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Archive for February 15th, 2010

…this one’s for the birds

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Washington, whose actual birthday is on February 22, would have avoided shopping on this holiday- I would think.

Have no doubt that the American Augustus had significant material aspirations and enjoyed a lifestyle that could only be maintained by a subjugate army of slaves, but I’d like to believe that he would be resistant to having his birthday celebrated with a crass and consumerist bacchanal.

I like to think he’d be embarrassed, but as I’m a non-slaver, it’s difficult for me to imagine the mindset of the “founding fathers”.

from wikipedia

Titled Washington’s Birthday, the federal holiday was originally implemented by the United States Congress in 1880 for government offices in the District of Columbia (20 Stat. 277) and expanded in 1885 to include all federal offices (23 Stat. 516). As the first federal holiday to honor an American citizen, the holiday was celebrated on Washington’s actual birthday, February 22. On 1 January 1971, the federal holiday was shifted to the third Monday in February by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This date places it between February 15 and 21, which makes the name “Washington’s Birthday” a misnomer, since it never lands on Washington’s actual birthday, February 22. A draft of the Uniform Holidays Bill of 1968 would have renamed the holiday to Presidents’ Day to honor the birthdays of both Washington and Lincoln, but this proposal failed in committee and the bill as voted on and signed into law on 28 June 1968, kept the name Washington’s Birthday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

February 15th is also Susan B. Anthony‘s birthday, who is at least as important to our republic as its founder. If Washington was indeed Augustus, Anthony was Trajan. Speaking of pagan times, incidentally, today is the third day of Lupercalia – a Roman spring cleaning ritual that is also known as Februa. The particular deity of this ancient rite is Februus– an Etruscan god of malaria- although its the ritual that lends its name to the calendrical month, not the god.

Closer to home, February 15th is also the birthday of a man who sired one of Astoria’s most important families– Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg.

from wikipedia

Because of the unstable political climate in Germany, Steinweg decided to leave the country. He emigrated from Braunschweig to New York City in 1851 with four of his sons, but before leaving he gave the company to his son, Theodor Steinweg. Once in New York, he anglicized his name to Henry E. Steinway, and he and his sons worked for other piano companies until they could establish their own production under the name of Steinway & Sons in 1853.

The overstrung scale in a square piano earned the Steinway Piano first prize at the New York Industrial Fair of 1855.[3] In 1862 they gained the first prize in London in competition with the most eminent makers in Europe; and this victory was followed in 1867 by a similar success at the Universal exposition in Paris. According to Franz Liszt, Anton Rubinstein, and other high authorities, the Steinways have done more to advance the durability, action, and tone-quality of their instruments than any other makers of Europe or America.

He and his wife, Juliane, had seven children: Albert Steinway, Charles H. Steinway, Christian Friedrich Theodor Steinweg, Doretta Steinway, Henry Steinway, Jr., Wilhelmina Steinway and William Steinway.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 15, 2010 at 3:03 pm

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