1997: Paul McCartney, a former member of the The Beatles, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his “services to music.” The 54-year-old lad from Liverpool became Sir Paul in a centuries-old ceremony of pomp and solemnity at Buckingham Palace in central London. Fans waited outside in a scene reminiscent of Beatlemania of the 1960s. Crowds screamed as McCartney swept through the gates in his chauffeur-driven limousine and he answered with a thumbs-up.
1933: Eight days after his inauguration, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gives his first national radio address or “fireside chat,” broadcast directly from the White House. Roosevelt began that first address simply: “I want to talk for a few minutes with the people of the United States about banking.” He went on to explain his recent decision to close the nation’s banks in order to stop a surge in mass withdrawals by panicked investors worried about possible bank failures. The banks would be reopening the next day, Roosevelt said, and he thanked the public for their “fortitude and good temper” during the “banking holiday.”
1781: The German-born English astronomer William Hershel discovers Uranus, the seventh planet from the sun. Herschel’s discovery of a new planet was the first to be made in modern times, and the first to be made by use of a telescope, which allowed Herschel to distinguish Uranus as a planet, not a star, as previous astronomers believed.
1922: John “Jack” Mack, who co-founded what would become one of North America’s largest makers of heavy-duty trucks, is killed when his car collides with a trolley in Pennsylvania. After the brothers sold their company to investors in 1911, it continued to flourish, and during World War I, Mack built thousands of trucks for the American and British governments. In 1922, the year Jack Mack died in a car crash, the company was renamed Mack Trucks Inc.
1968: Construction starts on the north tunnel of the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnel on Interstate 70 in Colorado, some 60 miles west of Denver. Located at an altitude of more than 11,000 feet, the project was an engineering marvel and became the world’s highest vehicular tunnel when it was completed in 1979. Four months after opening, one million vehicles had passed through the tunnel; today, some 10 million vehicles drive through it each year.
1850: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story of adultery and betrayal in colonial America, The Scarlet Letter, is published. Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1804. Although the infamous Salem witch trials had taken place more than 100 years earlier, the events still hung over the town and made a lasting impression on the young Hawthorne. After attending college, Hawthorne returned to Salem, where he began his career as a writer. Hawthorne married Sophia Peabody in 1842. The two lived in a house called the Old Manse, in Concord, Massachusetts, and socialized with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Branson Alcott, father of writer Louisa May Alcott.
1762: In New York City, the first parade honoring the Catholic feast day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is held by Irish soldiers serving in the British army. Saint Patrick, who was born in the late 4th century, was one of the most successful Christian missionaries in history. Born in Britain to a Christian family of Roman citizenship, he was taken prisoner at the age of 16 by a group of Irish raiders who attacked his family’s estate. They transported him to Ireland, and he spent six years in captivity before escaping back to Britain. Believing he had been called by God to Christianize Ireland, he joined the Catholic Church and studied for 15 years before being consecrated as the church’s second missionary to Ireland. Patrick began his mission to Ireland in 432, and by his death in 461, the island was almost entirely Christian.