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This Day in Pop Culture for March 14


1920: The Father of Dennis the Menace is Born

Born on this day in Seattle, Washington, Henry King Ketcham was inspired to become an artist at the age of sis. Hank’s father had an illustrator over for dinner one night and showed Hank his “magic pencil” which he drew a few pictures for the boy. Hank’s dad set up a drawing desk in Hank’s bedroom closet. He attended the University of Washington, but dropped out during his first year hitchhiking to Los Angeles with dreams of working in animation. He got his wish starting out working for Walter Lantz and then Walt Disney. Ketcham had a hand in the making of Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi and some Donald Duck cartoons. He created his first comic strip, Half Hitch, while he was in the Navy during World War II. It ran in The Saturday Evening Post.

In 1951, having settled in with a wife and child after the war, he was inspired to create his second comic series. His four-year-old son, Dennis was on his wife’s last nerve when she declared, “Your son is a menace” after destroying his bedroom instead of napping. In about five months, Dennis the Menace was appearing in 16 different newspapers. By the middle of 1951, that number jumped to 193 newspapers in the U.S. alone with 52 more in other countries amounting to about 30 million readers. He retired in 1994 and passed away in 2001 when over 1,000 newspapers worldwide were caring his comic. Though Hank is gone, his Dennis comic continues on.

2009: National Pi Day

Today is National Pi Day. Celebrated on 14th day of the third month (recognizing the numbers of pi: 3:14), the first National Pi Day (or at least the largest event held on the day up to that point) was celebrated on this day in 1988. The event was held at the San Francisco Exploratorium and was organized by Larry Shaw. Today the event is celebrated by math enthusiasts and pie lovers and oftentimes, both. Years later in 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution recognizing March 14, 2009 as National Pi Day.

1879: Albert Einstein is Born

Albert Einstein was born to a Jewish family on this day in Ulm, Kingdom of Württemberg, German Empire in 1879. He is known for developing the general theory of relativity and for creating “the world’s most famous equation” (E=mc2). In 1921, Einstein received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics for his “services to theoretical physics.” He had become a professor at the Berlin Academy of Science in Germany when he visited the U.S. While here, Adolf Hitler came to power in his homeland. Einstein never went back. He became an American citizen in 1940. He alerted President Franklin D. Roosevelt  about new “extremely powerful bombs of a new kind” and later with the philosopher Bertrand Russell, signed the Russell–Einstein Manifesto, which spoke of the danger of nuclear weapons. Einstein passed away in 1955. To this day, no one knows who his hair stylist was.

1991: Howard Ashman Passes Away

It is sort of ironic that the boy who would play role of Aladdin for the Children’s Theater Association would later become the man writing lyrics for Disney’s animated Aladdin many years later. Howard Ashman moved from his hometown in Indiana in 1974 to New York taking a job working as an editor at Grosset & Dunlap. By 1977, he wrote as least three plays and became the artistic director of the WPA Theater where he met composer Alan Menken during a workshop. Their first musical production, Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater was created in 1979 followed by the musical comedy, Little Shop of Horrors which premiered in 1982. It was later turned into a film in 1986 in which Ashman wrote the screenplay. That same year, Ashman was asked by Disney to write some lyrics for the animated film Oliver & Company. This led to The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin which came out in 1992. Sadly, Ashman never saw the finished product as he had passed away on this day in 1991.

Birthdays

  • 1914: Lee Petty (race car driver)
  • 1920: Hank Ketcham (cartoonist)
  • 1933: Quincy Jones (singer)
  • 1938: Jan Crouch (televangelist)
  • 1948: Billy Crystal (actor)
  • 1950: Rick Dees (radio host)
  • 1965: Kevin Williamson (director)
  • 1997: Simone Biles (Olympic gymnast)

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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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