9 August 1969

The Manson Family commits the Tate murders.

In the early morning hours of August 9, 1969, actress Sharon Tate, who was 8 1/2 months pregnant, and four others — including celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, filmmaker Voityck Frykowksi and 18-year-old Steven Parent — were brutally murdered at the Beverly Hills home of Tate and her husband, director Roman Polanski. All of the victims were shot or stabbed multiple times by “Manson Family” members Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Charles “Tex” Watson. There were 169 stab wounds between the five. The killers used Tate’s blood to write “pig” on the front door; a macabre message that shocked and confused the city.

The following night, Charles Manson, displeased with the sloppiness of the Tate murders and looking to advance his theory of “Helter Skelter,” set out with the same followers, as well as Leslie Van Houten, to find a new victim. He decided on wealthy grocers Rosemary and Leno LaBianca — they were random and horribly unlucky victims. They too were killed in a brutal manner in their Los Feliz home. “Death to pigs” was written in blood on the wall. “Healter Skelter” marked the refrigerator.

Manson, Watson, Atkins, Krenwinkel and Van Houten were all convicted and sentenced to death for the murders. However, their sentences were commuted to life in prison when California abolished the death penalty in 1972. There was no life in prison without parole at the time, so everyone on death row was resentenced to life in prison.

9 August 1854

Henry David Thoreau first publishes Walden.

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Henry David Thoreau published only two books during his lifetime: A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers and Walden, or, A Life in the Woods. Thoreau began A Week when he went to live at Walden Pond in 1845. Intended to be a memorial to his older brother John, who had died of lockjaw three years earlier, the book was based on a boat trip they had made together in 1839. On the website dedicated to the writings of Thoreau at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Elizabeth Witherell and Elizabeth Dubrulle describe how the creation of A Week ended up overlapping with Walden:

At Walden, Thoreau worked diligently on A Week, but he also explored Walden Woods and recorded his observations on nature in his Journal. He entertained visitors and made regular trips to town; friends and neighbors began to inquire about his life at the pond. What did he do all day? How did he make a living? Did he get lonely? What if he got sick? He began collecting material to write lectures for his curious townsmen, and he delivered two at the Concord Lyceum, on February 10 and 17, 1847. By the time he left the pond on September 6, 1847, he had combined his lectures on life at Walden with more notes from his journal to produce the first draft of a book which he hoped to publish shortly after A Week.

Unfortunately, A Week sold only two hundred copies during the first years after publication. In a Journal entry of October 28, 1853 (PDF) Thoreau describes receiving from the publisher “in a wagon” 706 copies of its printing of 1,000.