February 28, 2020
Day 59 of 366
February 28th is the fifty-ninth day of the year. It is National Science Day in India.
In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Chocolate Souffle Day, National Floral Design Day, National Public Sleeping Day, Tartar Sauce Day, National Tooth Fairy Day, and Skip the Straw Day. That last one is typically observed on the fourth Friday in February.
Historical items of note:
- In 1700, February 28 was followed by March 1, thus creating the Swedish Calendar. It was used only by Sweden until February 30, 1712, when it was abandoned for a return to the Julian calendar. Sweden transitioned to the Gregorian calendar in 1753, one year after England and its colonies.
- In 1827, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was incorporated, becoming the first railroad in America offering commercial transportation of both people and freight.
- In 1849, regular steamship service from the east to the west coast of the United States began with the arrival of the SS California in San Francisco Bay, four months and 22 days after leaving New York Harbor.
- In 1850, the University of Utah was established. It was originally called the University of Deseret, as established by the General Assembly of the provisional State of Deseret. It closed in 1853, reopened in 1867, and gained its current name in 1892.
- In 1867, seventy years of Holy See-United States relations are ended by a Congressional ban on federal funding of diplomatic envoys to the Vatican. The ban was not lifted until January 10, 1984.
- In 1893, the USS Indiana (BB-1) was launched. She was the lead ship of her class and the first battleship in the United States Navy comparable to foreign battleships of the time.
- In 1935, DuPont scientist Wallace Carothers invented nylon.
- In 1940, the Andretti brothers were born. Aldo and Mario were both famous in the car racing industry, though Aldo quit racing due to severe accidents. Mario had a long career, from 1968 to 1982, with 109 wins on major circuits.
- In 1944, actress and dancer Kelly Bishop was born.
- In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick announced to a gathering of friends that they have determined the chemical structure of DNA. A formal announcement was made on April 25th following the April 2nd publication in Nature.
- In 1954, the first color television sets using the NTSC standard were offered for sale to the general public.
- In 1955, comedian and actor Gilbert Gottfried was born.
- In 1969, actor Robert Sean Leonard was born.
- In 1976, actress Ali Larter was born.
- In 1991, the first Gulf War ended. The nearly seven months that included Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm was a very tense time period in my household since it kept my father, then a United States Air Force reservist, on packed bags and ready to deploy.
- In 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents raided the Branch Davidian church in Waco, Texas with a warrant to arrest the group’s leader David Koresh. The initial altercation killed four ATF agents and six Davidians before starting a 51-day standoff.
- In 1997, a highly luminous flash of gamma rays classified as GRB 970228 struck the Earth for 80 seconds. This provided early evidence that gamma-ray bursts occur well beyond the Milky Way.
In 1983, the final episode of M*A*S*H aired. The episode premiere was seen by almost 125 million viewers, a record for the highest viewership of a season finale that still stands today.
The finale was a two-and-a-half-hour episode, closing out eleven seasons and 256 episodes of television. The series was so popular that, despite the 14 hour time difference, the United States Army set up special television sets in parking lots, auditoriums, and day rooms so that servicemembers in Korea could watch live. the episode was written by eight collaborators, including series star Alan Alda, who also directed.
“Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen” chronicles the final days of the Korean War at the 4077th MASH. It features the war’s effects on the individuals at the unit and closes each of their stories. As the ceasefire goes into effect, the members of the 4077th throw a party before taking down the camp for the last time. Tear-filled goodbyes lead to each of the main characters going their separate ways.
Interest was unprecedented for the time, inspiring the CBS network to sell commercial airtime for $450,000 per 30-second block. That equates to nearly $1.2 million dollars today, and was more expensive than that year’s Super Bowl. It is still ranked as one of the most unforgettable television finales of all time, including the final iconic scene. Interesting bits of trivia include that it wasn’t the final episode filmed – the final scene was the time capsule gathering in “As Time Goes By” – and that it wasn’t originally included in the syndication package. It finally entered syndication on its tenth anniversary.
The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.
For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.