January 27th

Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart was born in Salzburg on this date in 1756. Theophilus—or Gottlieb—or Amadé means “loved by God.” As an adult Mozart signed Wolfgang Amadé Mozart or simply Mozart. In the family he was known as Wolfgangerl or Woferl.

The actor James Cromwell is 75. Cromwell was nominated for the best supporting actor Oscar for Babe. So the pig had the lead role?

Mikhail Baryshnikov is 67.

Chief Justice John Roberts is 60 today.

Cris Collinsworth is 56

Keith Olbermann is 56.

Margo Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies is 54. At 29 People thought she was one of the 50 most beautiful.

Peter Fonda’s daughter — Henry Fonda’s granddaughter — Bridget is 51.

Patton Oswalt is 46.

Oscar-winner Donna Reed was born in Denison, Iowa, on January 27, 1921. She won for a supporting role in From Here to Eternity.

Donna Reed as Alma: I do mean it when I say I need you. ‘Cause I’m lonely. You think I’m lying, don’t you?
Montgomery Clift as Robert E. Lee “Prew’ Prewitt: Nobody ever lies about being lonely.

1992 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Elmore James was born on January 27th in 1918.

Bluesman Elmore James was inspired by the local performances of Robert Johnson to take up the guitar. It was, in fact, a number by Johnson (“Dust My Broom”) that became James’ signature song and laid the foundation for his recording career. First cut by James in August 1951, “Dust My Broom” contains the strongest example of his stylistic signature: a swooping, full-octave opening figure on slide guitar. His influence went beyond that one riff, however, as he’s been virtually credited with inventing blues rock by virtue of energizing primal riffs with a raw, driving intensity.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Hyman Rickover was born January 27th, 1900.

Rickover underwent submarine training between January and June 1930. His service as head of the Electrical Section in the Bureau of Ships during World War II brought him a Legion of Merit and gave him experience in directing large development programs, choosing talented technical people, and working closely with private industry.

Assigned to the Bureau of Ships in September 1947, Rickover received training in nuclear power at Oak Ridge Tennessee and worked with the bureau to explore the possibility of nuclear ship propulsion.
In February 1949 he received an assignment to the Division of Reactor Development, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and then assumed control of the Navy’s effort as Director of the Naval Reactors Branch in the Bureau of Ships. This twin role enabled him to lead the effort to develop the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, USS Nautilus (SSN-571). The latter joined the fleet in January 1955.

Promoted to the rank of Vice Admiral by 1958, Rickover exerted tremendous personal influence over the nuclear Navy in both an engineering and cultural sense. His views touched matters of design, propulsion, education, personnel, and professional standards. In every sense, he played the role of father to the nuclear fleet, its officers, and its men.

After sixty-four years of service, Rickover retired from the Navy as a full admiral on 19 January 1982.

Naval History and Heritage Command

Jerome Kern was born on this date in 1885.

… Then he met Oscar Hammerstein II, who became a lifelong friend, and the two collaborated on Show Boat in 1927. This musical gave us the songs “Ol’ Man River” and “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man.” In 1933, Kern and Hammerstein produced Roberta, which included the famous song “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.”

Kern moved to Hollywood in 1935, and he enjoyed success there. He wrote “The Way You Look Tonight” for the movie Swing Time, and the song won an Academy Award. In 1941, Kern and Hammerstein wrote “The Last Time I Saw Paris” because Paris had just been occupied by Nazi Germany, and that song also won an Academy Award.

The Writer’s Almanac (2008)

Billings Learned Hand was born on this date in 1872.

Learned Hand served as a federal judge longer than any other man—52 years. His opinions were prodigious, totaled more than 2,000, covering every phase of the law from maritime liens to complicated antitrust cases. His tart observations (“Judges can be damned fools like anybody else”) were treasured. On the bench. Judge Hand was a formidable figure, a stocky man with the broad shoulders of his Kentish forebears, glittering eyes under dense brows, and craggy features that might have been carved by Gutzon Berglum. Intolerant of lawyers who strayed from the point or became too verbose. Judge Hand sent wayward attorneys scampering back to the facts with an acid query—”May I inquire, sir, what are you trying to tell us?”—or just a furious “Rubbish!”‘ Once, confronting the ferocious old judge at a Yale Law School moot court, a terrified student fainted dead away.

In writing his decisions. Hand followed the meticulous painstaking procedure that he demanded in his court. He invariably wrote three or four drafts of every opinion in longhand on yellow foolscap before the language and reasoning finally satisfied him. His opinions cut to the marrow of the issue and proceeded eloquently but rapidly to the point. Hand’s famed 28-page opinion on United States v. Aluminum Co. of America, in which he ruled that “good” monopolies had no more legality than “bad” monopolies, was distilled from 40,000 pages and four years of testimony, has been a model for every subsequent antitrust suit.

Above from Time obituary, 1961.

Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albrecht von Preußen was born on this date in 1859. His mother was Victoria, Princess Royal of the United Kingdom, and his father was Prince Frederick Wilhelm of Prussia. He was the first grandchild of Queen Victoria. Wilhelm became King of Prussia and German Emperor in 1888. He abdicated in November 1918, but lived until 1941.

And he would become two-thirds of a tweed-wearing Englishman when he was in England. Then he’d go back to Berlin and he’d become a Prussian prince dressing up in German uniforms – eventually a German emperor, with even more uniforms. He had this really split personality. But the interesting and most important thing for European diplomacy and the future of the continent – which was going to lead up to the First World War – was Wilhelm’s admiration and envy of the British navy. He was from an almost landlocked country, which didn’t have and didn’t need a navy and yet he was taught to love the sea and ships.

Robert K. Massie


“He was a symbol of a political system that was out of control. There was no one authority that actually could operate, even though the law said that he was it. So, when the time came for major decisions to make, you both have a vision that the Kaiser’s hysterical, and that he makes the decisions.

“The answer is probably both, and neither, because the real core of the German Empire is the army and the navy. They run the show before the First World War behind the scenes. They run it during the war from the Front.”

Jay Winter

Edward Smith, the captain of the RMS Titanic, was born on this date in 1850. He went down with his ship on April 15, 1912.

Samuel Gompers was born in London in 1850 and came to New York in 1863.

Samuel Gompers was the first and longest-serving president of the American Federation of Labor (AFL); it is to him, as much as to anyone else, that the American labor movement owes its structure and characteristic strategies. Under his leadership, the AFL became the largest and most influential labor federation in the world. It grew from a marginal association of 50,000 in 1886 to an established organization of nearly 3 million in 1924 that had won a permanent place in American society. In a society renowned for its individualism and the power of its employer class, he forged a self-confident workers’ organization dedicated to the principles of solidarity and mutual aid. It was a singular achievement.
. . .

As a local and national labor leader, Gompers sought to build the labor movement into a force powerful enough to transform the economic, social and political status of America’s workers. To do so, he championed three principles. First, he advocated craft or trades unionism, which restricted union membership to wage earners and grouped workers into locals based on their trade or craft identification. This approach contrasted with the effort of many in the Knights of Labor to organize general, community-based organizations open to wage earners as well as others, including employers. It also contrasted sharply with the “one big union” philosophy of the Industrial Workers of the World.

Second, Gompers believed in a pure-and-simple unionism that focused primarily on economic rather than political reform as the best way of securing workers’ rights and welfare. Gompers’s faith in legislative reform was dashed in the 1880s after the New York Supreme Court overturned two laws regulating tenement production of cigars that he had helped pass. Gompers saw that what the state gave, it could also take away. But what workers secured through their own economic power in the marketplace, no one could take away.

Third, when political action was necessary, as Gompers increasingly came to believe in his later years, he urged labor to follow a course of “political nonpartisanship.” He argued that the best way of enhancing the political leverage of labor was to articulate an independent political agenda, seek the endorsement of existing political parties for the agenda and mobilize members to vote for those supporting labor’s agenda.


Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was born January 27, 1832. We know him as Lewis Carroll.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

John Chivington was born on this date in 1821.

The hero of Glorietta Pass and the butcher of Sand Creek, John M. Chivington stands out as one of the most controversial figures in the history of the American West.
. . .

When the Civil War broke out, Colorado’s territorial governor, William Gilpin, offered Chivington a commission as a chaplain, but he declined the “praying” commission and asked for a “fighting” position instead. In 1862, Chivington, by that point a Major in the first Colorado Volunteer Regiment, played a critical role in defeating confederate forces at Glorietta Pass in eastern New Mexico, where his troops rapelled down the canyon walls in a surprise attack on the enemy’s supply train. He was widely hailed as a military hero.
. . .

A month later, while addressing a gathering of church deacons, he dismissed the possibility of making a treaty with the Cheyenne: “It simply is not possible for Indians to obey or even understand any treaty. I am fully satisfied, gentlemen, that to kill them is the only way we will ever have peace and quiet in Colorado.”

Several months later, Chivington made good on his genocidal promise. During the early morning hours of November 29, 1864, he led a regiment of Colorado Volunteers to the Cheyenne’s Sand Creek reservation, where a band led by Black Kettle, a well-known “peace” chief, was encamped. Federal army officers had promised Black Kettle safety if he would return to the reservation, and he was in fact flying the American flag and a white flag of truce over his lodge, but Chivington ordered an attack on the unsuspecting village nonetheless. After hours of fighting, the Colorado volunteers had lost only 9 men in the process of murdering between 200 and 400 Cheyenne, most of them women and children. After the slaughter, they scalped and sexually mutilated many of the bodies, later exhibiting their trophies to cheering crowds in Denver.

PBS – The West

Aztec Ruins National Monument (New Mexico)

… was proclaimed 92 years ago today (1923).

Aztec Ruins

Around 1100 A.D. ancient peoples embarked on an ambitious building project along the Animas River in northwestern New Mexico. Work gangs excavated, filled, and leveled more than two and a half acres of land. Masons laid out sandstone blocks in intricate patterns to form massive stone walls. Wood-workers cut and carried heavy log beams from mountain forests tens of miles away. In less than three decades they built a monumental “great house” three-stories high, longer than a football field, with perhaps 500-rooms including a ceremonial “great kiva” over 41-feet in diameter.

A short trail winds through this massive site offering a surprisingly intimate experience. Along the way visitors discover roofs built 880 years ago, original plaster walls, a reed mat left by the inhabitants, intriguing “T” shaped doorways, provocative north-facing corner doors, and more. The trail culminates with the reconstructed great kiva, a building that inherently inspires contemplation, wonder, and an ancient sense of sacredness.

Ancestral Puebloans related to those from the Chaco region farther south built an extensive community at this site beginning in the late 1000s A.D. Over the course of two centuries, the people built several multi-story structures called “great houses,” small residential pueblos, tri-wall kivas, great kivas, road segments, middens, and earthworks. The West Ruin, the remains of the largest structure that they built and which has since been partially excavated, had at least 450 interconnected rooms built around an open plaza. Several rooms contain the original wood used to build the roof. After living in the area about 200 years, the people left at about 1300 A.D.

Aztec Ruins National Monument

Best Lyric of the Day

God may forgive you, but I won’t
Yes, Jesus loves you, but I don’t
They don’t have to live with you, neither do I
You say that you’re born again, well so am I
God may forgive you, but I won’t
I won’t even try

“God May Forgive You (But I Won’t)”
Sung by Rosie Flores (Iris DeMent has a great version, too).
Words and music by Harlan Howard and Bobby Braddock.

Richard Nixon

… was born in Yorba Linda, California, 102 years ago today.

Nixon Birthplace

NewMexiKen was contacted by the staff working with Richard Nixon on his memoirs, RN, many years ago. I was asked to see if I could determine — from among the Nixon papers in my custody — the time of day he was born. As I remember it, my research was inconclusive. Someone else’s must have been helpful. The memoirs begin:

I was born in a house my father built. My birth on the night of January 9, 1913, coincided with a record-breaking cold snap in our town of Yorba Linda, California.

Nixon, by the way, did not use his middle name or initial. Though you always see him referred to as Richard M. Nixon, he himself signed as Richard Nixon and he titled his memoir RN.

The Gift of the Magi

This is a Christmas season tradition here at NewMexiKen. Go ahead, read it again. It makes everything about the season seem simpler yet more precious.

Merry Christmas!

The Gift of the Magi
by O. Henry (William Sydney Porter), 1906.

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-sevencents. And the next day would be Christmas.

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Christmas Gift for President Lincoln

Savannah, Ga., Dec. 22. [1864]

To His Excellency, President Lincoln:

I beg to present you as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.

(Signed.) W. T. Sherman, Major-General

The headline in The New York Times the following day read: Savannah Ours.