Thursday, February 28, 2013

February 28: Upton Sinclair's, "The Jungle"

On this date in History .... 1906:

Upton Sinclair’s book, “The Jungle” is published.  It is the story of what Sinclair found when he was working undercover in Chicago’s meat packing industry at the request of the editors of the magazine “Appeal to Reason”, a political newspaper of the Socialist Party of America that became the largest circulated Socialist newspaper in America by 1910. He searched for a book publisher and was rejected by five, who considered it “too shocking for publication”. 

The book prompted the public to write President Teddy Roosevelt to the tune of about 100 letters a day.  Roosevelt sent meat inspectors on a surprise visit.  Even though the visit was leaked and the plants worked 3 shifts a day for 3 weeks to clean up the place, the inspectors were still horrified at what they found. Their report resulted in the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906 which eventually led to the establishment of the Food and Drug Administration.

Sinclair was appalled and bitter that the public was more shocked at the idea of eating “tubercular meat” than they cared about the horrific conditions of the working man.  In an interview with Cosmopolitan magazine, he complained of the public’s viewpoint by saying, “I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach."

Sinclair is one of the most translated American authors, his books having been translated into every major language, and it is believed by many that his work has more impact than any other author with the possible exception of Harriet Beecher Stowe.  He received a 1943 Pulitzer Prize for his fiction work of “Dragon’s Teeth”.

A supporter of socialism, Sinclair helped organize the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), and in 1923 he co-founded the ACLU's first permanent affiliate, Southern California ACLU, as an organization to protect public workers, in response to the arrest of dock workers who had gone on strike. He ran for Congress three times and ran for California governor three times, losing all six races.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

February 27: Daniel Sickles - Temporary Insanity

On this date in History ..... 1859:

Congressman Daniel Sickles, a Medal of Honor recipient, shot and killed Washington DC District Attorney, Phillip Key (son of “Star Bangle Banner” author Francis Scott Key), for having an affair with Sickles’s wife.  Sickles became the first defendant to plead temporary insanity as a defense. His attorney claimed Sickles had been driven insane by the affair and therefore could not be held responsible for his actions. The trial was the talk of Washington DC for months when Sickles was acquitted of murder, walking out of the courtroom as a free man.

Sickles wife was about half his age when they married.  He was 33 and she was 15 or 16. Both families were against the marriage. Although very young, his wife was very well educated and could speak five languages.  

Sickles himself was no angel and his career was full of scandals.  One is the story of bringing a well-known prostitute into his chambers and it is rumored that he also took her to England with him, presenting her to Queen Victoria under an alias name.

While in jail awaiting trial, more stories of preferential treatment added to his scandalous resume.  He had so many visitors (Congressmen, Washington society, and even President Buchanan sent him a personal note) that he was allowed to use the jailkeepers apartment to receive them.  He was also allowed to “retain his personal weapon, unusual even for the time.”

By the time Sickles lawyer was done, all of the papers were labeling Sickles a hero for “saving all the ladies of Washington from this rogue named Key.”  Sickles had extracted a confession from his wife of the horrid details of the affair and while ruled inadmissible in court, Sickles himself leaked it to the press who printed it in full, painting his young wife as an adulteress.

Ironically, the public was more outraged over the fact that Sickles forgave and reunited with his “harlot and adulterous” wife than they were over the murder itself.

Sources for this article include , .


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

February 26: Hitler Begins the Luftwaffe

On this date in History ..... 1935:

Nazi leader Adolf Hitler signs a secret decree authorizing the founding of the Reich Luftwaffe as a third German military service to join the Reich army and navy. In the same decree, Hitler appointed Hermann Goering, a German air hero from World War I and high-ranking Nazi, as commander in chief of the new German air force.
While the Versailles Treaty prevented Germany from building a military, Hitler began a civilian airline named Lufthansa which gave pilots flight training. All of this was done in the open so foreign governments would not be suspicious and believe it was civilian.  As the fleet grew, Britain and France protested but Germany’s production of planes continued.  In four short years, Germany boasted a fleet of over 1000 fighters and over 1000 bombers.
Eventually, British technology (radar and the Spitfire plane) out performed Germany’s planes, reducing the Germany threat in the skies.

Monday, February 25, 2013

February 25: Lawrence Welk Show

On this date in History ... 1982:

The last “Lawrence Welk Show” is produced. His immigrant parents migrated to America in 1892 from the Ukraine (Russia) and spent their first winter in North Dakota living under an overturned wagon covered in sod. 
Urban legend has it that Lawrence was 21 years old before he could speak English but this is not true. He dropped out of school due to appendicitis at 10 yrs old. At 17 years old, he talked his father into buying him a $400 mail-order accordion (which would be over $4500 in today’s money) and promised to work the farm until he was 21 to pay for it.  Welk’s father played the accordion at barn dances for extra money.

His heavy accent and stiff stage appearance were great fodder for comics, but his audience loved it when he played the accordion and danced with audience members. His music was referred to as “champagne music” and the show opened with the sound of a champagne cork popping and bubbles floating across the screen. Catchphrases from the show were “Wunnerful! Wunnerful” and “Ah-one-uh, Ah-Two-uh…”

Despite his refusal to allow rock and roll on his show and the show being a source of material for stand-up comics everywhere, the show maintained consistently high ratings.  Despite the ratings, the show was cancelled in 1971 by ABC but Welk formed his own production company and lined up 200 independent stations to air the show which ran for another eleven years.

The fourth grade drop-out amassed a huge fortune from the production company, real estate transactions, and the sales of his hundreds of records. He passed away March 17, 1992 in California.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

February 24: John Levitow, MOH

On this date in History .... 1969:

After a North Vietnamese mortar shells rocks their Douglas AC-47 gunship, Airman First Class John L. Levitow throws himself on an activated, smoking magnesium flare, drags himself and the flare to the open cargo door, and tosses it out of the aircraft just before it ignites.

For saving his fellow crewmembers and the gunship, Airman Levitow was later awarded the Medal of Honor. He was one of only two enlisted airmen to win the Medal of Honor for service in Vietnam and was one of only five enlisted airmen ever to win the medal.

He was on his 180th combat mission and was just filling in for a loadmaster who was sick that night.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

February 23: W.E.B. DuBois

On this date in History .... 1868:

W.E.B. DuBois is born in Massachusetts. The initials he is known by stand for William Edward Burghardt.
A brilliant scholar, DuBois became the first African-American to obtain a PhD from Harvard and became an influential person in civil rights movements. His first major book was the first sociological study of a black community (Philadelphia).
His philosophy was completely opposite of Booker T. Washington, founder and president of the Tuskegee University. “DuBois accused Washington of selling out blacks by advocating silence in civil rights issues in return for vocational training opportunities for blacks.”  
He helped found the NAACP in 1909. He broke ties with the group a couple of times before joining the Communist Party in 1961 and becoming a citizen of Ghana in 1963, the year of his death.

Friday, February 22, 2013

February 22: F.W. Woolworth

On this date in History .... 1879:

Frank W. Woolworth opens his first store.  The Utica NY store failed within weeks but he then opened another store in Lancaster PA.  Woolworth’s store were the first “five and dime” stores in the U.S., a concept he dreamed up while working as a stock boy and the store had a table of items for only five cents that always sold out.  When he opened his stores he expanded the concept to include items that sold for a dime.

His stores also became the first store designed so that customers could actually touch the merchandise and  make their own selections, instead of the current method of having everything behind a counter and customers having to give the store clerk a list of things he/she needed to buy.

The stores eventually incorporated lunch counters after the success of the counters in the first store in the UK in Liverpool and served as general gathering places, a precursor to the modern shopping mall food court. A Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina became the setting for a significant event during the civil rights movement.


No one believed a store could make a profit with five and ten cent items but Frank proved them wrong. By 1911, he had almost 600 stores.  In 1913, he built the Woolworth building in NY, the tallest building in the world at the time. In 1916, he built his home on Long Island.  The 56-room house required 70 full time gardeners and dozens of servants. When he died in 1919, he was worth over $6 million.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

February 21: Pearl Harbor Spy Found Guilty

On this date in History .... 1942:

Bernard Julius Otto Kuehn, a member of the Nazi Party, was found guilty of spying, just 76 days after his efforts aided the enemy in the attack on Pearl Harbor. 

The FBI had been suspicious of him since 1939 because of his “question contacts” with Germans and Japanese.  He had two houses, lots of money, threw lavish parties for military officials while expressing deep interest in their work …. but no real job or source of income. His answer to inquiries about his wealth was that he had made good investments overseas. It was also curious that this German National was an “advanced student of Japanese language” and he was never able to give a definitive answer as to the reason he was in Hawaii. He had a 25-year old married son who was a secretary to a high official in the Nazi Bureau in Berlin.

The Kuehns ended up in Hawaii from a bizarre string of events that began with their then-17-year-old daughter, Susie Ruth, who had been a mistress of Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels.  When Goebbels tired of her, she turned out to be difficult to get rid of, due to her father’s close friendship and connections to the head of the Gestapo, Heinrich Himmler. But when the Japanese requested a German spy to work in Hawaii (because a German would be less noticeable in the American environment than a Japanese spy), Goebbels saw his chance to get rid of the whole family and recommended the Kuehns for the position.

While in Hawaii, the entire family participated in spy activities.  Susie Ruth became a modern version of Mata Hari and dated many young military officers but her biggest contribution was when she opened a hair salon.  She intentionally set her prices very low so the military wives would be sure to become regular customers and a good source of information as they gossiped about things they heard from their husbands.  Sometimes the salon was so busy that Mrs. Kuehn had to go down there to help her daughter record and document the information that would later be transferred to the Japanese consulate.

Even the ten-year-old son, Hans, would work the spy game, becoming the only bona-fide child spy in history.  Dressed in a little sailor suit while taking a walk with his dad, he quickly became a favorite of the sailors, who would take him aboard the ships. Coached by his dad on what to ask and with a keen mind to remember everything he saw, he came off of the ships with information his spy father could never obtain.  His father was always careful not to go on board with little Hans so any attention, good or bad, was never directed his way.  It was just a cute little boy who showed a passion for the big ships.

After December 7, the FBI and local law enforcement, who had been watching the Japanese consulate, found officials in the consulate burning piles of paper. Once decoded, they were found to contain a set of eight signals for U.S. fleet movements. For example, a light shining in the dormer window of Kuehn’s Oahu house from 9-10 p.m. meant that U.S. carriers had sailed; a linen sheet on a clothesline at his beach house between 10-11a.m. meant the battle force had left the harbor.  Evidence was found showing he had send “specific and highly accurate” details, in writing, to Japan.

He was sentenced to “death by musketry” which was commuted to 50 years of hard labor.  He was released just four years later and deported.

sources for this information includes the website.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February 20: Emmett L. Ashford, Umpire

On this date in History ..... 1952:

Emmett L. Ashford becomes the first African-American umpire in organized (Major League) baseball.
Ashford had served as an umpire in games when he was asked to fill in for a no-show umpire. He was serving in the Navy when he heard the news that Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier into baseball and at that moment he wanted to become the first black umpire. He was known for his interaction with the crowds between innings. He wore shined shoes, a suit and flashy jewelry, a style that was unheard of for umpires.  The Sporting News stated that "For the first time in the history of the grand old American game, baseball fans may buy a ticket to watch an umpire perform.” 

Ashford was raised by his mother. In high school, he played baseball and ran track, was a member of the scholarship club and was the first black senior class president. He worked in various leagues as an umpire and eventually quit his coveted post office job of fifteen years, walking away from a nice pension, to umpire full time. 
He broke color barriers off the field, too. He charmed his critics and admirers alike, relying on his quick wit and intelligence to get him through a crisis. In one southwest city early in his career Ashford needed to find a place a black man could sleep. He went to the best hotel in town and approached the desk. "Sir," he explained, "I am that barefoot, uncultured Negro man you have been reading about and I wish to seek lodging in your excellent establishment." He got the room, and his charm would get him many other rooms, and many meals in restaurants.
Prior to his first season, Ashford reflected, "I feel proud being an umpire in the big leagues. Not because I am the first Negro, but because umpires in the major leagues are very select people.
In 1970 he achieved the big dream of being an umpire in the World Series.
Ashford only got to ump in the major leagues for five years before he retired at age 56 due to his eyesight, but he served those five years with no regrets of the shortness of time.  He said, "Think of all the people who live an entire life and do not accomplish one thing they really wanted to do. I have done something I wanted to do. I have that satisfaction."
When he died in 1980, his cremated remains were scattered over Cooperstown, NY, home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
Sources for this article included a wonderful column found at .

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

February 19: The Donner Party

On this date in History .... 1847:

The Donner party is rescued from the Sierra Nevada mountains after being trapped there for months in a sudden blizzard. 
They tried a new route instead of the standard regular route through the mountains. The so-called short-cut was anything but. It added three weeks to their journey, depleting their supplies. Eventually a party of them tried to get through the snow for help. Some of them made it to an Indian village and word reached the nearby fort, who sent out a rescue party.
Of the 89 original members, only 45 survived. Historical lore is filled with stories of cannibalism among the survivors, but recent anthropological studies have shed some doubt on the validity of those stories.

Monday, February 18, 2013

February 18: California Death Penalty

On this date in History ..... 1972:

The California Supreme Court rules the death penalty to be cruel and unusual punishment and in violation of the state constitution. The ruling takes 107 inmates off of death row, including Charles Manson and Sirhan Sirhan (who killed Robert Kennedy).
Later that same year (1972), Californians passed Proposition 17 which reintroduced the death penalty and amended the California Constitution.  No executions were carried out in California until 1992 because of the Supreme Court decision in Furman v. Georgia which temporarily suspended capital punishment in the U.S.
The case stemmed from People of California v. Robert Page Anderson who murdered three people during a robbery.  His sentence was commuted and in 1976, he was paroled and moved to Seattle.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

February 17: Johnny Weissmuller a.k.a. "Tarzan"

On this date in History .... 1924:

Johnny Weissmuller sets a 100-yard freestyle record in swimming in the 1924 Paris Olympics, winning three gold medals and a bronze, and took two more gold medals in the 1928 Olympics. His record includes 52 US Nat’l Championships, setting 67 world records, and selected as the greatest swimmer of the 20th century. He never lost a race and retired with an unbeaten Amateur record.
After moving to BelAir in California, he built a home with a 300 foot serpentine swimming pool.
Even though he was the sixth person to play “Tarzan” in movies, he was the most well-known “Tarzan” actor and the first to be associated with the “Tarzan yell”.  While a guest on a 1970 talk show, he explained the yell was created by splicing together three vocalists: a soprano, an alto … and a hog caller. Maureen O’Sullivan (“Jane”) swore that Weissmuller did the yell.  Some claim the yell was created by the studio via the splicing technique but that Weissmuller learned to do the yell himself.
The two video links are clips of a Tarzan movie and a documentary with conversation regarding how the Tarzen-yell was created.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

February 16: Elvis Presley's Gospel Awards

On this date in History ..... 1968:

Elvis Presley’s album, “How Great Thou Art” is certified gold. It went 2X Platinum in March 1992, and 3X Platinum in October 2010.  It won a Grammy for “Best Sacred Performance” category. In his lifetime, Elvis only won three Grammy awards and all three of them were for his gospel albums.

The church shown on the album cover is the First Church of Christ in Sandwich, Massachusets.
As described in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, Elvis was 'arguably the greatest white gospel singer of his time [and] really the last rock & roll artist to make gospel as vital a component of his musical personality as his secular songs'.” (quote source:


Friday, February 15, 2013

February 15: "Cinderella"

On this date in History .... 1950:

Disney’s “Cinderella” is first shown in U.S. movie theaters becoming one of the highest grossing films in 1950. It took six years and $2.9 million to make, and grossed over $34 million. 
It was the first Disney film to have its songs published and copyrighted by the newly formed Disney Recording Company. The song, “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” was nominated for an Oscar.
To save money on the animation, the pumpkin coach was drawn to seem to float on air so they wouldn’t have to animate the wheels, with the filigree design, turning.
Nowhere in the film is the Prince ever referred to as “Prince Charming”.
(video source:

Thursday, February 14, 2013

February 14: T. Roosevelt Suffers Double Loss

On this date in History .... 1884:

Theodore Roosevelt’s wife and mother die hours apart.  His mother died of typhoid fever and his wife died of Bright’s disease, a kidney illness.
Roosevelt was devastated by the double loss.  He had his sister raise his daughter Alice and headed to the Dakota territories where he ranched and even served as sheriff for a couple of years. He came back to the east coast in 1886 and got re-involved in politics, becoming President in 1901.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

February 13: Roosevelt's Race Relations Speech

On this date in History .... 1905:

Theodore Roosevelt discusses race relations in a speech to the New York City Republican Club soon after winning re-election.
Roosevelt & Booker T.
Washington in 1901
There was still tension between the North and the South and the influx of Asian immigrants was adding to racial tensions. Roosevelt used a metaphor of “the rising tide raises all ships” to make his point, that if “morality and thrift among the colored men” can be raised, then the same virtues, already to be assumed in an advanced state in white men, would also rise higher.
Referring to whites as the “forward race”, he charged them with helping to raise the status of minorities by “training the backward races ….. in industrial efficiency, political capacity, and domestic morality.”

With those words he place responsibility on whites “the burden of preserving the high civilization” our forefathers had envisioned.

It was not until Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did the government actually take action to assure equality in the law.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

February 12: Dr. Henry Garnet

On this date in History .... 1865:

Rev. Dr. Henry Highland Garnet, former slave and pastor of the 15th Street Presbyterian Church, becomes the first African-American to deliver a sermon to the U.S. House of Representatives, ”commemorating the victory of the Union armies and the deliverance of the country from slavery.”
Pres. Lincoln had arranged for this special sermon, with full consent of his Cabinet,  on the President’s 56th birthday. 
In 1881, Garnet was appointed U.S. minister to Liberia but died only 2 months after his appointment.

Monday, February 11, 2013

February 11 ..... "Payola"

On this date in History ... 1960:

The issue of Payola reached a new level of prominence when President Eisenhower proclaimed “an issue of public morality”.  The FCC proposed a law to make it an illegal act. 

“Payola” was the term describing how radio stations and DJ’s were paid to play a record. The number of times a record is played can influence its popularity. Some DJs admitted to receiving a total of over $10,000 for their “listening fees”.  One DJ, in his testimony to Congress dismissed it as a problem, comparing it to “giving the teacher a better gift than the fellow at the next desk.”

Congress got involved as a matter of trust, since the (public) radio airwaves were owned by the public. Others were of the opinion that 1960 was an election year and since it was the middle of the Cold War and the country was just coming out of the big Game Show Scandal, politicians wanted to appear to be on the moral side of things.

The consensus was the hearings didn’t accomplish much in the way of eliminating Payola, but did accomplish two things: they threatened the career of Dick Clark on American Bandstand (who avoided trouble by selling his interest in a recording company and cooperating fully with the investigation), and destroyed the career of rock-n-roll legend Alan Freed.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

February 10: Ronald Brown

On this date in History ... 1989:

Ronald Brown is elected head of the Democratic National Committee.  
Brown, a former Supreme Court lawyer, was the first African-American to hold the top position in a major political party in the U.S.  He was also the first African-American Secretary of Commerce, appointed by Bill Clinton, who Brown helped to elect as head of the DNC. In college, Brown was the first African-American member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.  
Brown died on April 3, 1996 when the plane he and 32 other Americans were on crashed into a mountain in Croatia.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

February 9: Hollywood Walk of Fame

On this date in History .... 1960:

The groundbreaking ceremony is held for Hollywood’s Walk of Fame with the first star on the walkway going to Joanne Woodward, Academy Award winner for “Three Faces of Eve” in 1957, the movie where she met her husband, Paul Newman. Technically, Woodward was not the “first” as the Walk was a continuous work in progress.  Her name was simply drawn from a group of eight as the first name to be put in place. 
Construction continued on the Walk for the next 16 months and concluded with over 1500 stars on the Walk that stretches for fifteen cityblocks. The Walk became an official landmark in 1978 and today has over ten million visitors a year.

Friday, February 8, 2013

February 8: "Birth of a Nation"

On this date in History  ..... 1915:

D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” is released in Los Angeles. 
Made for slightly more than $100,000 (the largest amount ever spent on a film at the time), it grossed over $10 million worldwide in its 1st year. It was the first film shown in the White House, to Woodrow Wilson.
While the film has been credited as “groundbreaking”, many cities refused to allow the movie, depicting the Ku Klux Klan as “the good guys”, to be shown.  In many cities where it was shown, riots to protest broke out. Tickets were $2 when it opened, which was really expensive. It equates to about $17-$20 today.
Director Griffith had the whole script in his head and didn’t write out one word or keep notes. Black characters were frequently played by white actors in black make-up, particularly those who were required to come in contact with white actresses.
The KKK used it as a recruiting tool as late as the 1970s. It is credited with reviving the KKK, which had been considered dead for quite some time.  The same year of the movie's release, the KKK organization staged a 're-birth' in Georgia.
The film inspired many African Americans to begin making their own films to counter the images depicted in this one and to show African Americans in a much more positive light with alternative stories.  The NAACP's attempt to ban the film failed.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

February 7: The First "Negro History Week"

On this date in history .... 1926:

The first “Negro History Week”, the precursor to “National Black History Month”, is observed. 

It was the brainchild of Carter G. Woodson, the son of former slaves who is considered the Father of Black History. The second week of February was selected since it included the birthdates of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

After becoming the 2nd Black American to graduate from Harvard with a Ph.D. (W.E.B. DuBois was the first), he began working to include history of Black Americans in mainstream history. He was bothered that history books largely ignored the black population. One Harvard professor told him, “The Negro has no history” and Woodson set out to prove otherwise. He noted that African-American contributions "were overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them."

As a child, he went to school during the four months a year allowed to black children and learned to read from the Bible and newspapers. He worked in coal mines before he was able to attend high school.  He completed a 4-year high school curriculum in just two years. In 1920, as dean of School of Liberal Arts at Howard University, he created the first African-American survey course and founded the Associated Negro Publishers to promote publishing for African-Americans

He once wrote:
“If you can control a man’s thinking, you don’t have to worry about his actions. If you can determine what a man thinks you do not have to worry about what he will do. If you can make a man believe that he is inferior, you don’t have to compel him to seek an inferior status, he will do so without being told and if you can make a man believe that he is justly an outcast, you don’t have to order him to the back door, he will go to the back door on his own and if there is no back door, the very nature of the man will demand that you build one.”

He didn’t live long enough to see his “Negro History Week” turn into “Black History Month” but his devotion to putting the contributions of African Americans into the history books have been far-reaching.

Quoting from Wikipedia:  
“Woodson was ostracized by some of his contemporaries because of his insistence on defining a category of history related to ethnic culture and race. At the time, these educators felt that it was wrong to teach or understand African-American history as separate from more general American history. According to these educators, "Negroes" were simply Americans, darker skinned, but with no history apart from that of any other. Thus Woodson's efforts to get Black culture and history into the curricula of institutions, even historically Black colleges, were often unsuccessful.

Today African-American studies have become specialized fields of study in history, music, culture, literature and other areas; in addition, there is more emphasis on African-American contributions to general American culture. The United States celebrates Black History Month.”


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

February 6: "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling"

On this date in History .... 1965:

The Righteous Brothers song "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" hits #1.
In 1999, it was ranked as the song having more radio and television play in the United States than any other song in the 20th century.  It is one of the rare songs that has no instrumental intro but starts right in with the lyrics.
One of the background singers in the 1964 release was a young singer who would become a national icon by using only her first name:  Cher. 
The BBC put out a list in 2012 that placed this song in third place on the list of “most profitable” songs.  It was beat out by “Happy Birthday” (first place and now a public domain song) and “White Christmas” (2nd place).

Click here to listen to the song!!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

February 5: FDR's Announces Court Packing Plan

On this date in History .... 1937:

Franklin Roosevelt announced plans to expand the Supreme Court to up to 15 judges, his argument being to make it “more efficient.”  FDR had become irritated with the Court as they had struck down several of his New Deal bills. FDR plan was to pack the Supreme Court with more liberal judges who would vote with his New Deal ideas.  Before he could put the plan in place, two of the judges switched over to “the liberal side”, making FDR’s reorganization plan unnecessary.  FDR had his first chance to appoint a new justice soon after and by 1942, all but two of the judges were FDR appointees anyway.

Businessmen who found themselves heavily taxed and regulated by FDR’s new programs, pushed back through the courts.  In one of them, the Supreme Court ruled against FDR’s Agricultural Adjustment Act, stating in a 6-3 split that the tax was unconstitutional and that only the states had the power to regulate agriculture.

FDR didn’t want the states to try to piecemeal changes. He believed that only “sweeping federal reforms” could fix the problems of the Depression.  He claimed the court was overwhelmed with cases as his reasoning for adding more judges …. judges that HE would appoint to make sure his programs were passed without problem.

It is historical irony that FDR almost achieved his plan when five justices retired and two died, giving FDR the opportunity to appoint seven of the nine seated justices anyway


Monday, February 4, 2013

February 4: Confederate States Congress

On this date in History .... 1861:

The Provisional Confederate Congress convenes and begins drafting a constitution.  The Confederate Constitution was modeled after the U.S. Constitution, using many parts of it word for word.  Some differences included: 

·         The president would serve for a six-year term.

·         The word “slave” was actually used and the institution of slavery was protected in all existing and future states. However ….

·         The importation of slaves was banned for fear of making enemies of European countries and fear of diminishing the existing (and profitable) slave trade already going on in the southern United States.

·         The president was given a line-item veto.

·         States powers were enhanced by banning governmental money for internal improvements.

Jefferson Davis was selected as the President of the Confederate States.  He was officially "elected" (ran unopposed) to a six-year term on November 6, 1861. He never served the full six years since the Confederacy was disolved in 1865. 

Davis graduated 23rd in his class from West Point and came from a family filled with military tradition.  His father and uncles fought in the Revoluntionary War.  All of his older brothers fought in the War of 1812.  Davis himself proved himself in the military during the Blackhawk War of 1831 when Chief Blackhawk was captured and placed under the care of Davis.  Davis won Blackhawk over due to the kind care Davis extended to the chief.

Davis's first wife was Sara Knox Taylor, daughter of General Zachary Taylor, who would become a President of the United Stated.  The General did not approve of the marriage and Davis resigned his military position "to take up civic duties" before the marriage.  Sara died of malaria just a few months into their marriage.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

February 3: Buddy Holly Dies

On this date in History ..... 1959:

Rock stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson are killed when their chartered plane crashes in Iowa. Waylon Jennings, who was supposed to be on the plane, gave up his space to Richardson, who was ill. 

Pilot error (pilot was not qualified to fly by instruments) and bad weather were blamed for the accident. Holly and his band, the Crickets, had just scored a No. 1 hit with "That'll Be the Day."  

                                                                         Holly used a shorter spelling of his name (it was actually “Holley”) when it was recorded wrong in a contract and he just liked the shorter spelling better.  

He was a charter (first year) inductee into the newly formed Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. 

Singer Don McLean memorialized Holly, Valens and Richardson in the 1972 No. 1 hit "American Pie," which refers to February 3, 1959 as "the day the music died." 

Click here to hear "American Pie" by Don McLean


Saturday, February 2, 2013

February 2: Queen Victoria's Funeral

On this date in History .... 1901:

The military state funeral of Queen Victoria is held in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. Queen Victoria's funeral was one of the earliest events recorded by British Pathe.
After 63 years on the throne, Victoria died at the age of 81 at Osborne House on The Isle of Wight as the longest reigning monarch in history, ruling from 1837 to 1901. She saw ten Prime Ministers come and go.
She had left detailed instructions on how she wanted her funeral, including a list of items that she wanted in the coffin with her, such as her late husband’s dressing gown, some photos, and her wedding veil placed over her face. Her coffin was carried by a gun carriage and pulled by eight white horses, to honor her request for a white military funeral.
She became queen at an early age (18) after her father and three uncles died at early ages.  Her marriage to Prince Albert in 1840 produced nine children, most of whom married into other royal families.  The death of her husband at the young age of 42, left her in a deep depression and she wore mourning black for the rest of her reign.
Queen Victoria and
Prince Albert on their
Wedding Day.

She is credited for the famous quote "We are not amused" and for her influence on wedding fashion. While she was not the first royal bride to wear a white gow, she was the first to wear one in the age of the newly developed science of photography, making her white wedding dress world news. Her style still influences wedding gown designs today.