Thursday, January 31, 2013

February 1: Battle Hymn of the Republic

On this date in History .... 1862:

The Atlantic Monthly magazine publishes the words to Julia Ward Howe’s poem-turned-song “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, which became the most popular song of the Civil War.
Previously, Union soldiers had sung the song “John Brown’s Body” but so did the Confederate, with slightly different words.  Howe and a minister friend thought there should be more uplifting words.  Howe, already a published poet, took up the challenge and wrote the poem/song. 
Two years before her death, she became the first woman elected to the
American Academy of Arts and Letters.  She was married to Samuel Howe, who founded the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston.


January 31: Germany Resumes U-Boat Attacks

On this date in History .... 1917:

Germany announces they will again begin unrestricted warfare in the Atlantic with their submarines, known as U-Boats. 

The American stance of remaining a neutral in the Great War was wearing thin with the sinking of the Lusitania and an Italian ship with 27 Americans. Three days after Germany’s announcement, an American ship, the Housatonic was sunk.

On February 22, the U.S. Congress appropriated $250 million to ready America for war. In March, Germany sank four more U.S. merchant ships.  On April 6, the House of Representatives endorsed the Senate’s declaration of war and “America formerly entered WWI.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January 30: Assassination Attempt on Andrew Jackson

On this date in History .... 1835:

The first attempt to assassinate a United States President was tried against President Andrew Jackson.
Richard Lawrence discharged 2 separate pistols in the House chamber of the U.S. Congress during a funeral service honoring Rep. Warren Davis of So. Carolina. Both weapons misfired.  Jackson began beating Lawrence with his walking stick until members of Congress pulled Jackson off of him. 
Lawrence was subdued by other members of Congress, (including Congressman Davy Crockett), arrested, found to be insane & sent to a mental hospital.

Jackson was certain that Lawrence had been paid by political opponents to kill him but this was never proven. 

100 years later, the Smithsonian did a test-fire on the guns used by Lawrence and determined that the odds of BOTH guns misfiring was 1 in 125,000.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

January 29: School Prohibited German to be Taught

On this date in History ..... 1918:

The Indianapolis Public Schools voted to ban the teaching of German in public schools. 
This was a common reaction going on around the country in response to the German factor in WWI, even though German-American communities “were among the oldest and most widespread ethnic groups in the state.” It became illegal for German newspapers to continue to print or to disburse anything German thru the mail.

It was during this time period that those of German descent and anything German began to “Americanize” themselves, changing names, such as the small town in eastern Indiana (near my hometown) changing its name from “East Germantown” to “Pershing”, the name of the great WWI General. For many MANY years, the city went by both names, as shown by this city limits sign.

Footnote:  In my own personal history, I can see how the spelling of my family name evolved over the generations.  In a local cemetery, I can see the original family who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1840s spelled our last name as "Toschlage".   Later, I can find it on tombstones spelled "Toschlag".  It since evolved to the current spelling as "Toschlog".

Monday, January 28, 2013

January 28: First Jewish Nomination to Supreme Court

On this date in History ..... 1916:

Woodrow Wilson nominates the first Jewish person to the Supreme Court. 
Louis Brandeis, born in Louisville, KY, to Jewish immigrant parents, was a Harvard graduate at the age of 20 with the highest grade average in the college’s history.
As a lawyer, he fought against large corporations, monopolies and corruption. When he was financially secure, be began taking cases for no pay, earning the name “A Robin Hood of the law”. He set a precedent in evidence presentation when he used expert testimony from those in other professions to support his case(s). 
His court nomination was bitterly contested as many thought he was brilliant but as a crusader for social justice, he was considered dangerous. But he was considered even more dangerous than the norm because he was (1) incorruptible and (2) Jewish.  
He was confirmed and became one of the most influential justices to serve on the court.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

January 27: US bombs Germany

On this date in History ..... 1943:

Americans make the first bombing raid against Germany.
65 bomber planes from the 8th Air Force departed from their England base. 53 planes made it to the destination where 22 German planes were shot down.  Americans only lost 3 planes in return.  
The 8th Air Force became famous for their precision bombing raids, often called “the greatest air armada in history.” The nickname seems to be well deserved.
The Eighth’s personnel also earned 17 Medals of Honor, 220 Distinguished Service Crosses, 850 Silver Stars, 7,000 Purple Hearts, 46,000 Air Medals. Many more uncounted awards were presented to the 8th AF veterans after the war. There were 261 fighter aces and 305 gunner aces in the Eighth in World War II; 31 of those fighter aces exceeded 15 or more aircraft kills.(all quotes source:
A museum to commemorate the MIghty Eighth is located in Savannah Georgia.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

January 26: Tennessee and Prohibition

On this date in History .... 1838:

Tennessee passes the first prohibition law.  No longer could “spirituous liquors” be sold and those who did would be fined “at the discretion of the court” with the monies going to support schools.  In 1919, the state’s General Assembly voted almost unanimously for the 18th Amendment (Prohibition).

However the terrain in Tennessee made it ideal for making moonshine and with easy untaxed money to be made, law officials were easily bribed. This type of corruption (which was not limited to Tennessee by any means) made it fashionable to flaunt the law. 

Although Prohibition was repealed in 1933, Tennessee remains in a minority of states that still prohibit the Sunday sale of whiskey, tequila and other distilled spirits. Moore County, the home of the Jack Daniels distillery, is located in a dry county, prohibiting this whiskey from being sold in the county in which it is made. However, a state law was passed to permit a distillery to sell one “commemorative” product and the Jack Daniels Distillery has one blend of whiskey in a commemorative bottle which can be sold locally.

Friday, January 25, 2013

January 25: Shirley Chisholm

On this date in History .... 1972:

Shirley Chisholm becomes the first major-party black candidate for President of the United States and the first woman (white or black) to run for the Democratic nomination. (The first woman to run for President on the Republican ticket was Sen. Margaret Chase who ran for the Republican nomination in 1950).
In 1968, she had become the first African American woman elected to Congress. 
A former teacher, she was an advocate for children, education and women’s rights.  In May of 1969 she gave a speech to the House of Representatives in which she introduced the equal rights amendment and pointed out that the bill had been introduced before every Congress for the previous 40 years.
To those who argued that women were already protected under the law, she pointed out that ….. "If women are already equal, why is it such an event whenever one gets elected to Congress?"

Thursday, January 24, 2013

January 24: Edith Wharton

On this date in History .... 1862:

Edith Wharton is born. 

She became the first woman to take a Pulitzer (in 1921) for literature for her book, “Age of Innocence” (published in 1920). The story is set in New York in 1870, right in the middle of “The Gilded Age” of America. Her books were filled with stories of the era, attacking and romanticizing the lifestyle of the aristocratic society. 

She was born into a privileged class. Her father was George Frederic Jones and it is said the phrase “keeping up with the Jones’s” was a reference to her father’s family and his generations of wealth. She wrote 23 books and at least 85 short stories. 

The book, “Age of innocence”, can be read free here:  Age of Innocence link

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

January 23: 24th Amendment Ratified

On this date in History ... 1964:

The 24th Amendment is ratified, preventing Congress or the states from making the right to vote contingent upon paying a poll tax or any other kind of tax.

Poll Tax Receipt.  Source:
Poll taxes were a tool used by the South to prevent African Americans from voting after Reconstruction.  The practice was even deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court in the 1937 case of Breedlove v. Suttles.

With the passage of the 24th amendment, poll taxes were now unconstitutional in federal elections, but it was not until 1966 in Harper v Virginia Board of Elections that the Supreme Court ruled poll taxes unconstitutional for state elections as a violation of the equal right clause of the 14th amendment.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

January 22: LBJ Dies

On this date in History .... 1973:

Former President Lyndon Baines Johnson dies at the age of 64. 

Johnson’s pre-political career was that of a high school teacher of debate and public policy. He was the first president to appoint an African-American, Thurgood Marshall, to the Supreme Court. 

Johnson had wanted to “carve out a legacy as the creator of a Great Society” but had to live with the disappointment that his social programs were overshadowed by his escalation of the Vietnam War. 

Johnson had always said the “…when the Great Society dies, I’ll die, too.” As he watched Nixon’s second inaugural, on Jan 20th, he heard many of his social programs being dismantled.  The next day, he watched Nixon announce the cease fire in Vietnam, something that Johnson had been unable to achieve.  The following day, Johnson died of a heart attack.

Monday, January 21, 2013

January 21: Women on Juries

On this date in History ..... 1975:

The Supreme Court rules in Taylor vs. Louisiana that women cannot be excluded from jury duty.

Taylor, who had been charged with kidnapping, argued that in the territory of his trial, women made up 53% of the eligible jurors, but there were no women on his jury and were not even any women in the 175 person jury pool. His lawyer argued this did not represent a proper and “fair cross section of the community” that is “essential to the 6th Amendment’s guarantee of an impartial jury.” 


Sunday, January 20, 2013

January 20: 1st Non-White Elected to Congress

On this date in History ..... 1870:

Senator Hiram Revels
Hiram Rhodes Revels was the first non-white elected to the U.S. Congress, serving as Senator from Mississippi during Reconstruction.  He was born free in No. Carolina and attended the Union County Quaker Seminary in Indiana.
His election to the Senate was challenged because election to the senate required a 9-yr prior citizenship. The argument brought forth was that black men were not considered citizens prior to the 1868 passage of the 14th amendment, therefore he was only a “citizen by law” for only 2 years.
The prevailing argument, however, was that the Dred Scott case applied only to those of pure African blood, and since Revels was of mixed ancestry, it didn’t apply to him, therefore he was a citizen.
On Feb 25, 1870 he became the 1st black man to be seated in the Senate.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

January 19: Scrabble

On this date in History .. 1955:

Scrabble debuts on the game board market in Australia and the UK by the JW Spears Co. (now a subsidiary of Mattel).

Invented by Alfred Mosher Butts in 1938, the game was turned down by every major game mfg’r so Butts made them by hand, stamping each block of wood with a letter.

The 1st four years were a struggle until fate intervened and Jack Strauss, the president of Macy’s, saw the game while on vacation & ordered some for his store. Within a year, the game was so popular that the game had to be rationed to stores.

Between 1-2 million are sold each year in the U.S. The game was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2004.


Friday, January 18, 2013

January 18: "The Jeffersons"

On this date in History .... 1975:

The first episode of “The Jeffersons” airs on CBS and would run for 11 years, becoming the longest running All-in-the-Family spin-off.
The series was the first show to depict a successful black family. It showed the viewing public not only the white side of bigotry but also the black side of bigoty.  “George Jefferson was .....the opposite side of Archie Bunker, a bigot on the opposite side of racial intolerance.”
In the Norman Lear method of addressing taboo topics, George even uses two “politically incorrect” terms (spoiler alert: they are used in this clip  - Click Here - ).
Several CBS executives tried to get the interracial kiss between (neighbors) Tom and Helen Willis (the first black/white “married” couple on TV) edited out, but executive producer Fred Silverman successfully lobbied to keep it in.
(The title of “1st interracial couple” is given to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz; the 1st scripted interracial kiss was in 1966 between Capt. Kirk and Lt. Uhura.)
In 1981, Isabel Sanford (Louise) became the only African-American to ever win the Emmy award for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

January 17: Gary Gilmore

On this date in History .... 1977:

Gary Gilmore is executed by firing squad, becoming the first person to be executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. 

In 1972, the Supreme Court had ruled the death penalty was in violation of the 8th Amendment as “cruel and unusual punishment”, but overturned itself in 1976 when 66% of the public supported it. However, the Court added that states had to create specific guidelines for imposing death penalties.

Career criminal Gilmore was found guilty for the double murder of an elderly couple when they wouldn’t loan him their car. Much to Gilmore’s irritation, the ACLU kept intervening to get him stays of execution that Gilmore did not want. 

At the time, Utah had two methods: firing squad and hanging.  Gilmore chose his method of execution, saying, “I prefer to be shot.” As he faced the Utah volunteer firing squad, his last words were “Let’s do this.”


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January 16: Albert Fish .... cannibal

On this date in History .... 1936:

Albert Fish, a psychotic cannibal, was executed at Sing Sing prison. Known as one of the most “notorious and disturbed killers”, he believed to have killed as many as ten children and eaten their remains.

The case that caught him was for 10-yr old Grace Budd. Six years after killing her, carving her up with a saw and then cooking her body parts in a stew which he ate for nine days, he wrote a letter to Grace’s mother, describing it all in detail.  Authorities traced the letter to him and arrested him.

At this trial, it was brought out that Fish associated "cannibalism" with "communion". 

Everyone, including the jury, knew he was insane but found him "sane and guilty" and sentenced him to death anyway. His last statement was a handwritten note filled with obscenities. When the press asked to see the statement, Fish's attorney refused, saying, " I will never show it to anyone. It was the most filthy string of obscenities that I have ever read."


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

January 15: FDR Makes Plea for Baseball

On this date in History .... 1942:

The day after FDR signs Presidential Proclamation #2537 requiring people from enemy countries to register with the government, he switched his attention to the national pasttime of baseball, and sent his famous “Green Light Letter” to the baseball commissioner, encouraging the continuation of baseball games during WWII.

Roosevelt said his comments were “solely a personal and not an official point of view”.  The letter ensured that the 1942 season would be played as planned, negating rumors of a shutdown.

Despite a loss of many star players to military service, such Joe DiMaggio & Ted Williams, all 16 teams played regular schedules for the duration of WWII.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

January 13th: Schultz v. Wheaton Glass

On this date in History  ... 1970:

The United States Court of Appeals ruled in Shultz vs. Wheaton Glass that two jobs must be “substantially equal” in terms of what the job is, to qualify under the equal pay ruling of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. 
The ruling was considered key in helping to define “equal pay” for men and
women.  The court ruled that a company could not merely change the job title or job description to pay a woman a lower wage than a man. 


Saturday, January 12, 2013

January 12: All in the Family

On this date in History .... 1971:

The first episode of “All in the Family” airs on CBS.  The show is considered ground breaking as it brought to the airwaves topics that were normally considered “unsuitable” for television, such as menopause, the Vietnam War, rape, homosexuality and others. It also lays claim to the first audible toilet flush ever heard on prime time TV!

Creator Norman Lear wanted to film it in black and white but CBS demanded it be in color.  Lear made the set as bland and colorless as possible, going for sepia tones because he wanted viewers to feel like they were looking at an old family album.

It was the first show to be videotaped in front of a live audience, giving it that ‘stage’ look, similar to “The Honeymooners”, a show it is frequently compared to.

The show is only one of three shows to be #1 in the Nielsen ratings for five consectutive years.  (The record was overtaken in the 80s by "The Cosby Show" and later by "American Idol".)

It holds the record for the most number of spin-offs.  Five shows were born from All in the Family, and two of those were spin-offs of spin-offs.  "Good Times", a show about maid Florida Evans, was a spin off of "Maude". Checking In", a show about housekeeper Florence Johnston, was a spin off of "The Jeffersons".

Archie and Edith’s chairs, purchased at a Goodwill store, are on display at the Smithsonian Nat’l Museum of American History.

The show added to America's pop culture by adding to our vocabulary words such as "dingbat" and "stifle".  This video clip is a segment that had all of us touching our head to a wall and trying to pick up a chair!

Friday, January 11, 2013

January 11: Charlie Chaplin

On this date in History .... 1927:

38-yr old Charlie Chaplin’s $16 million in assets were frozen when his 19 yr old wife filed for divorce.
The silent film star, who resisted the change to sound movies, was one of the most financially successful stars of early Hollywood.

·         In 1915, he was paid $1250/wk. 

·         In 1916, $10,000/wk (the equivalent of over $200,000 in 2011 dollars). 

·         In 1918 he signed a contract for $1 million for 8 films ($15 million in 2011 dollars).

The divorce for the 3-yr marriage was settled for $1 million. In 1975, he was knighted Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

January 10: "Convoy!"

On this date in history .... 1976:

C.W. McCall (aka William Dale Fries Jr.), an advertising creative director, has the #1 song on the pop charts with “Convoy”, a song that celebrated the trucker/C.B. radio craze of the 70s & had everyone creating “handles” for themselves.

The song sold over two million copies and became McCall's signature song and probably the best known of his many songs over the years.

The craze inspired shows such as BJ and the Bear, Smokey and the Bandit, & many say it was the pre-runner to shows such as Dukes of Hazard.

It was the theme song to the movie “Convoy” starring Kris Kristofferson. 

Fries was elected mayor of Ouray, Colorado in 1986 where he served in office for six years.

 Click Here ..... to see a clip of the movie "Convoy" and hear this theme song.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

January 8: Right to Vote Veto Overridden

On this date in History .... 1867:

Congress overrides President Andrew Johnson’s veto of a bill allowing “all men” the right to vote in the District of Columbia. 
This was the first bill giving black men the right to vote. It prohibited the right to vote to those who were on welfare or charity, those who were under guardianship, those who had been convicted of major crimes, and those who had voluntarily aided Confederate troops or spies during the war. 
In 1870, the Republican dominated Congress passed the 15th Amendment preventing all states from prevention any male the right to vote.

Monday, January 7, 2013

January 7: Harlem Globetrotters

On this date in History ..... 1927:

The newly formed all-black basketball team Harlem Globetrotters played their first game in Hinckley, ILL. 

The team was formed during a time when professional basketball teams permitted only white players. The traveling Globetrotter team introduced many Midwesterners to a game they had never seen and audiences enjoyed the clowning antics and ball handing tricks which their coach encouraged them to do but only when they had a solid lead in the game.

The song “Sweet Georgia Brown”  (Click here for a clip of the Globetrotters with their theme song) was adopted as their theme song around the 1950s.  The song was first recorded in 1925 by bandleader Ben Bernie but the rendition for the Globetrotters was a 1949 instrumental by Brother Bones and His Shadows featuring whistling and (the musical instrument) bones.

Meadowlark Lemon
The team’s popularity peaked in the 1970s but began to decline after the retirement of popular player Meadowlark Lemmon. The team received a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star for their entertainment and has a permanent exhibit in the Smithsonian.  Their athletic skill was recognized in 2002 when they were inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

January 6: Samuel Morse and the Telegraph

On this date in History ...... 1838:

Samuel Morse demonstrates his telegraph system in Morristown, NJ, a device that would revolutionize long distance communication, peaking in the 1920s and 1930s.

In 1843, he convinced a “skeptical Congress” to finance the first line from Washington DC to Baltimore and lines across the country were quickly built across the country. 

The telegraph system created its own culture.  Telegrams charged per word but the word “stop" was allowed for free, so people used that at the end of a sentence instead of a period (which counted as a chargeable word). During the Depression (1933) Western Union introduced singing telegrams, and during WWII, the sight of a Western Union carrier caused dread because it was the method that families learned of a soldier’s death.

In January 2006, Western Union, the company that had put the Pony Express out of business by providing faster communication, sent it last telegram, having been put out of business by cheaper phone service, faxes and emails which could provide faster communication.


Saturday, January 5, 2013

January 5: Truman's "Fair Deal"

On this date in History .... 1949:

Truman tries to piggyback FDR’s “New Deal” ideas by offering a “Fair Deal” in his State of the Union address, stating that the people of the U.S. had a right to expect a fair deal from their government. 
He wanted to increase minimum wage, offer a national health care program, improve public housing, federal aid for education, assistance to farmers and more.  However, coming right at the end of World War II, these ideas sounded too close to socialism and an anti-communist attitude threw up barriers to Truman’s ideas. 
He did get a few changes passed, such as increasing minimum wage from 40 cents to 75 cents an hour but by 1950, the Korean and Cold Wars were detracting his attention from domestic matters.

Friday, January 4, 2013

January 4: Samuel Colt gets gun contract

On this date in History .... 1867:

Samuel Colt wins a government contract for 1000 of his .44 caliber revolvers. 
The contract enables Colt to improve his production methods and thereby reducing the cost of the gun.  Handguns were not really popular in the west. The preferred weapon was the more accurate Bowie knife.  But with the new technology of rifling the barrel, giving the spent bullet some stability, added some accuracy to handguns. 
Plus the new idea of a revolving chamber made accuracy not as big of a deal ….. a missed shot wasn’t so important when a shooter had five more bullets rapidly following it.
Colts were never cheap by mid-1800s standards, but the government contract enabled the cost to be reduced enough to become the favorite weapon of self-defense during the upcoming California Gold Rush as hundreds of thousands of people headed out west to make their fortune.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

January 3: Aretha Franklin

On this date in History .... 1987:

Aretha Franklin 1987 Album
Aretha Franklin becomes the 1st woman admitted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Of the current 159 inductions in the Performer’s Category, only 10 are solo women performers and 13 are groups containing women.

Part of the reason is the criteria used to be inducted: The person/group must have released their 1st album 25 years earlier.  In 1987, the board had to look in the early 60s when women were not prominent in the Rock-n-Roll genre.

Franklin moved to Detroit when she was two and as a teenager traveled with her minister father's traveling gospel shows.  She has won more Grammy Awards than any other female artist.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

January 2: Folk Singers, The Weavers

On this date in History .... 1962:

The folk singing group, The Weavers, were banned from NBC and the Jack Paar Show when they refused to sign a loyalty oath disavowing the Communist Party.

The Weavers were big in the folk-singing revival era of the 1950s.  It is said that without the Weavers, there would be no Bob Dylan and no Peter, Paul and Mary. Their records sold in the millions.  But when it came to light they were pacifists who agreed with the pro-labor sympathies of the Communist party, their popularity dropped like hot lead.

The group was put under FBI surveillance, lost their recording contract and were called to testify at McCarthy’s House of Un-American Activities Committee.

They made a small comeback in the early 1960s but nowhere near the level they enjoyed prior. When asked by NBC to sign the oath, every member of the group refused.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

January 1: Edsel Ford

On this date in  History .... 1919:

Edsel Ford, the only child of Henry Ford, takes over the presidency of the Ford Motor Co. after his father resigned the previous December over a dispute with stockholders. 

Edsel had an opposite view of his father’s “any color as long as it’s black” philosophy, and believed Fords could be stylish as well as functional. He convinced his father to buy the Lincoln, a luxury car company, in 1922 and was instrumental in developing some of the elegant cars, including the Lincoln Continental which was described by Frank Lloyd Wright as “the most beautiful car ever made.”

In 1943, Edsel died at the age of 49 of cancer and Henry again became president of Ford, serving until Edsel’s oldest son, Henry Ford II, succeeded his grandfather in 1945.