In 1926, Harry Houdini did not have a happy Halloween. The world-famous magician and escape artist died on October 31, 1926, at the age of 52. The man who appeared to cheat death countless times died of peritonitis, the last in a month-long series of injuries and ailments that included a ruptured appendix — the result of surprise punches to his stomach from a McGill University student. This week, On Remand looks back at The Great Houdini and the cases of two magicians who used the legal system to try to take their secrets to the grave…
One hundred years ago yesterday, Martha, the last passenger pigeon, died at the age of twenty-nine in the Cincinnati Zoo. This week, On Remand looks back at the fate of the passenger pigeon, the legal implications of efforts to resurrect the bird and other extinct species, and the courtroom drama over a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton.
Passenger pigeons once numbered in the billions and were the most abundant bird in the United States. Seventeenth century observers reported “countless numbers” of passenger pigeons whose massive flocks took hours to pass overhead. But by the early 1900s, no passenger pigeons remained in the wild. Habitat loss due to deforestation and overhunting hastened the species’ rapid decline. (The sport of trapshooting originally used live passenger pigeons, but later adopted clay pigeons due to the decline and extinction of the bird.) Recognizing the plight of the passenger pigeon and humanity’s role in causing it, late 19th century conservationists and lawmakers made efforts to protect and repopulate the species. But it was too late…
On August 7, 1782, near the end of the American Revolution, General George Washington created the Badge of Military Merit, the precursor to the Purple Heart. Today, the Purple Heart is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who are wounded or killed in action. This week, On Remand looks back at the Purple Heart’s evolution, and the stories of two men who proudly wore the medal. But had they earned it?
Breaking with the European practice of honoring only high-ranking officers, General Washington recognized that in America “the road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is… open to all.” So, Washington created the “Badge of Military Merit” for remarkable or extraordinarily loyal soldiers. Per Washington’s instructions, the badge depicted a purple heart with lace trimming to be worn over the left breast. After the Revolutionary War, however, the award faded away.
In 1932, to commemorate Washington’s 200th birthday, General Douglas MacArthur revived the Badge of Military Merit as the “Purple Heart.” At that time, injury in battle was just one consideration in awarding the Purple Heart. Later, to distinguish it from another award, physical injury became the Purple Heart’s sole requirement. Yet, some have worn the medal without meeting that requirement….
Forty-five years ago yesterday, on July 20, 1969, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Neil Armstrong stepped into history. Shortly before 11 p.m. Eastern time, the pair emerged from their landing craft, the Eagle, and became the first men to set foot on the moon. This week, On Remand looks back at that “one giant leap for mankind” and two space suits: the cases of the missing moon rock and the unidentified Martian matter.
Of the twenty-one hours Aldrin and Armstrong stayed on the moon, only two and a half were spent exploring the moon’s surface. After transmitting “the Eagle has landed” to the relief and exuberance of NASA mission control, the men did not impulsively charge from the Eagle like the Griswolds from their station wagon at Walley World. More than six hours passed before Aldrin and Armstrong opened the Eagle’s door and stretched their legs. What were they doing?
Yesterday, Krispy Kreme celebrated its 77th birthday. The popular doughnut chain opened its doors on July 13, 1937, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. And what goes better with doughnuts than coffee? Cops. This week, On Remand looks back at Krispy Kreme’s history and a half-dozen cases involving doughnuts and cops, including the strange tale of a man who held a Krispy Kreme truck for ransom.
The Krispy Kreme we know today began in the 1930s when New Orleanian Joe LeBeau moved to Kentucky and sold his secret recipe and the name “Krispy Kreme” to a local, who hired his nephew, Vernon Rudolph, to sell the doughnuts door-to-door. By 1937, Rudolph and a friend had moved to Winston-Salem and opened the first Krispy Kreme doughnut factory. Although the pair set out to sell doughnuts to grocery stores, a new marketing ploy quickly revealed itself: human weakness. People passing the factory could not resist the delicious doughnut smell, and wanted to buy them hot off the press. Vernon obliged, cutting a hole in the outside wall to sell fresh glazed doughnuts directly to people on the street.
Today, Krispy Kreme operates nearly 900 stores in 24 countries. But, like its founders intended, Krispy Kreme continues to sell doughnuts to grocery and convenience stores. Over the years, deliveries to these stores have made Krispy Kreme trucks an easy target for thieves. One Michigan man may take the cake doughnut for the most comically unsuccessful Krispy Kreme truck theft.
Five years ago yesterday, Eastman Kodak took our Kodachrome away. On June 22, 2009, the company announced that, after seventy-four years of production, it would no longer make Kodachrome, the world’s first successful color film. This week, On Remand looks back at the camera film that gave us those nice bright colors and greens of summers, Kodak’s antitrust battles, a sordid suit involving Penthouse magazine photos, and a law student’s $100,000 case over two missing rolls of film.
After Kodachrome’s release in 1935, photographers quickly adopted it. No previous film had portrayed color as realistically as Kodachrome. As the film choice of professional and amateur photographers alike, Kodachrome captured key moments in vivid color: the Hindenburg explosion in 1936, Tenzing Norgay at the top of Everest in 1953, President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, Don Draper’s wedding day. But by 2009, even Steve McCurry, the photographer chosen by Kodak to receive the last roll of Kodachrome film, had switched to digital. When McCurry — who captured the famous “Afghan Girl” photo for National Geographic magazine using Kodachrome film — finished the last roll, he hand-delivered it to the only place in the U.S. that could develop it: Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas….
“Are you troubled by strange noises in the middle of the night? Do you experience feelings of dread in your basement or attic? Have you or your family ever seen a spook, spectre, or ghost?” If you recognize those movie lines then perhaps you know that yesterday marked the 30th anniversary of the release of Ghostbusters. The movie starred Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis as three ousted Columbia parapsychology professors who start a supernatural elimination business. Joined by a fourth crusader (Ernie Hudson), the Ghostbusters save New York City from a ghoulish invasion unleashed when a meddling EPA agent shuts down their ghost containment system. This week, On Remand looks back at Ghostbusters, the lawsuits it generated, and the case of one man who needed a Ghostbuster, but called a lawyer instead.
“We knocked the bastard off!” Edmund Hillary exclaimed on May 29, 1953, after descending from the summit of Mount Everest with his climbing partner, Tenzing Norgay. Sixty-one years ago today, the two men were the first to reach Everest’s summit — or perhaps the first to live to tell the tale. This week, On Remand looks back at Hillary and Norgay’s achievement, and the legal ramifications of less successful climbers who’ve followed in their footsteps — on Everest and elsewhere.
On today’s date in 1998, the series finale of “Seinfeld” aired to an estimated 76 million viewers. “Seinfeld” lasted nine seasons, ranking in the top three of the Nielsen ratings for its last five, and is widely considered one of the greatest television shows of all time. Its success continues in syndication. Post-finale, “Seinfeld” has generated $3.1 billion in revenues for its creators and rights holders. This week, On Remand looks back at the show about nothing everything, a lawsuit about the origin of the character George Costanza, and cases that echo “Seinfeld” plots….