March 13, 2015

It Happened on March 13th

A celebration at Delmonico's, 1906.

Lorenzo Delmonico Born, 1813
Lorenzo Delmonico was the nephew of John and Peter Delmonico. The three Delmonicos were the owners of the famous Delmonico's restaurant. Delmonico's is believed to be the first restaurant in the United States to allow customers to order a la carte, and to use a wine list. 

Delmonico's is considered the birthplace of the Delmonico Steak, Lobster Newberg, and possibly Eggs Benedict and Chicken a la King. Baked Alaska originated elsewhere, but was given its name at Delmonico's, in honor of the acquisition of the territory. 

Among some of the more famous patrons of Delmonico's are: Jenny Lind, Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, and Sir Walter Scott. 

Earmuffs Patented, 1887
On this day in 1887, earmuffs were patented by Chester Greenwood of Farmington, Maine. Greenwood had come up with the idea four years earlier, when he was only 15, to keep his ears warm while ice skating.
Greenwood was also issued patents for a few other items: a teakettle, a rake, an advertising matchbox, and a machine that could make wooden spools. He also invented an umbrella holder to be used by mail carriers but he didn't patent that invention. 

Go on, open it!
National Open an Umbrella Indoors Day
Speaking of umbreallas, today is Open an Umbrella Indoors Day. It's always in March (normally a rainy month) and always on the 13th. 

I've been unable to discover just where the superstition about opening an umbrella comes from. Umbrellas were long associated with the gods and with royalty, as well as with sun and bad weather, and let's face it -- you need to be careful about all those things. 

Umbrellas have a long history in Asia and the Middle East, although they came relatively late to Europe. They are big business in modern times: as of 2008, the U.S. Patent Office had issued 3,000 patents for umbrella-related items, and was employing four full-time examiners to assess new claims. The largest manufacturer of umbrellas in the United States is Totes, and they no longer accept unsolicited ideas for umbrella improvements. One of the problems, according to Totes, is that the umbrella is a simple, frequently-used item, and everybody thinks of ways to improve it -- not necessarily new ways. 

Fillmore married his teacher.
Abigail Powers Fillmore's Birthday, 1798
Abigail Powers Fillmore was the wife of President Millard Fillmore, and for a time, she was also his teacher. He was Abigail's oldest student when she took a teaching job in New Hope, New York. The two fell in love and were married in 1826. Abigail Fillmore left her mark on the White House by providing its first library with $2000 in funds appropriated by Congress. 

Death of Catherine Genovese, 1964
Catherine ("Kitty") Genovese was a young woman who was stabbed to death on March 13, 1964, near her home in Queens, New York. An investigative article published two weeks later in The New York Times claimed that 38 people had witnessed the murder and not called the police, or attempted to interfere in any way. 

As it turns out, this wasn't exactly true. It was a cold night, and many of the residents had their windows closed and didn't hear her cry out in the first place. One who did called out to the attacker, Winston Moseley, to leave her alone, and he did for a time. Several people did call the police, and were essentially brushed off, since they had seen her get up after the first attack. What was unknown to almost everybody was that Moseley returned to finish the job. Mosely stabbed, raped, and robbed Genovese, this time at a location close to the building where she could not be seen. (Genovese had been attempting to enter the building, but the doors were locked.) 

Mosely was convicted of murder and originally sentenced to death, but the conviction was later reduced to an indeterminate sentence of imprisonment. He has been denied parole 17 times, most recently in December 2013.

Several changes have come about largely as a result of the Genovese murder. The NYPD's telephone reporting system was reformed. Psychologists and sociologists have conducted numerous studies on the "bystander effect," sometimes also known as the "Genovese syndrome." In addition, the rise of Neighborhood Watch programs in the late 1960's and the 1970's is considered largely a result of this event.

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