Friday, November 30, 2012

November 30: Ralph Nader

On this date in History .... 1965:

The book “Unsafe at Any Speed”, written by Ralph Nader, is published. 

Ralph Nader - 1975

Nader, the son of Lebanon immigrants and a graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law, became the nation’s consumer advocate when he dived into product safety by researching the Chevy Corvair, which he called “the one-car accident.”  He charged that the technologies were available to make cars safer but the auto industry “had no incentive to use them.”

One example of a simple safety fix was the standardization of the gearshift.  Ford was the first company to use the P R N D L pattern. It separated the driving gears from the reverse/park gears by putting Neutral in between them, thus helping to eliminate accidentally putting a car in reverse instead of drive.  

His book pointed out the resistance car manufacturers had about putting safety features in the cars, such as seat belts.

After his book was published, GM began investigating Nader, who alerted Congress who began looking into the auto industry.  Nader became a household word associated with “consumer protection” and is credited with influencing consumer protection legislation such as the Wholesome Meat Act of 1967, Truth in Lending Act, health warning on cigarettes and eventually the establishment of the Nat’l commission on Product Safety.

Nader has run for President of the United States five times.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

November 29: Coffee Rationed

On this date in History .... 1942:

Despite record production in Latin America, coffee is added to the list of items rationed during WWII.  Its availability became limited due to increased demand from the military & civilians, and due to transportation ships being diverted to military use. Families were allocated one pound of coffee every 5 weeks.  Roasted grains (called Postum) and even acorns were used to make coffee substitutes.

Coffee was released from rationing in July 1943, but sugar, which was the first food to be rationed back in 1942, remained on the ration list for five years, until 1947.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

November 28: Grand Ole Opry

On this date in History ..... 1925:

The Grand ‘Ole Opry begins broadcasting live from Nashville TN. 

The four-and-a-half hour show became one of the most popular shows in the South and launched the careers of many famous names such as Gene Autry. The show began just five years after commercial radio emerged in the U.S.  National Life Insurance Company built a radio station as a public service …. the call letters WSM stand for their motto of “We Shield Millions”. 

The music was geared toward instrumental.  Vocalists took a back seat to musicians until Roy Acuff's performance in 1938 of “The Great Speckled Bird” forever changed the Opry.
In 1954, Elvis Presley played the Opry, only to be told by the manager that he should return to Memphis and resume his truck driving career, prompting Elvis to never return.  However, Garth Brooks commented that the greatest thrill about playing on the Opry was knowing that he played on the same stage as Elvis.

Grand Ole Opry's first Carnegie
Hall appearance in 1947

In 1947, Ernest Tubb took a troupe of Opry singers to Carnegie Hall and just two years later, more Opry stars went on a European tour of military bases.

Being inducted into the Grand Ole Opry’s Hall of Fame, the oldest and most enduring hall of fame, marks an artist as one of the elite of country music.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

November 27: First Macy's Day Parade

On this date in History .... 1924:

The first Macy’s Parade was held in New York to bring attention to the Macy’s store. It was labeled the Macy’s Christmas Parade to bring attention to Macy’s and inspire the public into Christmas shopping. The gimmick worked as 250,000 people attended the parade and it was decided the parade would be an annual event.  The parade was eventually moved to Thanksgiving to kick off the Christmas shopping season. 

The first giant balloon was Felix the Cat in 1927.  Without a plan to deflate the balloon, it was just released into the air and eventually just popped. In later years, Macy’s would mark the balloons with a return address and whoever found the balloons would return them and get a prize from Macy’s.
This practice was stopped in 1932 when an escaping balloon wrapped itself around the wing of a passing plane, sending it into a tailspin.

The Snoopy balloon holds the record with the most appearances.  Santa Claus ended the parade every year except 1933.  In that year, Santa LED the parade.

Monday, November 26, 2012

November 26: The Great Diamond Hoax

On this date in history .... 1872:

The San Francisco Evening Bulletin exposes the “Great Diamond Hoax”.
It was known as one of the most notorious mine swindling scandals of the time. 
Salting mines was a common swindle back then but Kentucky cousins Phil Arnold and Tom Slack took it one step further.  They walked into a bank and tried to deposit some uncut diamonds.  When asked about where they got them, the two men put on a shy act about talking about it and left. A bank director located them and, assuming he was dealing with some country bumpkins, he set in motion his plan to swindle the swindlers.  He got investors lined up and paid the two men $600,000. 
A geologist  and mining engineer, Clarence King, got suspicious and after checking out the mine, blew the whistle.  He even found jewelers marks on some of the salted diamonds! King’s role earned him fame and the first directorship of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

November 25: Alfred Nobel

On this date in History: 1867

Alfred Nobel invents dynamite.

Nitroglycerine was the blasting material used to blast through rocks but the instability of the material made the work very dangerous. When an explosion in one of the family’s explosives factories killed nine people, including Nobel’s brother Emil, Alfred was motivated to make a safer explosive.  Nobel mixed it with silica, making a paste that could be formed into the new material called dynamite, which was also better to use as it could be shaped into cylinder shapes for insertion into mining drilling holes.

In 1888, Alfred’s brother Ludwig died and the papers printed Alfred’s obituary in error, with some scathing remarks about the terrible destructive device he had invented and how he had gained his wealth by killing mass number of people.  Nobel was a pacifist who liked poetry. 

Concerned about  how he would be remembered and intent on saving the family name, Alfred designated a portion of his estate to established the Nobel Peace prize, honoring outstanding achievements in multiple fields and promoting peace. His will left US$250 million, about 94% of his estate, to fund the Nobel Peace Prize.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

November 24: Charles Darwin

On this date in History ... 1859:

Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection” is published in England.  Darwin’s theory argued that organisms and species evolved by means of a process on which adaption to the environment sustained life. He hesitated to publish his findings because it was in contrast to biblical teaching and in fact, when he did publish, scientists embraced it while Christians condemned it as heresy. Darwin was buried in Westminster Abbey, “next to kings and queens”, in honor of his scientific contributions.

While doing his research, he found that a species of bird found on two different islands had 2 different sized beaks. One island-bird grew a longer beak because flowers on that island were deep, cup-shaped and the longer beak was needed to get the bugs that lived inside the flower.  His research was obtained during a 5 yr trip on the ship “HMS Beagle” in the 1830s to places like the Galapagos Islands. 

A variation of Darwin’s theory took hold in the 1870-1890s as “Social Darwinism”, an idea that people evolve socially and those who survive the economic hardships are meant to while those who don’t survive are considered the weaker strain and should die off anyway, justifying political policies that neglected to care for the poor and those who needed assistance. The idea of Social Darwinism gave birth to eugenics, scientific racism, and Nazism.

Darwin came from a well-known family and a line of scientists.  His maternal grandfather was china manufacturer Josiah Wedgwood.  His paternal grandfather was a “leading intellectual of 18th century England” and a botanist and his father was a medical doctor. Growing up as a child with wealth and the privilege that comes with it, gave him the opportunity to spend time studying nature.

Darwin and his wife had ten children; two died in infancy and one died at age ten.  Darwin was constantly worried whenever his children became ill that they may have inherited a weakness from inbreeding due to his close relationship with his wife, Emma Wedgwood, who was also his cousin.  His fears about such weaknesses went unfounded:  three of his children grew up to be scientists and one to be a mathematician.

Friday, November 23, 2012

November 23: Life Magazine

On this datei n History: 1936

The first issue (Vol 1, Issue 1) of “Life” magazine is published.
Time magazine's mission was to tell the news but Life publisher Henry Luce wanted people to SEE the news, “to see life, to see the world”.  It was a photo news magazine, the text was condensed as captions under the photos that covered 50 pages in an issue.
The photos captured the events and the personal side of the news, allowing people to see the world in a whole different way simply by showing it to them in a whole different way.  At its peak, circulation was 8 million.  Television impacted its demise and it stopped publication in 1972, resurfacing in 2004 as a newspaper supplement. 
The most famous Life photo was this photo (below) of a sailor kissing a nurse in New York on V-J Day. Norman Rockwell had illustrations on the cover 28 times.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

November 22: Hoagy Carmichael

On this date in History ..... 1899:

Hoagy Carmichael is born in Bloomington, IND.  He studied to be a lawyer at Indiana University but gave up his law practice to become a songwriter.  
He was one of the first singer-songwriters, paving the way for folks like Bob Dylan and Billy Joel.  At that point in time, songwriters were a group separate from singers and Carmichael, with his self described “flatsy through the nose” down home with a Hoosier accent voice, gave him appeal as just a regular guy from Wall Street to the farm fields. His style of wearing his hat on the back of his head, with a cigarette dangling from his lips was recognized as pure “Hoagy” and he didn’t straighten his style even when he played at the London Palladium .
He grew up surrounded by music.  His mother made extra money playing piano at the local movie theater and at university dances.

He recorded a number of songs at Gannett Studios in Richmond, IND, including the first version of “Stardust” in 1927 which didn’t do well until it was recorded by bandleader Isham Jones in 1930. 

He holds the record for the longest song title: "I'm a Cranky Old Yank in a Clanky Old Tank on the Streets of Yokohama with my Honolulu Mama Doing Those Beat-o, Beat-o, Flat on my Seat-o Hirohito Blues".

He actually wrote (click here to hear) this song  for an episode of “The Flintstones”. He died in California and was buried at Rose Hill Cemetery, Bloomington IND.   

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

November 21: Truman Ride in Submarine

On this date in History .... 1946:

Harry Truman becomes the first president to travel in a submerged “modern” submarine.  
The distinction separates his hour-long 450 foot submersion from that of Theodore Roosevelt, who took a few “short-dives” in an archaic torpedo boat” in 1905.
The U-2513 submarine that Truman traveled in was developed by the Germans, but too late to do any real impact in the war and was surrendered to the Allies in May 1945. A U.S. submarine division went to Northern Ireland to learn about the sub, which included having to learn German at the same time.
The sub had technological advances that allowed it to stay submerged for longer periods of time. When the division sailed this sub to the U.S., the crew included eight Germans who served as the original crew on the sub.
The trip earned Truman certification that he was now an “Honorable Member of the Ancient Order of Deep Dunkers.”



Photo Courtesy of:


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

November 20: Garrett Morgan

On this date in History .... 1923:

Garrett Morgan received a patent for the 3-position traffic light.  His was different and unique due to the third position.  Existing traffic signals only had “stop” and “go”, causing confusion in the intersections when the signals changed. 
After witnessing a terrible accident, Morgan thought a “warning” signal (the ancestor to today’s yellow light) would give drivers a chance to slow down and exercise caution when entering an intersection.  He sold the rights to his invention to General Electric for $40,000.

Morgan had already made his mark as an inventor in 1914 when he invented a Safety Hood and Smoke Detector. He made national news in 1916 when he wore his gas mask and rescued people trapped in a burning building.  Fire departments across the country began ordering the safety masks and a refined version was used by the U.S. Army in WWI.

Morgan’s parents were both former slaves. He moved from Kentucky to Ohio at the age of 14 and got a job as a handyman.  He eventually opened his own sewing machine repair shop and eventually added a garment business on the side.  He was a very successful businessman and was able to acquire enough money to open a newspaper, The Cleveland Call, which would become one of the most important black newspapers in the country.

Monday, November 19, 2012

November 19: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

On this date in History ... 1975:

The movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is first shown in theaters in New York. It was made with an estimated budget of $4.4 million and grossed $112 million. 
Many of the extras in the movie were actual mental patients.

It went on to become the first film in four decades to win in all five of the major Academy Award categories: Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay (Adapted) and Best Picture.  Winning in all of these categories is known as “The Grand Slam” and has been done by only two other movies: “It Happened One Night” in 1934 and “The Silence of the Lambs” in 1991. 

“Cuckoo’s Nest” was Jack Nicholson’s first Oscar win, despite four previous nominations. The role was originally offered to James Caan and then to Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman.

Video clip of "The Juicy Fruit" scene

Sunday, November 18, 2012

November 18: Desi Arnaz

On this date in History .... 1939:

The play “Too Many Girls” opened on Broadway. The cast included a little known Cuban named Desi Arnaz. Arnaz was born in Cuba into a very wealthy family. His father was the youngest mayor of Santiago and his grandfather was one of the 3 founders of Bacardi Rum.  The family, stripped from office and of all of their properties, fled to the U.S. after the Cuban Revolution in 1933. 

Desi worked for a short time for Xavier Cugat before forming his own band and introducing the conga line to American audiences.  After filming “Too Many Girls”, he made three more films before joining the army.  He became a U.S. citizen while serving in the United States Army where he entertained the troops. After his tour of duty, he formed a new orchestra and served as the band leader on Bob Hope’s radio show from 1946 to 1947.

Growing up, he was friends with Albert “Sonny” Capone, the son of Al Capone. In 1949 he began focusing on the development of the “I Love Lucy Show”. Desi argued with producers to use film on the “I Love Lucy” show and he owned the film rights, which made him the creator of the rerun and the inventor of several techniques that are taken for granted in sitcoms.

Click here to see video of Desi Arnaz

Saturday, November 17, 2012

November 17: Queen Elizabeth I

On this date in History  ..... 1558:

Queen Elizabeth I ascends to the throne. Born the daughter of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, she was only 3 yrs old when her mother was beheaded under orders from her father. While her half-sister Mary was Queen, Mary considered Elizabeth a threat to the throne and had her locked in the Tower of London. She was released after a few months when Mary believed herself to be pregnant and her family line to the throne secured. However, Mary was not pregnant and died, moving 25-yr old Elizabeth to the throne after all. 
She was referred to as The Virgin Queen because she never married, and her 44 year reign became known as The Elizabethan Era when Shakespearian English drama flourished.  One of her best known military victories was the defeat of the Spanish Armada, which was launched by the Spanish government as an attempt to overthrow her. The victory was a boost to England’s national pride.

She was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty.  By the time she died, she could speak and write nine or ten different languages and was considered one of the best educated women of her generation.

It was assumed she would marry and quickly produce an heir to the throne, but in spite of the many proposals and suitors, she never did either.  In 1563 she said it was better to be a “beggar-woman and single…..than queen and married.”  Senior government officials worried about the succession problem with no heir and felt she was being irresponsible by not taking care of the future of the throne. They urged her to at least name a successor if she would not produce one.  This she also refused to do as she felt that once an heir to the throne was named, then she was in danger of being the victim of a coup.

Her stance inspired “a cult of virginity”.  In 1559, she told the House of Commons, “And, in the end, this shall be for me sufficient, that a marble stone shall declare that a queen, having reigned such a time, lived and died a virgin".  She proclaimed she was “married to her kingdom.”

Friday, November 16, 2012

November 16: Molly Pitcher

On this date in history .... 1776:

Margaret “Molly” Corbin joins in the fighting against the British when her husband is shot and killed.  She became the first woman to receive a pension from Congress for military service. She was reburied in West Point Cemetery, 1 of only 2 Revolutionary soldiers to be buried there.

It was common for wives to follow their husbands into battle, doing the washing, cooking and becoming a “Molly Pitcher” – a woman who takes pitchers of water to the soldiers. “Molly” was a common nickname for women named Mary and Margaret. Folklore has it that soldiers would yell, “Molly! Pitcher!” when they wanted water, and thus the nickname was born for the women who helped provide water to soldiers on the battlefield. 
When Molly’s husband was killed, Molly immediately begins manning the cannon herself, and continued firing until she herself was seriously wounded. She was captured as an enemy soldier and because of her wounds, she was released by the British. She was granted $30 a month, half the monthly pay of a Continental soldier, and a new set of clothes.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

November 15: Night of Terror

On this date in History .... 1917:

“The Night of Terror” describes what happened to suffragettes when they,(as it was put by the prison warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia), “dared to picket the Wilson White House” for the right to vote. 40 prison guards were armed with clubs and ordered by their warden to attack the 33 women and “teach them a lesson” for “obstructing sidewalk traffic”.

·         Lucy Burns was beaten and chained by her hands to the upper bars of her prison door all night long, bleeding and gasping for air.

·         Dora Lewis (roughly 55 yrs old) was hurled into a cell where she smashed her head against the steel bed so hard that her cell roommate thought she was dead.

·         When Alice Paul went on a hunger strike, she was tied to a chair, had a tube shoved down her throat and liquid poured down her throat until she vomited.  She endured this for weeks until word was smuggled out of the prison to the press.

For weeks, the only water these women had came from an open pail and their food was filled with worms.   Woodrow Wilson tried to get Alice Paul declared insane but for some reason the doctor refused to go along.  The doctor said she was strong and brave but that didn’t make her crazy.  It is depicted in an HBO movie that the doctor admonished the men by telling them, “Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.”j
These women braved these kinds of atrocities for the end result of having the 19th amendment passed in 1920, giving women the right to vote.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

November 14: Nellie Bly

On this date in History ... 1889:

Female pioneer journalist Nellie Bly begins her “Around the World in 80 Days” trip to meet or beat the fictional journey of Jules Vernes’ Phineas Fogg. She made the trip, at only 25 years old, unchaperoned, & arrived back in New York with eight days to spare.

Bly’s rise to fame came w/ her exposé stories on the plight of working women. Her big exposé was on the mental hospital where she posed as a patient for ten days, coming back w/ stories of cruel beatings, ice baths & rancid food. The stories prompted an investigation & resulted with an increased budget to provide better care for the patients.

Nellie Bly was born Elizabeth Jane Cochran in Cochran Mills, PA.  Yes, the town was named after her father, a judge and wealthy landowner/businessman. Nellie was the 13th of 15 children (with two wives) and was considered “the most rebellious child in the family.” (source:

Her father died when she was six and since his will made no provision for his second family, her mother ended up marrying a drunk who abused them.  At the age of 15, she went to Indiana Normal School to be a teacher. (Teaching schools were referred to as “Normal” in those days.) But the money ran out after just one semester.

She moved back to Pittsburgh to live with her mother and observed the hard work and terrible conditions that women had to endure to earn a living. She was therefore livid when she read a newspaper column that stated a woman belonged in the home cleaning and cooking and referred to a working woman as “a monstrosity”. She fired an angry letter to the editor who was so impressed with her writing that he hired her. But in spite of her investigative talents, she was assigned to the flower show and women’s pages.

She left the paper and went to New York where she finally convinced the New  York World to give her a try and whether out of sincerity or spite, she was assigned to investigate insane asylums. With her success at the asylum story she had, at the age of 23, pioneering undercover reporting that some called stunt-reporting.

When she was 30, she married a 70-year old industrialist and they were married for 10 years before he died.  She went back to being a reporter until the day she died at the age of 57.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

November 13: Hillside Strangler

On this date in History .... 1977:

12 yr old Sonja Johnson & 14 yr old Delores Cepeda, the youngest two of the Hillside Strangler victims, were killed. Their bodies were discovered a week later. Eleven of the fourteen Hillside Strangler murders took place between Oct 18 & Dec 9 of 1977, with six of those eleven taking place in November. 

The two murderers were cousins. After 400 witnesses testified in the trial, Angelo Bueno was sentenced in 1984 to life w/o parole & died in prison in 2002. Ken Bianchi, convicted on Halloween 1983, was denied parole in Aug 2010 and is re-eligible in 2025.

Bianchi had always wanted to be in law enforcement but he dropped out of the law enforcement classes and his application to the sheriff’s department was rejected.  He found jobs as a security guard but because he was always stealing from his employers, he changed jobs frequently.  He moved to Los Angeles and hooked up with his cousin Angelo.

The two experimented with different murder methods which included lethal injection, electrical shock, and carbon monoxide poisoning.  When Bianchi admitted to Angelo that the LA police were questioning him about the murders, Angelo sent him to Washington, where Bianchi murdered two college girls.  But because he was working alone, he left too much evidence behind.  He was found and connected to the Hillside Strangler murders.  He tried faking multiple personalities but that didn’t work and eventually he confessed everything he knew, implicating his cousin.

One young lady was very lucky. In 1977, the two murderers stopped one 22-year old and planned to kill her but when they found out she was the daughter of actor Peter Lorre, they let her go.  She had no idea how lucky she had been until the two were arrested and their story got out.

Monday, November 12, 2012

November 12: Ellis Island

On this date in History .... 1954:

Ellis Island closes. The Island, named after the land owner Sam Ellis, was designated by (Indiana) President Benjamin Harrison as a federal immigration center in 1890 and was officially opened January 1, 1892. 
The first immigrant through Ellis Island was 15 year old Annie Moore from Ireland in 1892 with her two little brothers. They were arriving to join their parents who had come to America two years earlier. As the first person to come thru the new facility, she was given a ten-dollar gold piece.  She married a German immigrant and had “at least” eleven children. A statue was erected in her honor at Ellis Island.
The last person to pass through Ellis Island was a Norwegian merchant seaman by the name of Arne Peterssen in 1954.

Before being used as an immigration entry port, the island was known as Oyster Island because of its plentiful oyster beds. It was also a favorite spot for pirates and became an ammunitions depot, named Fort Gibson after an officer killed in the War of 1812.

Over 12 million immigrants passed thru Ellis Island from its opening in 1892.  Only 3rd class passengers were processed thru Ellis.  First and second class passengers disembarked in New York and New Jersey and went through customs with just a cursory inspection. The reasoning?  If one could afford a first or second class ticket, then one was less likely to require some sort of public assistance due to medical or legal issues.  The irony, here, is that the traveling conditions of third class (steerage) passengers was likely to cause medical issues during the journey, which could result in the person being denied entry to the United States.  However, only 2% of arrivals were denied entry.

A fire in 1897 destroyed almost 50 years of immigration records. The facility was ordered to be rebuilt as fireproof.

The busiest year was 1907 where over 1 million people came through, prior to WWI.  Many of these people were fleeing dangerous conditions in their own countries. The 1984 renovation costing $160 million was the largest historical renovation in U.S. history. Today, Ellis Island receives over two million tourism visitors a year.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

November 11: Dorothy Puente

On this date in History .... 1988:

A body was found buried in the backyard of a 59 year old convicted check forger. 

Dorothy Puente had opened a boarding house after getting out of prison for forgery and robbing people from a bar and a social worker began to get suspicious when many of the 19 people she referred to Puente began disappearing.  Then neighbors began to complain about severely bad smells coming from her property. An investigation found 6 more bodies.

Puente was convicted, after a 5 month trial with over 3000 pieces of evidence, of murdering her boarders for their Social Security checks. She was charged with 9 counts of murder, convicted of 3 but is believed to be responsible for up to 25 deaths.  A similar storyline was used on an episode of “The Closer”.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

November 10: General "Chesty" Puller, USMC

On this date in history ..... 2005:

Lt. General Lewis “Chesty” Puller, United States Marine, is honored (on the 230th birthday of the Marine Corp), on a commemorative stamp in the Distinguished Marines series.  Puller served as a Marine from 1918 to 1955. He became known as a living legend …. a Marine’s Marine … and was one of the most famous, most outspoken, and one of, if not the most decorated Marine in history.
He is the only Marine to receive 5 Navy Crosses, which ranks second only to the Medal of Honor. Puller served in the battle of Peleliu (Commanding Officer, First Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division), the bloodiest battle in Marine Corps history, where he rec’d his first Legion of Merit award, and at the Inchon Landing at Korea in Sept 1950 (Silver Star Award).

His fifth and final Navy Cross was during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir where he made his famous quote, "We're surrounded. That simplifies our problem of getting to these people and killing them."  When asked by a journalist about being surrounded by 22 enemy divisions, he said, They are a damn site better than the U.S. Army, at least we know that they will be there in the morning."

Puller's son, Lewis Jr.,was also a Marine. During a tour of Vietnam he stepped on a land mine, losing both legs and severely damaging both hands and arms.

Puller had a stroke due to high blood pressure and was forced to retire in 1955.  He died in October 1971.  Many Marines close their day with the oft repeated tribute of "Good night, Chesty, wherever you are."

Friday, November 9, 2012

November 9: General Burnside

On this date in History .... 1862:
Ambrose Burnside is appointed command of the Union Army, replacing Gen’l McClellan less than 2 months after Gen’l McClellan failed to pursue Gen’l Lee. Born in Liberty, IND, Burnside was a West Point graduate but did not feel qualified to lead the Army. His lasting claim to fame, however, is his legacy in facial hair fashion: his trademark facial hair gave birth to the word “Sideburns”. 

About a month after his appointment to lead the Union Army, he led the Army to invade Richmond VA, leading to a costly defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg with 13,000 casualties.  Officers began to mutiny against Burnside. He was removed from command and replaced by Gen’l Hooker the following January 26, 1863. 

While Gen’l Hooker was credited with restoring morale and being an outstanding administrator, he is also described as the most “immodest and  immoral” Union commander. His headquarters was known as the party place and it is said the immoral women that were frequent visitors became known as “Hooker’s Girls”.

Over the years, this was shortened to just “Hooker’s” but while the slang term to describe prostitutes has been attributed to General Hooker and his entourage, the term “hookers” to describe these women has been found in print before the General Hooker legacy began.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

November 8: the Trent Affair

On this date in History .... 1861:

The Trent Affair came close to causing war between the United States and Great Britain when two Confederate messengers were removed from the British steamer ‘Trent’.  The two men were on their way to Europe to gain recognition as a separate country from Britain and France. The British captain claimed the two were under the protection of the British flag, but the neutrality of Britain was ignored as the two men were “captured” and removed anyway. 

Britain was enraged at this ‘breach of international law’ and came close to declaring war on the Northern States. After several weeks of negotiation and conversation, the two Confederates were released and they continued their mission to Britain, but failed to establish the diplomatic relationship desired, which would have given credibility on the international front to the Confederacy.

The Union’s goal was to prevent any kind of diplomatic recognition from any country toward the Confederacy, and continued to proclaim the war was strictly an “internal insurrection” and the Confederacy should not be granted any status or rights under international law.  It was also implied any such recognition would be considered an “unfriendly act” towards the United States.  Britain, already busy watching Napoleon III in France and Otto von Bismarck in Prussia, had no time for a third front of potential war.

In the previous May 1861, Queen Victoria had issued a statement of neutrality recognizing the South as a belligerent state (i.e. a country that wages war). This status of neutrality allowed Confederate ships in British ports to be treated the same as Union ships: they could obtain fuel, repairs and supplies but could not obtain military equipment.

The Union was livid over the designation as they felt it was just one step away from recognizing the South with international diplomacy rights.  Word was sent that formal recognition would make Britain an enemy of the U.S.  When it was learned two ambassadors would be on board the Trent, the two men were removed, their trip delayed by weeks, with an end result of diplomacy not being recognized.  "The United States had lost face, but the Confederacy had lost her best opportunity for European intervention. During the balance of the war no other issue brought Great Britain so close to war ."
(quote source: )



November 7: FDR Wins 4th Term

On this date in History .... 1944:

FDR wins an unprecedented 4th term and is the first and only president to serve more than 2 terms. This prompted Congress to pass the 22nd amendment 1947 to limit the president to two consecutive terms.  Until this point, 2 terms had been either voluntarily following George Washington’s example, or failed attempts at a 3rd term (T. Roosevelt ran for a 3rd term but lost in 1912).   He was president during two of America’s worst crisis periods:  The Great Depression and World War II.

Roosevelt pioneered the 100-day yardstick that measures a President’s effectiveness in office soon after elected. "The first hundred days of the New Deal have served as a model for future presidents of bold leadership and executive-legislative harmony," said Anthony Badger in his book “FDR: The First Hundred Days.”

He was first elected in the fourth year of a depression that was affecting countries the world over. He called Congress into a special session and kept them busy for three months, passing what is called his Alphabet Soup of programs and bills to get America working, such as the WPA, CWA, NRA (Nat’l Recovery Administration), TVA, SEC, FHA, PWA, NLRB, and more.

That first year, “Roosevelt got 15 major bills through Congress in his first 100 days. "Congress doesn't pass legislation anymore—they just wave at the bills as they go by," said humorist Will Rogers.”

(quote source:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

November 6: Reagan Wins by a Landslide

On this date in History .... 1984:

Ronald Reagan wins re-election by a landslide.  He won:
·         over 97% of the electoral vote, (525 out of 538)
·         58.8% to Mondale’s 40.6% of the popular vote, (54M to 37M)
·         49 states
·         was only the 2nd President to take 49 states (Nixon was the 1st in 1972).
·         It was the last election a Republican carried every Northeast state.
·         No candidate since has ever matched or passed his electoral result.

In the 1980 election (Reagan v. Carter), pre-election polls showed Carter 45% to Reagan’s 39%.  Reagan won by a 10% lead in the popular vote and took 91% of the electoral vote.

Mondale won only Wash DC and his home state of Minnesota, but the win in MN was less than 3800 votes (a winning margin of 0.18% or 0.0018).  It was the worst electoral defeat of any Democratic Party candidate in history. Despite Mondale’s tactic of choosing the first woman for the V.P. slot, 55% of women voted for Reagan.

The 1984 Republican Convention was the only time a Vice Presidential roll call was taken concurrently with the Presidential roll call.  It was the last time in history that the V.P. of either party was nominated by a roll call vote.

The Democratic Convention of that year is often referred to as “the closest in two generations” and the most recent election in which the nomination of a party’s candidate has gone all the way to the convention.  The three top candidates were Walter Mondale, Gary Hart, and Jesse Jackson.

While Jackson was a serious contender throughout the primaries, his off the cuff remark in which he referred to the Jewish population as “Hymies” and referred to New York as “Hymietown” derailed the rest of his campaign in spite of the apology issued by Jackson.

When Hart and Mondale got to the convention, Mondale was about 40 votes short of what he needed to cinch the nomination.  The votes from the super-delegates gave him the numbers he needed to go up against Reagan in the presidential election.

When Reagan was asked in early December 1984 what he wanted for Christmas, he joked "Well, Minnesota would have been nice."

Monday, November 5, 2012

November 5: Guy Fawkes Night Prohibited

On this date in History .... 1775:

George Washington prohibited the celebration of Guy Fawkes Night among his troops.
Guy Fawkes, in 1605, was arrested for involvement in a plot to dig a tunnel under the Palace of Westminster, fill it with gunpowder and blow up Parliament during its ceremonial opening. Not only was it a plot to kill “the leading Protestant nobility” but also King James I. English Catholics wanted to kill the King and replace him with his Catholic daughter, Elizabeth. The date became an anti-Catholic holiday to celebrate the king’s life being saved which included burning the pope in effigy. 
In Washington’s General Orders of the day, he prohibited the “observance of that ridiculous and childish custom of burning the Effigy of the pope”. He cited the allegiance and alliance of the French Catholics in Canada who were helping the Patriots in the Revolutionary battle against England and felt such festivities was “insulting their Religion, is so monstrous, as not to be suffered or excused." (source:


Sunday, November 4, 2012

November 4: Lincoln Weds

On this date in History .... 1842:

Abraham Lincoln marries Mary Anne Todd.

They met at a cotillion and began  seeing each other socially the very next day. Despite their 10-yr age difference and her family’s objections, she accepted the proposal of the tall, lanky and living-in-poverty lawyer.  However, Lincoln called off the engagement in early 1841, but they got back together in the fall of 1842. 

Not wasting any time with a long engagement, they made plans to immediately marry. They both wanted a small wedding and planned to wed on Nov 3. They had to push it out a day because Mary’s guardian insisted she be married in their home but a sewing society meeting was being held in the home on the 3rd. About 30 people attended.  Mary wore a simple white muslin dress but no veil or flowers. They were married for 22 years.

The room where Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd were married.  Photo courtesy of

Saturday, November 3, 2012

November 3: Annie Oakley

On this date in history ... 1926:

66 yr old Annie Oakley dies and is buried in Greenville OH, where she had been born. There is not NEAR the space here to give this woman her true historical due!!

·         Her husband was so distraught over her death that he stopped eating and died 18 days later.

·         Annie began developing her shooting skill at the age of 9, when she had to go out and shoot game to provide food for her widowed mother and little brother. 

·         By the time she was 15, she was able to pay off her mother’s mortgage with the money she got from selling her hunted game.

·         It is believed that she taught over 15,000 women to use a gun.  She said, “I would like to see every woman know how to handle [firearms] as naturally as they know how to handle babies."

·         Her most famous trick was splitting a card thru the edge with a .22 rifle at 90 feet AND putting several holes in the card before it hit the ground.

·         Annie gave away a lot of theater tickets to orphans and kids to her show. During her lifetime, the theatre business began referring to complimentary tickets as "Annie Oakleys". Such tickets traditionally have holes punched into them (to prevent them from being resold), reminiscent of the playing cards Oakley shot through during her sharpshooting act.       

·         She was known as “Little Sure Shot” in the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show, a name given to her by Sitting Bull who adopted her when she was in her 20s.

·         She started her climb to shooting fame when she won a $100 bet placed by Frank Butler, who bet he could beat any sharpshooter in the area.  Annie hit 25 out of 25 shots.  Butler missed one.  The two were eventually married.

·         She volunteered for the Spanish-American War but her offer was rejected.

·         She continued to set shooting records well into her 60s.

Photos courtesy of