Year
1926

James Merrill is born

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Merrill is born in New York . Merrill was the son of financier Charles Merrill, who founded the brokerage Merrill-Lynch. Merrill served as an Army infantryman during World War II and graduated from Amherst College in 1947. He became one of the most highly regarded poets of his time.

Merrill’s parents divorced in 1939. The divorce provided him with rich material for many poems, including “Broken Home.” Much of his work was autobiographical and explored his family relationships, privileged upbringing, and homosexuality. His poems appeared in Poetry and the Kenyon Review, and his debut book, First Poems, was published in 1951. Thanks to a large trust fund, Merrill traveled widely and owned houses in Greece and Connecticut.

In 1966, Merrill won the National Book Award for Nights and Days. A decade later, he published Divine Comedies, which won the 1977 Pulitzer Prize. Divine Comedies was the first in a trilogy of ambitious, book-length poems, some of which were written with the assistance of a Ouija board. He published 12 books of poetry and also wrote plays and novels. A final collection of poems was published after he died of a heart attack in Tucson, Arizona, in 1995.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Police brutality caught on video

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George Bizet’s Carmen premieres in Paris

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Russia makes a separate peace

Bolshevik Russia signs the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Central Powers, abandoning the Allied war effort and granting independence to its Polish and Baltic territories, the Ukraine, and Finland. Russia’s disastrous involvement in World War I was a primary factor that led to ...read more

Helen Keller meets her miracle worker

On this day in 1887, Anne Sullivan begins teaching six-year-old Helen Keller, who lost her sight and hearing after a severe illness at the age of 19 months. Under Sullivan’s tutelage, including her pioneering “touch teaching” techniques, the previously uncontrollable Keller ...read more

Finland declares war on Germany

On this day, Finland, under increasing pressure from both the United States and the Soviet Union, finally declares war on its former partner, Germany. After the German invasion of Poland, the USSR, wanting to protect Leningrad more than ever from encroachment by the West—even its ...read more

Ho Chi Minh Trail

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U.S. 5th Special Forces Group withdraws

The U.S. Army’s 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) departs South Vietnam. The Special Forces were formed to organize and train guerrilla bands behind enemy lines. President John F. Kennedy, a strong believer in the potential of the Special Forces in counterinsurgency operations, ...read more

First indoor game of ice hockey

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United States Geological Survey created

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Birth of a Nation opens in New York

Director D.W. Griffith’s controversial Civil War epic The Birth of a Nation opens in New York City on March 3, 1915, a few weeks after its West Coast premiere in Los Angeles. A 40-piece orchestra accompanied the silent film. The movie, at 2 hours and 40 minutes, was unusually ...read more

Faulty door dooms plane

A DC-10 jet crashes into a forest outside of Paris, France, killing all 346 people on board, on this day in 1974. The poor design of the plane, as well as negligent maintenance, contributed to the disaster. Nearly two years earlier, on June 6, 1972, an American Airlines DC-10 ...read more