October Anniversaries

Momentous or Merely Memorable

25 Years Ago
Medical Emergency

After a Marxist coup on the socialist Caribbean nation of Grenada, President Ronald Reagan orders U.S. troops to invade the island on October 25, 1983, citing fears for the safety of American medical students there and an arms buildup. Critics call the concerns exaggerated. The action is popular in the United States, but condemned abroad.

50 Years Ago
Charge It

Dr. Ake Senning performs the first cardiac pacemaker implantation in a person in Stockholm, Sweden, October 8, 1958. External pacemakers, used to regulate heart rhythms since 1950, limited patient movement and provoked infection. Senning and engineer Rune Elmquist, at work on an implantable model, are urged by the wife of patient Arne Larsson, 43, to try it in her husband. The first implant lasts eight hours, the next, a few weeks. Before his death at 86 in 2001, Larsson will have more than 20 pacemakers. Senning dies in 2000, age 85.

70 Years Ago
We Interrupt Our Program

Orson Welles, 23, and the Mercury Theatre inspire panic October 30, 1938, when thousands mistake their radio version of H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds for news of a Martian attack on New Jersey. Listeners across the country, perhaps tense over impending war in Europe, phone for help—Newark police report 2,000 calls. Says Welles: “I'm really quite shocked.”

100 Years Ago
America's Top Model

It isn't his first car and won't be his last, but the Model T, which Henry Ford introduces in October 1908, secures his place in automobile history. The first car to be mass-produced with standardized parts, the four-cylinder, 20-horsepower vehicle sells initially for $850. The assembly line—new in 1913—turns out a Model T every 71 seconds, and by production's end in 1927 more than 15 million "Tin Lizzies" are sold, fulfilling Ford's dream of "a motor car for the great multitude."

125 Years Ago
Putting on Arias

The curtain rises on the first performance of New York City's Metropolitan Opera on October 22, 1883. Founded by "new money" millionaires snubbed by the old guard at the Academy of Music, the Opera opens with Gounod's Faust—sung in Italian, as are all the first season's works. Critics note the lavish "exhibition of the audience" and pan the acoustics, but by 1910 the Met has become America's premier opera company. It moves to Lincoln Center in 1966; today more than 800,000 people attend some 200 performances each year.

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