This Day in History (17-Feb-1936) – “Phantom” cartoon strip by Lee Falk debuts

Leon “Lee” Falk, is the creator of two of the most successful and longest-running action-adventure strips in the history of comic art: “Mandrake the Magician” and “The Phantom.” He began his career as a 19-year-old college student. “Mandrake the Magician” was the first action-adventure strip in which magic was the main theme. Falk’s mysterious magician was immediately a worldwide sensation.

Just two years later, Falk developed still another blockbuster. “The Phantom” made its debut in newspaper comics pages on Feb. 17, 1936. Falk combined his love of epic poetry, fairy tales and stories of chivalry to create the riveting, myth-freighted legend of the first costumed super hero, ‘The Phantom,” also known as “The Ghost Who Walks,” “The Man Who Cannot Die” and “The Guardian of the Eastern Dark.”

Falk wrote ‘Phantom’ stories for over 60 years until his death in 1999 while he was narrating the next Phantom story. The first Phantom was supposedly first seen in year 1525. His sons have followed him. The current Phantom is supposed to be the 21st. As per the story, during the sixteenth century, a man named Christopher Walker was sailing on the seas of Africa with his father, when they fell prey to pirates’ attack. The pirates slaughtered the ship’s crew and blew up the ship. The only survivor was young Christopher. He was washed up onto the Bangallan Beach. He then took his father’s skull and swore an oath upon it, “I swear to devote my life to the destruction of piracy, greed, cruelty and injustice! And my sons, and their sons, shall follow me!” Thus originated the first Phantom. He became friends with the various local tribes and dedicated his life to fighting injustice and cruelty.

Originally Phantom’s” outfit was grey but in a colour printing of the comic it looked purple. Falk liked it and decided to keep it purple. “The Phantom” became a lodestar for what has become practically an industry built around supernatural men and women. King Features distributes “The Phantom” today to more than 500 newspapers. It is translated into 15 languages.



This Day in History (1-Feb-1884) – The first fascicle of the Oxford English Dictionary is published

In 1857, members of the Philological Society rued the lack of a competent dictionary to keep up with the changes since Anglo-Saxon times and the highlight the nuances of the English language.  In 1879, after almost two decades of preparation, the Philological Society tied up with the Oxford University Press to compile and edit the dictionary. A Scottish schoolmaster and an enterprising philologist from London, James Murray was selected to be the editor.

The new dictionary was planned as a four-volume, 6,400-page work that would include all English language vocabulary from the Early Middle English period (1150 AD) onward, plus some earlier words if they had continued to be used into Middle English. It was estimated that the project would be finished in approximately ten years. Five years down the road, when Murray and his colleagues had only reached as far as the word ‘ant’, they realized it was time to reconsider their schedule. Not only are the complexities of the English language formidable, but it also never stops evolving. Murray and his Dictionary colleagues had to keep track of new words and new meanings of existing words at the same time that they were trying to examine the previous seven centuries of the language’s development.

On February 1, 1884, the first fascicle of A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles was published. The volume contained all entries starting from A till the word Ant. The entire project took 40 years to complete instead of 10 years. Holding over 400,000 words and phrases in 10 volumes, the full New English Dictionary was complete in April 1928 when the 125th and final fascicle was published.  Sadly, Murray did not live to see the completion of his great work; he died in 1915. However the Dictionary had taken its place as the ultimate authority on the language. Nevertheless, as soon as the original ten volumes of the New English Dictionary were completed, Craigie and Onions, the two editors still involved with the project, began updating it. In 1933, a single-volume Supplement to the Dictionary was published. Also at this time the original Dictionary was reprinted in twelve volumes and the work was formally given its current title, the Oxford English Dictionary.


This Day in History (17-Jan-1929) – Popeye makes 1st appearance, in comic strip “Thimble Theater”

Popeye made his first public appearance on Jan. 17, 1929, in Elzie Segar’s then nine-year-old comic strip, THIMBLE THEATRE, which originally revolved around Olive Oyl’s family. From the minute he walked into the comic strip, THIMBLE THEATER, and muttered his famous “D’ja think I’m a cowboy” line, Popeye the Sailor Man captured the hearts of millions of fans around the world. Popeye was just a sailor then without any heroic shade. Later the character of Popeye became so popular that the entire comic strip started to revolve around this sailor-man. Then ‘Thimble Theater’ changed into the comics of Popeye where Olive Oyl became Popeye‘s sweetheart. After Elzie Segar’s death in 1938, a number of writers continued the comic strips of Popeye.

Popeye made the jump to the silver screen in a 1933 in a Betty Boop cartoon entitled POPEYE THE SAILOR from the Fleischer Studios. Popeye’s theme song, titled “I’m Popeye The Sailor Man”, composed by Sammy Lerner in 1933 for Fleischer’s first Popeye the Sailor cartoon, has become forever associated with the sailor. In 1937, spinach capital Crystal City, Texas, erected a statue to honor Elzie Segar and Popeye for their positive influence on America’s eating habits, making Popeye the first cartoon character ever immortalized in public sculpture. Interestingly, Popeye’s spinach obsession began in THIMBLE THEATRE but became an indispensable plot device in his later animated adventures. The spinach growers credited Popeye with a 33 percent increase in U.S. spinach consumption and saving the spinach industry in the 1930s.

The controversy of Spinach remained for decades. The most popular concept is it was actually the forbidden wide ‘marijuana’. However recent research also reveals that Spinach may be an herb with somewhat muscle boosting qualities, obviously not like the incredible strength of Popeye. However, whatever be the spinach is, the concept of eating spinach and then beating the villains away has managed to retain its popularity for over 80 years. Many consider Popeye a precursor to the superheroes who would eventually come to dominate comic books.


This Day in History (1-Jan-1881) – Dr John H Watson is introduced to Sherlock Holmes

Dr. Watson, in full Dr. John H. Watson, is a fictional English physician who is Sherlock Holmes’s devoted friend and associate in a series of detective stories and novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Watson, born in 1852, has served as an army surgeon in India, where he was wounded during the second Afghan War, and has returned to England in impaired health. He and Holmes meet in London; they share rooms at 221B Baker Street. The medical practice Watson establishes does not prevent him from accompanying Holmes on his crime-fighting cases, which he later records and publishes. The character of Watson, as written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is modest and intelligent.

Though fictitious, the date and location references make one feel like reading some historical events. At the time the Holmes stories were published, addresses in Baker Street did not go as high as 221. Baker Street was later extended, and in 1932 the Abbey National Building Society moved into premises at 219–229 Baker Street. For many years, Abbey National employed a full-time secretary to answer mail addressed to Sherlock Holmes. In 1990, a plaque signifying 221B Baker Street was installed at the Sherlock Holmes Museum, situated elsewhere on the same block. Since the closure of Abbey House in 2005, ownership of the address by the Holmes Museum has not been challenged, despite its location between 237 and 241 Baker Street. The house is protected by the government due to its “special architectural and historical interest”, while the 1st floor study overlooking Baker Street is still faithfully maintained for posterity as it was kept in Victorian Times.

The prototype for the modern mastermind detective, Holmes first appeared in Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual of 1887. As the world’s first and only “consulting detective,” he pursued criminals throughout Victorian and Edwardian London, the south of England, and continental Europe. Among the most popular stories in which he is featured are The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle (1892), The Adventure of the Speckled Band (1892), The Adventure of the Six Napoleons(1904), and the novel The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902).


This Day in History (20-Dec-1876) – Bankinchrandra Chattopadhyay wrote “Vande Mataram”

Bankinchrandra Chattopadhyay  wrote many Bangali novels from 1865 to 1884, most famous novel being Anand Math (1880). Anand Math contained the song “Bande Mataram”, which was written in 1876. Anand Math started appearing in the magazine, Banga Darshan, during 1880 to 1882. Its concept itself generated ripples in people’s minds, as it was a novel, which speaks of revolutionaries who live and die for their motherland. 1883 saw a stage version of Anandmath, wherein the first singing of the song took place. Bankimda passed away in 1894. In the 1896 convention of the Indian National Congress a full-unabridged version of Vande Mataram was sung. None other than the great personality-Rabindranath Tagore sang it. In the 1901 Congress, again it was rehearsed, with Dakshanrajan Sen as the composer. Thereafter it became a norm to start the Congress convention with Vande Mataram.

The year 1905 was memorable to Vande Mataram in many ways. In this year the song crossed the boundaries of Bengal, spread like a jungle fire throughout the nation which would oust the British rule. No sooner than the Partition of Bengal was declared, thousands of angry Bharatiyas protested the decision in a unanimous voice: Vande Mataram. Indian freedom struggle had got it’s march song. The British government realized the potential and nuisance value of Vande Mataram. Saraladevi Chaudharani, niece of Ravindranath Tagore, sung it despite protest in the 1905 Congress convention.

It was translated into English by Shree Auribindo Ghosh to conform to its universality and eventually. The militant revolutionaries who faced the gallows recited Vande Mataram as their last words. This includes Madanlal Dhingra, Praful Chaki, Khudiram Bose, Suryasen, Ramprasad Bismil and many more. Even the great martyr Bhagat Singh addresses a letter to his father with Vande Mataram. Subhashchandra Bose had adopted this song for his Indian National Army. In 1937, the Congress leaders, owing to misconceptions from certain minorities, appointed a committee to interpret Vande Mataram. The first two stanzas were adopted as a national song. Other stanzas bearing reference of the nation as ‘Mother Durga’ were omitted.


This Day in History (10-Dec-1907) – Rudyard Kipling, author of `The Jungle Book’ and `Kim’, received the Nobel prize for literature

Considered one of the great English writers, Joseph Rudyard Kipling was born 1865, in Bombay (Mumbai). For Kipling, India was a wondrous place. Along with his younger sister, Alice, he reveled in exploring the local markets with his nanny. He learned the language, and in this bustling city of multiple religions, Kipling fell in love with the country and its culture. However, at the age of six, he was sent to Southsea, England, to receive formal British education. He was severly illtreated by the foster family. He found solace in books to overcome grief.

In 1882, Kipling’s parents had him return to India, as they could not afford his college education. The sights and sounds, even the language, which he’d believed he’d forgotten, rushed back to him upon his arrival. Kipling made his home with his parents in Lahore and, with his father’s help, found a job with a local newspaper. The job offered Kipling a good excuse to discover his surroundings. Kipling’s experiences during this time formed the backbone for a series of stories he began to write and publish. They were eventually assembled into a collection of 40 short stories called Plain Tales from the Hills, which gained wide popularity in England.

In 1889 he returned to England and visited America. He published a second collection of short stories, Wee Willie Winkie and American Notes, which chronicled his early impressions of America. His poems include Mandalay & Gaunga Din. He also published his first major poetry success, Barrack-Room Ballads. He subsequently settled in Brattleboro, Vermont, USA where he built a house and named it as “The Naulahka”. His work during this time included The Jungle BookThe Naulahka: A Story of the West and East andThe Second Jungle Book, among others. His tales enchanted boys and girls all over the English-speaking world. By the age of 32, Kipling was the highest-paid writer in the world.

End of 19th century, Kipling settled in UK due to family dispute. Kipling’s books during these years included Kim, Just So, Puck of Pook’s HillActions and ReactionsDebts and CreditsThy Servant a Dog and Limits and Renewals. He is the youngest writer to win Nobel prize for literature at the age of 42.


This Day in History (6-Dec-1768) – Encyclopædia Britannica is published for the first time

For more than 2,000 years encyclopaedias have existed as summaries of extant scholarship in forms comprehensible to their readers. The word encyclopaedia is derived from the Greek enkyklios paideia, “general education,” and it at first meant a circle or a complete system of learning. Earlier encyclopaedias—save for Denis de Coëtlogon’s An Universal History of Arts and Sciences(1745)—had not given systematic instruction on major subjects at all, either because they aimed at dealing with such subjects in a more general way (as in the Encyclopédie) or because articles on such subjects used their space chiefly in explanations of the technical terms involved.  It was thus intended to satisfy two kinds of readers simultaneously: those wishing to study a subject seriously, who would work their way through the treatises; and those in search of quick reference material, who could instantly turn to what they wanted in its alphabetical order.

The first edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica was published and printed in Edinburgh for the engraver Andrew Bell and the printer Colin Macfarquhar by “a society of gentlemen in Scotland” and was sold by Macfarquhar at his printing office on Nicolson Street. The work was issued from December 1768 to 1771 with double-columned pages. The parts were bound in three stout quarto volumes of some 2,500 pages, with 160 copperplate engravings by Bell, and dated 1771. The title page begins as follows: “Encyclopædia Britannica; or, a Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, compiled upon a new plan.” The work could not compete in bulk with the 68 volumes of Johann Heinrich Zedler’s Universal Lexicon or with the French Encyclopédie, whose 17 volumes of text had recently been completed. But it did challenge comparison with all previous dictionaries of arts and sciences, large or small, because of its new plan.

After 244 years of publication, in 2012 Encyclopedia Britannica decided to stop production of its iconic multi-volume print edition encyclopedias. The 2010 edition 32-volume 129-pound set was the last printed version. Britannica’s decision to concentrate its attention on its digital encyclopedia and on coming up with numerous education tools such as mobile applications was part of its natural evolution.