Milestones: Tuesday, September 12, 2023
PROVING GROUND FOR US ARMY— THE BATTLE OF SAINT-MIHIEL ANNIVERSARY took place on Sept. 12, 1918, roughly two months before the signing of the Armistice which would end World War I. A small town in northeastern France, Saint-Mihiel became part of the western front during the war, and the battle was the major U.S. offensive since the United States joined the war in 1917. General John J. Pershing commanded 16 army divisions which, joined by the French II Colonial Corps tanks and artillery support, forced the German army back after 36 hours of intense fighting and casualties of 7,000 soldiers, and successfully reclaimed 200 square miles of French land.
The Battle of Saint-Mihiel was significant also in that it established the stature of the U.S. Army in the eyes of the French and British forces who would become staunch allies, and demonstrated the critical role of artillery in trench warfare, whereby the attacking force could defend itself.
WINDS SABOTAGED HIS PARACHUTE — AMERICAN AERONAUT CHARLES LEROUX’S LAST JUMP happened on Sept. 12, 1889. The native of Waterbury, Connecticut — although some sources indicate he was born in New York City — had some French ancestry, but should not be confused with the French painter Charles Le Roux (who spelled his name differently). The American Leroux made his public premiere in Philadelphia, he gained fame worldwide, touring Europe in exhibition jumps as a parachutist with 238 successful jumps. His 239th jump from a balloon however, ended his life off in the Bay of Reval, off the coast of what is now Tallinn, Estonia. The winds battered his parachute and took him further out to sea, where he drowned. Local citizens found his body two days later.
However, LeRoux is revered in Estonia for his pioneering spirit, especially since the inventive aeronaut was always finding ways of improving both his balloon and parachute. He epitomized the dreams of many young Estonian men at the time (considering that their nation was still part of the Russian Empire).
‘GREATEST PUBLISHER’ — ALFRED A. KNOPF, born Sept. 12, 1892 in New York City, founded what would become a major publishing house, thanks to a $5,000 advance from his father, Samuel. Alfred and his wife, Blanche Knopf, who became the company’s vice president, and Samuel who became treasurer. Alfred A. Knopf Publishing House, whose first office was in New York’s Candler Building on West 42nd St. focused on European translations and classic literature, introducing them to America.
After Knopf died in August 1984, author John Hersey eulogized Knopf at the memorial service, saying, “When all scores are settled, it will be written that Alfred Knopf was the greatest publisher this country ever had.”
‘LASSIE’ DOGS WEREN’T GALS — THE BELOVED TV SERIES “LASSIE” MADE ITS PREMIERE on Sept. 12, 1954. Although the series originally featured a boy and his courageous and alert dog, “Lassie” underwent several format changes and eventually was exchanged between families in order to experience new adventures. Among the human actors were Cloris Leachman, June Lockhart and Larry Wilcox.
While the name “Lassie” is a Scottish nickname for a young lady, the six dogs who played “her” during the show’s run were all male.
POETS ELOPED — ELIZABETH BARRETT ELOPED WITH ROBERT BROWNING on Sept. 12, 1846. Already a respected poet and author of literary criticism and Greek translations, Elizabeth Barrett defended a work by another poet, Robert Browning, that he had written in the genre of dramatic monologue, which other critics had panned. Browning asked to meet Barrett, and the two fell in love, against the objections of her father. The two poets courted in secret, and then young Elizabeth snuck out of home while her parents were away. They were married at St. Marylebone Parish Church. The new bride kept her marriage a secret from her parents for a while before having the chance to run away with Browning to Italy, where they built a happy life.
It was in Italy where she flourished, publishing her best-known work, Sonnets from the Portuguese, in 1850. The sonnets chronicled the couple’s courtship and marriage.
ANOTHER ROMANTIC MARRIAGE — MASSACHUSETTS SENATOR JOHN F. KENNEDY, the future 35th president of the United States, married the young socialite and roving reporter Jacqueline Bouvier in Newport, Rhode Island on Sept. 12, 1953 at a large Roman Catholic Mass. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy had been born into a prominent New York family in 1929 and grew into an avid horsewoman and reader. As a bride, Jackie wore an ivory silk gown made by Ann Lowe, an African-American designer.
Seven years later, the couple would become the youngest president and first lady in American history.
See previous milestones, here.
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