Mata Hari (1876-1917) 1905 (b/w photo), Reutlinger Studio (1850-1937) / Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France / Archives Charmet

Top 10 Cultural Anniversaries: 2017

 

It’s fair to say 2016 will go down in the history books as a year that rocked celebrity culture.  Here’s hoping to fewer deaths of stalwarts in the world of music, TV and film this year.  We have plenty of cultural anniversaries to commemorate!  Take a look at our top ten cultural anniversaries of 2017.  You can also visit our archival calendar for many more.

1. Alphonse Gabriel “Al” Capone
70 years since death. 25th January 1947

American gangster Al Capone is undoubtedly one of the most infamous gangsters in American history.  During the Prohibition era, Capone made millions of dollars in organised crime, including bootlegging, prostitution and gambling.  He was involved in the brutal St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929, where he ordered the murders of seven fellow gangsters.  He was eventually imprisoned for income-tax evasion in 1931, serving just under seven years.  Capone’s notoriety as the ultimate gangster has inspired many films, TV programmes and books.

Al Capone (1899-1947) American gangster, mafioso in Chicago at time of prohibition here c. 1927
Al Capone (1899-1947) American gangster, mafioso in Chicago at time of prohibition here c. 1927

2. Valentine’s Day 
480 years. 14th February 1537

On this day, England’s King Henry VII officially declared February 14th the holiday of St. Valentine’s Day.  480 years later Valentine’s Day continues to be of cultural importance around the world, with sentimental lovers giving cards, gifts or red roses to their valentines.

Love Maze, 2004 (acrylic on acrylic paper), Julie Nicholls (Contemporary Artist) / Private Collection
Love Maze, 2004 (acrylic on acrylic paper), Julie Nicholls (Contemporary Artist) / Private Collection

3. Ella Jane Fitzgerald
100 years since birth. 25th April 1917

The American jazz singer often referred to as the ‘First Lady of Song’ was one of the most successful female jazz singers in history.  Discovered in an amateur singing contest, Lady Ella went on to sell over 40 million albums, with hit songs including Summertime, Dream a Little Dream of Me and It Don’t Mean a Thing.  In 1958, Fitzgerald became the first African-American woman to win a Grammy Award.  She went on to win 13 Grammys.  The Queen of Jazz also worked with some of the greatest male jazz artists of all time, including Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and Dizzy Gillespie.

Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996) American jazz Singer here with drummer Bill Beason and trumpeters Dick Vance and Irving Randolph, at the Savoy Ballroom in New York 1941
Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996) American jazz Singer here with drummer Bill Beason and trumpeters Dick Vance and Irving Randolph, at the Savoy Ballroom in New York 1941

4. Pocahontas
400 years since death. 21st March 1617

Pocahontas was a Native American princess.  Popularised and romanticised by the 1995 Disney film, she is known to have saved the life of Englishman John Smith who was being held captive.  Historians contest the truth of this account but John Smith claimed she saved his life by placing her head upon his own when her father tried to execute him.  In 1613, Pocahontas was captured by the English and held for ransom.  But during her captivity, she converted to Christianity and changed her name to Rebecca.  After her release, she decided to stay with the English and married tobacco planter John Rolfe.

Pocahontas wears a turkey-feather robe (colour litho), William Langdon Kihn (1898-1957) / National Geographic Creative
Pocahontas wears a turkey-feather robe (colour litho), William Langdon Kihn (1898-1957) / National Geographic Creative

5. Rita Hayworth
30 years since death. 14th May 1987

American actress, dancer, singer and producer, Rita Hayworth was the ultimate pin-up during the 1940’s – an era filled glamorous movie stars.  She appeared in 61 films throughout her 37-year career, most famously in Gilda and The Lady from Shanghai.  Half Spanish, Hayworth changed her name from Margarita Carmen Cansino to an all-American appeal and avoid typecasting as exotic.

Rita Hayworth / Photo © Collection CSF
Rita Hayworth / Photo © Collection CSF

6. The Summer of Love
50 years. Summer 1967

The Summer of Love was a social phenomenon in the summer of 1967, where approximately 100,000 hippies, congregated in Haight-Ashbury, a town in San Francisco.  The gathering was for like-minded people that rejected the consumerist ideals of the time.

A hippy girl blowing bubbles at a pop concert, 1969 (b/w photo) / Hyde Park, London, UK / © Mirrorpix
A hippy girl blowing bubbles at a pop concert, 1969 (b/w photo) / Hyde Park, London, UK / © Mirrorpix

7. Jane Austen
200 years since death. 18th July 1817

Jane Austen was an English novelist known for her fiction offering a critique on the British landed gentry in the late 18th and early 19th century.  Austen’s most famous works include Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Emma. Her books provide a witty insight into the lives and social norms of women during this time.  At the time, all of her works were published anonymously.  Whilst it’s not known why she decided to do this, it was a fairly common occurrence for female writers at the time, with a number of her contemporaries opting to do the same.

Jane Austen (1775-1817) illustration from 'Little Journeys to the Homes of Famous Women', published 1897 (engraving) (later colouration), English School, (19th century) / Private Collection / Ken Welsh
Jane Austen (1775-1817) illustration from ‘Little Journeys to the Homes of Famous Women’, published 1897 (engraving) (later colouration), English School, (19th century) / Private Collection / Ken Welsh

8. Diana, Princess of Wales
20 years since death. 31st August 1997

The Princess of Wales was undoubtedly one of the most loved members of the British royal family in recent times.  Known as the ‘people’s princess’, she was an active supporter of a number of charities, particularly for children, HIV and homelessness.  It was her humanity – her openness about mental health, her dislike of some of the stifling royal protocols that have cemented her legacy.  Diana died in a car crash in Paris after trying to escape the paparazzi.

Diana, princesse de Galles
Diana, princesse de Galles

9. Mata Hari
100 years since death. 15th October 1917

Mata Hari was a Dutch exotic dancer, courtesan and ‘spy’.  When her Russian lover, Vladimir de Masloff, was blinded during World War One, she decided to accept an assignment to spy for France. However, after German correspondence that was intercepted by the French, listed her as a German spy, she was tried as acting as a double agent.  Historians have differing views on whether Mata Hari was actually a spy, with many arguing that she was used as a scapegoat at a time where the French were close to losing the war.  She was deemed the archetypal femme fatal and found guilty of espionage.  She was executed by firing squad in France.

Postcard of Mata Hari (1876-1917) before 1914 (colour litho) / Private Collection / Archives Charmet
Postcard of Mata Hari (1876-1917) before 1914 (colour litho) / Private Collection / Archives Charmet

10. Marie Curie
150 years since birth. 7th November 1867

Physicist, chemist and twice Nobel Prize winner, Marie Curie was a true pioneer of science.  The Polish-born, French physicist’s work on radioactivity led her to become the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the only woman to win in two different fields: physics and chemistry. Curie’s efforts (along with her husband Pierre Curie) led to the discovery of polonium and radium.  Often topping lists of the most inspirational women, she also the further developed X-rays, which saved the lives of many throughout World War One and beyond.  Curie was a true feminist icon.

Portrait of Marie Curie (1867-1934) (b/w photo), French School, (20th century) / Private Collection / Archives Charmet
Portrait of Marie Curie (1867-1934) (b/w photo), French School, (20th century) / Private Collection / Archives Charmet

Read more:

Top 10 Art Anniversaries 2017

Top 10 Historical Anniversaries 2017

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  1. Pingback: 5 Film Anniversaries in May – bridgeman blog

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