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 Post subject: Today in history...12-17
PostPosted: 17 Dec 2017, 10:50 
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1903
First airplane flies

Near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville and Wilbur Wright make the first successful flight in history of a self-propelled, heavier-than-air aircraft. Orville piloted the gasoline-powered, propeller-driven biplane, which stayed aloft for 12 seconds and covered 120 feet on its inaugural flight.

Orville and Wilbur Wright grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and developed an interest in aviation after learning of the glider flights of the German engineer Otto Lilienthal in the 1890s. Unlike their older brothers, Orville and Wilbur did not attend college, but they possessed extraordinary technical ability and a sophisticated approach to solving problems in mechanical design. They built printing presses and in 1892 opened a bicycle sales and repair shop. Soon, they were building their own bicycles, and this experience, combined with profits from their various businesses, allowed them to pursue actively their dream of building the world’s first airplane.

After exhaustively researching other engineers’ efforts to build a heavier-than-air, controlled aircraft, the Wright brothers wrote the U.S. Weather Bureau inquiring about a suitable place to conduct glider tests. They settled on Kitty Hawk, an isolated village on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, which offered steady winds and sand dunes from which to glide and land softly. Their first glider, tested in 1900, performed poorly, but a new design, tested in 1901, was more successful. Later that year, they built a wind tunnel where they tested nearly 200 wings and airframes of different shapes and designs. The brothers’ systematic experimentations paid off–they flew hundreds of successful flights in their 1902 glider at Kill Devils Hills near Kitty Hawk. Their biplane glider featured a steering system, based on a movable rudder, that solved the problem of controlled flight. They were now ready for powered flight.

In Dayton, they designed a 12-horsepower internal combustion engine with the assistance of machinist Charles Taylor and built a new aircraft to house it. They transported their aircraft in pieces to Kitty Hawk in the autumn of 1903, assembled it, made a few further tests, and on December 14 Orville made the first attempt at powered flight. The engine stalled during take-off and the plane was damaged, and they spent three days repairing it. Then at 10:35 a.m. on December 17, in front of five witnesses, the aircraft ran down a monorail track and into the air, staying aloft for 12 seconds and flying 120 feet. The modern aviation age was born. Three more tests were made that day, with Wilbur and Orville alternately flying the airplane. Wilbur flew the last flight, covering 852 feet in 59 seconds.

During the next few years, the Wright brothers further developed their airplanes but kept a low profile about their successes in order to secure patents and contracts for their flying machines. By 1905, their aircraft could perform complex maneuvers and remain aloft for up to 39 minutes at a time. In 1908, they traveled to France and made their first public flights, arousing widespread public excitement. In 1909, the U.S. Army’s Signal Corps purchased a specially constructed plane, and the brothers founded the Wright Company to build and market their aircraft. Wilbur Wright died of typhoid fever in 1912; Orville lived until 1948.

The historic Wright brothers’ aircraft of 1903 is on permanent display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.


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PostPosted: 18 Dec 2017, 10:47 
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1888
Wetherill and Mason discover Mesa Verde

While searching for stray cattle in the isolated canyons of southwest Colorado, Richard Wetherill and his brother-in-law stumble upon the magnificent ancient Indians ruins of Mesa Verde.

The Wetherill family started ranching in the rugged southwest lands of Colorado in 1881, and Richard and his brothers often explored the canyons and mesas for Indian ruins. Once, while looking up the mouth of Cliff Canyon, Wetherill was approached by a Ute Indian named Acowitz who reportedly told him, “Deep in that canyon and near its head are many houses of the old people-the Ancient Ones. One of those houses, high, high in the rocks, is bigger than all the others. Utes never go there, it is a sacred place.” Wetherill was intrigued, but his ranching duties kept him from exploring the canyon further.

On December 18, 1888, Wetherill and his brother-in-law, Charles Mason, were searching for stray cattle on top of a broad mesa when a heavy snow began to fall. Fearing they might ride over a cliff in the blinding snow, they dismounted and were moving ahead on foot when they came to an overlook point. From across the canyon they saw a snow-blurred image of a magnificent stone city three stories high and perched high up a cliff wall under a massive rock overhang. Fascinated, Wetherill and Mason abandoned their search for the stray cattle and, after considerable effort, managed to climb up and explore the ruins for several hours.

Wetherill and Mason had stumbled across the “houses, high, high in the rocks” that Acowitz had told them about. The ruins were once the home of the Anasazi (the Indian term for “ancient ones”) people. Subsequent archaeological studies showed that the Cliff Palace, as it became known, was built during the 13th century, when the Anasazi moved from the top of the mesas onto ledges and caves along the canyon walls, presumably to better defend themselves against invaders. Eventually a prolonged drought that started around 1275 forced the Anasazi to abandon their magnificent cliff dwellings.

In the years following the discovery, Wetherill collected thousands of artifacts from the Cliff Palace and other area ruins. Most of Wetherill’s artifacts ended up in museums, where they could be studied by professional archaeologists and viewed by the public. The same cannot be said of the many other priceless artifacts that were stolen by visitors over the years. In order to protect the site from further looting and degradation, the Congress created Mesa Verde National Park in 1906.


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 Post subject: Today in history...12-19
PostPosted: 19 Dec 2017, 09:41 
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1907
Pennsylvania miners perish in coal mine explosion

A coal mine explosion in Jacobs Creek, Pennsylvania, kills 239 workers on this day in 1907. Only one worker in the deep mine at the time survived the tragedy.

The Pittsburgh Coal Company set up the Darr mine on the side of a mountain near the Youghiogheny River. The mine was almost two miles deep and six workers at a time–most of whom were immigrants–would ride a wood bucket back and forth from the surface.

At about 11:30 on the morning of December 19, 240 workers were below the surface when a huge explosion rocked the mine. It was so powerful that homes in Jacobs Creek rattled and windows shattered. Thick black smoke poured out of the mine before the entrance collapsed. Mrs. John Campbell reported her observation, “My husband was about due for his dinner when the loud report came and I looked out the back door toward the mine. Instead of my husband, I saw a great cloud of dust and smoke pouring out of the mouth of the mine. It floated upward and disappeared across the river.”

Joseph Mapleton, who was near a side entryway to the mine when the explosion occurred, was the sole survivor of the disaster. The victims died from a variety of causes: Some were crushed to death from the collapse of the mine, others suffocated and the remainder was killed in the blast itself. The precise cause of the explosion was never determined, but most coal-mine blasts are set off when a pocket of gas is accidentally ignited. Prior to the disaster, there was much talk among the miners about the prevalence of gas pockets in the Darr mine.


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 Post subject: Today in history...12-20
PostPosted: 20 Dec 2017, 11:05 
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1957
Elvis Presley is drafted

On this day in 1957, while spending the Christmas holidays at Graceland, his newly purchased Tennessee mansion, rock-and-roll star Elvis Presley receives his draft notice for the United States Army.

With a suggestive style–one writer called him “Elvis the Pelvis”–a hit movie, Love Me Tender, and a string of gold records including “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel,” Presley had become a national icon, and the world’s first bona fide rock-and-roll star, by the end of 1956. As the Beatles’ John Lennon once famously remarked: “Before Elvis, there was nothing.” The following year, at the peak of his career, Presley received his draft notice for a two-year stint in the army. Fans sent tens of thousands of letters to the army asking for him to be spared, but Elvis would have none of it. He received one deferment–during which he finished working on his movie King Creole–before being sworn in as an army private in Memphis on March 24, 1958.

After six months of basic training–including an emergency leave to see his beloved mother, Gladys, before she died in August 1958–Presley sailed to Europe on the USS General Randall. For the next 18 months, he served in Company D, 32nd Tank Battalion, 3rd Armor Corps in Friedberg, Germany, where he attained the rank of sergeant. For the rest of his service, he shared an off-base residence with his father, grandmother and some Memphis friends. After working during the day, Presley returned home at night to host frequent parties and impromptu jam sessions. At one of these, an army buddy of Presley’s introduced him to 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu, whom Elvis would marry some years later. Meanwhile, Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, continued to release singles recorded before his departure, keeping the money rolling in and his most famous client fresh in the public’s mind. Widely praised for not seeking to avoid the draft or serve domestically, Presley was seen as a model for all young Americans. After he got his polio shot from an army doctor on national TV, vaccine rates among the American population shot from 2 percent to 85 percent by the time of his discharge on March 2, 1960.


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 Post subject: Today in history...12-21
PostPosted: 21 Dec 2017, 11:15 
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Harry Chapin earns a #1 hit with “Cat’s In The Cradle”

Harry Chapin earned a reputation as a politically conscious singer-songwriter who dedicated himself, in the years before his untimely death, to various noble causes, including wiping out world hunger. Indeed, his greatest legacy may stem more from his charitable efforts than from his music itself, but for a brief period in the early 1970s, Harry Chapin was a legitimate pop star. On this day in 1974, he earned his one and only #1 pop hit when his bittersweet story-song “Cat’s In The Cradle” reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100.

Before turning his attention to music at the relatively advanced age of 29, Harry Chapin pursued a career as a film director, earning an Oscar nomination for his 1968 boxing documentary, Legendary Champions. In 1971, he recruited a backing band via an ad in The Village Voice and recorded his first album. Released in 1972, Heads & Tales included what many fans regard as Chapin's signature song—”Taxi,” a lushly produced, six-minute-plus story song about a San Francisco cab driver and a long-lost love he picks up as a fare. Despite its length, “Taxi” became a hit, reaching #24 on the Billboard pop chart in the spring of 1972. Chapin’s second and third albums were nowhere near as successful as his first, and he’d turned his full-time attention to writing a Broadway show when his fourth album, Verities & Balderdash, unexpectedly became a smash hit on the strength of "Cat’s In The Cradle,” a tale of an absent father and an endless cycle of intergenerational dysfunction based on a poem written by Chapin’s wife.

“Cat’s In The Cradle” was Chapin’s last big hit, and though he retained a loyal fan base through the remainder of the 1970s, his work as a social activist during this period was far more significant than his work as a musician. Chapin is widely credited with spurring the creation of the President’s Commission on World Hunger in 1977, and he shares indirect responsibility for one of the biggest music charity efforts of all time, USA for Africa, which was organized by Chapin’s former manager, Ken Kragen. On the occasion of Chapin’s posthumous award of the Congressional Gold Medal in 1987, Kragen, who also organized Hands Across America, credited Chapin as his inspiration: “All of our efforts with hunger and homelessness began with Harry,” he said.

Born December 7, 1942, in New York City, singer-songwriter Harry Chapin was killed in an auto accident on the Long Island Expressway on July 16, 1981.


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 Post subject: Today in history...12-22
PostPosted: 22 Dec 2017, 11:40 
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1864
Sherman presents Lincoln with a Christmas gift

On this day in 1864, Union General William T. Sherman presents the city of Savannah, Georgia, to President Abraham Lincoln. Sherman captured thecity after his famous March to the Sea from Atlanta. Savannah had been one of the last major ports that remained open to the Confederates.

After Sherman captured Atlanta in September 1864, he did not plan to stay for long. There was still the Confederate army of General John Bell Hood in the area, and cavalry leaders like Nathan Bedford Forrest and Joe Wheeler, who could threaten Sherman’s supply lines. In November, Sherman dispatched part of his force back to Nashville, Tennessee, to deal with Hood while Sherman cut free from his supply lines and headed south and east across Georgia. Along the way, his troops destroyed nearly everything in their path. Sherman’s intent was to wreck the morale of the South and bring the war to a swift end.

For nearly six weeks, nothing was heard from Sherman’s army. Finally, just before Christmas, word arrived that Sherman’s army was outside Savannah. A Union officer reached the coast and found a Union warship that carried him to Washington, D.C.,to personally deliver news of the success. Sherman wired Lincoln with the message, “I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton.”


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 Post subject: Today in history...12-23
PostPosted: 23 Dec 2017, 12:04 
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1829
Prince Wurttemberg explores the West

Embarking on the second of three wide-ranging exploratory journeys in the West, Prince Paul Wilhelm of Wurttemberg leaves St. Louis and heads up the Missouri River.

Born near Stuttgart in southwestern Germany in 1797, Prince Paul (later the Duke) of Wurttemberg was the son of King Friedrich I. As the scion of a powerful royal family, the Prince could have chosen to live out a quiet life in the lap of luxury in Germany. But from an early age he developed a passionate interest in natural science paired with a strong desire to explore the world beyond his castle walls.

When he was 25, the Prince made the long ocean journey to the United States, arriving in New Orleans in December 1822. He and his small company of retainers took a riverboat up the Mississippi to St. Louis, where the Prince met with the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, William Clark, who–along with his co-captain, Meriwether Lewis–led the famous Corps of Discovery nearly two decades earlier. Though Clark questioned whether the young German prince had the mettle to make his proposed expedition up the Kansas River to study the regional botany, he granted him a passport into the interior country.

Clark’s doubts seemed confirmed when the Prince was forced to retreat down the Kansas River by swarms of bloodthirsty mosquitoes. But the Prince was tougher than Clark realized, and in the months to come, he traveled up to the Missouri Fur Company fort in South Dakota and spent three days with the Pawnee Indians along the Platte River. The young German prince must have finally impressed the veteran western explorer, for when the Prince left to return to Germany in 1824, Clark gave him permission to take along Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, Clark’s sixteen-year-old foster son, whose mother, Sacagawea, had accompanied the Corps of Discovery. For six years, the French-Indian Charbonneau was the Prince’s constant companion in his travels in Europe and North Africa.

The Prince returned to the United States in 1829, safely delivering the now cosmopolitan and highly educated (he learned to speak French, German, and Spanish) Charbonneau back to his home. Charbonneau went on to his own adventures, eventually becoming a celebrated fur trapper and mountain man. Meanwhile, the Prince embarked on his second American expedition, traveling into the upper Missouri River country and then into northern and central Mexico. A third expedition in 1849 took him all the way to the California gold fields.

During his journeys, the Prince gathered thousands of scientifically valuable botanical, geological, and zoological specimens, and his ethnological studies of the Native Americans were thoughtful and perceptive. Also a fine sketch artist, he provided the illustrations for his voluminous diaries, some of which were published in German and later translated into English. He died in 1860 at the age of 63, four months after returning from an expedition to Australia.


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 Post subject: Today in history...12-24
PostPosted: 24 Dec 2017, 13:09 
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1809
Kit Carson born in Kentucky

Christopher Houston “Kit” Carson, one of the most celebrated heroes of the American West, is born in Richmond, Kentucky.

Shortly after Kit Carson was born, his family moved west to Howard County, Missouri, an ideal spot for a future frontiersman to learn his trade. By the early 1820s, nearby Franklin, Missouri, had become the starting point for the newly opened Santa Fe Trail. As an apprentice to a Franklin saddle maker, Carson spent three years watching the covered wagons head westward for Santa Fe. Finally, the yearning to follow overwhelmed young Carson, and he ran away from home to join a trading caravan.

Intelligent and resourceful, Carson made a new life for himself once he reached Santa Fe. He learned enough Spanish to serve as a translator, and soaked up information about frontier knowledge and skills from the many mountain men who came to town. When Carson was 22 years old, he met the famous Irish mountain man Thomas Fitzpatrick, who offered to take Carson on a trapping expedition in the northern Rockies. Carson jumped at the chance, and soon became a skilled trapper and a cunning tracker. In January 1833, when a band of Crow Indians stole his party’s horses, Carson trailed the Indians for 40 miles and his party was able to recover the stolen steeds.

Possessed of an uncanny ability to remember geography and topography, the illiterate Carson gained international fame after he served as a guide for John C. Fremont’s 1842 western mapping expedition along the Oregon Trail. Fremont was so impressed with Carson’s frontier and guiding skills that he rehired him to guide his 1843 exploration of the Great Salt Lake and the Sierra Nevada. When Fremont published his reports on the two expeditions, he wrote glowingly of the young scout, and Carson had his first taste of national fame.

After serving with Fremont in the Mexican War, Carson gained even greater renown as an Indian fighter in New Mexico, and the authors of popular dime novels began featuring him in their western tales. Literally a legend in his own time, Carson had the bizarre experience of colliding with his own mythic self. Late in 1849, Carson led the pursuit of a band of Jicarilla Apache who had kidnapped Mrs. J.M. White and her child from an emigrant caravan. Carson and a company of Taos soldiers tracked down and defeated the Apache, but they were too late to save Mrs. White, who was found with an arrow through her heart. Carson discovered a dime novel lying near White’s body-the novel featured Carson as the hero of a story where he single-handedly fought off eight Indians.

Although he spent much of his life fighting Indians, Carson apparently had great sympathy and respect for them–in 1867 he became the Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Colorado Territory. Despite his failing health, Carson made a strenuous trip to Washington with delegates from the Ute tribe to argue on the Indians’ behalf in treaty negotiations. Shortly after he returned to his home in Boggsville, Colorado, he died at the age of 58, but his legend continues to grow, thanks to countless novels and movies celebrating his life and adventures.


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 Post subject: Today in history...12-25
PostPosted: 25 Dec 2017, 11:46 
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1869
John Wesley Hardin kills over a card game

Angered over a card game dispute, 16-year-old John Wesley Hardin reveals a singular lack of Christmas spirit by shooting James Bradley dead in the street.

Although less famous than Billy the Kid, Jesse James, or Wyatt Earp, John Wesley Hardin is believed to hold the gunslinger’s record for killing the most men in the shortest period. From the time he first killed in 1868 until he shot his last victim ten years later, Hardin is known to have murdered more than 20 men.

Hardin grew up the son of a pro-Confederate Methodist preacher in southeastern Texas. He learned to handle guns by hunting and practicing his marksmanship with a target resembling the despised Abraham Lincoln. Hardin’s violent nature surfaced early, when he stabbed a boy in the chest with a knife during a quarrel over a girl-Hardin was only 14 years old. The next year, the rabidly racist Hardin killed a former slave for threatening him with a stick. When three soldiers tried to arrest him for the murder, Hardin shot them and fled to Navarro County, where he found a job as a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse. His students had a reputation as bullies who scared-off a succession of teachers, but the 16-year-old Hardin found that carrying a revolver to class won the respect and attention of even the most rebellious of scholars.

Despite his gainful employment, Hardin was incapable of staying out of trouble. On Christmas Day in 1869, he went to the tiny town of Towash, Texas, seeking some holiday companionship and a good game of cards. Hardin apparently lost his happy holiday spirit when he argued with a man named James Bradley over a card hand. The confrontation escalated, and the men agreed to settle the dispute in a classic street face-off. Though such showdowns–or walkdowns, as they were sometimes called–were far less common than western books and movies suggest, they did occasionally occur, particularly among southern gunmen who continued to embrace the ideal of the gentlemen’s duel. Late in the day, the two men faced each other in a deserted Towash street. Bradley shot at Hardin but missed. Hardin killed Bradley with bullets to the head and chest.

Hardin was imprisoned for murder in 1878 and served 14 years. During his years of incarceration, his beloved wife died. When Hardin finally emerged from prison in 1892, he was a changed man. He abandoned the violent ways of his youth and tried to live a peaceful life raising his three children in Gonzales, Texas. Hardin’s past caught up with him three years later when a gunslinger shot him in the back in an El Paso bar-the killer was apparently trying to enhance his own fame as a gunman by killing the deadliest man in Texas.


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 Post subject: Today in history...12-26
PostPosted: 26 Dec 2017, 09:33 
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1908
Jack Johnson wins heavyweight boxing title

On this day in 1908, the boxer John Arthur Johnson defeats Tommy Burns in Sydney, Australia, becoming the first black heavyweight champion of the world and an international icon.

Born in Galveston, Texas, in 1878, Johnson began boxing professionally in 1897, when it was a relatively new sport. In an era of persistent racial discrimination, African-Americans were allowed to enter many competitions, but were not permitted to compete for the title of world champion. After winning many titles and a good deal of prize money, Johnson pushed for a fight against the reigning world heavyweight champion, James Jeffries. Jeffries refused to fight a black boxer, and decided to retire undefeated. In 1908, the new champion, Tommy Burns of Canada, agreed to fight Johnson for the title after Johnson attended a number of Burns’ matches around the world and taunted him from the sidelines.

In Sydney on December 26, 20,000 screaming fans watched Johnson relentlessly pound at Burns over 14 rounds. At that point, the police stepped in to stop the one-sided bout. Officials awarded the fight to Johnson on a technical knock-out (TKO), making him the first black heavyweight champion of the world. He would hold the title until April 1915, including a successful defense against Jeffries, who came out of retirement to face Johnson in what was billed as the “Fight of the Century” on July 4, 1910. Heralded by the press as the “Great White Hope,” Jeffries was knocked out by Johnson in the 15th round of that bout.

As the heavyweight world champion in a sport that was captivating a global audience, Johnson became one of the most famous figures–black or white–in his native country and around the world. In addition to his punishing victories, however, Johnson was known for his extravagant lifestyle, and was excoriated by his white critics for his romantic relationships with white women. In 1913, Johnson was convicted (in what was widely considered a sham trial) of violating a federal law, the Mann Act of 1910, which outlawed the transportation of women across state lines for “prostitution, debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose.” He was found to have traveled with his second wife, a former prostitute, across state lines before they were married.

Johnson fled the country to avoid sentencing and didn’t return until 1920, five years after losing the heavyweight title to Jess Willard in Havana, Cuba. After serving one year in prison, Johnson fought occasionally and appeared in vaudeville and carnival acts, and wrote two memoirs. He died in an automobile accident in 1946. Inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1954, he is considered by many to be one of the best heavyweight fighters of all time.


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 Post subject: Today in history.
PostPosted: 27 Dec 2017, 11:12 
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1846
Doniphan’s Thousand takes El Paso

The rag-tag army of volunteers known as Doniphan’s Thousand, led by Colonel Alexander W. Doniphan, wins a major victory in the war with Mexico with the occupation of El Paso.

Born in Kentucky in 1808, Doniphan moved to Missouri in 1830 to practice law. But the tall redheaded man was not satisfied with fighting only courtroom battles, and he volunteered as a brigadier general in the Missouri militia. When war between Mexico and the U.S. erupted in 1846, the men of the 1st Missouri Mounted Volunteers elected Doniphan their colonel, and marched south to join General Stephen Kearny’s army in New Mexico.

Since they were not professional military men, Doniphan’s troops cared little for the traditional spit-and-polish of the regular troops, and reportedly looked more like tramps than soldiers. Likewise, Doniphan was a casual officer who led more by example than by strict discipline. Nonetheless, Doniphan’s Thousand proved to be a surprisingly effective force in the war with Mexico.

In December, Doniphan led 500 of his men and a large wagon train of supplies south to join General John E. Wool in his planned invasion of the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Before he had a chance to meet up with Wool’s larger force near the city of Chihuahua, Doniphan encountered an army of 1,200 Mexican soldiers about 30 miles north of El Paso, Texas. Although his opponents had twice the number of soldiers, Doniphan led his men to victory, and with the path to El Paso now largely undefended was able to occupy the city two days later.

When nearing the Mexican border, Doniphan learned that General Wool’s forces had broken off their invasion of Chihuahua because the army’s wheeled vehicles had proved unworkable in the desert landscape. But rather than turn back, Doniphan reassembled his army to its full force of about 1,000 men and was allowed to proceed with the invasion unassisted. Once again grossly outnumbered-the Mexican army was four times the size of Doniphan’s-the Missouri troops were still able to quickly break through the defensive lines and occupy Chihuahua City. By mid-summer 1847, Doniphan’s victorious army reached the Gulf Coast, where they were picked up by ships and taken to New Orleans for discharge. By then, the focus of the battle had shifted to General Winfield Scott’s campaign to take Mexico City. In September of that year, Scott’s troops ended the war by successfully occupying Mexico City, and for the first time in U.S. history an American flag flew over a foreign capital. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed early in 1848, gave the U.S. the vast western territory stretching from Texas to the Pacific and north to Oregon.


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PostPosted: 29 Dec 2017, 11:15 
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1940
Worst air raid on London

On the evening of December 29, 1940, London suffers its most devastating air raid when Germans firebomb the city. Hundreds of fires caused by the exploding bombs engulfed areas of London, but firefighters showed a valiant indifference to the bombs falling around them and saved much of the city from destruction. The next day, a newspaper photo of St. Paul’s Cathedral standing undamaged amid the smoke and flames seemed to symbolize the capital’s unconquerable spirit during the Battle of Britain.

In May and June 1940, Holland, Belgium, Norway, and France fell one by one to the German Wehrmacht, leaving Great Britain alone in its resistance against Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s plans for world domination. The British Expeditionary Force escaped the continent with an impromptu evacuation from Dunkirk, but they left behind the tanks and artillery needed to defend their homeland against invasion. With British air and land forces outnumbered by their German counterparts, and U.S. aid not yet begun, it seemed certain that Britain would soon follow the fate of France. However, Winston Churchill, the new British prime minister, promised his nation and the world that Britain would “never surrender,” and the British people mobilized behind their defiant leader.

On June 5, the Luftwaffe began attacks on English Channel ports and convoys, and on June 30 Germany seized control of the undefended Channel Islands. On July 10–the first day of the Battle of Britain according to the RAF–the Luftwaffe intensified its bombing of British ports. Six days later, Hitler ordered the German army and navy to prepare for Operation Sea Lion. On July 19, the German leader made a speech in Berlin in which he offered a conditional peace to the British government: Britain would keep its empire and be spared from invasion if its leaders accepted the German domination of the European continent. A simple radio message from Lord Halifax swept the proposal away.

Germany needed to master the skies over Britain if it was to transport safely its superior land forces across the 21-mile English Channel. On August 8, the Luftwaffe intensified its raids against the ports in an attempt to draw the British air fleet out into the open. Simultaneously, the Germans began bombing Britain’s sophisticated radar defense system and RAF-fighter airfields. During August, as many as 1,500 German aircraft crossed the Channel daily, often blotting out the sun as they flew against their British targets. Despite the odds against them, the outnumbered RAF fliers successfully resisted the massive German air invasion, relying on radar technology, more maneuverable aircraft, and exceptional bravery. For every British plane shot down, two Luftwaffe warplanes were destroyed.

At the end of August, the RAF launched a retaliatory air raid against Berlin. Hitler was enraged and ordered the Luftwaffe to shift its attacks from RAF installations to London and other British cities. On September 7, the Blitz against London began, and after a week of almost ceaseless attacks several areas of London were in flames and the royal palace, churches, and hospitals had all been hit. However, the concentration on London allowed the RAF to recuperate elsewhere, and on September 15 the RAF launched a vigorous counterattack, downing 56 German aircraft in two dogfights that lasted less than an hour.

The costly raid convinced the German high command that the Luftwaffe could not achieve air supremacy over Britain, and the next day daylight attacks were replaced with nighttime sorties as a concession of defeat. On September 19, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler postponed indefinitely “Operation Sea Lion”–the amphibious invasion of Britain. The Battle of Britain, however, continued.

In October, Hitler ordered a massive bombing campaign against London and other cities to crush British morale and force an armistice. Despite significant loss of life and tremendous material damage to Britain’s cities, the country’s resolve remained unbroken. The ability of Londoners to maintain their composure had much to do with Britain’s survival during this trying period. As American journalist Edward R. Murrow reported, “Not once have I heard a man, woman, or child suggest that Britain should throw her hand.” In May 1941, the air raids essentially ceased as German forces massed near the border of the USSR.

By denying the Germans a quick victory, depriving them of forces to be used in their invasion of the USSR, and proving to America that increased arms support for Britain was not in vain, the outcome of the Battle of Britain greatly changed the course of World War II. As Churchill said of the RAF fliers during the Battle of Britain, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”


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 Post subject: Today in history...12-30
PostPosted: 30 Dec 2017, 12:38 
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1905
Former Idaho governor Steunenberg assassinated

Targeted for his role in quelling a miners’ strike in 1899, former Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg is wounded by a powerful bomb that is triggered when he opens the gate to his home in Caldwell, Idaho. He died shortly afterwards in his own bed.

A former newspaper editor, Steunenberg entered Idaho politics in 1890, when he was elected to the House of Representatives. In 1896, he won the Idaho Governor’s seat as the head of a coalition of Democrats, Populists, and Republicans who supported the use of silver to back currency. Generally perceived as a friend to labor and the “little man,” Steunenberg won a second term as governor in 1896. During this term, he was confronted with one of the most divisive and violent western battles between labor and management of the 19th century.

Miners in the rich silver districts near Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, had been struggling to unionize and gain better pay and working conditions since 1892. Radicalized by their initial defeats, an increasing numbers of miners began supporting the violence-prone Western Federation of Miners (WFM), which advocated aggressive tactics and worker control of industry. Alarmed by the growing influence of the WFM, Coeur d’Alene mine owners attempted to bust the union in 1899, and the WFM responded by blowing up one mining company’s huge and costly concentrators with dynamite.

Disturbed by the miners’ violent tactics, the hitherto pro-labor Steunenberg heeded the demands of the powerful mine owners and turned against the WFM, requesting that the federal government send in troops. The soldiers placed the region under martial law and herded hundreds of miners into makeshift prisons, ignoring their constitutional rights to know the charges and evidence against them.

Steunenberg’s actions restored order in the Idaho silver mines, but also earned him the lasting enmity of many radical WFM members. Six years later, the radicals took their revenge by sending a professional assassin named Harry Orchard to Caldwell. The professional hitman was responsible for planting the bomb that killed the former governor. Orchard was captured, tried, and sentenced to life in prison, and his guilt has never been seriously disputed. However, many were convinced that the plot to kill Steunenberg was supported not just by a radical minority within the WFM, but also by its top leadership. WFM secretary-treasurer William “Big Bill” Haywood was brought up on charges of criminal conspiracy but was found not guilty largely as a result of famous Chicago lawyer Clarence Darrow’s brilliant defense. Haywood went on to found the even more radical Industrial Workers of the World.


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PostPosted: 31 Dec 2017, 11:34 
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1999
Panama Canal turned over to Panama

On this day in 1999, the United States, in accordance with the Torrijos-Carter Treaties, officially hands over control of the Panama Canal, putting the strategic waterway into Panamanian hands for the first time. Crowds of Panamanians celebrated the transfer of the 50-mile canal, which links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and officially opened when the SS Arcon sailed through on August 15, 1914. Since then, over 922,000 ships have used the canal.

Interest in finding a shortcut from the Atlantic to the Pacific originated with explorers in Central America in the early 1500s. In 1523, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V commissioned a survey of the Isthmus of Panama and several plans for a canal were produced, but none ever implemented. U.S. interest in building a canal was sparked with the expansion of the American West and the California gold rush in 1848. (Today, a ship heading from New York to San Francisco can save about 7,800 miles by taking the Panama Canal rather than sailing around South America.)

In 1880 a French company run by the builder of the Suez Canal started digging a canal across the Isthmus of Panama (then a part of Colombia). More than 22,000 workers died from tropical diseases such as yellow fever during this early phase of construction and the company eventually went bankrupt, selling its project rights to the United States in 1902 for $40 million. President Theodore Roosevelt championed the canal, viewing it as important to America’s economic and military interests. In 1903, Panama declared its independence from Colombia in a U.S.-backed revolution and the U.S. and Panama signed the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty, in which the U.S. agreed to pay Panama $10 million for a perpetual lease on land for the canal, plus $250,000 annually in rent.

Over 56,000 people worked on the canal between 1904 and 1913 and over 5,600 lost their lives. When finished, the canal, which cost the U.S. $375 million to build, was considered a great engineering marvel and represented America’s emergence as a world power.

In 1977, responding to nearly 20 years of Panamanian protest, U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Panama’s General Omar Torrijos signed two new treaties that replaced the original 1903 agreement and called for a transfer of canal control in 1999. The treaty, narrowly ratified by the U.S. Senate, gave America the ongoing right to defend the canal against any threats to its neutrality. In October 2006, Panamanian voters approved a $5.25 billion plan to double the canal’s size by 2015 to better accommodate modern ships.

Ships pay tolls to use the canal, based on each vessel’s size and cargo volume. In May 2006, the Maersk Dellys paid a record toll of $249,165. The smallest-ever toll–36 cents–was paid by Richard Halliburton, who swam the canal in 1928.


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PostPosted: 01 Jan 2018, 12:14 
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45 B.C.
New Year’s Day

In 45 B.C., New Year’s Day is celebrated on January 1 for the first time in history as the Julian calendar takes effect.

Soon after becoming Roman dictator, Julius Caesar decided that the traditional Roman calendar was in dire need of reform. Introduced around the seventh century B.C., the Roman calendar attempted to follow the lunar cycle but frequently fell out of phase with the seasons and had to be corrected. In addition, the pontifices, the Roman body charged with overseeing the calendar, often abused its authority by adding days to extend political terms or interfere with elections.

In designing his new calendar, Caesar enlisted the aid of Sosigenes, an Alexandrian astronomer, who advised him to do away with the lunar cycle entirely and follow the solar year, as did the Egyptians. The year was calculated to be 365 and 1/4 days, and Caesar added 67 days to 45 B.C., making 46 B.C. begin on January 1, rather than in March. He also decreed that every four years a day be added to February, thus theoretically keeping his calendar from falling out of step. Shortly before his assassination in 44 B.C., he changed the name of the month Quintilis to Julius (July) after himself. Later, the month of Sextilis was renamed Augustus (August) after his successor.

Celebration of New Year’s Day in January fell out of practice during the Middle Ages, and even those who strictly adhered to the Julian calendar did not observe the New Year exactly on January 1. The reason for the latter was that Caesar and Sosigenes failed to calculate the correct value for the solar year as 365.242199 days, not 365.25 days. Thus, an 11-minute-a-year error added seven days by the year 1000, and 10 days by the mid-15th century.

The Roman church became aware of this problem, and in the 1570s Pope Gregory XIII commissioned Jesuit astronomer Christopher Clavius to come up with a new calendar. In 1582, the Gregorian calendar was implemented, omitting 10 days for that year and establishing the new rule that only one of every four centennial years should be a leap year. Since then, people around the world have gathered en masse on January 1 to celebrate the precise arrival of the New Year.


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 Post subject: Today in history...1-2
PostPosted: 02 Jan 2018, 11:38 
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1923
Secretary Fall resigns in Teapot Dome scandal

Albert Fall, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior, resigns in response to public outrage over the Teapot Dome scandal. Fall’s resignation illuminated a deeply corrupt relationship between western developers and the federal government.

Born in Kentucky in 1861, Albert Fall moved to New Mexico in 1887 because doctors told him the dry desert air would improve his health. Fall thrived in his new home, quickly building up a large ranching operation near Las Cruces and investing in silver mining and other ventures. By the turn of the century, Fall was a well-respected and powerful western businessman, and he used his considerable resources to win a seat in the U.S. Senate when New Mexico became a state in 1912.

In Washington, D.C., Fall quickly discovered the enjoyable prerogatives of power. He made several powerful allies, including President Warren G. Harding, who appointed him secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior in 1921. As secretary of the interior, Fall was responsible for managing the government’s vast western land holdings in the public interest. Unfortunately, Fall’s close ties with western developers tempted him to abuse his position. Ostensibly acting to ensure adequate oil supplies for the navy in the event of war, Fall set aside a large oil deposit in Wyoming known as Teapot Dome. Secretly, he then began to sign leases with big western oilmen allowing them to exploit the supposed reserve.

When news of the secret leases leaked out, Fall claimed he had signed them with the best interests of the public in mind. Subsequent investigations, though, threw Fall’s integrity into question when they disclosed that many of his investments in New Mexico had recently collapsed, and he was on the verge of bankruptcy. Desperate for money, Fall had accepted “loans” of about $400,000 from the same oil men he granted access to Teapot Dome, two of whom were old friends from his New Mexico mining days. Fall insisted that the loans were unrelated to his granting of the Teapot Dome oil leases, but conservationists and government reformers were outraged. Such conflicts of interest were inevitable, they argued, when western developers were given control over federal agencies responsible for managing western natural resources.

Forced to resign his office in shame, Fall spent the rest of his life trying to rebuild his fortune and redeem his tarnished reputation. He died in near poverty in 1944.


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 Post subject: Today in history....1-3
PostPosted: 03 Jan 2018, 10:42 
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1952
Dragnet TV show debuts

“Just the facts, ma’am.” On this day in 1952, Sergeant Joe Friday’s famous catchphrase enters American homes via a new entertainment device: the television. A popular radio series since 1949, the police drama Dragnet became one of the first TV series filmed in Hollywood, instead of New York. It also began a long, nearly unbroken line of popular crime and police TV dramas, continuing into the present day with the ubiquitous Law & Order and CSI (and their seemingly endless spin-offs).

The driving creative force behind Dragnet was its producer, director and star, Jack Webb, who portrayed a laconic Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) sergeant, Joe Friday. After playing a small role in the 1948 film noir He Walked By Night, Webb created a radio series for the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) network that, like the film, was based on actual LAPD cases. As the narrator of the show, Webb provided a matter-of-fact commentary on how the police department worked and how detectives went about solving the specific cases.

When the hit radio series moved to NBC Television’s Thursday night schedule, Webb and the actor who played Friday’s partner, Barton Yarborough, moved with it, though Yarborough died of a heart attack shortly after the pilot aired. He was replaced by a series of actors over the years, including Barney Phillips, Herb Ellis, Ben Alexander and Harry Morgan. The TV show was an instant success, locking down a spot in the Top 10 through 1956 and spawning numerous imitators, not to mention a hit record based on the distinctive four-note opening of its theme song. Its formula was simple and consistent: After a prologue (“The story you are about to hear is true; the names have been changed to protect the innocent”) and a fade-in on a shot of Los Angeles, each show unfolded almost like a documentary, following the sometimes mundane workings of the police detectives as the case moved towards its inevitable conclusion–the capture of the guilty perpetrator and a voice-over description of his or her fate.

Based on the show’s success–by the mid-1950s, Dragnet was watched by more than half of American households–Warner Brothers released a film version in 1954. The series reached the end of its initial run in 1959, but was revived in 1967 and ran for three more years. By the late 1960s, Friday had begun to more openly voice the conservative views of the show’s creators, issuing lectures on the importance of God and patriotism that were meant as a warning to the growing hippie counterculture of Vietnam-era America. In the years to come, despite a 1980s revival after Webb’s death, Dragnet would be eclipsed by the popularity of such crime-themed dramas as The Mod Squad, Hawaii Five-O, Hill Street Blues and the reality series COPS and America’s Most Wanted.

Later incarnations of Sergeant Joe Friday include Dan Aykroyd, co-star (alongside Tom Hanks) of the hit 1987 comedy version of Dragnet, which was more a parody than a remake. In 2003, Law & Order producer Dick Wolf launched a Dragnet series on ABC, starring Ed O’Neill as Friday. It was canceled shortly after the start of its second season.


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 Post subject: Today in history.1-4...
PostPosted: 04 Jan 2018, 11:22 
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1847
Colt sells his first revolvers to the U.S. government

Samuel Colt rescues the future of his faltering gun company by winning a contract to provide the U.S. government with 1,000 of his .44 caliber revolvers.

Before Colt began mass-producing his popular revolvers in 1847, handguns had not played a significant role in the history of either the American West or the nation as a whole. Expensive and inaccurate, short-barreled handguns were impractical for the majority of Americans, though a handful of elite still insisted on using dueling pistols to solve disputes in highly formalized combat. When choosing a practical weapon for self-defense and close-quarter fighting, most Americans preferred knives, and western pioneers especially favored the deadly and versatile Bowie knife.

That began to change when Samuel Colt patented his percussion-repeating revolver in 1836. The heart of Colt’s invention was a mechanism that combined a single rifled barrel with a revolving chamber that held five or six shots. When the weapon was cocked for firing, the chamber revolved automatically to bring the next shot into line with the barrel.

Though still far less accurate than a well-made hunting rifle, the Colt revolver could be aimed with reasonable precision at a short distance (30 to 40 yards in the hands of an expert), because the interior bore was “rifled”–cut with a series of grooves spiraling down its length. The spiral grooves caused the slug to spin rapidly as it left the bbarrel, giving it gyroscopic stability. The five or six-shoot capacity also made accuracy less important, since a missed shot could quickly be followed with others.

Yet most cowboys, gamblers, and gunslingers could never have afforded such a revolver if not for the de facto subsidy the federal government provided to Colt by purchasing his revolvers in such great quantities. After the first batch of revolvers proved popular with soldiers, the federal government became one of Colt’s biggest customers, providing him with the much-needed capital to improve his production facilities. With the help of Eli Whitney and other inventors, Colt developed a system of mass production and interchangeable parts for his pistols that greatly lowered their cost.

Though never cheap, by the early 1850s, Colt revolvers were inexpensive enough to be a favorite with Americans headed westward during the California Gold Rush. Between 1850 and 1860, Colt sold 170,000 of his “pocket” revolvers and 98,000 “belt” revolvers, mostly to civilians looking for a powerful and effective means of self-defense in the Wild West.


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 Post subject: Re: Today in history.
PostPosted: 04 Jan 2018, 15:01 
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God made man but Sam Colt made them equal.

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Rev. 6:8 and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was death , and Hell followed with him.


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 Post subject: Today in history...1-5
PostPosted: 05 Jan 2018, 11:03 
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1933
Golden Gate Bridge is born

On January 5, 1933, construction begins on the Golden Gate Bridge, as workers began excavating 3.25 million cubic feet of dirt for the structure’s huge anchorages.

Following the Gold Rush boom that began in 1849, speculators realized the land north of San Francisco Bay would increase in value in direct proportion to its accessibility to the city. Soon, a plan was hatched to build a bridge that would span the Golden Gate, a narrow, 400-foot deep strait that serves as the mouth of the San Francisco Bay, connecting the San Francisco Peninsula with the southern end of Marin County.

Although the idea went back as far as 1869, the proposal took root in 1916. A former engineering student, James Wilkins, working as a journalist with the San Francisco Bulletin, called for a suspension bridge with a center span of 3,000 feet, nearly twice the length of any in existence. Wilkins’ idea was estimated to cost an astounding $100 million. So, San Francisco’s city engineer, Michael M. O’Shaughnessy (he’s also credited with coming up with the name Golden Gate Bridge), began asking bridge engineers whether they could do it for less.

Engineer and poet Joseph Strauss, a 5-foot tall Cincinnati-born Chicagoan, said he could.

Eventually, O’Shaughnessy and Strauss concluded they could build a pure suspension bridge within a practical range of $25-30 million with a main span at least 4,000 feet. The construction plan still faced opposition, including litigation, from many sources. By the time most of the obstacles were cleared, the Great Depression of 1929 had begun, limiting financing options, so officials convinced voters to support $35 million in bonded indebtedness, citing the jobs that would be created for the project. However, the bonds couldn’t be sold until 1932, when San-Francisco based Bank of America agreed to buy the entire project in order to help the local economy.

The Golden Gate Bridge officially opened on May 27, 1937, the longest bridge span in the world at the time. The first public crossing had taken place the day before, when 200,000 people walked, ran and even roller skated over the new bridge.

With its tall towers and famous red paint job, the bridge quickly became a famous American landmark, and a symbol of San Francisco.


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 Post subject: Today in history.
PostPosted: 06 Jan 2018, 11:44 
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1798
Mountain man Jedediah Smith is born

Jedediah Strong Smith, one of America’s greatest trapper-explorers, is born in Bainbridge, New York.

Smith explored a stunningly large area of the Far West during his short life. He began his western voyages in 1822, when he joined the pioneering fur trader William Ashley on a trip up the Missouri River. Unlike earlier fur traders, who depended on Native Americans to actually trap or hunt the furs, Ashley eliminated the Indians as middlemen and instead sent out independent Anglo trappers like Smith to do the job.

To escape dependence on Indians, though, Ashley needed to find his own sources of beaver and otter in the West, and Smith became one of his best explorers. A year after his first trip up the Missouri, Smith set out with a small band of mountain men to explore the Black Hills region of the Dakotas at Ashley’s behest. Despite being mauled by a grizzly bear in the Black Hills, Smith continued westward to the site of modern-day Dubois, Wyoming, where he and his men camped for the winter.

During his long forced halt at Dubois, Smith learned from friendly Crow Indians of an easy pass through the Rocky Mountains. The following spring, Smith and his men followed the route outlined by the Crow and discovered that they could cross the mighty Rockies almost effortlessly. Later named the “South Pass,” Smith’s new route was a high plain that gradually rose like a shallow ramp to provide an easy crossing of the Continental Divide. Smith’s discovery of South Pass was actually a “rediscovery,” since employees of John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company crossed the pass in 1812 when returning to St. Louis from the Pacific. The Astorian discovery, though, remained unknown, so Smith is credited for alerting the nation to the existence of this easy route across the Rockies.

Smith’s discovery of South Pass was monumentally important. Not only did his fellow fur trappers prefer South Pass to the far more difficult and dangerous Missouri River route blazed by Lewis and Clark in 1804, but the South Pass became an early 19th century “super-highway” for settlers bound for Oregon and California. Ideally suited for heavy wagon traffic, South Pass greatly facilitated the mass emigration of Americans to the Far West.

The blazing of the South Pass route alone would have secured Smith’s claim as one of the great explorers of the American West, but during the following decade, Smith also explored the Great Salt Lake, the Colorado Plateau, and led the first expedition to cross the Southwest to California—all before he was 30 years old. Having lived through dozens of narrow escapes on his intrepid journeys, Smith decided to retire from his dangerous trade in 1830 and enter the mercantile business. Ironically, being a trader proved more deadly than exploring: while leading a trading caravan along the Santa Fe Trail in 1831, Smith was killed by Commanche Indians near the Cimarron River. He was 32 years old.


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 Post subject: Re: Today in history.
PostPosted: 06 Jan 2018, 21:12 
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Remember reading about Jedediah in my mountain man books. Tough man .

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"Take ye heed,watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is".

Rev. 6:8 and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was death , and Hell followed with him.


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 Post subject: Today in history....1-7
PostPosted: 07 Jan 2018, 11:48 
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1901
Cannibal Alfred Packer is paroled

The confessed Colorado cannibal Alfred Packer is released from prison on parole after serving 18 years.

One of the ragged legions of gold and silver prospectors who combed the Rocky Mountains searching for fortune in the 1860s, Alfred Packer also supplemented his meager income from mining by serving as a guide in the Utah and Colorado wilderness. In early November 1873, Packer left Bingham Canyon, Utah, to lead a party of 21 men bound for the gold fields near Breckenridge, Colorado. The winter of 1873-74 was unusually harsh. After three months of difficult travel, the party staggered into the camp of the Ute Indian Chief Ouray, near present-day Montrose, Colorado. The Utes graciously provided the hungry and exhausted men with food and shelter. Chief Ouray advised the men to stay in the camp until a break came in the severe winter weather, but with their strength rekindled by food and rest, Packer and five other men decided to continue the journey.

Two months later, Packer arrived alone at the Los Pinos Indian Agency, looking surprisingly fit for a man who had just completed an arduous winter trek through the Rockies. Packer first claimed he had become separated from his five companions during a blizzard and survived on rabbits and rosebuds. Suspicions grew, though, when it was discovered that Packer had an unusual amount of money and many items belonging to the missing men. Under questioning, Packer confessed that the real story was far more gruesome: four of the men, he claimed, had died naturally from the extreme winter conditions and the starving survivors ate them. When only Packer and one other man, Shannon Bell, remained alive, Bell went insane and threatened to kill Packer. Packer said he shot Bell in self-defense and eventually ate his corpse.

Though shocking, Packer’s grisly story would probably have been accepted as an unfortunate tragedy had not searchers later found the remains of the five men at a single campsite-not strung out along the trail as Packer had claimed. Packer was arrested and charged with murder, but he escaped from jail and remained at large for nine years. Recaptured in 1883 near Fort Fetterman, Wyoming, Packer once again changed his story. He claimed that all six men had made camp alive, but lost and starving, they were too weak to go on. One day Packer went in search of the trail. Upon returning several hours later, he discovered to his horror that Bell had gone mad, killed the other four with a hatchet, and was boiling the flesh of one of them for his meal. When Bell spotted Packer, he charged with his hatchet raised, and Packer shot him twice in the belly. Lost and trapped alone in a camp of dead men, Packer said he only resorted to cannibalism after several more days, when it was his only means of survival.

Having twice changed his story, Packer’s credibility was undermined, and a jury convicted him of manslaughter. He remained imprisoned in the Canon City penitentiary until 1901 when the Denver Post published a series of articles and editorials questioning his guilt. Eventually, the state was freed Packer on parole. Packer went to work as a guard for the Post and lived quietly in and around Littleton, Colorado, maintaining his innocence until the day he died in 1907.

Though we will never know exactly what happened on the so-called “Cannibal Plateau” near present-day Lake City, Colorado, recent forensic studies of the remains of the men who died have tended to support the details of Packer’s second confession.


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 Post subject: Today in history....1-8
PostPosted: 08 Jan 2018, 12:35 
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1946
Elvis Presley receives his first guitar

In competing versions of the story, what Elvis Presley really wanted for his birthday was a rifle or a bicycle—both fairly typical choices for a boy his age growing up on the outskirts of Tupelo, Mississippi. Instead, Elvis’s highly protective mother, Gladys—”She never let me out of her sight,” Elvis would later say—took him to the Tupelo Hardware Store and bought a gift that would change the course of history: a $6.95 guitar. It was January 8, 1946, and Elvis Aaron Presley was 11 years old.

The historical significance of putting a guitar into the hands of a young man who would later help define rock and roll is obvious. For Elvis himself, however, getting that guitar was just one more step in a thorough yet totally unplanned program of childhood musical development that prepared him perfectly to ignite a revolution 10 years later.

Music surrounded the young Elvis Presley—music of all the types that would inform his later recordings and performances, from country, bluegrass, blues and gospel to mainstream pop and even opera. Gladys Presley told stories of Elvis as a toddler jumping out her lap and running down the aisle of the First Assembly of God Church so that he could stand directly in front of the choir, singing along and imitating their movements. The local radio was dominated by country and western music, which Elvis adored. And as Peter Guralnick, author of the definitive early-Elvis biography “Last Train to Memphis” put it, Elvis “absorbed the blues from the radio and the pervasive contact that a poor white family like the Presleys, always living on the edge of town and respectability, would necessarily have with blacks.”

Born within five years and 500 miles of one another, future greats such as James Brown, Little Richard, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Sam Cooke were being shaped by this same mix of musical influences, as well as by a culture in which listening to music generally meant participating in it, too. This generation of musicians would give birth to whole new genres and subgenres of American music—not just rock and roll, but rockabilly, rhythm and blues, soul and more. With his first guitar in hand, Elvis Presley took a key step toward joining that list of music greats on this day in music history, 1946.


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 Post subject: Today in history....1-9
PostPosted: 09 Jan 2018, 09:37 
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1887
Record cold and snow decimates cattle herds

On one of the worst days of the “worst winter in the West,” nearly an inch of snow falls every hour for 16 hours, impeding the ability of already starving cattle to find food.

The plains ranchers had seen hard winters before, but they had survived because their cattle had been well fed going into the winter. By the mid-1880s, though, the situation had changed. In the hopes of making quick money, greedy speculators had overstocked the northern ranges in Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas. Deceived by a string of mild winters, many ranch managers were also no longer putting up any winter-feed for their stock. Disaster arrived in 1886.

The summer of 1886 was hot and dry, and by autumn, the range was almost barren of grass. The cold and snow came early, and by January, record-breaking snowfalls blanketed the plains, forcing the already weakened cattle to expend vital energy moving through the snow in search of scant forage. In January, a warm Chinook wind briefly melted the top layers of snow. When the brutal cold returned (some ranches recorded temperatures of 63 degrees below zero), a hard thick shell of ice formed over everything, making it almost impossible for the cattle to break through the snow to reach the meager grass below. With no winter hay stored to feed the animals, many ranchers had to sit by idly and watch their herds slowly die. “Starving cattle staggered through village streets,” one historian recalls, “and collapsed and died in dooryards.” In Montana, 5,000 head of cattle invaded the outskirts of Great Falls, eating the saplings the townspeople had planted that spring and “bawling for food.”

When the snow melted in the spring, carcasses of the once massive herds dotted the land as far as the eye could see. One observer recalled that so many rotting carcasses clogged creek and river courses that it was hard to find water fit to drink. Millions of cattle are estimated to have died during the “Great Die Up” as it came to be called, a darkly humorous reference to the celebrated “Round Up.” Montana ranchers alone lost an estimated 362,000 head of cattle, more than half the territory’s herd.

Besides sending hundreds of ranches into bankruptcy, the hard winter also brought an abrupt end to the era of the open range. Realizing they would always have to grow crops to feed their animals, ranchers decreased the size of their herds and began to stretch barbed wire fences across the open range to enclose new hay fields. By the 1890s, the typical rancher was also a farmer, and cowboys spent more time fixing fences than riding herd or roping mavericks. Belatedly, settlers realized that they had to adapt to the often-harsh demands of life on the western plains if they were to survive and thrive.


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