What Happened on February 16?

  • The first 911 telephone call was placed. (1968) A nationwide emergency number hadn't really been needed until the 1960s, since most phone calls were still connected by operators. The first 911 call was made by the Alabama Speaker of the House Rankin Fite to Tom Bevill, who was standing by at the city's police station. The first 911 phone was a bright red model, to differentiate it from a normal phone.

  • Joseph Stalin reprimanded the UN. (1951) Stalin issued a statement saying that the UN was becoming too aggressive, and was being controlled by "war-mongerers" in the West. He also said that a world war was "not inevitable at this time," though it might become so if the Western war-mongerers continued in their actions. It was his first comment on the Korean War, which had been going on for about a year, and was seen as a covert request for negotiations by analysts in the West.

  • Nylon was patented. (1937) The now common synthetic material was patented by Wallace H. Carothers, a researcher for DuPont. He also helped to produce the first synthetic rubber, Neoprene, and was instrumental in the development of synthetic silks. Sadly, Carothers committed suicide after a long battle with depression by drinking lemon juice laced with cyanide.

  • NBC aired its first nightly newscast. (1948) The program was called the Camel Newsreel Theatre, and consisted of 10 minutes of Fox Movietone newsreels. It was one of the first nightly news programs, and its successor, the Camel News Caravan, was the first news program to show color footage.

  • The French government passed a law standardizing pitch. (1859) The law set the A above middle C at a pitch of 435 hertz, and was one of the first widely accepted standards of pitch. The law was apparently passed in response to singers complaining that concert pitch was moving upwards, and straining their voices.

  • Fidel Castro was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Cuba. (1959) The former dictator, Batista, had fled the country the month before after massive riots. Castro's coming to power was welcomed by Cubans but not by the US, who quickly responded with a trade embargo on the country that lasted well into the 21st century.

  • The first computer bulletin board system (CBBS) went online. (1978) CBBSs were the predecessor to modern chat rooms, and there were many different themed and members-only CBBSs. Though they really hit their peak in the 1980s, some CBBSs were still live in the 2000s.

  • The Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks was founded. (1868) Colloquially known as the Elks, the fraternal order has over 1 million members. Famous Elks include Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, Lawrence Welk, and Vince Lombardi.

  • Chopin played his final concert. (1848) Frédéric Chopin was a quintessential Romantic composer, and was well-known for his emotional, in-depth pieces. Chopin's death a few months later, though tragic, was not unexpected — his friend the painter Hector Berlioz said, "He was dying his whole life."

  • Kim Jong-il was born. (1941) Kim Jong-il is the son of the founder of North Korea, Kim Il-sung. He became the leader of the country when his father died, and became the figurehead of a personality cult, much like that which had surrounded his father.

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