Apr. 18, 2000

Paul Revere's Ride

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Broadcast Date: TUESDAY: April 18, 2000

Poem: from "Pa ul Revere’s Ride," by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882).

It's the birthday of publisher CLIFTON HILLEGASS, born in Rising City, Nebraska (1918). He’s the Cliff behind Cliff's Notes, those black-and-yellow-striped study guides that high school and college students use to cram for exams and write term papers. Hillegass was a bookseller for a while, then he teamed up with a Canadian publisher and started producing the guides out of the basement of his home. He has always maintained that his products are not meant to be substitutes for the actual books.

On this day in 1906, at 5:15 in the morning, SAN FRANCISCO WAS HIT BY THE BIG EARTHQUAKE. Houses toppled, the earth split, but the city's worst destruction came from fire, which was especially bad because so many houses were built of wood and so close together, and because the water mains were broken. A quarter of the city had been destroyed, including the whole downtown — but in less than 10 years, the city was rebuilt.

It's the birthday of journalist and fiction writer RICHARD HARDING DAVIS, born in Philadelphia (1864). He covered many big stories—the Spanish-American War, the Russo-Japanese War, the Mexican Revolution—but was most famous for being tremendously athletic and handsome. Over six feet tall and nearly 200 pounds, he was the most glamorous war correspondent of his time. He was the kind of man who walked calmly through flying bullets instead of ducking for cover, and he became the idol of a generation of boys seeking adventure. Wherever he traveled, he carried his own bathtub and clean linen; it was not unusual for him to show up for dinner in a war zone wearing a fresh dinner jacket.

It's the birthday of CLARENCE DARROW, born in Kinsman, Ohio (1857). For the first part of his career, he was a labor lawyer, defending people like Socialist Eugene V. Debs for leading a strike, and Bill Haywood, the leader of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), from a charge of political murder. Later on, his interest in psychiatry led him to pursue criminal law. In the most sensational criminal trial of his era, he defended Leopold and Loeb, two rich kids who had killed a boy for kicks. He once said, "I have always yearned for peace, but have lived a life of war. I do not know why, excepting that it is the law of my being."

It's the birthday of writer GEORGE HENRY LEWES, born in London (1817). He’s perhaps most famous for his relationship with Mary Ann Evans. He met and fell in love with her when she was writing essays and translating, but he soon discovered her talent for fiction. He nurtured it, shielding her from financial worries and helping her with her manuscripts. Under the pen name of George Eliot, she went on to become the author of Silas Marner (1861) and Middlemarch (1872). The two Georges never married and were ostracized by much of Victorian society — but her novels were extremely successful, and Lewes was a devoted partner until his death in 1878.

It was on this date, "On the eighteenth of April in Seventy-Five," PAUL REVERE MADE HIS FAMOUS RIDE from Boston to Concord (1775). The lantern signal from Christ Church was to be "one if by land and two if by sea." When Revere saw two lanterns, he began his ride, alerting villages and farms all the way to Lexington.

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