This Month in History
Momentous or Merely Memorable
60 Years Ago
Work For Peanuts
The “Peanuts” gang debuts in seven newspapers on October 2, 1950. Charles Schulz’s comic strip—
an offshoot of his earlier “Li’l Folks” cartoons—stars lovable loser Charlie Brown (above in 1951). His travails with kites, footballs and his beagle Snoopy propel “Peanuts” for 17,897 strips, inspire TV specials and spawn a licensing empire before Schulz’s death at age 77 in 2000.
20 Years Ago
Forty years of separation ends October 3, 1990, when East and West Germany reunite. Mass relocations from East to West—begun in early 1989—and the creation of a pro-reunification parliament following East Germany’s first free elections in March 1990 hasten progress toward a treaty in which the five East German states join West Germany. In Berlin (above) thousands gather to mark the occasion. “It overcomes a division that never represented the will of the people,” says a resident. Economic and cultural djustments will occupy the country for the next two decades.
120 Years Ago
“No temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite,” John Muir writes in an 1890 campaign for federal protection of the lands around the California valley. Though the valley itself was granted to California in 1864 for public use, it is threatened, Muir argues, by nearby ranching, logging and other human endeavors. On October 1, 1890, Congress makes Yosemite the country’s third national park, preserving an additional 1,500 square miles of wilderness. Today some 3.5 million visitors seek out the park’s splendors each year, including Half Dome (above).
150 Years Ago
An 1860 campaign photograph of Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln prompts Grace Bedell, 11, of Westfield, New York, to write to him in October with a suggestion: grow a beard. Her Democrat brothers will vote for him, she says, and “all the ladies like whiskers.” Lincoln replies that a beard might strike some as a “silly affectation,” but months later a bearded president-elect stops in Westfield, kisses Bedell and tells the crowd he has taken her advice. An 1864 Bedell letter to Lincoln asking for a job turns up in 2007; embroiled in the Civil War, Lincoln likely did not see it. Bedell dies in 1936 at age 88.
150 Years Ago
Suspended 1,200 feet above Boston Common in the basket of the hot-air balloon Queen of the Air, American photographer James Wallace Black takes the first aerial photographs in the United States, October 13, 1860. Since his glass plates require fast processing, Black follows French photographer Nadar’s example and brings developing equipment up with him. Balloon photography later plays a part in Civil War reconnaissance. Today Black’s Boston as the Eagle and the Wild Goose See It is the oldest existing aerial image.