This week in history we celebrate the anniversary of several important events that occurred both in the United States and abroad, having a tremendous effect on our shared culture, politics and way of life.
On March 31, 1889, 131 years ago, the Eiffel Tower opened in Paris, France. In honor of the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, the French government planned the 20-year-long Paris International Exposition, with Gustave Eiffel’s Tower as the festival’s centerpiece.
Two years prior, the Centennial Committee chose Gustave Eiffel’s designs for the site, following a competition of Parisian architects. Eiffel had already risen to prominence following the construction of several French bridges, as well as the frame of New York Harbor’s Statue of Liberty. With the help of 200 construction workers, Eiffel’s vision was brought to life, standing as the world’s tallest manmade structure for more than 40 years.
The tower was originally intended to be torn down following the end of the city’s exposition, but the monument became so tied to the city’s image, and proved so effective as a radio antenna, that it was kept. Today, the Eiffel Tower is one of the most visited attractions worldwide, and the undisputed symbol of both Paris and the entire nation of France.
Also on March 31, in 1943, 77 years ago, the musical “Oklahoma!” premiered on Broadway. Largely considered the first modern musical, “Oklahoma!” launched the beginning of the Golden Age of Broadway that would produce classics such as “South Pacific,” “My Fair Lady,” “The Sound of Music” and “West Side Story.”
“Oklahoma!” marked the first partnership between the legendary musical duo of Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II. The show was revolutionary, as it was one of the first instances where music and songs were put to a story. Before this, musicals were only plays with frequent pauses to sing a song, sometimes unrelated to the story being told. “Oklahoma!” was the first instance where music was used to continue to tell the story. Audiences fell in love with it, as evident during the opening night’s double encore of the show’s epic finale. The story captivated audiences and brought comfort to a nation gripped by the Second World War.
The musical still remains topical today, more than 75 years later, with last year’s Broadway production snagging the 2019 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical.
On April 1, 1621, 399 years ago, the Pilgrim-Wampanoag Peace Treaty was signed. Five months after arriving in the New World, the Pilgrim colonists, acting in the name of King James I, met with Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoags, establishing an anti-war pact between the two groups that would last for more than 50 years.
The Pilgrims had established Plymouth Plantation in December of 1620 on the cleared lands of the Patuxet people. They arrived during one of the coldest winters known to the region, with many of the original Mayflower passengers perishing within the first months of settlement. By March, the Pilgrims were near extinction, unable to grow crops in the sandy soil of Cape Cod Bay. The Wampanoags established peace with the Pilgrims and taught them how to farm in exchange for English muskets to use against their enemies. This peace would be short lived as the Plymouth Colony would be absorbed into the Massachusetts Bay Colony, putting an end to Wampanoag dominance in the region.
Also on April 1, in the 1700s, around 300 years ago, the holiday of April Fools’ Day was popularized in British society, and subsequently by Americans. While the exact date and origin of April Fools’ Day is widely disputed by historians, the general consensus is the tradition began when European nations switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar during the 16th century. Under the Julian calendar, the new year was celebrated on April 1 while the Gregorian calendar had observed Jan. 1.
Since news traveled incredibly slow in those days, many people continued to celebrate New Year’s Day on April 1, despite the new date. April 1 became a day where the rest of society would mock the “fools” who neglected to check a newly printed calendar. Since then, the first of April has been unofficially deemed a day for pranks, humor and hijinks, to make people look like idiots for being gullible and overly trusting.
Gino Giansanti is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.