Campus & Community

This month in Harvard history

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November 1859 – Charles Darwin publishes “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.” At Harvard, Darwin’s friends include Professors Asa Gray and Jeffries Wyman. Already evolutionists, they take up his theory of natural selection. Professor Louis Agassiz, however, continues to support the theory of permanent types until his death in 1873 – a stance that makes him a hero to anti-Darwinist clergy.

Nov. 13, 1875 – New Haven, Conn., hosts the first Harvard-Yale football game, which Harvard wins, to the delight of some 150 student boosters from Cambridge.

Nov. 28, 1942 – The Cocoanut Grove, a celebrated Boston night spot, burns on Thanksgiving weekend, killing some 500 people, including 15 from Harvard. Already in Boston at the time, an instructing officer and several student officers of the Harvard-based Naval Communications School are among the first to arrive on the scene. They play an important part in initial rescue efforts. Additional Harvard instructors, undergraduates, and alumni arrive before midnight and during the following day to lend a hand as stretcher-bearers, hospital orderlies, and body-identification assistants. Many students and faculty from the Medical School assist as well. The “Harvard Alumni Bulletin” reports that “a deep pall was cast over the entire University.”

Nov. 20, 1943 – As 45,000 look on from Harvard Stadium stands, the informal wartime football season ends in a 6-6- tie between Harvard and Boston College. Fifty-cent tickets make the game “widely hailed as the greatest football bargain of all time,” according to the “Harvard Alumni Bulletin.”

Nov. 15, 1944 – Irish-born Cambridge tailor William Brennan dies, and his passing subsequently earns notice in “The New York Times.” Over the course of 56 years, Brennan’s shop at 11 Dunster St. had served Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, presidents Charles Eliot and A. Lawrence Lowell, and thousands of other Harvard men.

“Mr. Brennan was a kindly, friendly man, much respected and liked by all who knew him,” the “Harvard Alumni Bulletin” writes. “In a world of failing standards in craftsmanship, he held fast to his own, and took a personal interest in his youngest as well as his oldest customers.” His son James carries on the business.

– From the Harvard Historical Calendar, a database compiled by Marvin Hightower