This Day in History – February 27 – Hijinx, Humor, and Insight


NewsWhistle is pleased to feature Gary Jenneke’s “This Day In History” column.

You can read the original at Gary’s substack — or scroll down to enjoy Gary’s unique look at life’s comings and goings.




1813 – Act to Encourage Vaccination.

This act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Madison, was enacted to promote vaccinations by the American public against smallpox. The act was repealed in 1822.

I bet back then, same as now, there was a resistant and vocal minority distrusting the science behind the vaccine. 


1939 – Britain and France officially recognize the government of Nationalist Spain.

The war with the Spanish Republican government, those fighting for democracy, was just about over with future fascist dictator Franco leading the Nationalists to victory. Clement Attlee, a politician who later would be Prime Minister of England, called the recognition a gross betrayal. In contrast, in 1977 Yugoslavia and Mexico still recognized the Republican government in exile. Despite President Truman’s reluctance, the U.S. officially established diplomatic relations with Spain in 1950. Most other countries recognized Spain after WWII ended.

I salute Yugoslavia and Mexico for standing on principle. 


1960 – U.S. Olympic hockey team defeats U.S.S.R. team.

The next day the U.S. defeated Czechoslovakia to win the Gold Medal. Earlier the U.S. had upset Canada on its road to gold. While the 1960 team was an underdog, it faced nowhere near the overwhelming odds confronting the 1980 Miracle on Ice team. The 1980 U.S.S.R. team had a winning record against professional players from the National Hockey League. This was before pros were allowed to compete in the Olympics. An interesting side note, Herb Brooks, who coached the winning 1980 team, was the last player cut from the 1960 squad. 

Thrilling achievements for both teams. The 1960 team had eight Minnesotans on it, the 1980 team thirteen. Minnesota’s high water mark was in 1964 and 1976 when it had fourteen players on each time. Brothers Bill and Roger Christian played on the 1960 team, Bill’s son Dave played on the 1980 team. Gordon Christian, brother to Bill and Roger, played on the 1956 team, along with Wendell Anderson, who would go on to be governor of Minnesota. Herb Brooks did make the 1964 team. Forgive me, just had to get all that Minnesota stuff in there.



1807 – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Poet. Born in Portland, Massachusetts, (now Maine) Longfellow was an avid reader as a child. At age 13 he passed the entrance exam at Bowdoin College, although his parents delayed the start of his college career until the following year. At Bowdoin he became lifelong friends with writer Nathaniel Hawthorne; another classmate was Franklin Pierce, who would go on to become the 14th president of the U.S. His interest in language and literature withstood the pressure put upon him to become a lawyer. He graduated from Bowdoin at age 18, and they offered him a position on the condition he go to Europe to further acquaint himself with the Romance languages of French, Italian, and Spanish. While in Europe, he decided to learn German, also. After three years traveling, he returned to the U.S., worked at Bowdoin, and got married. He was offered a position at Harvard, and to better prepare himself, Longfellow traveled to Europe again, taking his wife along. In this second trip he wanted to learn the Scandinavian languages. Tragedy struck, however, in the form of his wife, Mary, dying after suffering a miscarriage. Longfellow found solace in writing poems. When he returned to Harvard, he continued to write. A third trip to Europe resulted in him becoming friends with fellow writer Charles Dickens. Longfellow found happiness marrying a second time and having six children. Despite being an Abolitionist Longfellow did not write about contemporary subjects. Among his works are “The Courtship of Miles Standish,” “Evangeline,” and “The Song of Hiawatha,” which sold 50,000 copies. Another tragedy took the life of his second wife. Somehow, her dress caught on fire and she was engulfed in flames. Longfellow himself was burned trying to rescue her. He later grew a beard to cover the scars on his face. Again he dealt with his grief by writing. Longfellow was popular in his own time and his books sold well. By the time he died at age 75 he left his children and grandchildren a considerable sum of money.

In Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis there is a set of granite blocks forming a large circle. Chiseled into each block is a stanza of a poem and you can walk the circle reading “The Song of Hiawatha.” 


1897 – Marian Anderson.

Singer. Anderson began singing as a girl in a church choir in Philadelphia and quickly gained attention. She was not allowed to study at any music conservatories in Philadelphia because she was “colored.” Then an Italian voice master, Giuseppe Boghetti, heard her sing and was so impressed he entered her in a contest where the winner would sing with the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. She won, and after that Boghetti took the seventeen-year-old Anderson to Europe, where she studied voice and sang at performances. Anderson was a sensation all over Europe, performing there until 1935. Returning to the U.S. that year, she made an appearance at Carnegie Hall and twice sang at the White House for Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Despite her enormous success to much of America she was still nothing more than a Black woman and thus subject to racism. In 1939, her manager tried to book her to sing at Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. but the hall was owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.), and the D.A.R. would not allow a Black singer to perform there. Eleanor Roosevelt was a member of the D.A.R. and resigned from the organization in protest over their action. Then Mrs. Roosevelt helped lead an effort for Anderson to sing at the Mall of Washington. On Easter Sunday, 1939, standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Anderson sang before 75,000 people and the concert was a rousing success. It took them four years, but the D.A.R. finally conceded, and Anderson performed at Constitution Hall in a 1943 benefit to raise funds for the war effort. Anderson continued to perform until 1965, and then retired with her husband to a farm in Connecticut. She passed away in 1993. 

On that Easter Sunday her beautiful voice briefly pushed the ugly racism of this country into a corner, but don’t fear, that racism is still alive and well. 


Notables born on February 27th that I skipped:

Writers John Steinbeck, James Farrell, Irwin Shaw, and also Lawrence Durrell from the “Durrells of Corfu” fame. Actors Joanne Woodward and Elizabeth Taylor, presidential daughter Chelsea Clinton, and political activist Ralph Nader.



At various junctures of his life, Gary has been an indifferent grade school student, poor high school student, good Navy radioman, one-time hippie, passable college student, inveterate traveler, dedicated writer, miscast accountant (except for one interesting stint at a Communist café), part-time screenwriting teacher, semi-proud veteran, unsuccessful retiree and new blogger.

You can reach him at



The above information was sourced from the following sites and newspapers:


We’d also like to thank the following photographers and videographers for the use of their images:

* Lead-In Image (Minnehaha Falls, MN) – Photo by Atharva Tulsi on Unsplash – The Minnehaha Falls were featured in Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha.”

* Marian Anderson (video) – American Experience | PBS /

* Outro (Man-In-Museum Cartoon) – SkyPics Studio /