Jul. 22, 2000
Oft in the Stilly Night
It's the birthday of Amy Vanderbilt, born in New York City (1908). She worked for an advertising agency and a public relations firm in New York, and then decided to write a book on proper behavior. Her 700-page Complete Book of Etiquette (1952), known as the guide to gracious living, took five years to research, and sold millions of copies. With the success of the book, she got to host of her own television show from 1954 to 1960, called It's In Good Taste, and had a radio show for two years after that known as The Right Thing To Do. She never thought of etiquette as rules, but as the basis for kindness among strangers.
It's the birthday of American poet and writer Stephen Vincent Benét, born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (1898). He wrote a famous poem about the Civil War, "John Brown's Body" (1926). His short story "The Devil And Daniel Webster," (1937) became a minor American classic and was turned into an opera, a play and a film. A Book of Americans (1933) is a collection of poems for schoolchildren about historical characters.
It's the birthday of the American sculptor Alexander Calder, born in Lawnton, Pennsylvania (1898), whose father and grandfather were also sculptors. He had a degree in mechanical engineering, and that helped him design his wind-driven mobiles and later his motorized sculptures.
It's the birthday of biochemist Selman Abraham Waksman, born in Priluka, Ukraine (1888). He is one of the principal discoverers of streptomycin, the first antibiotic to show promise against tuberculosis.
It's the birthday of artist Edward Hopper, born in Nyack, New York (1882). He supported himself doing commercial art and illustration, which he loathed, until he was in his 40's, when he was able to support himself with his paintings. One of his most famous paintings is Night Hawks (1942).
It's the birthday of poet and writer Emma Lazarus, born in New York City (1849). She's best known for her sonnet "The New Colossus" (1883), part of which is inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
It's the birthday of William Archibald Spooner, born in London (1844), who gave us the word "spoonerism", an accidental transposition of the initial sounds of two or more words. During World War One, he told his students, "When our boys come home from France, we will have the hags flung out." And he lionized Britain's farmers as "noble tons of soil." And toasting Queen Victoria: "Three cheers for our queer old dean!"
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