CLOSE
Michael Appleton/The New York Times
Michael Appleton/The New York Times

The First Time The New York Times Covered 19 Famous Things

Michael Appleton/The New York Times
Michael Appleton/The New York Times

Today the New York Times has a nice piece about the mental_floss YouTube channel. This is the first Times feature on our videos, and we're pretty excited. Exactly as excited as the Sony people must have been when the Walkman was first written up in 1980.

Here are some other NYT first mentions worth mentioning. Click on any date for the full article.

1. The Walkman

July 7, 1980

Stereo-to-Go — And Only You Can Hear It
Josh Lansing and the young blonde woman had never even met before, but as they passed each other on Madison Avenue the other afternoon, she waved and smiled and he tipped his headphones in salute. What the two well-dressed strangers first noticed about each other was that they were both possessors of the newest status symbol around town: the Walkman.

"It's just like Mercedes-Benz owners honking when they pass each other on the road," explained Mr. Lansing, whose cassette hung from his Gucci belt.

*

2. Sesame Street

May 7, 1969

Rich TV Program Seeks Youngest
The most expensive and expansive television show ever beamed at the nation's 12 million preschool children -- who will watch TV more hours before they get to kindergarten than they will spend in six grades of elementary school -- was announced yesterday by National Educational Television.

Sesame Street is named to reflect the balance between fantasy and the real-life educational open-a-new-window need of pre-school youngsters — particularly members of minority groups in the inner cores of big cities — that the show hopes to achieve.

*

3. Princess Diana

December 15, 1980

For 'Hounding' a Friend of Charles, Press Is Chided
The latest round of feverish speculation about Prince Charles's marriage prospects has touched off a new debate in Britain about the press and royal privacy.

"May I ask the editors of Fleet Street," said Lady Diana's mother, Frances Shand Kydd, in a letter published in The Times of London this month, "whether they consider it necessary or fair to harass my daughter daily, from dawn until well after dusk? Is it fair to ask any human being, regardless of circumstances, to be treated in this way?"

*

4. Nintendo

October 8, 1955

Among the notices of trademark applications published this week is one from the Nintendo Playing Card Company, Ltd., Kyoto City, Japan. The notice explains that one of the Japanese characters in the mark means "happiness, fortune or wealth." Three other characters, pronounced "nintendo," are harder to translate. They constitute a fanciful expression having no precise dictionary meaning either in Japanese or English, but the application gives them the approximate sense of "a corporation whose fortune or prosperity should be left to the mercy of heaven." Evidently heaven has smiled on the Nintendo Company, because it has been using the mark since 1887.

*

5. Donald Trump

January 28, 1973

Builder Looks Back But Moves Ahead
The big change in Fred Trump's operations in recent years is the advent of his son, Donald." Donald, who was graduated first in his class from the Wharton School of Finance of the University of Pennsylvania in 1968, joined his father about five years ago. He has what his father calls "drive." He also possesses, in his father's judgment, business acumen. "Donald is the smartest person I know," he remarked admirably. "Everything he touches turns to gold."

*

6. iPod

October 24, 2001

Apple Introduces What It Calls an Easier to Use Portable Music Player
Apple Computer introduced a portable music player today and declared that the new gadget, called the iPod, was so much easier to use that it would broaden a nascent market in the way the Macintosh once helped make the personal computer accessible to a more general audience. But while industry analysts said the device appeared to be as consumer friendly as the company said it was, they also pointed to its relatively limited potential audience, around seven million owners of the latest Macintosh computers.

*

7. Microwave Oven

March 31, 1949

New Improvements to Electronic Range Reported as Overcoming Present Faults
Though the electronic range that cuts cooking time from hours to minutes will not be possible for home kitchens for several years, one of it chief drawbacks is being overcome. The new combination of "regular" electricity with microwave energy will enable products to brown and to crust as well as cook through. One will bake bread in a matter of minutes without any sacrifice of the delicious crisp surface. incidentally, with this new oven it will be possible to use metal pans, something that cannot be done with other similar appliances, in which glass and paper utensils are used.

*

8. Gatorade

August 27, 1967

Chocolate-Flavored Soft Drinks And Slush Are Selling Briskly
Perhaps the most unusual soft drink to be announced in some years is a lemon-lime-flavored product called Gatorade, which will be produced by Stokely-Van Camp, Inc., food packer of Indianapolis. The new product, not yet on the market, is a water solution of glucose, inorganic salts and flavorings and was designed to quench thirst, particularly during periods of physical exertion. It has been tested in Florida by the University of Florida athletes to quench their thirst in training periods and during actual competition.

*

9. Times Square

March 23, 1904

Times Triangle, Times Square: New Names for Long Acre Square Suggested by a Reader of This Newspaper
To the Editor of The New York Times:
When the new building of The New York Times shall be completed and become a thing of art and beauty in that section of the city in which it is to stand, why would it not be fitting that the space about the edifice be called "Times Triangle" or "Times Square," though perhaps it may not be a square? It is, it seems, more euphonious than "Long Acre Square," and very soon would become as well known as "Printing House Square" or "Herald Square." No doubt the Board of Aldermen would take up such a suggestion at the proper time and act upon it favorably. Can it not be entertained?

-J.W.C. Corbusier

*

10. Wayne Gretzky

July 6, 1978

Hockey Star, 17, Is Always Ahead of Himself
With mock fear he asked if it was safe to walk the streets of New York. The joke was that Wayne Gretzky, now 17 years old, has been thwarting assaults since he began outclassing the big boys as a 5-year-old all-star player on a hockey team for 11-year-olds.

Now the slight center is skipping three years of junior hockey to join the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association with a seven-year contract worth $1.75 million. ... Gretzky proudly announced he had just received his driver's license two weeks ago. His face fell flat when he was reminded he would have to apply for a United States license. "I get nervous at driving tests," he said.

*

11. McDonald's

October 6, 1963

Franchises Lure Wide Investment
The lure to the individual or small businessman is that by investing a little money and lots of time, he can derive the benefits of a widely known name, cooperative advertising, "protected" territories and a cram course on how to run the business. A coast-to-coast chain, McDonald's Hamburgers, gives its franchisees a three-week course in everything from advertising to janitoring.

*

12. Mount Rushmore

July 10, 1927

Making a Monument out of a Black Hills Mountain
Out of the granite face of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota within the next five years will appear in heroic proportions the features of four of our illustrious Presidents — Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt. This memorial will be to the founding, extending and preserving the Union and to the completion of the dream of Columbus by the cutting of the Panama Canal, and the four Presidents represent these epochs in our history.

*

13. Personal Computer

November 3, 1962

Pocket Computer May Replace Shopping List
Pocket-size computers may eliminate the housewife's weekly shopping list. Electronic communication would tell the store in advance what she needed. She would simply pick up the bundles.

This was envisioned today by Dr. John W. Mauchly, inventor of some of the original room-size computers, who has developed one the size of a suitcase and is now working on a pocket variety.

Dr. Mauchly also predicted the day when a headwaiter could accurately forecast the cocktail a person wanted merely by matching the drinker's characteristics against preferences recorded in his own pocket computer...."There is no reason to suppose the average boy or girl cannot be a master of a personal computer," he said.

*

14. Jon Stewart

November 4, 1988

Weekender Guide
Also performing are the stand-up comedians Bob Shaw, Ray Romano and Jon Stewart. The cover charge is $10 tonight, $12 tomorrow, and $7 on Sunday, and there is a two-drink minimum. Reservations are suggested.

*

15. Online Dating

August 26, 1999

You've Got Romance! Seeking Love On Line
More and more single people, used to finding everything else on the Internet, are using it to search for love. More than 2,500 Web sites for adults are now devoted to matchmaking, said Daniel Bender, founder of Cupid's Network (www.cupidnet.com), an Internet portal for personals sites that went on line in 1995 listing only a handful.

*

16. Harry Truman

May 20, 1934

Missouri Political Leaders Have Already Selected Their Candidates [For Senate]
Tom J. Pendergast, head of the Kansas City machine, then turned to Harry S. Truman, presiding judge of the Jackson County Court. Truman accepted and the gage of battle was thrown down.

But within the past few days there has been a growing sentiment in favor of John J. Cochran, Representative from St. Louis. [Jacob L. "Tuck"] Milligan's candidacy did not strike much fire. Truman is little known and his only strength is that given him by Pendergast in Kansas City.

*

17. ESPN

July 22, 1979

Tomorrow—'A Video Supermarket'
An equally ambitious cable operation, due to begin in September, is the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN), based in Bristol, Conn. With the Getty Oil Company as its major backer, ESPN plans to become the nation's first all-sports network, offering not only play-by-play coverage but also sports-related news and feature programs.

"Our goal is to provide a continuous 'Wide World of Sports' for the sincere sports fan," explains ESPN's president William F. Rasmussen, referring to the highly successful ABC series....During its premiere weekend, the network plans to carry four football games, two soccer games, the European Open Golf Tournament, the U.S. slow-pitch softball championship and highlights of the American Legion baseball playoffs.

*

18. Steve Urkel

April 17, 1991

Snookums! Steve Urkel is a Hit
When he is not the centerpiece of Family Matters, Urkel pops up on other shows. On Full House, Urkel jetted into town to explain to Stephanie that wearing glasses is not such a bad thing. He showed up on Johnny Carson as a guest, in the form of Mr. Jaleel White (sans glasses and irritating voice). On the American Comedy Awards, Mr. White taught Bea Arthur how to do the Urkel, a very nerdy dance.

*

19. YouTube

October 27, 2005

Now Playing: Your Home Video
The entrepreneurs who have started companies like ClipShack, Vimeo, YouTube and Blip.tv are betting that as consumers discover the video abilities built into their cellphones and digital still cameras, and get better at editing the often-lengthy video from their camcorders, they will be eager to share video on the Web. While most of the services are free today, the entrepreneurs eventually hope to make money by selling ads or charging fees for premium levels of service.

Now go read the story about our YouTube channel! Most of these first mentions came from an old column we used to run called 'The First Time News Was Fit to Print.'

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Disney/Marvel
arrow
entertainment
The 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Right Now
Disney/Marvel
Disney/Marvel

If you’re in the mood for some speculative fiction and your pile of Arthur C. Clarke books has been exhausted, you could do worse than to tune in to Netflix. The streaming service is constantly acquiring new films in the sci-fi and fantasy genres that should satisfy most fans of alternative futures. Here are five of the best sci-fi movies on Netflix right now.

1. CUBE (1997)

This low-budget independent film may have helped inspire the current "escape room" attraction fad. Six strangers wake up in a strange room that leads only to other rooms—all of them equipped with increasingly sadistic ways of murdering occupants.

2. METROPOLIS (1927)

Inspiring everything from Star Wars to Lady Gaga, Fritz Lang’s silent epic about a revolt among the oppressed people who help power an upper-class city remains just as visually impressive today as it did nearly 100 years ago.

3. TROLL HUNTER (2010)

A Norwegian fairy tale with bite, Troll Hunter follows college-aged filmmakers who convince a bear trapper to take them along on his exploits. But the trapper fails to disclose one crucial detail: He hunts towering, aggressive trolls.

4. NEXT (2007)

Nic Cage stars a a magician who can see a few minutes into the future. He's looking to profit with the skill: the FBI and others are looking to exploit it.

5. THE HOST (2006)

A slow-burn monster movie from South Korea, The Host has plenty of tense scenes coupled with a message about environmental action: The river-dwelling beast who stalks a waterfront town is the product of chemical dumping.  

6. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOLUME 2 (2017)

Marvel's tale of a misfit band of space jockeys was a surprise hit in 2014. The sequel offers more Groot, more Rocket Raccoon, and the addition of Kurt Russell as a human manifestation of an entire sentient planet.

7. STARDUST (2007)

Director Matthew Vaughn's adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel features Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro as supporting players in the tale of a man (a pre-Daredevil Charlie Cox) in search of a fallen star to gift to his love.

8. KING KONG (2005)

Director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) set his considerable sights on a remake of the 1933 classic, with the title gorilla pestered and exploited by opportunistic humans.

9. DONNIE DARKO (2001)

What will a teenage mope do when a giant rabbit tells him the world is about to end? The answer comes in this critical and cult hit, which drew attention for its moody cinematography and an arresting performance by a then-unknown Jake Gyllenhaal.  

10. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016)

Soon we'll have a movie for every single major or minor incident ever depicted in the Star Wars universe. For now, we'll have to settle for this one-off that explains how the Rebel Alliance got their hands on the plans for the Death Star.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Library and Archives Canada, Wikimedia // Public Domain
arrow
Weird
9 False Rumors With Real-Life Consequences
King Louis XV of France
King Louis XV of France
Library and Archives Canada, Wikimedia // Public Domain

Don’t believe everything you read—or everything you hear. Unverified but plausible-sounding rumors have been the basis for violent death and destruction throughout history, whether or not the stories had anything to do with the truth.

In their book A Colorful History of Popular Delusions, Robert Bartholomew and Peter Hassall describe rumors as “stories of perceived importance that lack substantiating evidence.” They also note that the sociologist Tamotsu Shibutani describes rumors as “improvised news,” which tends to spread when the demand for information exceeds supply. Such an information deficit most often occurs during wars and other crises, which might explain why some rumors have had such dramatic results. Here’s a selection of some of the most interesting rumors with real-life results collected in Bartholomew and Hassall’s book.

1. KING LOUIS XV WAS KIDNAPPING CHILDREN.

In 1750, children began disappearing from the streets of Paris. No one seemed to know why, and worried parents began rioting in the streets. In the midst of the panic, a rumor broke out that King Louis XV had become a leper and was kidnapping children so that he could bathe in their blood (at the time, bathing in the blood of children was thought by some to be an effective leprosy cure).

The rumor did have a tiny kernel of truth: Authorities were taking children away, but not to the king’s palace. A recently enacted series of ordinances designed to clear the streets of “undesirables” had led some policemen—who were paid per arrest—to overstep their authority and take any children they found on the streets to houses of detention. Fortunately, most were eventually reunited with their parents, and rumors of the king’s gruesome bathing rituals were put to rest.

2. LONDON WAS GOING TO BE DESTROYED BY AN EARTHQUAKE.

Two small earthquakes struck London at the beginning of 1761, leading to rumors that the city was due for “the big one” on April 5, 1761. Supposedly, a psychic had predicted the catastrophe. Much of the populace grew so panicked that they fled town for the day, with those who couldn’t afford fancier lodgings camping out in the fields. One soldier was so convinced of the impending doom that he ran through the streets shouting news of London’s imminent destruction; sadly, he ended up in an insane asylum a few months later.

3. JEWS WERE POISONING WELLS.

A deep well
iStock

Reports that Jews ritually sacrificed Christian children were not uncommon during the Middle Ages, but things took a particularly terrible turn during the spread of the Black Plague. In the 14th century, thousands of Jews were killed in response to rumors that Satan was protecting them from the plague in exchange for poisoning the wells of Christians. In 1321 in Guienne, France alone, an estimated 5000 Jews were burned alive for supposedly poisoning wells. Other communities expelled the Jews, or burned entire settlements to the ground. Brandenburg, Germany, even passed a law denouncing Jews for poisoning wells—which of course they weren't.

4. BRIGANDS WERE TERRORIZING THE FRENCH COUNTRYSIDE.

In July 1789, amid the widespread fear and instability on the eve of the French revolution, rumors spread that the anti-revolutionary nobility had planted brigands (robbers) to terrorize the peasants and steal their stores of food. Lights from furnaces, bonfires, and even the reflection of the setting sun were sometimes taken to be signs of brigands, with panic as the predictable result. Provincial towns and villages formed militias in response to the rumors, even though, as historian Georges Lefebvre put it, “the populace scared themselves.” In one typical incident, near Troyes on July 24, 1789, a group of brigands were supposedly spotted heading into some woods; an alarm was sounded and 3000 men gave chase. The “brigands” turned out to be a herd of cattle.

5. GERMAN-AMERICANS WERE PLOTTING SNEAK ATTACKS ON CANADA.

Officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police marching in a Canada Day parade
iStock

Canada entered World War I in 1914, three years before the United States did. During the gap period, rumors circulated that German-Americans sympathetic to their country of origin were planning surprise attacks on Canada. One of the worst offenders of such rumor-mongering, according to authors Bartholomew and Hassall, was British consul-general Sir Courtenay Bennett, then stationed in New York. In the early months of 1915, Bennett made “several sensational claims about a plan in which as many as 80,000 well-armed, highly trained Germans who had been drilling in Niagara Falls and Buffalo, New York, were planning to invade Canada from northwestern New York state.” Bizarre as it may sound, there was so much anxiety and suspicion during the period that Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden requested a report on the story, which the Canadian police commissioner determined to be without any foundation whatsoever.

6. THE INDONESIAN GOVERNMENT WAS HUNTING HEADS FOR CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS.

In certain parts of Indonesia, locals reportedly believe—or once did—that large-scale construction projects require human heads to keep the structures from crumbling. In 1937, one island was home to a spate of rumors saying that a tjoelik (government-sanctioned headhunter) was looking for a head to place near a local jetty construction project. Locals reported strange noises and sights, houses pelted with stones, and attacks from tjoelik wielding nooses or cowboy lassos. Similar rumors surfaced in 1979 in Indonesian Borneo, when government agents were supposedly seeking a head for a new bridge project, and in 1981 in Southern Borneo, when the government headhunters supposedly needed heads to stabilize malfunctioning equipment in nearby oil fields. Terrified townspeople began curtailing their activities so as not to be in public any longer than necessary, although the rumors eventually died down.

7. POWERFUL APHRODISIAC GUM WENT ON SALE IN THE MIDDLE EAST.

An assortment of sticks of pink bubble gum
iStock

In the mid-1990s, the Middle East was home to some alarming rumors about aphrodisiacal gum. In 1996 in Mansoura, Egypt, stories began spreading that students at the town’s university had purchased gum deliberately spiked with an aphrodisiac and were having orgies as a result. One local member of parliament said the gum had been distributed by the Israeli government as part of a plot to corrupt Egyptian youth. Mosque loudspeakers began warning people to avoid the gum, which was supposedly sold under the names “Aroma” or “Splay.” Authorities closed down some shops and made arrests, but never did find any tainted gum. Similar rumors cropped up the following year in the Gaza Strip, this time featuring a strawberry gum that turned women into prostitutes—supposedly, the better to convince them to become Shin Bet informants for the Israeli military.

8. SORCERERS WERE PLAGUING INDONESIA.

In the fall of 1998, a sorcerer scare in East Java, Indonesia, resulted in the deaths of several villagers. The country was in crisis, and while protests raged in major cities, some in the rural area of Banyuwangi began agitating for restitution for past wrongs allegedly committed by sorcerers. The head of the local district ordered authorities to move the suspected sorcerers to a safe location, a process that included a check-in at the local police station. Unfortunately, villagers took the suspects’ visits to police stations as proof of their sorcery and began killing them. Anthropologists who studied the incident said the stories of supposed sorcery—making neighbors fall sick, etc.—were based entirely on rumor and gossip.

9. OBAMA WAS INJURED BY A WHITE HOUSE EXPLOSION.

These days, rumors have advanced technology to help them travel. On April 23, 2013, a fake tweet from a hacked Associated Press account claimed that explosions at the White House had injured Barack Obama. That lone tweet caused instability on world financial markets, and the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index lost $130 billion in a short period. Fortunately, it quickly recovered. (Eagle-eyed journalists were suspicious of the tweet from the beginning, since it didn’t follow AP style of referring to the president with his title and capitalizing the word breaking.)

An earlier version of this story ran in 2015.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios