While it seems every week we discuss major world battles or political decisions, this week we are taking a break from politics and taking a look at some pop culture history. This Week in History, we’ll examine four moments in modern history where popular culture was significantly impacted both in the U.S. and abroad. So let’s dive in!
On Oct. 12, 1810, 211 years ago, the first Oktoberfest was celebrated in Bavaria in modern-day Germany.
Before tourists ever donned lederhosen and guzzled beer in Munich every fall, there was first a wedding celebration that got a little out of hand. In the early 19th century, Crown Prince Louis, later King Louis I of Bavaria, married Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. They invited the citizens of Munich to join in the festivities and even held a horse race in honor of the princess’s favorite sport.
Citizens reveled in the event and continued to celebrate for weeks after the royal couple’s “I do’s,” thus giving way to the annual Oktoberfest celebration. Lasting from the middle of September to the first Sunday of October, Oktoberfest draws 6 million visitors to Munich where more than a million gallons of beer are consumed annually.
On Oct. 11, 1884, 137 years ago, first lady, humanitarian and cultural icon, Eleanor Roosevelt was born in New York City.
So I know I said no politics this week, but Roosevelt transcends all categories, being just as dominant in the political field as the cultural scene. Born to a wealthy New York family as the niece of Theodore Roosevelt, Eleanor married her fifth cousin once removed, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, at the age of 20. She was escorted down the aisle by her famous Uncle Teddy while he was serving as president.
Throughout her life, she was actively involved in political and societal affairs advocating for social reform to aid the low-income and working classes. Her match with Franklin may not have been one of great love but was perhaps the greatest marital partnership in American history. Rather than taking the conventional role as White House hostess in her huband’s administration, Eleanor was an active advocate for several causes championed during FDR’s time in office, changing the role of the FLOTUS forever.
Eleanor actively spoke out against Jim Crow laws in the South and child labor in American cities, advocating for workers’ and women’s rights. Even after her husband’s death, she remained in the spotlight, serving as the U.S. delegate to the United Nations, advocating for human rights on the international stage. By the time of her death in 1962, she had written 27 books and over 8,000 newspaper articles. She was, and remains to this day, one of the greatest Americans to ever aid the nation and enact societal reform.
On Oct. 15, 1951, 70 years ago, “I Love Lucy” premiered on CBS, catapulting Lucille Ball and her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz, into the Hollywood spotlight.
The 1950s was the first decade where television entertainment came to be. In the post-war boom, Americans no longer needed to schlep to the movie theaters for a slice of Hollywood entertainment, when instead, they could find it right in their living rooms.
Filmed in black and white in front of a live studio audience, “I Love Lucy” marked the arrival of the sitcom to the TV screen. “I Love Lucy” told the story of Lucy Ricardo (Ball) and her bandleading husband Ricky (Arnaz) in their Manhattan apartment. With the help of Fred Mertz (William Frawley) and his wife, Ethel (Vivian Vance), Lucy schemes to find stardom no matter what her husband tells her.
The series would go on to win five Emmy Awards and remained the most popular show in America for four years out of its six-year run. Particularly the show’s physical humor (like the iconic candy-wrapping conveyor belt scene) would live on and become a permanent piece of pop culture history long after the show wrapped production.
On Oct. 11, 1971, 50 years ago, John Lennon’s “Imagine” is released, becoming an anthem of the era and one of the most influential songs of the 20th century.
Lennon first made his way into the hearts of American music fans when Beatlemania swept the nation in the early 1960s. As the times changed over the turbulent decade, the Beatles and Lennon changed with it, evolving their sound to fit the moods of music fans worldwide.
After the breakup of the legendary pop group, Lennon launched a solo career with several successful albums and singles, though none more commercially and critically successful than “Imagine.” Co-written by his wife, Yoko Ono (though she didn’t receive credit until 2017), Lennon’s single was an overnight sensation that fell in line with the public cry against the Vietnam War.
What makes Lennon’s song unique, however, is the fact that Lennon never explicitly mentions any of the conflicts of the times. Rather than crafting a weapon to fuel political opposition, “Imagine” adopts an idealistic, humanistic view of world, asking people to dream of a world where all people can live in peace.
Exactly a half century later, Lennon’s masterwork has stood the test of time, just as relevant today as it was in the 1970s. The word “Imagine” is inscribed at the Strawberry Fields memorial to Lennon in Central Park, forever tying the artist to his generation-defining music.