February is the month of love, as Valentine’s Day falls exactly in the middle of the month. It is the shortest month of the year in both the Julian and Gregorian calendars, and has 28 days in common years – that is years with 365 days – and 29 days in leap years, such as last year, 2020.
The only month in the calendar to have fewer than 30 days, February is also the third and final month of meteorological winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and the third and final month of meteorological summer in the Southern Hemisphere.
The month’s name, February, is a divisive issue when it comes to pronunciation, although both FEB-roo-ary and FEB-yuh-ri are both accepted in North American and British English.
February takes its name from the Roman month Februarius, named after the Latin term februum, which means purification, this because the Februa purification ritual that was traditionally held on the 15th of the month in the old lunar Roman calendar.
Indeed, January and February are the two newest months in the calendar. The original Roman calendar had ten months and it ignored the 61-day period in the dead of winter, as it was considered that winter was a monthless period. The two were added during the reign of King Numa Pompilius, the semi-mythical successor to Romulus, and the calendar was adjusted so that January and February were the first two months under Decemvirs, who reformed and codified Roman law.
Here’s what happened in Februarys past.
On February 2, 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the war between Mexico and the United States. The United States acquired territories comprising present day Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Texas, and Wyoming in exchange for a $15 million ($465 million in 2019 dollars) payment to Mexico.
The Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, California opened on February 19, 1888. At the time it was the largest resort hotel in the world, and to this day it is the second largest wooden structure in the United States and has been designated a National Historic Landmark.
Charles Alfred Anderson, the first African American to earn a commercial pilot’s license, was born on February 8, 1907.
Grand Central Terminal, the world’s largest train station, based on the number of platforms, opened on February 2, 1913. Spread over 48 acres (19.5 hectares), it replaced Grand Central Station, although, one hundred years later, people still call the new structure by that name. It is one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions, drawing over 21 million visitors per year, and features numerous restaurants, food shops, and retail establishments.
The first wholly Douglas-designed, Douglas-built aircraft, the Cloudster, made its inaugural flight on February 24, 1921. It was the first airplane to lift a useful load greater than its own unladen weight.
On February 22, 1925, Geoffrey de Havilland took off from London in a DH.60 Moth constructed by his de Havilland Aircraft Company. The two-seat touring and training plane was of wood construction with fabric-covered surfaces, and marked the start of a new age in light aviation.
The Douglas DC-1 made a record breaking coast-to-coast flight on February 19, 1934, from Los Angeles, California, to Newark, New Jersey, in 13 hours and four minutes. Only one model of the aircraft was ever produced, although it was the basis for later models.
The Douglas DC-5 made its first flight on February 20, 1939. Only 12 of the 16- to 22- seat twin-engine propeller aircraft were built, including five as commercial DC-5 transports, and seven as R3D military transports.
The luxurious Boeing Stratoliners were stripped of their civilian finery and pressed into military service as C-75s starting on February 26, 1942. The aircrafts’ first flights carried antitank ammunition and medical supplies to British forces in Libya.
The Civil Aviation Authority approved the use of ground control approach landing aids on February 4, 1949. The systems used radar to help direct pilots while landing in low visibility or under bad weather conditions.
On February 8, 1949, a Boeing B-47 jet bomber set a transcontinental speed record, covering 2,289 miles (3,683 kilometers) in 3 hours and 46 minutes, at an average speed of 607.8 mph.
On February 15, 1961, Sabena Flight 548, a Boeing 707, crashed on approach to Brussels’ Zaventem Airport on its way from New York City. All 72 passengers, as well as one person on the ground, perished in the crash, as well as the entire United States Figure Skating Team that was on its way to the 1961 World Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia.
The Douglas DC-9 twin-engine, narrow body airliner, designed for short and frequent service, made its first flight on February 25, 1965. The final deliveries of the aircraft were in 1982, after 976 units were produced. The DC-9 design evolved into the McDonnell Douglas MD-80, MD-90, and the Boeing 717 after the Boeing McDonnell Douglas merger in 1997. When production of the DC-9/MD80/MD90/717 family ceased in 2006, over 2,400 had been built.
All Nippon Airways Flight 60, a Boeing 727 en route from Sapporo Chitose Airport to Tokyo Haneda, crashed into Tokyo Bay on February 4, 1966. All 133 people onboard were killed in what was the worst single aircraft disaster up to that date.
On February 9, 1969, the Boeing 747-100 made its maiden flight. A total of 167 of the aircraft were manufactured.