February: A Month of Firsts

Welcome to February, the month of Groundhog Day, Presidents Day, but more importantly, the month we celebrate romance, love, and chocolate!  

Many firsts were accomplished by Americans. I plan to mention a few of those on the first of each month in 2021.

Even though there are some aspects of our history that we wish had never occurred, there were also many historical events of which we can be proud.

The philospher, essayist, poet, and novelist, known in English as George Santayana, was born in Spain and christened as Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás.

He was raised and educated in the U.S. from the age of eight and identified himself as an American. You may best know him as the man who said in a speech in 1905: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it!"

In 1948, Winston Churchill changed the quote slightly in a speech to the House of Commons: "Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it."

I believe those learned men were correct. Rather than rewrite history or tear down mementos of it, we should remember so the horrors of the past are never committed again.

This is the land of the free, and we should all embrace it as such and live so those words actually have meaning.  (I'll climb off my soapbox now.)

Historical Firsts by Americans in February

I've listed some birthdays simply because those listed below who were born in February helped shape our country in many ways.

From the frivolous to the serious, here are some firsts to acknowledge with a grin or with thought.

1635 — Boston Latin School, the first tax-payer supported (public) school in America was established in Boston, Massachusetts.

1821 — Elizabeth Blackwell who became the first female physician in the U.S. was born near Bristol, England. She and her family moved to New York State, and in 1849, she was awarded her Medical Degree by the Medical Institute of Geneva, New York. She established a hospital in New York City that was run by an all-female staff. Also, she was active in training women to be nurses for service in the American Civil War.

1847 — Inventor Thomas Edison was born in Milan, Ohio. Throughout his lifetime he acquired over 1,200 patents including those for the incandescent lightbulb (patented in 1879), the phonograph, and a movie camera. You see him quoted often for saying: "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration."

1849 — Photographer Mathew Brade took the first photo of a U.S. President in office, James Polk.

1878 — Hattie Caraway, the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate, was born in Bakersville, Tennessee. Her husband was one of the senators from Arkansas. 

Upon his death in 1931, she filled the remainder of his term. Then she ran for the seat herself and was elected, serving a total of 14 years.

1894 — American artist and illustrator Norman Rockwell was born in New York City. Ironically, he was best known for depicting ordinary scenes from small town American life for the covers of Saturday Evening Post magazine.

1895 — Hollywood director John Ford was born in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Known for the classic films, The Grapes of Wrath and The Searchers, he served in World War II as chief of the Photographic Unit of Office of Strategic Services. He earned 2 Academy Awards for documentaries made during the war.

1910 — The Boy Scouts of America was founded by William Boyce in Washington, D.C., modeled after the British Boy Scouts.

1919 — Congress established Grand Canyon National Park.

1924 — Calvin Coolidge gives the first Presidential radio address.

1922 — Readers Digest was first published.

1926 —The first doughnut making machine was invented.

1938 — Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released.

1942 — The first Medal of Honor during World War II was awarded to 2nd Lt. Alexander Nininger (posthumously) for heroism during the Battle of Bataan.

1943 — Four U.S. Army chaplains on board the U.S. Army transport ship Dorchester  gave up their life jackets to save 4 young soldiers. The ship was in the icy waters off Greenland when hit by a German torpedo. There were not enough life jackets on board so the chaplains removed theirs, handed them to 4 sailors, and the chaplains prayed while the ship went down.

1962 — Astronaut John Glenn became the first American launched into orbit. Traveling aboard the "Friendship 7" spacecraft, Glenn reached an altitude of 162 miles and completed three orbits in a flight lasting just under five hours. In later years, Glenn became the first astronaut elected to Congress.

1964 — GI Joe was launched. (But Barbie beat him to the stores. Ruth Handler invented the Barbie doll in 1959.)

2004 — Facebook, a mainstream online social network is founded by Mark Zuckerberg. (Don't know if that is good or bad, but it was a first! *LOL*)

Takeaway Truth

When you think that the first lightbulb was around 1879, and 83 years later in 1962, the first American went into orbit around the planet, it's mind boggling. Hope you enjoyed this itty bitty history of February Firsts. If nothing else, reading these tidbits will make you a master of trivia!

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