100 years ago today, British pilots John Alcock and Arthur Brown became celebrities worldwide for completing the first nonstop transatlantic flight—a harrowing 16-hour journey through ice and fog with a broken radio that led people to believe they had crashed into the ocean. The aviators were freezing cold, drenched with rain, navigating in their open cockpit through a snowstorm and their instruments and carburetor were crippled by ice.
16 hours and 1890 miles later they spotted the Irish coast and landed nose first after the green field they spotted in Galway turned out to be a bog. Despite it all, Alcock and Brown took home an enormous prize of £10,000 offered by The Daily Mail and were welcomed back to London by King George V. They carried several items of mail with them when they took off from St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, and in doing so, effectively transported the first transatlantic airmail to Britain. WATCH some historical film from the day… (1919)
The pioneering flight was made a full 8 years before Charles Lindbergh became a household name for flying from New York to Paris.
MORE Good News on this Day:
- Benjamin Franklin proved that lightning is electricity with his famous kite and key experiment (1752)
- Bono, U2 and Sting headlined a concert in New Jersey celebrating 25 years of Amnesty International (1986)
- Ontario passed North America’s first pay equity law to legislate equal pay for women (1987)
- Nik Wallenda became the first person to successfully tightrope walk over Niagara Falls (2012)
And, on this day in 1215, England’s King John put his seal to the Magna Carta. The historic document established the foundations of parliamentary democracy, human rights and the supremacy of law for rebellious English Barons demanding freedom and legal due process.
The clause at the heart of the Great Charter states that no free man should be seized or imprisoned or stripped of his rights or outlawed or exiled except by the judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. First drafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury to make peace between the unpopular King and a group of rebel barons, it laid the foundations for the current British–and later, American– legal and constitutional system, with three of the 60 clauses still in force today. The U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment guarantees that “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”, a phrase that was derived directly from Magna Carta.
And, on this day in 1978, King Hussein of Jordan married the Arab-American woman Lisa Halaby, who became the mother of four of his children as Jordan’s beloved Queen Noor. She gained influence by using her role as queen—and her education in urban planning—to benefit charities and improve the country’s economy. Her memoir, set against a backdrop of 30 years of Middle Eastern conflict, is called Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life.
Also, on this day in 1941, the singer, songwriter Harry Nilsson was born in Brooklyn, NY. His work, characterized by pioneering overdub experiments in the 70s, included ‘Without You‘, ‘One (is the Loneliest Number)’, and ‘Everybody’s Talkin” from the film Midnight Cowboy.
When John Lennon and Paul McCartney held a press conference in 1968 to unveil the record label Apple Corps, Lennon was asked to name his favorite American artist. He replied, “Nilsson”. McCartney was asked next, and he said, “Nilsson”. At age 52, the musician died of heart failure. Nilsson’s multi-octave voice was never so full of life as it was on the Nilsson Schmilsson LP, which earned him a 1973 Grammy Award nomination for Album of the Year. “Without You” won the Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. Lennon produced and played on his Pussy Cats LP.
And, on this day in 1967, the Oscar-nominated World War II drama The Dirty Dozen was released. Inspired by a true story, a small band of convicted criminals are trained for a top-secret mission, to attack a fancy chateau full of Nazi officials prior to D-Day.
Directed by Robert Aldrich, the all-star cast featured Lee Marvin, Donald Sutherland, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, Telly Savalas, George Kennedy, John Cassavetes, and Trini Lopez. A massive commercial success, the film was also nominated for four Academy Awards.
If there are any survivors on this virtual suicide mission, the newly-skilled commandos are to be pardoned and returned to active duty at their former ranks.
Based on the best-selling novel, the cast included many World War II American veterans who became actors, including Lee Marvin, Robert Webber and Robert Ryan (US Marines), Telly Savalas (US Army) and Charles Bronson (Army Air Forces), Ernest Borgnine (Navy), and Clint Walker (Merchant Marine). Jim Brown, one of the greatest NFL football players of all time, was forced to choose between his roles as running back and film star during the making of the film—he chose acting.