Though 2020 wasn’t quite the start to this century’s roaring twenties that we might have expected, we can certainly try again in 2021. Among the many anniversaries coming up in the new year, these 21 are on our radar. Whether you’re interested in celebrating history, entertainment, or a larger-than-life superhero, there’s more than enough this year to look forward to.
1. 200th Anniversary of Michael Faraday Inventing the Electric Motor (1821)
When British inventor Michael Faraday first created a primitive version of the motor in 1821, it didn’t have any practical use beyond demonstrating how electricity could generate movement. Other inventors quickly set about improving this prototype, however, leading to the electric motors we’re dependent on today.
2. 110th Anniversary of Ziegfeld Follies (1911)
This American company, featuring performances by showgirls and other scandalous theater in the vein of similar Parisian shows, was founded by Florenz Ziegfeld as early as 1907, but it wasn’t until 1911 that the name “Ziegfeld Follies” was officially coined. The Ziegfeld Follies became known throughout the early 20th century for their elaborate production numbers, musical performances, and dance, and for making stars of women like Barbara Stanwyck and Fanny Brice.
3. 80th Anniversary of Wonder Woman (1941)
2021 is a big year for Wonder Woman — not only is it the 80th anniversary of the iconic Amazonian’s first comic book appearance, but it also roughly corresponds with a new movie and a new logo for the superhero. The new logo was unveiled by director Patty Jenkins and actresses Lynda Carter and Gal Gadot, who have both portrayed the superhero on screen.
4. 75th Anniversary of It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Several generations have enjoyed the Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life, and now many can continue to enjoy it on its 75th anniversary. If you’re feeling adventurous, Seneca Falls, New York — the possible real-life counterpart for Bedford Falls — is planning a 75th anniversary celebration with their It’s a Wonderful Life museum. If you’re looking for something more trivia based, check out 12 facts about the movie that you might not have known before.
In 1961, the world was introduced to the glamorous Holly Golightly as played by Audrey Hepburn. While many aspects of this movie have not aged well, the movie itself remains in the public sphere for its influential fashion and impressions of femininity.
While the Fiddler on the Roof Broadway musical first hit stages in 1964, the classic movie was released in 1971. The heartfelt film was met with critical acclaim and won three Academy Awards.
7. 50th Anniversary of “American Pie,” Earth Wind & Fire, and Zep’s “Zoso” (1971)
Among 1971's most important musical achievements were Don McLean’s classic song “American Pie,” Earth Wind & Fire’s debut album, and Led Zeppelin IV, their groundbreaking album more commonly known as “Zoso.” It was also the year of Carole King’s masterpiece Tapestry, which went on to win Grammys for Album of the Year, Record of the Year (for “It’s Too Late”), and Song of the Year (for “You’ve Got a Friend”).
8. 75th Anniversary of the First United Nations Meeting (1946)
The first United Nations meeting — composed of 51 nations — took place on January 10, 1946. Over the next month, rules and procedures were established and the new organization agreed on their first resolution: elimination of atomic weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. The U.N. now has 193 member nations, and among its many accomplishments, the international committees have eradicated smallpox, saved cultural sites like the pyramids and Angkor through UNESCO, and helped more than 90 million children through UNICEF.
9. Dolly Parton’s 75th Birthday (1946)
On January 19, 1946, a star was born: The multi-talented singer, writer, and actress Dolly Parton turns 75 this year. You can see her on screen in the movies 9 to 5 or Steel Magnolias, listen to her albums, or even read about her extensive charitable work; the sky’s the limit when it comes to the Smoky Mountain Songbird.
10. 125th Anniversary of Utah becoming a U.S. State (1896)
Utah originally formed as a small settlement of Mormon colonists seeking religious privacy in 1847. By the time it achieved statehood 49 years later on January 4, 1896, Utah had grown to a quarter of a million residents. Beyond this state’s beginnings, however, it has also built a reputation for beautiful National Parks, stunning geological wonders, and being one of the best states for skiing.
11. 125th Anniversary of the first Modern Olympics, held in Athens (1896)
It was fitting that the first modern run of the Olympics was held in its birthplace. April 6, 1896 was the kickoff of what would soon become one of the most notable world championships of all time, though at that time it was attended by a modest 241 athletes competing in 43 events.
12. 50th Anniversary of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
It’s been 50 years since audiences first experienced a world of pure imagination in the Technicolor production of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. While many actors were considered for the part of the eccentric chocolatier (including Fred Astaire, Peter Sellers, and all the members of Monty Python), Gene Wilder landed the role and, despite other remakes, remains the quintessential Willy Wonka.
13. Prince Philip’s 100th Birthday (1921)
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, celebrates his 100th birthday this year on June 10. Of his 100 years, he has spent nearly 70 married to the Queen. Traditionally, the Duke’s birthday is marked with multiple gun salutes and the ringing of the bells at Westminster Abbey.
MTV revolutionized the world of music when it launched on August 1, 1981, as a 24-hour platform for music videos. While its first broadcast was the apropos Buggles’ song “Video Killed the Radio Star,” MTV quickly became known for debuting several iconic '80s and '90s music releases.
15. 175th Anniversary of the Smithsonian’s Creation (1846)
The concept of the Smithsonian was originally conceived by James Smithson, a British scientist who left money to found “an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” This was formally approved by the United States Senate and signed into law by President James K. Polk on August 10, 1846 — nearly a decade after Congress first recognized the request.
16. 105th Anniversary of the National Park Service (1916)
President Woodrow Wilson signed the National Park Service into law on August 25, 1916, creating a system that continues to protect America’s natural landscapes well into the present day. The National Park Service protects around 3.4% of land (nearly 400 sites throughout the United States).
17. 40th Anniversary of Sandra Day O’Connor Becoming the First Woman on the Supreme Court (1981)
Every year on September 25, Arizona State University celebrates Sandra Day O’Connor Day — a tribute to the Arizonian who famously became the first woman to sit as a judge on the Supreme Court.
18. 120th Anniversary of the First Barrel Ride Down Niagara Falls (1901)
The turn of the century came with many surprises, including the first barrel ride over Niagara Falls by a 63-year-old schoolteacher named Annie Edson Taylor. Taylor originally planned to go over the waterfall on October 24 in an attempt to gain fame (and thus earn money), but her 20-minute daredevil experience did not get her the attention she wanted — though it did inspire others to barrel over Niagara Falls for years to come. (Note: Do not do this! It is dangerous and illegal!)
19. 135th Anniversary of the Statue of Liberty Dedication (1886)
The Statue of Liberty is now an enduring symbol of freedom for Ellis Island immigrants and a gift of gratitude and friendship from France, but when it was initially conceived, it was in commemoration for the end of slavery (if you look closely, you can see the broken shackles at her feet). When Lady Liberty was officially dedicated on October 28, 1886, the occasion was marked with festivities all over New York City, including a parade, bands, a flotilla of ships, and a visit from then-President Grover Cleveland.
20. 120th Anniversary of the First Nobel Peace Prizes (1901)
When Alfred Nobel died in 1896, he left a will with funds and a stipulation to create Nobel Prizes, which today include awards in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and, most famously, the Nobel Peace Prize. In his honor, these prizes have been given on the 10th of December since 1901.
21. 120th Anniversary of Walt Disney’s Birth (1901)
Walt Disney is best known for being a pioneer of American animation and founder of the happiest place on earth, and a number of Disney-related anniversaries will happen in 2021. It’s the 80th anniversary of the release of Dumbo, the 70th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland, and the 60th anniversary (in human years) of 101 Dalmatians.