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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: Cigarette Ads are Banned on TV.

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.

Birth of a Nation


  • 1735: Paul Revere
  • 1752: Betsy Ross
  • 1969: Vern Troyer (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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