He soon became one of the best known sports voices in America.

1937 – Actor/producer/writer/composer/comedian and this night’s host, George Jessel, welcomed the glamorous crowd to the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, the setting for the 9th Annual Academy Awards show. Which film was which, you ask? The envelope, if you please… For the films of 1936: Outstanding Production/Best Picture: “The Great Ziegfeld” (from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer); Best Director: Frank Capra for “Mr. Deeds Goes To Town”; Actor: Paul Muni (“The Story Of Louis Pasteur”); Actor in a Supporting Role: Walter Brennan (“Come and Get It”); Best Actress: Luise Rainer (“The Great Ziegfeld”); Actress in a Supporting Role: Gale Sondergaard (“Anthony Adverse”); Best Song: Dorothy Fields & Jerome Kern for “The Way You Look Tonight” from the movie, “Swing Time”.

1942 – Dick Jurgen’s orchestra recorded “One Dozen Roses” on Okeh Records in Chicago.

1942 – Shirley Temple had a starring role in “Junior Miss” on CBS radio this day. The show, heard for the first time, cost $12,000 a week to produce and stayed on the airwaves until 1954.

1942 – The Stage Door Canteen opened on West 44th Street in New York City. The canteen became widely known as a service club for men in the armed forces and a much welcomed place to spend what would otherwise have been lonely hours. The USO, the United Service Organization, grew out of the ‘canteen’ operation, to provide entertainment for American troops around the world.

1943 – The 15th Academy Awards presentation drew Hollywood luminaries to the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles to celebrate the great work done during the year 1942. Everybody seemed to like “Mrs. Miniver” (from Metro-Goldwyn- Mayer) better than any other movie that year. That movie was so good that it won William Wyler the Best Director Oscar; Greer Garson the Best Actress statuette; Teresa Wright the Best Actress in a Supporting Role prize; Joseph Ruttenberg the Cinematography/black-and-white Oscar; and George Froeschel, James Hilton, Claudine West and Arthur Wimperis the Writing/Screenplay award. Ah, but there was more to celebrate on that March night in 1943: James Cagney was presented the Best Actor Oscar for “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and Van Heflin was voted Best Actor in a Supporting Role for “Johnny Eager”. And one other award is worth mentioning: a guy named Irving Berlin picked up the Best Song Oscar for a little ditty he had written for the film, “Holiday Inn”: “White Christmas”.

1950 – Walt Disney’s “Cinderella” was released. It was the first full-length, animated, feature film in eight years from the man who brought us Mickey Mouse.

1951 – Sir John Gielgud, starring as “Hamlet”, was heard on “The U.S. Steel Hour” on the NBC Radio Network this day.

1952 – President Harry Truman dedicated the “Courier”, the first seagoing radio broadcasting station, in ceremonies in Washington, DC.

1978 – Andy Gibb reached the top of the music charts as “(Love is) Thicker Than Water” reached #1 for a two-week stay. The Bee Gees also set a record on this day as their single, “How Deep Is Your Love”, from the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack stayed in the top 10 for an unprecedented 17 weeks. (Gibb died on March 10, 1988 of an inflammatory heart virus in Oxford, England. He was 30 years old.)

1981 – Lyricist E.Y. ‘Yip’ Harburg died in an auto accident in Hollywood, CA at the age of 82. Two of his most successful hits were “Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon”, popularized by Nat King Cole and many others.

1985 – “Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care” was published with Dr. Michael Rothenberg sharing authorship with Dr. Benjamin Spock, ‘The Baby Doc’. It was the fifth edition of the book to be published. 30,000,000 copies had been printed — second only to the Bible in the best seller category.

1989 – Time Incorporated and Warner Communications Incorporated announced plans to merge into the world’s largest media and entertainment conglomerate.