Plus: Aliens and caviar |

February 16, 2017

By Lily Rothman

This week, as President Donald Trump’s life at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida continued to make news, I took a look back at the place’s storied past.

In one of those historical footnotes that could so easily have been forgotten, this isn’t Mar-a-Lago’s first go-round as a so-called winter White House. Its original owner, cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, actually left the place to the U.S. government specifically for that purpose. A few years after her 1973 death, however, it became clear that the government was in no position to maintain the massive estate as a place for presidents and dignitaries to relax.

This was a great excuse to read all about Post’s epic early-20th-century hostess skills — guests were treated to square dances, new movies and a full-on circus! You can click here to learn more about that, as well as Mar-a-Lago’s complicated presidential past.

(On a related note, with Washington’s Birthday holiday weekend around the corner, now is a good time to revisit our presidential quiz and see whether you can put them all in the right order.)

Here’s more of the history that made news this week:

Read Churchill’s Words About Life in Space (He Was a Believer)

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill outlined his thoughts in an essay, "Are We Alone in the Universe?"

This 18th-Century Episode Is Why the Logan Act Exists

The resignation of Michael Flynn from the National Security Adviser job has prompted some to revisit the 18th-century tale

The Surprising History Behind 'Stand Your Ground' Laws

Caroline E. Light, author of a new book about the history of lethal self-defense in the U.S., talks to TIME about the idea's surprising past

Valentine’s Day in 90 Seconds: 5 Kisses That Made History

Celebrate Valentine's Day with these famous smooches

Good Eggs: A Rare Look Inside the Soviet Caviar Harvest

Caviar is a delicacy for occasions like Valentine’s Day—but when LIFE went to a caviar plant in 1960, the scene was anything but delicate


Feb. 16, 1962

55 Years Ago: Bobby Kennedy

Bobby Kennedy, accompanied by his wife Ethel, was on the first leg of a four-week world tour that would take him to eleven other countries. And during his five-day stay in Japan, he displayed all the qualities that have made him, beyond the big fact of being John Kennedy's brother, a major power in U.S. Government. His youthful energies were explosive; his capacity for listening, looking, learning was enormous; his charm (when he felt like turning it on) was electric.” (Feb. 16, 1962)

Read the full story

Feb. 16, 1976

Today in 1976: Defending Patty Hearst

“As Federal Judge Oliver Carter opened the proceedings in his San Francisco courtroom last week, Patty Hearst's trial for armed bank robbery was already shaping up as not only the climactic episode in her still pulling personal story of kidnaping and radical politics, but also as a kind of peculiarly American legal Super Bowl. Some 200 reporters representing news organizations from as far away as Australia and West Germany were in town for the event. Court groupies and Hearst case buffs arrived from all over the country; some had taken leaves from their jobs to see as much of the six-to eight-week trial as possible.” (Feb. 10, 1997)

Read the full story

May 10, 1963

Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday Week

“In Lincoln's mind, the American cause was ‘to elevate the condition of men, to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all.’ The human condition today is more elevated and yet more perilous, the weights on American shoulders are lighter as well as heavier, the people's pursuits are more confusing but also more stimulating than was dreamed of in yesterday's utopias.

The situation is symbolized by the astronauts. In orbit, they are living the greatest adventure in history, and much of the outcome depends on the soundness of their minds and the stoutness of their hearts, whose beat is heard over loudspeakers around the world. Yet even more depends on thousands of people on the ground who control the spacemen's ascent, their course, their return or their death.” (May 10, 1963)

Read the full story


Vaccines on Screen NPR’s John Poole has a fun and informative video series about the history of humans and germs, and you can see the first three episodes here.

New Name In light of the news that Yale will rename its Calhoun College to honor Grace Murray Hopper, here’s the school’s in-depth look at Hopper’s fascinating legacy and achievements.

Sticky Situation Josephine Livingstone at The New Republic talks to the New-York Historical Society’s chief conservator about efforts to preserve the Post-it notes of protest that went up in New York City’s Union Square subway station after President Trump’s election.

Espionage Round-up After the mysterious death of a half-brother of North Korea’s leader, who is thought to have been poisoned by women acting as spies, the Associated Press’ Hyung-Jin Kim looks back at 3 famous female spies from North Korean history.

More Than a Fad The New York Times celebrates the 75th birthday of its crossword puzzle with a run-down of some of the most important moments in puzzle history.

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