710 years ago today, the Swiss marksman and patriot William Tell is said to have successfully shot an apple off his son’s head. In resistance to the Habsburg empire’s bid to rule central Switzerland, Tell refused to bow to a hat and was arrested. The story goes, he was offered his freedom if a single crossbow shot at the apple was successful. His blow for liberty sparked a rebellion in which he played a leading role in the ultimate creation of the Swiss Confederacy. WATCH a 1-min animated history… (1307)
The William Tell Overture, composed by Rossini in 1829 is one of his best-known and most frequently imitated pieces of music—you may know it as the theme for the television show, the Lone Ranger.
MORE Good News on this Date:
- Five standard continental time zones were instituted by US and Canadian railroads to end the confusion of thousands of local times (1883)
- Latvia declared its independence from Russia -Independence Day (1918)
- The film Ben-Hur, starring Charlton Heston, premiered in New York City–and went on to win Best Picture (1959)
- Spain established a democracy after 37 years of dictatorship (1979)
- The Soviet Union worked with the United States to deliver aid shipments of American wheat to Ethiopia during the famine (1984)
- 50,000 Bulgarians take to the streets demanding political reform (1989)
- Terry Waite, a Christian who was kidnapped after negotiating the release of other British hostages, was finally released by the Islamic Jihad Organization after 1,763 days, the first four years of which were spent in solitary confinement (1991)
- South Africa‘s 21 political parties approved a new constitution (1993)
- The UK repealed a controversial anti-gay amendment that barred schools from portraying gay relationships as anything other than abnormal; the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the state constitution guarantees gay couples the right to marry (2003)
And, on this day in 1865, Mark Twain’s short story, “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog,” was published in the New York Saturday Press. It was his first great success as a writer and brought him national attention. In the story, the narrator retells a story he heard from a bartender, about the gambler Jim Smiley.
“If he even seen a straddle bug start to go anywheres, he would bet you how long it would take him to get to wherever he going to, and if you took him up, he would foller that straddle bug to Mexico…”
The story was developed further as “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”, which was also the title story of Twain’s first book, a collection of 27 stories that were previously published in newspapers and magazines.