On this day, 845 years ago, construction began on the Tower of Pisa. Work continued for two centuries during which the tower began its famous tilt due to an inadequate foundation on ground too soft on one side. The freestanding bell tower, which was recently fortified, and its cathedral transformed the Italian city of Pisa into a tourist destination known worldwide. (1173)

Prior to restoration work performed between 1990 and 2001, the tower—weighing 16,000 tons with a height of 183 feet tall (55m)—leaned at an angle of 5.5 degrees, but the tower now leans at about 3.99 degrees.

More Good News on this Day:

  • Henry David Thoreau published “Walden,” which described his experiences living near Walden Pond in Massachusetts (1854)
  • The cartoon character Betty Boop by Max Fleischer made her first appearance— the caricature of a Jazz age flapper that became one of the best-known cartoon characters in the world (1930)
  • Smokey Bear was introduced in an ad campaign for forest fire prevention in the US, wearing a ranger hat and saying, ‘Only YOU can prevent forest fires’ (1944)
  • The first edition of ‘Ready Steady Go!’ was shown on UK television, a pop music show that ran until 1966 producing 175 episodes (1963)
  • Lauro Cavazos was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to be secretary of education and the first Hispanic to serve in the executive Cabinet (1988)
  • Mauritania passed a law criminalizing slavery for the first time (2007)

And, on this day in 1936, Jesse Owens won his fourth gold medal in track and field competitions at the Berlin Olympics – an American first. Adolf Hitler was using the games to show the world a resurgent Nazi Germany. He had high hopes that German athletes would dominate the games with victories, as he believed in “Aryan” racial superiority and depicted ethnic Africans as inferior.Sommerolympiade, Siegerehrung Weitsprung

In his 1970 autobiography, The Jesse Owens Story, Owens recounted how Hitler later stood up and waved to him anyway: “When I passed the Chancellor he arose, waved his hand at me, and I waved back at him.” Owens was cheered enthusiastically by 110,000 people in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium–and later, ordinary Germans sought his autograph when they saw him in the streets.

Also, on this day in 2007, Mayor Sheila Dixon proclaimed August 9 to be Frank Zappa Day in the city of Baltimore, Maryland.

Photo by Jean-Luc, CC

The “prolific composer, musician, author, and film director” was born there in 1940, and even wrote and recorded a song entitled “What’s New In Baltimore?” The Mayor’s proclamation read in part: “Frank Zappa’s artistry involved many musical genres, including rock, jazz, electronic, and symphonic music, and his lasting impact has left an indelible mark… (He) has received worldwide recognition for his talents and innovation and defense of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution…” This referred to the guitar player’s 1985 testimony before a U.S. Senate committee on the topic of music censorship. READ his brash and outrageously funny autobiography, The Real Frank Zappa Book.

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