On January 20, 1945, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated to an unprecedented fourth term. Three months later he died, leaving an extraordinary legacy of having maneuvered the country through the Great Depression, and World War II—some of the most difficult times in American history. In 1947, the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed, limiting presidential service: to two, four-year elected terms.
For more information, the Prize recommends Roy Jenkins’ biography, Franklin Delano Roosevelt: The American Presidents Series: The 32nd President, 1933-1945.
On January 24, 1848, millwright John Marshall, sighted a flash of light coming from the ground at a sawmill on the banks of Sutter’s Creek in Coloma, California. Upon a closer look, he found gold flakes. Marshall alerted the mill’s owner, John Augustus Sutter, who confirmed the find, and started scooping up the treasure. Sutter tried to keep his boon a secret, but by 1849, gold diggers from all over the nation— “Forty Niners”— deluged Sutter’s Creek to find their fortunes and get rich quick.
Chauncey Canfield’s The Diary of a Forty-Niner is an insightful and exciting memoir by a genuine “Forty Niner,” Alfred T. Jackson. It was unearthed by the author, who edited it into an adventurous tale for young readers.
The early years of America’s space program were dangerous ventures for the people who risked their lives in the name of science and discovery. The first deadly event aboard a U.S. spaceship happened January 27, 1967; astronauts Edward H. White, Virgil I. Grissom and Roger B. Chaffee died in a fire that incinerated Apollo 1, during a launch simulation at Cape Kennedy.
But it was the explosion aboard the shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986 that personified the perils of space exploration. Less than two minutes after take-off, astronauts Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, Judy Resnik, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Michael J. Smith, and Ellison Onizuka were dead.
McAuliffe, a history teacher from New Hampshire, was the first American civilian to be selected for NASA’s space program.
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Apollo 1 and the Space Shuttle Challenger: The History of NASA’s Two Most Notorious Disasters by Charles River Editors.
Abraham Lincoln may have been the first president to be shot, but the initial attempted assassination of a U.S. president was on January 30, 1835; a lone gunman, armed with a pair of pistols, took aim at Andrew Jackson. Both weapons misfired and the would-be murderer was apprehended. He was later determined to be insane.
For more information about the ramp up of Presidential risk, The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Ronald L. Feinman’s Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama.
History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.