This Month in History: November

Evacuation Day: November 25, 1783, marks the day when British troops departed from New York Town on Manhattan Island, after the end of the American Revolutionary War. General George Washington triumphantly led the Continental Army from his former headquarters, north of the city, across the Harlem River, and down Manhattan through the town to The Battery, at the foot of Broadway.

The last shot of the war was reportedly fired on this day — a British gunner shot a cannon at jeering crowds gathered on the shore of Staten Island as his ship passed through the Narrows at the mouth of New York Harbor, but it fell well short of the shore.

Source: “A Toast To Freedom: New York Celebrates Evacuation Day,” Fraunces Tavern Museum • Painting by Thomas Sautelle Roberts (1748-1778), creative common

  • November 1

    When did poker become a popular game?

    Officers-of-the-114th-pennsylvania-03882a-cropNovember 1, 1834 — Today marks the first published reference to poker, as a Mississippi riverboat game.

    It was played in a variety of forms, with 52 cards, and included both straight poker and stud. 20 card poker was a variant for two players (it is a common English practice to reduce the deck in card games when there are fewer players).

    Its popularity quick spread north along the Mississippi River and to the West during the gold rush. Today, poker is part of the frontier pioneer ethos.

    Sources: cardschat.com, wikipedia/poker, The Poker Face of Wall Street, by Arron Brown, Bohn's New Handbook of Games, by Henry G. Bond,

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  • November 2

    What is President Franklin Pierce best known for?

    Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 2.31.05 PMNovember 2, 1852 — Franklin Pierce is elected the 14th president of United States today. Historians and other political commentators rank Pierce’s presidency among the worst.

    Pierce was a northern Democrat who saw the abolitionist movement as a fundamental threat to the unity of the nation. His polarizing actions in championing and signing the Kansas–Nebraska Act and enforcing the Fugitive Slave Act failed to stem intersectional conflict, setting the stage for Southern secession.

    Although Pierce fully expected to be renominated by the Democrats in the 1856 presidential election, he was abandoned by his party and his bid failed. His reputation in the North suffered further during the Civil War as he became a vocal critic of President Abraham Lincoln.

    Born in New Hampshire on November 23, 1804, Pierce took part in the Mexican–American War as a brigadier general in the Army. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate until he resigned from the latter in 1842. His private law practice in his home state was a success; he was appointed U.S. Attorney for his state in 1845. Seen by Democrats as a compromise candidate uniting northern and southern interests, he was nominated as the party’s candidate for president on the 49th ballot at the 1852 Democratic National Convention. In the 1852 presidential election, Pierce and his running mate William R. King easily defeated the Whig Party ticket of Winfield Scott and William A. Graham.

    Pierce was popular and outgoing, but his family life was grim. His wife, Jane, suffered from depression for much of her life. All of their children died young, their last son being gruesomely killed in a train accident while the family was traveling shortly before Pierce’s inauguration. Pierce, who had been a heavy drinker for much of his life, died of severe cirrhosis of the liver on October 8, 1869.

    Sources: whitehouse.gov, history.com, wikipedia/FranklinPierce,

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  • November 3

    Happy National Sandwich Day: How did the sammie get its start?

    Earl-of-SandwichNovember 3, 1762 — Today is Sandwich Day in celebration of the day that British nobleman John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, popularized the delicacy during the Revolutionary War. For years, early Americans considered eating a sandwich to be un-patriotic.

    Here’s how the story goes: Food historians agree that Montagu had a substantial gambling problem, which led him to spend hours on end at the card table. During a particularly long binge, he asked the house cook to bring him something he could eat without getting up from his seat. His chef brought him the revolutionary sandwich, and a trend was born. Montagu enjoyed his meal so much that he ate it constantly, and as the creation grew popular in London society circles, and also took on the Earl’s name.

    But whatscookingamerica.net says the first recorded sandwich was made by the rabbi, Hillel the Elder who lived during the 1st century B.C. He started the Passover custom of sandwiching a mixture of chopped nuts, apples, spices, and wine between two matzohs to eat with bitter herbs.

    What’s the most popular sandwich in the States today? According to the menu research firm Datassential, Americans are most enchanted by the turkey sandwich (14%), followed by ham (11%), chicken (9%), and the sub (8%). Those classics — the PB&J and BLT — tied with grilled cheese (5%); roast beef came in at 4%. Additionally, data studied from 100,000 restaurant menus showed the most popular sandwich ingredients are: barbecue, chipotle, and pesto. Those gaining in popularity are: kimchee, aged cheddar, and naan.

    Sources: datassential.com, cnn.com,

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  • November 3

    Who was the first vice president to also be elected president?

    440px-US_Navy_031029-N-6236G-001_A_painting_of_President_John_Adams_(1735-1826),_2nd_president_of_the_United_States,_by_Asher_B._Durand_(1767-1845)-cropNovember 3, 1796 — John Adams is elected president of the United States of America today. The American lawyer, author, statesman, and diplomat, of Welsh decent served as the first Vice President (1789–1797) under George Washington, and the second President (1797–1801).

    Historians explain that the founding father was a political theorist in the Age of Enlightenment who promoted republicanism and a strong central government. He was also a dedicated diarist and correspondent, particularly with his wife and key advisor Abigail. Adams is also famous for his collaborations with his cousin, revolutionary leader Samuel Adam; and he was the father of John Quincy Adams, the 6th President of the United States.

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  • November 4

    Where is Mozart’s Symphony No. 36 first performed today in 1783?

    November 4, 1783 — Wolfgang-amadeus-mozart_1Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 36 in C major, K. 425 premiered today in Linz, Austria. Known as the Linz Symphony, it was written by during a stopover in the Austrian town of Linz on his and his wife’s way back home to Vienna from Salzburg in late 1783.

    The entire symphony was written in four days to accommodate the local count’s announcement, upon hearing of the Mozarts’ arrival in Linz, of a concert. The première in Linz took place on 4 November 1783. The composition was also premièred in Vienna on 1 April 1784. The autograph score of the “Linz Symphony” was not preserved.

    Sources: cso.org, wikipedia/SymphonyNo.36,

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  • November 5

    Who said: “Anyone who supports the Tea Act is an enemy to America”?

    440px-John_Hancock_1770-cropNovember 5, 1773 — John Hancock is elected today as moderator at a Boston town meeting that resolves that anyone who supports the Tea Act is an “enemy to America.”

    A merchant, smuggler, statesman, and prominent Patriot of the American Revolution, Hancock served as president of the Second Continental Congress and was the first and third governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He is remembered for his large and stylish signature on the United States Declaration of Independence, so much so that the term “John Hancock” has become, in the United States, a synonym for a signature.

    Did you know: Before the American Revolution, Hancock was one of the wealthiest men in the original 13 colonies, having inherited a profitable mercantile business from his uncle, himself a prominent smuggler. He began his political career in Boston as a protégé of Samuel Adams, an influential local politician, though the two men later became estranged. As tensions between colonists and Great Britain increased in the 1760s, Hancock used his wealth to support the colonial cause.

    Sources: notablebiographies.com, ushistory.org, wikipedia/JohnHancock,

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  • November 6

    Who were the Republicans that ran against Lincoln in 1860?

    Abraham_Lincoln_by_Alexander_HeslerNovember 6, 1860 — Abraham Lincoln (Rep-R-Ill) becomes the 16th US president today.

    It was a tough battle. Other Republican candidates included: William Seward, Senator, New York • Simon Cameron, Senator, Pennsylvania • Salmon P. Chase, Governor of Ohio • Edward Bates, former representative, Missouri • John McLean, Associate Justice, Ohio • Benjamin Wade, Senator, Ohio • William L. Dayton, former Senator, New Jersey.

    Historians believe that this 19th quadrennial election served as the immediate impetus for the outbreak of the American Civil War.

    “The United States had been divided during the 1850s on questions surrounding the expansion of slavery and the rights of slave owners,” explains the American Presidency Project at UC Santa Barbara.

    “In 1860, these issues broke the Democratic Party into Northern and Southern factions, and a new Constitutional Union Party appeared. In the face of a divided opposition, the Republican Party, dominant in the North, secured a majority of the electoral votes, putting Abraham Lincoln in the White House with almost no support from the South. Before Lincoln’s inauguration, seven Southern states declared their secession and formed the Confederacy.”

    Sources: Republican National Platform, 1860, How (And Where) Lincoln Won, Voter Turnout in Presidential Elections, history.house.gov, historyplace.com, wikipedia,

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  • November 7

    What is Londoner John Austin best known for?

    Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 8.51.05 AMNovember 7, 1783 — Highwayman John Austin is the last man to be publicly hanged at London’s Tyburn gallows today. The hanging marked the end of Tyburn, a village then in the county of Middlesex, which was the site of executions for nearly 600 years.

    Austin was sentenced to death for the murder of labourer John Spicer from Kent. The Recorder of London, James Adair, described it as a “robbery with violence” that involved “cutting and wounding Spicer in a cruel manner.”

    On the way to the gallows, Austin was accompanied by two guards and a chaplain. They stopped at two public houses, where drinks were served. Upon arrival at Tyburn, Austin’s cart was positioned under a beam and a noose attached around his head.

    Unfortunately, the noose slipped up the back of his neck as the cart was taken from under him. The slackness in the rope prevented rapid asphyxiation, and it was said to have taken 10 minutes for him to choke to death.

    The gallows were dismantled after the execution.

    Sources: wikipedia, "Tyburn Tree: Its History and Annals," by Marks, Alfred (1908), "Account of the Trial and Execution of John Austin," London Ancestor,

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  • November 8

    What is the connection between Bourbon whiskey and the Baptist movement?

    Elijah_Craig_woodcutNovember 8, 1789 — If you love bourbon whiskey, today is a day to celebrate its creation. Believe it or not, the credit goes to a non-drinking Baptist Minister named Elijah Craig.

    The resident of Bourbon, Kentucky knew that his town was a wonderful spot for growing corn. And, by using a mash of 50 to 80 percent of the grain, he was able to come with a new taste for whiskey.

    But that’s not Craig’s only claim to fame. Hailing from Orange County, VA, he was ordained and became the pastor of Blue Run Church, located between Barboursville and Liberty Mills.

    Craig was jailed at least twice for preaching without the required Virginia license from the Anglican Church, and soon after became politically active as the legislative liaison of the general convention and general association to Virginia’s legislature as well as the ratification convention of 1788.

    He worked with Patrick Henry and James Madison concerning protections to religious freedom in the federal and the state constitutions. Ultimately, religious freedom became protected in the First Amendment, and Baptist membership grew.

    Sources: pop-culture.net, straightbourbon.com, wikipedia,

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  • November 9

    What is the Napoleonic Code?

    440px-Jacques-Louis_David_-_The_Emperor_Napoleon_in_His_Study_at_the_Tuileries_-_Google_Art_ProjectNovember 9, 1799 — Napoleon Bonaparte became the first dictator of France today, and soon after began instituting a number of government reforms including the famous Napoleonic Code.

    It said that government positions would not be appointed based on a person’s birth or religion, but on their qualifications and ability. Previously, high positions were given to aristocrats by the king in return for favors. This often led to incompetent people in important positions.

    Napoleon also helped to improve the French economy by building new roads and encouraging business. He reestablished the Catholic Church as the official state religion, but at the same time allowed for freedom of religion to those who weren’t Catholic. Napoleon also set up non-religious schools, so anyone could get an education.

    Napoleon’s power and control continued to grow with his reforms. In 1804, he was crowned the first Emperor France. At the coronation, he did not allow the Pope to place the crown on his head, but instead crowned himself.

    Sources: ducksters.com, brainyquote.com, biography.com, wikipedia/Napoleon,

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  • November 10

    What disaster inspired the construction of the first modern lighthouse?

    440px-Fastnet_Rock_Lighthouse,_Cork_(8262872235)November 10, 1847 — The passenger ship Stephen Whitney wrecked today in thick fog off the southern coast of Ireland, killing 92 of the 110 on board.

    The disaster resulted in the construction the Fastnet Rock lighthouse, which began in 1853 and produced a light on January 1, 1854. Designed by George Halpin, it stands 4.5 miles southwest of Cape Clear and southwest of Mizen Head.

    Known as The Teardrop of Ireland (because it is the last sight of Ireland for emigrants sailing to America), it stands about around 91 feet tell and the cost was £17,390.

    The original lighthouse had an oil burning lamp of 38 kilocandelas; in contrast modern lighthouses typically produce 1,300 kilocandelas. In 1883, an explosive fog signal was installed, which electrically detonated a small charge of guncotton every five minutes.

    Sources: mizenhead.net, wikipedia/FastnetRock,

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  • November 11

    What is the history of the Chrysanthemum?

    National Chrysanthemum SocietyNovember 11, 1790 — Chrysanthemums are believed to have been introduced today in 1790 by the Chinese, who call it “Chu.” The Chinese city of Chu-Hsien (which means Chrysanthemum City) was named to honor the flower.

    Described in writings as early as the 15th Century BC, its healing powers are well known. As an herb, it is believed to have the power of life, for its boiled roots have long been used as a headache remedy. Young sprouts and petals are yummy in salads, and its leaves have long been brewed for a festive drink.

    Around the 8th century A.D., the chrysanthemum appeared in Japan, where the Imperial Order of the Chrysanthemum is the highest Order of Chivalry. Japan also has a National Chrysanthemum Day, which is called the Festival of Happiness.

    In 1753, Swedish botanist Karl Linnaeus combined the Greek words chrysos, meaning gold with anthemon, meaning flower. Linnaeus was the founder of that branch of taxonomy dealing with plants and including the science of classification and identification. Experts say this is probably an accurate description of the ancient species, as it also points out the mum’s need for sunlight.

    Sources: mums.org,

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  • November 12

    Who was the first doctor to use chloroform as an anaesthetic?

    chloroform-partyNovember 12, 1847 — Scottish obstetrician James Young Simpson is the first to use chloroform as an anesthetic today in 1847.

    Yes, Sir Humphry Davy used the first anaesthetic in 1799 — nitrous oxide (aka: laughing gas). But Simpson discovered the properties of chloroform while sitting in his dining from with friends Drs Keith and Duncan. After inhaling the chemical they found that a general mood of cheer and humor set in, then suddenly all of them collapsed only to regain consciousness the next morning.

    Simpson knew, as soon as he woke up, that he had found something that could be used as an anaesthetic. (more…)

    Sources: general-anaesthesia.com, historyofsurgery.co.uk, wikipedia/JamesYoungSimpson,

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  • November 13

    What inspired Benjamin Franklin today to write: “Our new Constitution is now established, everything seems to promise it will be durable; but, in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.”

    Benjamin Franklin Photo0004November 13, 1789 — Today, Ben Franklin penned his famous quote: “… Nothing is certain but death and taxes” in a letter to French scientist Jean-Baptiste Le Roy.

    At the time, the French Revolution had been underway in earnest for several months. Franklin had not heard from Le Roy for more than a year and was concerned that he may have been killed or executed.

    Written in French, Franklin’s famous maxim was used in reference to the Constitution of the United States of America, which had been adopted by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia two years earlier on September 17, 1787.

    In the next to last paragraph of the letter, he noted: “My health continues much as it has been for some time, except that I grow thinner and weaker, so that I cannot expect to hold out much longer.” Five months later, on April 17, 1790, Benjamin Franklin died.

    Sources: encyclopedia.com,

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  • November 14

    Where did the first streetcar make its debut today in 1832?

    StreetCarJohnMason500pxNovember 14, 1832 — The first streetcar debuted in New York City today thanks to John Mason. The fare was 12 cents, and the street railway that used horse-drawn cars with metal wheels and ran on metal track.

    By 1855, 593 omnibuses traveled on 27 Manhattan routes and horse-drawn cars ran on street railways on Third, Fourth, Sixth, and Eighth Avenues.

    Abraham Brower actually established New York City’s first public transportation route in 1827, a 12-seat stagecoach called “Accommodation” that ran along Broadway from the Battery to Bleecker Street. By 1831, Brower had added the “Sociable” and “Omnibus.”

    Today, three main lines operate out of Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan, which opened in 1913. Two additional lines, running west of the Hudson River, operate out of Hoboken, New Jersey.

    Sources: todayinsci.com, todayinsci.com, wikipedia/Streetcars,

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  • November 15

    Who was the first 40something president to be elected?

    James_Polk_Presidential_$1_Coin_obverseNovember 5, 1844 — James K. Polk was 49 when he was elected the 11th president of the US today. During his tenure, three states were added, the first Women’s Rights Convention was held, the sewing machine,gas lighting, and the rotary printing press were invented, and the Gold Rush began.

    A graduate of the first in the class of 1818 at the University of North Carolina, he actually didn’t start attending school until he was 17. The same year he had surgery to remove urinary bladder stones; anesthesia was not invented until he was president, so Polk was awake for the entire procedure.

    Other claims to fame: Polk is the only Speaker of the US House of Representatives to become president. And, he had the shortest retirement of all the presidents — three months. On June 15, 1849, he died of cholera at his new home, in Nashville, TN, at 3:15pm, and was buried on the grounds of Polk Place.

    His last words were to his wife: “I love you, Sarah.” She outlived him by 42 years, making her the longest widowed first lady in American presidential history.

    Sources: jameskpolk.com, wikipedia/JamesPolk,

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  • November 16

    Which major US shopping district opened for business today in 1824?

    Fifth_Avenue_after_a_snow_stormNovember 16, 1824 — New York City’s Fifth Avenue opens for business today. But the high status of Fifth Avenue wasn’t confirmed until 1862, when Caroline Schermerhorn Astor settled on the southwest corner of 34th Street.

    Historians say that the beginning of the end of its reign as a residential street was symbolized by the erection, in 1893, of the Astoria Hotel on the site of her house. It is later linked to its neighbor as the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel (now the site of the Empire State Building).

    Fifth Avenue is also the central scene in Edith Wharton’s 1920 Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Age of Innocence, which describes New York’s social elite in the 1870s and provides historical context to Fifth Avenue and New York’s aristocratic families.

    Originally a narrower thoroughfare, much of Fifth Avenue south of Central Park was widened in 1908, sacrificing its wide sidewalks to accommodate the increasing traffic. The midtown blocks were mostly residential until the first commercial building on the street venue was erected by Benjamin Altman who bought the corner lot on the northeast corner of 34th Street in 1896. He demolished the “Marble Palace” of his arch-rival, A. T. Stewart. In 1906 his department store, B. Altman and Company, occupied the whole of its block front.

    Lord & Taylor’s flagship store is still located on Fifth Avenue near the Empire State Building and the New York Public Library.

    Sources: wikipedia/FifthAvenue, wikipedia/CarolineWebsterSchermerhornAstor, wikipedia/AlexanderTurneyStewart,

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  • November 17

    What role did George Randolph play in the Civil War — and how was he related to Thomas Jefferson and Pocahontas?

    CSA-T56-$100-1863_(inverted_back)November 17, 1862 — Confederate States Secretary of War George B. Randolph resigned today. Appointed by Jefferson Davis as Secretary of War on March 18, Randolph helped reform the department, improving procurement and writing a conscription law similar to one he had created for Virginia.

    He was most well known for his strengthening the Confederacy’s western and southern defenses, but came into conflict with Jefferson Davis over this. He resigned due to weakening health from tuberculosis. Randolph was portrayed on the $100 bill printed by the Confederate States of America.

    Other claims to fame: Born in 1818 at Monticello near Charlottesville, he was President Thomas Jefferson’s youngest grandson by his daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph. His father was Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr., a descendant of the son of Pocahontas and John Rolfe, Thomas Rolfe. Their youngest son, he was named in honor of George Wythe, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and law professor of his grandfather Thomas Jefferson.

    Randolph was also related to the seventh governor of Virginia, Edmund Randolph, who served in George Washington’s cabinet as the first Attorney General of the United States, as well as colonist William Randolph through both his mother and father’s sides of the family.

    Randolph went on to found the Richmond Mechanics’ Institute, and was an officer in the Virginia Historical Society. His wife, Mary Randolph, was active in the Richmond Ladies Association, which organized welfare and relief for the war effort.

    Sources: vahistorical.org, wikipedia/GeorgeRandolph, "Genealogy of the Page Family in Virginia" by Richard Channing Moore Page, "George Wythe Randolph (1818–1867)," by David E. Goldberg, "The Randolphs of Virginia: America's Foremost Family," by Jonathan Daniels,

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  • November 18

    Where was the first woman’s club in America established today?

    e5012November 18, 1805 — Today, 30 women met at the home of Mrs. Silas Lee’s in Wiscasset, Maine, and organized the first woman’s club in America, the Female Charitable Society.

    The women were said to be of modest amount of wealth, and together pledged a combined $76 (about $1200 today) for the purpose of helping other women in the community. Their first deed was loaning a dress to a woman who had nothing to wear to church.

    Operating without publicity or fanfare, the women invested a portion of the money, and soon had a base of funds from which to support widows and female orphans and those not living or dependent on a man.

    The group has helped countless women and children in the 200+ years since its founding. “We’re not a secret group, but we’re low key,” explains historian Marie Reinhardt, a current member of the group that is now named The Wiscasset Female Charitable Society. “We don’t like to say who we helped and what we did.”

    Until 1973, the Treasurer could not be a married woman. According to Society Presidentess Gail Swanton, that was to prevent a man from inheriting the Society’s valuables.

    Sources: americanmothersblog.com, lincolncountynewsonline.com,

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  • November 19

    Who succeeded William Wordsworth as the Poet Laureate?

    alfred_tennyson_youngNovember 19, 1850 — Victorian poet Alfred Tennyson became the British Poet Laureate today, succeeding William Wordsworth. Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Leigh Hunt had also been considered.

    He held the position until his own death in 1892, the longest tenure of any laureate before or since.

    Born on August 6, 1809, he was the fourth of 12 children, and at the age of 12 he wrote a 6,000-line epic poem. His father, the Reverend George Tennyson, tutored his sons in classical and modern languages, but also suffered frequent mental breakdowns that were exacerbated by alcoholism. One of Tennyson’s brothers had violent quarrels with his father, a second was later confined to an insane asylum, and another became an opium addict. Tennyson left home in 1827 to attend Trinity College, and the same year, he and his brother Charles published Poems by Two Brothers.

    Tennyson is known to have excelled at penning short lyrics, such as “Break, Break, Break,” “Tears, Idle Tears,” and “Crossing the Bar.” Much of his verse was based on classical mythological themes, such as Ulysses. One of his best-known works, “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” is a dramatic tribute to the British cavalrymen involved in an ill-advised charge on October 25, 1854, during the Crimean War. Other esteemed works include “Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington,” and “Ode Sung at the Opening of the International Exhibition.”

    Virginia Woolf wrote a satirical farce called Freshwater, showing several artists from the late Victorian era including Tennyson, Woolf’s great-aunt, the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, painter George Frederic Watts and his young bride, the actress Ellen Terry.

    Sourceswikipedianpr.orgpoets.org

     

    Sources: poets.org, NPR, wikipedia/AlfredLordTennyson,

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  • November 20

    Which state is the first to ratify the Bill of Rights today in 1789?

    MADISON2November 20, 1789 — New Jersey is 1st state to ratify Bill of Rights, which was drafted by James Madison and loosely based on George Mason’s Virginia’s Declaration of Rights.

    Historians agree that today marked the first step toward making into law the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, and completing the revolutionary reforms that were begun with the Declaration of Independence.

    In fact, New Jersey legislators only ratified 11 of the 12 amendments, rejecting Article II, which would have regulated congressional pay raises. (It was adopted, about two centuries later, as the 27th Amendment to the Constitution.)

    Official ratification required approval by three-fourths of the states. The first Congress, meeting in New York City’s Federal Hall, had approved the Bill of Rights as a joint resolution on Sept. 25, 1789. Its provisions came into effect on Dec. 25, 1791, when Virginia acted.

    Thomas Jefferson, then U.S. secretary of state, announced the adoption of the 10 successfully ratified amendments on March 1, 1792.

    Sources: thefederalistpapers.org, politico.com, history.com, wikipedia/VirginiaDeclarationofRights,

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  • November 21

    Which future president is admitted to the bar today?

    844px-Andrew_jackson_headNovember 21, 1787 — Today, Andrew Jackson is admitted to bar. Noted by historians to be one of the most critical and controversial figures in American history, he was a dominant player in the pivotal years between Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.

    The seventh President of the United States (1829–1837) was born near the end of the colonial era near the then-unmarked border between North and South Carolina.

    His parents were a Scots-Irish farming family of relatively modest means. During the American Revolutionary War, Jackson acted as a courier. He was captured, at age 13, and mistreated by his British captors.

    He went on to become a lawyer and was then elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and the U.S. Senate. Nominated for president in 1824, Jackson narrowly lost to John Quincy Adams. Jackson’s supporters then founded what became the Democratic Party.

    Nominated again in 1828, Jackson crusaded against Adams and the “corrupt bargain” between Adams and Henry Clay he said cost him the 1824 election. Building on his base in the West and new support from Virginia and New York, he won by a landslide.

    Here are 5 other fascinating facts about Andrew Jackson: 

    In 1801, Jackson was appointed colonel in the Tennessee militia, which became his political and military base.

    He owned hundreds of slaves who worked on the Hermitage plantation, which he acquired in 1804.

    He killed a man in a duel in 1806, over a matter of honor regarding his wife Rachel.

    Jackson gained national fame through his role in the War of 1812, most famously where he won a decisive victory over the main British invasion army at the Battle of New Orleans.

    Jackson’s army was then sent to Florida where he deposed the small Spanish garrison. This led directly to the treaty which formally transferred Florida from Spain to the United States.

    Sources: thepapersofandrewjackson.utk.edu, whitehouse.gov, history.com, wikipedia/AndrewJackson,

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  • November 22

    Which active stratovolcano erupted today in 1842?

    028043November 22, 1842 — Mount St Helens in Washington state erupted today. The active stratovolcano located in Skamania County, Washington, in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, is 96 miles south of Seattle, Washington, and 50 miles northeast of Portland, Oregon.

    It takes its English name from the British diplomat Lord St Helens, a friend of explorer George Vancouver who made a survey of the area in the late 18th century.

    As part of the Cascade Volcanic Arc, a segment of the Pacific Ring of Fire that includes over 160 active volcanoes, this volcano is well known for its ash explosions and pyroclastic flows.

    And so it flowed today in 1842. It is part of a  57-year eruptive period that scientists believe began in 1800. Called the Goat Rocks period, this is the first time that both oral and written records exist.

    While Mount St. Helens is most notorious for its catastrophic eruption on May 18, 1980 — when 52 people were killed, and 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railways, and 185 miles of highway were destroyed — there were at least a dozen reported small eruptions of ash from 1831 to 1857.

    In fact, Goat Rocks dome was the site of the bulge in the 1980 eruption, which also destroyed the entire north face and top 1,300 feet of the mountain.

    Sources: volcanoes.usgs.gov, 123helpme.com, wikipedia/MountStHelens,

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  • November 23

    When was Annapolis the capital of the US?

    d013233aNovember 23, 1783 — Annapolis, Maryland became the US capital of the newly forming American nation when the Continental Congress met from in November 1783 (from the 26th to June 3, 1784).

    In fact, this city is where the Treaty of Paris was ratified by Congress — on January 14, 1784 — which ended the Revolutionary War.

    Other claims to fame for Annapolis: In 1786, delegates from all states of the Union were invited to meet in Annapolis to consider measures for the better regulation of commerce. Delegates from only five states (New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey, and Delaware) attended the convention, known afterward as the “Annapolis Convention.”

    Without proceeding to the business for which they had met, the delegates passed a resolution calling for another convention to meet at Philadelphia in the following year to amend the Articles of Confederation. The Philadelphia convention drafted and approved the Constitution of the United States, which is still in force.

    Sources: annapolis.gov, visitannapolis.org, wikipedia/AnnapolisMaryland,

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  • November 24

    Which groundbreaking work did Charles Darwin publish today in 1859?

    41mXEbkajLL._SX302_BO1,204,203,200_November 24, 1859 — Today, Charles Darwin published, “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.”

    Considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology, the book introduced the scientific theory that populations evolve over the course of generations through a process of natural selection. It presented a body of evidence that the diversity of life arose by common descent through a branching pattern of evolution. Darwin included evidence that he had gathered on the Beagle expedition in the 1830s and his subsequent findings from research, correspondence, and experimentation.

    Written for non-specialist readers, it attracted widespread interest upon its publication. The debate over the book contributed to the campaign by T. H. Huxley and his fellow members of the X Club to secularise science by promoting scientific naturalism.

    Within two decades there was widespread scientific agreement that evolution, with a branching pattern of common descent, had occurred, but scientists were slow to give natural selection the significance that Darwin thought appropriate. During “the eclipse of Darwinism” from the 1880s to the 1930s, various other mechanisms of evolution were given more credit.

    With the development of the modern evolutionary synthesis in the 1930s and 1940s, Darwin’s concept of evolutionary adaptation through natural selection became central to modern evolutionary theory, and it has now become the unifying concept of the life sciences.

    Sources: genome.gov, "On the Origin of the Species", wikipedia,

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  • November 25

    What is “Evacuation Day?”

    Evacuation_Day_and_Washington's_Triumphal_EntryNovember 25, 1783 — Today marks the day that British troops departed from New York Town on Manhattan Island at the end of the American Revolutionary War.

    Gen. George Washington triumphantly led the Continental Army from his former headquarters, north of the City, across the Harlem River south down Manhattan through The Battery at the foot of Broadway.

    The last shot of the war was reportedly fired on this day — by a British gunner at jeering crowds gathered on Staten Island as his ship passed through New York Harbor. The shot fell well short of its target.

    Sources: mountvernon.org, nytimes.com, wikipedia/EvacuationDay, "A Toast To Freedom: New York Celebrates Evacuation Day," Fraunces Tavern Museum,

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  • November 26

    When did Americans officially begin celebrating Thanksgiving?

    The_First_Thanksgiving_cph.3g04961November 26, 1789 — Although Americans commonly trace the Thanksgiving holiday to a 1621 celebration at the Plymouth Plantation — as depicted in this 1899 oil on canvas by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (at right) — the first official celebration of Thanksgiving is held in the United States in 1789.

    Following a resolution of Congress, President George Washington proclaimed it a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer” devoted to “the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”

    Subsequent presidents issued Thanksgiving Proclamations, but the dates and even months of the celebrations varied. It wasn’t until President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Proclamation that Thanksgiving was regularly commemorated each year on the last Thursday of November.

    In 1939, however, the last Thursday in November fell on the last day of the month. Concerned that the shortened Christmas shopping season might dampen the economic recovery, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a Presidential Proclamation moving Thanksgiving to the second to last Thursday of November.

    Soon after, 32 states issued similar amendments — but 16 states refused to accept the change and proclaimed Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday in November. For two years, Thanksgiving was celebrated on two different days: The president and part of the nation celebrated it on the second to last Thursday in November, while the rest of the country celebrated it the following week.

    To end the confusion, Congress set a fixed date for the holiday on Oct. 6, 1941, when the House passed a joint resolution declaring the last Thursday in November to be the legal Thanksgiving Day. The Senate changed the resolution, establishing it on the fourth Thursday to account for years when November has five Thursdays. The House agreed to the amendment.

    President Roosevelt signed the resolution on Dec. 26, 1941, thus establishing the fourth Thursday in November as the federal Thanksgiving Day holiday.

    Sources: founders.archives.gov, archives.gov, wikipedia/Thanksgiving,

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  • November 27

    What was the impetus for the Seminole Wars?

    600px-Seminole_War_in_EvergladesNovember 27, 1817 — US soldiers attack the Florida Indian village, beginning the Seminole Wars.

    Also known as the Florida Wars, there were three conflicts in Florida between the US Army and the Seminoles — which was the collective name given to the amalgamation of various groups of native Americans and a smattering of others primarily African Americans who settled in Florida in the early 18th century.

    Historians explain that the first of three Seminole Wars arose out of tensions relating to General Andrew Jackson’s excursions into northern Spanish Florida against the Seminoles beginning in 1816. The governments of Britain and Spain both expressed outrage over the “invasion” but ultimately, the Spanish Crown agreed to cede Florida to the United States in the Adams–Onís Treaty of 1819.

    They were the largest conflicts in the United States between the War of 1812 and the American Civil War. Taken together, the Seminole Wars were the longest and most expensive (both in human and monetary terms) Indian Wars in United States history and one of the most expensive of all wars ever fought by the U.S. as a percentage of gross national product.

    By 1858, most of the remaining Seminoles were weary of war and with their villages and farms mostly destroyed, agreed to be shipped to Oklahoma in exchange for promises of safe passage and cash payments to their chiefs. An estimated 100 Seminoles still refused to leave and moved deep into the Florida Everglades to live on land that was unwanted by white settlers.

    Sources: fcit.usf.edu/FloridaLessons, freshmanmonroe.blogs.wm.edu, wikipedia/SeminoleWars,

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  • November 28

    What is the Treaty of Hopewell?

    350px-Andrew_PickensNovember 28, 1785 — The first Treaty of Hopewell was signed today between U.S. representatives Benjamin Hawkins, Andrew Pickens (pictured right), and Joseph Martin and members of the Cherokee People.

    Signed at Hopewell Plantation, the treaty laid out a western boundary for American settlement. The treaty gave rise to the sardonic Cherokee phrase of Talking Leaves, since they claimed that when the treaties no longer suited the Americans, they would blow away like talking leaves.

    Included in the signatures of the Cherokee delegation were several from leaders of the Chickamauga/Lower Cherokee, including two from the town of Chickamauga itself and one from Lookout Mountain Town.

    The Cherokee complained at the treaty that some 3,000 white settlers of the de facto State of Franklin were already squatting on the Cherokee side of the agreed line, between the Holston and French Broad Rivers, and they continued to dispute that region until a new border was defined by the 1791 Treaty of Holston.

    Sources: choctawnation.com, wardepartmentpapers.org, wikipedia/TreatyofHopewell,

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  • November 29

    Who invented invisible ink?

    ink2November 29, 1775 — During the Revolutionary War, both the British and the Americans used invisible ink.

    Chief British intelligence officer, Major John Andre, had agents put a letter in the corner of their correspondence to inform the recipient as to how the hidden secret message could be developed; for example, an “F” was placed in the corner of letters that could be revealed by fire, an “A” for those that needed the application of an acid.

    But George Washington wanted something more, an ink that could only be revealed by a unique, specially formulated reagent.

    Sir James Jay answered the general’s call today. Jay, brother of American patriot John Jay and a physician that dabbled in chemistry, created a “sympathetic stain,” which he supplied to Washington. Washington would then pass it on to the Continental Army’s spymaster, Major Benjamin Tallmadge who in turn provided it to the members of the famous Culper Spy Ring: Abraham Woodhull and Robert Townsend.

    The true contents of letters were hidden through the use of mask letters. These documents were intended to be viewed by a recipient who would place a shaped template over the full letter. The true message of the letter would then appear within the boundaries of the “mask.” The letter and the “mask” were usually delivered by separate couriers to ensure that the trick would go undetected.

    Sources: artofmanliness.com, mountvernon.org/SpyTechniques, wikipedia/JamesJay,

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  • November 30

    What did the Treaty of Paris accomplish?

    peaceNovember 30, 1782 — The Treaty of Paris was signed today, officially ending the Revolutionary War between Great Britain and the United States.

    It recognized American independence and established borders for the new nation.

    After the British defeat at Yorktown, peace talks in Paris began in April 1782 between Richard Oswarld representing Great Britain and the American Peace Commissioners Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and John Adams.

    The American negotiators were joined by Henry Laurens two days before the preliminary articles of peace were signed. However, it was not formally signed until September 3, 1783.

    The Continental Congress, which was temporarily situated in Annapolis, Maryland, at the time, officially ratified the Treaty on January 14, 1784.

    Sources: shipofstate.com, loc.gov, wikipedia/TreatyofParis,

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