1914 Seventy-five Years Ago

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Watch Your Step , the first of many musicals by Irving Berlin, opened at the New Amsterdam Theater in New York on December 8. Though one critic praised the show’s “mad melodies…born to be caught up and whistled at every street corner, and warranted to set any roomful a-dancing,” its most memorable song was the ballad “Play a Simple Melody.”

Theodore W. Richards became the first American to win the Nobel Prize in chemistry on December 10. Richards earned the award for his exact measurements of the atomic weights of several elements, work that would lead to modern atomic research. The Harvard professor declared himself especially thrilled to learn that iron in the earth had the same atomic weight as iron from meteorites, a discovery that gave him “an added realization of the unity of the universe.”