Today in history:

On September 2, 1666, the Great Fire of London broke out and destroyed nearly 400 acres, including some 13,000 houses and the former St. Paul’s Cathedral.

On September 2, 1789, the US Treasury Department was created.

On September 2, 1864, the forces of Union General William T. Sherman occupied Atlanta during the Civil War. They would eventually burn to the sea, devastating the South.

On September 2, 1901, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt gave the advice “Speak quietly and carry a big stick” in a speech at the Minnesota State Fair. Previously, he had spoken on a hill in Glen Miller Park on October 11, 1900, before an estimated crowd of 15,000. The hill he spoke to became known as Roosevelt Hill.

On September 2, 1935, a hurricane struck the Florida Keys, killing 423 people. Resident Ernest Hemingway wrote graphically about decaying bodies in trees.

On September 2, 1944, Navy pilot George HW Bush was shot down by Japanese forces while completing a bombardment on the Bonin Islands.

On September 2, 1969, the first ATM to use magnetic stripe cards opened to the public at the Chemical Bank in Rockville Center, New York.

â–ºMORE FROM OUR PAST: Richmond’s final execution resulted in a change in state law

On September 2, 1916, 103 years ago, this Labor Day weekend, four of the craziest artists in movie history worked to be funny at the Richmond Civic Theater when it was called the Murray Theater. .

Labor Day is a federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September to celebrate the social and economic contribution of working people to the country.

In 1916, on Labor Day weekend on Main Street in Richmond, the four Marx brothers were working diligently to hone their acting skills on stage on the “Home Again” show. Vaudevillians with a written script tried various improvisations to determine what was funniest.

They had appeared in Richmond before being presented as “The Three Nightingales” in 1909, the year the Murray opened. As a musical act, they were virtually unknown at the time, but had since gained a small number of followers as comedians.

Richmond was a “witness town” in the late 1800s and for decades after the turn of the century. Vaudeville comedy depended on parodies of songs, ancient monologues, series of jokes and comedy lectures. The Marx brothers would become masters of chaos and cheerfulness, but the road to fame has not always been easy… or the road clear.

In fact, it was almost by accident that they turned to comedy.

One landmark evening during a 1912 musical performance at the Nacogdoches Opera House in Texas, the unknown young sons of Jewish immigrants were interrupted by the raging braying of a fleeing mule in the streets, disrupting their performance.

Members of the audience rushed outside to see what was going on. When they returned, Groucho angrily commented that “Nacogdoches is full of cockroaches!” and “The moron is the flower of Tex-cul!”

The crowd burst into laughter.

The brothers realized they might have potential as comics.

Julius, Leonard, Arthur and Milton became Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Gummo.

In the play “Home Again” in Richmond, amid waves of confetti on a fake ocean liner, Groucho laughed at seasickness. “Well, my friends, the next time I cross the ocean I’ll take a train. . I will certainly be happy to put my feet on solid ground, because I know that when I eat something, I will never see it again.

Hoarse laughter.

After being heckled by Gummo, Groucho makes the ageless remark: “Today you don’t know what you know until your kids grow up and tell you how much you don’t know.” He turned to the audience, watching them.

In his autobiography “Groucho And Me,” he admitted, “I worked hard to imagine stage affairs that didn’t require spoken lines. (For example) I slipped a light bulb-type horn into it. ‘taxi and stuck it under my belt before continuing into “Home Again.” When Chico and I started our fight and the cop cornered me and yanked me, the horn started whistling and we had a hell of a laugh.

Towards the end of the act in Richmond, Chico offered his hand in friendship and admitted, “I’d like to say goombye (sic) to your wife.”

Groucho’s eyebrows puffed up playfully, “Who wouldn’t?”

The Marx brothers used their musical in their first film “The Cocoanuts” and eventually gained international fame in Hollywood.

They made 13 films between 1929 and 1949.

The Murray Theater became the Richmond Civic Theater and also flourished as a major theatrical institution in east-central Indiana.

Groucho wrote of “the fair share of time” he and his brothers spent in east-central Indiana, and that it was “always a wonderful state for girls” to find.

Next week, find out about Groucho’s female misadventures in Muncie, when he feared for his life and was forced to hide in a closet on a date with a local girl who felt like “Like getting a massage from an octopus” has gone wrong, especially when her husband appears! Groucho must take a “leap of faith”, a choice between “risking a broken leg or eternal rest in the local cemetery” to escape the clutches of the angry spouse!

Contact columnist Steve Martin at [email protected]