Orson Welles’s “War of the Worlds” radio play is broadcast

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/welles-scares-nation

“The War of the Worlds”—Orson Welles’s realistic radio dramatization of a Martian invasion of Earth—is broadcast on the radio on October 30, 1938. 

Welles was only 23 years old when his Mercury Theater company decided to update H.G. Wells’s 19th-century science fiction novel The War of the Worlds for national radio. Despite his age, Welles had been in radio for several years, most notably as the voice of “The Shadow” in the hit mystery program of the same name. “War of the Worlds” was not planned as a radio hoax, and Welles had little idea of how legendary it would eventually become.

The show began on Sunday, October 30, at 8 p.m. A voice announced: “The Columbia Broadcasting System and its affiliated stations present Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater on the air in ‘War of the Worlds’ by H.G. Wells.”

Sunday evening in 1938 was prime-time in the golden age of radio, and millions of Americans had their radios turned on. But most of these Americans were listening to ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his dummy “Charlie McCarthy” on NBC and only turned to CBS at 8:12 p.m. after the comedy sketch ended and a little-known singer went on. By then, the story of the Martian invasion was well underway.

Welles introduced his radio play with a spoken introduction, followed by an announcer reading a weather report. Then, seemingly abandoning the storyline, the announcer took listeners to “the Meridian Room in the Hotel Park Plaza in downtown New York, where you will be entertained by the music of Ramon Raquello and his orchestra.” Putrid dance music played for some time, and then the scare began. An announcer broke in to report that “Professor Farrell of the Mount Jenning Observatory” had detected explosions on the planet Mars. Then the dance music came back on, followed by another interruption in which listeners were informed that a large meteor had crashed into a farmer’s field in Grovers Mills, New Jersey.

READ MORE: How ‘The War of the Worlds’ Radio Broadcast Created a National Panic

Soon, an announcer was at the crash site describing a Martian emerging from a large metallic cylinder. “Good heavens,” he declared, “something’s wriggling out of the shadow like a gray snake. Now here’s another and another one and another one. They look like tentacles to me … I can see the thing’s body now. It’s large, large as a bear. It glistens like wet leather. But that face, it… it … ladies and gentlemen, it’s indescribable. I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it, it’s so awful. The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent. The mouth is kind of V-shaped with saliva dripping from its rimless lips that seem to quiver and pulsate.”

The Martians mounted walking war machines and fired “heat-ray” weapons at the puny humans gathered around the crash site. They annihilated a force of 7,000 National Guardsman, and after being attacked by artillery and bombers the Martians released a poisonous gas into the air. Soon “Martian cylinders” landed in Chicago and St. Louis. The radio play was extremely realistic, with Welles employing sophisticated sound effects and his actors doing an excellent job portraying terrified announcers and other characters. An announcer reported that widespread panic had broken out in the vicinity of the landing sites, with thousands desperately trying to flee.

The Federal Communications Commission investigated the unorthodox program but found no law was broken. Networks did agree to be more cautious in their programming in the future. The broadcast helped Orson Welles land a contract with a Hollywood studio, and in 1941 he directed, wrote, produced, and starred in Citizen Kane—a movie that many have called the greatest American film ever made.

Rural–Urban Fertility Convergence, Differential Stopping Behavior, and Contraceptive Method Mix in West Bengal, India: A Spatiotemporal Analysis

Previously posted at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0363199020959785?ai=2b4&mi=ehikzz&af=R

Journal of Family History, Ahead of Print.
The present study attempts to understand how the interplay between differential stopping behavior and contraceptive use dynamics may have resulted in the convergence of rural-urban fertility in West Bengal, India. Using data from the National Family Health Surveys and employing sequential logit regressions, we were able to confirm that differential stopping behavior, particularly among the rural women—by adopting contraception at first parity after having a boy, or choosing modern methods over natural methods at second parity after having two successive boys—may be one of the factors that led to the rural-urban convergence of fertility.

FDR approves Lend-Lease aid to the USSR

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/fdr-approves-lend-lease-aid-to-the-ussr

On October 30, 1941, President Roosevelt, determined to keep the United States out of the war while helping those allies already mired in it, approves $1 billion in Lend-Lease loans to the Soviet Union. The terms: no interest and repayment did not have to start until five years after the war was over.

The Lend-Lease program was devised by President Roosevelt and passed by Congress on March 11, 1941. Originally, it was meant to aid Great Britain in its war effort against the Germans by giving the chief executive the power to “sell, transfer title to, exchange, lease, lend, or otherwise dispose of” any military resources the president deemed ultimately in the interest of the defense of the United States. The reasoning was: If a neighbor was successful in defending his home, the security of your home was enhanced.

Although the Soviet Union had already been the recipient of American military weapons, and now had been promised $1 billion in financial aid, formal approval to extend the Lend-Lease program to the USSR had to be given by Congress. Anticommunist feeling meant much heated debate, but Congress finally gave its approval to the extension on November 7.

By the end of the war, more than $50 billion in funds, weapons, aircraft, and ships had been distributed to 44 countries. After the war, the Lend-Lease program morphed into the Marshall Plan, which allocated funds for the revitalization of “friendly” democratic nations—even if they were former enemies.

READ MORE: How FDR Became the First—And Only—President to Serve Four Terms

Slave Women and Their Descendants among the Upper Classes in Tetouan, Morocco (1859–1956): Between Recognition and Conflict

Previously posted at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0363199020967391?ai=2b4&mi=ehikzz&af=R

Journal of Family History, Ahead of Print.
In the Arab world, the recognized children of elite men and slave women could adopt the status of their father, ignoring the slave origin of the mother, owing to a system of patrilineal transmission. This regime co-existed with negative stereotypes toward slaves and blackness, despite the very fact that—as this study of notable families in Tetouan between 1859 and 1956 demonstrates—skin color was not the determinant factor to form part of this group. Rather, it was based on the social definition of filiation, leading to legal disputes between family members to delineate the boundaries of kinship.

John Glenn returns to space

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/john-glenn-returns-to-space

Nearly four decades after he became the first American to orbit the Earth, Senator John Hershel Glenn, Jr., is launched into space again as a payload specialist aboard the space shuttle Discovery. At 77 years of age, Glenn was the oldest human ever to travel in space. During the nine-day mission, he served as part of a NASA study on health problems associated with aging.

Glenn, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, was among the seven men chosen by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1959 to become America’s first astronauts. A decorated pilot, he had flown nearly 150 combat missions during World War II and the Korean War. In 1957, he made the first nonstop supersonic flight across the United States, flying from Los Angeles to New York in three hours and 23 minutes.

In April 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space, and his spacecraft, Vostok 1, made a full orbit before returning to Earth. Less than one month later, American Alan B. Shepard, Jr., became the first American in space when his Freedom 7 spacecraft was launched on a suborbital flight. American “Gus” Grissom made another suborbital flight in July, and in August Soviet cosmonaut Gherman Titov spent more than 25 hours in space aboard Vostok 2, making 17 orbits. As a technological power, the United States was looking very much second-rate compared with its Cold War adversary. If the Americans wanted to dispel this notion, they needed a multi-orbital flight before another Soviet space advance arrived.

On February 20, 1962, NASA and Colonel John Glenn accomplished this feat with the flight of Friendship 7, a spacecraft that made three orbits of the Earth in five hours. Glenn was hailed as a national hero, and on February 23 President John F. Kennedy visited him at Cape Canaveral. Glenn later addressed Congress and was given a ticker-tape parade in New York City.

Out of a reluctance to risk the life of an astronaut as popular as Glenn, NASA essentially grounded the “Clean Marine” in the years after his historic flight. Frustrated with this uncharacteristic lack of activity, Glenn turned to politics and in 1964 announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate from his home state of Ohio and formally left NASA. Later that year, however, he withdrew his Senate bid after seriously injuring his inner ear in a fall from a horse. In 1970, following a stint as a Royal Crown Cola executive, he ran for the Senate again but lost the Democratic nomination to Howard Metzenbaum. Four years later, he defeated Metzenbaum, won the general election, and went on to win reelection three times. In 1984, he unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for president.

In 1998, Glenn attracted considerable media attention when he returned to space aboard the space shuttle Discovery. In 1999, he retired from his U.S. Senate seat after four consecutive terms in office, a record for the state of Ohio. Glenn died on December 8, 2016, at age 95. 

READ MORE: Space Exploration: Timeline and Technologies 

Sir Walter Raleigh executed

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/sir-walter-raleigh-executed

Sir Walter Raleigh, English adventurer, writer, and favorite courtier of Queen Elizabeth I, is beheaded in London, under a sentence brought against him 15 years earlier for conspiracy against King James I.

During Elizabeth’s reign, Raleigh organized three major expeditions to America, including the first English settlement in America, in 1587—the ill-fated Roanoke settlement located in present-day North Carolina. Raleigh later fell out of favor with Elizabeth after she learned of his secret marriage to Bessy Throckmorton, one of her maids-of-honor, and he was imprisoned with his wife in the Tower of London. After buying his freedom, Raleigh married Bessy and distanced himself from the jealous English queen.

After Elizabeth died in 1603, Raleigh was implicated as a foe of King James I and imprisoned with a death sentence. The death sentence was later commuted, and in 1616 Raleigh was freed to lead an expedition to the New World, this time to establish a gold mine in the Orinoco River region of South America. However, the expedition was a failure, and when Raleigh returned to England the death sentence of 1603 was invoked against him.

Israel invades Egypt; Suez Crisis begins

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/israel-invades-egypt-suez-crisis-begins

Israeli armed forces push into Egypt toward the Suez Canal, initiating the Suez Crisis. They would soon be joined by French and British forces, creating a serious Cold War problem in the Middle East.

The catalyst for the joint Israeli-British-French attack on Egypt was the nationalization of the Suez Canal by Egyptian leader General Gamal Abdel Nasser in July 1956. The situation had been brewing for some time. Two years earlier, the Egyptian military had begun pressuring the British to end its military presence (which had been granted in the 1936 Anglo-Egyptian Treaty) in the canal zone. Nasser’s armed forces also engaged in sporadic battles with Israeli soldiers along the border between the two nations, and the Egyptian leader did nothing to conceal his antipathy toward the Zionist nation.

Supported by Soviet arms and money, and furious with the United States for reneging on a promise to provide funds for construction of the Aswan Dam on the Nile River, Nasser ordered the Suez Canal seized and nationalized. The British were angry with the move and sought the support of France (which believed that Nasser was supporting rebels in the French colony of Algeria), and Israel, in an armed assault to retake the canal. The Israelis struck first, but were shocked to find that British and French forces did not immediately follow behind them. Instead of a lightning strike by overwhelming force, the attack bogged down. The United Nations quickly passed a resolution calling for a cease-fire.

The Soviet Union began to issue ominous threats about coming to Egypt’s aid. A dangerous situation developed quickly, one that the Eisenhower administration hoped to defuse before it turned into a Soviet-U.S. confrontation. Though the United States sternly warned the Soviet Union to stay out of the situation, Eisenhower also pressured the British, French, and Israeli governments to withdraw their troops. They eventually did so in late 1956 and early 1957.

How Do Family Historians Work with Memory?

Previously posted at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0363199020967384?ai=2b4&mi=ehikzz&af=R

Journal of Family History, Ahead of Print.
Drawing on survey data and oral history interviews undertaken with family historians in Australia,England, and Canada this article will explore how family historians construct memories using diverse sources in their research. It will show how they utilize oral history, archival documents, material culture, and explorations of space to construct and reconstruct family stories and to make meaning of the past, inserting their familial microhistories into global macrohistories. It will ask whether they undertake critical readings of these sources when piecing together their families’ stories and reveal the impact of that work on individual subjectivities, the construction of historical consciousness, and the broader social value of family history scholarship. How might family historians join with social historians of the family to reshape our scholarly and “everyday” knowledge of the history of the family in the twenty-first century?

German sailors begin to mutiny

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/german-sailors-begin-to-mutiny

On October 28, 1918, sailors in the German High Seas Fleet steadfastly refuse to obey an order from the German Admiralty to go to sea to launch one final attack on the mighty British navy, echoing the frustrated, despondent mood of many on the side of the Central Powers during the last days of World War I.

By the last week of October 1918, three of the Central Powers—Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire—were at least in talks with the Allies about reaching an armistice, while the fourth, Bulgaria, had already concluded one at the end of September. With the end of the war seemingly in sight, the German naval command—led by the Admiralty’s chief of staff, Reinhardt Scheer—decided to launch a last-ditch effort against the British in the North Sea in a desperate attempt to restore the German navy’s prestige. In the words of Reinhardt Scheer, chief of staff of the German Admiralty, “An honorable battle by the fleet—even if it should be a fight to the death—will sow the seed of a new German fleet of the future. There can be no future for a fleet fettered by a dishonorable peace.” Choosing not to inform the chancellor, Max von Baden, of its plans, the German Admiralty issued the order to leave port on October 28.

The sailors themselves, however, believing the attack to be a suicide mission, would have none of it. Though the order was given five times, each time they resisted. In total, 1,000 mutineers were arrested, leaving the Imperial Fleet immobilized. By October 30, the resistance had engulfed the German naval base at Kiel, where sailors and industrial workers alike took part in the rebellion; within a week, it had spread across the country, with revolts in Hamburg, Bremen and Lubeck on November 4 and 5 and in Munich two days later. This widespread discontent led Socialist members of the German Reichstag, or parliament, to declare the country a republic on November 9, followed swiftly by Kaiser Wilhelm’s abdication and finally, on November 11, by the end of the First World War.