January 2019

This Day in History… January 21, 1954

U.S. Launches First Nuclear Submarine

US #BK279 – America’s first preside booklet honoring a century of US Navy submarines.  Click image to order. 

On January 21, 1954, the USS Nautilus, the world’s first operational nuclear-powered submarine, was launched.

Accounts of boats submerging in the water date back to the 1560s, though the first verifiable vessel was designed and built in 1620.

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This Day in History… January 20, 1986

First Observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day 

US #1771 was issued two days before King’s 50th birthday.  Click image to order. 

On January 20, 1986, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was first observed as a federal holiday after a decades-long battle.

Calls for a holiday honoring King began just four days after his sudden death in 1968 at the age of just 39 years old.  US Representative John Conyers and US Senator Edward Brooke submitted a bill calling on Congress to declare his birthday a national holiday.

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This Day in History… January 19, 1840

Wilkes Expedition Discovers Antarctica

US #2387 pictures Wilkes and his ship the Vincennes, which was part of this expedition. Click image to order. 

On January 19, 1840, US Naval captain Charles Wilkes became the first American to explore the coast of Antarctica.

Born on April 3, 1798, in New York City, New York, Charles Wilkes joined the US Navy in 1818.  In the 1820s he was part of the Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Scientists.  And in the 1830s, his survey of Narragansett Bay earned him a promotion to head of the Navy’s Department of Charts and Instruments, where he developed the Naval Observatory and Hydrographic Office.

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This Day in History… January 18, 1944

Metropolitan Opera’s First Jazz Concert

US #2054 was issued for the 100th anniversary of the Metropolitan Opera.

On January 18, 1944, the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City hosted its first-ever jazz concert, which raised money for the war effort.

The concert was the result of a reader’s poll for Esquire magazine.  Despite wartime cutbacks, the magazine was popular with GIs, and they sought to increase their popularity by running a poll in which readers could vote for their favorite artists for different instruments as well as singers and big band leaders.

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This Day in History… January 17, 1944

Battle of Monte Cassino

US #2765f from the 1943: Turning the Tide sheet.

On January 17, 1944, the Allies launched one of the longest and bloodiest fights of the Italian campaign – the Battle of Monte Cassino.

Although Italy had surrendered on September 3, 1943, Germany was determined to fight for control of the Italian mainland.  In a series of head-on assaults, the Allies slowly battled their way up the Italian peninsula to Monte Cassino, 75 miles south of Rome.

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This Day in History… January 16, 1883

Passage of the Pendleton Civil Service Act 

US #2053 was issued for the 100th anniversary of the act.

On January 16, 1883, President Chester A. Arthur signed the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act, making major changes to American Civil Service System.

When a new US President began his term in the early 1800s, one of his first duties was to dismiss thousands of Federal employees and replace them with members of his own party. The “spoils system” was part of the privilege of the position, and recipients of the jobs were expected to contribute to the President and party’s campaign.

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