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January 24: ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

January 24, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle History
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ON THIS DAY IN 1909, Brooklyn Daily Eagle columnist Frederick Boyd Stevenson wrote, “Robert Watchorn, who for nearly four years has been commissioner of the Ellis Island Immigration Station, through whose gates 85 percent of the total number of newcomers to America pass, has, during the term of his incumbency, revolutionized the system of conducting that institution. From the very first day that he entered upon the discharge of his duties, he inaugurated a series of reforms that has made Ellis Island a model station. Through his knowledge of the needs of the immigrant, he began at once to improve the service. Against a storm of protests he changed the existing order of things so that the immigrant got his due. Certain politicians fought him — that was natural. But Watchorn did not care for such politicians. He had just two things in view: One was to serve the best interests of his country, and the other was to protect the stranger who came to that country.”

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ON THIS DAY IN 1916, the Eagle reported, “The Supreme Court today upheld the constitutionality of the Income Tax Law. Chief Justice [Edgar Douglass] White gave the court’s decision, sweeping aside all the objections to its constitutionality in whole or in part. Five separate suits to test the constitutionality of the new income tax law were brought in the federal courts throughout the country soon after the law became effective, and all found their way to the Supreme Court of the United States soon after. For nearly fifty years the fight for and against a Federal Income Tax has been somewhere in the courts. The income tax imposed during the Civil War and the years immediately following were not attacked with the seriousness of later cases. It was not until the [Grover] Cleveland administration placed an Income Tax in the Wilson Tariff Act that the fight became serious.”

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ON THIS DAY IN 1923, the Eagle reported, “ALBANY — A bill providing for the regulation and sale of habit-forming drugs has been introduced into the Legislature by Assemblyman Maurice Bloch of Manhattan, who asserts that the repeal of the Whitney narcotic law has resulted in a wholesale increase in the number of dope peddlers and drug addicts. ‘There has been an alarming increase in both the number of drug addicts and in the number of so-called sanitariums to cure these addicts,’ said Mr. Bloch today. ‘Medical men tell me that these sanitariums are nothing more than institutions for the satisfaction of the drug addict, and rather than curing him they make him worse.’”

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ON THIS DAY IN 1946, the Eagle reported, “LONDON — The United Nations Assembly voted unanimously today to establish an atomic energy commission after hearing an appeal by Secretary of State James F. Byrnes for quick withdrawal of occupation armies from all countries except Germany and Japan. Mr. Byrnes’ stand on occupation forces applied equally to United States policy in the Far East — North China and Korea. Thus the United States went on record as desiring to withdraw such troops as soon as the surrender of all Japanese forces had been effected and a civilian trusteeship could be set up for Korea. Forty-seven of the 51 United Nations voted to adopt the resolution framed in Moscow by the Big Three foreign ministers. Jean Paul Boncour, French delegate, proposed that the atomic commission meet in the United States. Urging passage of the resolution, Mr. Byrnes issued an indirect appeal to Britain, France and Russia to call home their occupation troops whose presence in Iran, Greece, Indonesia and the Levant has caused angry disputes among the United Nations.”

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ON THIS DAY IN 1950, the Eagle reported, “Jackie Robinson, the National League batting champion and its most valuable player, signed a one-year Dodger contract today for a reported $35,000 after a five-minute conference with President Branch Rickey. The figure is the highest ever paid a player in Dodger history. Leo Durocher received much more as manager, while Babe Ruth received only $15,000 as coach during his brief whirl with the Flock. The Negro speedster, who led the Brooks to the National League flag, was the first member of his race ever to be designated for the most valuable player award. He batted .342 in 156 games and also led the majors in stolen bases with 37. In addition he batted in 124 runs and hit 16 homers.”

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Neil Diamond
Charles Sykes/Invision/AP
Tatyana Ali
Dan Steinberg/Invision/AP

NOTABLE PEOPLE BORN ON THIS DAY include comic book artist John Romita Sr., who was born in Brooklyn in 1930; Songwriters Hall of Famer Neil Diamond, who was born in Brooklyn in 1941; “Tell It Like It Is” singer Aaron Neville, who was born in 1941; science fiction writer David Gerrold, who was born in 1944; “Twin Peaks” star Michael Ontkean, who was born in 1946; comedian and actor Yakov Smirnoff, who was born in 1951; “Cat People” star Nastassja Kinski, who was born in 1961; gymnast and Olympic gold medalist Mary Lou Retton, who was born in 1968; “The Hangover” star Ed Helms, who was born in 1974; actress and writer Kristen Schaal, who was born in 1978; “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” star Tatyana Ali, who was born in 1979; former San Francisco Giants pitcher Scott Kazimir, who was born in 1984; and “The O.C.” star Mischa Barton, who was born in 1986.

Mary Lou Retton
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

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ELEMENT OF SURPRISE: On this day in 1848, James W. Marshall, an employee of pioneer John Sutter, accidentally discovered gold while building a sawmill near Coloma, California. Efforts to keep the discovery a secret failed and the California Gold Rush was soon under way.

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COMEDY AND TRAGEDY: John Belushi was born on this day in 1949. The Chicago native was an original cast member of “Saturday Night Live” (1975-79), and starred in the hit films “Animal House” (1978) and “The Blues Brothers” (1980). He died of a drug overdose in 1982.

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Special thanks to “Chase’s Calendar of Events” and Brooklyn Public Library.

 

Quotable:

“Brooklyn is not the easiest place to grow up in, although I wouldn’t change that experience for anything.

— singer-songwriter Neil Diamond, who was born on this day in 1941


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