1916: New York City struggled to control an epidemic of poliomyelitis. Nine thousand cases of the infectious disease, also called infantile paralysis, were reported; 2,343 people died. Most of the victims were children.
Tag archive: The New York Times
1911: The Suez Canal had opened 40 years earlier and construction of the Panama Canal was well advanced. But were the inhabitants of Mars building canals that were far more impressive than anything on Earth? The amateur astronomer Percival Lowell thought so. On 27 August, The New York Times ran a story on his astronomical observations and theories under the headline:
MARTIANS BUILD TWO IMMENSE CANALS IN TWO YEARS
Source: The New York Times, 27 August 1911
1999: New York City hospitals recorded 1,791 deaths in the first week of 2000, an increase of 50.9 per cent from the 1,187 deaths during the corresponding period of January 1999 and 46.1 per cent more than the figure of 1,226 for the final week of December 1999. In the absence of bitterly cold weather, an influenza epidemic or some other explanatory factor, experts on ageing surmised that very sick people had simply clung on to life so that they could see in the new millennium.
Source: The New York Times, 15 January 2003
1984: Phyllis Penzo had worked at Sal’s Pizzeria, in the Yonkers suburb of New York, for 24 years. Since the late 1970s, police detective Robert Cunningham had been a regular customer. They were good friends.
One night, after his usual meal of linguine with clam sauce, Cunningham got Penzo to help him pick the numbers for a $1 state lottery ticket. Instead of tipping the waitress, Cunningham promised her half the prize money if they won.
When the lottery was drawn on 31 March, theirs were the only winning numbers: 7, 9, 21, 28, 29 and 43, with 35 as a supplementary number.
Penzo’s “tip” turned out to be worth $3 million.
Source: The New York Times, 3 April 1984
1982: Before AIDS was called AIDS, it was called GRID – gay-related immune deficiency or gay-related immunodeficiency.
Source: The New York Times, 11 May 1982
1980: In the Brazilian state of São Paulo, in 1980 and 1981, 722 men accused of murdering women justified their actions on the grounds of “legitimate defence of honour”.
Source: The New York Times, 29 March 1991
1923: The New York Times reported strange goings-on at the Church of Spiritual Illumination in Brooklyn:
MAN BITES A GHOST
AND UPSETS SEANCE
Source: The New York Times, 10 November 1923
1979: A question that should stump most players of the board game Trivial Pursuit: who invented it?
Answer: the Canadian journalists Chris Haney and Scott Abbott.
Source: The New York Times, 6 June 2010
1984: How many words do the Eskimos have for snow? A handful? Dozens? A hundred?
The anthropologist Franz Boas gave four examples in his 1911 Handbook of American Indian Languages. Benjamin Lee Whorf expanded the list to at least seven in a 1940 essay. After that, the number snowballed; by 1984, an editorial in The New York Times was mentioning “100 types” of snow and “100 synonyms” for the white stuff.
So how many words do the Eskimos have for snow? It’s not exactly a trick question, but there are a variety of answers, depending on what you mean by “Eskimo” and “word” and “snow”.
Source: American Anthropologist, June 1986
1951: The National Safety Council reckoned that towards the end of the year the total number of deaths from traffic accidents in the United States since the advent of the automobile would reach 1 million. In December, the millionth death was reached and passed, like a bump in the road.
Source: The New York Times, 24 December 1951
1937: The Lambeth Walk, a jaunty number from the musical Me and My Girl, was a success first on the London stage, and then in dance halls around Britain and on the Continent. Fascist leaders in Europe, however, took a dim view of the craze. In Italy, the dance was condemned for its “ugly, coarse, awkward motions and gesticulations”, and in Germany it was denounced as “Jewish mischief and animalistic hopping”.
Sources: The Times, 19 May 1939; The New York Times, 8 January 1939
1979: “A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” Isaac Asimov’s laws of robotics notwithstanding, this year saw the first known killing of a human by a robot. On 25 January, workers at a Ford Motor Company plant in Flat Rock, Michigan, noticed that a robot appeared to be giving incorrect information about the number of parts stored on shelves. When Robert Williams climbed on to a shelf to investigate, he was fatally struck on the head by the robot’s arm.
Source: The New York Times, 11 August 1983
1958: “Ecce Eduardus Ursus” (“Here is Edward Bear”) coming down the stairs “tump-tump-tump” (“bump, bump, bump”) behind “Christophorum Robinum” (“Christopher Robin”).
The Latin translator of A.A. Milne’s children’s classic was a Hungarian-born scholar who lived on a farm in southern Brazil. Winnie ille Pu was an unexpected publishing success, spending many weeks on the fiction best-seller list of The New York Times in MCMLXI.
Source: The New York Times, 18 November 1984
1996: William Vickrey had little time to savour the plaudits after he won the Nobel Prize in economics. The Columbia University professor was notified of the joint award on 8 October. He spent the next three days busily fielding phone calls, giving radio interviews and appearing on television, and then died of a heart attack on 11 October.
Source: The New York Times, 12 October 1996
1989: Spare a thought for Berlin’s bunnies. For 28 years they flourished in the “death zone” on the East German side of the Berlin Wall. Hopping about, nibbling grass, relaxing in the sun. No speeding cars, no farmers with shotguns, no farmers’ dogs. Until November, when hordes of noisy humans came stomping through rabbit heaven.
Source: The New York Times, 24 November 1989
1995: Hours before his scheduled execution at Oklahoma State Penitentiary, Robert Brecheen overdosed on sedatives. The condemned murderer was taken from death row to hospital, where his stomach was pumped. Once his condition had stabilized, he was returned to prison and executed by lethal injection.
Source: The New York Times, 12 August 1995
1970: Playboy appeared in a Braille version. It lacked the photos of the printed version, of course, but was perfectly adequate, as long as the reader wanted the magazine only for its articles.
Source: The New York Times, 29 August 1986
1954: It took 25 years, but eventually, on 23 November 1954, the Dow-Jones industrial average surpassed its previous high of 381 points, set on 3 September 1929, just before Wall Street crashed.
Source: The New York Times, 24 November 1954
1985: Ten years after the fall of Saigon, a poll in The New York Times revealed that only three out of five Americans could identify South Vietnam as America’s wartime ally.
Source: The New York Times, 31 March 1985