Oct. 8, 2000

Cattle in the Rain

by Walter McDonald

Broadcast date: SUNDAY, 8 October 2000

Poem: "Cattle in the Rain," by Walter McDonald, from The Flying Dutchman (Ohio State University Press).

It's the birthday of writer Meyer Levin, born in Chicago, Illinois (1905). His 1956 novel, Compulsion, based on the Leopold and Loeb murder trail, earned him enough money to devote nearly the rest of his life to an epic saga of modern Israel. It took him fifteen years and resulted in two big novels, The Settlers and The Harvest.

It's the birthday of film and theater director Rouben Mamoulian, born in Tiflis, in Russian Georgia (1897). He worked at the Moscow Art Theater at night while studying law by day. He came to America in 1923, directed on Broadway, and then in Hollywood. For his first film, Applause, in 1929, he introduced two technical advances: he put the camera -- which up until then had been virtually stationary -- on wheels for dolly shots; and he recorded the sound on two channels for later mixing. Mamoulian also directed the original stage productions of Oklahoma! and Carousel.

On this day in 1871, around 9:00 in the evening, the Chicago Fire began -- supposedly when a cow owned by Catherine O'Leary kicked over a lantern while being milked, setting the straw on fire. In 27 hours it had destroyed 18,000 buildings and killed at least 300 people. Nearly a third of the population found itself homeless. They rebuilt the city quickly, restoring the business district within a year. In 1997, the Chicago City Council absolved Mrs. O'Leary and her cow, after research suggested that a drayman named Daniel Sullivan had accidentally started the fire.

It's the birthday of inventor J(ames) Frank Duryea, born in Washburn, Illinois (1869). He and his brother, Charles, invented the first automobile to be actually built and operated in the United States.

It's the birthday of statesman and writer John Hay, born in Salem, Indiana (1838). As a young lawyer, he worked on Lincoln's 1860 campaign, and went to Washington as one of the president's two private secretaries. Occasionally Lincoln, dressed for bed in a nightshirt but unable to sleep, would wake him up for some late-night talk. Twenty years after the assassination, Hay and John Nicolay, the other secretary, wrote a ten-volume biography of Lincoln that remains an important source for scholars. Following the Civil War, he served in minor diplomatic posts, wrote editorials for the New York Tribune, and gained a national reputation as a poet with the book Pike County Ballads. In 1897, President McKinley named him ambassador to Great Britain, and he served as Secretary of State during the Spanish American War.

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