125 years ago today, comedian Jack Benny was born in Chicago. A leading 20th-century entertainer of stage and screen, Benny portrayed himself as stingy and vain, and played his violin tenderly and sometimes badly. He was known for his comic timing and the ability to cause laughter with a silent pause or a single expression—like his signature move, an exasperated “Well!” His popular radio and TV programs from 1932 until his death in 1974 were a major influence on the sitcom genre. WATCH a great video tribute… (1894)

Mary Livingstone, his wife and radio partner, played a wisecracking secretary who made fun of Benny in their act. Enlisted casually to perform on her husband’s program, Mary proved a talented comedian, though ended her career because of severe stage fright.

Jack Benny was visited during his final days of cancer by close friends George Burns, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, and Johnny Carson. Mel Blanc was also a collaborator, appearing often on “The Jack Benny Program”.

MORE Good News on this Date:

  • The League of Women Voters was founded in Chicago, Illinois (1920)
  • President Franklin Roosevelt met with King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia opening U.S.-Saudi diplomatic relations (1945)
  • After U.S. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy spent a year restoring the White House with historical furnishings that were missing when she arrived, 80 million people tuned in on television to watch her give a tour featuring her restorations—and the changes became wildly popular (1962)
  • Aretha Franklin recorded the award-winning version of Otis Redding’s, “Respect”, the iconic hit that was rated by Rolling Stone magazine as #5 on their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (1967)
  • CNN reporter Jeremy Levin was freed from captivity in Lebanon (1985)
  • The first of 24 satellites of the Global Positioning System (GPS) were placed into orbit (1989)
  • The spacecraft NEAR Shoemaker entered orbit around asteroid 433 Eros, the first spacecraft to orbit an asteroid (2000)
  • YouTube was launched by three former Paypal employees as a video sharing website; it soon became the second largest search engine in the world, and the main source viral videos on the Web (2005)

201 years ago marks the day Frederick Douglass, the former slave who became an abolitionist author, dazzling orator, and statesman, was born. 

Born in Maryland sometime around this date in 1818 (which is the one he chose to celebrate as his birthday), Douglass grew to stand as a living counter-example to slaveholders’ arguments that slaves lacked the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens. He was an adviser to President Abraham Lincoln on issues like African-Americans in the military, and detailed his remarkable life in the 1845 autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. WATCH a mini-bio…