Undated: Industrial robot

Unimate, the world's first industrial robot, is put to work at a General Motors plant in Ewing Township, New Jersey. Its job: taking red-hot metal parts (door handles, etc.) from a die-casting machine and placing them in cooling vats.

* Entry in Robot Hall of Fame: @
* 1999 article from The Trentonian newspaper: @
* 1966 footage of the Unimate on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson": @


Wednesday, March 29, 1961: End of South Africa's Treason Trial

Members of the anti-apartheid African National Congress -- including Nelson Mandela, left -- are acquitted of high treason after a trial that began in 1956. The accused all had a hand in adopting the Freedom Charter in 1955; South Africa's government had claimed they were conspiring to set up a Communist state.

* Summary of trial (from about.com): @
* In-depth look at trial (from South African History Online): @
* Links to trial materials: (from overcomingapartheid.msu.edu): @
* Text of Freedom Charter (from ANC website): @
* Mandela's testimony from 1960 (from nelsonmandela.org): @
* Banning of ANC (blog entry from March 8, 1960): @

Undated: 'Ring Around The Rosie'

James Leasor's 1961 book "The Plague and the Fire" helps popularize the belief that the children's rhyme is a reference to The Great Plague of 1665-1666 that swept through England (or, by extension, The Black Death of the mid-1300s that devastated Europe). From the book:

Ring a-ring a-roses
A pocketful of poesies,
'Tishoo, 'tishoo,
We all fall down!

Few people watching a group of children dancing hand-in-hand in a circle to this well-known nursery rhyme may realize that it has origin in the plague. Roses refer to the rosy rash of plague, ringed to signify the tokens; the poesies were herbs and spices carried to sweeten the air; sneezing was a common symptom of those close to death. The words "we all fall down" certainly referred to Londoners during that stifling August.

The rhyme, in various versions, dates back to at least the 1700s; it appears in the 1881 book "Mother Goose or the Old Nursery Rhymes" (pictured above).

* "The Plague and the Fire": @
* Article debunking the connection (from snopes.com): @
* "Mother Goose or the Old Nursery Rhymes" (from Project Gutenberg): @
* Summary of The Great Plague (from Harvard University Library): @
* Summary of The Black Death (from Dr. E.L. Skip Knox, Boise State University): @


Monday, March 27, 1961: The Tougaloo Nine

Nine students from all-black Tougaloo College in Mississippi attempt to integrate the Jackson Public Library, which at the time served only white patrons. The students are arrested and charged with breaching the peace and held in jail for 36 hours. This sets in motion further demonstrations.

* Summary of events (from Civil Rights Movement Veterans website): @
* Summary of events (from Mississippi Heritage Trust): @
* Two articles from Jackson newspapers: (from Mississippi Department of Archives and History): @ and @
* "African Americans of Jackson" (search book for "Tougaloo Nine" for more images): @
* More about Tougaloo's role in civil rights movement (from National Park Service): @
* Civil Rights Documentation Project (from University of Southern Mississippi): @


Undated: John Whitney's 'Catalog'

A pioneer in computer animation, Whitney had worked with graphic designer Saul Bass to create the title sequence of Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo" in 1958. The short film "Catalog" featured a series of visual effects using a computer that Whitney himself had devised.

* Watch "Catalog": @ (Note: The music accompanying this video is from Tod Machover's "Electric Etudes," composed in 1983. The original film used music by jazz great Ornette Coleman.)
* Watch "Vertigo" sequence: @
* Whitney biography site (created by Syracuse University students): @
* "Digital Harmony" (from Animation World Network): @
* Whitney filmography (from www.iotacenter.org): @
* "Cybernetic Cinema and Computer Films" (from the book "Expanded Cinema" by Gene Youngblood): @
* Computer graphic timeline, 1945-2000 (from www.webbox.org): @


March, 1961: The Studebaker Avanti

Sherwood Egbert (at right in photo), the new president of the Studebaker-Packard Corporation, turns to famed industrial designer Raymond Loewy (left) to create a sports car that will reinvigorate the company. The result: the Avanti. Its sleek, modern look is a complete departure from the more rounded Studebakers and Packards of years past.

After meeting with Egbert in early March, Loewy gathers a team of designers and sets to work near Palm Springs, California. Remarkably, they produce the completely new design (and a full-size clay model) in less than 6 weeks. The Avanti is pushed into production and would debut at the New York Auto Show in April 1962.

-- The Avanti:
* Summary (from howstuffworks.com): @
* Summary (from danjedlicka.com): @
* "The Unlikely Studebaker" (from ateupwithmotor.com): @
* Raymond Loewy's sketches for Avanti (from Library of Congress): @
* www.avantisource.com: @
* Avanti Owners Association International: @
* Short film introducing the car: @

-- Raymond Loewy:
* Official website: @
* www.raymondloewy.org: @
* Virtual exhibit (from Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, Delaware): @


Friday, March 17, 1961: 007

Interest in British author Ian Fleming -- and his creation, secret agent James Bond -- surges after President Kennedy lists Fleming's "From Russia, With Love" as one of his favorite books. (Fleming and Kennedy had met the year before.) Hollywood takes note and soon begins filming the first Bond movie, "Dr. No."

* "The President's Voracious Reading Habits" (March 17 issue of Life magazine; includes list of "Ten Kennedy favorites"): @
* "Ian Fleming & James Bond: The Cultural Politics of 007" (2005 book; account of Fleming-Kennedy meeting begins on page 178): @
* Official website of Ian Fleming: @
* Fleming collection at Indiana University: @
* Extensive James Bond website: @


Undated: Laser surgery

Dr. Leon Goldman, a dermatology professor at the University of Cincinnati, is the first surgeon to use a laser to treat a skin disease. (The technology was still in its infancy; click here for entry from May 16, 1960, on the first working laser.) Goldman also establishes the first medical laser laboratory at the university.

* "Medical and surgical uses for the laser" (article by Goldman in January 30, 1964, edition of New Scientist): @
* "Lasers in Medicine" (from SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics): @
* Goldman obituary (1997, Los Angeles Times): @


Saturday, March 11 / Monday, March 13, 1961: Ken doll

After two years on her own, the popular Barbie doll gets a boyfriend as Ken is introduced by Mattel Inc. at the American Toy Fair in New York. (While Mattel is marking the 50th anniversary on March 11, serious doll collectors prefer March 13, the date the toy fair opened, as the actual birthday.) Ken (last name Carson) was named after the son of Mattel's owners. "He's a doll!" the ads proclaimed.

* All about Ken (from www.barbiemedia.com): @
* Barbie and Ken quiz (via CNBC): @
* First TV commercial: @
* www.manbehindthedoll.com: @
* dollobserver.com (blog): @
* "Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll" (book by M.G. Lord): @

Saturday, March 11, 1961: U.S. plans for invasion of Cuba

President Kennedy meets with leading civilian and military officials to discuss a U.S.-led plan to topple the government of Cuba's Fidel Castro. (The plan had been set in motion by President Eisenhower on March 17, 1960; click here for entry.) While the details of the plan were secret, the overall goal was not: On January 10, The New York Times had published an article with the headline "U.S. Helps Train an Anti-Castro Force at Secret Guatemalan Air-Ground Base; Clash With Cuba Feared." During the March 11 meeting, Kennedy requested changes in the plan; at a second meeting on March 15, it was agreed that the invasion would take place at The Bay of Pigs.

* Details of meetings (from the book "John F. Kennedy: A Biography"): @
* Details of meetings (from the book "A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House"): @
* Details of meetings (from the book "The Bay of Pigs: Cuba 1961"): @
* National Security Action Memorandum No. 31 (from jfklibrary.org): @
* Government documents in days before and after meetings: @ and @
(from "Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963 -- Volume X, Cuba, 1961-1962")


Undated: 'Pogo Primer for Parents (TV Division)'

Written and illustrated by Walt Kelly, creator of the "Pogo" comic strip, this booklet was commissioned by the U.S. government (Children's Bureau, Social Security Administration, Department of Health, Education and Welfare). From the text: "Do not be afraid of your t.v. set. These things are probably here to stay. Do not be afraid of your child. He is not here to stay. He is a precious visitor. ... A machine is a bad sole companion. It needs help. You can help it. Love your child." It was available for 20 cents from the Government Printing Office in Washington.

* Book in its entirety (PDF may take a few minutes to load): @
* www.pogopossum.com (official "Pogo" website): @


Thursday, March 9 / Saturday, March 25, 1961: Ivan Ivanovich

Ivan Ivanovich was the name given to a mannequin twice launched aboard Soviet capsules as the country presses ahead with its efforts to put a man into space. The name "Ivan Ivanovich" is the Soviet equivalent of "John Doe." Both times the mannequin was ejected from the craft during re-entry and parachuted to Earth. The sign beneath the visor says "Maket," or "dummy," so that anyone coming across the mannequin would not mistake it for a live (or dead) human being.

* More information: @ and @

-- March 9: Korabl-Sputnik 4 (known as Sputnik 9 in the West)
* Summary: @

-- March 25: Korabl-Sputnik 5 (Sputnik 10)
* Summary: @
* Capsule to be auctioned on April 12, 2011: @ and @

March, 1961: Female jockeys

France lifts its ban on female jockeys, who compete in the first Prix des Amazons, held at the Cagnes-sur-Mer track, near Nice.

* Newsreel (dated March 9): @
* www.femalejockeys.com: @


Wednesday, March 8, 1961: Identikit

In London, Edwin Bush is arrested and charged with the March 3 killing of Elsie May Batten. The case would mark England's first successful prosecution of a killer using the Identikit system, in which templates of facial features are arranged to produce a drawing resembling a suspect. (Bush would be hanged for the murder in July 1961.)

* Summary of case (from Metropolitan Police website): @
* "Wanted -- faces that fit the bill" (1985 article in New Scientist magazine): @
* "Facial Composites: Forensic Utility and Psychological Research" (scientific paper): @
* "Beating the Devil's Game: A History of Forensic Science and Criminal Investigation" (book by Katherine Ramsland; search for "Identikit" for more on system's origins): @


Tuesday, March 7, 1961: Nuclear fallout plotting device

Patent No. 2,973,579, "for geographically determining fallout patterns of nuclear detonations," is issued to Edward A. Schuert on behalf of the U.S. government. Schuert worked at the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory (NRDL), at the San Francisco Naval Shipyard. "It is highly desirable that the course of the particles, particularly as they near the earth, be determinable not only with accuracy but also with sufficient speed to enable evacuation of such areas as will be affected," the patent states. (Photo from 1958 nuclear testing at Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.)

* Read the patent: @
* "A Fallout Forecasting Technique With Results Obtained at the Eniwetok Proving Ground" (1957 paper by Schuert): @
* More about San Francisco Naval Shipyard: @ and @
* More about nuclear fallout (from atomicarchive.com): @
* "The Effects of Nuclear War" (1979 report from Office of Technology Assessment): @


Monday, March 6, 1961: 'Affirmative action'

Signed by President Kennedy, Executive Order 10925 establishes the President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity (to be renamed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1964).

Included in its provisions is the first reference to "affirmative action" -- requiring that government contractors give full and fair consideration to previously under-represented groups (i.e., minorities, women) when hiring.

The passage reads: "The contractor will not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, creed, color or national origin. The contractor will take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin."

* Text of Executive Order 10925 (from www.eeoc.gov): @
* Entry from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: @
* American Association for Affirmative Action: @
* Links to many other related sites: @
* "The Affirmative Action Debate" (book by George E. Curry, Cornel West): @


March 1961: 'My Favorite Things'

Jazz saxophonist John Coltrane takes "The Sound of Music" show tune in a different and memorable direction. The song appeared on the album also called "My Favorite Things," recorded in just 3 days in October 1960 and released in March 1961. The original piece came in at nearly 14 minutes; a shorter version was released as both sides of a 45 record. Billboard magazine described it this way: "Strong wax for modern jazz cats."

* Listen to song: @
* Summary of the making of the album: @
* Listen to "My Favorite Things at 50" (radio documentary): @
* Thesis and musical analysis: @
* "John Coltrane: His Life and Music" (book): @

Wednesday, March 1, 1961: The Peace Corps

By Executive Order 10924, President Kennedy establishes the Peace Corps "for the training and service abroad of men and women of the United States in new programs of assistance to nations and areas of the world." The volunteer program had been set in motion by Kennedy's speech at the University of Michigan on October 14, 1960. (Click here for entry.) On March 4, Kennedy appoints Sargent Shriver (left) as director. The trial program would be approved and funded by Congress on September 22.

* Summary (from the National Archives): @
* Summary (from The Presidential Timeline of the Twentieth Century): @
* Executive Order: @ and @
* Kennedy transcript and video: @
* March 13 newsreel: @
* Peace Corps website: @
* Peace Corps Digital Library: @

March 1961: Mad magazine

1961 being the first year since 1881 and the last year until 6009 that reads the same upside down as it does rightside up (with the right typeface, of course).

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