January 5, 2020
Day 5 of 366
January 5th is the fifth day of the year. It is the twelfth of the Twelve Days of Christmas, National Bird Day in the United States, and Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day in Australia (or at least Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane).
Historical items of note:
- In 1874, Nobel Prize laureate, physiologist, and academic Joseph Erlanger was born.
- In 1875, the Palais Garnier was inaugurated in Paris, France. It one of the most famous opera houses in the world and has inspired artwork and architecture around the world.
- In 1914, actor and director George Reeves was born. He portrayed Superman on television during the 1950s.
- In 1933, construction of the Golden Gate Bridge began in San Francisco Bay.
- In 1941, 37-year-old pilot Amy Johnson disappeared after bailing out of her plane over the River Thames. She was the first woman to fly solo from London to Australia.
- In 1945, cartoon character Pepe LePew debuted in “Odor-able Kitty”.
- In 2005, the most massive and second-largest known dwarf planet in our solar system was discovered. It was named Eris after the Greek goddess of strife and discord.
In 1914, the Ford Motor Company made the (then) radical announcement that they would institute eight-hour workdays and a minimum daily wage of $5 in salary plus bonuses. The previous standard was nine-hour workdays and half that wage, and the new standards were contingent on workers maintaining certain “character standards.”
This wasn’t the first step toward an eight-hour workday, but it was a significant one. Workers had been lobbying for fair working hours in the United States since at least 1971 when Philadelphia carpenters went on strike to achieve a ten-hour workday. The history of the United States is littered with protests and strikes for fair labor practices, and even with Congressional action and a proclamation by President Ulysses Grant in 1868 and 1869, the eight-hour workday wasn’t a reality for many workers until 1937’s Fair Labor Standards Act as proposed under President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.
The move by Ford in 1914 wasn’t popular within the industry, but when Ford’s productivity increased and their profit margin jumped from $30 million to $60 million in two years, most of Ford’s competitors followed suit. The die was cast.
The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.
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