February was short, packed with history
February is the second and shortest month of the year, and historians tell us it’s derived from the Latin word februo, which means, “to purify through sacrifice.” February was a time of atonement for the ancient Romans.
Though it’s a bit too early for spring cleaning for me, there’s still things left like Groundhog Day (it means we are halfway to spring) or Valentine’s Day on the 14th, a good day for smooching and eating chocolates.
February, someone once said, has one leg planted in winter and the other leg tilting toward spring. And for a short month, February packs in a lot of history: the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, cherry pie, usually Mardi Gras, and many other historical events. No wonder February needs an extra day every four years.
There are so many historical events and prominent birthdays in the month of February. Here, all events and birthdays are in the order of the day that they happened but due to space constraints, only the year is given. These are the ones that I found fascinating, as well as informative.
- In 1898, Dr. Truman Martin of Buffalo became the first person to take out an automobile insurance policy.
- Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” was published in 1885. Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes was born in 1902. Hughes once wrote, “Hold fast to your dreams, for if dreams die, life is like a broken winged bird that cannot fly.”
- In 1894, painter Norman Rockwell was born. “Common places never become tiresome, it is we who become tired when we cease to be curious and appreciated,” he once wrote. Painter Winslow Homer was born in 1836.
- J.W. Goodrich began selling rubber galoshes in 1824.
- Civil rights activist Rosa Parks was born in 1913. I love this quote attributed to her: “Stand for something or you’ll fall for anything. Today’s mighty oak is yesterday’s nut that held it’s ground.” Frederick Douglass was born in 1818.
- In 1974, Barbra Streisand’s song, “The Way We Were,” topped the music charts.
- Nancy Hanks, Abraham Lincoln’s mother, was born in 1784. Baseball legend Babe Ruth was born in 1895 and baseball great Hank Aaron in 1934.
- In 1952, Don’t Walk signs were used for the first time in New York City.
- Massachusetts became the sixth state in 1788, Oregon the 33rd in 1859, and Arizona the 48th in 1912.
- In 1926, the average wage for common labor in the U.S. was reported to be 54 cents an hour.
- In 1812, novelist Charles Dickens was born. Science fiction writer Jules Verne was born in 1828.
- After nearly 150 years of publication, the Saturday Evening Post published its final issue in 1969.
- In 1870, the U.S. Weather Bureau was established. It was renamed the National Weather Service in 1970.
- Alanson Crane patented the first fire extinguisher in 1863.
- In 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded.
- The battleship USS Maine exploded in Havana, Cuba, in 1898.
- In 1820, Susan B. Anthony, called the “Napoleon of the women’s rights movement,” was born. In 1922, the Supreme Court upheld the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
- The nation’s first gas streetlights were lit in Baltimore in 1817.
- In 1923, the tomb of King Tutankhamun was opened in Egypt.
- In 1878, the first telephone book was published in New Haven, Conn.
- The Washington Monument was dedicated in 1885.
- In 1997, “Schindler’s List” aired on NBC, the first movie to be broadcast on network TV without commercial breaks.
- The first perforated U.S. postage stamp went on sale in 1857.
- In 1938, DuPont sold the its first nylon-bristle toothbrush.
- Health food pioneer and cereal maker John Kellogg was born in 1852.
- In 1919, the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona was established.
- The first ship carrying gold seekers known as the 49ers sailed into San Francisco Harbor in 1849.
- In 2000, 90-year-old Doris “Granny D” Haddock arrived in Washington, D.C., completing a 14-month cross-country walk to publicize the issue of campaign reform.
Mayrene Bates is a trustee on the Solano County Board of Education.
Mayrene Bates is a trustee with the Solano County Board of Education.