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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Today in history—January 19

1736: The inventor of the first really practical steam engine, James Watt, is born at Greenock, Scotland.  His Boulton & Watt partnership with a Birmingham merchant will sell 500 engines in 15 years; they are four times as powerful as any previously made.

1813: Sir Henry Bessemer, the man who in 1856 will introduce the first method for producing steel cheaply, is born in Charlton, Hertfordshire.

1825: Ezra Daggett and his nephew Thomas Kensett of New York City receive a patent for canned food. The pair had been canning lobster, salmon, and oysters since 1819.

1839: The British East India Company captures the port of Aden, ostensibly to keep pirates from attacking its shipping from India.

1907: Variety magazine, a vaudeville journal, notices this new medium called the "movies" with its first two film reviews: An Exciting Honeymoon and The Life of a Cowboy.

Times_square 1915: George Claude of Paris receives a patent for a "System of Illuminating by Luminescent Tubes," which will quickly come to be known as the neon sign.  Left, neon signs in New York.  "What a glorious garden of wonder this would be," G.K. Chesterton would later write, "to anyone who was lucky enough to be unable to read."

1920: The U.S. Senate rejects membership in the the League of Nations. Although Britain and France both state they can accept changes made by Senate Republicans, President Wilson refuses to compromise and the Democrats vote against the amended treaty.

1935: The first men’s briefs (dubbed "jockey" shorts) are sold by Coopers, Inc., in Chicago. Thirty thousand pairs are sold in the first three months.

1946: Singer and theme park entrepreneur Dolly Rebecca Parton is born in Sevierville, Tennessee.  As a songwriter, she will in 1976 turn down Elvis Presley’s offer to record her I Will Always Love You when his agent demands a share of the writing royalties—a move that pays off when Whitney Houston’s later cover makes it the biggest-selling song ever by a female vocalist.

1952: To eliminate competition in New York, the National Football League, to eliminate competition in New York, buys out the franchise of the New York Yanks football team for $300,000. After moves to Dallas and then Baltimore, the team will eventually become the Indianapolis Colts.

1976: The Beatles turn down a $50 million offer from promoter Bill Sargent to appear again on the same stage.  Must be nice not to need the money.

1977: Snow falls in Miami, Florida.  People are surprised.

1993: IBM announces a $5 billion annual loss, the largest ever by an American company to that time.

Hedy_lamarr 2000: Hedwig Eva Marie Kiesler—a/k/a Hedy Lamarr (left), the beautiful Austrian actress whose nose was coveted by the plaintiff in Sullivan v. O’Connor—dies in Altamonte Springs, Florida.  She once sued the publisher of her autobiography, claiming that many stories recounted by her ghostwriter were false.

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