Milestones: Tuesday, November 14, 2023
MUSICAL ROOTS ON KANE STREET — AARON COPLAND, BORN ON NOVEMBER 14, 1900, WAS A PROMINENT MEMBER OF THE KANE STREET SYNAGOGUE IN COBBLE HILL, and there became a Bar Mitzvah in 1913. While in high school, young Aaron Copland found an ally and mentor in Rabbi Israel Goldfarb, that synagogue’s spiritual leader for nearly six decades. Rabbi Goldfarb persuaded Copland’s father to let him study music instead of law. The composer recalled in his 1984 autobiography, “Copland: 1900 through 1942,” that, “By curious coincidence our rabbi, Israel Goldfarb, was himself a composer of liturgical music and the possessor of a fine baritone voice. Rabbi Goldfarb was a sensitive human being and an effective leader of his congregation.” Copland went on to study with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. He created a signature American style in his ballet and film scores and orchestra works, foremost of which are “Fanfare for the Common Man” (1942) and “Appalachian Spring,” for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in Music.
Copland also composed works for voice and choir, including “Las Agachadas” (1942), a dance-song from northern Spain that he scored for double mixed chorus; and “Canticle of Freedom,” a patriotic work for SATB chorus and orchestra.
SHREK’S CREATOR — FAMOUS ILLUSTRATOR WILLIAM STEIG was born in Brooklyn on Nov. 14, 1907, although sources do not indicate which neighborhood. His family, being deeply involved in the arts, nurtured his creativity. After attending City College and the National Academy of Design, he started contributing prolifically to The New Yorker, which published more than 1,600 of his drawings, including 117 covers. He was already 61 years old when he started writing children’s books, his first being “Roland the Minstrel Pig” in 1968. He won the Caldecott Medal in 1970 for “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble,” and received two Newbery Honors for “Abel’s Island” and “Dr. De Soto.” He was the creator of “Shrek,” which became the foundation for a series of animated movies which reportedly helped boost his book sales.
The Brooklyn Eagle of January 21, 1940 published one of its “Reviews in Brief,” about Steig’s illustrations, observing that Steig “reveals his perception of human beings by capitalizing upon human sensibilities.” However, Steig’s hometown newspaper did not reveal the neighborhood in which he had been born.
STEAMBOAT INVENTOR — ROBERT FULTON, BORN ON NOV. 14, 1765, may have been originally from Pennsylvania, but he was allied with New York’s most powerful families, Robert R. Livingston and his progeny, during the Revolutionary War period. Fulton designed and operated the world’s first commercially successful steamboat, with financial backing from the same Robert Livingston, referred to as “The Chancellor,” as he was New York’s top judge at the time (and later one of the “Committee of Five” to draft the Declaration of Independence). Fulton, in his 20s, had already secured a patent for tugboat canals with inclines, as part of the nation’s “Canal Mania” of the time. But his steamboat designs chronicled a serials of trial and errors. With perseverance, he finally reached a successful design in 1807. The Clermont, which made its maiden run in August 1807, was named for the Livingston mansion in the Catskills. The Clermont was built with a long and narrow hull design, two paddle wheels twelve feet in diameter, a copper boiler and designer James Watt’s 24- horsepower steam engine. Fulton’s steamboat proved profitable in its first year and won public acceptance for steamboat travel.
The eponymous thoroughfares Fulton Street in Downtown Brooklyn and in Lower Manhattan were named for Robert Fulton. His steam ferries linked the two cities.
‘SO MUCH CARESSED’ — ENGLAND MUST HAVE FELT A BETRAYAL FROM BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, BECAUSE on Nov. 14, 1776, the St. James Chronicle of London published this announcement: “The very identical Dr. Franklyn [Benjamin Franklin], whom Lord Chatham [former leading parliamentarian and colonial supporter William Pitt] so much caressed, and used to say he was proud in calling his friend, is now at the head of the rebellion in North America.” Franklin, who had for 21 years (1753-74) served as the colonies’ joint postmaster general of the colonies (but spending much of his time abroad) had traveled to London with his (illegitimate but acknowledged) son, William, who studied law. Meanwhile, Ben Franklin wove himself into British society and worked to advance his son’s future and, in 1762, securing from him the royal governorship of New Jersey. Although the elder Franklin secured a role in Parliament as the spokesperson for several colonies, when back in the colonies, he embraced the cause for independence.
However, son William was on the Loyalist side and never broke ties with England, even when he was imprisoned for holding ground on this. That rift led to a grudge between Benjamin and William, and they never reconciled.
A SURPRISE MOVE — PRESIDENT HARRY S. TRUMAN STUNNED THE NATION when, on Nov. 14, 1951, he asked Congress for U.S. military and economic aid for the communist nation of Yugoslavia. While Truman’s action was part of the U.S. policy to drive a deeper wedge between Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, the Cold War had toughened America’s stance toward that nation and Josip Broz Tito was viewed as an unstable wild card. Tito, born 1892 in northern Croatia which was then the Austro-Hungarian empire, had resisted the Nazi invasion during World War II, with U.S. support. When the fiercely-independent Tito broke with the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin, America saw this as an opportunity to turn him into an effective ally in Europe, even though Tito continued adhering to communist ideology.
Congress did grant military and financial assistance to Yugoslavia, which had been an original member of the U.N. Yugoslavia was also admitted as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. When it broke up into the independent states of Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and later, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, each member state had to reapply.
‘CALL ME ISHMAEL’ — AUTHOR HERMAN MELVILLE, BORN IN NEW YORK CITY in 1819, PUBLISHED HIS NOW-CLASSIC NOVEL, MOBY DICK, on Nov. 14, 1851, about Captain Ahab and his quest to catch a giant white whale. Ishmael is the story’s narrator, with Ahab, named for the Biblical seventh king of Israel and like that ruler, an evil, ruthless man. Melville had received critical success with earlier novels, including his first, “Typee,” which was a romantic adventure based on his experiences serving in the merchant marines, U.S. Navy and on a whaling ship. Melville found inspiration from his friend and neighbor in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, another novelist named Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of “The Scarlet Letter.”
Although the book flopped when it was first published, “Moby Dick” has now become a literary classic and required reading in most high school English classes. Melville’s final novel before his death was “Billy Budd,” which was published posthumously more than three decades later.
See previous milestones, here.
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