World History 1909

About the history of the world in 1909, the first form of plastic invented, first censorship of movies, Peary reaches the North Pole.



* Veteran long-distance walker E. P. Weston, 70, trekked 3,895 mi. from New York to San Francisco in 104 days. The following year he walked back east along a 3,600-mi. route in 77 days.

* Dr. Leo Hendrik Baekeland, 46, a Belgian immigrant living in Yonkers, N.Y., patented his process for combining phenol and formaldehyde under heat and pressure. Called Bakelite, the substance was the first form of plastic.

* Mary Pickford (original name Gladys Smith), 16, of Toronto, Canada, abandoned her 11-year-old stage career to appear in movies produced by D. W. Griffith. Her delicate gestures and vulnerable beauty soon made her the first Hollywood film star. Although typecast as an innocent young girl ignorant of life's seamier realities and ever in danger of losing her purity, offscreen Pickford knew her way around the fine print of a studio contract. Fully aware that her heartrending ingenue roles had boosted the profits of industry moguls, she renegotiated her own salary from $40 a week to an unprecedented $10,000 a week in less than two years. "America's Sweetheart" organized the Mary Pickford Corporation in 1916 to turn out her own films, including Daddy Long Legs. Two years later, she joined three other movie pioneers whose salaries had outgrown their studios--Charlie Chaplin, D. W. Griffith, and Douglas Fairbanks--to form United Artists. Pickford starred in her last film, Secrets, with Leslie Howard in 1933, when she retired from the screen to concentrate on producing. She won an Academy Award in 1929 for her role in Coquette.

Mar. The censorship of films began with the founding of the National Board of Censorship of Motion Pictures.

Apr. 6 American explorer Robert E. Peary, 53, and five others allegedly reached the North Pole, the first humans to do so. One of his former associates, a surgeon named Frederick A. Cook, claimed to have visited the pole a year earlier, but his assertion was never proved.

July 25 Louis Bleriot, 37, of France, became the first aviator to fly the English Channel. (See "Into the Wild Blue Yonder--Noted Aviators," Chap. 13.)

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