This Month in History: July

July 2, 1776 — The Continental Congress in Philadelphia adopted the following resolution, originally introduced on June 7, by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia: “Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved. That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances. That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.” • Painting by Thomas Sautelle Roberts (1748-1778), creative commons

  • July 1

    Who is featured on the first postage stamps?

    US1847.tifJuly 1, 1847 — The first US postage stamps went on sale in New York today. The 5-cent stamp featured Benjamin Franklin; George Washington starred on the 10-cent stamp.

    Previously, letters were paid for by the receiver unless already prepaid by the sender. As you can imagine, this system was chaotic and hard to enforce, for the receiver could send the mail back to the post office without paying for it. Once stamps were issued, payments were regulated and the mail moved much more efficiently. By 1855, stamps became mandatory.

    Sources: postalmuseum, wikipedia

  • July 2

    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: • Image: Wikipedia

  • July 3

    What is known as the “surpassing horror of the American Revolution”?

    300px-ChappelWyomingMassacreJuly 3, 1778 — Today, the Battle of Wyoming occurred in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Known as the “surpassing horror of the American Revolution,” this gruesome battle began on July 1, when about 1,000 regular British troops, Loyalist irregulars, and Indians, marched into the Wyoming Valley and seized control of Yankee forts Wintermoot and Jenkins, on the western banks of the Susquehanna River above Wilkes-Barre, PA.

    Shortly before noon today, on July 3, Butler and his 386 militiamen marched out of Forty Fort to do battle. They came within 100 yards of their position and fired three times. The Iroquois then rushed out from the woods and attacked. The battle is said to have only lasted 45 minutes, with American Patriots frantically retreating after defeat.

    British forces then pursued the fleeting Patriots, and spent the rest of the day killing, torturing and scalping 227 Americans; only 60 men survived the attacks and 5 were taken prisoner. The following morning it was reported, “carcasses floated down river, infesting the banks of the Susquehanna.”

    Sources: explorepahistory, wikipedia

  • July 4

    Which three Revolutionary era presidents died on July 4?

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

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

    Adams won in 1796 on the platform of building a strong government, but Jefferson defeated him four years later, favoring a more limited government.

    The political powerhouses renewed 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 U.S. president, died at his son-in-law’s home in New York City. Monroe, 73, had been ill for some time but died from tuberculosis.

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


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  • July 5

    Who said: “What, to the American Slave, is your fourth of July?”

    220px-Frederick_Douglass_c1860sJuly 5, 1852 — Born a slave in 1817, Frederick Douglass and escaped to freedom in 1838, and spent the rest of his life fighting for slave rights.

    Today, before the President of the United States, he delivered a oration at Rochester’s Corinthian Hall. He said:

    “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.”

    Source: • Image:

    Sources:, wikipedia/FrederickDouglass,

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  • July 6

    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.

    Sources:,, Wikipedia/Clotel,

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  • July 7

    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.

    Sources: wikipedia/TheWasp, Francis Korbel, digitalassets, "Racism and Satire in the 19th Century",

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  • July 8

    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

    Sources:, Harvard Gazette, Benjamin Waterhouse, Edward Jenner,,

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  • July 9

    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.

    Sources: allthingsliberty,, wikipedia/JamesSwan,

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  • July 10

    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.

    Sources: historyorb,, wikipedia/Triangularnumber,

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  • July 11

    Who was killed in an infamous duel today?


    July 11, 1804 — Former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and Vice President Aaron Burr engaged in an infamous duel in Weehawken, New Jersey today, which left Hamilton mortally wounded. He died the next day.

    Though many considered Burr to be a murderer, he was never tried and allowed to complete his vice-presidential term.

    Long-time political rivals, Hamilton was known to detest Burr, whom he regarded as a dangerous opportunist. When Burr ran for the vice presidency in 1796 on Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican ticket (the forerunner of the Democratic Party), Hamilton launched a series of public attacks stating, “I feel it is a religious duty to oppose his career.”

    By 1807, Burr found himself in legal trouble when he was brought to trial on another matter. In this case, he was suspected of leading a military charge against Spanish territory and for trying to separate territories from the US. The charges included conspiracy and high misdemeanor. Chief Justice John Marshall acquitted Burr on the treason charge and eventually revoked this misdemeanor indictment, but the scandal left Burr’s political career in ruins.

    Sources: americaslibrary,,

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  • July 12

    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.

    Sources: wikipedia/LatterDaySaintpolygamy,, restorationbookstore,

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  • July 13

    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.

    Sources: wikipedia/NYCriots,,,

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  • July 14

    What was the Vesey Rebellion?

    VeseyJuly 14, 1822 — Freed slave Denmark Vesey planned a revolt to occur today that would have involved thousands of slaves from multiple plantations.

    Known as the Vesey Rebellion, his plan was to gather as many as 3,000 men in and around Charleston, South Carolina, who were fellow followers from the African Methodist Episcopal Church, as well as from among artisans and rural slaves.

    Vesey proposed that the insurgents take the city ammunitions depository, plunder the local banks, slaughter every white person in the city, and sail to Saint Dominique. A week prior to the attack, insiders began to alert the authorities. The revolt was foiled, and Vesey and 35 others were hanged.

    VeseyBookBorn on the sugar plantation island of Saint Thomas in 1767, Vesey won $1500 in the East Bay Lottery. He purchased his own freedom, but not that of his wife or children. Securing their freedom is what historians believe to be the reason he plotted the revolt.

    His courage is recognized today. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous novel Dred, is based on Vesey’s life. His name was used to recruit African Americans into the US Colored troops. In 2014, a statue of Vesey was erected in Charleston.

    Sources: wikipedia/DenmarkVesey,, huffingtonpost,

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  • July 15

    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.

    Sources: wikipedia/Shohola,,,

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  • July 16

    What did the Residence Act of 1790 accomplish?

    washington-capitolJuly 16, 1790 — At last, the question of the location of the nation’s capital was settled today when the The Residence Act of 1790 was passed. The Federal government had been located in New York City, but that decision was fiercely debated for 7 years.

    Philadelphia was in the running, and was the capital for 10 years, from 1790-1800. George Washington and John Adams lived in a mansion at 6th & Market Streets, which served as the presidential home.

    But it was Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton who came up with a compromise. On their recommendation, Congress decided the permanent capital would be the as-yet-unbuilt District of Columbia. The decision, historians explain, was partially to placate southern states for accepting Alexander Hamilton’s financial plan for federal assumption of northern states’ debt.

    Who decided how the new city would look? HobanWHProgressDrawingPresident George Washington commissioned French engineer Pierre-Charles L’Enfant to create a plan for the city. Washington liked L’Enfant’s designs, which included wide avenues and open spaces; as GW didn’t want the capital to become a city of crowded buildings. He knew that people would need parks where they could walk and relax. So, the streets of the capital were oriented in a north, south, east, and west grid pattern.

    Thanks to L’Enfant’s careful planning, when you stand on the steps of the U.S. Capitol today, you can look down the mall all the way to the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

    Sources: wikipedia/ResidenceAct,,,,

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  • July 17

    What was the impact of the Militia Act of 1862?

    4th-usct-webJuly 17, 1862 — The Militia Act of 1862 was passed today, allowing African Americans to join the Union forces and fight in the Civil War.

    Although this act was an important step toward freedom and equality of African Americans, the act did not suppress discrimination toward blacks.

    Indeed, black troops suffered from unequal treatment, lower pay, and withholding of medical care. Lincoln credited their courage, saying this was “the heaviest blow yet dealt to the rebellion.”


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  • July 18

    What was America’s first popular patriotic song — and who penned it?

    220px-John_Dickinson_portraitJuly 18, 1768 — The Liberty Song, was published today in the Boston Gazette. Written by Founding Father John Dickinson, he coined the phrase, “united we stand, divided we fall.” After its initial publication, word of the song spread throughout the colonies.

    Who was John Dickinson? A solicitor and politician from Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware, Dickinson (1732–1808) was known as the “Penman of the Revolution” for the dozen “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania,” published between 1767 and 1768. The 12 letters were widely read and reprinted throughout the colonies; they proved to be important in uniting the colonists against the Townshend Acts. The success of his letters earned Dickinson considerable fame.

    As a member of the First Continental Congress, where he was a signee to the Continental Association, Dickinson drafted most of the 1774 Petition to the King, and then as a member of the Second Continental Congress wrote the 1775 Olive Branch Petition, two attempts to negotiate with King George III of Great Britain.

    When these failed, he reworked Thomas Jefferson’s language and wrote the final draft of the 1775 Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms. When Congress then decided to seek independence, Dickinson served on the committee that wrote the Model Treaty, and then wrote the first draft of the 1776–1777 Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union.

    Sources:, wikipedia/JohnDickinson, wikipedia/GeorgeIII,,

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  • July 19

    Who organized the first women’s rights convention?

    Elizabeth-Cady-Stanton_Pioneer-for-Womens-Suffrage_HD_768x432-16x9July 19, 1848 — The first US women’s rights convention took place in Seneca Falls, NY today. Organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton (pictured) and Lucretia Mott, it is was advertised as, “a convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman.”

    There were six different sessions held, including a lecture on law, one on comedic presentation, and four discussions on a woman’s role in society.

    An estimated 300 women and men attended the Convention, including Frederick Douglass.

    At the conclusion, 68 women and 32 men signed the Declaration of Sentiments drafted by Stanton, and Mary Ann M’Clintock and her family.

    Sources: wikipedia/SenecaFallsConvention,,,,

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  • July 20

    What is a Great Meteor procession?

    300px-Frederic_Church_Meteor_of_1860July 20, 1860 — A phenomenon called the Great Meteor Procession occurred today in 1860 when a spectacular string of fireball meteors crossed the Catskill, NY sky.

    Visible from locations across the US, it was later captured in a painting by American landscape artist Frederic Church (at right).

    The event was also inspired the poem Year of Meteors, by Walt Whitman. (More here.)

    Then on Feb. 9, 1913, another Great Meteor Procession was reported from locations across Canada, the northeastern United States, and Bermuda — and from ships at sea, including eight off Brazil, giving a total recorded ground track of over 7,000 miles (11,000 km).

    Scientists explain that the meteors were particularly unusual in that there was no apparent radiant (no point in the sky from which the meteors appeared to originate). The observations were analysed in detail, later the same year, by the astronomer Clarence Chant, leading him to conclude that as all accounts were positioned along a great circlearc, the source had been a small, short-lived natural satellite of the Earth.

    John A. O’Keefe, who conducted several studies of the event, proposed that the meteors should be referred to as the Cyrillids, in reference to the feast day of Cyril of Alexandria (February 9 in the Roman Catholic calendar, from 1882–1969).

    Sources: wikipedia/GreatMeteor1860, wikipedia/GreatMeteor1913,,,

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  • July 21

    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.

    Sources: wikipedia/WildBillHickok,, "Wild Bill and His Era", "Wild Bill Hickok, Gunfighter",

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  • July 22

    What feat did Alexander Mackenzie accomplish today in history?

    71pc3Wak+HLJuly 22, 1793 — Today, Alexander Mackenzie reached the Pacific Ocean after making the first Euro-American transcontinental journey across the United States.

    Mackenzie’s journey preceded Lewis and Clark’s journey by 10 years. Unlike Lewis and Clark, Mackenzie’s pilgrimage was neither proposed by nor financed by the US government.

    Once he reached the Pacific, he wrote the following words on a rock from paint he created from grease: “Alexander Mackenzie, from Canada, by land, the twenty-second of July, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-three.” 

    Why was this courageous journey largely overlooked? Because Mackenzie failed to find a commercial route across the country. However, his attempt inspired Thomas Jefferson.

    In fact, in 1801 Jefferson ordered a copy of the book entitled, Voyages from Montreal, on the River St. Lawrence, through the Continent of North America, to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans. Written about the exploration by Alexander Mackenzie and nine companions, the book made a number of things clear to Jefferson.

    First, Mackenzie indicated that his portage over a 3,000 foot mountain pass to cross from land draining to the Atlantic Ocean to land draining into the Pacific lasted only one day.

    He did not find a navigable river on the western side of the mountain range, but Jefferson and Meriwether Lewis knew that 400 miles south of Mackenzie’s crossing was the navigable Columbia River. If the mountains were as easy to cross near the Columbia as the area where Mackenzie portaged, the possibility of a waterway to the Pacific looked promising. Second, the book reconfirmed Jefferson’s fears about British colonization in the West.

    Sources:,, wikipedia/AlexanderMackenzie,,

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  • July 23

    Who invented the typewriter?

    220px-W_A_Burt_typographerJuly 23, 1829 — Today, William Austin Burt patented the first typographer (typewriter).

    An American legislator, surveyor, craftsman and inventor created a rectangular wooden box that depressed a rotating lever, causing ink to be released onto a sheet of paper.

    The reason for the creation was to simply to speed up his writing process as a surveyor, but Burt’s goal was never reached due to his machine’s slow nature.

    It wasn’t until 1873 that the first practical typewriter was invented by Christopher Latham Sholes, which included the qwerty keyboard that is used today.

    In 1874, Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) purchased his first typewriter for $125. It is believed that he is the first author to submit a typewritten novel for publication entitled, “Life on the Mississippi.”

    Sources: wikipedia/WilliamAustinBurt,,,,

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  • July 24

    Who founded Salt Lake City today in 1847?

    175px-Brigham_Young_by_Charles_William_CarterJuly 24, 1847 — The first group of Mormon pioneers arrived in Salt Lake Valley, Utah today.

    Leading the group was the president of the Latter Day Saints Church, Bringham Young (June 1, 1801 – August 29, 1877). He founded Salt Lake City and he served as the first governor of the Utah Territory. Young also led the foundings of the precursors to the University of Utah and Brigham Young University.

    Young took over the role as leader of the religious sect after the death of Mormonism’s founder Joseph Smith. The man who founded the religion on April 6, 1830 in Fayette, NY, was killed by an armed mob on June 27, 1844. He and his brother Hyrum were in jail awaiting trial in Carthage, IL for treason charges.

    From 1839 until 1846, the Mormon church had been headquartered in Nauvoo where church members were able to prosper and practice their religion peacefully. But tensions arose when many citizens began to view the Mormons with contempt.

    The trek to Utah was an arduous hike along the 1,300-mile path — now called the Mormon Trail — which extends from Navuoo, Illinois to Salt Lake Valley. Approximately 3,000 Mormons made the trip toward the new homestead pulling 653 carts and 50 supply wagons. It is believed that approximately 400 died during the trip.

    On July 24 each year, Utah commemorates Pioneer Day to honor the brave Mormons who made the journey. It is an official holiday in Utah, and is celebrated with parades, fireworks rodeos, and a reenactment of their arrival.

    Sources: wikipedia/PioneerDay,,,

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  • July 25

    Which author made taught us about gold rush bandit Joaquin Murrieta Carrillo?

    The_Life_of_Joaquin_Murieta_(1859)July 25, 1853 — Joaquin Murrieta Carrillo, also known as the Mexican Robin Hood, was decapitated today. Considered by government officials to be a bandit in California during the Gold Rush, his story became legendary after his death thanks to author John Rollin Ridge, who dramatized his life in the dime store novel entitled: The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta: The Celebrated California Bandit.

    Lore tells us that Murrieta arrived in California in 1849 and made a fortune finding gold and engaging in illegal horse trade with Mexico. Fellow miners are said to have became jealous of his fortune and attacked him and his wife. In retaliation, Murrieta and a paramilitary band made up of relatives and friends, are said to have killed at least six of the Americans responsible for the attack, in addition to 28 Chinese and 13 Anglo-Americans.

    In May 1853, the California state legislature listed him as one of the so-called “Five Joaquins,” and hired 20 California Rangers, veterans of the Mexican-American War, to hunt down Carrillo and his associates. They were paid $150 a month, and promised a $1,000 governor’s reward if they captured the wanted men.

    Today, on July 25, the Rangers encountered a band of armed Mexican men at Arroyo de Cantua near the Coast Range Mountains of Coalinga. Three of the Mexicans were killed, including Carrillo. The California Historical Landmark #344, at the intersection of State Routes 33 and 198, marks the approximate site of the incident.

    Was Carrillo an infamous bandit or a Mexican patriot? You decide.

    Sources: wikipedia/JoaquinMurrieta,,

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  • July 26

    What national organization did Benjamin Franklin help establish today?

    1d_Franklin-01July 26, 1775 — Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706 – April 17, 1790) became the first postmaster general of the United States Post Office today, and held the job until late in 1776 when he was sent to France as a diplomat.

    Since 1753, he had been postmaster in Philadelphia, and in his new position had the authority to put into place the foundation for many aspects of today’s mail system:

    • He set up efficient colonial routes and cut delivery time in half between Philadelphia and New York by having the weekly mail wagon travel both day and night via relay teams.

    • He debuted the first rate chart, which standardized delivery costs based on distance and weight.

    • He established routes from Florida to Maine and regular service between the colonies and Britain.

    • When George Washington appointed Samuel Osgood, a former Massachusetts congressman, as the first postmaster general of the American nation under the new U.S. constitution in 1789, there were approximately 75 post offices in the country.

    Today, the United States has more than 40,000 post offices and the postal service delivers 212 billion pieces of mail each year to over 144 million homes and businesses in the US, Puerto Rico, Guam, the American Virgin Islands and American Samoa. As the nation’s largest civilian employer, the USPS has more than 700,000 career workers, who handle more than 44 percent of the world’s cards and letters.


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  • July 27

    Who unveiled the first electric automobile today?

    Fred_Kimball_electricvehicle_1888July 27, 1888 — Philip Pratt unveiled the first electric automobile today — the e-trike.

    Built for him by Fred M. Kimball of the Fred M. Kimball Company, the vehicle’s 10 lead-acid cells created 20 volts to a 0.5 horsepower DC motor. The driver sat above the battery assemblage. The whole setup weighed about 300 pounds and had a top speed of eight miles-per-hour.

    The Pratt-Kimball device wasn’t the first electric tricycle in the world — that milestone belongs to British engineers William Ayrton and John Perry — but it led the way to American innovation in self-propelled vehicles.

    Considered the father of the American electric automobile, Pratt and his invention might have gone unnoticed but for the journalistic professionalism of the editor of a short-lived Boston magazine devoted to the wonders of electricity, Modern Light and Heat.


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  • July 28

    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.

    Sources:, wikipedia/VictorHugo,,

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  • July 29

    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.

    Sources: wikipedia/BelleBoyd,,,

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  • July 30

    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.

    Sources:, wikipedia/NewYorkYachtClub,,

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  • July 31

    Why did Lincoln give the “eye for an eye” order today?


    July 31, 1863 — Although the concept of eye-for-an-eye punishment seems medieval now, it was in practice during the Civil War. In fact, black and white POWs were often punished or killed to even a score.

    Upset by this, President Lincoln issued the historic “eye for an eye” order today, warning the Confederacy that the Union would shoot a rebel prisoner for every black prisoner shot — and would condemn a rebel prisoner to a life of hard labor for every black prisoner sold into slavery.

    Lincoln’s General Order No. 252 had a restraining influence on Confederate government; however, individual commanders and soldiers continued to murder captured black soldiers.

    Sources:, wikipedia/AbrahamLincoln,,,

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