September 13, 2020
Day 257 of 366
September 13th is the 257th day of the year. It is Día de los Niños Héroes in Mexico, commemorating the young men killed at Cerro de Chapultepec on September 13, 1847, during the Mexican-American War. Chapultepec Castle served as a military academy that trained officers for the Mexican Army. When the American forces invaded, the staff and cadet volunteers of the academy contributed seventy of the approximately 1,000 defenders. The greatly outnumbered defenders battled General Winfield Scott’s troops for about two hours before General Bravo ordered a retreat, but six cadets refused to fall back and fought to the death. The Niños Héroes are a key part of Mexico’s patriotic lore.
In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Kids Take Over The Kitchen Day, National Peanut Day, Uncle Sam Day, National Celiac Disease Awareness Day, National Bald is Beautiful Day, National Pet Memorial Day (typically observed on the second Sunday in September), National Hug Your Hound Day (typically observed on the second Sunday in September), and National Grandparent’s Day (typically observed on the Sunday after Labor Day).
Historical items of note:
- In 1501, Michelangelo began work on his statue of David.
- In 1788, the Philadelphia Convention set the date for the first presidential election in the United States. It also established New York City as the country’s temporary capital.
- In 1847, six teenage military cadets known as Niños Héroes died defending Chapultepec Castle in the Battle of Chapultepec. American troops under General Winfield Scott captured Mexico City in the Mexican-American War.
- In 1848, Vermont railroad worker Phineas Gage survived an iron rod 1 1⁄4 inches in diameter being driven through his brain. The reported effects on his behavior and personality stimulated discussion of the nature of the brain and its functions.
- In 1851, physician and biologist Walter Reed was born. While in the United States Army, Major Walter Reed led the team that confirmed the theory of the Cuban doctor Carlos Finlay that yellow fever is transmitted by a particular mosquito species, rather than by direct contact. This insight gave impetus to the new fields of epidemiology and biomedicine, and allowed the resumption and completion of work on the Panama Canal by the United States.
- In 1857, businessman Milton S. Hershey was born. He founded The Hershey Company.
- In 1898, Hannibal Goodwin patented celluloid photographic film.
- In 1899, Henry Bliss became the first person in the United States to be killed in an automobile accident.
- In 1924, French composer and conductor Maurice Jarre was born.
- In 1925, singer-songwriter and actor Mel Tormé was born.
- In 1931, actress Barbara Bain was born.
- In 1933, Elizabeth McCombs became the first woman elected to the New Zealand Parliament.
- In 1937, animator, director, and producer Don Bluth was born. He co-founded Sullivan Bluth Studios and Fox Animation Studios.
- In 1939, actor and voice artist Richard Kiel was born. He played Jaws in the James Bond film franchise.
- In 1944, actress and producer Jacqueline Bisset was born.
- In 1946, director and producer Frank Marshall was born.
- In 1948, Margaret Chase Smith was elected as a United States senator. She became the first woman to serve in both the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate.
- In 1951, actress Jean Smart was born.
- In 1956, the IBM 305 RAMAC was introduced. It was the first commercial computer to use disk storage.
- In 1962, an appeals court ordered the University of Mississippi to admit James Meredith, the first African-American student admitted to the segregated university.
- In 1969, Scooby-Doo Where Are You? debuted.
- In 1977, General Motors introduced the Diesel engine. The Oldsmobile Diesel engine was debuted in the Delta 88, Oldsmobile 98, and Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser models amongst others.
- In 1985, Super Mario Bros. was released in Japan for the Nintendo Entertainment System, thus starting the Super Mario series of platforming games.
- In 1987, the Goiânia accident occurred. A radioactive object was stolen from an abandoned hospital in Goiânia, Brazil. It contaminated many people in the following weeks and caused some to die from radiation poisoning.
- In 1990, Law and Order premiered. The flagship series ran for twenty years, and it spawned seven spinoffs, one film, and five video game adaptations.
- In 2005, Supernatural premiered. It is the longest-running North American fantasy series and will end this year after fifteen seasons.
In 1916, British novelist, short-story writer, poet, screenwriter, and wartime fighter pilot Roald Dahl was born.
He served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, becoming a fighter ace after scoring five confirmed victories. He became an intelligence officer, rising to the rank of acting wing commander. He rose to prominence as a writer in the 1940s with works for children and for adults.
His works for children include James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The Witches, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The BFG, The Twits, and George’s Marvellous Medicine. His works have also been adapted for Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Tales of the Unexpected.
He wrote film screenplays for a brief period in the 1960s. Two of them – the James Bond film You Only Live Twice and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – were adaptations of novels by Ian Fleming. He also began adapting his novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but missed deadlines so it was completed and rewritten by David Seltzer. Dahl was disappointed in the resulting film, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, because “he thought it placed too much emphasis on Willy Wonka and not enough on Charlie”. Deviations in the plot between the film and the novel infuriated him, and he refused to allow any further adaptations in his lifetime.
Despite rumors of antisemitism, his life and legacy are continuously honored. He died on November 23, 1990, at the age of 74 from a rare cancer of the blood called myelodysplastic syndrome. His grave is constantly decorated by children with toys and flowers. The Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery at the Buckinghamshire County Museum uses his stories and works to stimulate interest in science and the arts. The Oval Basis plaza in Cardiff Bay has been renamed as Roald Dahl Plass, and is used in several modern productions including Torchwood.
Those memorials only scratch the surface. His books have sold more than 250 million copies worldwide, and he has been referred to as “one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century”.
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.