Mar. 16, 2000

The Snowman

by Wallace Stevens

Broadcast Date: THURSDAY: March 16, 2000

Poem: "The Snow Man" by Wallace Stevens from The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens (Alfred A. Knopf).

On this day in 1850, THE SCARLET LETTER, BY NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, WAS PUBLISHED in Boston, brought out by the publishing house Ticknor, Reed and Fields. Priced at 75 cents, it sold 6,000 copies in its first printing. Hawthorne made $450 from it—by far the most he'd made from any book in his 22 years of writing. But although it made him famous and lifted him out of debt, it also made him unpopular in his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts.

In 1827 on this date, THE FIRST BLACK NEWSPAPER IN THE UNITED STATES was founded— Freedom's Journal, produced on Varick Street in what is now Lower Manhattan, in New York City. Its editors were John and Samuel Cornish.

On this day in 1798, THE FIRST CRUDE INOCULATION AGAINST SMALLPOX WAS PERFORMED by doctor Edward Jenner in Gloucestershire, England. He had noticed that dairy workers infected with the relatively mild disease cowpox later seemed to be immune to the far deadlier disease of smallpox. He took a 5-year-old boy named John Baker and inoculated him with 'matter' taken from a pustule on the hand of a man infected with cowpox. Two months later, when the doctor inoculated young Johnny with smallpox, the boy failed to develop the disease. But, even as fearsome as smallpox was, there was great resistance to Jenner's discovery. Nine years after Jenner's first experiment, Bavaria made the smallpox vaccination compulsory, and other nations followed.

It's the birthday of our fourth President, JAMES MADISON, born in Port Conway, Virginia (1751). Madison managed the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and served as Jefferson's Secretary of State. They worked well together, and in 1808 Madison succeeded Jefferson and continued his policies. He was the smallest man to serve as President, standing five-feet-four inches tall and weighing a hundred pounds.

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