How many were killed in the Great Hurricane of 1780?

great_storm_1703October 10, 1780 — Great Hurricane of 1780 (also known as Hurricane San Calixto II), killed 20,000 to 30,000 in Caribbean today. Hitting Barbados first, it remains the Atlantic’s deadliest recorded hurricane in history.

According to HurricaneScience.org, forecasters and historians believe that the Great Hurricane of 1780 initially formed near the Cape Verde Islands on October 9, 1780. It strengthened and grew in size as it tracked slowly westward, first affecting Barbados, the western most Caribbean island, late on 9 October.

The worst of the hurricane saw winds exceeding 321.9 km/h (200 mph) when it passed over Barbardos late on October 10 before moving past Martinique and St. Lucia early on October 11. Three days later, it passed near Puerto Rico and over the Dominican Republic (then Santo Domingo), causing heavy damage near the coastlines. On October 18, the system turned to the northeast, passing 258 km (160 mi) southeast of Bermuda before being last observed on October 20 southeast of Newfoundland, Canada.

Thousands of deaths were reported on each Caribbean island: 4,500 deaths occurred on Barbados (nearly every building on the island was leveled), 6,000 lives were lost on St. Lucia (the island was essentially flattened), and approximately 9,000 died on Martinique. Over 27,500 total fatalities were estimated across the Lesser Antilles Islands as a result of this storm.

What is the Granite Railway?

fig27October 7, 1826 — The first chartered railway in US began operations today. Called the Granite Railway, it was built to carry granite from Quincy, Massachusetts, to a dock on the Neponset River in Milton. From there boats carried the heavy stone to Charlestown for construction of the Bunker Hill Monument.

The railway ran three miles (4.8 km) from quarries to the Neponset River. Its wagons had wheels 6 ft (1.83 m) in diameter and were pulled by horses, although steam locomotives had been in operation in England for two decades. The wooden rails were plated with iron and were laid 5 ft (1,524 mm) apart, on stone crossties spaced at 8-foot intervals. By 1837 these wooden rails had been replaced by granite rails, once again capped with iron. Was it really the first railway?

Historians say yes, for it was the first railway to evolve into a common carrier without an intervening closure. And credit for selecting the site goes to Solomon Willard (June 26, 1783 – February 27, 1861), a carver and builder in Massachusetts who is remembered primarily for designing and overseeing the Bunker Hill Monument, the first monumental obelisk erected in the United States. After an exhaustive search throughout New England, he selected the Quincy site as the source of stone for the Bunker Hill Monument. After many delays and much obstruction, the railway itself was granted a charter on March 4, 1826, with right of eminent domain to establish its right-of-way.

Businessman and state legislator Thomas Handasyd Perkins organized the financing of the new Granite Railway Company, owning a majority of its shares, and he was designated its president. The railroad was designed and built by railway pioneer Gridley Bryant and began operations on October 7, 1826. Bryant used developments that had already been in use on the railroads in England, but he modified his design to allow for heavier, more concentrated loads and a three-foot frost line.

The last active quarry closed in 1963; in 1985, the Metropolitan District Commission purchased 22 acres (8.9 ha), including Granite Railway Quarry, as the Quincy Quarries Reservation.

Who patented the self-winding clock today?

Benjamin_HanksOctober 6, 1783 — Benjamin Hanks patented the self-winding clock today when he obtained a 14-year intellectual rights patent for the apparatus that could wind itself and operate by the use of air. Plus, it would automatically continue to wind itself up and operate until the mechanical parts wore out due to friction.

A goldsmith, instrument maker, clockmaker, bellfounder, and foundry owner, Hanks is also generally credited for being the first person to make bronze cannons and church bells in the United States. His first large church tower bell was mounted in 1780 at The Old Dutch Church in New York.

In 1797, he crafted the first two bronze cannons made in the United States; they were carried by the First Company of Connecticut Artillery.

Why did Alaska stop using the Julian calendar today?

AlaskaMap1867October 5, 1867 — Today marks the last day of Julian calendar in Alaska.

Introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BC (708 AUC), the Julian calendar was a reform of the Roman calendar. It took effect in 45 BC (709 AUC), shortly after the Roman conquest of Egypt. It was the predominant calendar in the Roman world, most of Europe, and in European settlements in the Americas and elsewhere, until it was refined and gradually replaced by the Gregorian calendar, promulgated in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII.

The Julian calendar gains against the mean tropical year at the rate of one day in 128 years. For the Gregorian the figure is one day in 3,226 years. The difference in the average length of the year between Julian (365.25 days) and Gregorian (365.2425 days) is 0.002%.

So why did Alaska stop using it? It turns out that the legal code of the United States does not specify an official national calendar. Use of the Gregorian calendar in the United States stems from an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom in 1751, which specified use of the Gregorian calendar in England and its colonies. But today, when Alaska became part of the US, it adopted the national calendar.

Which country became a Republic today in 1824?

440px-Constitucion_1824October 4, 1824 — The Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1824 was enacted today after the overthrow of the Mexican Empire of Agustin de Iturbide.

In the new constitution, Mexico took the name of United Mexican States, and was defined as a representative federal republic, with Catholicism as the official and unique religion. It was replaced by the Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1857.

A little background: The Mexican War of Independence (1810–1821) severed control that Spain had exercised on its North American territories, and the new country of Mexico was formed from much of the individual territory that had comprised New Spain.

The victorious rebels issued a provisional constitution, the Plan de Iguala. This plan reaffirmed many of the ideals of the Spanish Constitution of 1812 and granted equal citizenship rights to all races. In the early days of the country, there was much disagreement over whether Mexico should be a federal republic or a constitutional monarchy.

Which beloved American author is found delirious in a gutter today?

440px-Edgar_Allan_Poe_by_Pratt,_1849October 3, 1849 — American author Edgar Allan Poe is found delirious in a gutter near the Baltimore tavern, Ryan’s 4th Ward Polls, under mysterious circumstances. It is the last time he is seen in public. He died four days later. 

According to the Poe Society, we know that Poe left Richmond, Va., on Sept. 27, for Philadelphia. Six days later, he was found by Joseph. W. Walker, who wrote to Dr. Joseph E. Snodgrass, an acquaintance of Poe’s, describing Poe as “rather the worse for wear.”

Though typically well-dressed, Poe was reportedly wearing cheap, tattered clothing. Dr. Snodgrass and Poe’s uncle, Henry Herring, knew something was odd and took him to Washington College Hospital.

For the next several days, Poe drifted in and out of consciousness, but never explained what had happened to him. On the evening of Oct. 6, he began calling out the name “Reynolds,” but those present were unsure who it was.

In the early morning hours of Oct. 7, Poe said “Lord help my poor soul” and died soon after. No autopsy was performed. His cause of death was determined to be “congestion of the brain” by Baltimore Commissioner of Health, Dr. J.F.C. Handel. So, how did Poe actually die? Click here to read more.

What is a pasilalinic-sympathetic compass — and why did it make history today?

Jean-August-Dominique Ingres - Portrait of Andre Benoit Barreau, called Taurel 1819October 2, 1851 — The pasilalinic-sympathetic compass is demonstrated today, but proves to be a fake. Also referred to as the snail telegraph, this contraption was an attempt to prove the hypothesis that snails create a permanent telepathic link when they touch.

French occultist Jacques Toussaint Benoit (pictured above) and his colleague Monsieur Biat-Chretien developed the theory in the early to mid 19th century. They believed that the telepathic bond between two snails had no physical limit, thus making communication possible over any distance. By touching one half of the snail partnership it was suggested that the other snail would sense the contact and would move.

Benoit built an apparatus to test his theories, but it quickly became apparent that what he expected to be a communication revolution was in fact just a costly failure.

Who established London’s Metropolitan Police today in 1829?

1181638.jpgSeptember 29, 1829 — British Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel established the London’s Metropolitan Police today, hence the nicknames “bobbies” and “peelers.”

The police force replaced the old system of watchmen and eventually supplanted the River (Thames) Police and the Bow Street patrols, the latter a small body of police in London who had been organized in the mid-18th century by the novelist and magistrate Henry Fielding and his half brother, Sir John Fielding. The original headquarters of the new London police force were in Whitehall, with an entrance in Great Scotland Yard, from which the name originates. (Scotland Yard was so named because it stood on the site of a medieval palace that had housed Scottish royalty when the latter were in London on visits.)

Peel (born on 5 February 1788 in Bury, Lancashire) was twice British prime minister and his period in government saw landmark social reforms and the repeal of the Corn Laws. His father was a wealthy cotton mill owner, and Peel was educated at Oxford, entering parliament as a Tory in 1809. His early political career included appointments as under-secretary for war and colonies (1809) and chief secretary for Ireland (1812). In 1822, he become home secretary, and introduced far-ranging criminal law and prison reform.

Who deciphered the Rosetta stone today in 1822?

Rosetta_StoneSeptember 27, 1822 — Jean-François Champollion (23 December 1790 – 4 March 1832) announced today that he has deciphered the Rosetta stone, a decree issued at Memphis, Egypt, in 196 BC on behalf of King Ptolemy V.

The decree appears in three scripts: the upper text is Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the middle portion Demotic script, and the lowest Ancient Greek. Because it presents essentially the same text in all three scripts (with some minor differences among them), it provided the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs.

The French scholar, philologist and orientalist, Champollion was a child prodigy in philology who gave his first public paper on the decipherment of demotic in 1806. As a young man, he held many posts of honor in scientific circles, and spoke Coptic and Arabic fluently.

During the early 19th century French culture experienced a period of ‘Egyptomania’, brought on by Napoleon’s discoveries in Egypt during his campaign there (1797–1801) which also brought to light the trilingual Rosetta Stone.

Scholars debated the age of the Egyptian civilization and the function and nature of the hieroglyphic script. Many thought the script was only used for sacred and ritual functions, and that as such it was unlikely to be decipherable since it was tied to esoteric and philosophical ideas, and did not record historical information.

The significance of Champollion’s decipherment was that he showed these assumptions to be wrong, and made it possible to begin to retrieve the many kinds of information recorded by the ancient Egyptians.

Who won the second British Golf Open in 1861?

Old_and_Young_Tom_MorrisSeptember 26, 1861 — The second British Golf Open is held today, and golfer Thomas Mitchell Morris, Sr. (16 June 1821 – 24 May 1908) shoots a 163 at the Prestwick Club.

Otherwise known as Old Tom Morris, the Scottish golfer was born in St Andrews, Fife — aka: the “home of golf.”  Morris also played a role in designing courses across the British Isles. He began by assisting Robertson lay out ten holes at Carnoustie in 1842.

Morris is also considered the father of modern green keeping, and introduced the concept of top-dressing greens with sand, which significantly helped turf growth. He introduced other novel ideas on turf and course management, including actively managing hazards and yardage markers. He was the first to use a push mower to cut greens.

He’s pictured above with his son, Tom Morris, Jr. (died 1875), who is best known as “Young Tom Morris.”

What did French Physicist Francois Arago discover today in 1820?

Page500_218_7September 25, 1820 — French Physicist Francois Arago (Feb. 26, 1786, Estagel, Roussillon, France—died Oct. 2, 1853, Paris) discovered the principle of the production of magnetism by rotation of a nonmagnetic conductor. He also devised an experiment that proved the wave theory of lightand engaged with others in research that led to the discovery of the laws of light polarization.

Educated in Perpignan and at the École Polytechnique in Paris, at 23, he succeeded Gaspard Monge in the chair of analytic geometry. Subsequently he was director of the Paris Observatory and permanent secretary of the Academy of Sciences. And, he was active as a republican in French politics. As minister of war and marine in the provisional government formed after the Revolution of 1848, he introduced many reforms.

In 1820, Arago elaborated on the work of H.C. Ørsted of Denmark, showing that the passage of an electric current through a cylindrical spiral of copper wire caused it to attract iron filings as if it were a magnet and that the filings fell off when the current ceased. In 1824 he demonstrated that a rotating copper disk produced rotation in a magnetic needle suspended above it. Michael Faradaylater proved these to be induction phenomena.

What did 87 members of the American scientific community establish today?

500px-Alexander_Dalls_Bache_pers0117September 20, 1848 — The American Association for the Advancement of Science was created at noon today in 1848.

Eighty-seven of the most distinguished members of the former Association of American Geologists and Naturalists convened, and elected as their president William Redfield of New York, a meteorologist, geologist, and promoter of railway and steamship development.

Following the organizational meeting, members adjourned to the Hall of the University of Pennsylvania where they reconvened at 4 p.m. to begin five days of scientific sessions.

In its early years, AAAS sought to establish a cohesive organization that would “aid in bringing together and combining the labours of individuals who are widely scattered, into an institution that will represent the whole.”

This quest began under the forceful leadership of Alexander Dallas Bache (July 19, 1806 – February 17, 1867), great-grandson of Benjamin Franklin. He was an American physicist, scientist and surveyor who erected coastal fortifications and conducted a detailed survey mapping of the United States coastline.

Founding members included Louis AgassizJoseph HenryBenjamin Peirce, Henry Darwin Rogers and his brother William Barton RogersJames Dwight DanaOliver Wolcott GibbsBenjamin A. Gould, William Redfield, and Benjamin Silliman, Jr.

The AAAS’ first president was William C. Redfield (1789 – 1857), a saddle and harness maker by trade, as well as a meteorologist, geologist, and promoter of railway and steamship development.

Who wrote the first love letter — Robert Browning or Elizabeth Barrett?

440px-Elizabeth_Barrett_BrowningSeptember 18, 1846 — Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning exchange last letters today before eloping.

Browning, a respected working poet for many years before her courtship and marriage to Browning, their secret romance and controversial elopement and fairytale ending of a happy marriage is legendary.

Robert Browning (7 May 1812 – 12 December 1889) was an English poet and playwright whose mastery of dramatic verse, and in particular the dramatic monologue, made him one of the foremost Victorian poets. His poems are known for their irony, characterization, dark humor, social commentary, historical settings, and challenging vocabulary and syntax. The speakers in his poems are often musicians or painters whose work functions as a metaphor for poetry.

Their love affair began when in 1845 when Robert wrote to Elizabeth in praise of her poetry. His admiration for Barrett as a poet was not unusual, for Browning (6 March 1806 – 29 June 1861) was one of the most prominent English poets of the Victorian era. Her poetry was widely popular in both Britain and the United States during her lifetime.[but after 20 months of correspondence and meetings, they eloped and moved to Italy.

During the time of their courtship, Barrett began a sonnet sequence. It began immediately after their first meeting and chronicled her reactions. She did not reveal the poems to Robert until thee years after the marriage, and the birth of their son.

What adventure did Charles Darwin embark on today in 1835?

PSM_V57_D097_Hms_beagle_in_the_straits_of_magellanSeptember 15, 1835 — Charles Darwin and the H.M.S. Beagl reached the Galapagos Islands today. His five-year voyage is legendary, as insights gained on his trip to exotic places greatly influenced his masterwork, Origin of Species.

Of course, Darwin didn’t actually formulate his theory of evolution while sailing around the world aboard the Royal Navy ship. But the exotic plants and animals he encountered challenged his thinking and led him to consider scientific evidence in new ways.

H.M.S. Beagle actually sailed on a lengthy scientific mission several years before Darwin came into the picture. A warship carrying 10 cannons, it sailed in 1826 to explore the coastline of South America. The ship had an unfortunate episode when its captain sank into a depression, perhaps caused by the isolation of the voyage, and committed suicide.

Can you name the poem that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star-Spangled Banner?

Star Spangled BannerSeptember 14, 1814 — Francis Scott Key was today inspired to write the poem, “Defence of Fort M’Henry.” Those words  later become lyrics of “Star-Spangled Banner.”

While at Fort McHenry, the entrance of the harbor of Baltimore, Key witnessed the bombardment from the British vessel in which he was detained as a prisoner. When it was unsuccessfully bombarded by the British today, the American lawyer, author, and amateur poet from Georgetown was inspired.

Sailing back to Baltimore he composed more lines, and in his lodgings at the Indian Queen Hotel he finished the poem. His brother-in-law, Judge J. H. Nicholson, took it to a printer and copies were circulated around Baltimore. (Two of these copies survive.)

It was then printed in the Baltimore Patriot on September 20, and word soon spread to across the colonies. In October of 1814,  a Baltimore actor sang Key’s new song in a public performance and called it “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It was adopted as our national anthem on March 3, 1931.

Who suffered the first boxing fatality in the US?

Picture-of-Bare-Knuckled-BoxerSeptember 13, 1842 — Today, in Hastings, New York, a prize fight between Christopher Lilly and Thomas McCoy lasted 2.41 hours. In the 77th round, McCoy collapsed and died in front of 2,000 fans.

According to news sources, the coroner’s investigation of McCoy’s remains showed that fluid from wounds that he had received during the fight had drained into McCoy’s lungs and that he had drown. It was the first fatality n an fight that took place in the US.

According to historians, bare-knuckled fights were of importance to the British, the results were not quite as important in America who took no notice to these boxing bouts.

Boxing in the USA, during the 19th century, could be placed in two categories: prize fighting, or boxers fought for money in bare knuckled contested bouts. Both categories of boxing was to the attraction of professional gamblers and consolidated organised criminality that found their way into the boxing circles, that caused the sport to fall foul of local authorities laws.

What didn’t George Mason sign the Bill of Rights?

CopyWorkSeptember 12, 1787 — In early 1776, before the Declaration of Independence was written, American statesman George Mason drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights and framed Virginia’s constitution. He was rightfully proud of the Declaration, and pleased that it became a model for other states.

But when he suggested the addition of a Bill of Rights to the Constitution be modeled on previous state declarations, the motion is defeated. As a result, he didn’t sign the document.

Why? Historians explain that Mason did not believe the Constitution established a wise and just government, hotly fought against it during Virginia ratification. He was one of only three delegates present in the final days of the convention who didn’t sign. (The other two were Elbridge Gerry, who was known to be cantankerous by nature, and Edmond Randolph, who was afraid to be associated with something that might fail.)

Who received the first US patent for a sewing machine?

Elias_Howe_portraitSeptember 10, 1846 — American inventor Elias Howe, Jr. (July 9, 1819 – October 3, 1867) today received U.S. Patent 4,750 for a sewing machine using a lockstitch design.

Contrary to popular belief, Howe was not the first to conceive of the idea of a sewing machine. Others came up with the idea, one as early as 1790, and some had patented their designs and produced working machines — in one case at least 80 of them.

However, Howe originated significant refinements to the design concepts of his predecessors. His machine contained the three essential features common to most modern machines: a needle with the eye at the point, a shuttle operating beneath the cloth to form the lock stitch, and an automatic feed.

Sources: wikipediaLeading American Inventors“A Brief History of the Sewing Machine”

What is the significance of the Mission San Gabriel Archangel?

mission painting_1September 8, 1771 — Mission San Gabriel Archangel was formed today in San Gabriel, California. A fully functioning Roman Catholic mission, the settlement was founded by Spaniards of the Franciscan order on what is known as the Feast of the Birth of Mary.

This is the fourth of what will become 21 Spanish missions in California.

Named after the Archangel Gabriel — and often referred to as the “Godmother of the Pueblo of Los Angeles” — this mission was designed by Father Antonio Cruzado of Córdoba, Spain. He ensured the building would have a strong Moorish architectural influence. The capped buttresses and the tall, narrow windows are unique among the missions of the California chain.

Prior to the creation of missions, native-Americans developed a complex, self-sufficient culture. But the goal of the missions was to become self-sufficient, and farming was the most important industry. Leaders  believed the native Tongva people were inferior and in need of conversion to Christianity. The mission priests established what they thought of as a manual training school, with the goal of teaching Indians their style of agriculture, mechanical arts, and the raising and care of livestock. The missions produced everything they used and consumed.

Indeed, post-1811, the mission Indians were able to sustain the entire military and civil government of California.

Sources: wikipediamissionscaliforniamissiontour

What is the origin of the nickname, “Uncle Sam”?

UnclesamwantyouSeptember 7, 1813 — Today, the United States got its nickname, “Uncle Sam.” Credit goes to a meat-packer from Troy, New York, named Samuel Wilson, who supplied barrels of beef to the US Army during the War of 1812, stamping the barrels with “U.S.” for United States. But soldiers began referring to the grub as “Uncle Sam’s.”

The local newspaper picked up on the story, and “Uncle Sam” eventually gained widespread acceptance as the nickname for the federal government.

Political cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902) popularized the Uncle Sam image, eventually adding a white beard and stars-and-stripes suit. He’s also credited with creating the modern image of Santa Claus, and the donkey/elephant as the symbols for the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively.

Perhaps the most famous image of Uncle Sam was created by James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960). In Flagg’s version (shown here), Uncle Sam wears a tall top hat with a blue jacket and is pointing straight ahead. His “I Want YOU for the U.S. Army” was used as a recruiting poster in World War I.

In September 1961, the US Congress recognized Samuel Wilson as “the progenitor of America’s national symbol of Uncle Sam.” The artist died at age 88 in 1854 and was buried next to his wife, Betsey Mann, in the Oakwood Cemetery in Troy. The town now calls itself, “The Home of Uncle Sam.”

Which collegiate institute went co-ed today in 1837?

10BlackwellMediumSeptember 6, 1837 — Oberlin Collegiate Institute of Ohio went co-ed today in 1837 with 4 women and 30 men.

Oberlin College pioneered “the joint education of the sexes,” enrolling women students beside men from its opening in 1833. As Philo P. Stewart wrote, the Oberlin Collegiate Institute held as one of its primary objectives: “the elevation of the female character, bringing within the reach of the misjudge and neglected sex, all the instructive privileges which hitherto have unreasonably distinguished the leading sex from theirs.”

While the first women took classes with men, they pursued diplomas from the Ladies Course. In 1837, four women, Mary Kellogg, Mary Caroline Rudd, Mary Hosford and Elizabeth Prall, enrolled in the Collegiate Department, and in 1841, all but Kellogg graduated. Kellogg, who had left school for lack of funds, later returned to Oberlin after marrying James Harris Fairchild, future Oberlin College president.

Oberlin fused its commitment to coeducation with its support for the education of African Americans. So, in 1862, Oberlin graduated Mary Jane Patterson, the first African American woman to earn a college degree. Oberlin also enrolled Margru, also known as Sarah Kinson, who, as an African child, had been among the Amistad captives; Kinson was probably the first African woman to participate in American higher education.

Throughout its history, Oberlin has graduated remarkable women of passion, commitment, and achievement. Among the most famous nineteenth-century women included Antoinette Brown Blackwell (pictured above), Lucy Stone, Anna Julia Cooper, and Mary Church Terrell.

Which California city was founded today in 1781?

Los Angeles is foundedSeptember 4, 1781 — Los Angeles is founded by 44 Spanish speaking mestizos in the Bahia de las Fumas (Bay of Smokes). Felipe de Neve, Governor of Spanish California, names the settlement El Pueblo Sobre el Rio de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Río de Porciúncula. The name is shortened rather quickly.

The town grew as soldiers and other settlers came into town and stayed. In 1784 a chapel was built on the Plaza. The pobladores were given title to their land two years later. By 1800, there were 29 buildings that surrounded the Plaza, flat-roofed, one-story adobe buildings with thatched roofs made of tule.

By 1821 Los Angeles had grown into a self-sustaining farming community, the largest in Southern California.

Which opera by Rossini was produced today in 1829?

operaAugust 31, 1829 — Today, the Opera “Guillaume Tell” is produced in Paris. The four-act performance, by Gioachino Rossini, is based on Friedrich Schiller’s play William Tell.

Drawing on the William Tell legend, the opera was Rossini’s last, although he lived for nearly 40 more years. The overture, in four sections and featuring a depiction of a storm as well as a vivacious finale, the “March of the Swiss Soldiers,” is often played.

Charles Malherbe, archivist at the Paris Opéra, discovered the original orchestral score of the opera at a secondhand book seller’s shop, resulting in its being acquired by the Paris Conservatoire.

SourcesWikipediaThe Opera Quarterlyroh.org.uk

Who established the US Treasury Department today?

$10 billSeptember 2, 1789 — The First Congress of the United States was called to convene in New York on March 4, 1789, marking the beginning of government under the Constitution.  But it wasn’t until six months later on Sept. 2, 1789 that Congress created a permanent institution for the management of government finances.

Alexander Hamilton served as the first Secretary of the Treasury, from Sept. 11, 1789, to 1795. Considered one of the most brilliant statesmen of the early American republic, he was killed in a duel in 1804 by Vice President Aaron Burr. Hamilton had served as George Washington’s aide-de-camp during the Revolution and was of great importance in the ratification of the Constitution. Because of his financial and managerial acumen, Hamilton was a logical choice for solving the problem of the new nation’s heavy war debt.

Hamilton’s first official act was to submit a report to Congress in which he laid the foundation for the nation’s financial health. He insisted upon federal assumption and dollar-for-dollar repayment of the country’s war debt of $75 million in order to revitalize the public credit. He foresaw the development of industry and trade in the United States and suggested that government revenues be based upon customs duties. His sound financial policies also inspired investment in the Bank of the United States, which acted as the government’s fiscal agent.

Did Colonial Era Americans really imbibe from breakfast till bedtime?

20140405_Colonial_Drinks_1While we think of the Founding Fathers and Founding Mothers as prim and proper, the truth may be that our Colonial ancestors “swam in a sea of booze from breakfast till bedtime,” according to Serious Eats.

“Whether they were working, writing, selling goods, getting married, or even fighting, early Americans were often tipsy — their incessant drinking a cultural extension of Old World beliefs that fermented beverages were safer than water. The Colonial Era day didn’t begin until after a dram of bitters or stiffener of beer.”

In fact, by the time the Revolutionary War began, the adults of the 13 Colonies reportedly drank the equivalent of several shots every day.

What were they imbibing? Click here to find out.

Sources: Serious Eats

What was the precursor to the New York Stock Exchange?

1889, Manhattan, New York, New York, USA --- 1889-Trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Photograph, 1889. --- Image by ¬© Bettmann/CORBISMay 17, 1792 — Under a buttonwood tree near Wall Street, 24 stockbrokers gathered to sign an agreement that would serve as a precursor to the New York Stock Exchange Board, the predecessor of the New York Stock Exchange.

The brokers would perform their transactions in a second-floor room of the Tontine Coffee House. At the time, financial and political wrangling often took place in taverns and coffeehouses. At the Tontine, self-made men — both black and white — traded gossip and conducted business.

Ship captains came to share commercial news and to register cargo — including the human cargo of enslaved men, women, and children. The mercantile city was also crowded and unsanitary, and frequent outbreaks of infectious disease not only hastened the growth of the city northward, away from the crowded downtown, but also propelled strides forward in medical research and treatment.

Who founded the New York Yacht Club today in 1844?

The_Yacht_'America'_Winning_the_International_Race_Fitz_Hugh_Lane_1851July 30, 1844 — The New York Yacht Club was started today when John Cox Stevens (September 24, 1785 – June 13, 1857) invited eight friends to his yacht Gimcrack, anchored in New York Harbor. They resolved to form the NYYC and named Stevens commodore.

The theme of the club was, in those days, to race sailing yachts. Three days later, members departed on a yacht-club cruise to Newport.

The NYYC’s first clubhouse was built in 1845 on land donated by Commodore Stevens, at the family estate at Elysian Fields in Hoboken, NJ, which overlooked the Hudson River. The estate is now the site of the Stevens Institute of Technology, endowed by Edwin Stevens, John’s brother, and the fourth commodore of this club.

A Gothic revival clubhouse opened on July 15, 1846. This was followed the next day by the first club regatta, billed as a “trial of speed.” It became the “Annual Regatta.”

Only the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I and II and the assassination of New York Senator Robert Kennedy have caused it to be cancelled.

Can you name the five Intolerable Acts?

intolerablecartoonThe Intolerable Acts: The American Patriots’ name for a series of punitive laws passed by the British Parliament in 1774 after the Boston Tea party. They were meant to punish the Massachusetts colonists for their defiance in throwing a large tea shipment into Boston harbor.

They included: 

Boston Port Act: An act to discontinue, in such manner, and for or such time as are therein mentioned, the landing and discharging, lading or shipping, of goods, wares, and merchandise, at the town, and within the harbour, of Boston, in the province of Massachusetts Bay, in North America.

Massachusetts Government Act: An Act for the better regulating the government of the province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England.

Administration of Justice Act: An act for the impartial administration of justice in the case of persons questioned for any acts done by them in the execution of the law, or for the suppression of riots and tumults, in the province of the Massachusetts Bay, in New England.

Quartering Act: The fourth measure allowed the British to quarter British soldiers in colonial buildings at the expense of the colonists, including colonists’ homes, if there were insufficient space in other buildings.

Quebec Act: This was an Act for making effectual Provision for the Government of the Province of Quebec in North America.

Source: ushistory.org/ushistorywiz.com • ImageWikipedia

What did math genius Carl Friedrich Gauss discover?

carl-friedrich-gauss-200July 10, 1796 — Carl Friedrich Gauss discovered today that every positive integer is representable as a sum of at most three triangular numbers.

According to Gauss: The triangular number Tn solves the “handshake problem” of counting the number of handshakes if each person in a room with n + 1 people shakes hands once with each person. In other words, the solution to the handshake problem of n people is Tn−1. The function T is the additive analog of the factorial function, which is the products of integers from 1 to n.

As one of the world’s most famous mathematicians, Gauss’s achievements include his contributions to number theory, proving the fundamental theorem of algebra, independently arriving at the least squares method (line of best fit), and introducing the bell curve (Gaussian distribution) in statistics.

Who paid off the Revolutionary War’s $2,024,899 US national debt?

JamesSwanJuly 9, 1795 — Today, financier James Swan paid off the $2,024,899 US national debt that had been accrued during the American Revolution.

During the war, a cash-strapped Continental Congress accepted loans from France. Paying off these and other debts proved to be one of the major challenges of the post-independence period. The new U.S. Government attempted to do so in a timely manner, and the debts were at times a source of diplomatic tension.

Swan came to the financial rescue. He privately assumed the entire debt owed to the French, then resold these debts at a profit on domestic US markets.

While the US no longer owed money to foreign governments, it continued to owe money to private investors both domestically and in Europe. But Swan’s payoff allowed the young country to place itself on a more sound financial footing.

Who was James Swan? Born in Fifeshire, Scotland, in 1754, Swan moved to Boston in 1765 and made a small fortune after apprenticing at a mercantile house. He then opened his own firm, Swan & Schweizer, in Philadelphia. A proponent of American independence, he participated in the Boston Tea Party, and was twice wounded at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Like many businessmen of the day, Swan’s fortunes rose high and fell quite low. As a consequence, he spent about 22 years in debtors prison in Paris, where reportedly he died in 1830.

Which three Revolutionary Era presidents died today?

john-adams-and-thomas-jefferson2July 4, 1826 — Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died today on the 50th anniversary of signing the Declaration of Independence. 

Their views on government diverged over the years when they ran against each other in the presidential elections of 1796 and 1800.

Adams won the election of 1796 on the platform of building a strong government; Jefferson won the election of 1800, favoring a more limited government.

The political powerhouses rekindled their friendship in the winter of 1812 and remained friends until their deaths.

Adams, 90, lay on his deathbed while the country celebrated Independence Day. His last words were, “Thomas Jefferson still survives.” Unbeknownst to him, Jefferson had died five hours earlier at Monticello at the age of 83.

Then, on July 4, 1831, James Monroe, the fifth president, died at his son-in-law’s home in New York City. Monroe, 73, had been ill for some time.

Click here to learn about some other famous people in history who also died on July 4.

What were the Intolerable Acts?

BritainHouseofLordsJuly 2, 1774 — Following the Boston Tea Party — when Massachusetts colonists tossed 342 chests of tea belonging to the British East India Company into Boston Harbor — today, Britain’s House of Lords issued a series of five laws that American Patriots called the Intolerable Acts.

These included the Boston Port Act, the Massachusetts Government Act, the Administration of Justice Act, the Quartering Act, and the Quebec Act. Click here for details.

The new laws were an amendment to the original Quartering Act, which allowed a governor in colonial America to house British soldiers in uninhabited houses, outhouses, barns, or other buildings if suitable quarters not provided.

Historians explain: “Parliament was utterly fed up with colonial antics. The British could tolerate strongly worded letters or trade boycotts. They could put up with defiant legislatures and harassed customs officials to an extent. They saw the Boston Tea Party as a wanton destruction of property by Boston thugs who did not even have the courage to admit responsibility. Someone was going to pay.”

Samuel Adams, in a letter to James Warren, wrote of the Acts: “This Town has received the Copy of an Act of the British Parliament, wherein it appears that we have been tried and condemned, and are to be punished, by the shutting up of the harbor and other marks of revenge, until we shall disgrace ourselves by servilely yielding up, in effect, the just and righteous claims of America….The people receive this cruel edict with abhorrence and indignation. They consider themselves as suffering the stroke ministerial…I hope they will sustain the blow with a becoming fortitude, and that the cursed design of intimidating and subduing the spirits of all America, will, by the joint efforts of all, be frustrated.”

Source: ushistory.org/ushistorywiz.com • Image: Wikipedia

Why burnt Ursuline Convent to the ground — and why ?

350px-Ruins_of_Ursuline_Convent_1834_RiotsAugust 11, 1834 — The Ursuline Convent in Charlestown, Mass. lay in ruins today. Late last night, a mob of angry Protestants sacked it and burned it to the ground. The rioters were reportedly poor Yankee laborers who feared and hated Irish Catholic immigrants.

The nuns who lived in the once elegant building — as well as the who lived students at the all-female academy — fled or their lives.

While some of Boston’s wealthiest Protestants sent their daughters to the Ursuline Academy, most Yankees harbored a deep prejudice against Catholics. Long suspicious of “popery,” Protestant Boston was receptive to the malicious rumors that swirled about the convent. The convent burning was a prelude to the fierce anti-Catholicism that would greet the famine Irish who flooded into Boston a decade later.

The convent was never rebuilt. Its charred remains stood for the next 40 years as a reminder of the virulent prejudice against Catholics. The site was leveled in 1875, and the bricks were incorporated into Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

Who created the first airborne hydrogen balloon?

220px-Early_flight_02562u_(5)August 27, 1783 — Today, the hydrogen balloon took off from the Champ-de-Mars in Paris. Benjamin Franklin and other dignitaries attended the event, which today is the site of the Eiffel Tower.

It was airborne for 45 minutes and traveled a total of 21 kilometers into the village of Gonesse. According to reports, local peasants in Gonesse were so frightened by the balloon that they attacked it with pitchforks and punctured it.

Designed by brothers Anne-Jean and Nicolas-Louis Robert, these French engineers worked under Jacques Charles at the Place des Victoires in Paris. The brothers designed the hydrogen balloon based on Charles’s work.

The brothers improved on their creation, and by December 1783 built the first manned hydrogen balloon, which they piloted.

Sources: wikipedia, civilwar

What newspaper published a hoax of extraterrestrial life on the moon?

700px-Great-Moon-Hoax-1835-New-York-Sun-lithograph-298pxAugust 25, 1835 — “Life is discovered on the moon,” according to a series of six articles published today in the New York Sun. 

The discoveries — announcing multiple life forms were living on la Luna, from bison and goats to unicorns and human-bat hybrids — were said to be found by famous astronomer Sir John Herschel, an English polymath, mathematician, astronomer, chemist, inventor, and experimental photographer (March 7, 1792 — May 11, 1871).

The actual author is believed to be Richard Adams Locke, a British journalist at Cambridge. Although Locke never admitted to the rumors, it is believed that he wrote the piece to satirize recent serious theories of extraterrestrial life, particularly the works of Reverend Thomas Dick, a popular science writer who claimed the moon had 4.2 billion inhabitants.

The Sun’s popularity grew over the article. And while on September 16, 1835, The Sun admitted that the articles were ficticious, editors never retracted the stories, nor did the paper suffer any consequences. In fact, readers remained amused by the tall tale.

What’s more, it is believed that Locke’s hoax influenced Edgar Allen Poe to write “the balloon-hoax” in the same newspaper almost 10 years later. Poe’s story, Lunar Discoveries, Extraordinary Aerial Voyage by Baron Hans Pfaall,” described a voyage to the moon in a hot-air balloon by Hans Pfaall.

Who led the most violent slave revolt today in 1831?

250px-Nat_Turner_capturedAugust 21, 1831 — Today began the most violent slave revolt to date in the American south. Led by Nat Turner, 70 enslaved and free African-Americans followed him from house to house in in Southampton, Virginia and for two days killed nearly 65 white men, women and children.

With what came to known as “Nat Turner’s Rebellion,” rebellion ended on August 22, the slaughter didn’t stop there.

Many of the slaves were tried for conspiracy, murder and treason, and 55 were executed. Local mobs and militias murdered nearly 200 other African Americans in a frenzy following the rebellion.

Soon after, slaves were prohibited from getting an education, were restricted about their right to assemble, and were required to have white supervision during worship services.

What famous speech did African American activist Henry Highland Garnet make today?

imagesAugust 16, 1843 — African American activist Henry Highland Garnet gave the famous “Call to Rebellion” speech today at the National Negro Convention in Buffalo, New York. Entitled, “An Address to the Slaves of the United States of America,” Garnet encouraged slaves to turn against their masters.

He said: “Neither god, nor angels, or just men, command you to suffer for a single moment. Therefore it is your solemn and imperative duty to use every means, both moral, intellectual, and physical that promises success.”

Garnet’s activism was known to be more radical than many abolitionists of his day. He believed that it was the African Americans job to emancipate themselves through political action rather than moral suasion.

What did James Smithson’s endowment create today? And why did it take 10 years to put his $500,000 donation to use?

156px-Smithsonian_logo_color.svgAugust 10, 1846 — When British chemist and meteorologist James Smithson (born 1765) died in 1829, he left his sizable estate to the US “to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge among men.”

Interestingly, Smithson never set foot on American soil. So why did the illegitimate child of a wealthy Englishman choose to give the entirety of his sizable estate — which amounted to $500,000 (equivalent to $11,073,000 today) and totaled 1/66 of the country’s entire federal budget — to the US?

According to historians at the Smithsonian: “Some speculate it was because he was denied his father’s legacy. Others argue that he was inspired by the US’ experiment with democracy. Some attribute his philanthropy to ideals inspired by such organizations as the Royal Institution, which was dedicated to using scientific knowledge to improve human conditions. Smithson never wrote about or discussed his bequest with friends or colleagues, so we are left to speculate on the ideals and motivations of a gift that has had such significant impact on the arts, humanities, and sciences in the US.”

President Andrew Jackson announced the bequest to Congress, and on July 1, 1836, it accepted the legacy and pledged the faith of the United States to the charitable trust.

However, it took another eight years of sometimes heated debate for an Act of Congress to be signed by President James K. Polk today in 1846. It established the Smithsonian Institution as a trust to be administered by a Board of Regents and a Secretary of the Smithsonian.

Today, the Smithsonian’s 19 museums and galleries, a National Zoological Park and nine research facilities make it the world’s largest museum and research complex. Visitors can pay homage to Smithson with a visit to his crypt, located on the first floor of the Smithsonian Castle.

Who was the “Cleopatra of the Secession” — and why was she arrested today?

220px-Belle_BoydJuly 29, 1862 — Confederate spy Belle Boyd was arrested today.

Known as the “Cleopatra of the Secession,” and “Siren of the Shenandoah,” (May 4, 1844 – June 11, 1900), she was one of the Confederacy’s most notorious spies. Born in Martinsburg, VA (now West Virginia) to a prosperous family with strong Southern ties, her father was a soldier in the Stonewall Brigade, and at least three other members of her family were convicted of being Confederate spies.

Her arrest came more than a year after she shot and killed a drunken Union soldier on July 4, 1861 who, as she wrote in her post-war memoirs, “addressed my mother and myself in language as offensive as it is possible to conceive. I could stand it no longer … we ladies were obliged to go armed in order to protect ourselves as best we might from insult and outrage.”

Belle did not suffer any reprisal for this action. In her memoire she wrote: “the commanding officer inquired into all the circumstances with strict impartiality, and finally said I had ‘done perfectly right.”

Thus began her career, at age 17, as the Rebel Spy.

Who captured the first image of a solar eclipse?

1851-daguerreotype-photograph-of-an-eclipseJuly 28, 1851 — A total solar eclipse is first captured today in a daguerreotype photograph by Busch and Berkowski, at the Royal Observatory in Königsberg, Prussia. It showed a slight but distinct impression of the corona during the total eclipse.

An eclipse occurs when the moon passes between earth and sun, totally or partly obscuring the image of the Sun for a viewer on Earth. A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon’s apparent diameter is larger than the Sun’s, blocking all direct sunlight, turning day into darkness. Totality occurs in a narrow path across Earth’s surface, with the partial solar eclipse visible over a surrounding region thousands of kilometres wide.

Berkowski, a local daguerrotypist whose first name is never published, observed the eclipse at the Royal Observatory using a small 6cm refracting telescope attached to a 15.8cm Fraunhofer heliometer camera. The daguerreotype uses an 84 second exposure shortly after the beginning of totality.

Also today: July 28, 1858 — Fingerprints are used for the first time as a means of identification.

Who did Wild Bill Hickok duel with today in 1865? And who won?

Hickock_Tutt_Duel_1867_Harpers_Monthly_MagazineJuly 21, 1865 — Old west cowboys Wild Bill Hickok and Davis Tutt engaged in a shootout today, which became the most famous duel in Old West history.

The notorious gamblers had been friends, despite the fact that Tutt was a Confederate Army veteran, and Hickok had been a scout for the Union Army. The eventual falling out reportedly occurred over women. There were reports that Hickok had fathered an illegitimate child with Tutt’s sister; while Tutt had been observed paying a great deal of attention to Wild Bill’s paramour, Susanna Moore.

When Hickok started to refuse to play in any card game that included Tutt, the cowboy retaliated by openly supporting other local card-players with advice and money in a dedicated attempt to bankrupt Hickok.

Author William Connelley (1933) in his book, “Wild Bill and His Era: The Life and Adventures of James Butler Hickok,” (pp. 84–5) explains that their feud came to a head today, when at a few minutes before 6 p.m., Hickok was seen calmly approaching the square from the south, his Colt Navy in hand.

Connelley writes: His armed presence caused the crowd to immediately scatter to the safety of nearby buildings, leaving Tutt alone in the northwestern corner of the square. At a distance of about 75 yards (70 meters), Hickok stopped, facing Tutt, and called out, ‘Dave, here I am.’ He cocked his pistol, holstered it on his hip, and gave a final warning, ‘Don’t you come across here with that watch.’ Tutt did not reply, but stood with his hand on his pistol.

Both men faced each other sideways in the dueling position and hesitated briefly. Then Tutt reached for his pistol. Hickok drew his gun and steadied it on his opposite forearm. The two men fired a single shot each at essentially the same time, according to the reports. Tutt missed, but Hickok’s bullet struck Tutt in the left side between the fifth and seventh ribs. Tutt called out, ‘Boys, I’m killed,’ ran onto the porch of the local courthouse and back to the street, where he collapsed and died.

What famous train wreck happened today in 1864?

shohola-train-wreckJuly 15, 1864 — The Great Shohola train wreck occurred today, killing at least 60 people on the broad gauge Erie Railroad 1-1⁄2 miles west of Shohola, PA.

Aboard the 18 car train were 128 Union guards from the Veteran Reserve Corps, and 833 Confederate prisoners of war being taken from Point Lookout, MD to the newly constructed Camp Rathbun at Elmira, NY. It was built to house 10,000 inmates.

They began their journey by steamer traveling along the Atlantic coast from Maryland to New Jersey. Here they were switched to railroad for the final 273 miles to Elmira.

Then tragedy struck.

A mile and a half from Shohola the track passed through “King and Fuller’s Cut” which had only 50 feet of forward visibility as the track negotiated a series of blind bends. The trains collided head-on with a crash so fierce that it was said that locals “felt it as an earthquake.”

The combined speed was more than 30 mph, and propelled the wood stacked in each engine’s tenders forward into the cabs; killing both engineers and firemen. The wooden box cars were telescoped into each other.

Of the 37 men in the car immediately behind the engine, 36 were killed outright, the only survivor being thrown clear. Most casualties occurred in the first three box cars, those riding further back escaped death though many were injured. A ring of uninjured guards was formed around the wreck but despite this five Confederate prisoners escaped and were never recaptured.

The dead were buried in unmarked graves next to the track, where they remained for 47 years until 1911 when they were moved to the Woodlawn National Cemetery at Elmira. The Shohola Railroad Historical Society houses a museum dedicated to the wreck in a caboose stationed permanently in Shohola.

What happened in NYC after the draft was issued?

Draft-Poster-Civil-War-01July 13, 1863 — America’s first draft was issued today, summoning northerners into the Union Army. Immediately after, the New York Draft Riots occurred.

The uproar began as a protest of the new law, and by the end of the first day it was a full-fledge race riot: 11 black men were lynched, 120 African Americans were murdered, 2,000 were injured, and there was up to $5 million in property damage.

The riots lasted three days and largely consisted of white working-class men. Wealthier men were able to avoid the draft with an exemption payment of $300.

The Union League Club and the Committee of Merchants for the Relief of Colored People donated $40,000 to 2,500 victims of the riot. They also helped them find new homes and jobs.

In a letter from New York Governor Horatio Seymour Seymour asking President Lincoln to end the drafting in New York, he wrote: “Remember this—that the bloody and treasonable doctrine of public necessity can be proclaimed by a mob as well as by a government.”

Lincoln replied: “I can not consent to suspend the draft in New York as you request, because, among other reasons, time is too important.”

By August 10, 1863, 450,000 men were drafted into the service.

What controversial idea did Mormon leader Joseph Smith have today?

SmithJuly 12, 1843 — Mormon leader Joseph Smith (December 23, 1805 – June 27, 1844) announced today, “God allows polygamy.”

The American religious leader and founder of Mormonism — who wrote the Book of Mormon when he was 24 — attracted tens of thousands of followers and founded a religion and religious culture that continues to this day.

Historians believe that today’s revelation was not made public to the LDS Church as a whole until 14 years later, when the new church president — Brigham Young — publicly acknowledged it in 1852.

Young claimed that the original document with Smith’s exhortation had been burned by Smith’s widow, Emma Smith.

josephemmacloseupHowever, Emma denied that the document ever existed. She said the story told by Young: “is false in all its parts, made out of whole cloth, without any foundation in truth.” 

Indeed, published affidavits by eyewitnesses accusing church leaders of following the teaching and engaging in polygamy are said to have been the reason for Smith’s murder by a mob in 1844.

While the 1843 revelation was rejected by the RLDS Church as not originating with Smith, by the 1870s, it was codified in the LDS Church’s canon in its Doctrine and Covenants.

What was the first comic book published in the US?

The Wasp_cropJuly 7, 1802 — The first comic book, called The Wasp, is published today.

Known for concealing political allegory and rhetoric, this small sheet publication was a biting commentary about President Thomas Jefferson. Indeed, it was so incendiary that it caused a court case — The People of the State of New York v. Harry Croswell — which proved critical to the development of the United States defamation law.

Rev._Harry_Croswell_circa_1835The author and publisher was Robert Rusticoat, Esquire, a pseudonym for political activist Harry Croswell, then 22. The native of Catskill, NY, was a supporter of John Adams’ Federalist Party, which focused on a fiscally sound, nationalistic government.

The political journalist went on to co-found Trinity College in Hartford, CT in 1831, and also found an evening school for the education of adult African-Americans in the city. A key figure in First Amendment battles over freedom of the press and religious freedom, he became the rector of the Trinity Church in New Haven, CT. For 43 years, he grew his church and established seven new churches within the original limits of his parish.

Crowell also published 14 books, and wrote newspaper articles as an editor and journalist weekly for 11 years. Perhaps, though, he is best known for being the first person to define the word cocktail in print.

What American plague was cured today?

Unknown-1July 8, 1800 — The co-founder of Harvard Medical School, Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, tested the first smallpox vaccine today.

His first subject was his son, Daniel, 5, whom he infected with a sample of cowpox sent by Dr. John Haygarth, England’s leading expert on contagious diseases.

After vaccinating several other family members and servants, Waterhouse tested it on a 12-year-old servant boy he had vaccinated to Dr. William Aspinwall’s Smallpox Hospital in Brookline, where he would be exposed to smallpox. The boy came home after 12 days having experienced little more than a sore arm, according to Waterhouse’s own account of the procedure.

For millennia, smallpox was one of the scourges of humankind, killing 25 to 30 of every hundred it struck. The survivors were often left blind or disfigured with its characteristic circular scars.

Despite the fact that a cure was now available, there was dramatic opposition to the vaccine. Thomas Jefferson stepped in to assist, and in a letter written in 1800 to the doctor, Jefferson said: “Every friend of humanity must look with pleasure on this discovery, by which one more evil is withdrawn from the condition of man; and must contemplate the possibility that future improvements and discoveries may still more and more lessen the catalogue of evils.”

Finally, in 1809, the first state to impose compulsory vaccination was Massachusetts.

edward_jennerThe vaccine was originally developed in England by physician Edward Jenner (pictured right), who noticed that cowpox, a disease that struck cattle, provided immunity against smallpox for the milkmaids who contracted cowpox while milking infected cows.

Sources and images: harvardharvardgazettewikipediawikipedyhistoryofvaccines

What is believed to be the first novel written by an African American?

UnknownJuly 6, 1853 — Today, former slave William Wells Brown published Clotel, a story about the daughters and granddaughters of Thomas Jefferson and their relationship to Jefferson’s slave, a man named Currer.

Born in 1814 in Montgomery County, Kentucky, Brown escaped to the North in 1834. He worked on many abolitionist causes and was a prolific writer. Additional historical writings include The Black Man, The Negro in the American Rebellion, and The Rising Son.

u7825_cat1Clotel was published in London, where Brown lived since he began lecturing just before the the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law was passed in the US.

He stayed overseas for several years to avoid the risk of capture and re-enslavement. After his freedom was purchased in 1854 by a British couple, he and his two daughters returned to the US and rejoined the abolitionist lecture circuit.

Who crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope today?

Blondin_Crossing_the_NiagaraJune 30, 1859 — Charles Blondin became the first man to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope today. Gamblers took bets on whether he would plunge to a watery death. (Most of the smart money said yes.)

Blondin believed that a ropewalker was “like a poet, born and not made,” and discovered his calling at the age of four, mounting a rope strung between two chairs placed a few feet apart.

In Smithsonian magazine, reporter Karen Abbott shares the details, explaining: “On the morning of June 30, about 25,000 thrill-seekers arrived by train and steamer and dispersed on the American or Canadian side of the falls, the latter said to have the better view. Both banks grew “fairly black” with swarms of spectators, among them statesmen, judges, clerics, generals, members of Congress, capitalists, artists, newspaper editors, professors, debutantes, salesmen and hucksters. Vendors hawked everything from lemonade to whiskey, and Colcord gave tours to the press, explaining the logistics of what the Great Blondin was about to attempt.”

What school in Philadelphia did the Quakers open today?

sealJune 28, 1770 — French-born American abolitionist and educator Anthony Benezet today founded one of the world’s first anti-slavery societies — the Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage.

He ran it until his death in 1784, and also founded the first public school for girls in North America; and the Negro School at Philadelphia, which operated into the 19th century.

After his death, it was revived as the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery. Benezet left his entire estate to the continuation of his pursuit of this cause.

Who patented the reaping machine?

440px-McCormick_Twine_Binder_1884June 21, 1834 — American inventor and businessman Cyrus Hall McCormick (February 15, 1809 – May 13, 1884) patented the reaping machine today.

His father, Robert McCormick Jr., worked on the invention for 28 years, but was never able to perfect the apparatus. Cyrus took up his father’s work with the help of Jo Anderson, a slave on the McCormick plantation. The two created the horse-drawn repeat to harvest grain, which they patented.

It took until 1840 to perfect the machine. That year, he began manufacturing and selling his reaper other famers — allowing them to do five times the amount of harvesting in a day than using a scythe. By 1851, McCormick’s company was the largest producer of farm equipment in the world.

Although McCormick is credited as the “inventor” of the mechanical reaper, he based his work on that of many others, including Roman, Scottish and American men, more than two decades of work by his father, and the aid of Jo Anderson, a slave held by his family.