MAY 29On this day in 1953, New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay become the first people to reach the summit of Mt Everest (they're seen below enjoying a hot cup of tea after their ascent. The photo above is of Hillary using an as-yet unidentified portable typewriter).
Hillary was born in Auckland on July 20, 1919, and died in Auckland, aged 88, on January 11, 2008.
It was only a month ago that the youngest member of Hillary's climbing team died, aged 79, at his Indian home in Kolkata at the foot of the Himalayas. Sherpa mountaineer Nawang Gombu was the first person to summit Everest twice. He was one of the last of the so-called "Tigers of the Snow" - a small group of Sherpa mountaineers who scaled the Himalayas to bring fame and prestige to their ethnic community which originates from the mountains of eastern Tibet and Nepal. Known for their hardiness, expert regional knowledge and unwillingness to leave any man behind, the Sherpa mountaineers formed the backbone of India's Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and the trekking industry based in Darjeeling. Gombu was 21 when he joined his uncle Tenzing Norgay and Hillary on the famous 1953 expedition, but he did not reach the top of the world's highest mountain until 10 years later, when he guided the first American expedition, led by mountaineer Jim Whittaker, to the summit. The 1963 expedition members were then invited to the White House, where Gombu placed a traditional white katha-style scarf around the neck of President John F. Kennedy (see Kennedy’s birthday below). Born and raised in Tibet, the young Gombu migrated with his family to neighbouring Nepal before finally settling in Darjeeling. He and Norgay had been among the first Sherpas to complete a Swiss mountain guide course in 1954.
On this day in 1942, the legendary crooner Bing Crosby, with the Ken Darby Singers and the John Scott Trotter Orchestra, recorded for Decca Records and Los Angeles Irving Berlin's White Christmas, the best-selling single in history. It hit the charts on October 3, 1942, rose to No 1 on October 31 and stayed there for 11 weeks. All up it has charted 17 times, topping the charts again in 1945 and 1947 (after it had been re-recorded using the same musicians and backup singers; the original 1942 master had become damaged due to frequent use in pressing additional singles). Guinness World Records says Crosby's recording of White Christmas has sold more than 100 million copies. Harry Lillis Crosby was born in Tacoma, Washington, on May 3, 1903; he died in Madrid on October 14, 1977. He is seen above using a "cloudy" green Royal portable typewriter in the Decca studios.
Former US President John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy was born on this day in 1917, in Brookline, Massachusetts. He was assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963, aged 46. He is seen above using an Underwood desktop typewriter.
On this day in 1920, inventor Otto Algot Hokanson of Woodstock, Illinois, applied for a patent for an improved typewriter ribbon vibrator, which he assigned to the Woodstock Typewriter Company. The patent was granted on July 29, 1924. Hokanson invented many other typewriter devices and improvements, including repeat and back spacer, tabulation and escapement mechanisms. He also worked for the Rudolph Wurlitzer company and invented many devices for phonographs – maybe one of them was used to play White Christmas!