January 30, 2018 – Writers’ & Poets’ Birthdays & Other Literary History
Today is Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. It’s the birthday of historian Barbara W. Tuchman and writer Allan W. Eckert. It’s also the birthday of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Today’s poem is “Closed” by Elizabeth Drew Stoddard. Thank you for reading, listening to, and sharing Bidwell Hollow.
Barbara W. Tuchman
Today is the birthday of Barbara W. Tuchman (affiliate link). She was a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning historian.
Tuchman graduated from Radcliffe College in 1933. She spent a few years working for the American Council of the Institute of Pacific Relations before joining The Nation.
By 1936 she was in Spain covering that country’s civil war for the magazine. This experience led to her publishing her first book in 1938, covering Britain’s policy toward Spain and the Western Mediterranean.
But in 1940 Tuchman married her husband, a New York physician. The couple had three daughters, and Tuchman paused her career.
Once her daughters started attending school during the day, though, Tuchman resumed working. She published a book about Britain’s relations with Palestine in 1956 and another work of nonfiction in 1958.
Then Tuchman published “The Guns of August.” It’s a wide-ranging study of the first month of World War I. The book came out in 1962 to rave reviews, and it earned Tuchman her first Pulitzer Prize.
To research for the book, Tuchman rented a car in France and toured World War I battlefields.
Tuchman won her second Pulitzer Prize in 1972 for “Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45.” The book combines a history of modern China with a biography of the American Gen. Joseph Stilwell, who served in China during World War II.
While facts were important to Tuchman, so was writing history in a way that made it interesting and accessible to everyday folks.
Tuchman received honorary degrees from many places, such as Yale and Harvard. But she never earned an advanced degree. She considered this a good thing.
“It’s what saved me,” she said. “If I had taken a doctoral degree, it would have stifled any writing capacity.”
“The Lone Ranger” Debuts
Today in 1933 a new radio program aired on Detroit’s WXYZ station. It began with the William Tell Overture and a man yelling, “Hi-Yo Silver!”
The program was “The Lone Ranger.” It was created by George Trendle, who owned WXYZ, and written by Fran Striker.
The show featured three main characters: The Ranger, his horse Silver, and a Native American scout named Tonto. Tonto, however, wasn’t in that first episode. His character didn’t appear until Feb. 25, 1933.
Tonto spoke in stilted English and uttered two- and three-word phrases. The character created an unfortunate stereotyp that became a template for how the entertainment industry portrayed Native Americans throughout much of the 20th century.
Present day issues with Tonto aside, “The Lone Ranger” became a hit. It was soon syndicated across the nation. And by 1939, an estimated 20 million Americans listened to the broadcast three times a week.
The show was licensed to comic books and novels, and a TV show debuted in 1949. It aired for 212 episodes, ending in 1957.
“The Lone Ranger” also inspired several movies. Most recently, the 2013 Disney movie “The Lone Ranger” starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer.
Allan W. Eckert
Born today in 1931 in Buffalo, NY was Allan W. Eckert (affiliate link). He’s the author of 40 books and more than 150 essays, short stories, and articles.
Eckert’s writing spanned several genres, but many know him most for his nonfiction books about 18th and 19th century America. Six of these books comprise what’s known as Eckert’s “Winning of America” series.
And Eckert wrote the play “Tecumseh!,” about the Native American chief. The play is performed at an outdoor theater in Chillicothe, OH each year. Started in 1973, it’s estimated that 2.5 million people have seen Eckert’s “Tecumseh!”
Along with his literary work, Eckert wrote 250 episodes for the TV show, “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.” For that work, Eckert received an Emmy award in 1970.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
And it’s the birthday of the 32nd President of the United States of America. That would be Franklin Delano Roosevelt, born today in Hyde Park, NY in 1882.
At 28, Roosevelt became a state senator in New York. He soon supported New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson’s candidacy for President. Wilson won and, in 1913, made Roosevelt Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Navy. Roosevelt served in the position throughout World War I.
Next, Roosevelt ran as vice president on the Democratic Presidential ticket in 1920. But the Democrats lost, and Roosevelt left public life.
A year later, Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio. While he recovered, his wife, Eleanor, traveled across New York state. She spoke at events and kept her husband’s name in the forefront of people’s minds. The effort paid off when voters elected Roosevelt governor of New York in 1928.
By the Presidential election of 1932, America was in the middle of the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s handling of the Depression in New York had garnered him positive attention. He sought the Democratic nomination for President.
It took four ballots at the Democratic National Convention, but Roosevelt won the nomination. And then he won the Presidential election.
Roosevelt was President from 1933-1945. He served four terms, the only President to ever do so.
The crimson dawn breaks through the clouded east,
And waking breezes round the casement pipe;
They blow the globes of dew from opening buds,
And steal the odors of the sleeping flowers.
The swallow calls its young ones from the eaves,
To dart above their shadows on the lake,
Till its long rollers redden in the sun,
And bend the lances of the mirrored pines.
Who knows the miracle that brings the morn?
Still in my house I linger, though the night—
The night that hides me from myself is gone.
Light robes the world, but strips me bare again.
I will not follow on the paths of day.
I know the dregs within its crystal hours;
The bearers of my cups have served me well;
I drained them, and the bearers come no more.
Rise, morning, rise, for those believing souls
Who seek completion in day’s garish light.
My casement I will close, keep shut my door,
Till day and night are only dreams to me.
– Elizabeth Drew Stoddard, Public Domain