January 15, 1990 — They Might Be Giants release “Flood”

They Might Be Giants’ third studio album, and probably their best known, “Flood” features their single best known song – a cover of “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” – as well as “Birdhouse in Your Soul” which was a top ten hit in both the US and UK. It would go on to be their best selling album, achieving platinum status in 2009.

The album as a whole is one of the most consistently excellent of all their albums, and is widely regarded as their best (although that may be something of an artifact of it being the most widely owned of their albums). It would be followed up by “Apollo 18” two years later.

February 6, 1971 – Alan Shepard plays golf on the Moon

The commander of the Apollo 14 mission, Alan Shepard holds several unique distinctions. He is the only member of the Mercury 7 astronauts to have walked on the Moon and also the oldest person to have walked there (in terms of age at the time he did it). His mission was the first to broadcast colour video from the surface of the Moon and made the most accurate landing of all the Apollo missions. And, of course, he is the first man to have hit golf balls (two of them) on the Moon.

Shepard came home to the hero’s welcome that astronauts traditionally received, and was promoted from Captain to Rear-Admiral after the successful completion of his mission. He retired from the US Navy and NASA, becoming a successful businessman, and eventually died from leukemia in 1998, 21 years to the day from Armstrong’s first moon walk.

His golf balls are presumably still somewhere on the lunar surface.

March 7, 1965 — The Selma to Montgomery March begins

The Selma to Montgomery marches were a series of civil rights protests held in Alabama during March 1965. The first of them took place on March 7 of that year, when between a group of 500 and 600 negroes began a march from Selma to Montgomery, the state capitol, with the intention of registering to vote – something legally permitted under the United States Civil Rights Act of 1964, but resisted with every legal means and quite a few extra-legal means in many states, especially in the southern United States.

The march began peacefully, but when the marchers reached the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which spanned both the Alabama river and the Dallas County line, their path was blocked by state troopers and county policemen, some of them deputised specifically for this task. The police attacked the marches with batons, tear gas and mounted charges. 17 marchers were hospitalised and 50 more treated for lesser injuries. A photograph of Amelia Boynton, beaten unconscious and lying on the road of the bridge, became front page news, and the reaction was swift. President Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King both condemned the violence, as did many others. A second march was held on Tuesday, March 9, and a third on March 21-25. The third march began with around 8000 people, but that number had swelled to 25000 by its final day. In the end, the voting rights of the protesters were upheld by the courts, but the struggle was long and painful.

Bloody Sunday-Alabama police attack.jpeg
By Federal Bureau of Investigation – http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/travel/civilrights/cost.htm, Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

Purple Toupee — They Might Be Giants

November 22, 1963 — U.S. President John F Kennedy is assassinated

One of the defining events of its era, the assassination of President Kennedy remains a remarkably controversial one, even today. Conspiracy theories abound as to who shot Kennedy and why.

While the official story, that Lee Harvey Oswald did it, with the rifle, in the book depository, is plausible, it is also notably incomplete – there are any number of holes and anomalies in it. The murder of Oswald only two days later, before he could stand trial, has done nothing to quell these uncertainties.

On a symbolic level, the death of Kennedy was the end of an era in many ways. Quite aside from the idealism that he brought to the nation, his death marked a change in the way America saw itself – no longer the lily-white paladin, but more the grim avenger willing do the dirty work no one else would – although in fairness, this change of self-image would take the rest of the decade to be complete.

November 25, 1915 — Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity is published

One of the most revolutionary theories of physics of all time, Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity turned the celestial mechanics of Isaac Newton on its head, and set the stage for the quantum mechanical revolution in physics that characterised the Twentieth Century. Along with Heisenberg, Bohr, Schrodinger, Feynmann and others, Einstein’s work changed the way we understand our world, but even in that august company, Einstein is a titan among giants, a man whose name has become a byword for genius.

The General Theory of Relativity resists easy summation. It was created to reconcile various anomalies in Newton’s theory of Universal Gravitation, as well as between Newton and Einstein’s earlier Special Theory of Relativity, and forms an important part of our current understanding of physics, gravitation and cosmology – the Big Bang Theory draws upon it, for example.

Einstein 1921 by F Schmutzer - restoration.jpg
By <a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/en:Ferdinand_Schmutzer” class=”extiw” title=”w:en:Ferdinand Schmutzer”>Ferdinand Schmutzer</a> – <a rel=”nofollow” class=”external free” href=”http://www.bhm.ch/de/news_04a.cfm?bid=4&amp;jahr=2006″>http://www.bhm.ch/de/news_04a.cfm?bid=4&amp;jahr=2006</a> [<span title=”” class=”plainlinks”><a class=”external text” href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Link_rot”>dead link</a></span>], <a rel=”nofollow” class=”external text” href=”https://web.archive.org/web/20070211064905/http://www.bhm.ch/de/news_04a.cfm?bid=4&amp;jahr=2006″>archived copy</a> (<a rel=”nofollow” class=”external text” href=”https://web.archive.org/web/20071025130813/http://www.bhm.ch/downloads/11_Einstein_1921.jpg”>image</a>), Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

The World’s Address — They Might Be Giants

January 13, 1847 — The Treaty of Cahuenga ends fighting in California

Along with Texas, California was one of the major battlegrounds in the Mexican-American War of 1846 – 1848, and the surrender of Hispanic forces in California was a turning point in the war. The American forces – better equipped and better motivated, drove the Mexicans slowly southward.

The war proper would come to an end in 1848, with Mexico’s cession of a large territory (comprising the modern US states of California, Nevada and Utah, as well as portions of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming). The victory is widely regarded as one of the most significant achievement of the Presidency of James Knox Polk (whose sole term was from 1845 to 1848).

January 1, 1847 — The Independent Treasury Act comes into force

James Knox Polk was the eleventh President of the USA. In 1846, he approved a law restoring the Independent Treasury System, under which government funds were held in the Treasury and not in banks or other financial institutions.

This established independent treasury deposit offices, separate from private or state banks, to receive all government funds. The money belonging to the treasury could thus be separated from the market, ensuring that neither could influence the other. Unfortunately, that turned out not to be how it worked in practice, and the Independent Treasury System was eventually discontinued in 1921.

James Polk restored.jpg
By James_Polk.jpg: Brady, Mathew B., 1823 (ca.)-1896, photographer.
derivative work: Superwikifan (talk) – James_Polk.jpg, Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

James K. Polk — They Might Be Giants

June 15, 1846 — The Oregon Treaty is signed

The area known as the Oregon Country originally encompassed a much larger area of land than is now occupied by the state of Oregon. On the American side of the border, t took in the states of Washington and Idaho, as well as parts of Wyoming and Montana. On the Canadian side, it took in Vancouver Island, and parts of mainland British Columbia. And where the border was to be drawn was a subject of dispute for half a century after the war of 1812 and the treaty of 1818.

The matter was finally settled with the signing of the Oregon Treaty in Washington D.C., which set the boundary at the 49th parallel (i.e. latitude 49 degrees north), with the exception of Vancouver Island, which straddles the parallel, and was given to Canada in its entirety. This represented a backdown for the Democratic Party that counted President Polk as its leader, as they had campaigned on the slogan “54 40 or Fight!”, asserting a claim to the territory as far north as 54 degrees 40 minutes – the southernmost latitude of what is now Alaska (and was then Russian America).

James Polk restored.jpg
By James_Polk.jpg: Brady, Mathew B., 1823 (ca.)-1896, photographer.
derivative work: Superwikifan (talk) – James_Polk.jpg, Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

James K. Polk — They Might Be Giants

July 3, 1845 — The Walker Tariff act is passed by Congress

Largely a repeal of the Black Tariffs put in place in 1842, the Walker Tariff (named for Secretary of the Treasury, Robert J. Walker, its creator), reduced tariffs from 32% to 25%, one of the lowest tariffs in US history. Coinciding as it did with the UK’s repeal of its Corn Laws, it led to an increase in trade between the two nations.

Subsequently, tariffs would be reduced still further in 1857 (to 17%), but then increased back to 26% in 1861 (and again later that year, and in 1865, the latter two increases largely as a result of the expense of the Civil War).

May 29, 1844 — James K. Polk wins the Democratic Party’s Candidacy for U.S. President

This time around, there’s no better way to tell it than with the actual lyrics. All you need is a little scene setting – it’s the Democratic Party’s National Convention in Baltimore, Maryland, in the year 1844:

In 1844, the Democrats were split.
The three nominees for the presidential candidate
Were Martin Van Buren, a former president and an abolitionist
James Buchanan, a moderate
Louis Cass, a general and expansionist.
From Nashville came a dark horse riding up:
He was James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump

Austere, severe, he held few people dear
His oratory filled his foes with fear.
The factions soon agreed:
He’s just the man we need
To bring about victory,
Fulfil our manifest destiny,
And annex the land the Mexicans command.
And when the votes were cast the winner was:
Mister James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump

And there you have it 🙂

James Polk restored.jpg
By James_Polk.jpg: Brady, Mathew B., 1823 (ca.)-1896, photographer.
derivative work: Superwikifan (talk) – James_Polk.jpg, Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

James K. Polk — They Might Be Giants

I don’t intend to make a habit of simply quoting large slabs of lyrics here – it’s lazy, for one thing – but on this occasion, I felt an exception had to be made. There’s no way I could have summarised the same information as lucidly or as elegantly as this.