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Monday, January 3, 2005

Today in history—January 3

1871: Henry W. Bradley of Binghamton, New York, gets a patent for oleomargarine. Pressure from the dairy lobby will lead to regulations that prevent it being colored yellow to keep it from competing with butter.  Minnesota will go so far as to create a new agency, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, whose chief duty is preventing its sale.

Tolkien 1892: John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (left), the man whose studies of Anglo-Saxon myths will eventually generate more gold than Bilbo and the dwarves found in Smaug’s cave, is born at Bloemfontein, South Africa.  His day job will be Professor of Anglo-Saxon, and then later Merton Professor of English at Oxford.

1911: Joseph L. Rauh, Jr., the Democratic politician, UAW lawyer, and civil rights leader who will help found the law school at the University of the District of Columbia, is born in Cincinnati, Ohio.

1956: Mel Columcille Gerard Gibson is born at Peekskill, New York.  After being turned down by every major studio, his self-financed Passion of the Christ will become the ninth highest grossing film in U.S. history—and he gets to keep most of it.  On making a film in Latin and Aramaic: "They think I'm crazy, and maybe I am. But maybe I’m a genius."

1957: The Hamilton Watch Company introduces the first electric watch.

1959: Alaska enters the Union as the 49th state.

1973: The Columbia Broadcasting System exits the baseball business by selling its New York Yankees for $10 million to a group headed by the chair of Cleveland’s American Shipbuilding Company, George Steinbrenner.

Double_fantasy 1981: Death sells, as John Lennon’s (Just Like) Starting Over and the album Double Fantasy (left) hit the top of the charts just weeks after his murder.

1986: The Capital Cities group of stations buys the American Broadcasting Company for $3.5 billion. ABC started as the "NBC Blue Network," a joint venture between RCA and General Electric, but was spun off by order of the Justice Department.

1991: Japan’s Matsushita Electric Company buys the MCA film studio group for $6.9 billion.

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