Wednesday

Nov. 24, 1999

Prepare For Aging Festival

by John Tagliabue

Broadcast Date: WEDNESDAY: November 24, 1999

Poem: "Prepare For Aging Festivals" by John Tagliabue from New and Selected Poems published by University Press of New England.

In 1905 on this date, the first gallery to exhibit photographs opened in New York City, called "The Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession." Located at 291 Fifth Avenue, the gallery was later called simply "the 291." It was run by photographers Alfred Stieglitz [STEEG-lits] and Edward Steichen [STIE-kn], who, 3 years earlier, had formed the Photo-Secession Group for renegade photographers.

It s the birthday of architect Cass Gilbert, born in Zanesville, Ohio (1859). His grandfather had been the first Mayor of Zanesville; his father rose to the rank of colonel—on the Union side—during the Civil War. But his father died when Cass was only 9, at which point the youngster began working in an architect s office, then as a surveyor. While a teenager he studied architecture at M.I.T. (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), then traveled for a year in Europe, then became a draftsman for the New York firm of McKim, Mead and White. They sent him to St. Paul, where he founded his own small firm—but at first he had so little architectural work, he supported himself by selling his own watercolor paintings. In 1896, at the age of 36, he landed his first big commission, and designed the Minnesota State Capitol. The success of this project encouraged him to open an office in New York, where he won a competition to design the U.S. Custom House. Going from strength to strength, he designed the Union Club, the Essex County Courthouse—and then his most famous project, the first tower skyscraper, 60 stories high, the 792-foot Woolworth Building in New York (1912)—at that time the tallest building in the world. He secured its commission not through juried competition but by clever salesmanship. When he heard that Woolworth himself was going abroad, Gilbert caught the same liner, and, by the time it docked, had the contract. He also designed the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. (1935), and the campuses of the universities of Minnesota (in Minneapolis) and Texas (in Austin).

In 1859 on this day, Charles Darwin published his book The Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. The first printing of 1,250 copies sold out the first day.

It s the birthday of author Carlo Collodi [koh-LOH-dee], the pen name of Carlo Lorenzini, born in Florence, Italy (1826)—a journalist best known for creating Pinocchio (1882), a wooden puppet that became a human boy.

It s the birthday of novelist Laurence Sterne, born in Clonmell [klon-MELL], County Tipperary, Ireland (1713), author of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, a whimsical, bawdy tale that used many techniques—such as skillfully ordering a seemingly disordered narrative—later adopted by 20th-century novelists.

It s the birthday of philosopher Benedict de Spinoza [spin-OH-zah], born in Amsterdam (1632). His interest in optics, in the new science of astronomy and in Cartesian philosophy combined to get him expelled from the Jewish community for heresy when he was 23. Uninterested in public acclaim—he earned his living grinding lenses—at 40 he declined a professorship at Heidelberg. His writings include Metaphysical Thoughts (1663) and Ethics Demonstrated in Geometrical Order, published after his death (1677).

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