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This Day in Pop Culture for January 1

Polar Bear Plunge

1902: Polar Bear Plungers

It is believed that winter swimming began in South Boston as early as 1865 and was probably introduced by European immigrants who believed that cold water plunges that were followed by saunas or steam bathers, were good for a person’s health. During the summer months, those who visited the L Street Bathhouse became known as the “Brownies” because of their deep tans. In 1902, The L Street Brownies became of the oldest clubs in the U.S. becoming famous for their annual New Year’s Day Plunge in Dorchester Bay. In recent years, the city expects to see over 600 people taking the plunge. Other cities that hold their own versions include Seattle, WA; Evergreen, Colorado; New York and Lake George, NY; Milwaukee, WI and Dartmouth, NH. (Image: Wikimedia/

1971: The Last Cigarette TV Ad

In 1969, tobacco was known as the single largest product advertised on TV, but after the U.S. surgeon general released an official report linking cigarette smoking to low birth weight, Congress signed the Cigarette Smoking Act. The act required cigarette manufacturers to place warning “cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health” labels on their products. But it wasn’t enough. On April1, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed legislation to ban cigarette advertising on TV and radio. The ban wouldn’t take effect until the new year. The cigarette brand that appealed to women, Virginia Slims was the last cigarette ad to be advertised on TV which appeared during The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson on this day in 1971. (Image: Wikimedia)

1890: The First Tournament of Roses Parade

The members of Pasadena’s Valley Hunt club staged the very first Rose Parade on this day way back in 1890. A lot of these members had moved over from the Midwest or the East Coast and just wanted to show off their new home’s mild climate. They decorated horse-drawn carriages with flowers and celebrated with foot races and tug-of-war competitions which were later dubbed the Tournament of Roses. In 1900, ostrich races and a race between a camel and an elephant was added to the festivities. Two years later, the Tournament East-West Football Game (aka the first Rose Bowl) was held. The second Rose Bowl didn’t come about until 1916, but it started a yearly tradition. (Image: Pixabay)

Birth of a Nation

1915: ‘The Birth of a Nation’

Think that movies are controversial now? How about in 1915 when Hollywood’s first blockbuster was born? The silent movie, The Clansman, later renamed as The Birth of a Nation, was shown to an audience on New Year’s Day in 1915. The D. W. Griffith movie was controversial as it included a scene of the assassination of President Lincoln and was seemingly used to promote the Ku Klux Klan. It also featured white actors playing the roles of African-American men in blackface. Many feel that Griffith glamorized the KKK and The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People published a pamphlet that describes the film as “three miles of filth.” In fact, the film was later used as a recruiting tool for the KKK. It was also the first motion picture to be viewed at the White House, which is ironic in itself. Some say that despite the negative content of the film, it shows unique film techniques that caused it to be considered an important film in the commercial film industry. Go figure. (Image: Wikipedia)

Movies Released

  • Birth of a Nation (1915)
  • Solstice (2008)

TV Series Debuts

  • Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993)
  • Spinning Out (2020)
  • The Baby-Sitters Club (1990)
  • The Mick (2017)

Famous Birthdays

  • 1580: John Smith (explorer)
  • 1735: Paul Revere (red coat spotter)
  • 1752: Betsy Ross (flag maker)
  • 1864: George Washington Carver (botanist)
  • 1969: Vern Toyer (actor)

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Jeffrey Totey View All

I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.

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