This Week in History: 11/9 – 11/22

Sunday, November 16: The Sound of Music opens on Broadway

On Nov.16, 1959, the original production of “The Sound of Music” opened on Broadway in the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. The musical is based on the memoir of Maria Von Trapp, “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.” The musical was written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein; sadly, however, Hammerstein died of cancer only nine months after the premier. The production tied for the Tony Award for Best Musical with Fiorello! It also won Best Scenic Design and Best Musical Direction, along with Mary Martin Maria winning Best Actress in a Musical, and Patricia Neway Mother Abbess winning Best Featured Actress. The original production closed on June 15, 1963 after 1,443 performances.

Monday, November 17: The Act of Supremacy is passed

The Parliament of England passed the Act of Supremacy on November 17, 1534, declaring King Henry VIII as the supreme leader of the Church of England. The act came out of Pope Clement VII’s refusal to grant Henry an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon who could not beara son for Henry. In response, Henry broke England entirely away from Rome, establishing the Ecclesia Anglicana the Anglican Church of England, placing himself as the head. The Treasons Act, which stated that to disavow the Act of Supremacy was an act of treason, punishable by death, came soon after. Henry’s Catholic daughter, Queen Mary I, later repealed these acts in an attempt to realign England with Rome. But, yet again, the acts were reinstated by Mary’s half-sister, Elizabeth I, when she took the throne. Elizabeth reinstated the monarchy-herself-as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, instituting the Oath of Supremacy, requiring all members of public office to declare allegiance to her as the head of the church. This Second Act of Supremacy permanently and officially established the Anglican Church of England. The legal position of the monarch as the head of the church is still stands in the modern day United Kingdom.

Tuesday, November 18: Calvin and Hobbes is launched

On Nov.18, 1985, Bill Watterson and Andrews McMeel Publishing first distributed possibly one of the greatest pieces of literature ever produced: the comic series, “Calvin and Hobbes.” The comic tells the humorous tale of Calvin, the ultimate adventurer, troublemaker, questioner and mischievous six-year-old, alongside his stuffed Tiger, Hobbes. The two are named after John Calvin, the French Reformation theologian, and Thomas Hobbes, the 17thcentury English political philosopher. One of the defining characteristics of the comic is that, to Calvin, Hobbes is a living, anthropomorphic tiger, whereas all the other characters see him as a stuffed toy. The comic was revolutionary in that it not only provided humor, but also called into question serious political, social, environmental, educational and philosophical issues. Since the beginning, people have loved “Calvin and Hobbes”; within a year of syndication, it was already being published in over 250 newspapers. The comic ended on Dec.31, 1995 after 3,150 strips were published.

Wednesday, November 19: Abraham Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address

On Nov.19,1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the most famous speeches in history: The Gettysburg Address. Delivered about four months after the Battle of Gettysburg, where the Union soldiers had trounced the Confederate soldiers, the speech was given at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Before Lincoln spoke, Edward Everett delivered what was supposed to be the Gettysburg Address. Known as the Gettysburg Oration, the two-hour, 13,607-word oration is rarely ever read. Lincoln then got up and delivered his speech in just over two minutes during which he stated the principles of human equality, the struggle for preservation of the Union and the birth of freedom in America. Although more than 150 years have passed since President Lincoln delivered the address, the words are still well known throughout American culture: “Four score and seven years ago…”

Thursday, November 20: Nuremburg Trials begin

The Nuremburg Trials were a set of military tribunals held to prosecute the leaders of Nazi Germany after World War II. They began on November 20,1945, in the city of Nuremburg, Germany. Several of Germany’s leaders, including Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler and Joseph Goebbels, were not tried as they had all committed suicide several months before the trials began. The judges consisted of two Soviets, two Brits, two Americans and two Frenchmen. The first set of trials entered indictments against 24 major war criminals and seven organizations. Only three men were acquitted. The trials have been criticized since the “crimes” these men had committed were not defined until after they were committed, and were invalid as a form of “victors’ justice,” where the victors write the rules, as they want them.

Friday, November 21: Mayflower Compact is signed

The Mayflower Compact was the very first governing document of the Plymouth Colony in the New World. The dissidents who had fled to the New World after facing religious prosecution by King James of England wrote it while aboard their ship, Mayflower. They travelled aboard the Mayflower, and signed the Compact aboard the ship on Nov.21, 1620. The date was Nov.11in the Julian Calendar, used by the men at that time; the Gregorian Calendar would place the date on Nov.21. The ship was set to sail for the Colony of Virginia, but strong storms forced them to anchor near what is now Massachusetts, and this is where they chose to establish their new lives. The Compact was based on a majoritarian democratic rule excluding women, who were not allowed to vote, which stated that whatever the majority ruled, went. The settlers named their new colony “New Plimoth” using the early English spelling, based on the port in England from which they had sailed.

Saturday, November 22: President John F. Kennedy is assassinated

At 12:30pm, Nov.22,1963, President John F. Kennedy was fatally shot by a sniper while travelling in a presidential motorcade through Dallas, Texas. The sniper was identified as Lee Harvey Oswald, who was caught by police but never stood trial because, while being escorted to a car for transfer to the Dallas Police Headquarters, Oswald was fatally shot by a Dallas nightclub owner, Jack Ruby. Ruby was immediately arrested, but maintained that he had killed Oswald out of distress over the death of the President. Many have not bought into this story over the years, and consider the President’s assassination as a possible conspiracy, a belief shared by the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations, which concluded in 1978 that the FBI’s investigation was seriously flawed. Right before the assassination, the First Lady of Texas, sitting next to Kennedy in the uncovered limousine, turned to him and said: “Mr. President, you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you.” The President replied, “No, you certainly can’t.” Those were his final words.

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