Joshua Moore // Getty Images
Joshua Moore // Getty Images

10 Famous Birthdays to Celebrate in November

Joshua Moore // Getty Images
Joshua Moore // Getty Images

Some of history's greatest pioneers and artists were born in the month of November. We couldn't possibly name them all, but here are just a handful whose lives we'll be celebrating.

1. DANIEL BOONE: NOVEMBER 2, 1734

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Frontiersman Daniel Boone was born in Pennsylvania and died in Missouri, but he is most closely associated with the American West. As one of first folk heroes to emerge in American history, there's bound to be a few myths surrounding the man, one of which is his iconic coonskin cap. Renderings often show him donning the fur fashion, but the truth is, he simply never wore one. In fact, he reportedly hated them.

2. MARIE CURIE: NOVEMBER 7, 1867

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Marie Curie is best known for being a pioneer for women in sciences—and for being the first person ever (and only woman in history) to be awarded two Nobel Prizes. To this day, only four people have done it: Frederick Sanger, Linus Pauling, John Bardeen and Curie. Born in Poland, she studied physics and math at the Sorbonne in France, where she married Professor Pierre Curie. Together, they studied radiation and radioactive materials, and won a joint Nobel Prize in Physics for their research in 1903. Following the death of Pierre in 1906, Marie fell in love with one of her students—a married man. Their love letters were leaked to to the press, and her paramour challenged the newspaper editor to a duel to defend Curie's honor. While the scandal raged in France, Curie was awarded her second Nobel Prize, this one in chemistry, for her work with radium and polonium. 

3. CARL SAGAN: NOVEMBER 9, 1934

Carl Sagan was an astronomy professor at Cornell University and a consultant for NASA, but he was best known for inspiring the public with his reverence for the universe around us—and explaining it all in an easy-to-understand way. He was a bestselling author (he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1977 for The Dragons of Eden), and his 1980 PBS series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage is still among the most popular and widely-watched PBS series of all time. And while Sagan certainly wanted to communicate the enormity of the universe to the public, he never actually said the phrase "billions and billions." That catchphrase came from his friend Johnny Carson, who spoofed Sagan in a 1980 Tonight Show skit.

4. GRACE KELLY: NOVEMBER 12, 1929

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Grace Kelly starred in 11 high-profile movies and several more television shows between 1950 and 1956, and in that brief time, left quite an impression on the pop culture universe. But the actress gave up her Hollywood career to marry Prince Rainier III of Monaco, after which she became Her Serene Highness, Princess Grace of Monaco. In 1962, Alfred Hitchcock managed to convince her to come out of retirement to star in his film Marnie, but the people of Monaco weren't thrilled with the idea. Kelly soon dropped out of the cast, citing scheduling conflicts. She died two decades later following a one-car accident in France.

5. GEORGIA O'KEEFFE: NOVEMBER 15, 1887

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Georgia O'Keeffe was a dedicated artist from an early age; she was well known in the New York art scene even before she became obsessed with New Mexico in the late '20s. O'Keeffe moved there permanently in 1949, and produced a huge body of work focusing on the flowers and landscapes of the American West. She even modified her Model-A Ford to use as a painter's studio so she could paint outside without being exposed to the sun. The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe has over 240 of her oil paintings, watercolors, and sculptures.   

6. ALAN SHEPARD: NOVEMBER 18, 1923


One of NASA's original Mercury astronauts, Alan Shepard went down in history as the first American in space when he rode the Freedom 7 spacecraft to an altitude of 116 miles on May 5, 1961 (in a pee-soaked suit, no less). The 15-minute trip was preserved on film, and today, you can virtually ride along with Shepard 55 years after the fact. Shepard also walked on the moon as part of the Apollo 14 mission in 1971.

7. GEORGE ELIOT: NOVEMBER 22, 1819

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British author George Eliot was born Mary Ann Evans, but she adopted the male pen name so her work would be taken seriously—a valid concern in the Victorian era, when women authors were expected to stick to romance novels. Additionally, Evans wanted her literary efforts to be separate from her work as an editor and literary critic. She ultimately penned seven novels in all (along with short stories and poetry), including Middlemarch and Silas Marner. It wasn't until after the publication of 1859's Adam Bede that she came forward with her true identity after an imposter tried to claim credit for the work.

8. CHARLES SCHULZ: NOVEMBER 26, 1922

Orange County Archives via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Charles M. Schulz spent nearly 50 years drawing the adventures of Charlie Brown and his friends in the comic strip Peanuts. The simply-drawn young children with their grownup thoughts and conversations struck a chord with readers, and the ring of truth in the work made sense: Charlie Brown himself was a reflection of Schulz's own life, particularly his angst and difficulties with women. Schulz would never have retired if it weren't for health problems. He died of colon cancer just hours before his final Peanuts strip was distributed in the Sunday, February 13, 2000 newspapers.  

9. SOJOURNER TRUTH: 1797

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November 26 (1883) is actually Sojourner Truth's death day, but we're celebrating it among the birthdays because the abolitionist and women's rights activist's birth date is unknown. We do know she was probably born in 1797 in New York, named Isabella Baumfree, and grew up speaking Dutch as her first language. She escaped from her owner in 1826, taking her infant daughter with her, just one year before the state of New York freed all slaves. Baumfree had four other children, and soon after her escape, she learned that her five-year-old son had been sold illegally to a slaveholder in Alabama. In a landmark court case, she sued the man, and won. Baumfree changed her name to Sojourner Truth in 1843 and spent the rest of her life preaching, and campaigning for abolition and women's rights.

10. MARK TWAIN: NOVEMBER 30, 1835

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Samuel Langhorne Clemens worked as a typesetter, riverboat pilot on the Mississippi, miner, and journalist before he began writing novels under the pen name Mark Twain. His stories about the people he met along the way earned him the reputation as the world's foremost writer on American life at the turn of the 20th century. The infinitely quotable Twain said many memorable things, but some of his best known quotes are actually either paraphrased or misattributed. One thing he did say (which we can totally get behind): "Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.”

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4 Fascinating Facts About John Wayne
Fox Photos, Getty Images
Fox Photos, Getty Images

Most people know John Wayne, who would have been 111 years old today, for his cowboy persona. But there was much more to the Duke than that famous swagger. Here are a few facts about Duke that might surprise you.

1. A BODY SURFING ACCIDENT CHANGED HIS CAREER. 

John Wayne, surfer? Yep—and if he hadn’t spent a lot of time doing it, he may never have become the legend he did. Like many USC students, Wayne (then known as Marion Morrison) spent a good deal of his extracurricular time in the ocean. After he sustained a serious shoulder injury while bodysurfing, Morrison lost his place on the football team. He also lost the football scholarship that had landed him a spot at USC in the first place. Unable to pay his fraternity for room and board, Morrison quit school and, with the help of his former football coach, found a job as the prop guy at Fox Studios in 1927. It didn’t take long for someone to realize that Morrison belonged in front of a camera; he had his first leading role in The Big Trail in 1930.

2. HE TOOK HIS NICKNAME FROM HIS BELOVED FAMILY POOCH. 

Marion Morrison had never been fond of his feminine-sounding name. He was often given a hard time about it growing up, so to combat that, he gave himself a nickname: Duke. It was his dog’s name. Morrison was so fond of his family’s Airedale Terrier when he was younger that the family took to calling the dog “Big Duke” and Marion “Little Duke,” which he quite liked. But when he was starting his Hollywood career, movie execs decided that “Duke Morrison” sounded like a stuntman, not a leading man. The head of Fox Studios was a fan of Revolutionary War General Anthony Wayne, so Morrison’s new surname was quickly settled. After testing out various first names for compatibility, the group decided that “John” had a nice symmetry to it, and so John Wayne was born. Still, the man himself always preferred his original nickname. “The guy you see on the screen isn’t really me,” he once said. “I’m Duke Morrison, and I never was and never will be a film personality like John Wayne.”

3. HE WAS A CHESS FANATIC. 

Anyone who knew John Wayne personally knew what an avid chess player he was. He often brought a miniature board with him so he could play between scenes on set.

When Wayne accompanied his third wife, Pilar Pallete, while she played in amateur tennis tournaments, officials would stock a trailer with booze and a chess set for him. The star would hang a sign outside of the trailer that said, “Do you want to play chess with John Wayne?” and then happily spend the day drinking and trouncing his fans—for Wayne wasn’t just a fan of chess, he was good at chess. It’s said that Jimmy Grant, Wayne’s favorite screenwriter, played chess with the Duke for more than 20 years without ever winning a single match.

Other famous chess partners included Marlene Dietrich, Rock Hudson, and Robert Mitchum. During their match, Mitchum reportedly caught him cheating. Wayne's reply: "I was wondering when you were going to say something. Set 'em up, we'll play again."

4. HE COINED THE TERM "THE BIG C."

If you say you know someone battling “The Big C” these days, everyone immediately knows what you’re referring to. But no one called it that before Wayne came up with the term, evidently trying to make it less scary. Worried that Hollywood would stop hiring him if they knew how sick he was with lung cancer in the early 1960s, Wayne called a press conference in his living room shortly after an operation that removed a rib and half of one lung. “They told me to withhold my cancer operation from the public because it would hurt my image,” he told reporters. “Isn’t there a good image in John Wayne beating cancer? Sure, I licked the Big C.”

Wayne's daughter, Aissa Wayne, later said that the 1964 press conference was the one and only time she heard her father call it “cancer,” even when he developed cancer again, this time in his stomach, 15 years later. Sadly, Wayne lost his second battle with the Big C and died on June 11, 1979 at the age of 72.

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10 Crazy Facts About Willie Nelson
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Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Willie Nelson is one of the world’s most accomplished musicians—and not just in the country music world. Nelson’s talents transcend genre, and go far beyond music. Here are 10 things you might not know about the legendary outlaw country singer, who turns 85 years old today.

1. HE WROTE HIS FIRST SONG AT THE AGE OF SEVEN.

While other kids were still struggling to keep inside the lines of their coloring books, Nelson was composing music. He recalled the experience of his songwriting debut to Rolling Stone in 2004: “Back when we used to take music lessons from our grandmother, we'd go through lessons, and if we'd get the lesson right that day she'd take a gold star—a little star, about the size of your finger, with glue on one side—and she'd stick it on the sheet of music, which meant you'd done well. So I wrote this song with the line ‘They took a gold star away from me when you left me for another, long ago.’ I'd never been left by anybody, so it was kind of funny.”

2. HE USED TO BE A BIBLE SALESMAN.

Before he became a full-time musician in the mid-1950s, Nelson worked as a cotton picker (a gig he began as a child, working alongside his grandmother), disc jockey, and a Bible salesman.

3. HE RAN INTO A BURNING HOUSE (TO SAVE HIS POT).

While living in Nashville, Nelson arrived home one evening to discover that his house was burning to the ground. “By the time I got there, it was burning real good,” he told People in 1980. “But I had this pound of Colombian grass inside. I wasn't being brave running in there to get my dope—I was trying to keep the firemen from finding it and turning me over to the police.” One-hundred tapes of yet-to-be-recorded songs weren't as lucky as Nelson's stash; they were lost in the fire.

4. HE RETIRED IN 1972.

In 1972, Nelson paid $14,000 to buy out his contract so that he could retire to Austin, Texas. But his withdrawal from the music business didn’t last long. Especially considering how vibrant the music scene was happening all around him in Austin. Within a year, he was back on the charts with the album Shotgun Willie. By the mid-1970s he scored some of his biggest hits with a trio of albums: Red Headed Stranger, The Sound in Your Mind, and The Troublemaker.

5. HE HAS BEEN PLAYING THE SAME GUITAR FOR NEARLY 50 YEARS.

Nelson has been playing Trigger, his beloved guitar (which he named after Roy Rogers’ horse), since 1969. “I’ve got to take good care of Trigger,” Nelson told Uncut Magazine in 2014. “He’s had a couple of problems. We’ve had to go in and do some work on the inside, build up the woodwork in there a little bit over the years. But Trigger’s holding up pretty good.”

6. HE RECORDED THE IRS TAPES TO PAY OFF HIS TAX DEBT.

In 1990, the IRS raided Nelson’s house and seized his assets (everything except Trigger) for non-payment of taxes. The $32 million bill, one of the largest in IRS history, was eventually negotiated down and settled in a creative way: Nelson would record a new album with the IRS receiving at least 15 cents of every dollar made. The result was the limited-edition The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories, which sold for $19.95 on cassette or CD and was purchased by dialing 1-800-IRS-TAPE.

7. HE WROTE “ON THE ROAD AGAIN” ON A BARF BAG.

Nelson’s 1980 hit, “On The Road Again,” was written aboard an airplane—on a barf bag. “I was on an aeroplane with Sydney Pollack and Jerry Schatzberg, who was the director of the movie Honeysuckle Rose,” Nelson told Uncut in 2014. “They were looking for songs for the movie and they started asking me if I had any ideas. I said, ‘I don’t know, what do you want the song to say?’ I think Sydney said, ‘Can it be something about being on the road?’ It just started to click in my head. I said, ‘You mean like, ‘On the road again, I can’t wait to get on the road again?’ They said, ‘That’s great. What’s the melody?’ I said, ‘I don’t know yet.’”

8. HE PERFORMED "UP AGAINST THE WALL, REDNECK MOTHER” WITH ROSALYNN CARTER.

Former President Jimmy Carter has never made a secret of his admiration of Willie Nelson. And the two have shared a long friendship. On September 13, 1980, Nelson performed for Carter and guests at the White House—which included a duet of Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother” with then-First Lady Rosalynn Carter. (On various occasions, Nelson has recounted how he later made his way onto the roof of the White House and smoked a joint.) In 2012, the former President got his own chance to share the stage with the legendary musician when the two performed “Amazing Grace” together in Atlanta.

9. HE OWNS A BIODIESEL FIRM.

Nelson is much more than a musician—he’s a noted activist and entrepreneur, too. In 2004 he launched his own biodiesel firm, BioWillie Biodiesel.

10. HE’S A POT-REPRENEUR.

Nelson has hardly made a secret of regular marijuana use, or his support for its legalization. (His rap sheet of pot-related arrests certainly backs up those claims.) As more and more states are legalizing the once-outlawed weed, Nelson has put his expertise on the topic to good use, and launched his very own brand of pot: Willie’s Reserve.

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