This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
October 21 is the 294th day of the year (295th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 71 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1959, On this day in 1959, on New York City’s Fifth Avenue, thousands of people line up outside a bizarrely shaped white concrete building that resembled a giant upside-down cupcake. It was opening day at the new Guggenheim Museum, home to one of the world’s top collections of contemporary art.
Guided by his art adviser, the German painter Hilla Rebay, Solomon Guggenheim began to collect works by nonobjective artists in 1929. (For Rebay, the word “nonobjective” signified the spiritual dimensions of pure abstraction.) Guggenheim first began to show his work from his apartment, and as the collection grew, he established The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in 1937. Guggenheim and Rebay opened the foundation for the “promotion and encouragement and education in art and the enlightenment of the public.” Chartered by the Board of Regents of New York State, the Foundation was endowed to operate one or more museums; Solomon Guggenheim was elected its first President and Rebay its Director.
In 1939, the Guggenheim Foundation’s first museum, “The Museum of Non-Objective Painting”, opened in rented quarters at 24 East Fifty-Fourth Street in New York and showcased art by early modernists such as Rudolf Bauer, Hilla Rebay, Wassily Kandinsky, and Piet Mondrian. During the life of Guggenheim’s first museum, Guggenheim continued to add to his collection, acquiring paintings by Marc Chagall, Robert Delaunay, Fernand Leger, Amedeo Modigliani and Pablo Picasso. The collection quickly outgrew its original space, so in 1943, Rebay and Guggenheim wrote a letter to Frank Lloyd Wright pleading him to design a permanent structure for the collection. It took Wright 15 years, 700 sketches, and six sets of working drawings to create the museum. While Wright was designing the museum Rebay was searching for sites where the museum would reside. Where the museum now stands was its original chosen site by Rebay which is at the corners of 89th Street and Fifth Avenue (overlooking Central Park). On October 21, 1959, ten years after the death of Solomon Guggenheim and six months after the death of Frank Lloyd Wright the Museum opened its doors for the first time to the general public.
The distinctive building, Wright’s last major work, instantly polarized architecture critics upon completion, though today it is widely revered. From the street, the building looks approximately like a white ribbon curled into a cylindrical stack, slightly wider at the top than the bottom. Its appearance is in sharp contrast to the more typically boxy Manhattan buildings that surround it, a fact relished by Wright who claimed that his museum would make the nearby Metropolitan Museum of Art “look like a Protestant barn.”
Internally, the viewing gallery forms a gentle helical spiral from the main level up to the top of the building. Paintings are displayed along the walls of the spiral and also in exhibition space found at annex levels along the way.
Most of the criticism of the building has focused on the idea that it overshadows the artworks displayed within, and that it is particularly difficult to properly hang paintings in the shallow windowless exhibition niches that surround the central spiral. Although the rotunda is generously lit by a large skylight, the niches are heavily shadowed by the walkway itself, leaving the art to be lit largely by artificial light. The walls of the niches are neither vertical nor flat (most are gently concave), meaning that canvasses must be mounted proud of the wall’s surface. The limited space within the niches means that sculptures are generally relegated to plinths amid the main spiral walkway itself. Prior to its opening, twenty-one artists, including Willem de Kooning and Robert Motherwell, signed a letter protesting the display of their work in such a space.
1096 – People’s Crusade: The Turkish army annihilates the People’s Army of the West.
1512 – Martin Luther joins the theological faculty of the University of Wittenberg.
1520 – Ferdinand Magellan discovers a strait now known as Strait of Magellan.
1600 – Tokugawa Ieyasu defeats the leaders of rival Japanese clans in the Battle of Sekigahara, which marks the beginning of the Tokugawa shogunate that in effect rules Japan until the mid-nineteenth century.
1774 – First display of the word “Liberty” on a flag, raised by colonists in Taunton, Massachusetts in defiance of British rule in Colonial America.
1797 – In Boston Harbor, the 44-gun United States Navy frigate USS Constitution is launched.
1805 – Napoleonic Wars: Battle of Trafalgar: A British fleet led by Vice Admiral Lord Nelson defeats a combined French and Spanish fleet off the coast of Spain under Admiral Villeneuve. It signals almost the end of French maritime power and leaves Britain’s navy unchallenged until the twentieth century.
1805 – Napoleonic Wars: Austrian General Mack surrenders his army to the Grand Army of Napoleon at the Battle of Ulm. 30,000 prisoners are captured and 10,000 casualties inflicted on the losers.
1816 – The Penang Free School is founded in George Town, Penang, Malaysia, by the Rev Hutchings. It is the oldest English-language school in Southeast Asia.
1824 – Joseph Aspdin patents Portland cement.
1854 – Florence Nightingale and a staff of 38 nurses are sent to the Crimean War.
1861 – American Civil War: Battle of Ball’s Bluff – Union forces under Colonel Edward Baker are defeated by Confederate troops in the second major battle of the war. Baker, a close friend of Abraham Lincoln, is killed in the fighting.
1867 – Manifest Destiny: Medicine Lodge Treaty – Near Medicine Lodge, Kansas a landmark treaty is signed by southern Great Plains Indian leaders. The treaty requires Native American Plains tribes to relocate a reservation in western Oklahoma.
1879 – Using a filament of carbonized thread, Thomas Edison tests the first practical electric incandescent light bulb (it lasted 13½ hours before burning out).
1892 – Opening ceremonies for the World’s Columbian Exposition are held in Chicago, though because construction was behind schedule, the exposition did not open until May 1, 1893.
1895 – The Republic of Formosa collapses as Japanese forces invade.
1902 – In the United States, a five month strike by United Mine Workers ends.
1912 – During the First Balkan War, Kardzhali is liberated by Bulgarian forces
1921 – President Warren G. Harding delivers the first speech by a sitting President against lynching in the deep south.
1921 – George Melford’s silent film, The Sheik, starring Rudolph Valentino, premiers.
1933 – Adolf Hitler withdraws Nazi Germany from the League of Nations
1944 – The first kamikaze attack: A Japanese plane carrying a 200 kilograms (440 lb) bomb attacks HMAS Australia off Leyte Island, as the Battle of Leyte Gulf began.
1945 – Women’s suffrage: Women are allowed to vote in France for the first time.
1945 – Argentine military officer and politician Juan Peron marries actress Evita.
1959 – In New York City, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, opens to the public.
1959 – President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs an executive order transferring Wernher von Braun and other German scientists from the United States Army to NASA.
1965 – Comet Ikeya-Seki approaches perihelion, passing 450,000 kilometers from the sun.
1966 – Aberfan disaster: A slag heap collapses on the village of Aberfan in Wales, killing 144 people, mostly schoolchildren.
1967 – Vietnam War: More than 100,000 war protesters gather in Washington, D.C.. A peaceful rally at the Lincoln Memorial is followed by a march to The Pentagon and clashes with soldiers and United States Marshals protecting the facility. Similar demonstrations occurred simultaneously in Japan and Western Europe.
1969 – A coup d’etat in Somalia brings Siad Barre to power.
1973 – John Paul Getty III’s ear is cut off by his kidnappers and sent to a newspaper in Rome; it doesn’t arrive until November 8.
1973 – Fred Dryer of the then Los Angeles Rams becomes the first player in NFL history to score two safeties in the same game.
1975 – Game 6 of the World Series is played between the Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds. The game would be won on a home run off the left field foul pole at Fenway Park hit by Carlton Fisk in the bottom of the 12th inning, ending perhaps the greatest baseball game played in World Series history.
1977 – The European Patent Institute is founded.
1978 – Australian civilian pilot Frederick Valentich vanishes in a Cessna 182 over the Bass Strait south of Melbourne, after reporting contact with an unidentified aircraft.
1979 – Moshe Dayan resigns from the Israeli government because of strong disagreements with Prime Minister Menachem Begin over policy towards the Arabs.
1983 – The metre is defined at the seventeenth General Conference on Weights and Measures as the distance light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second.
1986 – In Lebanon, pro-Iranian kidnappers claim to have abducted American writer Edward Tracy (he is released in August 1991).
1987 – Jaffna hospital massacre is carried out by Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka killing 70 ethnic Tamil patients, doctors and nurses.
1994 – North Korea nuclear weapons program: North Korea and the United States sign an agreement that requires North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons program and agree to inspections.
1994 – In Seoul, 32 people are killed when the Seongsu Bridge collapses.
2003 – Images of the dwarf planet Eris are taken and subsequently used in its discovery by the team of Michael E. Brown, Chad Trujillo, and David L. Rabinowitz.
2005 – Images of the dwarf planet Eris are taken and subsequently used in documenting its discovery by the team of Michael E. Brown, Chad Trujillo, and David L. Rabinowitz.
2012 – A shooting at a spa in Brookfield, Wisconsin, leaves four people dead, including the shooter.
2013 – Record smog closes schools, roadways, and the airport in Harbin, China.