This Month in History: March

What makes a nation’s pillars high
And its foundations strong?
What makes it might to defy
The foes that round it throng?

It is not gold. Its kingdoms grand
Go down in battle shock;
Its shafts are laid on sinking sand,
Not on abiding rock.

Not gold but only men can make
A people great and strong;
Men who for truth and honor’s sake
Stand fast and suffer long.

Poem by philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, who sought to uncover the intention and significance of the founding fathers’ actions, as in his poem “A Nation’s Strength” • Painting by Thomas Sautelle Roberts, (1748-1778) creative commons

  • Today in History — March 28

    Who found the side for the Presidio of San Francisco?

    Juba_deanza_02March 28, 1776 — Today, Juan Bautista de Anza Bezerra Nieto (July 6/7, 1736 – December 19, 1788) located the sites for the Presidio of San Francisco and Mission San Francisco de Asis in present-day San Francisco, California.

    The Spanish explorer of Basque descent, and Governor of New Mexico for the Spanish Empire,  was born into a military family living on the northern frontier of New Spain.

    1752-1770: De Anza enlisted in the army at the Presidio of Fronteras and advanced rapidly to the position of captain by 1760, and spent much of his days battling hostile Native Americans, such as the Apache. During that time, he explored much of what is now Arizona.

    When the Spanish began colonizing Alta California with the Portolá expedition of 1769-70, colonies were established at San Diego and Monterey, with a presidio and Franciscan mission at each location. A more direct land route and further colonization were desired, especially at present-day San Francisco, which Portolá saw but was not able to colonize.

    January 8, 1774: De Anza proposed an expedition to Alta California to the Viceroy of New Spain, which was approved by the King of Spain. Today, with 3 padres, 20 soldiers, 11 servants, 35 mules, 65 cattle, and 140 horses, he set forth from Tubac Presidio, south of present-day Tucson, Arizona.

    The Spanish were desirous of reinforcing their presence in Alta California as a buffer against Russian colonization of the Americas advancing from the north, and possibly establish a harbor that would give shelter to Spanish ships. The expedition continued on to Monterey with the colonists. Having fulfilled his mission from the Viceroy, he continued on with Father Pedro Font and a party of 12 others exploring north and found an inland route to the San Francisco Baydescribed by Portolà.

    Pressing on, de Anza located the sites for the Presidio of San Francisco and Mission San Francisco de Asisin present-day San Francisco, California on March 28, 1776. He did not establish the settlement; it was established later by José Joaquín Moraga. While returning to Monterey, he located the original sites for Mission Santa Clara de Asis and the town of San José de Guadalupe (modern day San Jose, California), but again did not establish either settlement.

    Sources: thejacksonpress.org, Wikipedia

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  • March 1

    Who was the first African-American woman to receive a medical degree?

    tumblr_mt86ovRz0w1s3a4wlo1_400March 11864 — Rebecca Lee Crumpler changed the face of the American medical field by receiving her MD from the New England Female Medical College today in Boston.

    The first black woman with a medical degree dedicated her life’s work to giving medical advice to women and children. The publication of her book in 1883, entitled, A Book of Medical Discourses, was one of the first written by an African-American about medicine.

    Born in 1831, she was born in Delaware to Matilda Webber and Absolum Davis. She was raised in Pennsylvania by an aunt who cared for infirm neighbors. During the antebellum years, medical care for poor blacks was almost non-existent. She moved to Charlestown, Mass, by 1852 and was employed as a nurse until she was accepted into the New England Female Medical College in 1860.

    She married Dr. Arthur Crumpler after the American Civil War.

    Sources: wikipedia, nlm.nih.gov, americacomesalive.com,

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  • March 1

    What are the Articles of Confederation?

    PortraitMarch 1, 1781 — The Articles of Confederation was ratified today. The first written constitution of the United States, it stemmed from wartime urgency. Its progress was slowed by fears of central authority and extensive land claims by states before was the document was ratified.

    Signed amongst the 13 original colonies that established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states, its drafting was by a committee appointed by the Second Continental Congress that began on July 12, 1776.

    The approved version was sent to the states for ratification in late 1777.

    Source + Imagewikipedia

  • March 2

    Which state once prohibited theatrical performances?

    TheLiarMarch 2, 1789 — Pennsylvania ended its ban on theatrical performances today, along with other forms of expensive entertainment. The prohibition began in 1774 when the Continental Congress passed it, fearing that the distraction of theater would lead to mischievous effects on the citizens of Pennsylvania.

    Here’s the back story according to explorepahistory.com: “Applause was hard to come by in colonial Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania’s Quaker founders were no friends of the theater, or of bearbaiting and bullbaiting, cock fighting, equestrian performances and horse racing, tight-rope dancing, or the other amusements, whose ‘very mischievous effects’ as the Common Council had warned after the first recorded theatrical performance took place in Philadelphia in 1749, encouraged idleness and drew ‘great sums of money from weak and inconsiderate persons.’

    “When Lewis Hallam’s Company arrived from London in 1754, distressed local citizens forced them to move outside Philadelphia on the other side of South Street, where they constructed Pennsylvania’s first theater. By 1760 Hallam’s troupe had won sufficient local favor to open the larger Southwark Theater at 4th and South Streets — again outside the city’s borders. The next year, the Privy Council in England struck down the Pennsylvania legislature’s attempt to ban all theater in the colony. No friend of distractions or extravagances, the first Continental Congress in 1774 banned all theatrical performances ‘and other expensive diversions and entertainments.'”

    The prohibition remained in place until today.

    Sources: explorepahistory.com,

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  • March 2

    Who was the first American sculptor to receive a Federal Commission for work?

    00006849March 2, 1831 — John Frazee (1790-1854) was the first sculptor in the US to receive patronage from the federal government for his work on the New York Custom House, which is now the Federal Hall National Memorial. He is best known for his design of busts of notable American public figures, including John Wells, John Jay, John Marshall, and Daniel Webster.

    Despite this achievement, Frazee’s work was forgotten for many years until a recent show of his work at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC.

    Born in Rahway, New Jersey in 1790, Frazee began his career as a bricklayer. He lost a young son in 1815 and carved a memorial sculpture to commemorate his son’s life. In 1818 he started a marble workshop in New York City specializing in memorials and grave markers. Sadly, many of Frazee’s monuments were completed for deceased family members including his first wife Jane and several children. His reputation grew and he was well known for tasteful, simple, and well-executed memorials. Frazee began to receive private commissions for monuments and cenotaphs throughout New York. Frazee did not have formal training and developed a realistic style of carving that was heavily influenced by the neoclassical style.

    By the mid 1820s, Frazee began to receive public commissions to carve busts of famous Americans. His bust of John Wells is considered to be the first carved marble bust made by an American born sculptor. In 1831, he received a Congressional commission to sculpt a bust of John Jay. Later, Frazee sculpted busts of Chief Justice John Marshall, Daniel Webster and others for the Boston Athenaeum.

    After achieving considerable recognition for his sculpting abilities, President John Tyler appointed Frazee as the designer of the New York Customs House. He oversaw construction from 1834-1840. It is likely that Frazee created many of the decorative sculptural elements within the building as well. John Frazee died in 1854 in Rhode Island.

    Sources: aaa.si.edu, ushistory.org,

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  • March 3

    When was the first postage stamp issued?

    US1847.tifMarch 3, 1847 — Today, the Postmaster General awarded the contract to print the first postage stamp to the New York City engraving firm of Rawdon, Wright, Hatch, and Edson.

    The first stamp was issued on July 1, 1847, in New York City. Boston received the stamps the next day.

    A 5-cent stamp paid for a letter weighing less than 1 oz. (28 g) and traveling less than 300 miles; the 10-cent stamp was charged for deliveries to locations greater than 300 miles, or twice the weight deliverable for the 5-cent stamp.

    Sources: Wikipedia,

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  • March 4

    Who was Rebecca Gratz?

    440px-Rebecca_GratzMarch 4, 1781 — Rebecca Gratz was born today in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (she died on August 27, 1869) in Philadelphia.

    A preeminent Jewish American educator and philanthropist, at age 20 (in 1801), she helped establish the Female Association for the Relief of Women and Children in Reduced Circumstances, which helped women whose families were suffering after the American Revolutionary War.

    In 1815, after seeing the need for an institution for orphans in Philadelphia, she was among those instrumental in founding the Philadelphia Orphan Asylum. Four years later, she was elected secretary of its Board. She continued to hold this office for forty years. Under Gratz’ auspices, a “Hebrew Sunday School” was started in 1838. Gratz became both its superintendent and president, and assisted in developing its curriculum, resigning in 1864.

    Gratz was also one of the founding members of the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society, on January 16, 1837. In 1850, she advocated in The Occident, over the signature A Daughter of Israel, for the foundation of a Jewish foster home. Her advocacy was largely instrumental in the establishment of such a home in 1855. Other organizations that came about due to her efforts were the Fuel Society and the Sewing Society.

    The seventh of twelve children born to Miriam Simon and Michael Gratz, her mother was the daughter of a preeminent Jewish merchant of Lancaster, while her father immigrated to America in 1752 from Langendorf, in German-speaking Silesia. He was descended from a long line of respected rabbis, and Miriam were observant Jews and active members of Philadelphia’s first synagogue, Mikveh Israel.

    Sources: wikipedia/RebeccaGratz, jewishvirtuallibrary.org, jwa.org, wikipedia_GoldaMeir,

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  • March 4

    Which presidents were inaugurated on March 4?

    Gilbert_Stuart_Williamstown_Portrait_of_George_WashingtonWashington's_inauguration_at_Philadelphia_cph.3g12011March 4, 1793 — The second inauguration of George Washington took place in the Senate Chamber of Congress Hall in Philadelphia on March 4, 1793. It marked the commencement of the second four-year term of Washington as president and John Adams as vice president. It was also the first to take place in the “City of Brotherly Love.”

    Before an assembly of congressmen, Cabinet officers, judges of the federal and district courts, foreign officials, and a small gathering of Philadelphians, Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court William Cushing administered the oath of office.

    Today also marked March 4 as the new inauguration date for a president, as decided by the Continental Congress. (Washington’s first inauguration took place on April 30, 1789, on the second-floor balcony of Federal Hall in New York City.)

    The decision to hold inaugurations on March 4 was reversed following Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inauguration, on March 4, 1933; various traditions had arisen that expanded the inauguration from a simple oath-taking ceremony to a day-long event, including parades, speeches, and balls. The revised date has been Jan. 20 ever since.

    The most recent public presidential inauguration ceremony was the swearing in of President Donald J. Trump to begin his first four-year term — on Friday, Jan 20, 2017.

    Sources: Wikipedia_GeorgeWashington, Wikipedia_InaugurationDay, marksquotes.com,

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  • March 5

    How many civilians died in the Boston Massacre?

    massacreMarch 5, 1770 — Five civilians died during the outbreak of violence that occurred today in Boston — a battle that historians consider to be the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

    The skirmish started as a street fight between a patriot mob throwing snowballs, stones, and sticks at a squad of British soldiers. A riot ensued after 50 citizens attacked a British sentinel. British officer Captain Thomas Preston called in additional soldiers, who were also attacked.

    Eventually, the British soldiers fired into the mob, killing 3 on the spot — including a black sailor named Crispus Attucks, ropemaker Samuel Gray, and a mariner named James Caldwell. Eight others were wounded and two died later (Samuel Maverick and Patrick Carr).

    A town meeting was called demanding the removal of the British and the trial of Captain Preston and his men for murder. At the trial, John Adams and Josiah Quincy II defended the British, which led to their acquittal and release. Samuel Quincy and Robert Treat Paine were the attorneys for the prosecution.

    Two of the British soldiers were found guilty of manslaughter, and soon after the Royal Governor evacuated the occupying army from the town of Boston. This led to armed rebellion throughout the colonies.

    Sources: ushistory.org, bostonmassacre.net, theamericanrevolution.org,

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  • March 6

    What famous American author was kicked out of military school today?

    Edgar_Allan_Poe_daguerreotype_cropMarch 6, 1831 — Edgar Allen Poe was officially kicked out of the United States Military Academy at West Point today.

    There were whispers that Poe actually wanted to be expelled, for he reported to the morning drill with only his belt on.

    In turn, he was charged with gross neglect of duty and disobedience of orders. A court-martial convened finding the defendant guilty of these charges and “adjudg[ed] that the Cadet E. A. Poe be dismissed.”

    Curiously, Poe had accumulated an impressive record at West Point. A weekly class report had ranked him among the best students in mathematics and French.

    Sources: prologue.blogs.archives.gov, mentalfloss.com, wikipedia/Edgar_Allan_Poe,

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  • March 7

    Which famous female philanthropist was born today?

    Andrew_&_Louise_Whitfield_Carnegie_1915March 7, 1857 — Born today was Louise Whitfield Carnegie, a woman who would grow up to be the wife of philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

    Daughter of New York City merchant John D. Whitfield, Louise was born in the Gramercy Park neighborhood of Manhattan.

    On April 22, 1887 she married Carnegie at her family’s home in New York City in a private ceremony officiated by a pastor from the Church of the Divine Paternity, a Universalist church to which the Whitfields belonged. At the time of the marriage, Louise was 30; Carnegie was 51. As wedding gifts from her husband, Louise received an approximate annual income of $20,000 and a home (formerly owned by Collis Potter Huntington) at 5 West 51st Street. Louise gave birth to the couple’s only child Margaret, in 1897.

    After Carnegie’s death, Louise continued making charitable contributions to organizations including American Red Cross, the Y.W.C.A., the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, numerous World War II relief funds, and $100,000 to the Union Theological Seminary. She spent her summers at Skibo Castle. In 1934, she was honored with the Gold Medal of the Pennsylvania Society.

    She died at the age of 89, and is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, in Sleepy Hollow, New York.

    Sources: wikipedia/Louise_Whitfield_Carnegie,

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  • March 8

    Which first lady never actually became first lady?

    440px-Hannah_van_buren_2March 8, 1783 — Hannah Hoes Van Buren was born today. The wife of the 8th President of the United States, Martin Van Buren, she died of consumption on February 5, 1819 — 18 years before her husband took office on March 4, 1837.

    The couple had been childhood sweethearts and were first cousins once removed through his mother. When they married on February 21, 1807 at the home of the bride’s sister in Catskill, NY, Martin was 24, and Hannah was 23.

    Van Buren is said to have been devoted to his shy, blue-eyed bride, whom he always called “Jannetje,” a Dutch pet name for Johanna. Like Martin, she was raised in a Dutch home and never did lose her distinct accent. They eventually had four children, two of whom would later serve in their father’s Cabinet.

    Van Buren never remarried and was one of the few Presidents to be unmarried while in office. During his term, his daughter-in-law, Angelica, performed the role of hostess of the White House and First Lady of the United States. He died on July 24, 1862, at the age 79.

    Sources: Wikipedia/HannahVanBuren, firstladies.org, whitehouse.gov, firstladies.c-span.org, Wikipedia/MartinVanBuren, todayifoundout.com,

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  • March 9

    Who was the first couple married in the White House today in 1820?

    4755522_origMarch 9, 1820 — The daughter of the 5th US president, James Monroe, and First Lady Elizabeth Kortright was married in the White House today. Maria Monroe, 17, wed Samuel Lawrence Gouverneur, her first cousin who was one of her father’s junior White House secretaries.

    The wedding was officiated by Rev. William Hawley, pastor of St. John’s Episcopal Church, which was located just across from the White House at the opposite corner of Lafayette Square.

    There is some question over exactly which room hosted the marriage ceremony, but White House historians believe it was held in the Elliptical Saloon (known today as the Blue Room), which provided a grand view of the ellipse and the towering Washington Monument.

    It was a celebrated event, for only six years before British soldiers had burned the White House to the ground during the War of 1812. As a result, new furniture was ordered for the wedding, much of it designed by Monroe himself.

    Having spent time in France, the President hired Pierre-Antoine Bellange, “the finest cabinet maker in Paris,” to fill the order. Imported crimson silk, with a 50% surcharge for the color, was used in the design that covered the chairs and draped some of the windows. French lamps lit the dining room, and golden urns overflowed with fresh fruit.

    The glittering candlelit reception was attended by 42 close friends and relatives who retired to the State Dining Room for a feast.

    Sources: whitehouseweddings.com, Wikipedia/ElizabethMonroe, "All the Presidents' Children",

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  • March 10

    Who is the only U.S. president to hold a patent?

    patent3March 10, 1849 — Today, Abraham Lincoln applied for a patent for an invention that lifted a boat over shoals and obstructions. A patent lawyer at one point in his career, the application process very familiar to the future president.

    On May 22, 1849, he received Patent No. 6469. Although the invention was never manufactured, when he was elected in 1861, the accomplishment gave him the distinction of being the only U.S. president to hold a patent. (Shown above is his scale model at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.)

    Did you know: Lincoln displayed a lifelong fascination with mechanical things. William H. Herndon, his last law partner, said this of the future president: “[Lincoln] evinced a decided bent toward machinery or mechanical appliances, a trait he doubtless inherited from his father who was himself something of a mechanic and therefore skilled in the use of tools.”

    Henry Whitney, another lawyer friend of Lincoln’s, recalled: “While we were traveling in ante-railway days, on the circuit, and would stop at a farm-house for dinner, Lincoln would improve the leisure in hunting up some farming implement, machine or tool, and he would carefully examine it all over, first generally and then critically.”

    Sources: abrahamlincolnonline.org, Wikipedia/AbrahamLincoln,

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  • March 11

    Where was the first woman’s medical college located?

    nursingclio.orgMarch 11, 1850 — The Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania opened today in the heart of Philadelphia. It was the first medical institution to train women only, and offer them an MD degree.

    Men began attending the school in 1970; it was renamed The Medical College of Pennsylvania. In 2002, Drexel University assumed operations, and changed its name to the Drexel College of Medicine.

    Sources: drexelmed.edu, infoplease.com, nursingclio.org,

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  • March 12

    Who founded a settlement today that will become Chicago?

    440px-Jean_Baptiste_Point_du_Sable_Andreas_1884March 12, 1773 — Jean Baptiste Point du Sable is considered the first man to make his home in a US settlement, which today is Chicago. As a free black man born in Haiti before 1750, he was also the city’s first black resident.

    Starting in 1768, he operated as a fur trader with an official license from the British government and managed a trading post in Indiana. The area was Indian-owned (he was a tenant) and as a result Point du Sable was harassed by both British and American troops who passed through the Midwest.

    Today, though, he left that behind and moved onto a piece of land where he established a farm with his wife, Catherine, and their two children. The family provided stability to an area that was frequented by peripatetic traders.

    By the end of the Revolutionary War, Point du Sable’s farm prospered; people as far away as Philadelphia knew his to be the only farmed produce in the area.

    Point du Sable left Chicago in 1800, selling his property to a neighbor. His wife did not sign the bill of sale, and is believed to have been deceased at the time.

    He moved to St. Charles in Spanish Louisiana, but business deals did not go well, and was declared insolvent in the territory in 1813.By 1818, the once prosperous farmer was destitute and depended on the goodwill of a neighbor, possibly a lover, for his housekeeping. He died on August 28.

    Sources: Wikipedia/JeanBaptistePointduSable, pbs.org, historyisastateofmind, Wikipedia/MarySchmich,

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  • March 13

    What is the history of Uncle Sam?

    UnclesamwantyouMarch 13, 1852 — Frank Bellew’s cartoon, “Uncle Sam,” made its debut today in the NY Lantern Weekly.

    The character’s name is attributed to Samuel Wilson, a meat packer who supplied food to the troops during the War of 1812. Legend has it that he conspicuously marked “U.S.” on the packages and before long the soldiers took to calling him “Uncle Sam.”

    However, the first use in literature of the concept of the patriot Uncle Sam was in the 1816 book, “The Adventures of Uncle Sam in Search After His Lost Honor,” by Frederick Augustus Fidfaddy, Esq.

    And, Uncle Sam is mentioned as early as 1775, in the original “Yankee Doodle” lyrics of the American Revolutionary War.

    Did you know: New Yorker cartoonist Thomas Nast, who created political party mascots and Santa Claus, is often credited with creating the Uncle Sam archetype. While he may have popularized it, Nast was just 12 years old when that cartoon originally appeared. And, historians argue that the image did not take hold in popular consciousness until the iconic “Uncle Sam Wants You” recruitment poster made by James Montgomery Flagg during WW I.

    Sources: famousdaily.com, Wikipedia/UncleSam,

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  • March 14

    Which device, patented today, revolutionized the cotton industry?

    440px-Whitney_GinMarch 14, 1794: Eli Whitney (December 8, 1765 – January 8, 1825) officially patented the cotton gin machine today. His device revolutionized the cotton industry, and changed the lives of many in the southern states of America.

    Born in Westborough, Massachusetts in 1765, Whitney was reared in a rigid Puritan atmosphere, and worked hard from a young age to help support his family. At 20, he became a schoolmaster, saving up his small salary to attend Yale.

    After college he was looking for employment and met Caty Greene, the widow of Revolutionary War hero Nathanael Greene. She took him under her wing and made use of his cleverness to construct items useful to her plantation.

    Sources: Wikipedia/EliWhitney, eliwhitney.org,

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  • March 15

    Who was the first nun to take her vows in America?

    arrivalofursulines1928March 15, 1729 — Sister St. Stanislas Hachard (1704-1760) took her vows today in New Orleans, making her America’s first official nun.

    The founder and first abbess of the Ursuline Convent in French Louisiana, her biography is known thanks to the letters she wrote home to her family in France. They been preserved, published, and are valued as a source of historical information about her journey to the US, which began in 1727.

    Sister Hachard was among 12 nuns who spent their lives establishing a New Orleans-based orphanage, and a school that educated girls. They also created the colony’s military hospital, and sustained an aggressive program of catechesis among the enslaved population of colonial Louisiana. Their work helped contribute to the development of a large, active Afro-Catholic congregation in New Orleans.

    Sources: Wikipedia/MarieMadeleineHachard, newadvent.org, worldcat.org, 1718neworleans2018,

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  • March 16

    What was the Freedom’s Journal?

    Freedom's_Journal_23_March_1827_vol._1_no._3March 16, 1827 — Rev. Peter Williams, Jr.’s Freedom’s Journal began publishing today in New York.

    The first African-American-owned and operated newspaper published in the US, Williams was on a mission to write articles that would appeal to the 300,000 free blacks in the north cities who had been freed after the American Revolutionary War by state abolition laws. Its editorials opposed slavery and other injustices. It also discussed current issues, such as the proposal by the American Colonization Society to resettle free blacks in Liberia, a colony established for that purpose in West Africa.

    Williams also published biographies of prominent blacks, and listings of the births, deaths, and marriages in the African-American community in New York. It circulated in 11 states, the District of Columbia, Haiti, Europe, and Canada.In its heyday, the newspaper employed 44 subscription agents, including David Walker, an abolitionist in Boston.

    Did you know: Manumissions in the south after the war increased the proportion of free blacks from less than 1% to nearly 10% of the black population in the Upper South. In New York State, a gradual emancipation law was passed in 1799, granting freedom to children born to slaves. Its “gradual” provisions meant that the last slaves were not freed until 1827, the year the paper was founded.

    By this time, the US and Great Britain had banned the African slave trade in 1808. But, slavery was expanding rapidly in the deep south with the development of new cotton plantations there; a massive forced migrationhad been under way as a result of the domestic slave trade, as slaves were sold and taken overland or by sea from the upper south to the new territories.

    Sources: Wikipedia/Freedom'sJournal, wisconsinhistory.org, pbs.org, nydivided.org, blackpast.org,

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  • March 17

    When was the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade held in NYC?

    PostcardStPatricksDaySouvinir1912March 17, 1762 — Today marks the anniversary of the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City.

    The Charitable Irish Society of Boston organized the first observance. But the celebration was not Catholic in nature, as Irish immigration to the colonies had been dominated by Protestants.

    New York’s first Saint Patrick’s Day observance was similar to the one held in Boston on March 17, 1762 in the home of John Marshall, an Irish Protestant. The first documented St. Patrick’s Day Celebration in Philadelphia was held in 1771. And, while camped in Morristown, NJ, General Washington allowed his troops a holiday on March 17, 1780 “as an act of solidarity with the Irish in their fight for independence.” This event became known as The Saint Patrick’s Day Encampment of 1780.

    Who was Saint Patrick? Born in the late 4th century, Saint Patrick was one of the most successful Christian missionaries in history. He was taken prisoner at the age of 16 by a group of Irish raiders who attacked his family’s estate. They transported him to Ireland, and he spent six years in captivity before escaping back to Britain. Believing he had been called by God to Christianize Ireland, he joined the Catholic Church and studied for 15 years before being consecrated as the church’s second missionary to Ireland. Patrick began his mission to Ireland in 432, and by his death in 461, the island was almost entirely Christian.

    Sources: Wikipedia/StPatrick'sDay, mountvernon.org, history.com,

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  • March 18

    Where was the first railroad tunnel completed in the US?

    SBTMarch 18, 1834 — The first railway tunnel was completed today in Pennsylvania. Named the Staple Bend Tunnel. it was 901 feet long and located 4 miles east of Johnstown, PA, in a town called Mineral Point.

    Construction began on April 12, 1831 by the Allegheny Portage Railroad, it was rock bored and stone lined. Approximately 14,900 cubic yards of bedrock was removed using black powder blasting. This was done by drilling three-foot-long holes and packing them with powder.

    Drilling one typical hole took up to three hours of hard effort using a three-man crew. Nine to 10 holes, each one-inch in diameter and thirty-six inches in length, were made before blasting. One pound of explosive powder wrapped in paper was pushed into each hole, tamped down, punctured with a sharp needle, and a fuse added. Fuses were lit with explosions to occur at mealtime.

    Workers would eat while the dust settled; then get to work cleaning (mucking) the tunnel. Of the 36-inch hole drilled only 18 inches, or half of the hole, was blasted. The tunnel grew about 18 inches each day, with both sides moving toward the center. On December 21, 1832 the workmen broke through the final barrier and connected the two ends of the tunnel. There was much celebration with speeches and toasts when the full tunnel excavation was completed today.

    Sources: Image: "Ghosts waiting at the tunnel," by nps.gov, Wikipedia/StapleBendTunnel, phmc.state.pa.us, tps.cr.nps.gov,

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  • March 19

    Who was Ellen Gates Starr?

    Ellen_Gates_StarrMarch 19, 1859 — Born today in Illinois is American social reformer and activist Ellen Gates Starr, a woman who would grow up to became close friends with women’s rights activist Jane Addams and go on to co-founded Hull House in Chicago.

    Starr’s father encouraged her in thinking about democracy and social responsibility, and her aunt, Eliza Starr, encouraged her to pursue a higher education. There were few women’s colleges, especially in the Midwest; in 1877, so Starr began her studies at Rockford Female Seminary with a curriculum equivalent to that of many men’s colleges.

    In her first year of study she met Addams. But when Starr’s family could no longer afford to pay tuition a year later, she became a teacher in Mount Morris, Illinois, in 1878, and the following year at a girls’ school in Chicago.

    Meanwhile, Addams graduated from the Seminary  and in 1888, decided to travel to Europe and invited her friend Starr to go with her. While in London, the pair were inspired by the success of the English Settlement movement and became determined to establish a similar social settlement in Chicago.

    When they returned to Chicago in 1889, they co-founded Hull House as a kindergarten and then a day nursery, an infancy care centre, and a center for continuing education for adults. In 1891, Starr created the Butler Art Gallery as the first addition to the Hull mansion. She travelled to England to study with the famed bookbinder, T. J. Cobden-Sanderson and on her return she established a bookbindery class at the settlement house in 1898 and established an arts and crafts business school.

    Sources: womenshistory.about.com, Wikipedia/EllenGatesStarr, hullhousemuseum.org, Wikipedia/HullHouse,

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  • March 20

    Who stole $245,000 from the City Bank of New York today in 1831?

    a-side-of-City-BankMarch 20, 1831 — About $245,000 was stolen from today from the City Bank of New York today, making it the first bank robbery in the US.

    It wasn’t “America’s First Bank Robbery,” which actually occurred when two thieves took $162,821 from the Bank of Pennsylvania at Carpenters’ Hall in the early morning hours of Sunday, September 1, 1798.

    But today in 1831, two men with a set of homemade keys approached the City Bank of New York, according to the Saturday Evening Post“The keys, which had been made from wax impressions of the door locks, enabled the men to let themselves into the bank and lock the doors behind themselves. What happened that night is generally considered to be the first bank robbery in the U.S. The two men—James Honeyman and William J. Murray—emptied the vault and several safe deposit boxes. By the morning, they had filled several bags with $245,000 in bank notes and coins. It was an incredibly large sum for a robbery, roughly equivalent to $52 million today. The robbery was sensational enough to be rushed into print in the next edition of the Post, under a bold headline offering ‘$5,000 Reward.’”

    Honeyman and Murray got away the next morning as the sun rose and the city’s night watchmen went off duty. Carrying the loot under the large capes they were wearing, they hurried to Murray’s house where they divided the money.

    Sources: saturdayeveningpost.com, ushistory.org,

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  • March 21

    Where was the first Zoological Society in the United States?

    March 21, 1859 — The Zoological Society of Philadelphia was today when it opened the first zoo in America, the Philadelphia Zoo, with 1,000 animals and an admission price of 25-cents.

  • March 21

    What sparked the Great New Orleans Fire?

    660px-New_Orleans_fire_of_1788_mapMarch 21, 1788 — The Great New Orleans Fire today blew through 856 of the 1,100 structures in New Orleans, Louisiana (aka: New Spain). The blaze spanned the south central Vieux Carré from Burgundy to Chartres Street, and nearly touched the Mississippi River front buildings.

    The Good Friday blaze began about 1:30 p.m. at the home of Army Treasurer Don Vincente Jose Nuñez, at 619 Chartres Street, corner of Toulouse — less than a block from Jackson Square. But because the fire started on a holy day, priests refused to allow church bells to be rung as a fire alarm. Within five hours, it had consumed almost the entire city as it was fed by a strong wind from the southeast.

    The fire destroyed virtually all major buildings in the then-city (which is now known as the French Quarter), including the church, municipal building, army barracks, armory, and jail. Colonial Governor Esteban Rodríguez Miró set up tents for the homeless.

    Within six years, Colonial officials had replaced the wooden buildings with masonry structures that had courtyards, thick brick walls, arcades, and wrought iron balconies.

    However, on December 8, 1794, another 212 buildings were destroyed in the “Great New Orleans Fire of 1794.” Rebuilding continued in Spanish style, and much of the French-style architecture that once was prominent disappeared from the city.

    Sources: wikipedia/GreatNewOrleansFire1788, frenchquarter.com, neworleanspast.com,

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  • March 22

    Which president was the first Secretary of State?

    Official_Presidential_portrait_of_Thomas_Jefferson_by_Rembrandt_Peale_1800March 22, 1790 — Thomas Jefferson became the first US Secretary of State today.

    The process began on September 29, 1789, when President George Washington appointed Jefferson to be Minister to France. The author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was one of the leading statesmen of his day, the most famous American political philosopher.

    After years of experience as the American Minister in Paris, the epicenter of Europe’s diplomacy, Jefferson returned to the United States to assume his duties. At that time, the US had only two diplomatic posts and 10 consular posts.

    Jefferson drew the distinction between the politically oriented diplomatic service and commercially directed consular service, and initiated the practice of requiring periodic reports from American diplomats and consuls abroad.

    During his 3 years as Secretary of State, both services grew only marginally. The Department of State itself was equally small, consisting in 1790 of a chief clerk, three other clerks, and a messenger. The title “clerk” refers to officer charged with composition of messages to overseas posts and other correspondence. The total domestic and foreign expenditures of Jefferson’s Department in 1791 was only $56,600.

    Sources: history.state.gov, future.state.gov, mountvernon.org, hillbuzz.org, Wikipedia/ThomasJefferson,

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  • March 23

    What is foodie Fannie Farmer’s claim to fame?

    Unknown-2March 23, 1857 — Fannie M. Farmer is born today in Boston. The American culinary expert will grow up to become the author of the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, one of the first widely used culinary texts.

    Her father, John Franklin Farmer, was an editor and printer. The oldest of four daughters, her family highly valued education and expected young Fannie to go to college.

    However, she suffered a paralytic stroke at the age of 16 while attending Medford High School, and for years was unable to walk. She remained in her parents’ care at home and took up cooking, eventually turning it into a boarding house that developed a reputation for the quality of the meals it served.

    At 30, Farmer enrolled in the Boston Cooking School and trained during the height of the domestic science movement. The curriculum included nutrition and diet for the well, convalescent cookery, techniques of cleaning and sanitation, chemical analysis of food, techniques of cooking and baking, and household management. Considered one of the school’s top students, she was then kept on as assistant to the director. In 1891, she became the school’s principal.

    In 1896, she published her famous cookbook, which introduced the concept of using standardized measuring spoons and cups, as well as level measurement.

    Farmer left the Boston Cooking School in 1902 to create Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery, where she began teaching gentlewomen and housewives the rudiments of plain and fancy cooking. Her interests eventually led her to develop a complete work of diet and nutrition for the ill, Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent. Farmer went on to lecture at Harvard Medical School and began teaching convalescent diet and nutrition to doctors and nurses.

    She died in 1915, at aged 57.

    Sources: Wikipedia/FannieFarmer, "Boston Cooking School Cook Book", "Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent", "Feeding America",

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  • March 24

    Which American religious figure was tarred and feathered today?

    460px-Joseph_Smith,_Jr._portrait_owned_by_Joseph_Smith_IIIMarch 24, 1832 — Founder of Mormonism and the Latter Day Saint movement, Joseph Smith (December 23, 1805 – June 27, 1844), was beaten, tarred, and feathered today in Ohio. The author of the Book of Mormon, was a prominent and controversial American religious leader who spent the last 14 years of his life attracting tens of thousands of followers to his religion that continues to the present.

    Smith said he experienced a series of visions, including one in which he saw “two personages” and others in which an angel named Moroni directed him to a buried book of golden plates inscribed with a Judeo-Christian history of an ancient American civilization.  (more…)

    Sources: mormon.org, Wikipedia/JosephSmith,

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  • March 25

    Which Civil War hostess was tried for treason today in 1862?

    Rose_O'Neal_GreenhowMarch 25, 1862 — Civil War hostess and spy Rose O’Neal Greenhow (1814– October 1, 1864) was tried for treason today.

    The renowned Confederate spy was a socialite in Washington, DC before the war. “Wild Rose” cultivated friendships with presidents, generals, senators, and high-ranking military officers, then used her connections to pass along key military information to the Confederacy at the start of the war.

    In early 1861, she was given control of a pro-Southern spy network by her handler, Thomas Jordan, then a captain in the Confederate Army. She was credited by Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president, with ensuring the South’s victory at the First Battle of Bull Run in late July 1861.

    Captured in August, Greenhow was subject to house arrest; found to have continued her activities. After today’s espionage hearing, she was imprisoned for nearly five months before being deported. She moved to Richmond, ran a blockade, then sailed to Europe to represent the Confederacy in a diplomatic mission to France and Britain from 1863 to 1864.

    In 1863, she wrote and published her memoir in London, which was popular in Britain. After her returning ship ran aground in 1864 off Wilmington, North Carolina, she drowned when her rowboat overturned as she tried to escape a Union gunboat. She was honored with a Confederate military funeral.

    Sources: Image: Rose O'Neal Greenhow with her youngest daughter and namesake, "Little" Rose, at the Old Capitol Prison, Washington, D.C.,, Wikipedia/WildRose, americancivilwar.com, civilwar.si.edu, library.duke.edu, Image: Jefferson Davis,

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  • March 26

    Which land deal between the US and France was put into play today in 1804?

    arrowsmith_la_0March 26, 1804 — Congress ordered the removal of Indians east of Mississippi to Louisiana in order to organize the the Territory of Orleans as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

    The 1803 land deal between the United States and France enabled the U.S. to acquire approximately 827,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi River for $15 million.

    The Louisiana territory included land from two Canadian provinces (Alberta and Saskatchewan) and 15 present U.S. states — Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska; the portion of Minnesota west of the Mississippi River; a large portion of North Dakota; a large portion of South Dakota; the northeastern section of New Mexico; the northern portion of Texas; the area of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado east of the Continental Divide; Louisiana west of the Mississippi River (plus New Orleans).

    From 1699-1762: The Kingdom of France controlled the Louisiana territory until it was ceded to Spain. In 1800, Napoleon hoped to re-establish an empire in North America, and regained ownership of Louisiana. President Thomas Jefferson originally sought to purchase only the port city of New Orleans and its adjacent coastal lands, but quickly accepted the bargain.

    Before the purchase was finalized, the decision faced Federalist Party opposition; they argued that it was unconstitutional to acquire any territory. Jefferson agreed that the U.S. Constitution did not contain explicit provisions for acquiring territory, but he did have full treaty power and that was enough.

    Sources: monticello.org, Image: 1805 Map of Louisiana by Samuel Lewis, courtesy of the Library of Congress, Wikipedia/LouisianaPurchase,

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  • March 27

    Which day did Jefferson Davis declare to be for fasting, humiliation, and prayer?

    a13p1March 27, 1863 — Today The Richmond Enquirer published a proclamation from Confederate President Jefferson Davis calling for March 27 to be a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer.

    REBEL REPORTS FROM VICKSBURGH. An Attack by Gen. Grant’s Forces Believed to be Imminent. ROSECRANS ADVANCING. PROCLAMATION OF THE PRESIDENT. Published: March 4, 1863

    It is meet that, as people who acknowledge the supremacy of the living God, we should be ever mindful of our dependence on Him, and should remember that to Him alone can we trust our deliverance, that to him is due the devout thankfulness for signal mercies bestowed on us, and that by prayer alone can we hope to receive continued manifestation of that protecting care which has hitherto shielded us in the midst of trials and dangers. In obedience to this precept, we have from time to time been gathered together with prayers and thanksgiving, and He has been graciously pleased to hear our supplications, and to grant abundant exhibitions of His favor to our arms and our people.

    Through many conflicts we have now attained a place among nations which commands their respect, and let the enemies who encompass us around and seek our destruction see that the Lord of Hosts has again taught them the lesson of His inspired word, “that the battle is not to the strong,” but to whomsoever He willeth to exalt. Again an enemy, with loud boasting of power, of their armed men and mailed ships, threaten us with subjugation, and with evil machinations seek, even in our homes and at our own firesides, to pervert our men servants and our maid servants into accomplices of their wicked designs.

    Under these circumstances it is my privilege to invite you once more to meet together and prostrate yourselves in humble supplication to Him who has been our constant and never-failing support in the past, and to whose protection and guidance we trust for the future. To this end I, JEFFERSON DAVIS, President of the Confederate States of America, do issue this, my proclamation, setting apart Friday, the 27th day of March, as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer.

    I do also invite the people of the said States to repair, on that day, to their usual places of public worship, there to join in prayer to Almighty God that he will continue his merciful protection over our cause; that he will scatter our enemies and set at nought their evil designs, and that he will graciously restore to our beloved country the blessings of peace and security.

    In faith whereof I have hereunto set my hand, at the City of Richmond, on the 27th day of February, in the year of our Lord, 1863.

    (Signed) JEFFERSON DAVIS, By the President.

    (Signed) J.P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of State.

    Sources: nytimes.com, Wikipedia/JeffersonDavis, loc.go, rarenewspapers.com,

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  • March 28

    Who found the side for the Presidio of San Francisco?

    Juba_deanza_02March 28, 1776 — Today, Juan Bautista de Anza Bezerra Nieto (July 6/7, 1736 – December 19, 1788) located the sites for the Presidio of San Francisco and Mission San Francisco de Asis in present-day San Francisco, California.

    The Spanish explorer of Basque descent, and Governor of New Mexico for the Spanish Empire,  was born into a military family living on the northern frontier of New Spain.

    1752-1770: De Anza enlisted in the army at the Presidio of Fronteras and advanced rapidly to the position of captain by 1760, and spent much of his days battling hostile Native Americans, such as the Apache. During that time, he explored much of what is now Arizona.

    When the Spanish began colonizing Alta California with the Portolá expedition of 1769-70, colonies were established at San Diego and Monterey, with a presidio and Franciscan mission at each location. A more direct land route and further colonization were desired, especially at present-day San Francisco, which Portolá saw but was not able to colonize.

    January 8, 1774: De Anza proposed an expedition to Alta California to the Viceroy of New Spain, which was approved by the King of Spain. Today, with 3 padres, 20 soldiers, 11 servants, 35 mules, 65 cattle, and 140 horses, he set forth from Tubac Presidio, south of present-day Tucson, Arizona.

    The Spanish were desirous of reinforcing their presence in Alta California as a buffer against Russian colonization of the Americas advancing from the north, and possibly establish a harbor that would give shelter to Spanish ships. The expedition continued on to Monterey with the colonists. Having fulfilled his mission from the Viceroy, he continued on with Father Pedro Font and a party of 12 others exploring north and found an inland route to the San Francisco Baydescribed by Portolà.

    Pressing on, de Anza located the sites for the Presidio of San Francisco and Mission San Francisco de Asisin present-day San Francisco, California on March 28, 1776. He did not establish the settlement; it was established later by José Joaquín Moraga. While returning to Monterey, he located the original sites for Mission Santa Clara de Asis and the town of San José de Guadalupe (modern day San Jose, California), but again did not establish either settlement.

    Sources: thejacksonpress.org, Wikipedia,

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  • March 29

    What famous waterfall stopped flowing today in 1848?

    Niagara Falls Ice BridgeMarch 29, 1848 — Believe it or not Niagara Falls stopped flowing today.

    The one-day interruption was caused y an ice jam in Lake Erie. Fortunately, strong winds broke apart the jam the next day, and the water resumed its flow.

    “For thirty long, silent hours, the river dried up and those who were brave enough walked or rode horses over the rock floor of the channel,” reports niagaraparks.com. “Then, with a roar that shook the foundations of the earth, a solid wall of water, cresting to a great height, curled down the channel and crashed over the brink of the precipice. Niagara was back in business to the immense relief of everyone.

    “News traveled slowly in those days but the explanation finally came. High winds set the ice fields of Lake Erie in motion and millions of tons of ice became lodged at the source of the river, blocking the channel completely until finally a shift in the forces of nature released it and the pent up weight of water broke through.”

    Did you know: Lake Erie is the major producer of ice that flows down the Niagara River and is capable of producing 16,093 square kilometers (10,000 square miles) of ice.

    The ice is blown down the river and over the Falls, where it becomes caught as the river narrows near the Canadian Maid of the Mist Landing;  some of the ice is pushed back upriver, which can build up to form an ice jam.  Ice jams can be very erosive; ice grinds on the river bed, moves large boulders and alters the shoreline.  When wind stops forcing water out of Lake Erie into the river, the water level drops leaving the ice jam aloft like a bridge. The phenomenon of the ice bridge is a familiar occurence each winter.

    Sources: niagaraparks.com, Wikipedia/JohnJamesAudubon, audubon.org,

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  • March 30

    When was the pencil patented?

    PencilPatentMarch 30, 1858 — The pencil with an attached eraser was patented today. The new design was invented by Philadelphia’s Hymen L. Lipman (March 20, 1817 – November 4, 1893) who received US Patent 19,783.

    Born March 20, 1817, in Kingston, Jamaica, to English parents, Lipman’s family emigrated to the US in 1829. By 1840, Lipman became the leading stationer in town, and in 1843 started the first envelope company in the US.

    In 1862: Lipman sold his patent to Joseph Reckendorfer for $100,000, who went on to sue the pencil manufacturer Faber for infringement.

    In 1875: The Supreme Court of the United States ruled against Reckendorfer declaring the patent invalid because his invention was actually a combination of two already known things with no new use.

    Sources: pencils.com, Wikipedia/HymenLipman, "The Pencil: The Strongest Tool You Forgot You Had", thepalimpsest.co.uk,

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  • March 31

    Who was one of the first advocates for women’s rights?

    440px-Abigail_AdamsMarch 31, 1776 — Today in history, Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, John Adams, urging him and the other members of the Continental Congress not to forget about the nation’s women when fighting for America’s independence from Great Britain. She said:

    “I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

    Abigail was an advocate of married women’s property rights, more opportunities for women, particularly in the field of education. Women, she believed, should not submit to laws not made in their interest, nor should they be content with the simple role of being companions to their husbands. They should educate themselves and thus be recognized for their intellectual capabilities, so they could guide and influence the lives of their children and husbands.

    Sources: Letters between Abigail and John Adams, history.com,

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