Category Archives: Today’s Birthday

James Naismith (1861)

While teaching physical education in 1891, Naismith was tasked with creating a safe and inexpensive indoor sport to occupy his students during the Massachusetts winter. His game involved throwing a soccer ball through suspended half-bushel peach baskets, hence the name “basketball”—though “Naismith Ball” was briefly considered before the inventor rejected it. The game took off on campus and quickly spread across the US and around the globe. What other sports invention is credited to Naismith? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850)

When her Poems of Passion was published in 1883, Wheeler gained notoriety for writing “immoral” poetry. Her subsequent works showed a marked change in content, focusing on temperance, religion, and sentimental, inspirational verse. Her best known poem is “Solitude,” which earned her five dollars when it was published in an 1883 issue of the New York Sun. It famously opens, “Laugh and the world laughs with you / Weep and you weep alone.” What inspired her to write these lines? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Benjamin Robbins Curtis (1809)

Curtis joined the US Supreme Court as an associate justice in 1851 but did not stay long. After dissenting with the court’s ruling in the Dred Scott v. Sandford case that upheld slavery and declared African Americans ineligible for full US citizenship, Curtis resigned, becoming the only justice to have resigned from the court over a matter of principle. Curtis returned to his home state of Massachusetts and resumed his law practice, later becoming chief counsel in what high profile case? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Walker Evans (1903)

Evans was an American photographer known for his stark photos of the rural South during the Great Depression, taken for the Farm Security Administration. In 1936, Fortune magazine sent Evans and writer James Agee to document poverty in rural Alabama. The magazine rejected their work, but the two used the material for their landmark 1941 book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. A 2005 Fortune article revealed that some of their subjects were upset about the book for what reasons? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Daniel Boone (1734)

Boone was a legendary American frontiersman who blazed a permanent trail across the Appalachian Mountains in 1775. Known as “Wilderness Road,” it became a major route for westward migration in the US. Boone also established Boonesboro, Kentucky, and was captured by Shawnee Indians while trying to defend it. He escaped after five months but moved to the Missouri Territory after losing his land claims in Kentucky. He gained international fame after what British poet mentioned him in an epic? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Antonio Canova (1757)

Canova was an Italian sculptor who was extremely influential in the development of neoclassicism. He produced his first important sculpture, Daedalus and Icarus, in 1779 and was accused of making plaster casts from live models because his figures were so realistic. Among his most important commissions were the tombs of Popes Clement XIII and Clement XIV. In 1802, he became court sculptor to Napoleon I in Paris. How did his love of sculpting ultimately contribute to his death in 1822? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Natalie Clifford Barney (1876)

Though she was a writer for all of her adult life, Barney is not widely known today for her poetry, plays, novels, or epigrams. Instead, she is remembered for her strong support of female writers and for her openness about her homosexuality. For more than 60 years, she hosted an international salon at her Paris home. The well-attended gatherings frequently featured women’s works. She also wrote proudly about her love of women in a way that few, if any, had since what 6th-century BCE Greek poet? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Ezra Pound (1885)

A major shaper of 20th-century poetry, Pound was one of the most famous and controversial modern literary figures—praised as a subtle and complex poet, dismissed as a naive egotist and pedant, and condemned as a traitor and reactionary. He was a founder of the imagist poetry movement, an editor of several periodicals, and a mentor to many noted writers of his day. Arrested for treason in 1945, he was deemed insane and committed. What did he write during his 12 years in a US mental institution? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Marie of Edinburgh, Queen of Romania (1875)

No ordinary queen, Marie took an active role in Romania’s wartime activities, beginning with helping bring the country into the Allied camp in World War I and ending with her representation of Romanian interests in territory negotiations at the close of the war. In the interim, the “Soldier Queen” also contributed to the war effort by volunteering as a nurse with the Red Cross and publishing a book whose proceeds went to the same cause. Marie later became the first royal adherent of what faith? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Auguste Escoffier (1846)

Escoffier was a legendary French chef credited with inventing peach Melba and other classic dishes. He began his career in his uncle’s kitchen, and by the time he retired some 60 years later, he had directed the kitchens of several grand European hotels and earned himself a reputation as the “Emperor of Chefs.” In 1903, he published Le Guide Culinaire, which contains 5,000 recipes and is still used today as both a cookbook and cooking textbook. How did peach Melba get its name? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary