1861: Lincoln avoids assassination attempt: On this day in 1861, Abraham Lincoln and his entourage show up unexpectedly at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., foiling a Baltimore plot against his life.
The president-elect left his home in Springfield, Illinois, by train several days earlier and had planned to stop in Baltimore before continuing to the capital. Before leaving, he delivered a poignant farewell to his hometown and close friends, who observed that he seemed to realize he might never return to the town where, he said, my children have been born, and one is buried. Shortly after departing Springfield, his aides received reports of a planned assassination attempt in Baltimore and ordered the train to proceed immediately to Washington. More here
1947: The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is founded: ISO, is aninternational-standard-setting body composed of representatives from various national standards organizations. Founded on February 23, 1947, the organization promulgates worldwide proprietary industrial and commercial standards. It has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. While ISO defines itself as a non-governmental organization, its ability to set standards that often become law, either through treaties or national standards, makes it more powerful than most non-governmental organizations. In practice, ISO acts as a consortium with strong links to governments. More here
1954: Children receive first polio vaccine: On this day in 1954, a group of children from Arsenal Elementary School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, receive the first injections of the new polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk.
Though not as devastating as the plague or influenza, poliomyelitis was a highly contagious disease that emerged in terrifying outbreaks and seemed impossible to stop. Attacking the nerve cells and sometimes the central nervous system, polio caused muscle deterioration, paralysis and even death. Even as medicine vastly improved in the first half of the 20th century in the Western world, polio still struck, affecting mostly children but sometimes adults as well. The most famous victim of a 1921 outbreak in America was future President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then a young politician. The disease spread quickly, leaving his legs permanently paralyzed. More here
1980: Eric Heiden speed skates into Olympic history: On this day in 1980, speed skater Eric Heiden wins the 10,000-meter race at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, setting a world record with his time and winning an unprecedented fifth gold medal at the games. More here
1991: Ground troops cross the Saudi Arabian border and enter Iraq, thus beginning the ground phase of the gulf war: The initial conflict to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait began with an aerial bombardment on 17 January 1991. This was followed by a ground assault on 23 February. This was a decisive victory for the coalition forces, who liberated Kuwait and advanced into Iraqi territory. The coalition ceased their advance, and declared a cease-fire 100 hours after the ground campaign started. Aerial and ground combat was confined to Iraq, Kuwait, and areas on the border of Saudi Arabia. However, Iraq launched Scudmissiles against coalition military targets in Saudi Arabia and against Israel. More here
1997: Schindler’s List shown uncut on network television: On February 23, 1997, An estimated 65 million people tune in to watch all or part of Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning Holocaust drama Schindler’s List on the NBC television network. NBC broadcast the film in its three-and-a-half-hour entirety, uncut and uninterrupted by commercials, as per Spielberg’s request. The network made some effort to warn viewers about the film’s mature content, airing a message from Spielberg himself cautioning that the content was not appropriate for young viewers. Still, the number of viewers who watched Schindler’s List at home that night was more than double the number who watched it in the theater when it was released in 1993. The next day, while addressing the National Association of Broadcasters, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Reed Hunt praised NBC’s showing of the film, stating that it “showed us again the power and glory of broadcast TV.”
Controversy arose the following day, however, when Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, issued a release blasting NBC for airing the uncut film, saying it had taken network television “to an all-time low, with full-frontal nudity, violence and profanity” and that it should not have aired the movie “on a Sunday evening during a family time.” Coburn, head of the conservative Congressional Family Caucus, brought on a firestorm of negative publicity with his remarks, drawing criticism from fellow conservatives, such as William Bennett and Jack Kemp, as well as from Democrats. Coburn later issued an apology on CNN, stating that he thought the movie should have been aired, just in a later time slot. “I think that at that time of the evening there are still large numbers of children watching without parental supervision,” Coburn explained. More here