September is special. It’s not only the start of fall colors, a universal favorite, it’s also the start of football season, arguably the signature event in the annual American sports calendar.
Mathematically, you’d expect all of history’s major events to be spread out evenly among the twelve months. You would, however, be wrong. September seems to have more than its fair share of landmark events. Here are just a few:
Don’t you find it fascinating that almost all accounts of history focus on politics? The First Continental Congress, probably the first unified and organized expression of the United States of America, was held in Philadelphia on the 5th of September, 1774. Is it a coincidence that the Treaty of Paris, which formally ended the American Revolutionary War, was also signed in September? The date was September 2, 1783, almost nine years, to the day, of the assembly of the First Continental Congress.
For Americans, probably no other war impacted them as much as World War 2, which started in September of 1939, with the invasion of Poland by Hitler’s Germany. The war also ended formally with the surrender of Japan on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 4, 1945. Is it a coincidence that major wars start and end in the same month? The American Civil War, although not a “September war,” both started and ended in April.
Manhattan was discovered by Henry Hudson on September 4, 1609, and Los Angeles was founded by the Spanish as”El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora La Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula,” on September 4, 1781. Is it a coincidence that America’s two largest cities both can trace their history back to September 4?
Speaking of New York, well, who can forget 9/11, which, of course, happened in September.
Tragedy makes more headlines than happiness, isn’t that a sad observation of what interests us humans? James Dean, Princess Grace and famed dancer Isadore Duncan were all killed in freak car accidents… in September. In a curious twist, cars were not banned as a means of transportation. Teddy Roosevelt escaped death in September, 1902, but was badly injured when a trolley car collided with the carriage in which he was riding. Princess Diana died in another freak accident on August 31, just barely escaping this grisly parade.
On a note slightly more joyous and uplifting, a woman was arrested in New York City for smoking a cigarette in public, while riding a convertible automobile, on September 28. “You can’t do that on Fifth Avenue!” the arresting officer told her. The year? 1904. Talk about life coming full circle.
The image of “Uncle Sam” came into use in September of 1813. The “penny press” also started a few years later in September, 1833. It was the New York Sun, which became the paper with the largest circulation in America by 1836, in part because it was the first paper aimed at ordinary people, not the elite. It was also the first to hire reporters to go out and collect stories about those same “ordinary people,” as well as the first paper to hire a newspaper carrier, Barney Flaherty, age 10. This was regarded as a skilled position: to get hired, the young Barney had to demonstrate his ability to throw a newspaper into the bushes.
Some silly September milestones are Peter the Great’s tax on beards in 1698, the first Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, N.J. in 1921, New York City passing an ordinance demanding all pool rooms be renamed into billiards rooms, Star Trek premiering on television in 1966, and Billy Jean King beating Bobby Riggs in “the battle of the sexes” tennis match in 1973.
Let’s not forget how the month of September always starts: Labor Day weekend. I, for one, deplore the paucity of long weekends on the calendar. One can only be left to wonder whether the quality of American family life wouldn’t be helped by more long weekends. Why not add a few more Fridays off to complement the Mondays like Memorial Day and Labor Day? The winter is so cold and lonely, why not make the first weekend in February the Festival of Light? It would give everyone a glorious reason to keep their Christmas lights up through the month of January, illuminating the dreariest month of all with jolly brightness. It would be a great opportunity for Hallmark to sell cards, and for stores to have seasonal displays. In keeping with the resolutely joyous atmosphere, the culinary focus could be on a dessert, rather than a main dish. What dessert do you think would make for a fine midwinter highpoint? How about something warm, like bread pudding?
Why not re-elevate Easter to a proper holiday, with time off from work and family get-togethers? There’s a Friday for you: Good Friday! Easter celebrates the most joyous occasion for all mankind, the ultimate conquest over death… why not celebrate it with more gusto? It’s a celebration of life spiritual and seasonal — justification for a four day weekend, if ever there was one.
And why wait till the end of May for another long weekend? Why not have another long weekend in April?
We’re talking another four or five days a year… how terrible can that be? America already has far less annual vacation time than the rest of the civilized world — why not take a step toward catching up with modern civilization by adding a few more isolated days of quality family time together?
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