The Thing About Today – December 9

December 9, 2020
Day 344 of 366

December 9th is the 344th day of the year. It is Anna’s Day in Sweden and Finland, marking the day to start the preparation process of the lutefisk to be consumed on Christmas Eve, as well as a Swedish name day that celebrates all people named Anna.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Pastry Day and Weary Willie Day.

I didn’t know that I already knew who Weary Willie was. More on that later.

Historical items of note:

  • In 1793, New York City’s first daily newspaper, the American Minerva, was established by Noah Webster.
  • In 1851, the first YMCA in North America was established in Montreal.
  • In 1868, the first traffic lights were installed outside the Palace of Westminster in London. Resembling railway signals, they used semaphore arms and were illuminated at night by red and green gas lamps.
  • In 1897, activist Marguerite Durand founded the feminist daily newspaper La Fronde in Paris.
  • In 1902, schoolteacher, actress and voice artist Margaret Hamilton was born. She is best known for her portrayal of the Wicked Witch of the West, and her Kansas counterpart Almira Gulch, in The Wizard of Oz from 1939.
  • In 1906, American admiral and computer scientist Grace Hopper was born. Among other computer science revolutions, she designed the COBOL programming language.
  • In 1919, chemist and academic William Lipscomb was born. He was a Nobel Prize-winning inorganic and organic chemist working in nuclear magnetic resonance, theoretical chemistry, boron chemistry, and biochemistry.
  • In 1922, actor Red Foxx was born.
  • In 1928, actor Dick Van Patten was born.
  • In 1934, actress Judi Dench was born.
  • In 1935, the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy, later renamed the Heisman Trophy, was awarded for the first time. The winner was halfback Jay Berwanger of the University of Chicago.
  • In 1941, actor, director, and producer Beau Bridges was born.
  • In 1952, actor and voice artist Michael Dorn was born.
  • In 1960, the first episode of Coronation Street, the world’s longest-running television soap opera, was broadcast in the United Kingdom.
  • In 1962, the Petrified Forest National Park was established in Arizona.
  • In 1965, the Kecksburg UFO incident occurred. A fireball was seen from Michigan to Pennsylvania, and witnesses reported something crashing in the woods near Pittsburgh.
  • Also in 1965, A Charlie Brown Christmas, the first in a series of Peanuts television specials, debuted on CBS.
  • In 1968, Douglas Engelbart gave what became known as “The Mother of All Demos”. He publicly debuted the computer mouse, hypertext, and the bit-mapped graphical user interface using the oN-Line System (NLS).
  • In 1972, actress Reiko Aylesworth was born.
  • In 1979, the eradication of the smallpox virus was certified, making smallpox the first of only two diseases that have been driven to extinction. The second was rinderpest, which was eradicated in 2011.
  • In 1997, the eighteenth James Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies, premiered.
  • In 2002, the tenth Star Trek film, Star Trek: Nemesis, premiered.
  • In 2017, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the eighth episode of the Skywalker Saga, premiered.

In 1898, American circus performer Emmett Leo Kelly was born.

Kelly was the performer who created the character of Weary Willie, a clown-like representation of the homeless vagrants of the Great Depression era. The character revolutionized the professional clowning industry by providing a contrast to the typical white-faced, brightly colored clowns.

The Weary Willie makeup is partially derived from the racist minstrel blackface makeup, and the white highlights around the mouth are the only traditional part of the “tramp clown” theme. The rest of the “tramp clown” theme depends on the performer, ranging in emotion from happy to angry and skills from juggling to cycling.

The cultural impact of the character and the man who created it are recognized annually on this date with Weary Willie Day.

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.

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