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February Anniversaries

Momentous or Merely Memorable

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30 Years Ago
Rail to Mail

Harriet Tubman (c. 1820-1913), the former slave and Union scout who led some 300 people out of bondage on the underground railroad, becomes the first African-American woman featured on a postage stamp, February 1978. Known as the "Moses of her people" for the 19 trips she made over ten years to guide escaped slaves north, Tubman is the first honoree in the Black Heritage stamp series, issued each February.

110 Years Ago
Blast From the Past

The USS Maine, moored in Havana Harbor to protect Americans as pro-Spain forces spar with Cuban revolutionaries, explodes on February 15, 1898, killing 266 men. An inquiry blames a mine; the American people, sympathetic to Cuba and urged by newspapers to "Remember the Maine," blame Spain. Although the explosion may have been an accident, by April the Spanish-American War is on. Today the cause of the blast remains in dispute.

140 Years Ago
Trying Times

The House of Representatives votes 126 to 47 on February 24, 1868, to impeach a president for the first time. Andrew Johnson, an advocate for leniency in re-admitting secessionist states to the union, is charged with unlawfully replacing a political opponent, Edwin Stanton, the secretary of war. Acquitted by one vote in May, Johnson completes his term. He dies in 1875.

130 Years Ago
A Quick Read

America's first telephone directory is distributed to 50 "subscribers" to New Haven, Connecticut's month-old telephone exchange in February 1878. Since callers are connected to one another by an operator, there is no need for telephone numbers, which won't be introduced for another year.

160 Years Ago
Class Tract

German philosopher Karl Marx (left), with the help of Friedrich Engels, publishes The Communist Manifesto in London in February 1848. He calls for a revolution of the world's working classes, with the eventual aim of eliminating class structure altogether. In 1917 Russia will attempt to implement many of Marx's proposals—the abolition of private land ownership and rights of inheritance; centralized state transportation, communications and production systems—to be followed by China in 1949. Marx dies in London in 1883 at age 64.

30 Years Ago
No Pain, No Gain

Gordon Haller, 27, bests 14 men to win the first Ironman Triathlon, on Oahu, Hawaii, February 18, 1978. He swims 2.4 miles, bikes 112 miles and runs 26.2 miles in 11 hours 46 minutes 58 seconds. "I pretty much thought it was another long workout," Haller later recalls. The race, started by retired Navy captain John Collins, now features some 1,700 athletes (left: 2006) who must qualify for entry.

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