Friday

Mar. 27, 1998

Loveliest of Trees, The Cherry Now

by A. E. Housman

FRIDAY 3/27

Today's Reading: "Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now" by A.E. Housman.

It's the birthday in 1924, Newark, New Jersey, of singer SARAH VAUGHAN. She entered an amateur talent contest on a dare back in 1942 at the Apollo Theater in New York singing "Body and Soul." She won and the following year Earl Hines asked her to join his band as the singer and backup pianist. She jumped to Billy Eckstine's big band the next year and made her first recordings. She said, "I like horns. I always wanted to imitate them. Parker and Gillespie, they were my teachers."

It was on this day in 1912 that 3,000 JAPANESE CHERRY TREES were planted along the Tidal Basin and Riverside Drive in Washington, D.C. Three years earlier, Helen Herron Taft, President Taft's wife, had scoured all the Wasington nurseries looking for this particular kind of tree and bought every one of them she could find, 80 in all, and planted them along the Potomac River. The following December, the city of Tokyo shipped 2,000 of them to her as a gift, but they were diseased and had to be destroyed. Two years later, they sent 3,000 and Mrs. Taft oversaw their planting on this day in 1912.

It's the birthday of GLORIA SWANSON, the silent-film actress, in Chicago, 1899. She was born Gloria May Svensson and broke into films when she was 14, as an extra in a crowd scene. She moved to Hollywood and Cecil B. DeMille made her famous in the 20s with a string of silent pictures where she played the thin, glamorous heroine. She didn't care much for the talking pictures when they started in the late 20s, so she got out of movies and began several businesses in clothes and cosmetics. In 1950 she made a comeback as the aging silent-screen star Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, who complains about talkies with lines like, "Who needed sound? We had faces, then."

It's the birthday of photographer EDWARD STEICHEN, born in Luxembourg, 1879, who along with Alfred Steiglitz brought photography into the modern era and made it an art form. His family moved to Milwaukee when he was a boy and he studied painting, and when he started taking pictures he would often brush silver salts and other chemicals on to the photograph to create special effects. In 1902 he and Steiglitz founded a group called the Photo-Secession, dedicated to promoting photography as not just a hobby or a craft, but an art. One of his biggest achievements was to mount a photo exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York called "The Family of Man." He collected over two million photos from around the world and selected 503 of them for the exhibit. It opened in New York in 1955 and then toured most of the major museums in the world where some nine million people saw it.

It's the birthday of the man who discovered X rays, WILHELM RÖNTGEN, born in Remscheid, Germany in 1845. He was working in his lab in 1895 in the city of Würzberg, Germany, when he found that every time he put an electrical current through a particular glass tube, a barium chemical gave off light from across the room. He kept tinkering with the tube and found that if he placed a piece of paper or wood between it and the chemical that it made no difference - the chemical still glowed. He didn't know what it was, so he called it "X-radiation." The first X ray photographs he made were of his wife's hand. He was the first to win the Nobel Prize in Physics, in 1901.

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