April is the fourth month of the year. But did you know that it used to be the fifth month? Back in the day, around 45 BC, Julius Caesar fiddled with the calendar a bit and created what closely resembles the Gregorian calendar we use today. He added an extra day to April, making the month 30 days long instead of the 29 it had previously. Check out these other facts we uncovered about April.
A little bit of foolishness
It’s no secret that April 1 is known as April Fools’ Day. What may surprise you is that the day’s history goes back quite far. Some believe that the origin of April Fools’ Day began in 1582 when France made the switch to the Gregorian calendar, thus moving the beginning of the year from the spring equinox to January 1. It’s said that those who were slow to accept the change were ridiculed and called “April fools.”
Other historians say that the roots of April Fools’ Day may lie in the ancient Roman celebration Hilaria or “the cheerful ones.” Those looking to celebrate Hilaria honored Cybele by dressing in disguise. It is said they also mocked other citizens.
As American as…Twinkies
One of America’s most famous snack cakes in kitchens across the country wasn’t even the first treat the bakery made. On April 6, 1930, a baker at Continental Baking Company named James Dewar invented the Twinkie.
Dewar had noticed that the machines, which usually made the company’s strawberry shortcake treats, weren’t running when strawberries weren’t in season. In an effort to get them going, Dewar dreamed up a yellow snack cake filled with banana cream and thus, the Twinkie was born.
Contrary to popular folklore, Twinkies will NOT stay fresh through the apocalypse as they only have a 25-day shelf life. So, be sure to check the best-by date the next time you organize your pantry.
Stamp of approval
The postage stamp was introduced in Great Britain in 1840. Nearly a century later on April 7, 1940, The United State Post Office Department issued a stamp to honor Booker T. Washington. It was the first stamp to honor an African American.
Washington was an educator as well as a founder of Alabama’s Tuskegee Normal Industrial School (later named Tuskegee Institute). His influence and legacy prompted supporters to urge for his recognition. After receiving petitions from Washington’s supporters, President Franklin D. Roosevelt directed that Washington was to be considered for the Famous Americans Series of stamps.
Hammerin’ Hank vs. The Great Bambino
Professional baseball has seen many greats over the years, one of the most notable names that comes to mind is Babe Ruth. With an all-time home run record of 714 homers, Babe “The Great Bambino” Ruth was the greatest hitter of his era. His record held up until Hank Aaron took a swing at it.
On April 8, 1974, Hank Aaron became the new Sultan of Swat when he hit his 715th career home run. Aaron played through 1976 and retired with 755 home runs in his career. While Barry Bonds broke Aaron’s all-time run record in 2007, his career total RBI record remains safely intact at 2,297 runs batted in.
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Out of this world
Man walked on the moon in 1969, but the first American astronauts were announced long before that. NASA announced its inaugural astronauts on April 9, 1959, and they soon became known as the “Mercury Seven.” The group included: Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Scott Carpenter, Deke Slayton and Gordon Cooper.
The men were selected from a group of 32 military test pilots and were to man the country’s first space program. Shepard made a successful suborbital flight and at age 47, as part of the Apollo 14 mission, he became the oldest astronaut to walk on the moon. Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth and later became the oldest person to go to space in 1998 at the age of 77.
May I have the definition, please
The words and definitions Americans use today were catalogued by one Noah Webster. Yes, one half of the Merriam-Webster whose dictionary is probably sitting on your bookshelf.
Back in 1828, on April 14, Noah Webster published “An American Dictionary of the English Language.” If he were alive today, Webster might enjoy the text slang we use, like LOL and OMG, as he had a penchant for shortening words. Among Webster’s suggested revisions were tung (tongue) and fether (feather). While those suggestions didn’t take, American society did catch on to his theatre/theater and colour/color modifications.
Can you see me now
Before Zoom there was Skype, and before Skype there was the AT&T Picturephone. Okay, maybe there were a few other ways to video call in between the last two.
Bell Labs began researching video calling as early as the 1930s. However, the experimental version produced in this era proved to be costly and impractical for everyday use. Over the years, AT&T’s Bell Labs continued to develop videophones leading up to the release of the company’s Picturephone Mod I.
The Picturephone Mod I was put on public display for evaluation. The first transcontinental videocall was made April 20, 1964, when a call was placed between a Picturephone housing at Disneyland and another at the New York World’s Fair.
Happy birthday to the Bard
William Shakespeare was born April 23, 1564. Not much is known about Shakespeare’s life during “The Lost Years” before he established his reputation in London in 1592. He is one of the most famous playwrights in history, penning 38 plays, 154 sonnets and several poems. At exactly 52 years old Shakespeare died where he was born, in Stratford-upon-Avon, on April 23, 1616.
One of his most popular plays, “Romeo and Juliet,” has been adapted to film 34 times. But, if you’re looking for something with a little less iambic pentameter, give one of these re-imaginings a watch: “10 Things I Hate About You” (“The Taming of the Shrew”), “She’s the Man” (“Twelfth Night”) or “The Lion King” (“Hamlet”).
No late fees here
Ever dream of having a massive home library à la Belle in “Beauty and the Beast”? Or maybe Arthur Read and his friends taught you “having fun isn’t hard, when you’ve got a library card,” through a jazzy musical number. Either way, take some time out on April 24 to celebrate the birthday of the Library of Congress.
America’s founders were avid readers and as such, when the national government moved from Philadelphia to Washington, Congress would need to have access to a library. On April 24, 1800, President John Adams approved $5,000 to be spent on books for Congress to use.
Since then, the Library of Congress has grown into the largest library in the world. As of 2020, the library contains 171,636,507 items in its collections. Among the collections are more than 40 million cataloged books, materials in 470 languages and one of the three perfect copies of the Gutenberg Bible.
Young but mighty
If your knowledge of Joan of Arc comes from watching “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” you and I are in the same boat. But there is more to young Joan than discovering a love for aerobics. In real life, she was a peasant who rose to lead the French army and later became a saint.
It is said that Joan heard voices of saints telling her to help the dauphin, Charles, expel the English from France. Believing in Joan’s purpose, Charles gave her aide. On April 29, 1429, 17-year-old Joan led troops to relieve the city of Orléans, reigniting the French to resist the siege on the city leading to the English retreat a little more than a week later.
After leading several expeditions, Joan was captured, sold to the English and tried as a heretic and witch. Convicted of said heresy, she was burned at the stake in 1431. Twenty years later, King Charles VII ordered a new trial which cleared her name. In 1920, the Roman Catholic Church recognized Joan of Arc as a Christian saint, though she had been a symbol of French unity for centuries.
We hope these April facts have you feeling less foolish this month. And if you’re looking for a way to become more knowledgeable about financing a home, let the experts at PrimeLending help you go into your homeownership journey prepared. We can help you get prequalified* for a loan so you know how much home you can afford and narrow down your search.
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