April 8th Holidays and Observances

Venus de Milo Discovered, 1820

On April 8, 1820, a peasant named Yorgos Kentrotas discovered an ancient statue within the ruins on the Greek island of Milos. The statue, the Venus de Milo, was in two main pieces, one piece consisting of Venus’s torso, and the other of her legs and drapery. There was also an inscribed plinth (since lost) and the remains of her left arm and hand, holding an apple.

Kentrotas told a French naval officer, Jules Dumont d’Urville, about his find and offered to sell it to him. D’Urville wished to purchase it, but his captain told him that there was no room for it on the ship, so d’Urville sent a description to the French Ambassador at Constantinople, the Marquis de Riviere, who immediately sent his secretary to buy it for him.

When Riviere’s servant got to Milos, he found that the peasant had gotten tired of waiting, and had sold the statue to a representative of the Sultan of Constantinople. The French faction seized the statue, and persuaded the peasant to annul the other sale.

The Venus de Milo was presented to King Louis XVIII in 1821, and was later given by him to the Louvre Museum.

Part of the Venus de Milo’s fame lies in a publicity campaign perpetrated by the French authorities. Another famous statue, the Venus de Medici, had been the property of the Italians for centuries until Napoleon had confiscated it and brought it to France in 1803. The French returned it to Florence in 1815 after Napoleon’s fall. With the acquisition of the Venus de Milo the French were determined to claim that they had gained a greater treasure than they had lost.

Elizabeth Bacon Custer’s Birthday, 1842

For many years after his death, George Armstrong Custer was regarded by the public as a great American hero. It was only in the last half of the 20th century that serious scholarship began regarding Custer as a rather disastrous leader.

A great deal of Custer’s temporary heroic stature can be attributed to the efforts of his widow, Elizabeth Bacon Custer. Immediately after the Battle of Little Big Horn, there was criticism of his actions by the press, the military, and even President Ulysses S. Grant. Elizabeth Custer was determined that her husband would be remembered as a hero, and she began a one-woman campaign to glorify his memory.

Elizabeth wrote numerous articles and went on an extended speaking tour. Her three books, Boots and Saddles, Following the Guidon, and Tenting on the Plains, are based on Custer’s experiences. Those who had first-hand knowledge of Custer’s exploits hesitated to embarrass her by stating contrary opinions while she was still alive. Elizabeth lived to be nearly 91 years old, outliving most would-be detractors.

She didn’t make out too badly financially from her literary efforts, either. Although Custer left her badly in debt when he died, by the time Elizabeth passed on she had acquired an estate worth more than $100,000.

Draw a Bird Day

The history of Draw a Bird Day goes back to 1943, when a 7-year-old English girl named Dorie Cooper was visiting her uncle who had lost his leg in a land mine during World War II. The uncle was despondent and, in an attempt to cheer him up, Dorie asked him to draw her a picture of a bird.

The uncle complied, Dorie laughed at it, but took it home and hung it in her room. On her next visit to the hospital, several other wounded soldiers also drew birds. It became a regular competition among the soldiers to see who could draw the best bird.

Sadly, Dorie was struck by an automobile and died when she was only 10. At her funeral, the family was flooded with pictures of birds drawn by servicemen, doctors, and nurses from the hospital. Since then, April 8th, Dorie’s birthday has been celebrated as Draw a Bird Day.

The rules are simple: draw a bird, and share it with someone you love. You can even submit your drawing to the Draw a Bird website, if you like. In the early days, drawings were limited to pencil sketches, but now drawings may be done with electronic drawing media, or by crayon or marker. Just in case, you know, that you’re somewhere where you’re not allowed sharp objects.

Sources: Chase’s Calendar of Events, 2011 Edition: The Ultimate Go-To Guide for Special Days, Weeks and Months, Editors of Chase’s Calendar of Events; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_8; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_de_Milo; http://www.louvre.fr; http://www.enotes.com/oxford-art-encyclopedia/venus-de-milo; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_de%27_Medici; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Bacon_Custer; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Armstrong_Custer; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DABDay; http://www.dabday.com/index.html.