The year 1994 offers a multitude of anniversaries worth noting


January 16, 1994|By Rick Horowitz

Did you have yourself a merry little Christmas? Fine!

Is "Auld Lang Syne" still langing in your ears? Great!

But now what? you wonder. Who'll do my celebrating now that my celebrating is gone?

You'll do it -- because it's not gone, it's only beginning.

Dive into 1994, in fact, and you splash into a whole new collection of meaningful milestones. Anniversaries, that is -- everything from the beginning of singing bananas to the founding of the YMCA. Not to mention important dates for Hershey bars and Cream of Wheat, the beaches of Normandy and "The Sidewalks of New York."

SG Big-time anniversaries, every one, and they're all waiting for you.

The early years

A Thousand-Year Quiz: Two of the following three besieged London in 994.

A: Sweyn of Denmark.

B: Olaf of Norway.

C: Frederick of Hollywood.

(There will be no partial credit.)

In 1094, St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice, 118 years a-building, is consecrated. Also from Venice that year: the first surviving record of gondolas; people have to get to church.

Big news in 1094 from Spain, where the Moorish city of Valencia finally falls into Christian hands: Don Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar, better known as El Cid Campeador ("The Lord Champion"), drives the Moors from Spain, and later provides employment for Charlton Heston and a cast of thousands.

Win a few, lose a few

In 1244 -- 750 years ago -- the Moslems recapture the Holy Land and boot the Christians out of Jerusalem. The city will remain in Moslem hands until 1918.

In 1444, the Ottoman sultan Murad II takes hostage two sons of the Walachian prince Dracul: Radu and 13-year-old Dracula. Dracula will escape in 1448 and assume his father's throne, but in fear for his life, he'll soon give it up and leave for Moldavia and -- you knew this -- Transylvania.

In 1494, Columbus is being a bit of a bore. . . . The ever-flotatious Christopher is up to his old tricks again, discovering more tropical paradises for Isabella. The big find of the year: Jamaica -- "the fairest island that eyes have beheld," he reports. And he's beheld more than 60 of them on this second voyage to the New World, including islands we know today as Guadeloupe, Montserrat, Antigua, St. Martin, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Columbus goes for 33 days with almost no sleep, loses his memory and even comes close to death. Ah, those Caribbean cruises . . .

"O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?" Because Shakespeare wrote it that way, that's wherefore. "Romeo and Juliet" was first performed, it seems, in 1594 -- 400 years ago.

Another debut in 1594, in Cologne: Mercurius gallobelgicus, believed to be the world's very first magazine. (No scratch-and-sniff ads, but still . . . )

In England in 1644, William Penn is born; he'll help colonize the New World. In Italy, Antonio Stradivari is born; he'll make the strings sing for some 1,100 violins, violas, cellos and guitars.

The French writer and philosopher Francois Marie Arouet de Voltaire is born in 1694. And in Japan . . .

Basho, Zen master,

Haiku man beyond all men,

% Closes eyes and dies.

Everybody sing

It's 1744, and the shape of things to come is sometimes peculiar. Just ask Elbridge Gerry, born in 1744, who as governor of Massachusetts will later help design legislative districts so oddly shaped that a new word is created to describe one of them: "gerrymander."

In London in 1744, the anthem "God Save the King" is published, as is "Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book," which includes the earliest known versions of such future nursery favorites as "Who Killed Cock Robin?" "London Bridge Is Falling Down" and "Hickory Dickory Dock."

In France, meanwhile, King Louis XV takes a new mistress, the bright and beautiful Madame de Pompadour. (But what's that thing she does with her hair?)

In the United States, there's a mini revolution, the Whiskey Rebellion, as farmers in western Pennsylvania protest against the new federal government's excise tax on whiskey. They protest, that is, until President George Washington personally takes the field against them with 12,500 militiamen; then they go home.

The country's first major turnpike, between Philadelphia and Lancaster, Pa., is completed in 1794; 62 miles long, it's also America's first macadam road.

And raise a glass to Scottish poet Robert Burns: It's in 1794, say most authorities, that he publishes his reworking of an old Scottish folk tune.

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot/And never brought to mind?/Should auld acquaintance be forgot,/And days of auld lang syne!"

.` Bobby Burns. Not Guy Lombardo.

A great year for quotations

"Fifty-four forty or fight!" That's the cry of the American expansionists in 1844, squabbling with Britain over Oregon Country's border with Canada. The expansionists rally behind Democratic presidential nominee James K. Polk, the first "dark-horse" candidate. Polk wins, but they still don't get their "54-40"; the border with Canada is set at the 49th parallel instead.

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