On This Day, January 12th
1. 1926: The Sam ‘n’ Henry show debut on Chicago radio
One of the most popular radio programs of all time made its debut on this date in 1926, although not under a name most people would recognize. Sam ‘n’ Henry debuted on Chicago’s WGN radio station and was an immediate hit. However the real success came roughly two years later when the show moved to a different station and was forced to change the name due to WGN owning rights to Sam ‘n’ Henry. So Charles Carrell and Freeman Godsen, the creators and stars of the show, simply changed the name to Amos ‘n’ Andy instead. The show told the story of two black men from the Deep South that moved up to Chicago to pursue their dreams of becoming wealthy. Even though Carrell and Godsen played the characters of two black men, they were actually white actors that previously worked doing “blackface” comedy acts. Over the next 22 years, Amos ‘n’ Andy would eventually become the highest rated radio program of all time. By the 1950’s, attitudes regarding race and racism started to change and when Amos ‘n’ Andy was brought to television in 1951, the practice of “blackface” was virtually non-existent. So it was decided the show would feature an all-black cast, which was the only one of its kind at the time. The TV show didn’t have nearly the success of radio show; it received so much criticism from African-American advocacy groups like the NAACP that it was canceled by 1953.
2. 1904: Henry Ford sets a land speed record on ice
Less than eight months after incorporating the Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford set a land speed record on this date in 1904 with a top speed of 91.37mph. The vehicle he used was dubbed the “999”, which had no bodywork and featured a wooden chassis. The record took place on the frozen Lake St. Clair in Michigan, which makes the record even more impressive considering it was accomplished on the ice. The main purpose of the record was to provide publicity for his new company. Even though his record was broken just a few weeks later by William Vanderbilt on Ormand Beach in Florida, the publicity surrounding Ford’s achievements proved to be incredibly valuable.
3. 2010: Haiti devastated by massive earthquake
Just before 5 p.m. on this date in 2010, the Caribbean island of Haiti was devastated by an earthquake that had a magnitude of 7.0, which was the strongest quake to hit the area in the last 200 years. More than 895,000 people were left homeless, and according to reports there were said to be as many as 200,000 casualties. The heavily populated city of Port-au-Prince was essentially reduced to a pile of rubble. Not only were numerous homes destroyed, but also large buildings such as hospitals, churches, and schools collapsed. Roads were blocked by debris so survivors were not able to evacuate, nor could rescue personal reach the people in need. At the time of the quake, Haiti was the poorest country in the western hemisphere with more than 80% of its residents living in poverty. Luckily there was a large-scale international relief operation led by the United States that provided much-needed assistance in time of great need.