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Danecdotes: This week in less-discussed history

Benjamin West [Public domain] Benjamin West, American Commissioners of the Preliminary Peace Agreement with Great Britain, 1783-1784, London, England. (oil on canvas, unfinished sketch), Winterthur Museum, Winterthur, Delaware, gift of Henry Francis du Pont. From left to right: John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens, and William Temple Franklin. The British commissioners refused to pose, and the picture was never finished.

I haven't exactly been secretive about my fondness for history over the past few years. I've loved the subject since I was young, so much so that I decided to major and earn a degree in the subject.

That said, I don't get many chances to use the history aspects of my knowledge. My wife and family members aren't particularly interested in history, and my job doesn't usually call for me to take a deep dive into the past. For those reasons, let's talk history here and now.

For some reason, this week is rife with historical events, but instead of focusing on some of the very prominent ones - Columbine, the Titanic, the Bay of Pigs, the Oklahoma City bombing, the recent fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral (a lot of bad stuff happened this week in history) - I'm going to talk about a few of the less-talked-about moments that occurred this week throughout time.

April 15

1947: Jackie Robinson plays in his first major league baseball game.

Sure, the story of Jackie Robinson is often told, rightfully so, but that story really begins here as the man's first game in the MLB came 72 years ago this week.

While he faced plenty of adversity in his early games, when Robinson made his debut at the relatively old age of 28, more than half the crowd at Ebbets Field for his first game was black. He didn't get a hit in his first game, but got on base by walking and managed to score a run. So began the Hall of Fame career for one of the most important athletes in history.

April 17

2011: "Game of Thrones" premieres on HBO.

Obviously, this is by far the least significant thing I'll talk about in this piece, but this enthralling, convoluted and shockingly violent TV show was at the time and remains as much a part of the cultural zeitgeist of this decade as "Dallas" was in its time, or "Cheers," "The Sopranos" or "I Love Lucy."

This is also pertinent because the final season of the show premiered this past weekend and apparently was the series' most watched episode to date. Love it or hate it, it is very much a part of our culture.

April 18

1783: Fighting ceases in the American Revolution.

Again, the Revolution is well-tread territory in American history, but on this day - one day short of eight years since the fighting began - the violence stopped.

History nerds like myself tend to fixate on war, which is understandable as war is often a sort of historical turning point - power changes hands and economies wax and wane. However, while we often discuss when the violence begins and just how violent events become, we don't talk enough about the most important day in every war: the day the violence ends.

Just a few months after this day, the warring parties signed the Treaty of Paris, with Great Britain officially acknowledging the independence and sovereignty of the United State.

April 21

1918: "The Red Baron" is shot down and killed in France.

I think most of our experience with "the Red Baron" has to do either with Snoopy or pizza. The Baron, however was a real man named Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, and back when planes were about as durable as oversized pinatas, this man flew over active war zones and is credited with 80 air combat victories.

He was shot down and killed just six months before the end of World War I at age 25.

So there you have it. If you made it this far, thanks for letting me nerd out a bit.

Dan Determan

Staff Writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper.

(218) 855-5879