On This Day, April 23, 1778 – Harry Truman Gives Hell to the Soviet Union

1945 – Less than two weeks after taking over as president after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman gives a tongue-lashing to Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov. The incident indicated that Truman was determined to take a “tougher” stance with the Soviets than his predecessor had. When Roosevelt died of a massive stroke on April 12, 1945, Harry S. Truman took over as president. Truman was overwhelmed by the responsibilities so suddenly thrust upon him and, particularly in terms of foreign policy, the new president was uncertain about his approach. Roosevelt had kept his vice-president in the dark about most diplomatic decisions, not even informing Truman about the secret program to develop an atomic bomb. Truman had to learn quickly, however. The approaching end of World War II meant that momentous decisions about the postwar world needed to be made quickly. The primary issue Truman faced...

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On This Day, April 22, 1970 – US Comes Together to Celebrate First Earth Day

1970 – Earth Day, an event to increase public awareness of the world’s environmental problems, is celebrated in the United States for the first time. Millions of Americans, including students from thousands of colleges and universities, participated in rallies, marches, and educational programs. Earth Day was the brainchild of Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, a staunch environmentalist who hoped to provide unity to the grassroots environmental movement and increase ecological awareness. “The objective was to get a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment so large that it would shake the political establishment out of its lethargy,” Senator Nelson said, “and, finally, force this issue permanently onto the national political agenda.” Earth Day indeed increased environmental awareness in America, and in July of that year the Environmental Protection Agency was established by special executive order to regulate and enforce national pollution legislation. Loads of chemicals and hazardous wastes have...

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On This Day, April 21, 1918 –German Ace Red Baron Brought Down by Allied Fire

1918 – In the skies over Vauz sur Somme, France, Manfred von Richthofen, the notorious German flying ace known as “The Red Baron,” is killed by Allied fire. Richthofen, the son of a Prussian nobleman, switched from the German army to the Imperial Air Service in 1915. By 1916, he was terrorizing the skies over the western front in an Albatross biplane, downing 15 enemy planes by the end of the year, including one piloted by British flying ace Major Lanoe Hawker. In 1917, Richthofen surpassed all flying ace records on both sides of the western front and began using a Fokker triplane, painted entirely red in tribute to his old cavalry regiment. Although only used during the last eight months of his career, it is this aircraft that Richthofen was most commonly associated with and it led to an enduring English nickname for the German pilot – the...

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On This Day, April 20, 1980 – Mass Exodus of Cubans Flee to US as Mariel Boatlift Begins

1980 – The Castro regime announces that all Cubans wishing to emigrate to the U.S. are free to board boats at the port of Mariel west of Havana, launching the Mariel Boatlift. The first of 125,000 Cuban refugees from Mariel reached Florida the next day. The boatlift was precipitated by housing and job shortages caused by the ailing Cuban economy, leading to simmering internal tensions on the island. On April 1, Hector Sanyustiz and four others drove a bus through a fence at the Peruvian embassy and were granted political asylum. Cuban guards on the street opened fire. One guard was killed in the crossfire. The Cuban government demanded the five be returned for trial in the dead guard’s death. But when the Peruvian government refused, Castro withdrew his guards from the embassy on Good Friday, April 4. By Easter Sunday, April 6, some 10,000 Cubans crowded into the...

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On This Day, April 13, 1964 – Sidney Poitier Breaks Oscar Color Barrier

1964 – Sidney Poitier became the first black to win an Oscar for best actor. It was for his role in the movie Lilies of the Field. He won for his role in Lilies of the Field (he had also been nominated for best actor for The Defiant Ones five years earlier), and though it was a tremendous breakthrough in terms of diversity, it’s also worth noting that when Ann Bancroft gave him a kiss on the cheek when presenting him with the Oscar, some people were offended. That was the world in 1964, the world in which Poitier and everyone else of color lived. Whatever accomplishments they enjoyed did not erase the reality of racism that surrounded them. And though it would be nice to say that Poitier’s win brought down the barriers, at least to some extent, it would be 38 years before another African-American actor won...

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On This Day, April 12, 1861 – The Civil War Begins

1861 – Fort Sumter was shelled by Confederacy, starting America’s Civil War. The Civil War might as easily have erupted at Fort Pickens, outside Pensacola, Florida, as at Fort Sumter but Fort Sumter was positioned in the middle of Charleston Harbor, surrounded by hostile batteries. Sumter, therefore, became a symbol of contested sovereignty. Neither the new President nor the new Confederacy could afford to lose face by surrendering the Charleston fort. The only question was, who would shoot first? In early January the South Carolinians had actually done so, turning away the Star of the West, a federal supply ship, with gunfire. But those were more or less warning shots that kicked up plumes of spray but caused no damage. The Confederate government, knowing that its claims to sovereignty depended on no “foreign” power occupying any of its coastal forts, decided to act before the relief expedition arrived. Confederate...

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On This Day, April 11, 1947 – Jackie Robinson Plays in First Game

1947 – Jackie Robinson became the first black player in major-league history. He played in an exhibition game for the Brooklyn Dodgers. At UCLA, Jackie became the first athlete to win varsity letters in four sports: baseball, basketball, football and track. In 1941, he was named to the All-American football team. Due to financial difficulties, he was forced to leave college, and eventually decided to enlist in the U.S. Army. After two years in the army, he had progressed to second lieutenant. Jackie’s army career was cut short when he was court-martialed in relation to his objections with incidents of racial discrimination. In the end, Jackie left the Army with an honorable discharge. In 1945, Jackie played one season in the Negro Baseball League, traveling all over the Midwest with the Kansas City Monarchs. But greater challenges and achievements were in store for him. In 1947, Brooklyn Dodgers president...

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On This Day, April 10, 1778 – John Paul Jones Truly Does Start to Fight

1778 – Commander John Paul Jones and his crew of 140 men aboard the USS Ranger set sail from the naval port at Brest, France, and head toward the Irish Sea to begin raids on British warships. This was the first mission of its kind during the Revolutionary War. After departing from Brest, Jones successfully executed raids on two forts in England’s Whitehaven Harbor, despite a disgruntled crew more interested in “gain than honor.” Jones then continued to his home territory of Kirkcudbright Bay, Scotland, where he intended to abduct the Earl of Selkirk and then exchange him for American sailors held captive by Britain. Although he did not find the earl at home, Jones crew was able to steal all his silver, including his wife s teapot, still containing her breakfast tea. From Scotland, Jones sailed across the Irish Sea to Carrickfergus, where the Ranger captured the HMS Drake...

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On This Day, April 9, 1965 – Lee Surrenders the Army of the Confederacy

1865 – At Appomattox, Virginia, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders his 28,000 troops to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the American Civil War. Forced to abandon the Confederate capital of Richmond, blocked from joining the surviving Confederate force in North Carolina, and harassed constantly by Union cavalry, Lee had no other option. In retreating from the Union army’s Appomattox Campaign, the Army of Northern Virginia had stumbled through the Virginia countryside stripped of food and supplies. At one point, Union cavalry forces under General Philip Sheridan had actually outrun Lee’s army, blocking their retreat and taking 6,000 prisoners at Sayler’s Creek. Desertions were mounting daily, and by April 8 the Confederates were surrounded with no possibility of escape. On April 9, Lee sent a message to Grant announcing his willingness to surrender. The two generals met in the parlor of the Wilmer McLean home at one...

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On This Day, April 8, 1513 – Ponce de León Claims Florida for Spain

1513 – Explorer Juan Ponce de Leon claimed Florida for Spain. In 1493, Ponce de León sailed with Christopher Columbus on Columbus’ second voyage to the Americas. He and his family settled on an island in the Caribbean named Hispaniola (Dominican Republic). He became a military commander at this post and was appointed deputy governor. In 1506, Ponce de León discovered a nearby island named Borinquen. While there, he found large deposits of gold. Soon after his discovery, he left the island. He returned in 1508 on orders from the king of Spain to explore and colonize the island. He renamed the island Puerto Rico. He was the island’s governor for two years until the king replaced him with Columbus’ son. Hurt by the King’s action, Ponce de León sailed again, this time north through the Bahamas heading towards Florida. He was in search of new lands and treasures....

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On This Day, April 7, 1953 – IBM Releases First Scientific Computer

1953 – IBM unveiled the IBM 701 Electronic Data Processing Machine. It was IBM’s first commercially available scientific computer. Designed to shatter the time barrier confronting technicians working on vital defense projects, the 701 is being manufactured in IBM’s Poughkeepsie, N.Y., plant where production-line techniques of assembly and standardization are used. Composed of eleven compact and connected units known as IBM Electronic Data Processing Machines, the 701 is the first calculator of comparable capacity to be produced in quantity. A total of eighteen will be built within a year, all consigned to government agencies or defense industries. Using three of the more advanced electronic storage or memory devices — cathode ray tubes, magnetic drums and magnetic tapes — the calculator can multiply and divide more than 2,000 times a second and can add and subtract more than 16,000 times a second. The calculators, which will rent for $11,900 monthly...

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On This Day, March 30, 1950 – Harry Truman Denounces Joe McCarthy

1950 –President Harry Truman denounces Senator Joe McCarthy as a saboteur of U.S. foreign policy.  This was the reaction of President Harry Truman to Loyalty Investigation, “News Conference at Key West,” March 30, 1950 Q. Do you think that Senator McCarthy can show any disloyalty exists in the State Department? The President. I think the greatest asset that the Kremlin has is Senator McCarthy. Q. Would you care to elaborate on that? The President. I don’t think it needs any elaboration—I don’t think it needs any elaboration. Q. Brother, will that hit page one tomorrow! Q. If you think we are going to bust down the fence on what you have got later, that’s a pretty good starter. Q. Mr. President, could we quote that one phrase, “I think the greatest asset the Kremlin has is Senator McCarthy”? The President. Now let me give you a little preliminary, and...

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On This Day, March 29, 1979 – JFK Assassination Ruled a Conspiracy

1979 – The Committee on Assassinations Report issued by U.S. House of Representatives stated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was the result of a conspiracy. I. Findings of the Select Committee on Assassination in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots at President John F. Kennedy. The second and third shots he fired struck the President. The third shot he fired killed the President  Scientific acoustical evidence establishes a high probability that two gunmen fired at President John F. Kennedy. Other scientific evidence does not preclude the possibility of two gunmen firing at the President. Scientific evidence negates some specific conspiracy allegations The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. The committee was unable to identify the other gunmen or the extent of...

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On This Day, March 28, 1979 – Three Mile Island Reactor Nears Meltdown

1979 – At 4 a.m. on March 28, 1979, the worst accident in the history of the U.S. nuclear power industry begins when a pressure valve in the Unit-2 reactor at Three Mile Island fails to close. Cooling water, contaminated with radiation, drained from the open valve into adjoining buildings, and the core began to dangerously overheat. After the cooling water began to drain, emergency cooling pumps automatically went into operation. Left alone, these safety devices would have prevented the development of a larger crisis. However, human operators in the control room misread confusing and contradictory readings and shut off the emergency water system. The reactor was also shut down, but residual heat from the fission process was still being released. By early morning, the core had heated to over 4,000 degrees, just 1,000 degrees short of meltdown. As the plant operators struggled to understand what had happened, the...

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On This Day, March 27, 1866 – Andrew Johnson Vetoes Civil Rights for Blacks

1866 – U.S. President Andrew Johnson vetoed the civil rights bill, which later became the 14th amendment. A little over a month after becoming president, Johnson began executing his plan for reconstructing the South. Johnson pardoned all rebels except Confederate leaders. He also restored all rebel property except for slaves. Finally, he authorized each rebel state to call a convention of white delegates to draw up a new constitution. Once completed, a new state government could then be formed, and the state could apply for readmission to the Union. During the summer of 1865, the rebel states held their constitutional conventions, followed by elections to choose state and federal government representatives. None of the new state constitutions allowed the black freedmen to vote. President Johnson himself opposed the idea of ex-slaves voting. “It would breed a war of races,” Johnson said. When Congress finally met in early December, the...

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On This Day, March 26, 1943 – Nazis Begin Mass Transportation of Jews to Auschwitz

1942 – The Nazis began mass transportation of Jews to Auschwitz in Poland. People were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau by trains, from all over Nazi-occupied Europe. They were generally sent in freight cars or cattle trucks. Often they travelled for days without toilet facilities and with nothing to eat or drink. Originally, the railway cars arrived at the old ramp of Birkenau, 1 km southeast of the entrance gate. From May 1944 they continued into Auschwitz II (Birkenau / Brzezinka) itself, along a specially constructed spur. The majority of the people, sent in these transports, were murdered in gas chambers directly on arrival. Their names never appeared in the camp records, so that it is very difficult to determine precisely how many perished from these transports. Those the SS deemed fit for work were not murdered immediately but were used as slave labourers. They were given striped prison clothing and a prisoner...

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On This Day, March 25, 1911 – Fire Breaks Out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company 

1911 – In New York City, 146 women were killed in fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City. On Saturday, March 25, 1911, a fire broke out on the top floors of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory. Firefighters arrived at the scene, but their ladders weren’t tall enough to reach the upper floors of the 10-story building. Trapped inside because the owners had locked the fire escape exit doors, workers jumped to their deaths. In a half an hour, the fire was over, and 146 of the 500 workers—mostly young women — were dead. The shirtwaist makers, as young as age 15, worked seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. with a half-hour lunch break. During the busy season, the work was nearly non-stop. They were paid about $6 per week. In some cases, they were required to use their own needles, thread, irons...

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On This Day, March 24, 1989 – The Exxon Valdez Runs Aground

1989 – The Exxon Valdez spilled 240,000 barrels (11 million gallons) of oil in Alaska’s Prince William Sound after it ran aground. On March 24, 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez, en route from Valdez, Alaska to Los Angeles, California, ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska. The vessel was traveling outside normal shipping lanes in an attempt to avoid ice. Within six hours of the grounding, the Exxon Valdez spilled approximately 10.9 million gallons of its 53 million gallon cargo of Prudhoe Bay crude oil. Eight of the eleven tanks on board were damaged. The oil would eventually impact over 1,100 miles of non-continuous coastline in Alaska, making the Exxon Valdez the largest oil spill to date in U.S. waters. The response to the Exxon Valdez involved more personnel and equipment over a longer period of time than did any other spill in U.S. history. Logistical...

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This Day in History, March 15, 44 BC – Julius Caesar is Assassinated

44 BC – Roman Emperor Julius Caesar was assassinated by high-ranking Roman Senators. The day is known as the “Ides of March.” Caesar was scheduled to leave Rome to fight in a war on March 18 and had appointed loyal members of his army to rule the Empire in his absence. The Republican senators, already chafing at having to abide by Caesar’s decrees, were particularly angry about the prospect of taking orders from Caesar’s underlings. Cassius Longinus started the plot against the dictator, quickly getting his brother-in-law Marcus Brutus to join. Caesar should have been well aware that many of the senators hated him, but he dismissed his security force not long before his assassination. Reportedly, Caesar was handed a warning note as he entered the senate meeting that day but did not read it. After he entered the hall, Caesar was surrounded by senators holding daggers. Servilius Casca...

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On This Day, March 14, 1914 – Henry Ford Announces the Assembly Line

1914 – Henry Ford announced the new continuous motion method to assemble cars. The moving assembly line appeared to the onlooker to be an endless contraption of chains and links that allowed Model T parts to swim through the sea of the assembly process. In total, the manufacturing of the car could be broken down into 84 steps. The key to the process, however, was having interchangeable parts. Unlike other cars of the time, the Model T featured interchangeable parts, which meant that every Model T produced on that line used the exact same valves, gas tanks, tires, etc. so that they could be assembled in a speedy and organized fashion. Parts were created in mass quantities and then brought directly to the workers who were trained to work at that specific assembly station. The chassis of the car was pulled down the 150-foot line by a chain conveyor...

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On This Day, March 13, 1519 – Cortez Arrives in Mexico

1519 – Hernando Cortez landed in Mexico. When the Spanish arrived, normally they would have been captured and sacrificed immediately. That’s how the Aztecs did things. But, in the 1500s, when the Spanish conquistador, Hernan Cortes, entered Aztec territory with a small band of his men, the Aztec misunderstood why they were there. The Aztecs through they were sent by their god, Quetzalcoatl. Quetzalcoatl, a very important god to the Aztecs, had vowed he would appear when the end of the world was near, to save the Aztec people. The Aztecs always believed the end of the world was near. That’s why they sacrificed so many people. They were trying to keep their gods happy so the god would postpone the end of the world. The longer the Spanish stayed in the capital city, the more suspicious the Aztec leaders became. The Spanish did not act like gods. They did...

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On this Day, March 12, 1912 – The Girl Guides of America were Established

1912 – The Girl Scout organization was founded. The original name was Girl Guides. Even before the foundation of an Association, groups of Guides existed in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand and South Africa. By 1912 there were also groups in Ireland, Portugal, Norway and the USA. Juliette (Daisy) Gordon Low founded Girl Scouting in the USA in 1912 and her vision of worldwide Girl Guiding/Girl Scouting made a powerful contribution to its development. She assembled 18 girls from Savannah, Georgia, on 12 March 1912, for a local Girl Scout meeting. She believed that all girls should be given the opportunity to develop physically, mentally, and spiritually. 1496 – Jews were expelled from Syria.  1609 – The Bermuda Islands became an English colony.  1664 – New Jersey became a British colony. King Charles II granted land in the New World to his brother James (The Duke of York). ...

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On This Day in History, March 11, 1901– The Launch of US Steel

1901 – U.S. Steel was formed when industrialist J.P. Morgan purchased Carnegie Steep Corp. The event made Andrew Carnegie the world’s richest man.  When founded in 1901, United States Steel Corporation was the largest business enterprise ever launched, with an authorized capitalization of $1.4 billion. Today, over a century after its founding, U. S. Steel remains the largest integrated steel producer headquartered in the United States.

U. S. Steel had its origins in the dealings of some of America’s most legendary businessmen, including Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, and Charles Schwab. However, its principal architect was Elbert H. Gary, who also became U. S. Steel’s first chairman. At the turn of the century, a group headed by Gary and Morgan bought Carnegie’s steel company and combined it with their holdings in the Federal Steel Company. These two companies became the nucleus of U. S. Steel, which also included American Steel & Wire Co., National Tube Company, American Tin Plate...

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On This Day, March 10, 1776 – Thomas Paine Offers the Colonies a Bit of ‘Common Sense’

1776 – “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine was published. Common Sense was a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine in 1775–76 that inspired people in the Thirteen Colonies to declare and fight for independence from Great Britain in the summer of 1776. The pamphlet explained the advantages of and the need for immediate independence in clear, simple language. It was published anonymously on January 10, 1776, at the beginning of the American Revolution and became an immediate sensation. It was sold and distributed widely and read aloud at taverns and meeting places. Washington had it read to all his troops, which at the time had surrounded the British army in Boston. In proportion to the population of the colonies at that time (2.5 million), it had the largest sale and circulation of any book published in American history. As of 2006, it remains the all-time best selling American title. Common Sense...

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On This Day, March 9, 1933 – Congress Begins Work on The New Deal

1933 – The U.S. Congress began its 100 days of enacting New Deal legislation. The New Deal was orchestrated by a core group of FDR advisors brought in from academia and industry known as the “Brains Trust” who, in their first “hundred days” in office, helped FDR enact fifteen major laws. One of the most significant of these was the Banking Act of 1933, which finally brought an end to the panic that gripped the nation’s banking system. The success of the Banking Act, depended in large measure on the willingness of the American people to once again place their faith—and money—in their local banks. To ensure this, FDR turned to the radio, and in the first of his many “fireside chats,” convinced the American people the crisis was over and that their deposits—backed by the newly established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) — were safe. Other significant...

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On This Day, March 1, 1692 – Trials for Witches in Salem Begins

1562 – In Vassy, France, Catholics massacred over 1,000 Huguenots. The event started the First War of Religion.  1692 – In Salem Village, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Salem witch trials began. Four women were the first to be charged. More than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft — the Devil’s magic — and 20 were executed. Eventually, the colony admitted the trials were a mistake and compensated the families of those convicted. Since then, the story of the trials has become synonymous with paranoia and injustice, and it continues to beguile the popular imagination more than 300 years later.ß 1781 – In America, the Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation.  1790 – The U.S. Congress authorized the first U.S. census.  1845 – U.S. President Tyler signed the congressional resolution to annex the Republic of Texas.  1864 – Louis Ducos de Hauron patented a machine for taking and projecting motion pictures. du Hauron was...

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On This Day, Feb. 28, 1993 – The Waco, Texas Siege Begins

1993 – U.S. Federal agents raided the compound of an armed religious cult in Waco, TX. David Koresh, the leader of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, thought he was an angel and an agent of God. The government thought he was in possession of illegal firearms and explosives, as well as a criminal who physically and sexually abused several children he fathered with his followers. On February 28th, 1993, about 70 highly militarized agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) approached Mount Carmel, the compound of a controversial Branch Davidian religious group near Waco. When cult leader David Koresh came to the front door on the 28th of February, shots were fired — to this day, no one is sure who fired first. Koresh was hit in his side, and his father-in-law was mortally wounded. Overhead, helicopters began to spray the compound with return fire...

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On This Day, Feb. 27, 1973 – American Indian Movement Occupies Wounded Knee

1973 – The American Indian Movement occupied Wouned Knee in South Dakota. On that winter day in 1973, a large group of armed American Indians reclaimed Wounded Knee in the name of the Lakota Nation. During the preceding months of the Wounded Knee occupation, civil war brewed among the Oglala people. There became a clear-cut between the traditional Lakota people and the more progressive minded government supporters. The traditional people wanted more independence from the Federal Government, as well as honoring of the 1868 Sioux treaty. According to the 1868 treaty, the Black Hills of South Dakota still belonged to the Sioux people, and the traditional people wanted the Federal Government to honor their treaty by returning the sacred Black Hills to the Sioux people. Another severe problem on the Pine Ridge reservation was the strip mining of the land. The chemicals used by the mining operations were poisoning...

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On This Day, Feb. 26, 1993 – 1,000 Injured as Bomb Rocks World Trade Center

1993 – Six people were killed and more than a thousand injured when a van exploded in the parking garage beneath the World Trade Center in New York City. The World Trade Center bombing plot began in the months before September 1, 1992, when two of the main conspirators, Ahmad Ajaj and Ramzi Yousef, arrived in the United States from Pakistan. Upon detecting his poorly falsified Swedish passport, customs agents detained Ajaj and confiscated his suitcase, which contained bombing manuals and anti-American propaganda. Yousef, traveling on an Iraqi passport bearing the name Abdel Basit Mahmoud, requested political asylum. He was arrested for entering the United States without a visa but was released on his own recognizance and allowed into the country. While Ajaj waited in jail, Yousef allegedly began to implement a plan that aimed at toppling the twin towers of the World Trade Center. On October 1 he...

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On This Day, Feb. 25, 1836 – Samuel Colt Patents the Revolver

1836 – Connecticut-born gun manufacturer Samuel Colt (1814-62) received a U.S. patent for a revolver mechanism that enabled a gun to be fired multiple times without reloading. Colt’s revolver mechanism is considered by some to be more innovation than invention because it improved upon a revolving flintlock (a firing mechanism used in muskets and rifles) already patented by Boston inventor Elisha Collier (1788-1856). The British patent for Colt’s mechanism was acquired in October 1835, and on February 25, 1836, the American inventor received U.S. Patent No. 138 (later 9430X) for his revolving-cylinder pistol. The enhancements listed in this patent include greater “facility in loading,” changes in “the weight and location of the cylinder, which give steadiness to the hand,” and “the great rapidity in the succession of discharges.” Colt’s Patent Arms Manufacturing Company began making the Paterson pistol in 1836 at its Paterson, New Jersey, factory using funds advanced...

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On This Day, Feb. 24, 1868 – House Impeaches President Andrew Johnson

1868 – The U.S. House of Representatives impeached President Andrew Johnson due to his attempt to dismiss Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. The final blow came after the passage of the Tenure of Office Act in 1867. This law made it impossible for the president to dismiss important government officials without the permission of the Senate. In a move than infuriated Congressmen, Johnson defied the act. The president had long wanted to dismiss the Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton. Stanton was the only member of Johnson’s cabinet who supported the Radical Republicans’ program for reconstruction. On August 12, Johnson suspended Stanton. In his place, Johnson appointed the popular General Ulysses S. Grant Secretary of War. By doing so, Johnson hoped to challenge the constitutionality of the Tenure of Office Act. When Congress reconvened, they overruled Stanton’s suspension, and Grant resigned his position. The event heightened Grant’s popularity and depressed...

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On This Day, Feb. 23, 1836 – The Battle for the Alamo Begins

1836 – In San Antonio, TX, the siege of the Alamo began. On February 23, 1836, the arrival of General Antonio López de Santa Anna’s army outside San Antonio nearly caught them by surprise. Undaunted, the Texans and Tejanos prepared to defend the Alamo together. The defenders held out for 13 days against Santa Anna’s army. William B. Travis, the commander of the Alamo sent forth couriers carrying pleas for help to communities in Texas. On the eighth day of the siege, a band of 32 volunteers from Gonzales arrived, bringing the number of defenders to nearly two hundred. Legend holds that with the possibility of additional help fading, Colonel Travis drew a line on the ground and asked any man willing to stay and fight to step over — all except one did. As the defenders saw it, the Alamo was the key to the defense of Texas,...

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On This Day, Feb. 15, 1946 – Major League Baseball Gets First Female Scout

1946 – Edith Houghton, at age 33, was signed as a baseball scout by the Philadelphia Phillies becoming the first female scout in the major leagues. There are different accounts about why Houghton got the job. Some say she bowled over the Phillies’ president, Robert Carpenter, with an uncanny grasp of the game. Others mention the scrapbook she brought along, bulging with newspaper clippings documenting her impressive career as a player in the 1920s and ’30s on the women’s national baseball circuit known as the Bloomer Girls league. Philadelphia sportswriters, bitter at the team’s decade-long swoon at or near the bottom of the standings, said the Phillies had hired her simply because they had nothing to lose. Named to the Phillies’ scouting corps by owner R. R. M. Carpenter, Jr., after the Second World War, when the Phillies transformed themselves from habitual last-place finishers to 1950 National League champions...

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On This Day, Feb. 14, 1946 – ENIAC, The First Electronic Computer, is Unveiled

1946 – ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was unveiled. The device, built at the University of Pennsylvania, was the world’s first general purpose electronic computer. Hailed by The New York Times as “an amazing machine which applies electronic speeds for the first time to mathematical tasks hitherto too difficult and cumbersome for solution,” the ENIAC was a revolutionary piece of machinery in its day. In 1942, physicist John Mauchly proposed an all-electronic calculating machine. The U.S. Army, meanwhile, needed to calculate complex wartime ballistics tables. Proposal met patron. The result was ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer), built between 1943 and 1945—the first large-scale computer to run at electronic speed without being slowed by any mechanical parts. ENIAC glowed with an unprecedented 18,000 vacuum tubes. To keep so many working simultaneously, Engineers created strict circuit design guidelines to maximize reliability. They ran extensive tests on components and avoided pushing them...

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On This Day, Feb. 13, 1633 – Galileo Galilei Arrives in Rome to Face the Inquisition

1633 – Galileo Galilei arrived in Rome for trial before the Inquisition. Galileo’s belief in the Copernican System eventually got him into trouble with the Catholic Church. A committee of consultants declared to the Inquisition, a permanent institution in the Catholic Church charged with the eradication of heresies, that the Copernican proposition that the Sun is the center of the universe was a heresy. Because Galileo supported the Copernican system, he was warned by Cardinal Bellarmine, under order of Pope Paul V, that he should not discuss or defend Copernican theories. In 1624, Galileo was assured by Pope Urban VIII that he could write about Copernican theory as long as he treated it as a mathematical proposition. However, with the printing of Galileo’s book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Galileo was called to Rome in 1633 to face the Inquisition again. Galileo was found guilty of heresy...

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On This Day, Feb 12, 1909 – NAACP Founded to Combat Lynching

1909 – The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded, partly in response to the continuing horrific practice of lynching and the 1908 race riot in Springfield, the capital of Illinois and resting place of President Abraham Lincoln. Appalled at the violence that was committed against blacks, a group of white liberals that included Mary White Ovington and Oswald Garrison Villard, both the descendants of abolitionists, William English Walling and Dr. Henry Moscowitz issued a call for a meeting to discuss racial justice. Some 60 people, seven of whom were African American (including W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Mary Church Terrell), signed the call, which was released on the centennial of Lincoln’s birth. Other early members included Joel and Arthur Spingarn, Josephine Ruffin, Mary Talbert, Inez Milholland, Jane Addams, Florence Kelley, Sophonisba Breckinridge, John Haynes Holmes, Mary McLeod Bethune, George Henry...

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On This Day, Feb. 11, 1990 – Nelson Mandela Released from Prison

1990 – Nelson Mandela was freed after 27 years in captivity. In 1944, Mandela, a lawyer, joined the African National Congress (ANC), the oldest black political organization in South Africa, where he became a leader of Johannesburg’s youth wing of the ANC. In 1952, he became deputy national president of the ANC, advocating nonviolent resistance to apartheid–South Africa’s institutionalized system of white supremacy and racial segregation. However, after the massacre of peaceful black demonstrators at Sharpeville in 1960, Nelson helped organize a paramilitary branch of the ANC to engage in guerrilla warfare against the white minority government. In 1961, he was arrested for treason, and although acquitted he was arrested again in 1962 for illegally leaving the country. Convicted and sentenced to five years at Robben Island Prison, he was put on trial again in 1964 on charges of sabotage. In June 1964, he was convicted along with several...

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On This Day, Feb. 9, 1950 – McCarthyism Ushers in the Era of the Red Scare

1950 – U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy charged that the State Department was riddled with Communists. This was the beginning of McCarthyism, a period of intense anti-communism, also known as the Red Scare which occurred in the United States from 1948 to about 1956. The word “McCarthyism” now carries connotations of false, even hysterical, accusation, and of government attacks on the political minority. From the viewpoint of the political and cultural elite, the suppression of radicalism and radical organizations in the United States was a struggle against a dangerous subversive element controlled by a foreign power that posed a real danger to the security of the country, thus justifying extreme, even extra-legal measures. From the radical viewpoint it can be seen as class warfare. From the viewpoint of the thousands of innocents who were caught up in the conflict it was a massive violation of civil and Constitutional rights. One...

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On This Day, Jan, 31, 1917 – Germany Announces Unrestricted Submarine Warfare

1917 – Germany announced its policy of unrestricted submarine warfare. As early as 1915, Admiral von Pohl had wanted neutral shipping in the so-called ‘war zone’ (the English Channel and the rest of the water around the United Kingdom that then included the whole of the Irish coastline) attacked. He believed that the sinking of a few neutral merchant ships at the start of a campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare would be enough to scare off most ships from trading with Britain. However, on this occasion Pohl was not listened to for two reasons. The first was that the U-boat fleet was simply not big enough to execute a successful campaign against the numerous merchant ships that sailed around the British coast as in February 1915, there were only 21 U-boats available in total. At times only 4 U-boats patrolled the British coastline as some were in for repairs...

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On This Day, Jan 30, 1798 – First Brawl Breaks Out on House Floor

1798 – The first brawl in the U.S. House of Representatives took place. Congressmen Matthew Lyon and Roger Griswold fought on the House floor. On the morning of February 15, 1798, pandemonium broke out on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Without warning, Federalist Representative Roger Griswold of Connecticut strode across the chambers to where his colleague Matthew Lyon was sitting preoccupied with some correspondence. Cursing him as a “scoundrel,” Griswold pounded the Vermont Republican’s head and shoulders with a thick, hickory walking stick. Federalist Representative George Thacher of Massachusetts witnessed and later recalled the attack: “I was suddenly, and unsuspectedly interrupted by the sound of a violent blow I raised my head, & directly before me stood Mr. Griswald laying on blows with all his mightupon Mr. Lyon, who seemed to be in the act of rising out of his seat Lyon made an...

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On This Day, Jan. 29, 1886 – Karl Benz Patents First Gas-Powered Car

1886 – The first successful petrol-driven motorcar, built by Karl Benz, was patented. Benz’s lifelong hobby brought him to a bicycle repair shop in Mannheim owned by Max Rose and Friedrich Wilhelm Eßlinger. In 1883, the three founded a new company producing industrial machines: Benz & Company Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik, usually referred to as, Benz & Cie. Quickly growing to twenty-five employees, it soon began to produce static gas engines as well. The success of the company gave Benz the opportunity to indulge in his old passion of designing a horseless carriage. Based on his experience with, and fondness for, bicycles, he used similar technology when he created an automobile. It featured wire wheels (unlike carriages’ wooden ones) with a four-stroke engine of his own design between the rear wheels, with a very advanced coil ignition and evaporative cooling rather than a radiator. Power was transmitted by means of two roller...

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On This Day, Jan. 28, 1521 – Diet Of Worms Opens to Deal with Martin Luther

“The third kind consists of those books which I have written against private individuals, so-called; against those, that is, who have exerted themselves in defense of the Roman tyranny and to the overthrow of that piety which I have taught. I confess that I have been more harsh against them than befits my religious vows and my profession. For I do not make myself out to be any kind of saint, nor am I now contending about my conduct but about Christian doctrine. But it is not in my power to recant them, because that recantation would give that tyranny and blasphemy and occasion to lord it over those whom I defend and to rage against God’s people more violently than ever.” – Martin Luther 1521 – The Diet of Worms began. Diet of Worms opened with a papal brief requesting Charles V to do his duty, arrest Martin...

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On This Day, Jan. 27, 1926 – John Baird Demonstrates His New Invention – Television

1926 – John Logie Baird, a Scottish inventor, demonstrated a pictorial transmission machine called television. Baird is remembered as the inventor of mechanical television, radar and fiber optics. Successfully tested in a laboratory in late 1925 and unveiled with much fanfare in London in early 1926, mechanical television technology was quickly usurped by electronic television, the basis of modern video technology. Nonetheless, Baird’s achievements, including making the first trans-Atlantic television transmission, were singular and critical scientific accomplishments. Lonely, driven, tireless and often poor, the native Scot defined the pioneering spirit of scientific inquiry. During his long career, John Baird created a host of television technologies. Among them, phonovision, a forerunner of the video recorder (which largely still relies on mechanical scanning); noctovision, an infra-red spotting system for “seeing” in the dark; open-air television, a theater-projection system; stereoscopic color TV; and the first high-definition color TV. According to present-day TV...

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On This Day, Jan. 26, 1961 – John Kennedy Appoints First Woman as President’s Personal Physician

1961 – U.S. President John F. Kennedy appointed Dr. Janet G. Travell as the first woman to be the “personal physician to the President”. t was during her time studying arterial diseases at Beth Israel Hospital in New York as a Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation fellow (1939-1941) that Dr. Travell became absorbed in the problems of skeletal muscle pain. Dr. Travell helped develop new anesthetic techniques for treating painful muscle spasm by employing local procaine injection and vapocoolant sprays such as ethyl chloride (used widely in sports medicine today.) It was this pioneering expertise that changed her life in more ways than one. In 1955 she was called upon by the orthopedic surgeon of then Senator John F. Kennedy, who had failed to recover from major back surgeries related to injuries he suffered in World War II. Dr. Travell was able to locate muscular sources for his chronic pain,...

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On This Day, Jan 18, 1803 – Jefferson Sets Stage for Lewis & Clark Expedition

1803 – Thomas Jefferson, in secret communication with Congress, sought authorization for the first official exploration by the U.S. government. Three months later, with the Louisiana Purchase in place, Congress officially funded what would become the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the first American expedition to cross what is now the western portion of the United States, departing in May 1804, from near St. Louis on the Mississippi River, making their way westward through the continental divide to the Pacific coast. The expedition consisted of a select group of U.S. Army volunteers under the command of Captain Meriwether Lewis and his close friend Second Lieutenant William Clark. Their perilous journey lasted from May 1804 to September 1806. The primary objective was to explore and map the newly acquired territory, find a practical route across the Western half of the continent, and establish an American presence in this territory before Britain...

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On This Day, Jan 17, 1961 – Ike Warns Nation of Rise of the ‘Militarty-Industrial Complex’

1961 – In his farewell address, President Dwight Eisenhower warned against the rise of “the military-industrial complex.” On Jan. 17, 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower gave the nation a dire warning about what he described as a threat to democratic government. He called it the military-industrial complex, a formidable union of defense contractors and the armed forces. Eisenhower, a retired five-star Army general, the man who led the allies on D-Day, made the remarks in his farewell speech from the White House. As NPR’s Tom Bowman tells Morning Edition co-host Renee Montagne, Eisenhower used the speech to warn about “the immense military establishment” that had joined with “a large arms industry.” Here’s an excerpt: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.” Since...

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On This Day, Jan 16, 1919 – 18th Amendment’s Ratification Leads to Prohibition

1919 – The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibited the sale or transportation of alcoholic beverages, was ratified. It was later repealed by the 21st Amendment. Prohibition in the United States was a nationwide constitutional ban on the sale, production, importation, and transportation of alcoholic beverages that remained in place from 1920 to 1933. It was promoted by “dry” crusaders movement, led by rural Protestants and social Progressives in the Democratic and Republican parties, and was coordinated by the Anti-Saloon League, and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Prohibition was mandated under the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Enabling legislation, known as the Volstead Act, set down the rules for enforcing the ban and defined the types of alcoholic beverages that were prohibited. For example, religious uses of wine were allowed. Private ownership and consumption of alcohol was not made illegal under federal law; however, in many...

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On This Day, Jan. 15, 1870 – The Donkey and the Democrats Join Hands

1870 – A cartoon by Thomas Nast titled “A Live Jackass Kicking a Dead Lion” appeared in “Harper’s Weekly.” The cartoon used the donkey to symbolize the Democratic Party for the first time. The donkey was labeled “COPPERHEAD PAPERS” – copperheads were Northern Democrats and the lion was inscribed with “HON. E.M. STANTON” who was Lincoln’s Secretary of War. Lincoln was the first Republican president. Nast was born in Landau, Germany in 1840 and his parents moved the family to New York when he was six. He and his sister were enrolled in public school and Nast’s performance was dismal. He did not speak English and was in danger of failing. His neighbor gave him crayons, seconds from his own manufacturing effort, and Nast learned to draw beautifully. He was basically illiterate and remained so all his life. He was enrolled in art school at age 12 but was...

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On This Day, Jan 14, 1943 – FDR Becomes First Sitting US President to Take to the Air

1943 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first U.S. President to fly in an airplane while in office, arriving in Morocco to join British Prime Minister Winston Churchill for a 10-day conference in Casablanca that mapped the course the allies would pursue in fighting World War II and that demanded the “unconditional surrender” of their enemies. In crossing the Atlantic in a Boeing 314 Flying Boat dubbed the Dixie Clipper, Roosevelt became the first president to travel on official business by airplane. At the time, FDR was a frail 60 years old, with little more than two more years to live. He was persuaded to make the arduous 17,000-mile round trip by air because Nazi U-boats still remained on the prowl. The secret presidential flight took more than four days to allow for refueling and rest stops. Although transferred to the U.S. Navy and designated C-143, the huge...

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On This Day, Jan. 13, 1943 – Henry Ford Patents ‘The Soybean Car’

1942 – Henry Ford patented the plastic automobile referred to as the “Soybean Car.” The car was 30% lighter than the average car. The Soybean car, more recently referred to as the Hemp body car, was a car build with agricultural plastic. Although the formula used to create the plasticized panels has been lost, it is conjectured that the first iteration of the body was made partially from soybeans and Hemp. The body was lighter and therefore more fuel efficient than a normal metal body. It was made by Henry Ford’s auto company in Dearborn, Michigan, through the work of scientist/botanist George Washington Carver and was introduced to public view on August 13, 1941. Because of World War II all US automobile production was curtailed considerably, and the plastic car experiment basically came to a halt. By the end of the war the plastic car idea went into oblivion. According...

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On This Day, Jan. 12, 1966 – LBJ Says We’re Staying in Vietnam

1966 – President Lyndon Johnson said in his State of the Union address that the United States should stay in South Vietnam until Communist aggression there was ended. “How many times–in my lifetime and in yours–have the American people gathered, as they do now, to hear their President tell them of conflict and tell them of danger? Each time they have answered. They have answered with all the effort that the security and the freedom of this Nation required. And they do again tonight in Vietnam. Not too many years ago Vietnam was a peaceful, if troubled, land. In the North was an independent Communist government. In the South, a people struggled to build a nation, with the friendly help of the United States. There were some in South Vietnam who wished to force Communist rule on their own people. But their progress was slight. Their hope of success...

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On This Day, Jan. 4, 1965 – LBJ Reveals Vision for ‘The Great Society’

1965 – In his State of the Union address, President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed the building of the “Great Society.” The Great Society was a set of domestic programs in the United States launched by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964-65. The main goal was the elimination of poverty and racial injustice. President Johnson first used the term “Great Society” during a speech at Ohio University, then unveiled the program in greater detail at an appearance at University of Michigan. New major spending programs that addressed education, medical care, urban problems, and transportation were launched during this period. The program and its initiatives were subsequently promoted by him and fellow Democrats in Congress in the 1960s and years following. The Great Society in scope and sweep resembled the New Deal domestic agenda of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Some Great Society proposals were stalled initiatives from John F. Kennedy‘s New Frontier. Johnson’s...

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On This Day, Jan. 3, 1521 – Martin Luther Excommunicated for Heresy

1521 – Pope Leo X excommunicated Martin Luther for heresy. Ordinarily, those condemned as heretics were apprehended by an authority of the secular government and put to death by burning. In Luther’s case, however, a complex set of factors made such punishment impossible. The new German king (and Holy Roman emperor), Charles V, had agreed as a condition of his election that no German would be convicted without a proper hearing; many, including Luther himself, were convinced that Luther had not been granted this right. Others noted various formal deficiencies in Exsurge Domine, including the fact that it did not correctly quote Luther and that one of the sentences it condemned was actually written by another author. Still others thought that Luther’s call for reform deserved a more serious hearing. A proposal was therefore circulated that Luther should be given a formal hearing when the imperial Diet convened in...

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On This Day, Jan. 2, 1960 – John F. Kennedy Throws His Hat in the Ring

1960 – Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. Kennedy captured the Democratic nomination despite his youth, a seeming lack of experience in foreign affairs, and his Catholic faith. On May 10, he won a solid victory in the Democratic primary in overwhelmingly Protestant West Virginia. His success there launched him toward a first ballot victory at the national convention in Los Angeles — although he did not reach the 761 votes required for the nomination until the final state in the roll call, Wyoming. After choosing Texas Senator Lyndon Johnson as his running mate, Kennedy told the convention delegates that he would get the nation moving again. He declared that the United States would have the will and the strength to resist communism around the world. On November 8, 1960, . Kennedy was elected president in one of the closest elections...

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On This Day, Jan. 1, 1892 – Ellis Island Starts Processing Immigrants

1892 – Ellis Island Immigrant Station formally opened in New York. In the 35 years before Ellis Island opened, over eight million immigrants arriving in New York had been processed by New York State officials at Castle Garden Immigration Depot in lower Manhattan, just across the bay. The federal government assumed control of immigration on April 18, 1890, and Congress appropriated $75,000 to construct America’s first Federal immigration station on Ellis Island. Artesian wells were dug, and landfill was hauled in from incoming ships’ ballast and from construction of New York City’s subway tunnels, which doubled the size of Ellis Island to over six acres. While the building was under construction, the Barge Office nearby at the Battery was used for immigrant processing. The first federal immigrant inspection station was an enormous three-story-tall structure, with outbuildings, built of Georgia pine, containing all of the amenities that were thought to be...

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On This Day, Dec. 31, 1879 – Thomas Edison Demonstrates His Light Bulb

1879 – Thomas Edison gave his first public demonstration of incandescent lighting to an audience in Menlo Park, NJ. Edison’s serious incandescent light bulb research began in 1878, filing his first patent later that year…”Improvement In Electric Lights” in October 1878. His experiments involved the fabrication and testing of many different metal filaments, including platinum. Platinum was very difficult to work with, and prone to being weakened by heating and oxygen attack. In addition, platinum was expensive, and too low in resistance; which would require heavy copper conductors in Edison’s electric distribution system he was designing to supply commercial installations of his bulbs. This system would later become the model for our modern electric utility power distribution system of today. Edison then resorted to a carbon-based, high-resistance, filament. One year later in October 1879, Edison successfully tested a filament that burned for 13.5 hours. Continuing to improve his design,...

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On This Day, Dec. 30, 1980 – NBC Cancels ‘The Wonderful World of Disney’

1980 – “The Wonderful World of Disney” was cancelled by NBC after more than 25 years on the TV. It was the longest-running series in prime-time television history. Originally hosted by Walt Disney himself, the series presented animated cartoons and other material (some original, some pre-existing) from the studio library. For many years, the show also featured one-hour edits of such then-recent Disney films as Alice in Wonderland, and in other cases, telecasts of complete Disney films split into two or more one-hour episodes.Occasionally, a more educational segment, such as The Story of the Animated Drawing, would be featured. The show spawned the Davy Crockett craze of 1955 with the three-episode series (not shown in consecutive weeks) about the historical American frontiersman, starring Fess Parker in the title role. Millions of dollars of merchandise were sold relating to the title character, and the theme song, “The Ballad of Davy...

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On This Day, Dec. 29, 1170 – Thomas Becket Killed on Orders from Henry II

1170 – St. Thomas à Becket, the 40th archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered in his own cathedral by four knights acting on Henry II’s orders. In 1162, Henry II, king of England, appointed Thomas Becket, as Archbishop of Canterbury. This was the most important religious position in England. No-one was surprised by Henry’s choice as both he and Thomas were very good friends. They enjoyed hunting, playing jokes and socialising together. Becket was known to be a lover of wine and a good horse rider. Henry II loved to ride as well but his personality was troubled by his fearsome temper. He tried to keep his temper under control by working very hard as it distracted him from things that might sparked off his temper. Henry II also controlled a lot of France at this time. William the Conqueror had been his great-grandfather and he had inherited his French...

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On This Day, Dec. 21, 1620 – Pilgrims Land at Plymouth Rock

1620 – The “Mayflower“, and its passengers, pilgrims from England, landed at Plymouth Rock, MA. One of the greatest twists of fate in human history occurred on that epochal voyage. The Pilgrims were originally bound for Virginia to live north of Jamestown under the same charter granted to citizens of Jamestown. Fate charted a different course. Lost at sea, they happened upon a piece of land that would become known as Cape Cod. After surveying the land, they set up camp not too far from Plymouth Rock. They feared venturing further south because winter was fast approaching. The 102 travellers aboard the Mayflower landed upon the shores of Plymouth in 1620.  The Pilgrims had an important question to answer before they set ashore. Since they were not landing within the jurisdiction of the Virginia Company, they had no charter to govern them. Who would rule their society? In the...

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On This Day, Dec. 20, 2014 – NASA AMES Center Celebrates 75th Anniversary

2014 – NASA Ames Research Center marks its 75th Anniversary. Ames Research Center (ARC), commonly known as NASA Ames, is a major NASA research center at Moffett Federal Airfield in California’s Silicon Valley. Named after Joseph Sweetman Ames and founded on December 20, 1939, as the second National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) laboratory, ARC became part of NASA in 1958 as part of the turnover from the dissolution of NACA, having (at the last estimate) over US$3 billion in capital equipment, 2,300 research personnel and a US$860 million annual budget. Ames was founded to engage in wind-tunnel research on the aerodynamics of propeller-driven aircraft; however, its role has developed to encompass spaceflight and information technology. Ames plays a role in many of NASA missions in support of America’s space and aeronautics programs. It provides leadership in astrobiology; small satellites; robotic lunar exploration; the search for habitable planets; supercomputing; intelligent/adaptive...

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On This Day, Dec 19, 1777 – Gerorge Washington Sets Up Camp at Valley Forge

1777 – General George Washington led his army of about 11,000 men to Valley Forge, PA, to camp for the winter. For his winter encampment, Washington selected Valley Forge on the Schuylkill River approximately 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia. With its high ground and position near the river, Valley Forge was easily defensible, but still close enough to the city for Washington to maintain pressure on the British. Despite the defeats of the fall, the 12,000 men of the Continental Army were in good spirits when they marched into Valley Forge on December 19, 1777. Under the direction of the army’s engineers, the men began constructing over 2,000 log huts laid out along military streets. In addition, defensive trenches and five redoubts were built to protect the encampment. To facilitate re-supply of the army, a bridge was erected over the Schuylkill. These 100 men were in turn sent out...

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On This Day, Dec. 18, 1944 – Liberty Falls as High Court Upholds Japanese Internment

1944 – The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the wartime relocation of Japanese-Americans, but also stated that undeniably loyal Americans of Japanese ancestry could not be detained. The relocation of Japanese-Americans into internment camps during World War II was one of the most flagrant violations of civil liberties in American history. Two months after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 ordering all Japanese-Americans to evacuate the West Coast. This resulted in the relocation of approximately 120,000 people, many of whom were American citizens, to one of 10 internment camps located across the country. Traditional family structure was upended within the camp, as American-born children were solely allowed to hold positions of authority. The Supreme Court upheld the legality of the relocation order in Hirabayashi v. United States and Korematsu v. United States. Early in 1945, Japanese-American citizens of undisputed loyalty were...

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On this Day, Dec. 17,1979 – Death of Black Insurance Exec by 4 White Police Sparks Miami Riots

1979 – Arthur McDuffie, a black insurance executive, was fatally beaten after a police chase in Miami. The Miami race riots (also known as the Arthur McDuffie Riots) of May 1980 were the first major race riots after the end of the civil rights movement. The Miami Black community, long abused and neglected by civic leaders who, among other things, placed I-95 straight through the cultural center of their neighborhoods, was getting angrier by the day. Recently arrived Latin and Haitian immigrants were taking jobs and social benefits that had traditionally belonged to Blacks. Cuban refugees wielding money and power were beginning to take control of the city, and as such were awarding minority contracts and jobs to Cubans instead of African-Americans. This, combined with the continuous poverty and degradation of their neighborhoods, had Miami’s Black community ready to snap. And so it was in this volatile environment that...

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On This Day, Dec. 16, 1773 – Boston Patriots Dump the Tea

1773 – Nearly 350 chests of tea were dumped into Boston Harbor off of British ships by Colonial patriots. During the 1760s Parliament passed a series of acts designed to reduce the British national debt and to finance the costs of keeping regular soldiers on the American frontier. The most notorious of these was the Stamp Act (1765), which placed a tax on almost every public piece of paper in the colonies, including newspapers, pamphlets, diplomas, licenses, packs of cards, almanacs, and dice. The colonists fiercely resisted these taxes, organizing public protests and intimidating tax collectors. The Stamp Act resistance was the most widespread and best organized inter–colonial protest before the tea crisis of the 1770s. In the face of such widespread opposition the British Parliament backed down. It repealed the Stamp Act and its companion taxes in 1766. The following year Parliament tried another means of raising money,...

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On This Day, Dec. 15, 1890 – Sitting Bull Killed in Melee with Indian Police

1890 – American Sioux Indian Chief Sitting Bull and 11 other tribe members were killed in Grand River, SD, One of the most famous Native Americans of the 19th century, Sitting Bull (Tatanka Iyotake) was a fierce enemy of Anglo-Americans from a young age. Deeply devoted to the traditional ways, Sitting Bull believed that contact with non-Indians undermined the strength and identity of the Sioux and would lead to their ultimate decline. However, Sitting Bull’s tactics were generally more defensive than aggressive, especially as he grew older and became a Sioux leader. Fundamentally, Sitting Bull and those associated with his tribe wished only to be left alone to pursue their traditional ways, but the Anglo settlers’ growing interest in the land and the resulting confinement of Indians to government-controlled reservations inevitably led to conflicts. Sitting Bull’s refusal to follow an 1875 order to bring his people to the Sioux...

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On This Day, Dec. 7, 1941, ‘A Day That Will Live in Infamy . . .’

1941 – The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941. The attack led to the United States’ entry into World War II. The attack was intended as a preventive action in order to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with military actions the Empire of Japan was planning in Southeast Asia against overseas territories of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States. There were simultaneous Japanese attacks on the U.S.-held Philippines and on the British Empire in Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong. From the standpoint of the defenders, the attack commenced at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time. The base was attacked by 353 Japanese fighter planes, bombers, and torpedo planes in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers. All eight U.S. Navy battleships...

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On This Day, Dec. 6, 1865 – Slavery Ends as 13th Amendment Ratified

1865 – The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. The amendment abolished slavery in the U.S. The history behind this amendment’s adoption is an interesting one. Prior to the Civil War, in February 1861, Congress had passed a Thirteenth Amendment for an entirely different purpose–to guarantee the legality and perpetuity of slavery in the slave states, rather than to end it. This amendment guaranteeing slavery was a result of the complicated sectional politics of the antebellum period, and a futile effort to preclude Civil War. Although the Thirteenth Amendment that guaranteed slavery was narrowly passed by both houses, the Civil War started before it could be sent to the states for ratification. But the final version of the Thirteenth Amendment — the one ending slavery — has an interesting story of its own. Passed during the Civil War years, when southern congressional representatives were not present for debate, one would think today that it must...

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On This Day, Dec. 5, 1848 – President Polk Helps Trigger California Gold Rush

1848 – U.S. President James Polk triggered the Gold Rush of ’49 by confirming the fact that gold had been discovered in California in his State of the Union address. Some 80,000 immigrants poured into California during 1849. After James Marshall discovered gold in Coloma, he tried to keep his discovery a secret. But the secret was too big to keep. The laborers at the sawmill had close friends working at Sutter’s Fort. As soon as rumors began to circulate around the Fort, the first adventurers made the 40-mile trip to the sawmill. When these men returned to the Fort with samples of gold dust, Sutter’s worst fears were quickly realized. Sutter described it this way: “Everyone left, from the clerk to the cook, and I was in great distress.” Nearly everyone, of course, went to the sawmill to dig for gold. But one enterprising Mormon merchant named Sam Brannan had a...

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On This Day, Dec. 4, 1875 – NYC’s ‘Boss’ Tweed Escapes from Jail

1875 – William Marcy Tweed, the “Boss” of New York City’s Tammany Hall political organization, escaped from jail and fled from the U.S. He rose to power during a period when New York City was experiencing a huge influx of immigrants and needed to build many public works projects to cope with the increased demand for services. During the 1860s and early 1870s, Tweed and his cronies ran New York City and stole many millions of dollars of public money; by some estimates, as much as $200 million. Tweed bribed officials and openly bought votes to put his cronies into nearly every elected and appointed office in the city and state. New York City was controlled by the “Tweed Ring” consisting of Peter Sweeny, city chamberlain; Richard B. Connolly, city comptroller; A. Oakey Hall, mayor and of course Boss Tweed himself; the man behind the curtain pulling all the...

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On This Day, Dec. 3, 1984 – Bhopal Gas Leak Kills Thousands

1984 – In Bhopal, India, more than 2,000 people were killed after a cloud of poisonous gas escaped from a pesticide plant. The plant was operated by a Union Carbide subsidiary. Over 500,000 people were exposed to methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas and other chemicals. The toxic substance made its way in and around the shanty towns located near the plant. Estimates vary on the death toll. The official immediate death toll was 2,259. The government of Madhya Pradesh confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release. Others estimate 8,000 died within two weeks and another 8,000 or more have since died from gas-related diseases. A government affidavit in 2006 stated the leak caused 558,125 injuries including 38,478 temporary partial injuries and approximately 3,900 severely and permanently disabling injuries. The cause of the disaster remains under debate. The Indian government and local activists argue slack management and...

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On This Day, Dec. 2, 1954 – Senate Votes to Censure Joseph McCarthy

1954 – The U.S. Senate voted to condemn Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy for what it called “conduct that tends to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.” The vote was 67 to 22, with all the Democrats and about half the Republicans voting against him. He has been condemned on two counts: Contempt and abuse of a Senate committee that looked into his financial affairs in 1952 Insulting members of this committee on national television thereby bringing the Senate into dishonour and disrepute” and obstructing the constitutional process. In April this year, McCarthy attacked Secretary of the Army Robert T Stevens and General Ralph Zwicker for refusing to help him in an investigation of espionage at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. After years of witnessing his crusade against alleged Communists in government, the entertainment industry, and education, his attack on the army was the final straw and a committee was...

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On This Day, Dec. 1, 1955 – Rosa Parks Refuses to Yield

1955 – Rosa Parks, a black seamstress in Montgomery, AL, refused to give up her seat to a white man. After a long day’s work as a seamstress at a Montgomery department store, Rosa Parks boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus for home. Though the city’s bus ordinance did give drivers the authority to assign seats, it didn’t specifically give them the authority to demand a passenger to give up a seat to anyone (regardless of color). However, Montgomery bus drivers had adopted the custom of requiring black passengers to give up their seats to white passengers, when no other seats were available. If the black passenger protested, the bus driver had the authority to refuse service and could call the police to have them removed. As the bus Rosa was riding continued on its route, it began to fill with white passengers. Eventually, the bus was full and the...

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On This Day, Nov. 23. 1976 – Jerry Lee Lewis Arrested at the Gates of Graceland

  1976 – Police arrested Jerry Lee Lewis outside the gates of Graceland after he showed up for the second time in 24 hours and made a scene by shouting, waving a pistol and demanding to see Elvis Presley. In the early hours of November 22, 1976, Harold Loyd, the presiding guard on duty at Graceland, was greeted by an unexpected visitor, Jerry Lee Lewis. Jerry Lee, accompanied by his wife, pulled up to the mansion’s front gate in his new Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow. He asked Loyd if he could see Elvis, but was told that the King was asleep. Lewis politely thanked Loyd and drove away without incident. Later that morning, at 9:30 a.m., Lewis flipped his Rolls while rounding the corner at Peterson Lake and Powell Road in Collierville. The police report on the incident stated that the Breathalyzer test yielded negligible results, but that Lewis was obviously...

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On This Day, Nov. 22, 1963 – The Death of a President

1963 – President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated while riding in a motorcade in Dallas.  On November 21, the president and first lady departed on Air Force One for the two-day, five-city tour of Texas. President Kennedy was aware that a feud among party leaders in Texas could jeopardize his chances of carrying the state in 1964, and one of his aims for the trip was to bring Democrats together. He also knew that a relatively small but vocal group of extremists was contributing to the political tensions in Texas and would likely make its presence felt — particularly in Dallas, where U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson had been physically attacked a month earlier after making a speech there. Nonetheless, JFK seemed to relish the prospect of leaving Washington, getting out among the people and into the political fray. On Nov. 22, his procession left the...

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On This Day, Nov. 21, 1979 – Protesters Attack and Burn US Embassy in Islamabad

1979 – The US Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, was attacked by a mob that set the building afire and killed two Americans. The five-hour siege began as an organised student protest outside the locked gates of the embassy compound. But the demonstration grew violent as protesters pulled down part of the outer wall and broke into the compound itself. Gunfire broke out, and a marine, who was standing on the roof of the building, was shot. As the protesters began smashing windows and setting fire to the building, more than 100 embassy staff took refuge in a steel-lined and windowless vault on an upstairs floor. Those trapped in the room included US diplomats, Pakistani staff members and a visiting journalist from Time magazine. Ambassador Arthur W Hummel Jr., was outside the building when the attack began. Staff inside were able to contact him, and it was Hummel who raised...

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