More questions than answers arose from this week in history. Did a cow really start the Great Chicago fire? How did a musical about house pets succeed on Broadway? Who really discovered America?
Yom Kippur War
Beginning on Judaism’s holiest day in 1973, the Yom Kippur war lasted until a United Nations cease-fire was settled on October 25, 1973. Egyptian and Syrian forces surprised the Israeli army when they invaded land lost in the Arab-Israeli war, retaking large areas. Israel did not regain all land lost during the ensuing 18-day war.
The world’s second longest-running musical, “Cats” opened on this day in 1982. Famed composer Andrew Lloyd Weber provided the music for this whimsical adaptation of T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.” The Broadway performance had almost 7,500 shows and entertained 10 million viewers. It has been translated into more than 20 languages and performed in 30 countries. “Cats” won the 1983 Tony Award for Best New Musical.
Great Chicago Fire
Keep your cows away from lanterns today. On this day in 1871, Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked down a lantern on Chicago’s DeKoven Street, starting a fire that burned 3.5 square miles and 17,450 buildings; 250 people died in the fire. Chicago quickly rewrote its fire codes and developed a strong firefighting corps. Interestingly, the town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin, was devastated by a firestorm that killed at least 1,100 people on the same day as the Chicago fire.
Leif Erikson Day
Though the exact date of the discovery of North America by Europeans is debated, Americans celebrate October 9 as Leif Erikson day, commemorating the Norse explorer’s life and place in history as the first European to set foot on North American shores. Erikson settled an area called Vinland near modern Newfoundland some 500 years before Columbus. Leif Erickson Day was established in 1964 to celebrate America’s Norse heritage.
Spiro Agnew Resigns
After an extensive investigation in 1973, Richard Nixon’s Vice President Spiro Agnew was charged with having accepted more than $100,000 in bribes while serving in multiple public offices, including the vice presidency. On this day, he pleaded no contest to a charge of income tax fraud. Agnew was sentenced to three years probation and received a $10,000 fine; he also had to resign from his position. Gerald Ford replaced him.
The first ecumenical council in 100 years began on this day in 1962, bringing together more than 2,000 bishops and thousands of other concerned Catholics in Rome between 1962 and 1965. The Second Vatican Council discussed how the church would operate in the wake of World War II and revised centuries-old church doctrine. It reinvigorated parts of the church and dictated that mass be preached in common language, not Latin. This was a move toward inclusion for the Catholic Church.
Opera came to the people with the birth of one of the best tenors of all time, Luciano Pavarotti, on this day in 1935. One of the Three Tenors (along with Plácido Domingo and José Carreras) Pavarotti gained international fame for his high vocal range. He sold recordings of entire operas and branched into popular music. He toured widely and appeared on many television programs. Pavarotti was a humanitarian, noted for his work with the Red Cross. He died September 6, 2007.