170 years ago today, the renown American botanist and horticultural pioneer, Luther Burbank, who developed more than 800 strains and varieties of plants, was born. He created the Shasta Daisy, the Delicious Apple, and the Russet Potato, which he invented to be resistant to the blight that wiped out crops throughout Europe and caused the devastating Irish potato famine… (1849)

Burbank grew up on a farm and only received a high school education in Lancaster, Massachusetts. He used his inheritance to buy land and eventually move to Santa Rosa, California. He established a greenhouse, nursery, and experimental fields where he conducted crossbreeding experiments on plants, inspired by Charles Darwin’s The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication.

Burbank became famous for his plant catalogs and satisfied customers who grew his Santa Rosa plums, Flaming Gold nectarines, Freestone Peaches, the White Blackberry, and more. The Santa Rosa property is now open to the public as a city park, The Luther Burbank Home and Gardens. The town is celebrating his birthday today at 10AM by planting a plum tree and 170 shasta daisies.

MORE Good News on this Day:

  • Maurice Ravel, the noted French composer, was born (1875)
  • Explorer Roald Amundsen announced his discovery of the South Pole (1912)
  • The first 78 rpm jazz record was released by Original Dixieland Jazz Band for the Victor Talking Machine Company with the A-side ‘Dixie Jazz Band One Step’ (1917)
  • The first successful trans-Atlantic radio-telephone conversation took place, between New York City and London (1926)
  • Golda Meir was elected as the first female Prime Minister of Israel (1969)
  • Sunil Gavaskar became the first cricket batsman to score 10,000 Test runs (1987)
  • The first democratically elected Palestinian parliament formed (1996)
  • A New Hampshire ceremony ratified Gene Robinson as the first openly gay Episcopal bishop (2004)
  • A mass assembly of Kuwaitis marched in support of voting rights for women outside government center (2005)
  • Kathryn Bigelow became the first female to win an Academy Award for Best Director–for her film, Hurt Locker, which also won best picture, about a bomb disposal team during the Iraq War (2010)

On this day in 1923, Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” was published in The New Republic. Ending with the famous line “And miles to go before I sleep,” the poem was Frost’s favorite, and the one he called his “best bid for remembrance.” Frost said he wrote the verses based on a difficult Christmas that he experienced, when on December 22nd, he realized that he wouldn’t be able to afford Christmas presents for his family.

Courtesy Dartmouth College Library

From Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac: “Frost wasn’t the most successful farmer, but he scrounged up some produce from his farm, hitched up his horse, and took a wagon into town to try and sell enough produce to buy some gifts. He couldn’t sell a single thing, and as evening came and it began to snow, he had to head home. He was almost home when he became overwhelmed with the shame of telling his family about his failure, and as if it sensed his mood, the horse stopped, and Frost cried. He recalls he ‘bawled like a baby.’ Eventually, the horse jingled its bells, and Frost collected himself and headed back home to his family. His daughter Lesley agreed that this was the inspiration for the poem, and said that she remembered the horse, whose name was Eunice, and that her father told her: ‘A man has as much right as a woman to a good cry now and again. The snow gave me shelter; the horse understood and gave me the time.’

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

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