This Month in History

Momentous or Merely Memorable

50 Years Ago
It’s Debatable

Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon face off in the first televised presidential debate September 26, 1960. As a tanned, fit-looking Kennedy debates a thin, wan Nixon (recovering from the flu and recent knee surgery) in need of a shave, the subject is policy, but the take-home message is that on TV, appearances matter. Exactly how much the event affects Kennedy’s fall victory is itself a matter of debate, but more than half of voters report the contest influenced their opinion. Nixon declines to debate in 1968 and, as president, in 1972.

70 Years Ago
Underground Art

Four teenage boys exploring a fox den in a French hill near Montignac on September 12, 1940, discover a cavern with walls covered in a menagerie of enormous bulls, horses and deer. The more than 2,000 artworks in the cave, known as Lascaux—including one rare image of a human—date to the Paleolithic period, circa 18,000 years ago. Open to the public in 1948, the cave closes in 1963 as part of an ongoing effort to protect the art from the contaminating effects of visitors and climate changes.

110 Years Ago
Imperfect Storm

The deadliest hurricane in U.S. history slams into Galveston, Texas, on the afternoon of September 8, 1900. Many of the island city’s 37,000 residents have survived storms before and believe they can ride this one out too.
“I just felt that it could not come,” says Bible teacher Ida Austin. But the hurricane brings 130-mph winds and a 15-foot storm surge that overwhelms the 8.7-foot- high island, destroying the city and killing more than 6,000 people. Today Galveston sits behind a 17-foot-high sea wall— surmounted in 2008 by Hurricane Ike.

150 Years Ago
Late Bloomer

Anna Mary Robertson is born in Greenwich, New York, September 7, 1860, some 75 years before she embarks on the painting career that makes “Grandma Moses” a household name. A farm wife—
she marries Thomas Moses in 1887—she starts painting when arthritis puts an end to her needlework. In 1938, her naive paintings of old-timey rural life, displayed in a drugstore window, catch a collector’s eye, and Moses is soon exhibiting in New York City. She paints some 1,600 works to popular acclaim before dying, in 1961, at age 101.

390 Years Ago
Pilgrims’ Progress

The Mayflower sets sail from Plymouth, England, September 6, 1620, with 102 passengers determined to start a colony in the New World. Beset on the 66-day voyage by storms that damage the ship, the colonists, their leader William Bradford writes later, “commited them selves to the will of God, and resolved to proseede” rather than return. They land at Cape Cod November 11.

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