Grateful American® Foundation

History Matters
August 16 to August 31, 2021

Showing our children that their past is prelude to their future
By John Grimaldi and David Bruce Smith

There are some who believe the suffrage movement began on July 4, 1776—even though traction was tepid until the mid-1800s.

But, by August 18, 1920, headway had been hearty for some time; now, only one state was needed to catapult the 19th amendment into ratification.

Meanwhile, as the Tennessee House of Representatives voted on the legislation that seemed likely to tango into a tie, 24-year-old Harry Burn–a stalwart naysayer—wobbled; a last-minute letter from his mother urged him to do the “right” thing.

Eight days later, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby proclaimed the amendment’s adoption, and the women of America—finally–got the vote.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Votes for Women!: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot by Winifred Conkling.

On August 23, 1864, a Union navy fleet consisting of four ironclad vessels, and fourteen wooden war ships, captured Fort Morgan, Alabama, a strategic Confederate outpost. The channel to the fort had been salted by “torpedoes,”—mines in today’s parlance. The lead ship, USS Tecumseh, hit one; sunk, and set off the cry, “torpedoes ahead!”

Admiral David Glasgow Farragut, “recognizing hesitation from his subordinate commanders, took the bold and decisive action of placing his flagship, Hartford, in the lead and giving the order, “Damn the torpedoes, Full speed ahead!” His actions in the face of danger led the flotilla to victory,” according to U.S. Naval archives.

The fleet followed as Farragut sailed the Hartford ahead, scraped the mines, but averted destruction. The Union navy set up an impenetrable blockade of Fort Morgan, and pressed Fort Morgan to surrender.

For more information, The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Farragut and Family: The Making of an Elder Hero by Robert L. Caleo.

On August 31, 1897, Thomas Edison received the patent for his kinetograph—the world’s first motion picture camera. The inventor had hopes of synchronizing photographic images with sound, but it took some time to achieve the simultaneous mix. His innovation trumpeted the arrival of the silent movie era, but because of the technological difficulties, the movie industry had to wait until 1927 for its first talkie: Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer.

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World by Randall E. Stoss.


History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.