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50 Things Turning 50 This Year

Getty / Thinkstock / Wikipedia
Getty / Thinkstock / Wikipedia

Back in January, we looked at 30 things turning 30 this year. Now let's see who's joining the half-century club in 2014.

1. Jeopardy!

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The quiz show, originally hosted by the late Art Fleming, seems to have been going forever. Not quite … but close enough. It's still beloved today, despite being cancelled three times in the past.

2. Buffalo wings

These spicy chicken wings were invented by Teresa Bellissimo, co-owner of the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York. Her husband later said that she devised the now-famous hot sauce and cooking technique in desperation after the restaurant was sent an over-supply of chicken wings.

3. Hess Truck

HessToyTruck.com

This annual holiday toy and promotional device was first released in 1964. The original truck cost $1.29 at Hess filling stations and had an operable water hose. Recent incarnations have included helicopters and planes, and are promoted with holiday television commercials that feature a teeth-grindingly catchy jingle. See, it's in your head already.

4. “Smoking may be harmful”

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Surgeon General Luther Leonidas Terry released Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States, a landmark report detailing the risks of cigarette smoking. The tobacco industry was none too pleased.

5. The British Invasion

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This was when America finally met the Beatles. The Fab Four took the states by storm, famously driving audiences wild on The Ed Sullivan Show and landing six number one songs on the U.S. singles charts. Other British bands followed, including a fairly new group called the Rolling Stones (who had their first UK number one single with “Little Red Rooster”). The so-called “British Invasion” had begun.

6. The Ford Mustang

The first of the “pony cars,” the 1965 Mustang (introduced in April 1964, and so nicknamed the “1964½” model by aficionados) was Ford’s most successful launch since the Model A in 1927.

7. Sandra Bullock

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The Oscar-winning star is one of many celebrities and notables to turn 50 this year—along with Jeff Bezos, Juliette Binoche, Dan Brown, Nicolas Cage, Courteney Cox, Russell Crowe, Matt Dillon, Christopher Eccleston, Janeane Garofalo, Melinda Gates, Diana Krall, Courtney Love, Rob Lowe, Elle Macpherson, Michelle Obama, Sarah Palin, Keanu Reeves, Marisa Tomei, and Joss Whedon.

8. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

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Roald Dahl's classic children's tale about a poor boy's tour through an eccentric candy maker's magical factory was published in the U.S. 50 years ago. It initially received mixed reviews but its popularity prevailed, leading to multiple movie adaptations and a real-life Wonka candy company.

9. Plasma display screens

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Though the cathode-ray screen would still be the most common TV screen for a few decades, the plasma display panel of today’s flat-screen televisions was invented in July 1964 at the University of Illinois.

10. Liquid crystal display

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LCD screens also turn 50 this year. Stable liquid crystals were invented some years earlier by a Scotsman, Professor George Gray, but Princeton scientist George H. Heilmeier discovered the dynamic scattering mode (DSM) in 1964, leading to the first working liquid crystal displays. Thanks to smartphones and tablets, there are now more LCD screens in the world than people.

11. Dr. Strangelove: or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

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Stanley Kubrick’s satirical film about nuclear war starred Peter Sellers in three roles and proved that anything, no matter how terrifying or depressing, can be fodder for comedy.

12. Daredevil

Stan Lee and his cohorts at Marvel Comics were on a roll in the early '60s, having introduced numerous popular superheroes (from the Fantastic Four to Iron Man) over the past three years. In April 1964 they introduced Daredevil, an athletic, blind superhero, whose other senses were superhumanly enhanced. The year also saw the introduction of Hawkeye and Black Widow—best known from The Avengers—who both started as villains.

13. Draft-Card Burning

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There had been smaller protests in England and Australia, but nothing like the scene in New York on May 2, when 1000 students marched from Times Square to the United Nations to protest the escalation of the Vietnam War. Ten days later, 12 students in New York burned their draft cards as a form of protest. This was done by others throughout the conflict, often leading to prosecution and prison time.

14. The Underdog Show

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Underdog (and his mild-mannered secret identity, Shoeshine Boy) was created in 1959 as a breakfast cereal mascot for General Mills. Though little more than a canine copy of Superman, he was popular enough to inspire a cartoon series that would last for nine years.

15. The 8-track cartridge

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This magnetic audio-tape system was the most popular non-vinyl music medium from the mid-1960s (outselling the less compact, less convenient reel-to-reel tape recorders) to the early 1980s, when compact cassettes took over.

16. Jonny Quest

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The animated adventure series started in 1964 as a short-lived prime-time show before it was revived three years later on CBS's Saturday afternoons. In the first season, Jonny and his gang come across a werewolf, a gung-ho general, an invisible giant, and plenty of dinosaurs.

17. Moon photos

Four years after President Kennedy put the plan in motion for humans to visit the moon, the U.S. satellite Ranger 7 captured the first pictures of the moon’s surface taken by a spacecraft.

18. “You Really Got Me” 

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The third single (and first major hit) by the Kinks is famous for its sharp opening guitar riff. Chances are you're grunting it right now.

19. The Addams Family

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The legendary sitcom, based on the family featured in the macabre New Yorker cartoons of Charles Addams, was never a major ratings hit, but it won a huge cult following. Addams, with his warped sense of humor, would probably like the idea that the series was “cursed”—most of the cast was dead within 20 years. John Astin, who played the ever-smiling Gomez, and Felix Silla, who starred as Cousin Itt, are the only adult cast members still alive.

20. The Munsters

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Which macabre family sitcom came first: The Munsters or The Addams Family? The competing shows were both in production at the same time, so their respective networks rushed them to broadcast. The Addams Family premiered on ABC on September 18 while The Munsters followed on September 24. Though it was beaten by a week, The Munsters had slightly better ratings. It also lasted 70 episodes—six more than The Addams Family.

21. G.I. Joe

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Hasbro launched the first “action figures,” a line of four World War II-themed G.I. Joe dolls—one for each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.

22. Permanent press

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This wrinkle-free treatment, a godsend to snappy dressers, was invented by chemist Ruth Rogan Benerito, who died in October last year, aged 97.

23. Carbon dioxide laser

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One of the earliest gas lasers, and still one of the most useful, was invented in 1964 by C. Kumar N. Patel of Bell Labs. Carbon dioxide lasers are used for cutting, welding, and in medical procedures.

24. U.S. State Lottery

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Sweepstake tickets for the first state lottery went on sale in New Hampshire in 1964.

25. The Good Friday Earthquake

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This tragedy devastated south-central Alaska on March 27, 1964, and had a magnitude of 9.2 (the second largest recorded in history). The earthquake caused 143 deaths, some from landslides and tsunamis. The disaster literally changed the landscape of Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city.

26. Gilligan’s Island

This kitschy series lasted 98 episodes, spun off into telemovies and two animated series, and has become pop culture canon. According to one far-out (and fun) theory, the seven stranded castaways represent the Seven Deadly Sins: The Skipper (wrath or gluttony), the millionaire (greed), his wife (sloth), the movie star (lust), the Professor (pride) and Mary Ann (envy). And Gilligan? Well, he always wore a red top, so he is cast as the devil.

27. Zambia

The southern African country became independent on October 24, and prime minister Kenneth Kaunda became its first president—a position he would keep for 27 years until he was forced out after some unpopular policies (such as his plan to give a quarter of the nation’s land to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, so that the Maharishi could create “heaven on Earth”).

28. Lenny Bruce's prosecution

From a previous arrest in San Francisco, via Wikimedia Commons

After finishing one of his classic, raunchy sets at Cafe Au Go Go in Greenwich Village, comedian Lenny Bruce was arrested by undercover detectives for obscenity. The trial that followed was a landmark in the battle for free speech, and Bruce was found guilty. He died during the appeals process and was pardoned posthumously in 2003 by New York Governor George Pataki.

29. Hello, Dolly!

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The musical debuted on Broadway on January 16, 1964 and starred Carol Channing in the title role. Dolly! went on to sweep the Tonys and won a record ten awards.

30. Nelson Mandela’s prison sentence

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South Africa’s Nelson Mandela began his lengthy jail sentence at Robben Island in 1964. He was eventually released in 1990 and in 1994 was elected to lead the nation that had placed him in a eight-by-seven-foot cell three decades prior. 

31. Bewitched

The long-running sitcom about the domestic life of a witch and her mortal husband began in September. It would last 254 episodes.

32. Italy asks how to stop the Tower of Pisa from leaning

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In February 1964, the Italian government officially asked other countries if they could help out with the Tower of Pisa's little leaning problem. The centuries-old structure had veered 17 feet past its base and was in danger of toppling over for good. Engineers bored holes in the ground around it, used lead counterweights, and did everything else they could think of. Today, a soil eradication process has helped to stabilize it, hopefully for at least the next 200 to 300 years.

33. Comics conventions

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Well before the crowded extravaganzas of San Diego Comic Con, the first comics convention was a low-key Monday afternoon event in New York City, organized by Bernie Bubnis. Called "Tri-State Con," this meeting of fans and artists set the groundwork for the massive events of today.

34. Flipper

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Based on a 1963 film, Flipper added a bottle-nosed dolphin to the ranks of TV’s animal heroes.

35. Mary Poppins

British musical star Julie Andrews had played Eliza Doolittle to acclaim in countless theater performances of My Fair Lady. Her reward: she was replaced in the movie version by Audrey Hepburn, a more marketable star who didn’t even do her own singing. As a consolation, Disney cast Andrews in the title role in their film adaptation of Mary Poppins.

36. The Jackson 5

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Fronted by 5-year-old Michael Jackson, this quintet from Gary, Indiana would eventually sell 150 million records worldwide (which is a pittance, of course, compared to Michael’s solo sales). 

37. Lucky Charms

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General Mills launched this sugary cereal in 1964 and introduced kids to Lucky, the hyperactive and paranoid leprechaun mascot with a persecution complex.

38. The Houston Astros

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Houston's ball club was only three years old when it changed its name from the Houston Colt .45s to the Astros in December 1964. The switch came after they moved from Colt Stadium to the city's new, massive domed park (soon dubbed The Astrodome).

39. Goldfinger

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The third Bond movie is, according to many, the best of the lot. Its most famous scene, in which poor Jill Masterson’s gold-painted corpse lay in bed, made Shirley Eaton one of the most memorable Bond girls despite her very small role. It also led to the urban legend that the actress died of asphyxiation because of the full body paint. Not true—and not even plausible.

40. BASIC

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Gen-X kids studying computers in 1980s high schools learned this early computer language, just as everyone a decade later would be learning HTML. It lived up to its name, both in ease of use and limits of capacity, but it taught computer lingo to a generation. BASIC was invented in 1964 by John George Kemeny and Tom Kurtz.

41. Sri Chinmoy in America

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Brought up in a Bengali ashram, the poet, essayist, songwriter, musician, artist, and fitness guru arrived in the U.S. on April 13. By 1970, at the invitation of Secretary General U Thant, he had a regular gig holding meditations for diplomats and staff at the United Nations.

42. The Moog synthesizer

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Dr. Robert Moog made his first synthesizers in 1964. They wouldn’t win attention as hit-making instruments until the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival and Wendy Carlos’ 1968 album Switched-On Bach.

43. Ali versus Liston

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Cassius Clay (later known as Muhammad Ali) proved that he wasn’t just a braggart when he pulled off one of the sport’s great upsets, beating the favored Sonny Liston to win the heavyweight championship of the world.

44. After the Fall

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On January 23, Arthur Miller's play After the Fall debuted off-Broadway. Starring Barbara Loden and Jason Robards, Jr., the play was a semi-autobiographical account of Miller's life with late ex-wife Marilyn Monroe, who had died in 1962. Not only did pulling from his own life with Monroe prove controversial, but reviews were not good: New Republic's Robert Brustein said that the play was "a three and one half hour breach of taste, a confessional autobiography of embarrassing explicitness ... there is a misogynistic strain in the play which the author does not seem to recognize. ... He has created a shameless piece of tabloid gossip, an act of exhibitionism which makes us all voyeurs ... a wretched piece of dramatic writing."

45. Satellites broadcasting live TV to the U.S.

A later-generation Syncom satellite, via Wikimedia Commons

The Tokyo Olympics were broadcast live on American shores with the help of Syncom 3, a telecommunications satellite that was launched in 1964. It was the first ever geostationary communication satellite, meaning it stayed in orbit at a point above earth as it rotated with our planet.

46. “Daisy”

One of the most famous television ads in American history shows a little girl in a daisy field, pulling petals from a stem. Soon after she counts “ten,” there is a terrifying mushroom cloud and the final message: “Vote for President Johnson on November 3. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.” It was shown only once as a paid ad (during an NBC movie on September 7), allowing controversy and workplace discussion to do the rest. Johnson was comfortably elected.

47. A Fistful of Dollars

The first of Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone's "spaghetti westerns” was released in November. Producers had sought veteran star Henry Fonda to play The Man With No Name, but he was too expensive.

48. The Wizard of Id

Johnny Hart and Brant Parker introduced the short and petulant King of Id, his court wizard, the wizard’s fearsome wife Blanche, the luckless Sir Rodney and a host of other characters in 1964. Though both creators died in 2007, the comic strip—set in a pseudo-medieval kingdom of dragons and fair maidens—still reflects modern society and current affairs.

49. The Warren Report

Chief Justice Earl Warren had a distinguished career, but he is perhaps best remembered as chair of a commission to investigate the assassination of President Kennedy. The 880-page report, concluding that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, is one of the most controversial documents in U.S. political history.

50. The U.S. Civil Rights Act

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Completing the work begun by his predecessor, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in July to end racial discrimination in employment, places of public accommodation, union membership, and federally funded programs. “Let us close the springs of racial poison,” said Johnson. It was the most far-reaching set of civil rights laws in American history.

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10 of Benjamin Franklin’s Lesser-Known Feats of Awesomeness
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We all know about Benjamin Franklin’s kite-flyin’, library-establishin’, Declaration-signin’, newspaper-printin’, lady-killin’ ways. But let’s celebrate some of his lesser-known but very cool contributions to society, on what would be his 312th birthday.

1. HE SWAM WITH THE FISHES.

As a youngster, Ben learned to swim in Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River and became somewhat of an expert. On a Thames River boating trip with friends, a 19-year-old Franklin jumped into the river and swam from Chelsea to Blackfriars (around 3.5 miles), performing all sorts of water tricks along the way or, as he described it, “…many feats of activity, both upon and under the water, that surprised and pleased those to whom they were novelties.” Franklin’s Phelpsian feats earned him an honorary induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1968.

He was such an excellent swimmer, one of the careers he considered (and seemingly one of the few he did not choose) was running a swimming school of his own. Of course, he also invented his own swim fins.

2. HE PRINTED BENJAMINS, BEFORE THEY WERE BENJAMINS.

Many people know that Ben Franklin owned a printing company and the Pennsylvania Gazette. But it may be new knowledge that his company also printed all of the paper money for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Beginning in 1929, his face would grace the front of the $100 bill and people would call them “Benjamins” in his honor.

3. HE DEVELOPED AN ELECTRIC VOCABULARY.

Because the things Franklin was doing in his experiments with electricity were so new, he had to make words up for them as he went along. One scholar suggests that Franklin may have been the first to use as many as 25 electrical terms including battery, brushed, charged, conductor, and even electrician.

4. HE WAS NO DEBTOR.

Franklin was terrified of debt and viewed it as similar to slavery because he believed that, through the acquisition of debt, man essentially sold his own freedom. He was so anti-debt that he often spoke (seriously) about forming an international organization called The Society of the Free and Easy for virtuous individuals who, among other things, were free of debt and, therefore, easy in spirit.

5. HE WAS ALWAYS PUTTING OUT FIRES.

In addition to being a famously calming voice of reason and a frequent mediator at the Constitutional Convention, Franklin organized the first volunteer fire company in 1736: The Union Fire Company (nicknamed Benjamin Franklin’s Bucket Brigade). Among his many writings are articles on fire prevention, stressing that an "ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” He was more eloquent than Smokey Bear.

6. HE INVENTED A TON OF COOL STUFF, INCLUDING THE ROCKING CHAIR AND THE ODOMETER.

Of course, you probably know that Franklin is responsible for the lightning rod, bifocal glasses, and the Franklin stove. But in 1761, Franklin also invented the glass harmonica (or "armonica," as he called it). It became quite popular during Franklin’s time and armonica-specific pieces were composed by the likes of Mozart, Beethoven, and Handel.

Some of Franklin’s other inventions include:
• The library stepstool, a chair whose seat could be lifted and folded down to make a short ladder.
• A mechanical arm for reaching books on high shelves. (Book retrieval—clearly a focus of Franklinian innovation.)
• The rocking chair—a chair that rocks.
• The writing chair—a chair with an arm on one side to provide a writing surface. (Activities one can do while seated were also a focus.)
• The odometer—used in Franklin’s time to measure distance along colonial roads used by the postal service.
• A pulley system that enabled him to lock and unlock his bedroom door from his bed.
• The flexible urinary catheter.

7. HE WAS PARTIALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF AMERICA'S FIRST HOSPITAL.

Established in 1751 by Ben and Dr. Thomas Bond, Pennsylvania Hospital was built “… to care for the sick-poor and insane who were wandering the streets of Philadelphia” (those sound like some wild streets). While the hospital was Bond’s brainchild, Franklin’s support and advocacy got the project off the ground. He galvanized the Pennsylvania Assembly and helped raise the necessary funds. It appears that Franklin was more proud of this accomplishment than most (even all those outrageous swimming tricks); he said later of the hospital’s establishment, “I do not remember any of my political maneuvers, the success of which gave me at the time more pleasure.”

8. HE HAD SEVERAL PSEUDONYMS.

Franklin was prolifically pseudonymous and his pseudonyms were pretty wonderful:

• Richard Saunders. Richard Saunders is Franklin’s most well-known pseudonym; it’s the one he used for his wildly popular Poor Richard’s Almanac, which ran annually from 1732 to 1758. Poor Richard was partially based on one of Jonathan Swift’s pseudonyms, Isaac Bickerstaff – Saunders and Bickerstaff shared a love of learning and astrology. The Richard character brought a comic frame to what was otherwise a serious resource in the almanac and, over the years of publication, the fun but likely unnecessary character gradually disappeared.

• Silence Dogood. When Ben was 16 years old, he desperately wanted to write for his brother James’s newspaper, The New England Courant, but James was something of a bully and wouldn’t allow it. So, Ben contributed to the paper as a middle-aged widow named Silence Dogood whose witty and satirical letters covered a range of topics from courtship to education. A total of 15 Dogood letters were published, resulting in the amusement of Courant readers, several marriage proposals for the pretend Mrs. Dogood, and, ultimately, a rise in the ire of James Franklin.

• Anthony Afterwit. Mr. Afterwit, a gentleman, wrote humorous letters about married life that appeared in Benjamin Franklin’s own Pennsylvania Gazette.

• Polly Baker. Polly Baker was a pseudonym Franklin used to examine colonial society’s unequal treatment of women. She was pretend punished by society for having pretend children out of pretend wedlock while the fathers of the pretend children went pretend unpunished.

• Alice Addertongue. Alice is another middle-aged widow who wrote what amounts to a gossip column for Franklin’s Gazette in the form of scandalous stories about prominent members of society.

• Caelia Shortface and Martha Careful. These pseudonyms were used by Franklin to settle a personal dispute; they wrote letters mocking Franklin’s former employer, Samuel Keimer, who had stolen some of Franklin’s publishing ideas. Shortface and Careful’s letters were published in The American Weekly Mercury, a publication by a Keimer rival.

Busy Body. Also published in The American Weekly Mercury, Miss Body’s letters were basically gossip stories about local businessmen.

• Benevolous. Benevolous wrote letters to British newspapers while Franklin was in London. The primary focus of the letters was to correct negative statements made about Americans in the British press.

9. HE WAS A TRAVELING FOOL.

During Franklin’s life, the average person never traveled more than 20 miles from their home. Franklin, on the other hand, crossed the Atlantic Ocean eight times (the first time at age 18 and the last time at age 79) and spent 27 years of his life overseas.

10. HE THOUGHT GETTING TOGETHER WITH HIS BUDDIES TO DRINK BEER AND CHAT WAS A FANTASTIC WAY TO IGNITE SOCIAL ACTION (AS IT TURNS OUT, HE WAS RIGHT).

Franklin formed a group that he called the Junto. The group’s purpose was to gather and debate philosophical questions on topics from ethics to business. Initially composed of 12 members, the group brought together people from different backgrounds (among the originals were printers, surveyors, a cabinetmaker, a clerk, a glazier, a cobbler, and a bartender) and gathered in a tavern on Friday nights. In his autobiography, Franklin described the group as a “…club for mutual improvement.” But the group discussions resulted in not only self-improvement, but societal improvement: The Junto has been credited as the breeding ground for some of Franklin’s greatest achievements, including the establishment of the first library, the first volunteer fire departments, the first public hospital, and even the University of Pennsylvania. Makes your Friday night pub trivia team seem like a bunch of underachievers, doesn’t it?

This post originally appeared in 2011.

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15 Things You Didn't Know About Betty White
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Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

Happy birthday, Betty White! In honor of the ever-sassy star of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls's 96th birthday, let's celebrate with a collection of fun facts about her life and legacy. 

1. HER NAME IS BETTY, NOT ELIZABETH

On January 17th, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois, the future television icon was born Betty Marion White, the only child of homemaker Christine Tess (née Cachikis) and lighting company executive Horace Logan White. In her autobiography If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't), White explained her parents named her "Betty" specifically because they didn't like many of the nicknames derived from "Elizabeth." Forget your Beths, your Lizas, your Ellies. She's Betty.

2. SHE'S A GUINNESS WORLD RECORD HOLDER.

In the 2014 edition of the record-keeping tome, White was awarded the title of Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Female) for her more than 70 years (and counting) in show business. The year before, Guinness gave out Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Male) to long-time British TV host Bruce Forsyth. As both began their careers in 1939, they'd be neck-and-neck for the title, were they not separated by gender.

3. HER FIRST TELEVISION APPEARANCE IS LOST TO HISTORY.

A photo of Betty White
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Even White can't remember the name of the show she made her screen debut on in 1939. But in an interview with Guinness Book of World Records, she recounted the life-changing event, saying, "I danced on an experimental TV show, the first on the west coast, in downtown Los Angeles. I wore my high school graduation dress and our Beverly Hills High student body president, Harry Bennett, and I danced the 'Merry Widow Waltz.'" 

4. WHITE'S RISE TO STARDOM WAS DERAILED BY WORLD WAR II.

Before she took off on television, White was working in theater, on radio, and as a model. But with WWII, she shelved her ambitions and joined the American Women's Voluntary Services. Her days were devoted to delivering supplies via PX truck throughout the Hollywood Hills, but her nights were spent at rousing dances thrown to give grand send-offs to soldiers set to ship out. Of that era, she told Cleveland Magazine, "It was a strange time and out of balance with everything." 

5. HER FIRST SITCOM HIT WAS IN THE EARLY 1950S.

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Co-hosting the Al Jarvis show Hollywood on Television led to White producing her own vehicle, Life With Elizabeth. As a rare female producer, she developed the show alongside emerging writer-producer George Tibbles, who'd go on to work on such beloved shows as Dennis The Menace, Leave It To Beaver, and The Munsters. Though the show is not remembered much today, in 1951 it did earn White her first Emmy nomination of 21 (so far). Of these, she's won five times.

6. WHITE LOVES A PARADE.

From 1962 to 1971, White hosted NBC's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade alongside Bonanza's Lorne Greene. But that's not all. For 20 years (1956-1976), she was also a color commentator for NBC’s annual Tournament of Roses Parade. However, as her fame grew on CBS's The Mary Tyler Moore Show, NBC decided they should pull White (and all the rival promotion that came with her) from their parade. It was a decision that was heartbreaking for White, who told People, "On New Year's Day I just sat home feeling wretched, watching someone else do my parade."

7. SHE HAS BEEN MARRIED THREE TIMES.


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White and her first husband, Dick Barker, were married and divorced in the same year, 1945. After four months on Barker's rural Ohio chicken farm, White fled back to Los Angeles and her career as an entertainer. Soon after, she met agent Lane Allen, who became her husband in 1947, and her ex-husband in 1949 after he pushed her to quit show biz. She wouldn’t marry again until 1963, after she fell for widower/father of three/game show host Allen Ludden.

8. HER MEET-CUTE WITH HUSBAND #3 HAPPENED ON PASSWORD.

Bubbly Betty was a regular on the game show circuit, but she met her match in 1961 when she was a celebrity guest on Password, hosted by Allen Ludden. Though White initially rebuffed Ludden's engagement ring (he wore it around his neck until she changed her mind), the pair stayed together until his death in 1981. Today, their stars on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame sit side-by-side.

9. WHITE ORIGINALLY AUDITIONED FOR THE ROLE OF BLANCHE ON THE GOLDEN GIRLS.

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Producers of the series thought of White for the role of the ensemble's promiscuous party girl because she'd long played the lusty Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Meanwhile, they eyed Rue McClanahan for the part of naive country bumpkin Rose Nylund because of her work as the sweet but dopey Vivian Harmon on Maude. Director Jay Sandrich was worried about typecasting, so he asked the two to switch roles in the audition. And just like that, The Golden Girls history was made.

10. IF SHE HADN'T BEEN AN ACTOR, SHE'D HAVE BEEN A ZOOKEEPER.

"Hands down," she confessed in a 2014 interview. This should come as little surprise to those aware of White's reputation as an avid animal lover and activist. Not only does she try to visit the local zoo of wherever she may travel, but also she's a supporter of the Farm Animal Reform Movement and Friends of Animals group, as well as a Los Angeles Zoo board member, who has donated "tens of thousands of dollars" over the past 40 years. In 2010, White founded a T-shirt line whose profits go to the Morris Animal Foundation.

11. SHE DIDN'T DO AS GOOD AS IT GETS BECAUSE OF AN ANIMAL CRUELTY SCENE.

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White was offered the part of Beverly Connelly, onscreen mother to Helen Hunt, in the Oscar-winning movie As Good as It Gets. But the devoted animal lover was horrified by the scene where Jack Nicholson's curmudgeonly anti-hero pitches a small dog down the trash chute of his apartment building. On The Joy Behar Show White explained, "All I could think of was all the people out there watching that movie … and if there's a dog in the building that's barking or they don't like—boom! They do it." She complained to director James L. Brooks in hopes of having the scene cut. Instead, he kept it and cast Shirley Knight in the role.

12. A FACEBOOK CAMPAIGN MADE WHITE THE OLDEST SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE HOST EVER.

In 2010, a Facebook group called Betty White To Host SNL … Please? gathered so many fans (nearly a million) and so much media attention that SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels was happy to make it happen. At 88 years old, White set a new record. Her episode, for which many of the show's female alums returned, also won rave reviews, and gave the show's highest ratings in 18 months. White won her fifth Emmy for this performance.

13. SHE IS THE OLDEST PERSON TO EARN AN EMMY NOMINATION.


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In 2014, White earned her 21st Emmy nod—and her third in a row for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program—for the senior citizen-centric prank show Betty White's Off Their Rockers. She was 92. She also holds the record for the longest span between Emmy nominations, between her first (1951) and last (so far).  

14. SHE LOVES JUNK FOOD.

The key to aging gracefully has nothing to do with health food as far as White is concerned. In 2011, her Hot in Cleveland co-star Jane Leeves dished on White's snacking habits, "She eats Red Vines, hot dogs, French fries, and Diet Coke. If that's key, maybe she's preserved because of all the preservatives." Fellow co-star Wendie Malick concurred, "She eats red licorice, like, ridiculously a lot. She seems to exist on hot dogs and French fries." 

15. SHE WANTS ROBERT REDFORD.

A photo of actor Robert Redford
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White once gave this cheeky confession: “My answer to anything under the sun, like ‘What have you not done in the business that you’ve always wanted to do?’ is ‘Robert Redford.'” Though she has more than 110 film and television credits on her filmography, White has never worked with the Out of Africa star, who is 14 years her junior.

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