Today in history – February 2:
Maybe this should be Mark Twain Day. I’ll tell you why in a little bit. First . . .
February 2, 1943 was the day the Battle of Stalingrad ended. You may call it a military victory for Russia. But leaving nearly 2 million people wounded, killed or captured must have dampened the celebrations.
Born on this day was author James Joyce in 1882. Deaths on this day include punk rocker Sid Vicious in 1979, and entertainer Gene Kelly in 1996.
Also of note: Idi Amin took control of his country, Uganda, on this day in 1971.
Why Mark Twain Day
Samuel Clemens had a couple significant events that occurred on February 2 (or February 3, according to some sources). For one, he got married to the love of his life, Olivia Langdon, in 1870. To marry and live in New York and Connecticut meant undergoing some pretty big changes from how he was brought up. Olivia’s family actually left their church when it came out in favor of slavery. Samuel Clemens grew up in a slave state, and his parents hired slaves from time to time.
In his early adult years, Samuel Clemens was actually kind of a racist. He looked down upon black people and Catholics, among others. Clemens must have evolved on these issues, as his writing shows. He became quite an advocate for civil rights. There is evidence the Civil War changed him. He made light of his two weeks in the Confederate Army. And he had only praise for President Lincoln, who, in his estimation, kept the union together.
It was during the Civil War, in 1863, that another significant event occurred. On February 2nd (or 3rd) of that year, for the first time Clemens signed his name “Mark Twain” to a piece that he had authored. The career of Mark Twain, the author, publisher, businessman, and humorist would carry on for another 42 years, and make Twain one of the most highly respected figures in American history.
A few more things that happened on February 2nd in history:
- In 1653 – New Amsterdam becomes a city, later called New York City
- In 1709 – British sailor Alexander Selkirk is rescued after being marooned on a desert island for 5 years, his story inspires “Robinson Crusoe”
- In 1848 – First ship load of Chinese arrive in San Francisco
- In 1848 – Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ends Mexican War; U.S. acquires Texas California, New Mexico and Arizona for $15 million
- In 1863 – Samuel Clemens becomes Mark Twain for first time
- In 1870 – Mark Twain, 34, marries Olivia Langdon in Elmira, New York
- In 1959 – Vince Lombardi signs a 5 year contract to coach Green Bay Packers
- In 1977 – Radio Shack officially begins creating TRS-80 computer
- In 2009 – Iran launches first domestically made satellite, Omid, into orbit
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