Friday, September 27, 2013

Since starting my last semester of school, doing my student teaching, my time has become very limited and crazy.  So I am taking a short sabbatical from this column for a short time. Mini-history tidbits can be found sporatically on my facebook page ("Debi Toschlog Brim").   Be back soon!!


Thursday, August 8, 2013

August 8: Wrigley Field Gets Lights

On this date in History .... August 8, 1988:  

Wrigley Field, the 2nd oldest baseball field, hosts the first night game in its history. It was the last field to add lights for night games. The first big league night game was in Cincinnati Ohio in May 1935. Despite the Reds terrible record that year, paid attendance rose 117%.  Other fields quickly followed suit … except for Wrigley Field.   For 74 seasons, the Cubs played only daytime home games. After installing the lights, 91 year old Cubs fan Harry Grossman was given the honor to flip the switch, at which time he said, “Let there be light.”  

The field was originally known as Weeghman Park and was built on the site once occupied by a seminary.  

The ball field saw many famous events such as the night Babe Ruth pointed to the bleachers and then hit a home run in that area, and Pete Rose’s 4,199th career hit which tied him with Ty Cobb’s record. The Chicago Cubs became the first ball team to provide the fans with organ music.

However one thing the fans have never seen is a baseball hit the centerfield scoreboard, although Roberto Clemente and Bill Nicholson came close.


August 7: Gulf of Tonkin Resolution signed

On this date in History..... August 7, 1964:

Congress overwhelmingly passes the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (only 2 “no” Votes in the Senate; it passed the House unanimously), after U.S. boats were torpedoed in the Gulf of Tonkin (also known as the USS Maddox Incident) on August 2 and again on August 4. This gave Pres. Johnson, in his first year in office, almost unlimited power and “the right to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression."  

Johnson used this resolution as his authority to escalate U.S. military involvement in the Vietnam War, and saw his popularity soar due to his “restrained handling of the crisis.”  The Johnson Administration used this Resolution as their green light to begin heavy bombing and increase troops in Vietnam.  

During the Nixon administration, the resolution was repealed, over Nixon’s objections. Realizing the need to restore limits on presidential authority to engage in war activity, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution in 1973 which requires the president to consult with Congress before engaging U.S. forces in hostile actions.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

August 6: Lincolns signs Confiscation Act

On this date in History .... August 6, 1861:  

Lincoln signs the Confiscation Act, the first legislative act toward emancipation of slaves. 

The Act recognized that slaves doing the work on a plantation were freeing up the white Southerners to have plenty of time to fight in the war.  Slaves were also used for menial tasks in the war, also enabling the war effort.  

The Act stripped slave owners of any claim to slaves and made them “confiscated property” of the United States.  The Act stated that any slave who worked for “disloyal masters in some form of work against the United States” were free. 

The law was not enforced uniformly with some Union officers returning slaves back over Confederate lines.  Union (Democrat) Gen’l McCook was so “obliging” in returning slaves to their owners that he was praised in Confederate newspapers.

August 5: Lincoln signs Tax Bill

On this date in History .... August 5, 1861:  

Lincoln signs the Revenue Act, imposing a 3% tax on incomes over $800 (comparable to $30,000 +/- in 2010 dollars) to pay for the Civil War.  He asked multiple Cabinet members about his constitutional authority to impose such a tax.  Lincoln’s tax law was repealed in 1871 but was replaced in 1909 by the 16th amendment (ratified in 1913) which set in place the income tax system we all “enjoy” today.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

August 4: Gov. Oliver P. Morton

On this date in History .... August 4, 1823:  

Gov. Oliver Morton
Photo courtesy of
Oliver Perry Throck Morton is born in Salisbury (Wayne County) Indiana. (Salisbury no longer exists but was located between Richmond and Centerville on the east side of the state.)  The family name of “Throckmorton” was shortened to “Morton” but the males in the family carried the “Throck” name as a middle name.  

Morton was the first Indiana-born governor and served as the “war-time governor” of Indiana for six years (Jan. 16, 1861–Jan. 23, 1867) and strongly supported the Union during the Civil War. He began his political career as a Democrat but was thrown out of the party because of his anti-slavery stance.  As governor, he raised men and money for the Union army, and successfully suppressed Indiana's Confederate sympathizers.

“Morton immediately dissolved the General Assembly and announced his intent to administer the state without its representatives. As the state approached bankruptcy, Morton successfully solicited the donation and loan of millions of dollars in private money that were then used to fund the government. He continued to harass and suppress the activities of his political opponents whom he occasionally accused of treason. 

It is thought that because of his scrupulous honesty during this period of one-man rule he was able to escape post-war retribution for his actions. He was reelected governor in 1864 and served until his appointment to the U.S. Senate in 1867. “  

During his early tenure as governor, Morton believed that war was inevitable and began to prepare the state for it. He appointed men to cabinet positions who were well known to be against any compromise with the southern states. He established a state arsenal and employed seven hundred men to produce ammunition and weapons without legislative permission and made many other preparations for the war to come.

When open war finally broke out on April 12, 1861, he telegraphed President Abraham Lincoln three days later to announce that he already had 10,000 soldiers underarms ready to suppress the rebellion.

“In 1865, when Morton had a paralytic stroke and went to Europe for treatment, the President entrusted him with a confidential mission to Napoleon III concerning the withdrawal of the French troops from Mexico.”  (quote source:

In 1867, he was elected to the U.S. Senate where he served until his death in 1877.

Oliver P. Morton Home, Centerville Indiana.
For more photos, explore this link: 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

August 3: Gas Rationed in WWII

On this date in history .... August 3, 1941:

Gas sales were limited in the U.S. during WWII. 

Actually, gas wasn't what they were rationing at all. The main purpose of the restrictions on gas purchasing was to conserve tires. Japanese armies in the Far East had cut the U.S. off from its chief supply of rubber.

There were four rationing classifications:

  • An "A" classification, which could be had by almost anyone, entitled the holder to four gallons a week. 
  • A "B" classification was worth about eight gallons a week. 
  • "C" was reserved for important folk, like doctors.  
  • The magic "X" went to people whose very survival required that they be able to purchase gasoline in unlimited quantities--rich people and politicians, for example.

Gas rationing began on a nationwide basis on December 1, 1942. It ended on Aug 15, 1945. Speed limits were 35 MPH for the duration. For a short time in 1943, rations were reduced further and all pleasure driving was outlawed.  

The first nonfood item rationed was rubber.  The Japanese had seized plantations in the Dutch East Indies that produced 90% of America's raw rubber.  President Roosevelt called on citizens to help by contributing scrap rubber to be recycled, old tires, old rubber raincoats, garden hose, rubber shoes, bathing caps. 

By the end of 1942, half of U.S automobiles were issued an 'A' sticker which allowed 4 gallons of fuel per week.  That sticker was issued to owners whose use of their cars was nonessential.  Hand the pump jockey your Mileage Ration Book coupons and cash, and she (yes, female service station attendants because the guys were over there) could sell you three or four gallons a week, no more.  For nearly a year, A-stickered cars were not to be driven for pleasure at all. 

The green 'B' sticker was for driving deemed essential to the war effort; industrial war workers, for example, could purchase eight gallons a week.  Red 'C' stickers indicated physicians, ministers, mail carriers and railroad workers.  'T' was for truckers, and the rare 'X' sticker went to members of Congress and other VIPs.  Truckers supplying the population with supplies had a T sticker for unlimited amounts of fuel.

Sources for this article:

Friday, August 2, 2013

August 2: Myra Bradwell, Woman Lawyer

On this date in History .... August 2, 1869:

photo courtesy of
Columbia law
Myra Bradwell passed the Illinois Bar Exam at the age of 38, becoming one of the first women lawyers in the country and the first woman lawyer in Illinois. (Arabella Mansfield is credited with being the first woman to pass the bar (in Iowa) in June 1869.) However, the Illinois Supreme Court denied Bradwell admission to the bar, not because she was a woman …. but because she was a married woman.  They were afraid that since a lawyer may be held responsible for their actions, she might be arrested and “therefore she would not be available to her husband.”

 "The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many occupations of civil life....The paramount destiny and mission of women are to fulfill the noble and benign office of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator." [83 U.S. 130 at 141].   

Her appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court was denied but this time it WAS because she was a woman, with one of the four reasons being that allowing her to practice law would “open the floodgates” and the court feared civil offices would be filled with women.

Bradwell appealed the decision to the Supreme Court who also denied her access to practice law. Illinois eventually passed laws to permit women to practice law and in 1890, she was granted a license to practice law. Her license was granted munc pro tunc (“now for then”) and dated 1869, making her officially the first licensed woman lawyer in Illinois.

Bradwell was the lawyer for Mary Todd Lincoln’s insanity trial in 1875 when Lincoln was declared sane and released from the sanitarium.  (SEE ALSO MY BLOG OF JUNE 19 – MARY TODD LINCOLN) 

In 1868, Bradwell founded The Chicago Legal News, a regional legal-news newspaper that was the highest circulated legal newspaper for over two decades. She became very involved in married women’s property rights, drafting a law in 1869 to protect the earnings of married women and to protect the interest of widows in their husbands’ estates.

Her daughter graduated law school in 1882 and continued to run the newspaper until 1925.

August 2: Happy Birthday!

Taking a little personal privilege here...

Two birthdays in my family today.

Born in 1960, my sister Sandy.
Born in 1984, my son John.

Happy birthday to both of them!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

August 1: "Ladies and Gentlemen .... Rock and Roll"

On this date in history .... August 1, 1981:

MTV makes its debut with the words (spoken by MTV creator John Lack), “Ladies and gentlemen …. rock and roll.”  

Videos of songs were donated to the station for free until the value of videos on MTV was recognized by the record industry and they began putting big money into the production of videos. MTV was instrumental in promoting performers such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince and Duran Duran, whose videos played heavily during the 80s.  

The station also pushed the edge of cultural boundaries such as the airing of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer”, which was condemned by the Vatican. By the late 80s, MTV was producing its own shows, including the popular “Beavis and Butthead”.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

July 31: Dan Mitrione, CIA, Kidnapped

On this date in History ... July 31, 1970:
Dan Mitrione

Dan Mitrione, a CIA agent, was kidnapped in Uraguay by guerillas in Latin American affairs. 11 days later, Mitrione was found in the trunk of a car, shot twice in the head. 

Mitrione was Italian-born who made Richmond, Indiana his hometown, where he served as Richmond’s police chief before moving on to the State Department & later the CIA. He left a wife and 9 children.  His funeral was a big media event, attended by David Eisenhower, and the Secretary of State, William Rogers.  

Sinatra with the Mitrione Family
Frank Sinatra and Jerry Lewis came to Richmond to do a benefit concert that raised $20,000 (over $100K in 2010 dollars) for Mitrione’s children.  

However, there is a dark side to this "hero's" story......

Mitrione was hailed as a hero to his hometown of Richmond.  Growing up in Richmond, I was eleven years old at the time and I remember the adults explaining that he was like the guys on the TV show “Mission Impossible”: top secret and the “government will disavow any knowledge of your activity”. 

Mitrione joined the FBI in 1959 and became a counter-insurgency specialist while assigned to the Agency for International Development with the Office of Public Safety.

But the untold part of the story is that he was a torture expert, taking it to a “cold science”. He instructed police in Brazil and Uruguay in "advanced anti-subversion and torture techniques". He also directly participated in and oversaw information extraction from prisoners.

He personally oversaw the soundproofing of his Uruguay home basement, testing it multiple times to make sure no sound at all escaped.  He taught brutal torture techniques, using beggars off of the streets as subjects for his classes held in his basement.  Four of these beggars died during the demonstration. Those who lived were allegedly executed once they were no longer needed. 

A July 19, 1973 issue of “New Scientist” (Vol 59 No 8550), a London publication, ran an article entitled “Building a Better Thumbscrew” in which it reports that Mitrione “was believed to be responsible for what is widely called the Mitrione Vest. This device is an inflatable vest which can be used to increase pressure on the chest during interrogation, sometimes crushing the rib cage.”  It is said be as effective as waterboarding but without the mess of the water.

Mitrione is quoted as saying, "A premature death means a failure by the technician.  It's important to know in advance if we can permit ourselves the luxury of the subject's death."  It is said that during this conversation “his plastic eyes sparkled” for the only time in months.  "The precise pain, in the precise place, in the precise amount, for the desired effect."

This four-minute video clips tells some of the story:  

A few days after Mitrione’s funeral a senior officer from Uruguay charged that Mitrione was there to teach police torture techniques, a charge the U.S. government called “absolutely false”.  In 1978, a CIA agent named Manuel Hevia Cosculleula published a book about his years working with Mitrione (“Eight Years with the CIA”) in which he described the electrical torture techniques taught by Mitrione.  According to Cosculleula, Mitrione told him:
"Before all else, you must be efficient. You must cause only the damage that is strictly necessary, not a bit more. We must control our tempers in any case. You have to act with the efficiency and cleanness of a surgeon and with the perfection of an artist. This is a war to the death. Those people are my enemy. This is a hard job, and someone has to do it. It's necessary. Since it's my turn, I'm going to do it to perfection. If I were a boxer, I would try to be the world champion. But I'm not. But though I'm not, in this profession, my profession, I'm the best."  

According to the book “Killing Hope”, written by William Blum:

“Things got so bad in Mitrione's time that the Uruguayan Senate was compelled undertake an investigation. After a five-month study, the commission concluded unanimously that torture in Uruguay had become a "normal, frequent and habitual occurrence inflicted upon Tupamaros as well as others. Among the types of torture the commission's report made reference to were electric shocks to the genitals, electric needles under the fingernails, burning with cigarettes, the slow compression of the testicles, daily use of psychological torture ... "pregnant women were subjected to various brutalities and inhuman treatment" ... "certain women were imprisoned with their very young infants and subjected to the same treatment." 

White House spokesman, Ron Ziegler, solemnly stated that "Mr. Mitrione's devoted service to the cause of peaceful progress in an orderly world will remain as an example for free men everywhere.''

"A perfect man," his widow said.


"A great humanitarian," said his daughter Linda.”

A 1973 movie, "State of Siege", was made based on the Mitrione story.

Dan Mitrione Jr.
The Mitrione story continues to a second generation.  His son, Dan Jr., after graduating from college and serving two years in Vietnam, joined the FBI. The younger Mitrione believed his father had been killed, not by his kidnappers, but by the U.S. government.  He had joined the FBI for the sole purpose of finding those responsible and “terminating them.” 

Mitrione was assigned to Operation Airlift in Florida, the FBI’s first venture into the drug war. Operation Airlift was formed around Sandini, a drug smuggler and suspected murderer who offered his services to the FBI in exchange for avoiding drug smuggling charges. Mitrione soon fell on the other side of the line.  During the Operation, Mitrione and Sandini had been skimming cocaine and selling it themselves. 

In April 1983, the FBI ceased Operation Airlift but Mitrione resigned from the FBI to become a business partner with Sandini and kept the cocaine smuggling going.  Mitrione began buying real estate and taking his wife and family on extravagant vacations all over the world. 

In April 1984, when a bomb was found under Sandini’s car, Mitrione was the prime suspect.  Both partners were afraid the other was about to sell out to authorities and the motive behind the bomb was believed to be an attempt to prevent Sandini from talking.  Local prosecutors had problems putting a case together because the FBI refused to cooperate and turn over files.  It was not until August 1984 that the FBI actually begin to investigate their former agent and came to the same conclusion: Mitrione planted the bomb.

In 1985, Mitrione was arrested and convicted of illegal drug trafficking. It was found that during Operation Airlift Mitrione and his partner had been turning over confiscated cocaine shipments to the government but not before skimming 42 kilos, an amount that would earn the two partners over $1 million each. Since he confessed and agreed to turn over real estate and other assets worth $850,000, Mitrione was sentenced to ten years probation. Since then he has authored a number of true-crime books.

Sources for this article include, but not limited to:


Monday, July 29, 2013

July 30: First New World Legislature

On this date in History ......July 30, 1619: 

The first legislative body was formed in the New World. The House of Burgesses (the English word for “citizens”) convened on July 30 and the first law passed required tobacco to be sold for a minimum of three shillings per pound. 

Other laws passed during this first session included prohibitions against gambling, drunkenness and idleness, and one that made observation of the Sabbath mandatory.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

July 29: Charles and Diana's Wedding

On this date in History .... July 29, 1981:

Prince Charles of England weds Lady Diana Spencer.  

Tagged as The Wedding of the Century, it was watched by an estimated 750 million people around the world, making it the most popular program ever broadcast. 

3500 guests waited in the cathedral to watch the historic event.  Estimates ranging from 600,000 to two million spectators lined the streets with 4000 policeman to control the crowds. 

The wedding gown, which barely fit into the coach that drove the bride to the church, had 10,000 pearls.  The 25-foot train was longer than any other train worn by any royal English wedding bride, before or since. (Queen Elizabeth’s train was 13 feet long.)

A video that begins with Diana disembarking from the Glass Carriage to begin the long walk down the aisle at the cathedral can be seen by clicking HERE.

After she became Princess of Wales, Diana automatically became the “third highest ranked woman in the United Kingdom Order of Precedence, after the Queen and the Queen Mother.” 

Trivia from
  • Diana was the first British citizen to marry the heir to the English throne in 300 years, the last being Anne Hyde who married future King James II in 1660 (while seven months pregnant). 
  • Coincidentally, Diana’s son, William, became the first heir to marry a commoner since King James II in 1660.  (Diana was not a commoner; she came from an old English noble family.  Before the wedding her courtesy title was Lady Diana Spencer.)
  • Charles and Diana were the first British royal couple to omit the word “obey” from their wedding vows.
  • Charles forgot to seal his vows with a kiss at the altar but the couple established a new royal tradition of giving a public kiss on the balcony after the wedding. The tradition was continued with Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, and with Prince William and Kate Middleton.


July 28: "Animal House"

On this date in History .....July 28, 1978:  

The movie “Animal House” is released in theaters and becomes a multi-million dollar box office hit and a pop culture icon. 

It was made for $3 million and grossed over $141 million. More money was spent on advertising than on the movie itself. 

It was the first big hit for director John Landis who went on to direct “The Blues Brothers” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. It was also the first film affiliated with college magazine National Lampoon.  Future Lampoon movies included the “Christmas Vacation” movies. 

Toga parties, popular in the 1950s, saw a rebirth in popularity upon the release of this film. 

Many of the cast members were unknowns but went on to become well known. John Belushi, for example, was the son of Albanian immigrants and did some theater summer stock in rural Indiana. Even though John appeared in only about a dozen scenes in the movie, it is said that his performance “stole the movie” and made it a box-office smash. 

It was the film debut for Kevin Bacon. Bacon and his wife, actress Kyra Sedgwick (“The Closer”) have been married since 1988 and found out in 2011, when doing family genealogy, that they are 9th cousins, once removed.

Stephen Furst (“Flounder”) also made his film debut in “Animal House”.  Both of his parents died when he was 16.  At 17, he was diagnosed with diabetes and it was not until he was facing amputation of this foot that he realized the seriousness of the disease and lost over 100 pounds.  He has become outspoken on the topic including making a video, “Diabetes for Guys”. He is surrounded by an artistic family.  Son Nathan is a TV and film composer; son Griff is an actor, director and musician; wife Lorraine is an entertainment lawyer.

The film spawned phrases that are still quoted today such as “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son”, putting people on “double secret probation” and of course the infamous, “FOOD FIGHT!!!!!”

(The favorite phrase is our house was used when we put our kids on "double secret probation" (click to see clip)!

Some additional trivia about the movie (source: 

  • The President of the University of Oregon only allowed this movie to be filmed on that campus because he decided he did not know how to read screenplays. In 1967 he had received the screenplay for a movie but had denied it permission to film there. That movie was The Graduate and he liked that movie so much that he decided he didn't want to miss another opportunity, so he allowed Animal House to be filmed on the University of Oregon campus. But he insisted that the college's name not be listed in the film's credits. 

  • According to Landis, Universal Pictures President Ned Tanen objected so strongly to the Dexter Lake Club scene that he interrupted a screening of the film and ordered the scene be removed immediately, claiming it would cause race riots in the theaters. In response, Landis screened the film for Richard Pryor, who then wrote a note to Tanen which read: "Ned, Animal House is fucking funny, and white people are crazy. Richard." 

  • Donald Sutherland was so convinced of the movie's lack of potential, that, when offered a percent of the gross or a flat fee of $75,000 for his three days' work, he took the upfront payment. Had he taken the gross percentage he would have been worth an additional $3-4 million. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

July 27: Wright Brothers Flight

On this date in History .... July 27, 1909:  

Orville Wright tests 1st US Army airplane, flying 1hour and 12minutes. Wilbur was born in Millville (between New Castle and Hagerstown Indiana). Orville was born near Dayton Ohio.  With Lt. Frank P. Lahm as his passenger, Orville flies for one hour, 12 minutes, 37 4/5 seconds. The flight fulfills the Army's requirements of remaining in air for an hour carrying two persons and establishes the record for two-man flight. It is witnessed by President Taft, his cabinet, and other public officials as well as an estimated crowd of ten thousand spectators at Fort Meyer.

Looking back on his childhood, Orville once commented that he and his brother had "special advantages...we were lucky enough to grow up in a home environment where there was always much encouragement to children to pursue intellectual interests; to investigate whatever aroused their curiosity." (quote source:

Neither brother received a high school diploma, attended college or married.

Friday, July 26, 2013

July 26: Truman sets of NSA

On this date in History .... July 26, 1947:

Truman signs the National Security Act which set up much of the framework for policy making for the next 40 years of the Cold War. 

The Act established a unified Dept of Defense. It established the Nat’l Security Council which would service as a clearinghouse of information that gave brief but detailed reports to the President. It established the CIA, which replaced the CIG, the Central Intelligence Group. 

The CIA, however, became much more. It was a separate agency that would not only gather information but carry out covert operations in foreign countries. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

July 25: Roseanne Sings National Anthem

On this date in History ... July 25, 1990:  

Roseanne Barr sings the National Anthem at San Diego Padre game on “Working Women’s Night.” 

It drew high criticism because of her blatant off key rendition and the crotch-grab at the end of the song. Just a few weeks earlier, Tom Werner, Executive Producer of the “Roseanne” TV show, had purchased the Padres. Time magazine voted her the worst Anthem singing of all time. She makes fun of herself and her singing in her show, shown in this clip (at marker 2:30). 

In the final two seasons of her show, she was paid over $40 million, making her the 2nd highest paid woman in show business at the time, after Oprah Winfrey.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

July 24: Operation Gomorrah

On this date in History ... July 24, 1943:  

Operation Gomorrah is launched. 

Britain begins bombing Hamburg Germany by night and the US bombs it by day. 30,000 Germans were killed & 280,000 buildings were destroyed. 

The effect on Hitler was significant. He refused to visit the burned out cities as “the ruins of the city bespoke nothings but the end of the war for him.” 

Out of the 791 British aircraft, only 12 were lost due to a new radar jamming device named “Window”.  Strips of aluminum foil were dropped by bombers on their way to the bombing sites, confusing German radar who thought the strips were dozens and dozens of aircraft. This confusion diverted the German defense away from the actual bombing targets.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

July 23: The Real McCoy

On this date in History ... July 23, 1872:

Elijah McCoy is issued patent #129843 for an “Improvement in Lubricators for Steam Engines”.  

McCoy was the son of former slaves who escaped from Kentucky through the Underground Railroad. His reputation on his multiple patented items was so great that people would ask, when buying equipment, if it was “the real McCoy” or an imitation. 50 of his patents dealt with lubricating machines. 

In Booker T. Washington’s 1909 book “The Story of the Negro”, he cited McCoy as having produced more patents than any other black inventor up to that time. 


Monday, July 22, 2013

July 22: Daniel Webster

On this date in History ... July 22, 1850:  

Arguably the Senate's most famous member—Daniel Webster the statesman, the orator, the lawyer, the senator, the man who spent more than two decades of leading debates and stirring crowds to tears in the Senate chamber --- resigned his (Mass.) Senate seat to become Secretary of State, a post he held until his death just two years later. 

One of the not so famous things Webster was noted for was to introduce legislation to produce pre-paid adhesive postage stamps for the U.S. Post Office, the first of which were issued in 1847. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

July 21: Mary Edward Walker

On this date in History .... July 21, 1861:

Dr. Mary Walker, a Civil War surgeon and the nation's first female surgeon , was awarded the Medal of Honor, for her efforts at Bull Run on July 21,1861, becoming the only woman to receive the Medal of Honor and one of only eight civilians to ever receive it. She was recommended for the medal after the war by General William Tecumseh Sherman. President Andrew Johnson signed his approval in 1865. 

Her name was removed from the honor list of awardees in 1917, along with others, when the terms used to designate eligibility for the award were reappraised. She refused to surrender the medal, however, and continue to wear it for the rest of her life. In 1977, thanks to the efforts of her family and a Congressional reappraisal of her achievements, the honor was restored.

Mary Walker
Dr. Walker was a militant feminist before the word became part of our vocabulary and worked especially hard on "dress reform" as part of women's emancipation.

Born a farmer’s daughter, she did not wear women’s clothing doing farm labor because it was too restricting and refused to “dress as a woman” while doing medical work during the war. The only women in her 1855 medical class, after graduation she married a doctor but kept her own name. She volunteered as a surgeon, working on the front lines.

She refused to wear cumbersome skirts while doing medical work during the Civil War. On April 10, 1864, when she took a wrong turn on a road, she was captured and accused of being a spy since she was “disguised” in men’s clothing, making her the first female POW.  Upon release, she worked in a women’s prison, where the women prisoners didn’t like her wardrobe of long pants and a tunic & asked for a “real” (man) doctor. 

Mary Walker
After the war she became a writer/speaker in the suffrage movement, particularly on the topic of women’s clothing.  She was arrested for impersonating a man several times, although she argued that Congress had awarded her special permission to dress in this way.


Friday, July 19, 2013

July 20: George Rogers Clark

On this date in History .... July 20, 1778:

George Rogers Clark captured the fort at Vincennes, Indiana, from the French.  

When Clark informed the French that France has declared war against the British, making France and the colonists now on the same side, the French were elated, and those at the Vincennes fort pledged allegiance to the Americans. When the British learned of this, troops were sent to capture the fort, and was held under British control through the winter. 

Clark recaptured the fort the following February with significantly fewer troops than the British had and in effect, tricked the British into surrendering the fort. Because of how Clark’s men had survived the winter in their approach to the fort and how Clark tricked the British into surrendering, Clark is described as “a true military genius and patriot.”

George Rogers Clark Memorial
Vincennes, Indiana

A memorial for Clark was built in Vincennes when, in the 1920s as the 150th Anniversary of the Revolutionary War was approaching, an "intense interest" arose in recognizing the accomplishments of Clark and how he secured the West for the Americans.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the memorial on June 14, 1936. 

July 19: First Women's RIghts Convention

On this date in History .... July 19, 1848:  

The first women's rights convention is held in Seneca Falls, NY.  Over 200 women attended. 

The organizers, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, were abolitionists who had met in London at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention. Because they were women, they were barred from the convention floor, igniting an indignation that became the seed of the women’s rights movement in the U.S.  

12 resolutions were passed at the convention, 11 of them unanimously.  The one that caused conflict was to enable women to vote. After much debate it passed and received much public ridicule, causing some of the supporter to back off. 

The 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, was finally passed over 70 years later, in 1920.

This mug would be a great gift for the 
"women's history" fan!  Click for more info.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

July 18: Suicide on "Dallas" Set

On this date in History ... July 18, 1989:

Edward Phillips Jr, of Corydon Indiana, drove his truck onto the set of the TV drama series “Dallas”, set the truck on fire, fired a 12-gauge shotgun five times at the sound stage, and then killed himself.  

Phillips and his wife had purchased Old Capital Popcorn Company in 1983. In 1985, “Dallas” star Ken Kercheval, who grew up in Clinton, Indiana, (north of Terre Haute), liked the popcorn so much that he invested $998,000 in the company, giving him a one-third ownership. Kercheval and Phillips clashed a number of times over marketing strategies. 

In 1988, Phillips was voted out of his management position by his wife and Kercheval. Later that year, Kercheval then bought out the other two-thirds of the company. 

Phillips had been devastated by the loss of control in the company, followed by his wife filing for divorce.  He admitted himself to a hospital for depression. Kercheval said Phillips had acted irrationally and frightened family and associates.

Trivia: Why the name "Old Capital Popcorn Company"?  Corydon, Indiana, was the "old state capital" before the capital was moved to Indianapolis.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

July 17: Erle Stanley Gardner

On this date in History ... July 17, 1889:

Author Erle Stanley Gardner is born.  

Gardner is most famous for writing the “Perry Mason” book series which later involved into a television series, but he was a prolific writer with multiple characters to his credit. He is the most translated American author with his works published in 71 languages.  Gardner attended the Valparaiso (Indiana) School of Law for one month when he was suspended for organizing several illegal boxing matches.  He went to California and found a job as a typist in a law firm.  Picking up some law information on the job and doing self-study, he passed the California Bar three years later, without any formal training or law school.  

He wrote a massive number of short stories and did a great deal of pulp writing.  In 1932, the last year he wrote exclusively for pulp, he earned $20,000.  In 1932, “those are Stephen King-like numbers.” [1]  

“In his pulp days, Gardner was notorious for killing off the final heavies with the last bullet in the hero's gun, which led to some editors teasing him about how all his good guys seemed to be such bad shots. Gardner's alleged explanation? "At three cents a word, every time I say 'Bang' in the story I get three cents. If you think I'm going to finish the gun battle while my hero still has fifteen cents worth of unexploded ammunition in his gun, you're nuts." “[2]  

He gave up his law practice in 1933 and became a full time writer. When the Perry Mason book series became so popular, Gardner, who was also writing books with his many other characters, had to give up typing the manuscripts himself and hired six secretaries.  He would go from one to another, dictating a different novel to each one. Gardner used a Plot Wheel to sketch out his writing ideas, a tool that is credited for his incredible output of novels.  

Raymond Burr, who is the face of Perry Mason, showed up for auditions planning on auditioning for the role of Hamilton Burger.  Many leading actors were there to audition for the role of Perry Mason.  Fred MacMurray, who would go on to become the dad of “My Three Sons” fame, was a leading contender. 

According to author Brian Kelleher, who wrote a book about the TV series, Gardner just happened to be there that day, saw Burr walk in, and before one word came out of the actor’s mouth, Gardner jumped up out of his chair and said, “That’s him! That’s Perry Mason!” Even though the show’s producers disagreed, Burr got the part.[3]  

There is much speculation about the platonic relationship between Perry Mason and secretary Della Street.  One view is that it was a reflection of Gardner's own life.  He had a 30-year friendship/relationship with his secretary, who he married months after his wife passed away.  Gardner had remained married to his first wife even though they had been separated for years.  The slight flirtation yet strictly business relationship seen in Mason/Street may have been how Gardner viewed his own relationships with his wife and his secretary.

Another view is that it was a business decision.  Had Mason married Street, it would have sent the series and storylines in a completely different direction and Gardner didn't want to change the formula of success. 

Plot Wheel
In 1946, he formed The Court of Last Resort. With other professionals, case files were reviewed and persons who had been wrongly accused and convicted were cleared.  On the first case review, Gardner wrote a letter to California Governor Earl Warren. The Governor’s office was impressed with Gardner’s findings and a reprieve was issued.  The sentence was changed to life in prison, to give time for additional investigation and eventually the person was proven innocent and released.  The idea from this actual group became a TV series on NBC 1957-1958.  

Gardner died in March 1970 at the age of 80.