Good News in History, August 14

142 years ago today, the Cologne Cathedral was completed after construction began in 1,248. It is Germany’s most recognizable landmarks, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At 515 feet (157 meters), the cathedral is the tallest twin-spired church in the world, the second tallest church in Europe after Ulm Minster, and the third tallest church of any kind in the world. READ about the 632 year building saga… 

Cologne Cathedral – CC 2.0. dronepicr

In 1164, the Archbishop of Cologne, Rainald of Dassel, acquired the relics of the Three Kings which the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa, had taken from the Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio, Milan, Italy. (Parts of the relics have since been returned to Milan.) The relics have great religious significance and drew pilgrims from all over Christendom. It was important to church officials that they be properly housed, and thus began a building program in the new style of Gothic architecture, based in particular on the French cathedral of Amiens.

The foundation stone was laid on 15 August 1248, by Archbishop Konrad von Hochstaden, and it was almost 80 years later that the eastern arm of the cathedral was finished. In the mid-14th century work on the west front commenced under Master Michael. This work ceased in 1473, leaving the south tower complete to the belfry level and crowned with a huge crane that remained in place as a landmark of the Cologne skyline for 400 years.

Work resumed in 1842 to the original design of the surviving medieval plans and drawings, but utilizing more modern construction techniques, including iron roof girders. The nave was completed and the towers were added. The bells were installed in the 1870s, and a national festival was held 10 years later for the cathedral’s opening. WATCH a drone soar through the historic cathedral…

MORE Good News on this Day:

U.S. Social Security Act was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt creating unemployment insurance and pension plans for the elderly (1935)
Pakistan became independent of British rule (1947)
Bahrain declared its independence from United Kingdom (1971)
Twelve months after Mattel recalled millions of lead-tainted toys that were made in China, the US government banned lead from children’s toys (2008)

51 years ago today, The Who released their fifth studio album Who’s Next. Featuring original anthems like Won’t Get Fooled Again and Baba O’Riley, it became one of the greatest rock albums of all time.

Making prominent use of the synthesizer, eight of the nine songs on Who’s Next—including Behind Blue Eyes and Bargain—were written by the group’s guitarist Pete Townshend—with the exception being My Wife by bassist John Entwistle.

In 2012, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it 28th on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, and in 2006, Time magazine called it one of the 100 best records of all time. (1971)

And, on this day 42 years ago, Lech Wałęsa led shipyard workers in Gdansk, Poland, in a successful strike to protest the dismissal of activist worker Anna Walentinowicz.

Part of a growing campaign to gain political freedom and improve economic conditions for Poland’s labor force, the 16,000 workers secured Miss Walentinowicz’s swift reinstatement and then elected her to the workers’ committee to negotiate with the Polish authorities and shipyard management. (1980)

77 years ago today, Harry Truman announced the end of World War II. The American president told the public that Japan had surrendered unconditionally—a news report that led to joyous pandemonium in New York City.

Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photo, VJ Day Kiss – Fair Use

The day, ever after known as VJ Day (Victory in Japan Day) also sparked one of the most famous photographs of that time, the sassy VJ Day Kiss in which photographer Alfred Eisentaedt captured an anonymous U.S. Navy sailor embracing and kissing a stranger—an unknown dental assistant—in Times Square.

The photo was published in a full page spread in Life magazine the following week. In his book, Eisenstaedt on Eisenstaedt, he said, “People tell me that when I am in heaven they will remember this picture.” (1945)

And, Happy 56th Birthday to actress and producer Halle Berry.

Photo by Gage Skidmore, CC license

Named after Halle’s Department Store in her birthplace of Cleveland, Ohio, the former model and beauty pageant contestant became one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood. Her performance in the 2001 independent film Monster’s Ball made her the first woman of color to receive the Academy Award for Best Actress. She also won an Emmy and Golden Globe for her role in the self-produced television film Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. (1966)

Also, Happy 77th Birthday to the musician, actor, comedian Steve Martin, who, according to Comedy Central, is the 6th best stand-up comic of all time.

Photo credit: Highline Ballroom CC license

On top of five Grammys, an Emmy Award and Kennedy Center Honor, he received the International Bluegrass Music’s Distinguished Achievement award for his bluegrass albums and musicianship.

A banjo player since he was a teen, one of Steve’s latest works was a Broadway musical called Meteor Shower that opened on Broadway last November. Starring Amy Schumer, it is a play about two couples who witness a marital free-fall while watching a celestial event in their backyard. (1945)

Happy Birthday to ‘Magic’ Johnson, who turns 63 years old today. One of the greatest basketball players of all time, he holds the NBA record for average assists (11.2) per game.

2015 photo by Mihaylo CSUF, CC license

Playing with the L.A. Lakers for 13 years, he helped them to win a championship in his rookie season (and took home the first of three MVP Awards in the NBA Finals). The magic he performed on the court—unexpectedly passing to other players—won his team 4 additional championships, until Johnson abruptly retired in 1991 after he contracted HIV.

His brave public announcement was widely praised, and it helped dispel the stereotype of HIV as a “gay disease” that needn’t worry any heterosexuals. But, in a tremendous footnote the next year, he played as a member of the 1992 U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team—known as “The Dream Team”—which earned him a gold medal.

Since his retirement, Johnson has been an advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention and safe sex, as well as an entrepreneur, philanthropist, broadcaster, motivational speaker, and part-owner of the Lakers for several years. Johnson became part-owner of the L.A. Dodgers baseball team in 2012. He is the author of a 1992 autobiography, Earvin Magic Johnson: My Life, and has served as a United Nations Messenger of Peace. Johnson has also created the Magic Card, a pre-paid MasterCard that aimed to help low-income people save money and participate in electronic commerce.

Johnson takes a daily combination of drugs to prevent his HIV infection from progressing to AIDS. A Christian, he’s called his faith ‘the most important thing’ in his life. Johnson’s number 32 jersey was retired by the Lakers. WATCH some Magic highlight below… (1959)

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