April 13, 1957 -
The jury-deliberation movie drama 12 Angry Men, starring Henry Fonda, opened in New York on this date.
Sidney Lumet had the actors all stay in the same room for hours on end and do their lines over and over without taping them. This was to give them a real taste of what it would be like to be cooped up in a room with the same people.
April 13, 1974 -
Elton John (and Bernie Taupin) had their first No. 1 hit with Bennie and the Jets (Benny and the Jets) on this date.
Elton and Bernie wrote the music to this song as an homage to glam rock, a style defined by outrageous costumes that was popular in the early '70s, especially in the UK. Elton did not think this would be a hit. He was shocked when it went to #1 in America. John claims he rarely knows which of his songs will be hits.
Today in History:
April 13, 1598 -
April 13, 1796 -
The first (or possible second) elephant arrived in America on this date. The elephant, named Old Bet, was brought back from India to America by a sea captain who hoped to sell her.
April 13, 1883 -
Alferd Packer, one of the few people in the US ever to be jailed for cannibalism, having allegedly killed and eaten five of his traveling companions while trapped in the Rocky Mountains during fierce winter weather, was sentenced to death in Colorado. During the trial, the judge supposedly said:
An alternate version of the judge's outburst is -
"Packer, you depraved Republican son of a bitch! There were only five Democrats in Hinsdale County and you ate them all!"
The actual sentencing statement, of course, was a little more in character for an educated state judge:
"Close your ears to the blandishments of hope. Listen not to the flattering promises of life, but prepare for the dread certainty of death."
Packer is a legend in popular culture. He has been quoted as having said, in jest, "the breasts of man...are the sweetest meat I ever tasted." In 1968, students at the University of Colorado at Boulder named their new cafeteria grill the Alferd G. Packer Memorial Grill with the slogan "Have a friend for lunch!" Even today students can enjoy the meat-filled "El Canibal" underneath a giant wall map outlining his travels through Colorado.
Trey Parker, co-creator of South Park and graduate of University of Colorado, made a student film - Cannibal: The Musical, based loosely on Packer's life.
April 13, 1919 -
The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, also known as the Amritsar Massacre, was named after the Jallianwala Bagh (Garden) in the northern Indian city of Amritsar, where, British Indian Army soldiers under the command of Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer opened fire on an unarmed gathering of men, women and children on this date.
The firing lasted about 10 minutes and 1600 rounds were fired. Official sources place the casualties at 379. According to private sources, the number was over 1000, with more than 2000 wounded, and Civil Surgeon Dr Smith indicated that they were over 1800.
And the British wonder why they lost an empire.
April 13, 1943 -
On the bicentennial anniversary of the birth of Thomas Jefferson, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated the Jefferson Memorial on this date.
The memorial was designed by John Russell Pope. The statue of Jefferson housed inside was designed by Rudolph Evans. At the dedication in 1943, the statue was made of plaster. The bronze version had to wait until wartime restrictions on the use of metals ended.
April 13, 1943 -
Katyn Forest is a wooded area near Gneizdovo village, a short distance from Smolensk in Russia where, in 1940 on Stalin's orders, the Soviet secret police shot and buried over 4000 Polish service personnel that had been taken prisoner when the Soviet Union invaded Poland in September 1939 at the start of WWII in support of the Nazis.
On April 13, 1943 the Nazis having overtaken the area, exhumed the Polish dead and blamed the Soviets in an effort to sour the West's relationship with the Kremlin. In 1944, having retaken the Katyn area from the Nazis, the Soviets exhumed the Polish dead again and blamed the Nazis. The rest of the world took its usual sides in such arguments.
In 1989, with the collapse of Soviet Power, Premier Gorbachev finally admitted that the Soviets had executed the Poles, and confirmed two other burial sites similar to the site at Katyn. Stalin's order of March 1940 to execute by shooting some 25,700 Poles, including those found at the three sites, was also disclosed with the collapse of Soviet Power.
April 13, 1970 -
56 hours and 205,000 miles from planet Earth, the crew aboard Apollo 13 heard "a pretty loud bang" when oxygen tank number two spontaneously exploded. Astronaut Jack Swigert informs Mission Control in Houston: "Hey, we've got a problem here."
Miraculously, the crew manages to return home in their crippled spacecraft.
April 13,1973 -
Henry Darger, janitor and "outsider artist", died in Chicago on this date. He had spent as many as 40 years working on a 15,000 page novel titled The Story of the Vivian Girls, (in What Is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion).
He illustrated the work with some 300 watercolors that were lifted and recomposed from popular sources.
April 13, 1992 -
Chicago's downtown business center was crippled by massive flooding, when the damaged wall of a utility tunnel beneath the Chicago River opened into a breach which flooded basements and underground facilities throughout the Chicago Loop with an estimated 250 million gallons of water on this date.
Workers attempted to plug the hole, with 65 truckloads of rocks and cement as well as old mattresses. In an attempt to slow the leak, the level of the Chicago River was lowered by closing the locks at Lake Michigan and opening them downstream of Chicago,and the freight tunnels were drained into the Chicago Deep Tunnel system.
April 13, 1994 -
The United Nations Human Rights Committee declares sodomy to be a basic human right. The committee determined that laws against buggery (particularly in Tasmania) breach articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
So now you know what they do all day at the UN.
April 13, 2029 -
Mark this date in your calendars. A meteor will pass by the Earth, we hope, breaking the record for the closest passing by of any other previous meteor. Unless it goes wildly off course and crashes into Earth.
Have a good day.
And so it goes.