Today in History: Premiere of “Madame Butterfly”

Today in History: Premiere of “Madame Butterfly”

It was not all smooth sailing for Giacomo Puccini’s opera “Madame Butterfly” at its world premiere at La Scala in Milan, Italy in 1904. Quite the opposite, the opening was interrupted by its hostile audience’s disapproving shouts, boos and whistles. Italian newspapers commented that “the spectacle given in the auditorium seemed as well organized as that on the stage since it began precisely with the beginning of the opera.” It was only after Puccini had considerably shortened his opera that it became a huge success. To date, Madame Butterfly is a staple of the standard opera repertoire. Puccini’s sentimental music helped foster the unbroken popularity of the Japanese tragedy of the Geisha Cio-Cio-San and U.S. Naval officer Pinkerton. Madame Butterfly followed equally successful Puccini operas like “La Boheme” (1896) and “Tosca” (1900).

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Today in History: Fountain Pen patented 134 years ago

Today in History: Fountain Pen patented 134 years ago

On 12 February 1884, New York insurance salesman Lewis Waterman patented a groundbreaking invention, the fountain pen. Waterman’s instrument was a winner: it did not require constant dipping into the ink well and almost eliminated any ink spills. Writing instruments that contained their own ink supply already existed in the early 18th century. Today’s oldest surviving fountain pen was designed by the Frenchman M. Bion and dates back to 1702. The first American patent for a pen was awarded in 1809 to P. Williamson, a Baltimore shoemaker. After 1850, there was a steady stream of new fountain pen patents and pens in productions. But while early fountain pens were plagued by ink leaks and other failures that left them impractical to use and difficult to sell, it was Waterman’s patent that promoted the fountain pen to a widely popular writing instrument.

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Today in History: Carl Benz gets patent for gasoline car in 1886

Today in History: Carl Benz gets patent for gasoline car in 1886

132 years ago today, German engineer Carl Friedrich Benz received the first patent for a gasoline-powered vehicle. Benz had begun to work on the two-stroke (or two-cycle) engine in 1878. Benz & Co. formed in 1883 and its first motor car rode through the streets of Mannheim, Germany in July of 1886.

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Today in History: Gold discovered in California in 1848

Today in History: Gold discovered in California in 1848

170 years ago today, the California Gold Rush (1848 – 1855) began when the carpenter James W. Marshall discovered gold at Coloma’s Sutter’s Mill near the Sacramento River. His discovery triggered the first and biggest gold rush in North American history. Within one year, some 80,000 gold-seekers – the so-called “forty-niners” – moved to the region to pursure their fortune. By 1853, the number of adventurers had risen to a quarter of a million. After exploiting the most productive gold mines, many of the newly created camps and villages became ghost towns. As a result of the great gold rush, the foundation for the “Golden State” of California had been laid. In 1850, California became the 31st state to join the United States.

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Today in History: Adolphe Mouron Cassandre born in 1901

Today in History: Adolphe Mouron Cassandre born in 1901

117 years ago today, the poster artist and typeface designer A.M Cassandre (born Adolphe Jean-Marie Mouron) was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine to French parents. After settling in Paris in 1915, the young artist studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the Academie Julian and opened his own studio in 1922. Cassandre learned the techniques of poster production while working for the Parisian printing house Hatchard et Compagnie. Between 1923 and 1936, he created several enormously influential advertising posters, among them “Etoile du Nord” (1927), “Dubonnet” (1932) and “Normandie” (1935). In 1927, Cassandre co-founded the advertising agency Alliance Graphique. He designed magazine covers, advertisements, logos and typefaces (among the the popular “Peignot” from 1937). In 1936, he was honored with an exhibition of his works at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Cassandre worked in the U.S. during the late 1930s (Container Corporation of America) before returning to Europe in 1939 to join the French army fight the German invasion of World War II. After the war, Cassandre concentrated on painting, theater and ballet designs. Following a long and difficult battle with depression, he committed suicide in his apartment in Paris in 1968.

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Today in History: Last German VW Beetle produced in 1978

Today in History: Last German VW Beetle produced in 1978

40 years ago today marked the end of the German production of the Beetle: On January 19, 1978 the last model of the legendary car rolled off the assembly lines at the Volkswagen plant in Emden, Germany. Here is a link to a short blog about the VW Beetle: http://wp.me/p6cafs-N

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Today is National Hat Day

Today is National Hat Day

Hang on to your hats and celebrate in style on January 15. Some trivia? Hats may be worn for safety and protection, religious reasons, ceremonial reasons, warmth or fashion. In the Middle Ages, hats were an indicator of social status. In the military, hats may denote one’s nationality, branch of service, rank and/or regiment. Structured hats for women began to be worn in the late 16th century. Millinery is the designing and manufacture of hats. The term “milliner” derived from the city of Milan, Italy. The best quality hats were made in Milan in the 18th century.
Millinery began as traditionally a woman’s occupation, as the milliner not only created hats and bonnets but also chose lace, trim and accessories to complete an outfit. In the middle of the 1920s, to replace the bonnets and wide-brimmed hats, women began to wear smaller hats that hugged their heads.

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