August Anniversaries

Momentous or Merely Memorable

Joan Benoit
Joan Benoit Wikimedia Commons

25 Years Ago
Marathon Woman

American Joan Benoit, 27, bests the competition and the Los Angeles smog to capture the gold in the first women's Olympic marathon, August 5, 1984. By mile three, Benoit, who had recently had knee surgery, is ahead of the 49 other runners; she medals with a time of 2 hours 24 minutes 52 seconds. "I did not want to take the lead," she says later, "but I figured if no one was coming with me, I might as well go." In 2008, her time of 2:49:08 at the Olympic trials sets a record for the 50+ age group.

50 Years Ago
Aloha, Hawaii

Sixty-one years after Hawaii's annexation by the United States, President Eisenhower proclaims it the 50th state, August 21, 1959. For the second time in a year—Alaska joined the Union in January—Ike unfurls a new national flag, which flies officially on July 4, 1960. Hawaii quickly sends representation, including Hiram Fong, the first Asian-American senator, and Daniel Inouye, the first Japanese-American congressman, to Capitol Hill.

70 Years Ago
There's No Place Like Oz

MGM's The Wizard of Oz premières in Wisconsin, California and New York City in August 1939. Critics rank the Technicolor musical version of L. Frank Baum's 1900 book with Disney's Snow White, and it grosses $3 million—but it is the nearly annual television airings from 1956 on that make Oz one of the world's most watched movies.

70 Years Ago
Look Ma, No Propellers

Although British aviation engineer Frank Whittle had tested a working jet engine in 1937, it is Germany's Hans von Ohain who puts the first jet plane—the Heinkel He 178—in the air, on August 27, 1939. In a demonstration, pilot Erich Warsitz flies the jet a few times around Marienehe airfield. "I did say a prayer asking that the turbine blades didn't fall off," von Ohain recalls later. Air marshal Hermann Goering is uninterested, and jets don't join the Luftwaffe until 1944. The He 178 prototype, kept in a museum, is destroyed by British bombs in 1943.

100 Years Ago
Uncommon Cents

In August 1909, one hundred years after his birth, Abraham Lincoln goes into circulation—on the penny. It is the first time a portrait appears on a regular issue U.S. coin. Designer Victor David Brenner's initials, which appear on the back, are later removed, making the 484,000 initialed 1909 pennies minted in San Francisco into collector's items that have sold for thousands of dollars. Today, despite repeated congressional attempts to abolish it, the penny—which is only 2.5 percent copper—survives.

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