This Day in History: February 16

by Broderick Hooker

1923: The Mummy’s curse: The English archaeologist Howard Carter had been commissioned to find the tomb of the Egyptian boy pharaoh, Tutankhamen. Carter discovered the tomb in November, but opened up the inner chamber of the tomb and found the sarcophagus on this day in 1923. Most Egyptian royal tombs discovered prior to this point had been long raided of their treasures. But Tut’s tomb was an interesting case; he died as a teenager, and it contained some of the greatest treasures of ancient Egypt. Contemporary newspapers played up the possibility of a curse for anybody who entered the tomb, as several members of Carter’s team died mysterious deaths.

1933: It’s been 14 years, get me a beer: In 1919, the U.S. amended the constitution and added the Eighteenth Amendment, prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcohol. It was put into effect the following year, launching America into a dark time for beer lovers, wine snobs, and cocktail connoisseurs. But the drinkers of America were not dissuaded, as the illegal alcohol industry was a big business. Speakeasies, bootleg liquor, and a seedy underground flourished, propelling men like Al Capone into the criminal spotlight. Wisconsin Senator John Blain introduced the Blain Act, and it passed, repealing Prohibition and the Eighteenth Amendment.

1959: Castro Seizes Power in Cuba: Cuba in the 1950s was a playground for the rich and famous. Men like Ernest Hemingway would go marlin fishing, cigar smoking, and rum drinking in one of the Caribbean’s most picturesque islands. But underlying the fun in the sun, Cuba’s president Fulgencio Battista was a despised and brutal dictator, backed by the U.S. government. This fomented the Cuban Revolution, when communists such as Che Guevara and Fidel Castro overthrew the Batista. Thinking that he could run an autocratic dictatorship better than Batista, Castro took the reins as the Premier of Cuba. He gave up power only a few years ago and died a few months ago in November 2016. His legacy is disputed by those who say he was a liberator and those who say his regime was just as bad, if not worse, than Batista’s. If it says anything, his death was met with parties among Miami’s Cuban population.

1968: Get me the number for 9-1-1: The earliest history of the telephone required an operator to route callers to whomever they were calling. By the 60s, most phones had dials or rotaries, and Americans wanted a standardized emergency service number. AT&T announced this new number as 9-1-1, and it was first implemented in Haleysville, Alabama. The Alabama Speaker of the House called a U.S. representative at the local police station. Within a year, 9-1-1 was the national emergency service number.

1985: Hezbollah Founded: The Lebanese Civil War ravaged the country beginning in 1975. Many political, religious, and ethnic factions were vying for control including, Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, Maronite Christians, the PLO, and others. This war continues but is more famously known as the Syrian Crisis. From this environment arose Hezbollah, a militant Shia group with strong ties to Iran. The group was and is strongly opposed to Israel, and is both a militia and a political party. It, or at least its military wing, is considered a terrorist group by most Western countries, the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and Israel. Russia considers it legitimate, and China is neutral.

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