Good News in History, January 30

195 years ago today, a groundbreaking piece of civil engineering debuted– the massive Menai Bridge opened, cutting nine hours from the journey between Wales and London.

A triumph for its designer and engineer Thomas Telford, it was the biggest suspension bridge in the world at the time. Sixteen huge chains held up 579 feet of deck, allowing 100 feet of clear space beneath for tall ships navigating the seaway underneath.

With a length of almost 6 football fields (520-meters), it spans the dangerous waters of the Menai Strait, connecting the island of Anglesey to the Wales mainland. (1826)

Featured image by Rhys Morgan Jones, CC license

MORE Good News on this Date:

  • Thomas Jefferson offered to restock the shelves of the Library of Congress, which had been destroyed in the War of 1812, selling Congress more than 6,000 books from his own library–twice as many as had burned (1815)
  • First airplane rescue at sea near Cuba via USS Terry (1911)
  • Happy 70th birthday to Phil Collins, the drummer, and lead singer of Genesis (1951)
  • The first successful trials to treat sickle-cell disease took place at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (1995)
  • Belgium legally recognized same-sex marriage (2003)
  • Iraqis voted in their country’s first free election in a half-century (2005)

And, 76 years ago today, 500 Allied prisoners of war from the Bataan Death March were liberated during World War II from a Japanese POW camp in the Philippines. 121 US Rangers, supported by several hundred Filipino guerrilla fighters, trekked 30 miles, then raided the Cabanatuan prison camp using intelligence gained from Alamo Scouts disguised as locals. ‘The Great Raid’ lasted thirty minutes. (1945)

Photo by Trish Overton in 2008, CC license

Happy Birthday to the great actor Gene Hackman who turns 91 years old today. Nominated for five Academy Awards, he won the Best Actor statue at age 41—after years of personal struggle and hardship—for his role as a NYC cop in the critically-acclaimed thriller The French Connection. He won a second Oscar for his role in the 1992 Clint Eastwood Western, Unforgiven.

He was nominated again for his gripping portrayal of an FBI agent in Mississippi Burning (1988), and is also saluted for major contributions to hit movies such as The Firm, Get Shorty, Enemy of the State (a GNN favorite co-starring Will Smith), The Royal Tenenbaums, and The Conversation.

He retired in 2004, but he went on to write 6 novels as an author—three historical fiction novels, a Depression-era tale of murder, and a tale of love and revenge set in the Old West entitled Payback at Morning Peak. His most recently-published, in 2013, was a police thriller called Pursuit. (1930) WATCH the surprisingly exciting trailer for The French Connection

On this day in 1969, The Beatles played their last public concert, performing on the rooftop of Apple Records, surprising lunchtime pedestrians on a blustery cold day. The group, which invited Billy Preston to sit in on keyboards, hadn’t played in public for three years. The unannounced London appearance was eventually broken up by the police, but all the memorable scenes (including people gazing up in the streets) were filmed for a documentary—a total of nine takes of five songs: Get Back, Don’t Let Me Down, I’ve Got a Feeling, One After 909, and Dig a Pony. WATCH the iconic film below…

(Around 2:15 into the film you see the people on the streets start strategizing to get a glimpse, including an old gentleman with a bowler hat and pipe, who determinedly ascends a ladder on a nearby roof.)

The Beatles realized that the concert would be shut down, as police ascended to the roof, but continued to play for several more minutes. Paul McCartney improvised the lyrics of his song “Get Back” to reflect the situation, “You’ve been playing on the roofs again, and you know your Momma doesn’t like it, she’s gonna have you arrested!” The concert came to an end with the conclusion of Get Back, with John Lennon saying, “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we’ve passed the audition.”

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