August 22, 2014

Friday / Weekend Open Lines

Two ordinary items found in many or most American households both trace their creation by New York City residents to this date in August. In 1865, the first liquid soap was patented by William Shepphard. His formula flowed from mixing a pound of regular soap with 100 pounds of ammonia solution, then dissolving it in […]

Thursday Open Line

The American Bar Association was founded on this date in 1878 in Sarasota Springs, New York. One-hundred attorneys from 21 states were present at its first meeting. The legal profession as we know it barely existed at the time. There was no National Code of Ethics, lawyers generally worked alone and trained under a system […]

Wednesday Open Line

The nation’s first licensed radio station began broadcasting in Detroit on this date in 1920 — station 8MK, now operating as WWJ. The station was owned by the Detroit News, and for some convoluted reasons, the station operated with an amateur license, which in 1922 was changed to commercial. The first station to receive a […]

Tuesday Open Line

Two geniuses in the field of electronics whose inventions changed pastimes the world over were born in August. One was television pioneer Philo Farnsworth, whose 1906 birthday is noted today. He conceived the idea of television broadcasting while still in high school and realized his dream at the age of 21. The other was Lee […]

Monday Open Line

An emotional and legal battle that lasted many decades ended on this date in 1920, changing the course of U.S. social and political history. The event was the certification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. The amendment prohibits discrimination based on sex with regard to voting — in short, it extended to women the […]

Friday / Weekend Open Lines

Chairs have a history going back to the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs, or even earlier in antiquity. But a couple of variants that no one was anxious to try out debuted this month in the 19th century. In 1890, the electric chair was used for the first time in Auburn, New York, to carry out a […]

Thursday Open Line

Keeping Social Security strong and solvent is a continuing concern in an increasingly aging America. The demographic profile was different on this date in 1935, when the program was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The program aimed to provide security to retired workers over 65, most of whom had no pension, and […]

Wednesday Open Line

Even in this Internet world, many of us still receive printed catalogs through the mail, especially near the holiday season. The first such catalog — more of a flyer — was sent out by Montgomery Ward late this month in 1872. That first catalog consisted of only one page, featuring 163 items for mail order […]

Tuesday Open Line

An invention that has had a profound impact on our use of fabrics and on the nation’s economy was patented on this date in 1851 — the home sewing machine, developed by Isaac Singer. The idea of the sewing machine — and some working models — went back to nearly a century before 1851. But […]

Monday Open Line

This date 33 years ago immediately preceded the dawning of a digital age milestone. On August 12, 1981, IBM introduced its model 5150 — which soon became known simply as the “PC.” There had been consumer computer models for some years before, such as the early Apple and Commodore, but the IBM machine marked a […]

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