Friday, April 10, 2015

April 10: American Patent System

On this date in History .... April 10, 1790:

President George Washington signed the bill which began the American patent system. For the first time in history, the law recognized the right of an inventor to profit from his inventions. 

Early patents were reviewed by Cabinet members until Jefferson realized it was too much to handle. The official patent office was formed in 1802 to take care of the unpredicted volume. 

The first patent was issued in 1790 to Samuel Hopkins for an improvement in the making of potash (used for lye soap). Hopkins also received the first Canadian patent for his invention.

The first woman to receive a patent is a little muddled. In 1715, Sybilla Masters invented a new corn mill to make hominy from Indian corn.  She took the patent application to England but the patent had to be issued in her husband’s name because she was a woman.  This makes her the first American woman inventor.  

However the 1st actual patent held by a woman was issued to Hannah Slater in 1793 for a new way to spin cotton thread.  Hannah was the wife of Samuel Slater, a prominent businessman and owner of multiple of mills and cloth spinning factories.  Samuel Slater was trained in England and by the time he was 21, he was well versed in the machinery and their operation.  He heard of America's growing interest in the machinery but England had laws that prevent the designs from being exported.  He memorized as much about the machinery as possible and brought the information, all in his head, to America.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

April 9: "Journey of Reconciliation"

On this date in History ... April 9, 1947:  

Members of the Journey of Reconciliation in 1947. Left to right: Worth
Randle, Wallace Nelson, Ernest Bromley, 
James Peck
, Igal Roodenko,
Bayard Rustin
, Joseph Felmet, George Houser and Andrew Johnson.

Sixteen men (eight white and eight black) begin a 2-week “Journey of Reconciliation” to challenge segregation laws on interstate buses in the South.  

Inspired by the Supreme Court case Morgan v. Virginia (that story to be posted on June 3), which declared segregation on interstate buses to be unconstitutional. Many southern states were blatantly ignoring this ruling. 

The riders suffered several arrests but in North Carolina, the judge showed his particular disdain for the white men taking part in the rides:  "It's about time you Jews from New York learned that you can't come down here bringing your niggers with you to upset the customs of the South. Just to teach you a lesson, I gave your black boys thirty days [on a chain gang], and I give you ninety."

The Journey of Reconciliation achieved a great deal of publicity and was the start of a long campaign of direct action by the Congress of Racial Equality. In February 1948 the Council Against Intolerance in America gave George Houser and Bayard Rustin the Thomas Jefferson Award for the Advancement of Democracy for their attempts to bring an end to segregation in interstate travel.

Sources include:

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

April 8: 17th Amendment

On this date in History .... April 8, 1913:

The 17th amendment was passed, allowing voters to cast direct votes for U.S. senators, who were previously selected by state legislators. 

The founding fathers were not confident of the “common man’s” ability to elect senators so they decided the politicians of each state, who were deemed smarter and more informed, would elect the senators.   

Each state elected two senators for a six-year term.  But as political corruption, special interests and political machines moved into state politics, the elected senators were viewed as nothing but puppets.  When one party or another dominated the state for lengthy periods of time, some open senate seats went unfilled for months and years.

The "Oregon System" was tried.  In Oregon, a primary was held to get the voters' choice and then the legislature would pledge candidates based on the voters' preference.  However an investigation into corruption of this system in Illinois caused the realization that a constitutional amendment was needed to put the vote into the voters' hands and keep local politics (i.e. local corruption) out of it.

The 17th Amendment put the power of selection into the hands of the “common man”.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

April 7: Crossing Burning is Free Speech

On this date in History ... April 7, 2003:  

The Supreme Court decided the case of Virginia v. Black (5-4) that cross burning was protected under the First Amendment’s Freedom of Speech, but, according to the opinion written by Sandra Day O’Conner, “..a state, consistent with the First Amendment, may ban cross burning carried out with the attempt to intimidate.” 

In so doing, the Court created a new area of constitutionally unprotected speech for “true threats.”  

Clarence Thomas wrote the dissent, stating, “This statute prohibits only conduct, not expression. And, just as one cannot burn down someone’s house to make a political point and then seek refuge in the First Amendment, those who hate cannot terrorize and intimidate to make their point.”


April 6: Happy Birthday, Twinkie!!

On this date in history .... April 6, 1930:  

Twinkies were invented by James Dewar who worked as a baker for the Continental Baking Co (later to be renamed Hostess). Dewar noticed the machines that made strawberry filled cakes were dormant during the berry off season, he used the lady-finger shaped machines to create a snack cake filled with banana cream.  

During WWII, bananas were rationed and the company switched to vanilla cream, which became so popular the banana filling was not re-introduced.   Bananas were in short supply, not because of a crop failure but because transportation priority was given to the war effort and space on ships and railroad cars was limited.

Twinkees became part of pop culture in movies and TV shows.  Archie Bunker, for example, never left for work without a Twinkie in his lunchbox!


Sunday, April 5, 2015

April 5: Only Japanese-American receives Medal of Honor

On this date in History ... April 5, 1945:

The actions of PFC Sadao S. Munemori resulted in him becoming the only Japanese American in WWII to receive the Medal of Honor, the Nation's Highest Honor.

In a battle near Seravezza, Italy, Munemori's unit was pinned down.  When the unit leader was injured, leadership fell on the shoulders of Munemori.  In a one-man frontal attack, he took out 2 machine guns with grenades.  Withdrawing under "murderous fire" from the enemy, he had almost reached safety with his men when an unexploded grenade bounced off of his helmet and rolled toward his comrades.  

Munemori threw his body on top of the grenade, saving his men.  His citation reads that his act of heroism "cleared the path for his company's victorious advance."

Sadao was a second-generation Japanese American, born in California.  He volunteered for the Army one month before Pearl Harbor.  After the Pearl Harbor bombing, Sadao, like other Japanese Americans in the military, was removed from combat training and assigned to menial labor tasks. In the meantime, his parents were incarcerated in one of the internment camps. In March 1943, he was permitted to be reassigned to a combat unit.

Munemori's medal was given his mother and is on display at the Smithsonian Institute.

He is honored in multiple ways for his heroism including:

  • Sadeo S. Munemori Hall, a building located on the grounds of the Captain Nelson M. Holderman U.S. Army Reserve Center in West Los Angeles, California, was dedicated in his honor in 1993.
  • Sadeo Munemori is memorialized by a statue in Pietrasanto Italy
  • Americna Legion Post 321 in Los Angeles is named for Sadeo Munemori

Sources include: 


April 4: Beatles set Record

On this date in History .... April 4, 1964:  

The Beatles set an all-time record on the Top 100 chart of "Billboardmagazine this day. 

All five of the top songs were by the British rock group. In addition, The Beatles also had the number one album as "Meet the Beatles" continued to lead all others. The LP was the top album from February 15 through May 2, when it was replaced by "The Beatles Second Album". 

It was estimated at the time that The Beatles accounted for 60 percent of the entire singles record business during the first three months of 1964. The top five singles by The Beatles this day were:
1) Can’t Buy Me Love
2) Twist and Shout
3) She Loves You
4) I Want to Hold Your Hand
5) Please Please Me

“What song was number six?” you ask. "Suspicion" by Terry Stafford.