Every weekend Spectator Life brings you doses of topical trivia – facts, figures and anecdotes inspired by the current week’s dates in history …
In 1848, US President James K. Polk confirmed that large amounts of gold had been found in California, so hastening the gold rush. To this day, all the gold ever found on Earth could fit into four Olympic-sized swimming pools.
In 1877, the first edition of The Washington Post was published. Dustin Hoffman spent several weeks in the paper’s newsroom to research his role as journalist Carl Bernstein in All The President’s Men. His long hair and boyish looks led to the science reporter mistaking him for a copy boy, and asking him to fetch a new typewriter ribbon.
In 1972, Apollo 17 was launched. Gene Cernan, who during the mission became the last man to walk on the Moon, wrote his daughter’s initials in the lunar dust.
Kim Basinger (born 1953). She is the only woman to both pose in Playboy and win an Academy Award (Best Supporting Actress for LA Confidential).
In 1960, the first episode of Coronation Street was broadcast. The original title had been Florizel Street, after a portrait of Prince Florizel (in the story of Sleeping Beauty) hanging on the wall of the show’s creator Tony Warren. But Agnes, a tea lady at Granada Television, said that ‘Florizel’ sounded like a disinfectant.
Kenneth Branagh (born 1960). The actor says that his famously extravagant moustache while playing Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express was ‘like having to French kiss a badger’.
International Mountain Day. K2 was given its name by a 19th century British surveyor because it was in the Karakoram range. The other mountain, K1, soon became known by its local name (Masherbrum) – but K2 doesn’t have a local name, because you can’t see it from the nearest village. So K2 it remains.