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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Today in history—December 14

1503: The French seer Michel de Nostredame, or Nostradamus, is born, too early, unfortunately, to make a killing in the stock market.

1656: The first successful artificial pearls are produced.  A French coroner named Jacquin uses luminous crystals removed from fish scales inside hand-blown glass beads filled with wax.

1793: Kentucky begins the first state highway in the U.S., a road from Frankfort to Cincinnati.

1799: George Washington, the first non-lawyer to be elected President of the United States, dies at Mount Vernon.

1819: Alabama is admitted to the Union as the 22nd state.

John_mercer_langston 1829: John Mercer Langston (left), who will become the first black lawyer in Ohio and perhaps the first African-American to be elected to public office in the United States—as Town Clerk of Brownhelm, Ohio—is born in Louisa County, Virginia.  He will later found what is now the law school at Howard University.  Oklahoma’s Langston University is named for him.

1889: The American Academy of Political & Social Science is organized at Philadelphia.

1907: William Thomson, Lord Kelvin of Largs, dies in Ayrshire, Scotland.  His fame came from his scientific experiments, but his wealth came from his participation in the transatlantic cable project, where his patented galvanometer made long-distance transmission possible

1917: Universal Film AG (known as UFA), is formed in Germany. As a film studio it will produce such classics as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

1960: The Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) is formed.

1969: A great many investors lose money when the musical version of Fellini’s La Strada closes in one night on Broadway.  What on earth were these people thinking? "Hey, I’ve got it!  Let’s do a Broadway musical about a brutal circus strongman who buys a half-witted woman for a slave, savagely mistreats her, murders the only friend she has, and then cheerfully abandons her to die alone."

Arthur_treacher 1975: Arthur Treacher (left), who gave up the study of law to become the perfect Hollywood manservant in films like Thank You, Jeeves and later introduced fish and chips shops to the United States, dies in Manhasset, New York.

1988: CBS wins the auction for the rights to broadcast major league baseball for $1.1 billion.

1997: The British solicitor and philosopher Owen Barfield, author of works on language and consciousness and a major influence on such writers as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, dies in East Sussex, England.

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