This Day in History: Sept 8
1504, Michelangelo revealed “David” in Florence. The huge hunk of marble from which “David” was carved had actually been lying around for about 40 years before Michelangelo got to it. When he did get his hands on it, or rather his hammer and chisel, it took him about two to three years to finish his work. Now, here’s a basic explanation of sculpting I hope surprises you as much as it did me: To carve “David,” Michelangelo had to chisel away everything except what you see. He was essentially working in reverse. There was no adding paper-mache to the marble if he mischiseled. It’s as if he was pruning a giant marble bonsai tree, but the marble wasn’t going to grow back. Interpretations of the statue range from the biblical to the political to the homosexual, but all critics consider it Michelangelo’s masterpiece. The marble statue stands at 17 feet tall, which is probably closer to Goliath’s height than David’s.
1892, the Pledge of Allegiance was first published. Penned by Baptist minister and Christian socialist Francis Bellamy, the pledge was disseminated in a children’s magazine, “The Youth’s Companion,” to coincide with the 400th Columbus Day. The words “under God” weren’t added until the 1950s, which might lead some to think the pledge was originally a bastion of benign patriotism. But listen to Bellamy’s own words about the pledge: “A democracy like ours cannot afford to throw itself open to the world where every man is a lawmaker, every dull-witted or fanatical immigrant admitted to our citizenship is a bane to the commonwealth; where all classes of society merge insensibly into one another.” To make the pledge’s origins eerier, the Bellamy salute that was to accompany the recital of the pledge was identical to the Nazi salute. It was FDR who implemented the hand-over-heart salute, because it’s pretty hard to attack your enemies for saluting their flag the way you salute yours.
1930, 3M sent Scotch Tape to its first customer. The customer wrote 3M in response and urged them to produce more of it saying, “There will be a sufficient volume of sales to justify the expenditure.” And according to 3M, the amount of tape sold to Americans between Thanksgiving and Christmas would circle the world 30 times if unrolled. A mechanical engineer for the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (3M), Richard “Sticky Dick” Drew got the name for his newest invention when someone complained to 3M about his masking tape, saying, “Take this tape back to your stingy Scotch bosses and tell them to put more adhesive on it.” In the ’50s, 3M marketed Scotch Tape with a cartoon named Scotty McTape. But in the UK, where Scotch is a derogatory term for the Scottish, the stuff is known as sellotape. Evidently, both the British and Americans developed their tapes by throwing everything at the wall and seeing what stuck.
1935, Louisiana senator Huey P. Long was assassinated. Long, also called the Kingfish, served as governor of Louisiana before becoming a senator. He was also a presidential contender and aimed to run against FDR in 1936. A leftist populist in favor of public spending to combat the Great Depression, Long had begun a movement called Share Our Wealth which aimed to redistribute incomes and cap personal fortunes. The slogan of the movement was “Every Man a King (But No One Wears a Crown).” (The same slogan could be applied to many insane asylums and Sacramento’s Power Balance Pavilion on game day.) Long was assassinated in the Louisiana state capitol by the son-in-law of one his political opponents, and his Share Our Wealth program more or less collapsed after his death. Because of the strong force of his personality, critics variously called him a demagogue and dictator. And, modern political insults notwithstanding, he was pretty much a socialist, too.
1987, American rapper Wiz Khalifa was born in North Dakota into a military family. His parents named him Cameron Jibril Thomaz, but he got a tattoo of his stage name at 17. He formed his stage name by first taking his reputation as a wiz kid and adding the Arabic word “khalifa,” which means successor or leader. He says his Muslim grandfather called him a khalifa in reference to his music. Enjoying success with the hit “Say Yeah” in 2007, Wiz Khalifa went on to release a free album online called “Kush & Orange Juice” in 2010, which became the number one trending topic on Twitter with hash tag #kushandorangejuice. He reached mainstream success with his single about his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers entitled “Black and Yellow” which contains lyrics much to the same effect. His first studio album, “Rolling Papers,” was released in March, and he’s currently dating Kanye West’s ex-girlfriend. Now, I’m not saying she’s a gold digger …