This Month in History: January

From a kingdom that bullies, and hectors, and swears,
we send up to heaven our wishes and prayers
that we, disunited, may freemen be still,
and Britain go on—to be damned if she will.

In 1775, Philip Freneau, a political writer, poet, and newspaper editor, composed this compelling verse in his poem “A Political Litany.” It blurred the line between rhetoric and poetry.


  • January 1

    Which famous silversmith and hero of the Revolutionary War was born today?

    J_S_Copley_-_Paul_RevereJanuary 1, 1735 —

    Paul Revere was born today. He was the son of Apollos Rivoire, a French Huguenot (Protestant) immigrant, and Deborah Hichborn, daughter of a local artisan family; Apollos changed his name to Paul Revere after immigrating.

    His eldest son, Paul, who became famous for both his craftsmanship and his midnight ride, was educated at the North Writing School and learned the art of gold and silversmithing from his father. When Paul was 19 (and nearly finished with his apprenticeship) his father died, leaving Paul as the family’s main source of income. Two years later, in 1756, Revere volunteered to fight the French at Lake George, NY, where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the colonial artillery.

    In August, 1757, Revere married Sarah Orne. Together, they had eight children. Soon after Sarah’s death in 1773, Revere married Rachel Walker with whom he had eight children.

    His primary vocation was goldsmith/silversmith, a trade he learned from his father. His silvershop was the cornerstone of his professional life for more than 40 years, and he was responsible for the workmanship and quality of the metal alloy that was used. He employed numerous apprentices and journeymen to produce pieces ranging from simple spoons to magnificent full tea sets. His work, highly praised during his lifetime, is regarded as one of the outstanding achievements in American decorative arts.

    Revere also supplemented his income with other work. During the economic depression before the American Revolution, Revere also began working as a copper plate engraver. He produced illustrations for books and magazines, business cards, political cartoons, bookplates, a song book, and bills of fare for taverns. He also advertised as a dentist from 1768 to 1775, who cleaned teeth and wired in false teeth carved from walrus ivory or animal teeth. Contrary to popular myth, he did not make George Washington’s dentures. Fabricating a full set was beyond his expertise.

    Paul Revere died on May 10, 1818.


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  • January 1

    Why are black-eyed peas thought to bring New Year’s luck?

    the-emancipation-of-the-negrosnjan-24-1863January 1, 1863 — The belief that black-eyed peas are a lucky New Year’s meal has long been popular in the south, explains Southern Traditions reporter Amanda Galiano.

    “Many Southerners will tell you that this tradition has its roots in the Civil War, back when black-eyed peas were considered feed for animal food,” Galiano shares. “But when Union soldiers raided the Confederates food supplies, they are said to have grabbed everything except the black-eyed peas and salted pork. The Confederates considered themselves lucky to be left with those meager supplies for it helped them to survive the winter — making those peas a symbol of luck.”

    “[Another] explanation of the superstition says that black-eyed peas were all the southern slaves had to celebrate with on the first day of January, 1863. What were they celebrating? That was the day when the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. From then on, peas were always eaten on the first day of January.”


  • January 2

    Who took the first photo of the moon?

    Daguerreotype-Moon-webJanuary 2, 1839 — The first photo of the Moon was taken today in 1839 by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (November 18, 1787 – July 10, 1851), a French artist and photographer who is recognized for his invention of the daguerreotype process of photography.

    Before the invention of photography, astronomers had to sketch what they saw in their telescopes by hand, often missing crucial details. Astronomers made reproductions by redrawing the original illustrations, enabling errors to creep in. It was the invention of the daguerreotype that showed them a far superior method was possible.

    Known as one of the fathers of photography, Daguerre discovered how to reduce exposure time to 20 to 30 minutes. Legend has it that he accidentally broke a mercury thermometer, giving him the idea that a shorter exposure time would produce a very faint image, but this image could be further enhanced via a chemical process involving the vapor given off by mercury heated to 75° Celsius.

    Daguerre then “fixed” the image, so it wouldn’t be sensitive to further exposure to light, by rinsing it in a solution of common salt. The surface was still prone to tarnishing, even by the slightest friction, so most daguerreotypes were sealed under glass before being mounted in a small folding case.

    ImageEarliest known surviving photograph of the Moon, a daguerreotype taken in 1851 by John Adams Whipple

    Sources:, wikipedia/Louis_Daguerre,

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  • January 3

    Who was Robert Owen and what were his views on socialism?

    280px-Portrait_of_Robert_Owen_(1771_-_1858)_by_John_Cranch,_1845January 3, 1825 — Scottish factory owner Robert Owen (May 14, 1771 – November 17, 1858) bought 30,000 acres in Indiana today as a site for his New Harmony utopian community. The Welsh socialist and social reformer invested the bulk of his fortune in the experimental 1,000-member colony on the banks of Indiana’s Wabash River.

    Owen advocated the elimination of poverty through the establishment of self-sustaining communities, and experimented with such a community until 1828. He introduced innovative industrial reforms at his New Lanark Mills during the early 1800s, making it a place of pilgrimage for reformers and statesmen from all over Europe.

    According to “Owen believed that a man’s character was completely formed by his environment and circumstances, and that placing man under the proper physical, moral, and social influences from his earliest years was the key to the formation of good character and to the amelioration of social problems. Owen’s doctrines were adopted as an expression of the workers’ aspirations, and he became a leader of the trade union movement in England, which advocated control of production by the workers.”

    The word “socialism” first became current in the discussions of the “Association of all Classes of all Nations,” which Owen formed 10 years later, in 1835.

    Sources:, wikipedia/Robert_Owen,

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  • January 4

    What role did Charles III of Spain play in the Anglo–Spanish War, which started today in 1762

    600px-Dominic_Serres_the_Elder_-_The_Capture_of_Havana,_1762,_Storming_of_Morro_Castle,_30_JulyJanuary 4, 1762 — England declared war on Spain and Naples today, beginning the Anglo–Spanish War. Part of the Seven Years’ War between Britain and Spain, it lasted until February 1763 when the Treaty of Paris brought it to an end.

    Here’s the back story: King Ferdinand VI of Spain opposed the French party who wanted to enter the war on the side of France. Britain made an attempt to persuade Spain to join the war on their side, by offering Gibraltar in exchange for Spanish help in regaining Minorca, but this was rejected by Madrid.

    Everything changed when Ferdinand VI died in 1759.

    He was succeeded by his younger brother Charles III of Spain, who was ambitious than his melancholy brother. One of his main objectives was the survival of Spain as a colonial power. In 1761, France looked like losing the war against Great Britain. Spain also suffered from attacks by English privateers in Spanish waters, and claimed compensation.

    Fearing that a British victory over France would upset the balance of colonial power, Charles III signed the Family Compact with France (both countries were ruled by branches of the Bourbon family) in August 1761. And this brought war with Great Britain in January 1762. Learn more here.



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  • January 5

    Who set Richmond ablaze today?

    Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 8.45.35 AMJanuary 5, 1781 — A British naval expedition led by Benedict Arnold burned Richmond, Virginia today.

    Known as the Richmond Campaign (a group of British military actions against the capital of Virginia), it was considered one of Arnold’s greatest successes while serving under the British Army — and one of the most notorious actions that he ever performed.

    Here’s how it played out:

    January 1-3: Arnold’s fleet sailed up the James River, laying waste to plantations and settlements along the way.

    January 4: The British reached their destination of Westover Plantation and by afternoon, Arnold and his men were on their way  by foot to Richmond.

    January 5: The city was unprotected as most Virginia militiamen had not bothered to defend the capital because they thought that their duty was up. When Virginia’s Colonel John Graves Simcoe, of the Queen’s Rangers, realized what was happening, he ordered a detachment of soldiers to confront Arnold and his men.

    Thomas Jefferson — who was the governor of Virginia at the time — ordered the mass-evacuation of military supplies from the city; he then fled in his carriage, along with the rest of Virginia’s government officials. By noon, Arnold’s forces were marching triumphantly through the city.

    Arnold sat at his headquarters at Main Street’s City Tavern and wrote a letter to Jefferson, saying that if he could move the city’s tobacco stores and military arms to his ships, he would leave Richmond unharmed.

    January 6: Arnold received Jefferson’s response today — a livid note refusing to turn anything over to a turncoat. Arnold was enraged, and ordered Richmond to be set to the torch.

    Sources: wikipedia/RaidofRichmond,, wikipedia/Richmond_CivilWar,

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  • January 6

    Who formed the New England Anti-Slavery Society?

    500px-Remember_Your_Weekly_Pledge_Massachusetts_Anti-Slavey_Society_collection_boxJanuary 6, 1831 — The New England Anti-Slavery Society was formed today by prominent American abolitionist, journalist, suffragist, and social reformer William Lloyd Garrison, editor of The Liberator.

    Based in Boston, members of the New England Anti-slavery Society supported immediate abolitionand viewed slavery as immoral and non-Christian. It was particularly opposed to the American Colonization Societywhich proposed sending African Americans to Africa.

    The Society sponsored lecturers or “agents” who traveled throughout the New England area, speaking in local churches or halls, and also selling abolitionist tracts or The Liberator. Whenever possible, the Society’s agents would also encourage the formation of local anti-slavery societies.

    By 1833 there were 47 local societies in ten northern states, 33 of them in New England. The Society also sponsored mass mobilizations such as yearly anti-slavery conventions and celebrations of July 4 or the Anniversary of the Abolition of Slavery in the West Indies, August 1.

    Sources: wikipedia/MassachusettsAnti-SlaverySociety,

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  • January 7

    Who made the first balloon flight across the English Channel?

    400px-Jean_Pierre_BlanchardJanuary 7, 1785 — The first balloon flight across the English Channel is accomplished today by Jean-Pierre Blanchard (pictured right) and his friend, American-born John Jeffries. It took about 2½ hours to travel from Dover Castle, England, to Guînes, France.

    It wasn’t Blanchard’s first flight, however. That occurred from the Champ de Mars on November 21, 1783 — and it nearly ended in disaster when a spectator slashed at the balloon’s mooring ropes and oars with his sword after being refused a place onboard. The broken balloon was pushed by the wind across the Seine to Billancourt and back again, landing in the rue de Sèvres. Blanchard adopted the Latin tag Sic itur ad astra (“thus one journeys to the stars”) as his motto.

    In 1785, the brave Blanchard tested the first parachute — invented by Sébastien Lenormand of France in 1783. At first, a dog was the passenger. But in 1793, Blanchard had the opportunity to try it himself when his hot-air balloon ruptured and he used the parachute to escape. Soon after, he began designing parachutes from folded silk.

    The same year, on January 9, 1793, Blanchard conducted the first balloon flight in the US — from a prison yard of the Walnut Street Jail in Philadelphia. He landed in Gloucester County, New Jersey as President George Washington, future presidents John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe looked on.

    Blanchard died as he lived. On February 20, 1808, he had a heart attack on his balloon at the Hague. He fell to the ground, but lived for about a year, until March 7, 1809, when he died from his severe injuries. Sophie Blanchard, his wife of only four years — the former Marie Madeleine-Sophie Armant — continued to support herself with ballooning demonstrations, until they killed her as well.

    Sources: wikipedia/Jean-Pierre_Blanchard,, adventureballoons,

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  • January 8

    What did the 11th Amendment determine?

    m-9877January 8, 1798 — The 11th Amendment is ratified today, which determined that the judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by citizens of another state, or by citizens or subjects of any foreign state.

    The first Constitutional amendment adopted after the Bill of Rights, the amendment was adopted following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 U.S. 419 (1793).

    Here’s the back story: During the Revolutionary War, a South Carolina merchant named Captain Robert Farquhar sold supplies to the State of Georgia on credit. Following the War, Georgia refused to pay Farquhar, asserting that he was a British loyalist. Farquhar later died, and the executor of his estate, South Carolinian Alexander Chisolm, sued the State of Georgia for the debt in the United States Supreme Court.

    In Chisholm, the Court ruled that federal courts had the authority to hear cases in law and equity brought by private citizens against states and that states did not enjoy sovereign immunity from suits made by citizens of other states in federal court. Thus, the amendment clarified Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution, which gave diversity jurisdiction to the judiciary to hear cases “between a state and citizens of another state.”

    Sources:,,, wiki/EleventhAmendment,

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  • January 9

    When was the first documented women’s golf tournament held?

    51f4cee859cf385453504f3b7ff75ca1January 9, 1811 — The first documented women’s golf tournament is held today in Scotland, at Musselburgh Golf Club in Scotland.

    But the tradition of women playing golf dates back to 1567 — thanks to Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-87). An avid golfer, she is said to have coined the term “caddie” by calling her assistants “cadets.” The Queen traveled to France to play — an act she was criticized for, as golf took her away from her Royal duties. Nonetheless, during her reign the famous golf course at St. Andrews was constructed.

    Although it took a few centuries for more women to get in on the fun, today women gathered again tee off for today’s 18-hole tournament at Musselburgh, which is considered the oldest surviving course in the world by Guinness World Records. In fact, the Open Championship were held there six times between 1874 and 1889, and the course is still in use today.

    Evidence of early golf in what is now the United States includes a 1739 record for a shipment of golf equipment to a William Wallace in Charleston, South Carolina. An advertisement was published in the Royal Gazette of New York City in 1779 for golf clubs and balls, and the South Carolina Golf Club was established in 1787 in Charleston. However, as in England, it was not until the late 19th century that golf started to become firmly established.

    As for the prizes at the 1811 tournament, the winner received a fishing basket; second- and third-place finishers received silk handkerchiefs from Barcelona. In 2015, the LPGA warded a $1 million bonus to its winner. Talk about progress!

    Sources: History of Golf,,, wikipedia/Golf,

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  • January 10

    Why did Florida secede from the Union today in 1861?

    secessionJanuary 10, 1861 — Florida seceded from the Union today as the US Civil War heated up.

    A special convention of delegates from around the state met in Tallahassee earlier in the week to consider the decision. Governor Madison Starke Perry and Governor-elect John Milton were strong supporters of secession, and for days, the issues were debated inside and outside the convention.

    In a minority opinion, former territorial governor Richard Keith Call, acting as a private citizen, argued that secession would bring only ruin to the state.

    Today, the delegates voted 62 to 7 to withdraw Florida from the Union. The next day, in a public ceremony on the east steps of the capitol, they signed a formal Ordinance of Secession. News of the event generally led to local celebrations. Later, the delegates adopted a new state constitution.

    Florida was the third state to leave the Union, and within a month it joined with other southern states to form the Confederate States of America. Eventually, 11 states would leave the Union.


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  • January 11

    January 11, 1803 — Monroe & Livingston sail for Paris to buy New Orleans today. Known as the Louisiana Purchase, it was a land deal between the United States and France, in which the U.S. acquired approximately 827,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi River for $15 million.


  • January 11

    Who was the first Jewish person elected to office in America?

    brody3January 11, 1775 — Francis Salvador (1747-1776) became the first Jew elected to public office in the colonies when today to be part of the Provincial Congress (one of several extra-legal legislative bodies established in some of the Thirteen Colonies early in the Revolution).

    A young English plantation owner in South Carolina, Salvador came from the Sephardic Jewish community of London. His uncle, Joseph Salvador, was a prominent businessman, and the only Jewish director of the British East India Company.

    Unfortunately, Salvador was also the first Jew killed in the American Revolutionary War, fighting with the militia on the South Carolina frontier against Loyalists and their Cherokeeallies.

    On July 1, 1776, the Indians began attacking frontier families in Ninety Six District. Salvador rode from his lands to the White Hall plantation of Major Andrew Williamson, 28 miles (45 km) away, to raise the alarm. Salvador took part in the engagements that followed. On July 31, Major Williamson captured two white Loyalists. They led his 330-men militia into an ambush by their fellow Tories and Cherokee allies at the Keowee River.

    Salvador was shot and fell into the bushes, but was discovered and scalped by the Cherokee that night. He died from his wounds at age 29.

    Sources:, americanrevolutionblog,, wikipedia/FrancisSalvador,

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  • January 12

    What was the first steamboat on the western waters of the US?

    Enterprise_03January 12, 1812 — The New Orleans was the first steamboat on the western waters of the United States. Today, it ushered in the era of commercial steamboat navigation on the western and mid-western continental rivers when the first load of cargo arrived in Louisiana.

    Owned by Robert Fulton and Robert R. Livingston, and built by Nicholas Roosevelt, the New Orleans started its maiden voyage in March 1811 from Pittsburgh along the Monongahela River.

    At 148 feet 6 inches long, 32 feet 6 inches wide, and 12 feet deep, New Orleans cost abut $38,000 to construct, and it provided space for up to 60 passengers. It was considerably larger than other barges of the time.

    Two years later after its first historic trip, New Orleans hit a snag when its hull was punctured near Baton Rouge, on July 14, 1814. It set the pattern for the average lifespan of a steamboat of about three years. It also became the subject of the 1989 song, “New Orleans Is Sinking,” by the band, Tragically Hip.

    Sources:, wikipedia/NewOrleans,

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  • January 13

    What was the Flag Act of 1794?

    60cac2f29d6ae3f9d56c21631d0284bfJanuary 13, 1794 — The Flag Act of 1794 was signed into law by President George Washington today, providing for 15 stripes as well as 15 stars.

    The change in the flag was issued to accommodate the admission into the Union of the states of Vermont and Kentucky. This would be the only official flag of the United States not to have thirteen stripes.

    It was the second of three laws that sought to define the design of the US flag. (See those below.) And click here for the official law of the Flag Act of 1794.

    The first was the Flag Act of 1777, passed by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777, in response to a petition made by an American Indian nation on June 3 for “an American Flag.” As a result, June 14 is now celebrated as Flag Day in the United States. “Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

    The third was the Flag Act of 1818, which was enacted by Congress on April 4, 1818. It provided for the modern rule of having thirteen stripes to represent the original thirteen colonies and having the number of stars match the number of states. It also provided that subsequent changes in the number of stars be made on July 4, Independence Day. “An Act to establish the flag of the United States. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress Assembled, That from and after the fourth day of July next, the flag of the United States be thirteen horizontal stripes, alternate red and white: that the union be twenty stars, white in a blue field. And be it further enacted, That on the admission of every new state into the Union, one star be added to the union of the flag; and that such addition shall take effect of the fourth day of July then next succeeding such admission.”

    Sources: wikipedia/FlagActs,, Smithsonian magazine,

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  • January 14

    Who was the first doctor to perform a successful Cesarean section?

    drbennetJanuary 14, 1794 — Dr. Jessee Bennet (July 10, 1769—July 13, 1842) performed the first successful Cesarean section operation today — on his wife, Elizabeth.

    Earlier that day, Elizabeth endured a prolonged labor and her doctor — Dr. Humphrey — with Bennett determined the only options were a Caesarean section on Elizabeth or a craniotomy on the unborn infant. Dr. Humphrey refused to do anything, feeling that either operation meant certain death for both the mother and her infant. History tells us that Dr. Humphrey then left the Bennett home.

    Desperate to save her child, Elizabeth begged her husband to perform the C-section. Dr. Bennett assembled a crude operating table from two boards supported by barrels, and gave his wife laudanum to make her sleepy. Two servants supported her on the table while Elizabeth’s sister held a candle to light the operating table.

    Dr. Bennett cut his wife’s abdomen with a single sweep of his knife and extracted his infant daughter, Maria. He then removed both of Elizabeth’s ovaries, saying he’d “not be subjected to such an ordeal again.” Finally, he sutured the surgical wound with stout linen thread, the kind used in frontier homes to sew heavy clothing.

    Elizabeth recovered and was able to be up a month later. Dr. Bennett declared his wife healed as of March 1, 1794, writing a cryptic case history on the title page of one of his medical books. Elizabeth lived for 36 more years, passing away on April 20, 1830. Maria Bennett lived until 1870, married twice, and bore six children.

    Sources:, wikipedia/CaesareanSection, wikipedia/Jesse_Bennett,

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  • January 15

    Why did haberdasher John Hetherington’s top hat cause so much controversy in 1797?

    6a011279419f6128a4012876bd651e970cJanuary 15, 1797 — English haberdasher John Hetherington supposedly caused a riot when he first wore a top hat in public today.

    Reportedly, “he appeared on the public highway wearing upon his head what he called a silk hat (which was shiny lustre and calculated to frighten timid people)” and the officers of the Crown stated that “several women fainted at the unusual sight, while children screamed, dogs yelped and a younger son of Cordwainer Thomas was thrown down by the crowd which collected and had his right arm broken.”

    He was arraigned before the Lord Mayor on a charge of breach of the peace and inciting a riot, and was required to post a £500 bond.

    Sources:, History of the Top Hat, Wikipedia/JohnHetherington,

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  • January 16

    Who is appointed Governor of the new California Territory today?

    John_C._FrémontJanuary 16, 1847 — John C. Frémont (January 21, 1813 – July 13, 1890) is appointed Governor of the new California Territory today. However, he was convicted in court martial for mutiny and insubordination. President Polk commuted his sentence.

    A military hero, Frémont led four expeditions into the American West, and the media and historians accorded Frémont the sobriquet, The Pathfinder. Later, he became the first candidate of the anti-slavery Republican Party for the office of President of the United States.

    Frémont acquired his massive wealth during the California Gold Rush, but he was soon bogged down with lawsuits over land claims, between the dispossession of various land owners during the Mexican-American War and the explosion of Forty-Niners immigrating during the California Gold Rush. These cases were settled by the U.S. Supreme Court allowing Frémont to keep his property.

    Sources: wikipedia/GovernorsofCalifornia, wikipedia/JohnFrémont,

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  • January 17

    Who helped 300 families settle in Texas today?

    400px-Moses_Austin-P83-012-0012_enhanced_1January 17, 1821 — Today, Mexico permitted 300 US families to settle in Texas. Moses Austin (October 4, 1761 – June 10, 1821) and his son Stephen led the way.

    After receiving a land grant from the Spanish government in 1820, Moses planned to be the first to establish an English American settlement in Spanish Texas — but he died from pneumonia shortly before his dream was realized.

    His son, Stephen F. Austin, took the lead and helped the settlers gain the autonomy they needed to win independence from the Mexican ruler Antonio López de Santa Anna.

    On March 2, 1836, the group helped to establish the Republic of Texas, which lasted until Texas’s annexation by the US on December 29, 1845.

    Sources: Historical Society of Missouri,, wikipedia/MosesAustin,

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  • January 18

    What is the origin of filibustering?

    Januar 18, 1854 — Filibuster William Walker proclaimed the Republic of Sonora in New Mexico today.

    Residence_of_Gen._William_Walker,_Granda_cph.3a00914An American physician, lawyer, journalist and mercenary, Walker (May 8, 1824 – September 12, 1860) organized several private military expeditions into Latin America, with the intention of establishing English-speaking colonies under his personal control.

    The enterprise became known as “filibustering,” and Walker usurped the presidency of the Republic of Nicaragua in 1856 and ruled until 1857. He was defeated by a coalition of Central American armies, and executed by the government of Honduras in 1860.

    Image: Walker’s house in Granada. On October 12, 1856, during the siege of Granada, Guatemalan officer José Víctor Zavala ran under heavy fire to capture the flag and bring it back to the Central American coalition Army trenches shouting Filibuster bullets don’t kill! Zavala came out unscatched of this adventure.

    Sources:, wikipedia/WilliamWalker,,

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  • January 19

    Who patented tin cans?

    5789604_1January 19, 1825 — Early American engraver named Thomas Kensett patented the first tin cans in America today with the help of his father-in-law, Ezra Daggett.

    Kensett’s first claim to fame was as the publisher of a key map of the area of conflict during the opening stages of the War of 1812.

    By 1825, he had moved to New York City, where he set up a small canning plant on the waterfront. At the time, fish, fruits, vegetables and meat were sealed in glass jars, but Kensett found them expensive and prone to breakage. Plus, they weren’t hermetically sealed. For him, the solution was tin. And so his invention was born.

    Sources:, wiki/ThomasKensett, London Metropolitan Archives,

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  • January 20

    Who was the longest-serving Chief Justice of the Supreme Court?

    1024px-John_Marshall_by_Henry_Inman,_1832January 20, 1801 — John Marshall (September 24, 1755 – July 6, 1835) was appointed the fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States today. He was the longest-serving Chief Justice, a position he held until 1835.

    His court opinions helped lay the basis for United States constitutional law and many say made the Supreme Court of the United States a coequal branch of government along with the legislative and executive branches. Most notably, he reinforced the principle that federal courts are obligated to exercise judicial review, by disregarding purported laws if they violate the constitution. Thus, Marshall cemented the position of the American judiciary as an independent and influential branch of government.

    Marshall, along with Daniel Webster (who argued some of the cases), was the leading Federalist of the day, pursuing Federalist Party approaches to build a stronger federal government over the opposition of the Jeffersonian Republicans, who wanted stronger state governments.

    Previously, Marshall had been a leader of the Federalist Party in Virginia and served in the United States House of Representatives from 1799 to 1800. He was Secretary of State under President John Adams from 1800 to 1801.

    Sources: wikipedia/John_Marshall,,, Justices and Presidents: A Political History of Appointments to the Supreme Court, The Life of John Marshall,

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  • January 21

    Where is coffee first planted in the US?

    Hawaii plantationJanuary 21, 1813 — After the Boston Tea Party of 1773, drinking tea had become unpatriotic so large numbers of Americans switched to drinking coffee during the American Revolution.

    The only state in the United States of America able to grow coffee plants commercially is Hawaii. And today, Don Francisco de Paula y Marin recorded in his journal that he had planted coffee seedlings on the island of Oʻahu. However, not much is known of the fate of that planting.

    John Wilkinson, a gardener who came on HMS Blonde in 1825 under Captain Lord Byron, brought coffee plants from Brazil. Governor Boki provided some land in the Mānoa Valley on Oʻahu. However, Wilkinson died in March 1827, and the trees did not thrive. Some cuttings were taken to other areas around Honolulu. Some plants from Manila were also grown by Richard Charlton, the British Consul.

    More trees were set out in the Kalihi and Niu valleys near Honolulu, in 1828. On the island of Hawaii Rev. Joseph Goodrich tried planting some coffee to make the Hilo mission self-sustaining. Goodrich planted gardens over his 12 years at Hilo, and taught classes for native Hawaiians on cultivation of both for cash to support the mission, as well as vegetables and tropical fruits for their own meals.

    Sources:,, wikipedia/HistoryofCoffee,

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  • January 22

    When was the National Association of Baseball Players founded?

    Item_25725_1January 22, 1857 — The National Association of Baseball Players is founded today in New York. The first organization governing American baseball, it terminated the Knickerbocker era when that club privately deliberated on the rules of the game.

    Prior to the Civil War, baseball competed for public interest with cricket and regional variants of baseball, notably town ball played in Philadelphia and the Massachusetts Game played in New England. In the 1860s, aided by the War, “New York” style baseball expanded into a national game and the NABBP, as its governing body, expanded into a true national organization, although most of the strongest clubs remained those based in New York City, Brooklyn and Philadelphia.

    By the end of 1865, almost 100 clubs were members of the organization. By 1867, it had over 400 members, including some clubs from as far away as San Francisco and Louisiana. Because of this growth, regional and state organizations began to assume a more prominent role in the governance of the sport.

    Sources: wiki/National_Association_of_Base_Ball_Players, "Baseball Before We Knew It: A Search For The Roots Of The Game", Playing for Keeps: A History of Early Baseball,

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  • January 23

    How many earthquakes struck New Madrid, Missouri?

    New_Madrid_ErdbebenJanuary 23, 1812 —  Three earthquakes struck New Madrid, Missouri between 1811-1812, including one that hit today. They remain the most powerful earthquakes to hit the contiguous United States east of the Rocky Mountains in recorded history.

    They were felt strongly over roughly 130,000 square kilometers (50,000 sq mi), and moderately across nearly 3 million square kilometers (1 million square miles).

    The trio of earthquakes included: 

    • December 16, 1811 — The epicenter in northeast Arkansas caused only slight damage to manmade structures, mainly because of the sparse population in the epicentral area.

    • Today: January 23, 1812 — The epicenter was in the Missouri Bootheel. The meizoseismal area was characterized by general ground warping, ejections, fissuring, severe landslides, and caving of stream banks. Johnson and Schweig attributed this earthquake to a rupture on the New Madrid North Fault. This may have placed strain on the Reelfoot Fault.

    • February 7, 1812 — The epicenter near New Madrid was destroyed. In St. Louis, many houses were severely damaged, and their chimneys were toppled. This shock was definitively attributed to the Reelfoot Fault by Johnston and Schweig. Uplift along a segment of this reverse fault created temporary waterfalls on the Mississippi at Kentucky Bend, created waves that propagated upstream, and caused the formation of Reelfoot Lake by obstructing streams in what is now Lake County, Tennessee.

    Sources:, wikipedia/NewMadridearthquakes, U.S. Geological Survey: Largest Earthquakes in the United States,

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  • January 24

    What was the impetus for the California Gold Rush?

    James_Marshall2January 24, 1848 — Today, American carpenter and sawmill operator James Wilson Marshall (October 8, 1810 – August 10, 1885) reported the finding of gold at Coloma on the American River in California.

    It was the impetus for the California Gold Rush, for news of the discovery soon reached around the world. The immediate impact for Marshall was negative. His sawmill failed when all the able-bodied men in the area abandoned everything to search for gold. Before long, arriving hordes of prospectors forced him off his land. Marshall soon left the area.

    Marshall returned to Coloma in 1857 and found some success in the 1860s with a vineyard he started. That venture ended in failure towards the end of the decade, due mostly to higher taxes and increased competition. He returned to prospecting in the hopes of finding success.

    He became a partner in a gold mine near Kelsey, California but the mine yielded nothing and left Marshall practically bankrupt. The California State Legislature awarded him a two-year pension in 1872 in recognition of his role in an important era in California history. It was renewed in 1874 and 1876 but lapsed in 1878. Marshall, penniless, eventually ended up in a small cabin.

    Marshall died in Kelsey on August 10, 1885. In 1886, the members of the Native Sons of the Golden West, Placerville Parlor #9 felt that the “Discoverer of Gold” deserved a monument to mark his final resting place.

    Sources: wikipedia/JamesWMarshall,

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  • January 25

    What was Shays’ Rebellion?

    600px-Daniel_Shays_and_Job_ShattuckJanuary 25, 1787 — Shays’ Rebellion suffered a setback today when debt-ridden farmers, led by Capt Daniel Shays, failed to capture an arsenal at Springfield, Mass.

    Did you know: Shays ’​ Rebellion was an armed uprising in Massachusetts (mostly in and around Springfield) during 1786 and 1787. Revolutionary War veteran Daniel Shays led four thousand rebels (called Shaysites) in rising up against perceived economic injustices and suspension of civil rights by Massachusetts, and in a later attempt to capture the United States’ national weapons arsenal at the U.S. Armory at Springfield.

    Although Shays’ Rebellion met with defeat militarily against a privately-raised militia, it prompted numerous national leaders (including George Washington, who came out of retirement to deal with issues raised by Shays’ Rebellion) to call for a stronger national government to suppress future rebellions, resulting in the U.S. Constitutional Convention and according to historian Leonard L. Richards, “fundamentally altering the course of U.S. history.”

    The events of the rebellion are believed to have affected the debates on the shape of the new government. In fact, the shock of Shays’ Rebellion is said to have drawn retired General George Washington back into public life, leading to his terms as the United States’ first President. The exact nature and consequence of the rebellion’s influence on the content of the Constitution and the ratification debates continues to be a subject of historical discussion and debate.

    Sources:,, wikipedia/ShaysRebellion,

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  • January 26

    Why didn’t Benjamin Franklin want the American eagle to be the national symbol? 26, 1784 — Today, Benjamin Franklin expressed unhappiness over the eagle as America’s symbol,

    It was a year and a half after the Great Seal was adopted by Congress (on June 20, 1782) with the American Bald Eagle as its centerpiece. But Franklin thought the eagle on the badge of the Society of the Cincinnati Medal looked more like a turkey, which prompted him to compare the two birds as a symbol for the United States.

    He said: “Because of their size, bald eagles are not concerned about threats from other birds. However, eagles are often chased by smaller birds, who are trying to protect their young.”

    Franklin actually had a number of ideas for the emblem of the United States. In an anonymous letter to the Pennsylvania Journal in 1775, he pondered the virtues of using the rattlesnake as the coat of arms of America. Although it didn’t make it onto the Great Seal, Franklin’s rattlesnake comparison and the related “Don’t Tread on Me” slogan and other symbols have been in the limelight in recent years.


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  • January 27

    Where was the first US state university chartered?

    Screen Shot 2016-01-16 at 6.14.51 PMJanuary 27, 1785 — The first US state university is chartered today, the University of Georgia, in Athens, Georgia.

    However, the title of oldest public university in the United States is claimed by three universities: the University of Georgia, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and The College of William and Mary.

    Each has a distinct basis for the claim, North Carolina being the first to graduate a class, Georgia being the first created by charter, and William & Mary having the oldest founding date of any currently public university, though it was private for over 250 years.

    Sources:,, wikipedia/OldestPublicUniversity,

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  • January 28

    Who was one of the first US chief engravers?

    Screen Shot 2016-01-16 at 6.54.40 PMJanuary 28, 1824 — William Kneass (September 25, 1781 – August 27, 1840) became the country’s chief engraver today, a job he held until his death in 1840.

    Kneass is credited with designing the “Classic Head” motif, which appeared on numerous denominations of American currency, including the gold Quarter Eagle ($2.50) and Half Eagle ($5.00) gold pieces from 1834-1839.

    He also modified John Reich’s “Capped Bust” design on the half dime through half-dollar from the years 1829-1837. Additionally, Kneass utilized his modified Capped Bust for the rebirth of the half-dime in 1829.

    Born in Lancaster, PA, he served in the War of 1812 as a volunteer associate of the field engineers, and helped construct fortifications on the western front of Philadelphia. He then ran an engraving office on Fourth above Chestnut Street — a popular meeting place for “leading wits and men of culture.”

    Married to Mary Turner Honeyman Kneass, they had six children including a notable architect, Samuel Honeyman Kneass (1806–1858), and engineer, Strickland Kneass (1821-1884).

    Sources: wikipedia/SamuelHoneymanKneass, wikipedia/StricklandKneass, wikipedia/Chief_Engraver,

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  • January 29

    Which publication first published Edgar Allen Poe’s “Raven”?

    Tenniel-TheRavenJanuary 29, 1845 — Edgar Allen Poe’s “Raven” is published today in the New York Evening Mirror.

    It had first been accepted by a literary magazine called The American Review, but the New York paper was ran the poem prior to this publication. An instant hit, the poem was reprinted many times.

    The dark and macabre work is said to have reflected his own life. Born in Boston in 1809, Poe was orphaned at age three and went to live with the family in Richmond, Virginia. As a teen, he enrolled in a military academy, but was expelled for gambling. He later studied briefly at the University of Virginia.

    In 1827, Poe self-published a collection of poems. Six years later, his short story “MS Found in a Bottle” won $50 in a story contest. He edited a series of literary journals, including the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond starting in 1835, and Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine in Philadelphia, starting in 1839.


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  • January 30

    Which state ratified the Articles of Confederation today?

    440px-Articles_page1January 30, 1781 — While the Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation on November 15, 1777, it took a little more than three years for it to be ratified.

    Today marks the anniversary when government leaders in Maryland signed the Articles, which provided a loose confederation of sovereign states and a weak central government, leaving most of the governing power in the hands of state legislators.

    Why was the 13th state the last holdout? Maryland’s state leaders had previously refused to participate until Virginia and New York agreed to cede their claims in the Ohio River Valley.

    The present United States Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation on March 4, 1789.

    Sources: wikipedia/ArticlesofConfederation,,

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  • January 31

    Who invented condensed milk?

    440px-Gail_BordenJanuary 31, 1851 — Gail Borden (November 9, 1801 – January 11, 1863) announced today that he invented condensed milk.

    The native New Yorker had settled in Texas in 1829, where he worked as a land surveyor, newspaper publisher, and inventor. He co-plotted the cities of Houston and Galveston in 1836 before returning home to market his useful food product.

    Borden set up factories for condensed milk in Connecticut, and later in New York and Illinois, as the demand was high for his boxed milk by the Union Army during the Civil War.

    In 1849, entrepreneurial Borden began experimenting with the creation of a dehydrated beef product known as the “meat biscuit,” which was loosely based on a traditional Native American food known as Pemmican. The inventor knew pioneers seeking gold in California needed a readily transportable food source that could endure harsh conditions and he marketed the meat biscuit as a suitable solution.

    Sources:, wikipedia/GailBorden,

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