On This Day in History

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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On This Day, Mar. 23, 1919, Mussolini Founds the Fascist party

Benito Mussolini, an Italian World War I veteran and publisher of Socialist newspapers, breaks with the Italian Socialists and establishes the nationalist Fasci di Combattimento, named after the Italian peasant revolutionaries, or “Fighting Bands,” from the 19th century. Commonly known as the Fascist Party, Mussolini’s new right-wing organization advocated Italian nationalism, had black shirts for uniforms, and launched a program of terrorism and intimidation against its leftist opponents. In October 1922, Mussolini led the Fascists on a march on Rome, and King Emmanuel III, who had little faith in Italy’s parliamentary government, asked Mussolini to form a new government. Initially, Mussolini, who was appointed prime minister at the head of a three-member Fascist cabinet, cooperated with the Italian parliament, but aided by his brutal police organization he soon became the effective dictator of Italy. In 1924, a Socialist backlash was suppressed, and in January 1925 a Fascist state was...

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On This Day, Mar 22, 1947 -Truman Orders Loyalty Checks of Federal Employees

In response to public fears and Congressional investigations into communism in the United States, President Harry S. Truman issues an executive decree establishing a sweeping loyalty investigation of federal employees. As the Cold War began to develop after World War II, fears concerning communist activity in the United States, particularly in the federal government, increased. Congress had already launched investigations of communist influence in Hollywood, and laws banning communists from teaching positions were being instituted in several states. Of most concern to the Truman administration, however, were persistent charges that communists were operating in federal offices. In response to these fears and concerns, Truman issued an executive order on March 21, 1947, which set up a program to check the loyalty of federal employees. In announcing his order, Truman indicated that he expected all federal workers to demonstrate “complete and unswerving loyalty” the United States. Anything less, he declared,...

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On This Day, Mar. 21, 1980, Carter Announces Olympic Boycott

On this day in 1980, President Jimmy Carter announces that the U.S. will boycott the Olympic Games scheduled to take place in Moscow that summer. The announcement came after the Soviet Union failed to comply with Carter’s February 20, 1980, deadline to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. The Soviet military invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to reinforce the country’s communist regime against Islamic rebel forces. In a statement made after the invasion, Carter rebuked the Soviet Union, specifically Premier Leonid Brezhnev, and decried the invasion as a deliberate effort by a powerful atheistic government to subjugate an independent Islamic people that he called a stepping stone to control over oil supplies.” Brezhnev dismissed Carter’s statements as bellicose and wicked. The invasion threatened to revive the Cold War, which, during the late 1970s, had appeared to undergo a temporary thaw.  Carter said his opinion of the Russians has changed...

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On This Day, Mar. 20, 1965, LBJ Sends Federal Troops to Alabama

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson notifies Alabama‘s Governor George Wallace that he will use federal authority to call up the Alabama National Guard in order to supervise a planned civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. Intimidation and discrimination had earlier prevented Selma’s black population–over half the city–from registering and voting. On Sunday, March 7, 1965, a group of 600 demonstrators marched on the capital city of Montgomery to protest this disenfranchisement and the earlier killing of a black man, Jimmie Lee Jackson, by a state trooper. In brutal scenes that were later broadcast on television, state and local police attacked the marchers with billy clubs and tear gas. TV viewers far and wide were outraged by the images, and a protest march was organized just two days after “Bloody Sunday” by Martin Luther King, Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). King...

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On This Day, Mar 19, 2003 – War in Iraq Begins

On this day in 2003, the United States, along with coalition forces primarily from the United Kingdom, initiates war on Iraq. Just after explosions began to rock Baghdad, Iraq’s capital, U.S. President George W. Bush announced in a televised address, “At this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.” President Bush and his advisors built much of their case for war on the idea that Iraq, under dictator Saddam Hussein, possessed or was in the process of building weapons of mass destruction. Hostilities began about 90 minutes after the U.S.-imposed deadline for Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq or face war passed. The first targets, which Bush said were “of military importance,” were hit with Tomahawk cruise missiles from U.S. fighter-bombers and warships stationed in the Persian Gulf. In...

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On This Day, Mar 18, 1999 – Three Women are Murdered at Yosemite

On this day in 1999, the bodies of Carole Sund and Silvina Pelosso are found in a charred rental car in a remote wooded area of Long Barn, Califonia. The women, along with Sund’s daughter Juli, had been missing since February when they were last seen alive at the Cedar Lodge near Yosemite National Park. Juli Sund’s body was found thirty miles away a week after the car was found. The mysterious disappearance of the three women had drawn national attention and landed them on the cover of People magazine. Compounding the mystery, Carole Sund’s wallet had been found on a street in downtown Modesto, California, three days after they had disappeared. Police and the FBI initially focused their investigation on Eugene Dykes, Michael Larwick, and a group of methamphetamine users in Northern California. However, all these leads went up in smoke in July when Joie Ruth Armstrong, a...

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On This Day, Mar 17, 1776 – British Evacuate Boston

On this day in 1776, British forces are forced to evacuate Boston following General George Washington’s successful placement of fortifications and cannons on Dorchester Heights, which overlooks the city from the south. During the evening of March 4, American Brigadier General John Thomas, under orders from Washington, secretly led a force of 800 soldiers and 1,200 workers to Dorchester Heights and began fortifying the area. To cover the sound of the construction, American cannons, besieging Boston from another location, began a noisy bombardment of the outskirts of the city. By the morning, more than a dozen cannons from Fort Ticonderoga had been brought within the Dorchester Heights fortifications. British General Sir William Howe hoped to use the British ships in Boston Harbor to destroy the American position, but a storm set in, giving the Americans ample time to complete the fortifications and set up their artillery. Realizing their position...

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On This Day, Mar 16,1988 – Reagan Orders Troops into Honduras

As part of his continuing effort to put pressure on the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua, President Ronald Reagan orders over 3,000 U.S. troops to Honduras, claiming that Nicaraguan soldiers had crossed its borders. As with so many of the other actions taken against Nicaragua during the Reagan years, the result was only more confusion and criticism. Since taking office in 1981, the Reagan administration had used an assortment of means to try to remove the leftist Sandinista government of Nicaragua. President Reagan charged that the Sandinistas were pawns of the Soviet Union and were establishing a communist beachhead in the Western Hemisphere, though there was little evidence to support such an accusation. Nonetheless, Reagan’s administration used economic and diplomatic pressure attempting to destabilize the Sandinista regime. Reagan poured millions of dollars of U.S. military and economic aid into the so-called “Contras,” anti-Sandinista rebels operating out of Honduras and...

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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, Mar 8, 1951 – The Lonely Hearts Killers are Executed

The Lonely Hearts Killers, Martha Beck and Raymond Martinez Fernandez, are executed in the electric chair at Sing Sing Prison in New York. The strange couple had schemed to seduce, rob and murder women who placed personal ads in newspapers. Beck and Fernandez boasted to killing as many as seventeen women in this manner, but evidence suggests that there may have been only four victims. Martha Beck was an extremely overweight, and by all reports, unattractive woman when she joined a lonely hearts club advertised in a romance magazine. Her first letter came from Ray Fernandez in Brooklyn. After World War II, he suffered a serious head injury in an accident that left him bald and with serious headaches. He became a petty criminal and wore a cheap black toupee to cover up his baldness. He convinced himself that he had a power over women that could turn them into...

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On This Day, Mar. 7, 1999, Stanley Kubrick Dies

On March 7, 1999, American filmmaker Stanley Kubrick dies in Hertfordshire, England, at the age of 70. One of the most acclaimed film directors of the 20th century, Kubrick’s 13 feature films explored the dark side of human nature. Born in New York City in 1928, Kubrick took up photography in high school and became a staff photographer for Look magazine at age 17. A photo assignment on boxing inspired him to make The Day of the Fight, a short documentary film about boxing, in 1951. The short was bought by a news service, and he made two more documentaries before making a short feature-length film, Fear and Desire (1953), which dealt with war. The movie, produced independently, received little attention outside New York, where critics praised Kubrick’s directorial talents. Kubrick’s next two feature films, Killer’s Kiss (1955) and The Killing (1956), brought him to the attention of Hollywood,...

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On This Day, Mar. 6, 1951, The Rosenberg Trial Begins

The trial of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg begins in New York Southern District federal court. Judge Irving R. Kaufman presides over the espionage prosecution of the couple accused of selling nuclear secrets to the Russians (treason could not be charged because the United States was not at war with the Soviet Union). The Rosenbergs, and co-defendant, Morton Sobell, were defended by the father and son team of Emanuel and Alexander Bloch. The prosecution includes the infamous Roy Cohn, best known for his association with Senator Joseph McCarthy. David Greenglass was a machinist at Los Alamos, where America developed the atomic bomb. Julius Rosenberg, his brother-in-law, was a member of the American Communist Party and was fired from his government job during the Red Scare. According to Greenglass, Rosenberg asked him to pass highly confidential instructions on making atomic weapons to the Soviet Union. These materials were transferred to the...

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On This Day, Mar. 5, 1946, Churchill Delivers Iron Curtain Speech

In one of the most famous orations of the Cold War period, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill condemns the Soviet Union’s policies in Europe and declares, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.” Churchill’s speech is considered one of the opening volleys announcing the beginning of the Cold War. Churchill, who had been defeated for re-election as prime minister in 1945, was invited to Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri where he gave this speech. President Harry S. Truman joined Churchill on the platform and listened intently to his speech. Churchill began by praising the United States, which he declared stood “at the pinnacle of world power.” It soon became clear that a primary purpose of his talk was to argue for an even closer “special relationship” between the United States and Great Britain—the great powers of the...

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On This Day, Mar. 4, 1944, The Head of Murder, Inc. is Executed

Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, the head of Murder, Inc., is executed at Sing Sing Prison in New York. Lepke was the leader of the country’s largest crime syndicate throughout the 1930s and was making nearly $50 million a year from his various enterprises. His downfall came when several members of his notorious killing squad turned into witnesses for the government. Lepke began his criminal career robbing pushcarts as a teenager. When he met Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro while trying to rob the same pushcart, the two quickly became a formidable team. With Shapiro’s brute strength, the two established an extortion business, forcing pushcart owners to pay for protection. Lepke and Shapiro then joined Jacob “Little Augie” Orgen’s Lower East Side gang and turned their attention to bigger game. One by one, Lepke and the gang terrorized the local garment workers unions. They took over control of the unions and forced kickback payments...

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On This Day, Mar. 3, 1991, Police Brutality Caught on Video

At 12:45 a.m. on March 3, 1991, robbery parolee Rodney G. King stops his car after leading police on a nearly 8-mile pursuit through the streets of Los Angeles, California. The chase began after King, who was intoxicated, was caught speeding on a freeway by a California Highway Patrol cruiser but refused to pull over. Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) cruisers and a police helicopter joined the pursuit, and when King was finally stopped by Hansen Dam Park, several police cars descended on his white Hyundai. A group of LAPD officers led by Sergeant Stacey Koon ordered King and the other two occupants of the car to exit the vehicle and lie flat on the ground. King’s two friends complied, but King himself was slower to respond, getting on his hands and knees rather than lying flat. Officers Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Ted Briseno, and Roland Solano tried to...

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On This Day, Mar 2, 1807 – Congress Abolishes the African Slave Trade

The U.S. Congress passes an act to “prohibit the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States…from any foreign kingdom, place, or country.” The first shipload of African captives to North America arrived at Jamestown, Virginia, in August 1619, but for most of the 17th century, European indentured servants were far more numerous in the North American British colonies than were African slaves. However, after 1680, the flow of indentured servants sharply declined, leading to an explosion in the African slave trade. By the middle of the 18th century, slavery could be found in all 13 colonies and was at the core of the Southern colonies’ agricultural economy. By the time of the American Revolution, the English importers alone had brought some three million captive Africans to the Americas. After the war, as slave labor was not a crucial element of the...

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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 22, 2006 – Gang Commits Largest Robbery in British History

In the early morning hours of February 22, 2006, a gang of at least six men, some of them armed, steal £53 million from the Securitas bank depot in Kent, Great Britain. It was the largest such theft in British history. The plot was well planned. On the evening before, two men, dressed as police officers, pulled the depot manager, Colin Dixon, over as he was driving in nearby Stockbury. They convinced him to get out of his car, and forced him into their vehicle. At about the same time, two more men visited Dixon’s home and picked up Dixon’s wife and eight-year-old son; eventually all three Dixons were taken to a farm in West Kent, where the gang threatened their lives if Colin refused to cooperate with the robbery. The Dixons were then forced to go with the gang to the Securitas depot, where Colin helped them evade...

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On This Day, Feb 21, 1965 – Malcolm X Assassinated

In New York City, Malcolm X, an African American nationalist and religious leader, is assassinated by rival Black Muslims while addressing his Organization of Afro-American Unity at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights. Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1925, Malcolm was the son of James Earl Little, a Baptist preacher who advocated the black nationalist ideals of Marcus Garvey. Threats from the Ku Klux Klan forced the family to move to Lansing, Michigan, where his father continued to preach his controversial sermons despite continuing threats. In 1931, Malcolm’s father was brutally murdered by the white supremacist Black Legion, and Michigan authorities refused to prosecute those responsible. In 1937, Malcolm was taken from his family by welfare caseworkers. By the time he reached high school age, he had dropped out of school and moved to Boston, where he became increasingly involved in criminal activities. In 1946, at the...

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On This Day, Feb. 20, 1993, Fire Engulfs Nightclub During Great White Show

The most famous contract rider in rock-and-roll history may be the one Van Halen used that stipulated that “There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.” The most tragic contract rider in history, on the other hand, was the one sent ahead to the small bars and nightclubs on the 2003 tour of  “Jack Russell’s Great White,” the touring remnant of the group behind late-80s hits like “Once Bitten, Twice Shy.” That rider led, in a very direct way, to the deaths of 100 concert-goers in The Station nightclub fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island, on this day in 2003. Even in its heyday, Great White was no Van Halen. Yet one can be sure that the contract rider enumerating their onstage and backstage needs circa 1988 must have looked rather different from the one they were...

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On This Day, Feb 19, 1970, The Chicago Seven Sentenced

The Chicago Seven (formerly the Chicago Eight–one defendant, Bobby Seale, was being tried separately) are acquitted of riot conspiracy charges, but found guilty of inciting riot. The eight antiwar activists were charged with the responsibility for the violent demonstrations at the August 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The defendants included David Dellinger of the National Mobilization Committee (NMC); Rennie Davis and Thomas Hayden of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS); Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, founders of the Youth International Party (“Yippies”); Bobby Seale of the Black Panthers; and two lesser known activists, Lee Weiner and John Froines. The defendants were charged with conspiracy to cross state lines with intent to incite a riot.  Attorneys William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass represented all but Seale.  The trial, presided over by Judge Julius Hoffman, turned into a circus as the defendants and their attorneys used the court as a...

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On This Day, Feb. 18, 1967, J. Robert Oppenheimer Dies

On February 18, 1967, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb,” dies in Princeton, New Jersey, at the age of 62. An expert in quantum theory and nuclear physics, he was enlisted into the fledgling U.S. atomic weapons program in 1941. In 1942, the “Manhattan Project,” as the program became known, was greatly expanded, and Oppenheimer was asked to establish and direct a secret laboratory to carry out the assignment. He chose Los Alamos, a site in the New Mexico desert that he had visited earlier in life, and together with some of the world’s top physicists began work on the bomb. On July 16, 1945, the world’s first atomic bomb was exploded at the “Trinity” test site in Alamogordo, New Mexico, and only three weeks later the United States dropped the first of two bombs on Japan. Over 200,000 Japanese eventually perished as a result of...

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On This Day, Feb. 17, 1966, Brian Wilson’s Masterpiece Takes Root

From the very beginning, the Beach Boys had a sound that was unmistakably their own, but without resident genius Brian Wilson pushing them into deeper waters with his songwriting and production talents, songs like “Surfin’ Safari” and “Surfin’ U.S.A.” might have been their greatest legacy. While the rest of the band toured during their mid-60s heyday, Wilson lost himself in the recording studio, creating the music for an album—Pet Sounds—that is widely regarded as one of the all-time best, and a single—”Good Vibrations”—on which he lavished more time, attention and money than had ever been spent previously on a single recording. Brian Wilson rolled tape on take one of “Good Vibrations” on February 17, 1966. Six months, four studios and $50,000 later, he finally completed his three-minute-and-thirty-nine-second symphony, pieced together from more than 90 hours of tape recorded during literally hundreds of sessions. Brian Wilson began “Good Vibrations” that...

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On This Day, Feb 16, 1959 – Castro Sworn In

On February 16, 1959, Fidel Castro is sworn in as prime minister of Cuba after leading a guerrilla campaign that forced right-wing dictator Fulgencio Batista into exile. Castro, who became commander in chief of Cuba’s armed forces after Batista was ousted on January 1, replaced the more moderate Miro Cardona as head of the country’s new provisional government. Castro was born in the Oriente province in eastern Cuba, the son of a Spanish immigrant who had made a fortune building rail systems to transport sugar cane. He became involved in revolutionary politics while a student and in 1947 took part in an abortive attempt by Dominican exiles and Cubans to overthrow Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo. In the next year, he took part in urban riots in Bogota, Colombia. The most outstanding feature of his politics during the period was his anti-American beliefs; he was not yet an overt Marxist....

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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. 10, 1972, Ziggy Stardust Makes His Earthly Debut

It was one of those events that virtually nobody witnessed, yet almost but many wish they had: the concert at London’s Toby Jug pub on February 10, 1972, when the relatively minor rocker named David Bowie became the spaceman Ziggy Stardust. While it might be said of many such historic moments—like John meeting Paul at a backyard birthday party, or Elvis ad-libbing “That’s All Right (Mama)” between takes at Sun Studios—that their significance became clear only in hindsight, there was at least one man who knew exactly where Ziggy’s earthly debut would lead: David Bowie himself. “I’m going to be huge,” is what David Bowie told Melody Maker less than three weeks earlier and still six months prior to the release of the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. “And it’s quite frightening in a way, because I know that when I...

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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, Feb 8, 1587, Mary Queen of Scots Beheaded

After 19 years of imprisonment, Mary Queen of Scots is beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle in England for her complicity in a plot to murder Queen Elizabeth I. In 1542, while just six days old, Mary ascended to the Scottish throne upon the death of her father, King James V. Her mother sent her to be raised in the French court, and in 1558 she married the French dauphin, who became King Francis II of France in 1559 but died the following year. After Francis’ death, Mary returned to Scotland to assume her designated role as the country’s monarch. In 1565, she married her English cousin Lord Darnley in order to reinforce her claim of succession to the English throne after Elizabeth’s death. In 1567, Darnley was mysteriously killed in an explosion at Kirk o’ Field, and Mary’s lover, the Earl of Bothwell, was the key suspect. Although Bothwell was...

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On This Day, Feb 7, 1990 – Soviet Communist Party Gives up Monopoly on Political Power

The Central Committee of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party agrees to endorse President Mikhail Gorbachev’s recommendation that the party give up its 70-year long monopoly of political power. The Committee’s decision to allow political challenges to the party’s dominance in Russia was yet another signal of the impending collapse of the Soviet system. At the end of three days of extremely stormy meetings dealing with economic and political reforms in the Soviet Union, the Central Committee announced that it was endorsing the idea that the Soviet Communist Party should make “no claim for any particular role to be encoded in the Constitution” that was currently being rewritten. The proposal was but one of many made by President Gorbachev during the meetings. Critics of Gorbachev’s plan charged that dissipating the Communist Party’s power would erode the gains made since the Bolshevik Revolution and would weaken the international stature of the...

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On This Day, Feb 6, 1891- Dalton Gang Commits its First Train Robbery

The members of the Dalton Gang stage an unsuccessful train robbery near Alila,California–an inauspicious beginning to their careers as serious criminals. Bob, Emmett, and Grat Dalton were only three of Lewis and Adeleine Dalton’s 10 sons. The brothers grew up on a succession of Oklahoma and Kansas homesteads during the post-Civil War period, when the region was awash in violence lingering from the war and notorious outlaw bands like the James-Younger Gang. Still, the majority of the Dalton boys became law-abiding citizens, and one of the older brothers, Frank, served as a deputy U.S. marshal. Ironically, Frank’s position in law enforcement brought his younger brothers into lives of crime. When Oklahoma whiskey runners murdered Frank in 1887, Grat took Frank’s place as a deputy marshal and recruited Emmett and Bob as assistants. Disillusioned by the fate of their older law-abiding brother, the three Dalton boys showed little respect for...

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On This Day, Feb. 5, 1994: Justice for Medgar Evers

Byron de la Beckwith is convicted of the assassination of civil rights leader Medgar Evers 31 years earlier, ending the lengthiest murder case in American history. Evers was gunned down in the driveway of his Jackson, Mississippi, home while his wife, Myrlie, and the couple’s small children were inside waiting for their father. Beckwith, widely recognized as the killer, was prosecuted for murder in 1964. However, two all-white (and all-male) juries deadlocked and refused to convict Beckwith. A second trial held in the same year resulted in a hung jury. The matter was dropped when it appeared that a conviction would be impossible. Myrlie Evers, who later became the national chairwoman of the NAACP, refused to give up, however, pressing authorities to re-open the case. In 1989, documents came to light showing that jurors had been illegally screened. Prosecutor Bobby DeLaughter worked with Myrlie Evers to force another prosecution of Beckwith....

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On This Day, Feb. 4, 1826: The Last of the Mohicans is Published

On this day in 1826, The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper is published. One of the earliest distinctive American novels, the book is the second of the five-novel series called the “Leather-stocking Tales.” Cooper was born in 1789 in New Jersey and moved the following year to the frontier in upstate New York, where his father founded frontier-town Coopersville. Cooper attended Yale but joined the Navy after he was expelled for a prank. When Cooper was about 20, his father died, and he became financially independent. Having drifted for a decade, Cooper began writing a novel after his wife challenged him to write something better than he was reading at the moment. His first novel, Precaution, modeled on Jane Austen, was not successful, but his second, The Spy, influenced by the popular writings of Sir Walter Scott, became a bestseller, making Cooper the first major American...

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On This Day, Feb 3, 1950 – Klaus Fuchs Arrested for Passing Atomic Bomb Information to Soviets

Klaus Fuchs, a German-born British scientist who helped developed the atomic bomb, is arrested in Great Britain for passing top-secret information about the bomb to the Soviet Union. The arrest of Fuchs led authorities to several other individuals involved in a spy ring, culminating with the arrest of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and their subsequent execution. Fuchs and his family fled Germany in 1933 to avoid Nazi persecution and came to Great Britain, where Fuchs earned his doctorate in physics. During World War II, British authorities were aware of the leftist leanings of both Fuchs and his father. However, Fuchs was eventually invited to participate in the British program to develop an atomic bomb (the project named “Tube Alloys”) because of his expertise. At some point after the project began, Soviet agents contacted Fuchs and he began to pass information about British progress to them. Late in 1943, Fuchs...

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On This Day, Feb 2,1979 – Sid Vicious Dies of a Drug Overdose in New York City

To the New York City Police Department and Medical Examiner’s Office, he was John Simon Ritchie, a 22-year-old Englishman under indictment for murder but now dead of a heroin overdose in a Greenwich Village apartment. To the rest of the world, he was Sid Vicious, former bassist for the notorious Sex Pistols and the living embodiment of everything punk rock stood for and against. His death, which likely came as a surprise to very few, came on this day in 1979. Sid Vicious was the last member to join the Sex Pistols, taking over for fired bassist Glen Matlock in early 1977. What he famously did not bring to the table was musical ability. Vicious faked his way through early gigs with the band, reportedly with his amplifier occasionally unplugged on stage by his own band mates. What he didn’t have to fake was the attitude. Sid Vicious was...

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On This Day, Feb. I, 1964: Prelude to the Gulf of Tonkin

U.S. and South Vietnamese naval forces initiate Operation Plan (Oplan) 34A, which calls for raids by South Vietnamese commandos, operating under American orders, against North Vietnamese coastal and island installations.  Although American forces were not directly involved in the actual raids, U.S. Navy ships were on station to conduct electronic surveillance and monitor North Vietnamese defense responses under another program called Operation De Soto. The Oplan 34A attacks played a major role in events that led to what became known as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. On August 2, 1964, North Vietnamese patrol boats, responding to an Oplan 34A attack by South Vietnamese gunboats against the North Vietnamese island of Hon Me, attacked the destroyer USS Maddox which was conducting a De Soto mission in the area. Two days after the first attack, there was another incident that still remains unclear. The Maddox, joined by destroyer USS C. Turner...

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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 25, 1971 – Manson and Followers Convicted

In Los Angeles, California, cult leader Charles Manson is convicted, along with followers Susan Atkins, Leslie Van Houten, and Patricia Krenwinkle, of the brutal 1969 murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others. In 1967, Manson, a lifetime criminal, was released from a federal penitentiary in Washington State and traveled to San Francisco, where he attracted a following among rebellious young women with troubled emotional lives. Manson established a cult based on his concept of “Helter Skelter”–an apocalyptic philosophy predicting that out of an imminent racial war in America would emerge five ruling angels: Manson, who would take on the role of Jesus Christ, and the four members of the Beatles. Manson convinced his followers that it would be necessary to murder celebrities in order to attract attention to the cult, and in 1969 they targeted Sharon Tate, a marginally successful actress who was married to Roman Polanski, a...

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On This Day, Jan 24, 1956 – Emmett Till Murderers Make Magazine Confession

On January 24, 1956, Look magazine publishes the confessions of J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, two white men from Mississippi who were acquitted in the 1955 kidnapping and murder of Emmett Louis Till, an African-American teenager from Chicago. In the Look article, titled “The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi,” the men detailed how they beat Till with a gun, shot him and threw his body in the Tallahatchie River with a heavy cotton-gin fan attached with barbed wire to his neck to weigh him down. The two killers were paid a reported $4,000 for their participation in the article. In August 1955, 14-year-old Till, whose nickname was Bobo, traveled to Mississippi to visit relatives and stay at the home of his great-uncle, Moses Wright. On August 24, Till went into Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market in Money, Mississippi, to buy candy. At some point, he allegedly whistled at...

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On This Day, Jan 23, 1941 – Lindbergh to Congress: Negotiate with Hitler

On this day in 1941, Charles A. Lindbergh, a national hero since his nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic, testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Lend-Lease policy-and suggests that the United States negotiate a neutrality pact with Hitler. Lindbergh was born in 1902 in Detroit. His father was a member of the House of Representatives. Lindbergh’s interest in aviation led him to flying school in Lincoln, Nebraska, and later brought him work running stunt-flying tours and as an airmail pilot. While regularly flying a route from St. Louis to Chicago, he decided to try to become the first pilot to fly alone nonstop from New York to Paris. He obtained the necessary financial backing from a group of businessmen, and on May 21, 1927, after a flight that lasted slightly over 33 hours, Lindbergh landed his plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, in Paris. He won worldwide...

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On This Day, Jan 22, 1973 – Roe v. Wade

The Supreme Court decriminalizes abortion by handing down their decision in the case of Roe v. Wade. Despite opponents’ characterization of the decision, it was not the first time that abortion became a legal procedure in the United States. In fact, for most of the country’s first 100 years, abortion as we know it today was not only not a criminal offense, it was also not considered immoral. In the 1700s and early 1800s, the word “abortion” referred only to the termination of a pregnancy after “quickening,” the time when the fetus first began to make noticeable movements. The induced ending of a pregnancy before this point did not even have a name–but not because it was uncommon. Women in the 1700s often took drugs to end their unwanted pregnancies. In 1827, though, Illinois passed a law that made the use of abortion drugs punishable by up to three years’...

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On This Day, Jan 21, 1924 – Vladimir Ilyich Lenin Dies

In Moscow, on the evening of January 21, 1924, shock and near-hysterical grief greets the news that Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, leader of the radical socialist Bolshevik movement that toppled the czarist regime in 1917 and head of the first government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.), had died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Influenced early on by Karl Marx s seminal text Das Kapital, Lenin was radicalized further by the execution of his older brother, Alexander, for conspiring to kill Czar Alexander III in 1887. The brooding, fiercely intellectual Lenin married the principles of Marxist thought to his own theory of organization and the reality of Russian demographics, envisioning a group of elite professional revolutionaries, or a “vanguard of the proletariat,” who would first lead the agrarian masses of Russia to victory over the tyrannical czarist regime and eventually incite a worldwide revolution. He laid out this...

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On This Day, Jan 20, 1981 – Iran Hostage Crisis Ends –

Minutes after Ronald Reagan’s inauguration as the 40th president of the United States, the 52 U.S. captives held at the U.S. embassy in Teheran, Iran, are released, ending the 444-day Iran Hostage Crisis. On November 4, 1979, the crisis began when militant Iranian students, outraged that the U.S. government had allowed the ousted shah of Iran to travel to New York City for medical treatment, seized the U.S. embassy in Teheran. The Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran’s political and religious leader, took over the hostage situation, refusing all appeals to release the hostages, even after the U.N. Security Council demanded an end to the crisis in a unanimous vote. However, two weeks after the storming of the embassy, the Ayatollah began to release all non-U.S. captives, and all female and minority Americans, citing these groups as among the people oppressed by the government of the United States. The remaining 52 captives...

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On This Day, Jan. 19, 1966: Indira Gandhi Elected

Indira Gandhi became the first female head of government after the death of Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri.  She was a controversial figure in Indian politics.  She was the second longest serving Prime Minister in India’s history. Indira Gandhi was born on November 19, 1917.  She was the daughter of Jawawarharlal  and Kamala Nehru, who had also served as Prime Minister.  She served as the Chief of staff of her father’s administration and was later offered the premiership to succeed her father to which she refused.  Choosing instead to become a cabinet minister in the government. She finally consented to become Prime Minister in 1966. Gandhi served from 1966  to 1977 and was elected again in 1980, she served until she was assassinated in 1984 reportedly by a Sikh member of her bodyguard. There have been recent claims that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain may have helped...

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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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