Thursday, December 29, 2011

The year 1912 was an eventful, exciting year in American, world history

This week’s paper marks the final edition of The Courant for the year 2011, and next week’s paper will be the first edition of the year 2012. Much has taken place in Conecuh County and in the rest of the world during the preceding year, and I’m sure that we’ll be able to say the same this time next year.

Next week, in this space, as I do on the first Thursday of every month, I’ll offer up my monthly review of all the interesting things that were happening in Conecuh County a century ago, way back in January 1912.

The year 1912 was an interesting year in history, and you might be surprised by some of the things that occurred during that leap year a century ago.

The Republic of China, commonly known as Taiwan, was established on Jan. 1, 1912. New Mexico was admitted as the 47th U.S. state on Jan. 6 of that year, and Arizona became the 48th U.S. state on Feb. 14, 1912.

In one of the most famous expeditions of discovery in history, British polar explorer Capt. Robert Falcon Scott and a team of four others became the second group to reach the South Pole. They arrived about three weeks after a team led by famous Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who became the first people to stand on the South Pole on Dec. 14, 1911.

On the trip back to their base camp near the Antarctic coast, Scott and every member of his team died due to the extreme conditions, sometime around March 29, 1912. In addition to the 44-year-old Scott, the team included Henry R. Bowers, a 29-year-old Scottish naval officer; Edgar Evans, a 36-year-old Welsh naval officer; and Edward Adrian Wilson, a 40-year-old English doctor and naturalist.

On April 10, 1912, the British ocean liner, RMS Titanic, left Southampton, England on her maiden voyage for New York City. At 11:40 p.m. on April 14, the Titanic struck an iceberg in the northern Atlantic Ocean. The Titanic sank less than three hours later, at 2:20 a.m. on April 15, and more than 1,500 people died as a result.

Like 2012, the year 1912 was a presidential election year, and on Nov. 5, 1912 Democratic challenger Woodrow Wilson beat Republican incumbent William Howard Taft by a landslide.

The year 1912 was also an active year in the world of sports. Two famous baseball stadiums - Tiger Stadium in Detroit and Fenway Park in Boston – opened on April 20, 1912.

On Oct. 16, the Boston Red Sox beat the New York Giants in extra innings to win the 1912 World Series in a game that is considered one of the greatest baseball games ever played. Two teams shared the college football national championship in 1912, Harvard and Penn State.

The year 1912 was also a notable year in aviation. That year marked the first successful all-metal aircraft flight and on March 1 of that year in St. Louis, Mo., Albert Berry made the first parachute jump from a moving airplane.

Berry’s jump came less than a month after French inventor Franz Reichelt died in a jump from the Eiffel Tower in an attempt to demonstrate his “parachute suit.” That Feb. 4, 1912 incident was caught on film.

Famous books published in 1912 included “The Lost World” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and “Riders of the Purple Sage” by Zane Grey.

Famous people born in 1912 included American painter Jackson Pollock, Hitler’s girlfriend Eva Braun, American actor Karl Malden, German-born physicist and engineer Wernher von Braun, American singer Perry Como, American TV chef Julia Child, American actor Gene Kelly, American humorist Minnie Pearl and former first lady Lady Bird Johnson. Famous people who died in 1912 included American aviation pioneer Wilbur Wright and Irish writer Bram Stoker, who is best known as the author of the famous vampire novel, “Dracula.”

As you can see, 1912 was an eventful year in American and world history. Who’s to say what 2012 will bring, but I’m sure that it will likely be as eventful as that remarkable year a century ago.

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