History, Holidays & Observances on January 19

Holidays: Toast to Edgar Allan Poe
Major Events: John Wilkes, ACLU, Iranian Hostage Crisis
Notable Events: Faust, Il Trovatore, Thomas Edison, League of Nations, You Nazty Spy!, I Love Lucy, Klaus Barbie,
Born: James Watt, Robert E. Lee, Lysander Spooner, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Cezanne, Ish Kabibble, Bernard Dunstan, Janis Joplin, Dolly Parton, Paula Deen, Thomas Kinkade,
Died: Roberto Bompiani

Holidays and Observances on January 19

Toast to Edgar Allan Poe – The author and poet Edgar Allen Poe died under mysterious circumstances in Baltimore at age 40. Virtually everything about his life, death and . . . well, after life, comes with a dose of the bizarre, if not the mysterious. Quite apropos, really, for the man who invented the detective novel genre and who wrote often of the macabre.

One of the bizarre circumstance concerns an annual memorial made by a mysterious person annually on Poe’s birthday at the marker of Poe’s original gravesite at the Westminster Hall and Burying Ground in Baltimore, Maryland. Beginning in the 1930’s and continuing until 2010,

[e]ach year, in the early hours of the morning of January 19 (Poe’s birthday), a black-clad figure carrying a silver-tipped cane, his face obscured by a scarf or hood, entered the [graveyard] . . . At the site of Poe’s original grave—which is marked with a commemorative stone—he would pour a glass of Martell cognac and raise a toast. He then arranged three red roses on the monument in a distinctive configuration and departed, leaving the unfinished bottle of cognac. The roses were believed to represent Poe, his wife Virginia, and his mother-in-law Maria Clemm, all three of whom were originally interred at the site. The significance of the cognac is uncertain, . . . Several of the cognac bottles are kept at the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum in Baltimore.

A group of varying size composed of reporters and Poe enthusiasts observed the event each year. A photograph, reputedly of the Toaster, was published by Life Magazine in 1990. . . .

The identity of the “Poe Toaster” has always been a mystery, and as befitting Poe’s audience, it has given rise to numerous theories, some supernatural. That said:

In 2015, the Maryland Historical Society organized a competition to select a new individual to resurrect the annual tribute in a modified, tourism-friendly form. The new Toaster—who will also remain anonymous—made his first appearance during the daylight hours of January 16, 2016 (a Saturday, three days before Poe’s birthday), wearing the traditional garb and playing Saint-Saëns’ Danse macabre on a violin. After raising the traditional cognac toast and placing the roses, he intoned, “Cineri gloria sera venit” (“Glory paid to one’s ashes comes too late”, from an epigram by the Roman poet Martial), and departed

So, on this day, in keeping with tradition, a toast to the great Mr. Poe . . . .

Major Events on January 19

1764 – John Wilkes is expelled from the British House of Commons for seditious libel.

This was a major event in American Constitutional jurisprudence, as it was an event that would, in a little over twenty years, inform the Fourth Amendment right of Americans to be free of unreasonable government search and seizure. The case of John Wilkes became a cause celebre in the American colonies during the 1760’s as a classic example of the misuse of the coercive power of government to attack the government’s perceived enemies.

John Wilkes was a thorn in the side of British government. Wilkes angered the King when he published a scathing critique of the King’s speech in support of the terms of a peace treaty to end the Seven Years War.

King George III authorized a general warrant to search John Wilkes, in the hope that searching Wilkes’ home would produce evidence of something — anything — the Crown could use to pin a crime on Wilkes. ” British agents, having rooted through Wilkes’ private writings, found nothing worse than a truly bawdy poem. They seized the poem and proceeded to create a crime by surreptitiously publishing it as if Wilkes had done so himself – that being a necessary element of the crime of blasphemy in the U.K. of 1760 – and then charging Wilkes with the crime. Wilkes was then expelled from Parliament and fled to France.

Wilkes won out, more or less, in the end. And his story is written into our 4th Amendment. Our government may not take out general warrants to search for a crime.

To add, it appears that our deep state may well have “pulled a Wilkes” as regards to the Trump administration and the Russian hoax. We await the findings of the investigation authorized by AG Barr. If, as seems likely, the FBI, CIA and others engaged in a conspiracy to wrongly smear the Trump administration, to flip the 2016 election, and failing that, to destroy Trump’s presidency, this will be the most serious political scandal our nation has ever experienced. We shall see . . .

1920 – Communists found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The stated mission of the ACLU, founded this day in 1920, is to “defend the Constitution and laws of the United States.” Actually, it is hard to imagine a more inaccurate statement. The ACLU was founded by radical progressives and Marxists this day in 1920.

When they were first founded, they spoke of defending Freedom of Speech as an absolute right . . . of American progressives. Indeed, their primary client in the 1920’s and for years thereafter was the American Communist Party.

Fast forward to today, and you will find that, after a brief interluded in the 80’s to the 90’s when the ACLU brought in many useful idiots under the guise of being non-partisan, the mask is again completely off. Even useful idiot Alan Dershowitz has taken note, stating not long ago that the ACLU “has morphed into a hyper-partisan, hard-left political advocacy group.”

[T]he core mission of the ACLU — and its financial priority — is to promote its left-wing agenda in litigation, in public commentary and, now, in elections. If you want to know the reason for this shift, just follow the money. ACLU contributors, including some of its most generous contributors, are strong anti-Trump zealots who believe that the end (getting rid of Trump) justifies any means (including denying Trump and his associates core civil liberties and due process).

Anthony Romero, the current radical leftist who directs the ACLU, refers to those of us who favor the ACLU traditional mission as “the old guard.” . . .

No non-governmental organization has done more damage to the fabric of our nation than the ACLU. They led the war on religion in this country, to the point that the left is now on the verge of successfully driving the Judaeo-Christian religions out of the public square. Indeed, pick any progressive cause or goal over the past century and you will find the ACLU leading the charge in the courts, making a mockery of the original intent of our Founders and turning our Courts into the most dangerous branch of government along the way.

1981 – Iran hostage crisis: United States and Iranian officials sign an agreement to release 52 American hostages after 14 months of captivity.

Iran has always responded to force or the reasonable belief that force is imminent. Force and death seems to be the only language of the regime, and it has been that way every since President Jimmy Carter gave tacit approval for Ayatollah Khomeini’s return to Iran in 1979.

When the radical Shia theocracy then took our embassy officials hostage, Carter sat emasculated. Reagan, when he ran for President in 1980, implied that he would use force to end the hostage crisis.

The Politifact reading of history is that the new President’s stance played no role. According to Politifact, it was only the diplomatic skill of Carter and his team, plus paying Iran several billion dollars, that finally brought about the end of the hostage crisis, baldly asserting that “the Iranians had tired of holding the hostages.” Brookings is a bit more circumspect, stating that “Iran’s leaders backed down and sought a negotiated outcome because they decided that it was in their national interest . . .”

The reality is that we will never know the precise mix of motivations that drove Khomeini in 1980 to finally release the hostages. But the timing of it all – with the announcement of the hostages release occurring as President Reagan stood on podium giving his inaugural address, leads to the reasonable inference that the threat of force from a new administration played a role. Given the Iranian reaction to threat of overwhelming use of force since then – such as backing down and ceasing hostilities after half their navy was destroyed in a day when Reagan authorized Operation Praying Mantis or their recent sound-and-fury-signifying-nothing response to Trump’s targeting of Soleimini – it seems reasonable to assess that the theocrats in Iran understand raw force and mark it prominently in their assessments.

Notable Events on January 19

1829 – Faust is a two part tragedy written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It was Goethe’s magnum opus and many credit it as the finest work of classic German literature. The Gothic (or is it Goethic) tale is of a man in Germany who sells his soul to the devil, all to a tragic end. Faust has been repeated on stage countless times, repeatedly made into film, turned into an opera by two separate composers, and served as the inspiration for several musical works, including by Schubert, Lizst, and others. On this date in 1829, Faust Part One was premiered at a hall in Braunschweig, Germany.

Lizst’s Faust Symphony:

And with subtitles, is the 1926 German silent film version of Faust

1853 – Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Il trovatore, the second of Verdi’s three “masterworks” that cemented his fame as a master operatic composer, premiere in Rome.

1883 – On this day, Thomas Edison said, “Let there be light.” The first electric lighting system employing overhead wires, built by Thomas Edison, begins service at Roselle, New Jersey.

1920 – The United States Senate votes against joining the League of Nations, the Wilsonian vehicle to lead to world security and governance. Would that our Senate have been so prescient in 1945 when it came time to vote to join the United Nations.

1940 – You Nazty Spy!, the first Hollywood film of any kind to satirize Adolf Hitler and the Nazis premieres, starring The Three Stooges, with Moe Howard as the character “Moe Hailstone” satirizing Hitler.

1953 – Almost 72% of all television sets in the United States are tuned into I Love Lucy to watch Lucy give birth. It was a proto-gender reveal party for . . . Little Ricky.

1983 – Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie, known as the “Butcher of Lyon” for having personally tortured Jews and members of the French Resistance while stationed in Lyon, is arrested in Bolivia. He would later be extradited to France.

Born on January 19

1736 – James Watt, Scottish engineer whose design of a revolutionary steam engine set the stage for the Industrial Revolution, generating the greatest advance in productivity and standards of living ever seen in human history.

1807 – Robert E. Lee, scion of Virginia’s storied Lee family and a top graduate of West Point. He chose to become the commander of the Confederate Army after turning down an offer of command in the Union Army. He was a very complex man, an excellent battlefield general, but his loyalty ultimately lay with Virginia, not the U.S. Arlington National Cemetery now occupies the ground that was once Lee’s home.

1808 – Lysander Spooner, an influential abolitionist and attorney who also happened to be an anarchist and a socialist. Spooner was an odd bird who fought against slavery, who developed legal theories that the Constitution did not support the institution of slavery, and yet who opposed the Civil War and denounced Union war efforts.

1809 – Edgar Allan Poe, an author who composed mostly poems and short stories. He often wrote in the horror and the mystery genres. His recurrent themes dealt “with questions of death, including its physical signs, the effects of decomposition, concerns of premature burial, the reanimation of the dead, and mourning – all mixed into Poe’s own genre of dark romanticism. For example, here is from the first paragraph of his short story, The Fall of the House of Usher:

I looked upon the scene before me – upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain – upon the bleak walls – upon the vacant eye-like windows – upon a few rank sedges – and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees – with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveller upon opium – the bitter lapse into everyday life – the hideous dropping off of the veil. There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart – an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime. What was it – I paused to think – what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher?

Poe’s influence was lasting. He provided the motivation for H.P. Lovecraft’s works of horror, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, and Alfred Hitchcock’s embrace of suspense.

You can find Poe’s work online here. I personally preferred his macabre stories, and most like the Masque of the Red Death, read in the video below by Basil Rathbone.

1839 – Paul Cézanne, French painter who “is said to have formed the bridge between late 19th-century Impressionism and the early 20th century’s new line of artistic enquiry, Cubism.” His paintings became darker in theme as his own death approached. Given that this entry follows Poe, below is Cezanne’s Pyramid of Skulls, painted in 1901.

1908 – Ish Kabibble, American comedian and cornet player whose legacy, like that of Edgar Allen Poe, was greater and longer lasting than that of his own career.

1920 – Bernard Dunstan, British artist, teacher, and author, best known for his studies of figures, often nudes, in interiors and landscapes. At the time of his death, he was the longest serving Royal Academician.

1943 – Janis Joplin, a popular and promising young singer who died to a drug overdose at 27.

1946 – Dolly Parton, Tennessee girl born into a one-room cabin in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. She grew to be a country music sensation and has made a difference in the lives of the people of East Tennessee.

1947 – Paula Deen, she may not speak pc, but her recipes are great.

1958 – Thomas Kinkade, tremendously popular painter “of realistic, pastoral, and idyllic subjects.” He marketed himself as the “Painter of Light.” According to Kinkade’s company, one in every twenty American homes owns a copy of one of his paintings.

Died on January 19

1908 – Roberto Bompiani, a prolific Italian painter and sculptor whose work largely concentrated on scenes from ancient Rome.