What Happened on March 23?

  • The word "OK" gained national recognition. (1839) Thought to be an abbreviation of the deliberately misspelled "oll correct" phrase that was popular at the time, the word OK was first published in a newspaper on this day. Though the paper originally published it as a joke, the word was quickly picked up by politicians, and became commonly used and recognized.

  • Patrick Henry gave his "Give me liberty, or give me death!" speech. (1775) Henry gave his fiery speech before the Virginia Convention, which was attended by both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The speech was one of the first open displays of anger about the British rule in America.

  • Adolf Hitler became the dictator of Germany. (1933) The Enabling Act of 1933 allowed Hitler, who was a chancellor at the time, complete control over the government for a minimum period of four years.

  • The Wright brothers applied for a patent for their "flying machine." (1903) Widely considered the first airplane — as opposed to the brothers' former gliders — the flying machine was powered by a gasoline engine made of aluminum, to keep the weight down, and featured wooden propellers.

  • Teddy Roosevelt left New York for a safari in Africa. (1909) Despite being a strong proponent of conservationism, Roosevelt was also an avid big game hunter. On the safari he collected over 1,000 specimens, 500 of which were big game.

  • Scientists announced that they had achieved cold fusion at the University of Utah. (1989) Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann announced that they had achieved cold fusion, a type of nuclear fusion thought to be impossible. Though every subsequent experiment on the subject failed, researchers continue to try to create cold fusion.

  • Pakistan became the world's first modern Islamic republic. (1956) Though there had been other short-lived Islamic republics in antiquity, Pakistan was the first modern nation to call itself an Islamic republic in conjunction with a largely secular constitution.

  • Titanic won a record 11 Academy Awards. (1998) The film is one of only three to win that many awards; the other two are Ben Hur and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. The film also earned 14 nominations, which only one other film, All About Eve had ever done.

  • Reagan called for new antimissile strategy leading to the "Star Wars Initiative." (1983) Though the plan was actually called the Strategic Defense Initiative, commenters dubbed it the Star Wars Initiative since it focused on creating a protective zone over US airspace in which Russian missiles could be destroyed with lasers and anti-missile satellites.

  • It became illegal to sell liquor in restaurants on Sundays in New York. (1896) The Raines Act went into law on this day making it illegal to sell liquor on Sundays except in hotels. To compensate, many New York bars simply opened a few furnished rooms above their premises, which became known as "Raines law hotels," and continued to serve alcohol on Sundays.

Discussion Comments


I'm now 86 and soloed an airplane right after high school in 1947.

Surprising to me, one of the Wright Brothers was still alive at that time! There I was flying a safe metal airplane, and one of the men that flew the first wood and linen airplanes was still alive!

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