This Month in History: June

June 14, 1775 — The US Army is born. Established by the Second Continental Congress, the Continental Army begins to grow to six companies of riflemen. On June 15, George Washington is appointed by unanimous vote to command the army. —

June 14, 1777 — Flag Day is established. Today, John Adams introduces a resolution before Congress mandating a United States flag. This anniversary has been celebrated each year since. Adams stated: “… that the flag of the thirteen United States shall be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation.”  —

And on June 14, 1922 — Warren G. Harding becomes the first US president to broadcast a message over the radio. The event is the dedication of the Francis Scott Key Memorial in Baltimore. –

  • June 1

    Who uttered the Navy motto “Don’t give up the ship”?

    JamesLawrenceATcommonsJune 1, 1813 – Today, American naval officer James Lawrence — the Captain of the USS Chesapeake — uttered the heroic words. “Don’t give up the ship!”

    Reportedly, it was his last dying command to his men fighting in the War of 1812.

    Lawrence was injured when his ship took on the HMS Shannon. Although the USS Chesapeake was forced to surrender, Lawrence’s words were a powerful rallying cry.


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  • June 1

    What port did the British government close today?

    Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 1.23.02 PMJune 1, 1774 — Today the British government ordered the Port of Boston closed. Known as the Boston Port Act (the Trade Act 1774), it measured the Intolerable Acts, which were designed to secure Great Britain’s jurisdictions over her American dominions.

    The Act was a response to the Boston Tea Party. King George III’s speech of 7 March 1774 charged the colonists with attempting to injure British commerce and subvert the Constitution, and on the 18th Lord North brought in the Port Bill.

    It outlawed the use of the Port of Boston (by setting up a barricade/blockade) for “landing and discharging, loading or shipping, of goods, wares, and merchandise” until such time as restitution was made to the King’s treasury (for customs duty lost) and to the East India Company for damages suffered.

    Sources: wikipedia/BostonPortAct,, wikipedia/JamesOtis,

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  • June 2

    After the Revolutionary War, what did Martha Washington long for?

    YoungMarthaWashingtonJune 2, 1731 — Martha Dandridge Custis Washington was born today on her parents’ plantation, Chestnut Grove, in the British colony Province of Virginia.

    She grew up in a world of elite social custom and privilege in the 1730s and would go on to would marry twice, give birth to four children — losing two of them to illness in childhood — and bear witness to the Revolution and the creation of a new nation.

    Her wish for a quiet life after her husband, General George Washington, helped win the Revolutionary War was not meant to be.

    Hundreds of admirers came to visit at Mount Vernon to pay respects to her husband — a war hero. Martha had to make sure they all had meals and beds. She and George had adopted her two young grandchildren after the death of her daughter, and that also kept her busy.

    Sources: wikipedia/MarthaWashington, "Founding Mothers," by Cokie Roberts,,

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  • June 2

    For what is the Marquis de Sade reknown for?

    220px-Sade_(van_Loo)June 2, 1740 — The Marquis de Sade is born today in Paris. A military leader, governor-general, and author, his acts of extreme cruelty and violence resulted in the term sadism being created from his name to describe gratification in inflicting pain.

    Famous for his libertine sexuality,  Sade is best known for his erotic works, which combined philosophical discourse with pornography, and an emphasis on violence — as well as what was considered blasphemy against the Catholic Church.

    A proponent of extreme freedom, that he believed should be unrestrained by morality, religion or law, Sade was incarcerated in various prisons and in an insane asylum for about 32 of his life. Many of his works were written in prison.

    During the French Revolution, he was an elected delegate to the National Convention.

    Sources: "The Marquis de Sade: A Life", wikipedia/MarquisdeSade,

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  • June 3

    Which battles began and ended the Civil War today?

    Robert_E_LeeWikimediaJune 3, 1861 — The Battle at Philippi, West Virginia, is considered the first land battle of the Civil War.  The Confederacy hardly resisted the attacks and troops were defeated, enabling the Union to press on toward Richmond, VA — the Confederacy’s capital city. The battle is also known for the war’s first usage of battlefield amputations.

    June 3, 1864 — Three years later, to the day, Commander of the Confederacy General Robert E. Lee won his last victory of the war at the Battle of Cold Harbor. This Battle is known to have marked the beginning of the end for the Confederate states.

    Sources:, wikipedia/BattleofColdHarbor,,

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  • June 4

    What was the controversy surrounding the Neutrality Act of 1794?

    USSConstellationVsInsurgenteJune 4, 1794 —  The Neutrality Act of 1794 was passed today, making it illegal for an American to wage war against any country at peace with the United States. The Act also forbid foreign war vessels to outfit in American waters and sets a three mile territorial limit at sea.

    It was a controversial, and highly debated step, explains Ron Chernow, author of the 2004 book, “Alexander Hamilton.”

    Chernow explains: “The Proclamation of Neutrality was issued in May 1793 by George Washington, declaring the nation neutral in the conflict between France and Great Britain. It threatened legal proceedings against any American providing assistance to any country at war. His cabinet members agreed that neutrality was essential; the nation was too young and its military was too small to risk any sort of engagement with either France or Britain. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, in particular, saw in this question, as well as in the other twelve, the influence of the Federalists — his political rivals; yet he too agreed a proclamation was in order, though perhaps not an official one.”

    Sources:, wikipedia/NeutralityActof1794,

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  • June 5

    Which anti-slavery novel is considered a cause of the Civil War?

    CabinJune 5, 1851 — Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” was published on this day in a weekly publication called The National Era.

    An American abolitionist who wrote about the corruption of slavery, Stowe’s book had such a strong effect on its readers that it is considered by scholars to actually be one of the causes of the Civil War.

    In fact, its impact led to the oft-told apocryphal tale that when President Abraham Lincoln met Stowe 10 years after the book became a classic, the president greeted her by saying, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war.”

    Stowe (June 14, 1811 – July 1, 1896) actually wrote 30 books, but this novel was her best known. It reached millions as a novel and play, and energized anti-slavery forces in the American North, and provoked widespread anger in the South.


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  • June 6

    When was “the year without summer?”

    early-settlersJune 6, 1816 — Today begins a”the year without summer,” when cold temperatures affected the entire country. New England suffered through the most severe temperature drop, and got 10 inches of snow. An agriculture disaster of great proportion, the low temperatures killed the roots or stunted growth of almost all crops in the northern regions.

    According to Meteorologist Lee Foster: The indications of a possible cool summer were evident during the spring time. The middle of May brought unseasonably cool temperatures to the region with light snow reported in Quebec Province with frost as far south as Virginia. Mild and sunny conditions returned to the Northeast by the last week of May before a strong cold front crossed New England on the 28th with light snow again reported in Quebec and frost as far south as Pennsylvania. Reports of fruit trees being set back and acres of corn killed in Maine were common.”

    Sources:,, "The Year Without Summer: 1816",

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  • June 7

    Which famous explorer made his way to Kentucky today?

    1a-006959June 7, 1769 — Today, Daniel Boone began exploring the Bluegrass State of Kentucky. He wrote: “I surveyed the famous river Ohio, that rolled in silent dignity, marking the western boundary of Kentucky with inconceivable grandeur.”

    Born in eastern Pennsylvania in 1734, Boone moved with his family to North Carolina in 1753. It was from there that he made his first excursion across the Appalachian Mountains into neighboring Kentucky, where found the lush countryside teeming with game. He devoted the next two years to roaming the region.

    Boone again ventured into Bluegrass Country in 1775 as a leader of a team clearing a road through the wilderness from Virginia to central Kentucky. This “Wilderness Road” pierced the barrier of the Appalachian Mountains through the Cumberland Gap.

    With the end of the American Revolution, this route became a major avenue for the westward migration of the early pioneers. In the same year, Boone moved his family to Kentucky and founded the settlement of Boonesborough. In the following years, tales of his exploits magnified his image, blurring the line separating fact from fiction and transforming Boone into a symbol of America’s self reliance and independent spirit.

    A description of Boone’s exploits is well told by author John Filson, who made his way to Kentucky in 1783 to seek his fortune. He connected with Boone, and felt compelled to chronicle Boone’s adventures. A book was the result, and it was first published in 1784 before being republished in England and Europe. This text established Boone as a folk hero.

    Sources:, wikipedia/DanielBoone, historicmissourians,

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  • June 7

    Whose words were the impetus for the drafting of a formal Declaration of Independence?

    RichardHenryLeeJune 7, 1776 — Conflict between the colonies and England was a year old when the colonies convened a Continental Congress in Philadelphia in the summer of 1776.

    In a June 7 session at the Pennsylvania State House (later called Independence Hall), Richard Henry Lee of Virginia presented a resolution that was impetus for the drafting of a formal Declaration of Independence. Lee wrote:

    “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.”

    Sources:,, wikipedia/Lee family,

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  • June 8

    What famous legislation was proposed in the US House of Representatives today?

    440px-James_MadisonJune 8, 1789 — Today, President James Madison began the debate about incorporating amendments to the United States Constitution, initially introducing 38 ratifications.

    He explained: “It appears to me that this House is bound by every motive of prudence, not to let the first session pass over without proposing to the State Legislatures some things to be incorporated into the constitution, that will render it as acceptable to the whole people of the United States, as it has been found acceptable to a majority of them.”

    His initial attempt was unsuccessful, and it wasn’t until September of 1789 that 10 of Madison’s articles were approved. These amendments are known today as the Bill of Rights, and have remained central to the principles of the United States government.

    Sources:, wikipedia/BillofRight,,

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  • June 9

    How many Mormons began their trek west today?

    iowaCityArticle1June 9, 1856 — On this day, 274 Mormons began their trek west for Salt Lake City. The group traveled 1,300 miles on foot and carried with them two-wheeled handcarts to haul their belongings. Four months later, the survivors reached Utah Territory. On the way, more than 200 of the emigrants died, crossing what’s now Wyoming as winter set in.

    “Families pushed and pulled two-wheeled, shallow-boxed handcarts, built out of green lumber a short time before,” writes Annette Hein on “The hot sun and wind were hard on the emigrants and the handcarts. After a few weeks, the green wood began to shrink and crack. Poorly greased wooden wheels shrieked on their wooden axles.”

    The Journey came to be known as the Mormon Handcart Movement, and this day marked only the beginning of the 1856-1860 trek — a period when nearly 3,000 Mormon pioneers made the journey to Utah, by foot.

    Prior to the pilgrimage, Mormons were ostracized by outsiders. People felt politically and socially threatened by the group due its growth in number and diverging religious beliefs. These prejudices became violent and the need to migrate west became dire.

    By the early 1850s, most American Mormons had already arrived in Utah, and the church began actively seeking converts in Europe. Church leaders organized a smooth transit system involving chartered steamships, riverboats up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and, later, railroad passage from the East Coast to central Iowa. Many emigrants’ passage was supported by the church.

    Sources: wikipedia/Mormonpioneers,,,

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  • June 10

    Why did a shipment of Madeira wine make history today?

    sloop-1775June 10, 1768 — British customs officials seized John Hancock’s ship, The Liberty, alleging that Bostonians, seeking to evade the Townshend Acts, locked a customs official in the Liberty’s cabin while the cargo of Madeira winewas unloaded.

    The Sons of Liberty protested. Although it began peacefully, the patriots quickly became violent as customs impounded and burned Hancock’s vessel. Duty Collectors were unharmed, but the occurrence motivated the people to boycott British goods. Hancock was fined for smuggling, but the case was dropped due to a lack of evidence.

    In retaliation, the British government confiscated the Liberty, and it was towed away by HMS Halifax. Charges against Hancock were eventually dropped, but the Liberty remained confiscated. The ship was refitted in Rhode Island to serve as a Royal Navy ship named HMS Liberty, then used to patrol off Rhode Island for customs violations.

    On 19 July 1769, the crew of the Liberty under Captain William Reid, accosted Joseph Packwood, a New London captain, and seized and towed two Connecticut ships into Newport. In retribution, Packwood and a mob of Rhode Islanders confronted Reid, then boarded, scuttled and later burned the ship on the north end of Goat Island in Newport harbor as one of the first overt American acts of defiance against the British government.

    Sources:, wikipedia/HMSLiberty,,

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  • June 11

    What was the Committee of Five?

    Committee_of_Five,_1776June 11, 1776 — The Continental Congress created the “committee of five,” who drafted the Declaration of Independence today.

    It included John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert R. Livingston, and Thomas Jefferson — who, upon the committee’s request, wrote the first draft of the Declaration.

    Did you know: The committee’s meetings were never recorded and much of the drafting process was left uncertain. Despite popular belief that there was one grand signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, the finished proof-copy was not finished until the following day.  Due to the lack of documentation, the events that took place July 4 and 5 of 1776 have become one of the great myths in American history.

    Sources: wikipedia/CommitteeofFive,,

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  • June 12

    Who patented the gas mask in 1849?

    18nj8wyp0xy0sjpgJune 12, 1849 — The gas mask was patented today by Lewis Haslett of Louisville, KY.

    Initially named the “inhaler,” or “lung protector,” it functioned as an air purifying respirator. Inhalation and exhalation occured through two one-way clapper valves: one permitting the air to enter through a bulb-shaped filter, and the other permitting the exit of the air directly into the atmosphere.

    Haslett’s device operated in a similar way to a modern gas mask, however its filter materials — wool or other porous substance moistened with water — could only trap solid pollutants, such as dust, but could not protect against harmful gases.

    Sources:, wikipedia/GasMask,

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  • June 13

    What fun and important events happened today in history?

    440px-Gilbert_du_Motier_Marquis_de_LafayetteJune 13, 1777 — The Marquis de Lafayette landed on US soil today. The French aristocrat and military officer fought for the United States in the American Revolutionary War. Lafayette was a key figure in the French Revolution of 1789 and the July Revolution of 1830.

    Born September 6, 1757 (he died May 20, 1834), Lafayette was a French aristocrat and military officer who was a close friend of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson.

    When he learned that the Continental Congress did not have the money for his voyage, he acquired the sailing ship La Victoire with his own funds. The two-month journey was marked by seasickness and boredom. At last, today, he landed on North Island near Georgetown, South Carolina.

    Upon his arrival, Lafayette met Major Benjamin Huger, a wealthy landowner, with whom he stayed for two weeks before going to Philadelphia. The Continental Congress had been overwhelmed by French officers recruited by Deane, many of whom could not speak English or lacked military experience. Lafayette had learned some English en route (he became fluent within a year of his arrival), and his Masonic membership opened many doors in Philadelphia.

    After Lafayette offered to serve without pay, Congress commissioned him a major general on  July 31. His advocates included the recently arrived American envoy to France, Benjamin Franklin, who by letter urged Congress to accommodate the young Frenchman.

    On August 5, Lafayette met George Washington, then the commander in chief of the Continental Army, when he came to Philadelphia to brief Congress on military affairs. At a dinner, Washington was reportedly impressed by the young man’s enthusiasm and was inclined to think well of a fellow Mason; Lafayette was simply in awe of the commanding general.

    Washington took the Frenchman to view his military camp; when Washington expressed embarrassment at its state and that of the troops, Lafayette responded, “I am here to learn, not to teach.”

    He became a member of Washington’s staff, although confusion existed regarding his status. Congress regarded his commission as honorary, while he considered himself a full-fledged commander who would be given control of a division when Washington deemed him prepared. Washington told Lafayette that a division would not be possible as he was of foreign birth, but that he would be happy to hold him in confidence as “friend and father.”

  • June 13

    What is the origin of ice cream in the US?

    7f6fe009d854f595ae74ed103902aa93June 13, 1789 — This evening, Elizabeth “Betsy” Hamilton — the wife of Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) who was first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States — served ice cream to George Washington. It was said to be the highlight of the dinner party. The dessert caught on, for by August, the president and first lady likewise served ice cream at a party attended by Vice President John Adams and his wife, Abigail, and Chief Justice John Jay and his wife, Sarah. (An inventory of Mount Vernon shortly after Washington’s death listed 10 ice cream pots among the kitchenware.)

    Thomas Jefferson was also a great fan of ice cream, especially vanilla, which he first enjoyed in France and may have introduced to America. During his presidency, he sometimes served ice cream balls encased in warm pastry. According to Barbara G. Carson’s “Ambitious Appetites: Dining, Behavior, and Patterns of Consumption in Federal Washington” (Aia, 1990), this generated “great astonishment and murmurings” from the dinner guests.

    By the end of the 18th century, the commercial harvesting and shipping of ice from the cold states to warmer ones was taking hold, and Washington-area residents could purchase ice year-round. The ready availability — and eventual affordability — of ice, plus the invention of the hand-cranked, dasher-style ice cream machine and appearance of soda fountains in the mid-19th century changed the ice cream experience dramatically. Ordinary folks, as well as the region’s elite, could enjoy the amazing pleasure of keeping cool with ice cream, sorbets, sherbets and such.

    And it is believe that the man who made the cream so popular among the masses was a black man by the name of Jackson. In the early part of the present century kept a small confectionery store in Washington. Cold custards, which were cooled after being made by setting them on a cake of ice, were very fashion able, and Jackson, at Mrs. Hamilton’s suggestion, froze them by placing the ingredients in a tin bucket and completely covering it with ice. Each bucket contained a quart, and was sold for $1. It immediately became popular, and the inventor soon enlarged his store, and when he died left a considerable fortune. A good many tried to follow his example, and ice cream was hawked about the streets, being wheeled along very much as the hokey-pokey carts are now, but none of them succeeded in obtaining the flavor that Jackson had in his product.


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  • June 14

    In addition to Flag Day being established today, what two military events occurred?

    June 14, 1775 — The US Army is born today.Established by the Second Continental Congress, the 130614a_armyBirthdayContinental Army begins to grow; it currently consists of six companies of riflemen. Tomorrow (June 15, 1775), George Washington will be appointed by unanimous vote to command the organization.

    June 14, 1777 — Two years later, Flag Day is established. John Adams introduced a resolution before Congress stating, “… the flag of the thirteen United States shall be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation.” This anniversary has been celebrated each year since.

    June 14, 1807 — On the other side of the pond, today Emperor Napoleon I’s French Grande Armee defeated the Russian Army at the Battle of Friedland in Prussia (modern Russian Kaliningrad Oblast), ending the War of the Fourth Coalition.


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  • June 15

    What groundbreaking invention did Goodyear patent today?

    Unknown-3June 15, 1844 — The Goodyear company patented the vulcanization of rubber today. It’s founder, Charles Goodyear, obtained his first patent to produce rubber on June 17, 1837. He received patent number 3633 from the United States Patent Office on June 15, 1844.

    Vulcanized rubber is malleable, durable and non-stick — and therefore it proved to be a very effective material for sealing small gaps. This discovery made the material much more durable, and changed the industrial world.

    Goodyear’s discovery followed five years of searching for a more stable rubber and stumbling upon the effectiveness of heating after Thomas Hancock. His discovery initiated decades of successful rubber manufacturing in the Lower Naugatuck Valley in Connecticut, as rubber was adopted to multiple applications, including footwear and tires. The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company is named after him.

    Sources:, Vulcanization, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company,

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  • June 15

    Which amendment to the US Constitution was ratified today?

    June 15, 1804 — The 12th amendment to the US Constitution was ratified today. It manages the procedure for electing the President and Vice President. It explains:

    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.

    This amendment replaced Article II, Section 1, Clause 3 of the Constitution, which provided the original procedure. The Twelfth Amendment designates that each elector must cast one vote for President and Vice President, instead of two votes for President. Every presidential election since the 12th amendment has been conducted under its terms.


  • June 16

    Who was America’s first female postmaster?

    440px-Mary_Katherine_GoddardJune 16, 1738 — Born today was Mary Katherine Goddard (June 16, 1738 – August 12, 1816), an early American publisher and the first female postmaster in America. She was also the first to print the Declaration of Independence with the names of the signatories.

    The native of Connecticut was the daughter of Dr. Giles Goddard, the postmaster of New London. Her mother, Sarah Updike Goddard, set up a printing press and published city’s first newspaper, the Providence Gazette.

    After the death of her father in 1762, Mary and her mother joined her brother, William Goddard (1740-1817), in Providence, R.I. where he had established a printing shop. Both mother and daughter began their careers as printers.

    When William left Rhode Island to start a newspaper in Philadelphia, Mary took control of the journal in 1774, and continued to publish it throughout the American Revolutionary War until 1784. However, her brother forced her to give up the newspaper amid an acrimonious quarrel.

    In 1775, Mary went into the other “family business,” and became the first female postmaster, overseeing the Baltimore post office. She also ran a book store and published an almanac in offices located around 250 Market Street (now East Baltimore Street, near South Street).

    On January 18, 1777, when the Second Continental Congress moved that the Declaration of Independence be widely distributed, Mary offered the use of her press — despite of the risks of being associated with what was considered a treasonable document by the British. Her copy, the Goddard Broadside, was the second printed, and the first to contain the typeset names of the signatories, including John Hancock. (more…)

    Sources: wikipedia/MaryKatherineGoddard, Maryland Women in History, National Women's History Museum, National Postal Museum,

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  • June 17

    What do you know about the history of Hawaii?

    June 17, 1839 — In the Kingdom of Hawaii, Kamehameha III issued the Edict of toleration today, which Unknowngave Roman Catholics the freedom to worship in the Hawaiian Islands. Until 1824 the ancient Hawaiian religion was enforced through strict law.

    The religion dictated how the people were to live, worship and even eat. During Kamehameha III’s reign the Congregational Church was the preferred Christian denomination, however Kamehameha issued the edict for Roman Catholicism due to French force.

    As a result, the Hawaii Catholic Church and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace was later established. The following year, the Constitution of 1840 of the Kingdom of Hawaii ensured religious freedom.

    Sources:, wikipedia/KamehamehaIII,

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  • June 17

    Who patented rubber today?

    220px-Charles_GoodyearJune 17, 1837 — Charles Goodyear obtained his 1st patent to produce rubber today. His discovery was not yet perfected, as the rubber could not withstand hot or cold temperatures.

    However seven years later, nearly to the day — June 15, 1844 — Goodyear’s team solved the problem and patented vulcanized rubber, a much more durable material.


  • June 18

    What two battles with Britain began and ended on this day in history?

    henry-clintonJune 18, 1778 — Today marked the end of Britain’s occupation of Philadelphia. The battle at Philadelphia was a success for the Redcoats, who at the time were under the command of General William Howe (pictured right).

    However, while Howe captured Philadelphia in the Battle, he left a conflict in Saratoga unattended to — which resulted France entering the war.

    Howe resigned leaving his second-in-command, British General Sir Henry Clinton, in charge. What was Clinton’s first order?


  • June 18

    What was the first war that America declared on another nation?

    RareNewspapers.comJune 18, 1812 — President James Madison signed a declaration into law today, thus beginning the War of 1812 against Britain.

    Historians explain that the war was a response to the British economic blockade of France, the induction of American seaman into the British Royal Navy against their will, and the British support of hostile Indian tribes along the Great Lakes frontier.

    Marking the first war America declared on another nation, the war was opposed by a large minority in Congress. It lasted 2 years and 8 months.

    Sources: Guide to the War of 1812,,, wikipedia/Warof1812,

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  • June 19

    How many soldiers died at Valley Forge?

    valleyforgeJune 19, 1778 — George Washington’s troops finally left Valley Forge today, after being stationed here for exactly six months.

    The conditions during their stay were brutal. The freezing weather, lack of food, lack of supplies, and disease killed approximately 2,000 soldiers  during their encampment.

    Although the soldiers faced many obstacles, the experience trained those who survived to become better suited for warfare. In fact, just a day before their departure, British troops left Philadelphia to headed towards New York. One week later, the two forces will engage in one of the largest battles in the Revolutionary war — in Monmouth County, New Jersey.


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  • June 20

    Who made the decision for the eagle to be part of the official symbol of the US?

    First_Great_Seal_of_the_US_BAH-p257June 20, 1782 — Congress approved the “Great Seal of the US,” with the American eagle as it’s symbol today.

    Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had been appointed to decide what the national symbol would be. Unfortunately, they never could find anything that Congress approved of — until they suggested the eagle.

    Secretary of Congress, Charles Thomson, convinced his fellow congressmen that the eagle was ideal, due to its symbolic implication of authority and statehood that dates back to the Roman age.

    Sources: wikipedia/Seal,,,,

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  • June 21

    Who patented the reaping machine?

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

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

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

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

    Sources: wikipedia/CyrusMcCormick,,,

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  • June 22

    When did pins begin to be mass produced?

    Howe-Pins-e1337304657839June 22, 1832 — How do you make a pin? John Howe was the first to figure it out, and today in 1832 patented the pin manufacturing machine.

    Born in Ridgefield, Connecticut in 1793, he trained as a doctor, working at the New York Almshouse as a resident physician. There, he first observed pins being made by a manual process.

    Historians explain that the shaping of a straight pin at that time required 18 separate steps. Howe’s first pin machine shortened the process.

    He received backing from a group of New York merchants to establish the Howe Manufacturing Company in 1833. After three years of production in New York, the company moved to the Birmingham section of Derby, Connecticut, where it became one of the largest pin manufacturers in the United States during the 19th century.

    Between  1790-1873, the Howe Manufacturing Company held 9 of the 47 patents for the manufacturing of pins granted by the US Patent Office. Howe himself held two for the design of the pin machines, and seven were granted to employees of the company for the pin sticking machines used to package the manufactured pins.


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  • June 23

    Who was Anne McDowell?

    901866489ac2d4a677f511b460456bdbJune 23, 1826 — Editor, journalist, and publisher Anne McDowell is born today in Smyrna, Delaware. A great supporter of women’s rights, she is perhaps best known for launching the weekly newspaper, the Woman’s Advocate, in January 1855.

    Although other papers published and edited by women were in existence (notably Amelia Bloomer’s Lily, and Paulina Wright Davis’ Una) — McDowell’s paper was distinctive because it was “produced exclusively by the joint-stock capital, energies and industry of females,” employed only woman typesetters and printers who received the same wages as men; and because it “devoted itself to the elevation of the female industrial class.”

    Historians note that “McDowell wore her feminist principles with a difference in other ways as well. She was not concerned with the franchise for women, a lack of interest she shared with other early woman reformers.”

    McDowell’s Advocate focused mostly on the training and employment of women, and urged them to register at its offices for work (a practice which led to a kind of informal employment service). It also opened its columns to those who argued for and against woman suffrage and dress reform, and to opponents of slavery.

    Additionally, the paper tried to maintain itself by carrying the kind of literary material common to mid-nineteenth-century women’s magazines, and at different times Lydia J. Pierson and Mary Vaughan were listed as editors or contributors. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Jane Swisshelm appeared in the letter column, and Susan B. Anthony and Paulina Wright Davis recommended the paper to supporters of woman’s rights.

    Unfortunately, keeping the publication running proved to be too heavy of a financial drain, like all such efforts, and eventually McDowell was forced to give it up in 1860.

    She then went on to became editor of the Philadelphia Sunday Republic. And in 1884, Howe formed a sickness and death benefit organization among the employees of John Wanamaker’s department store and acted for a time as its secretary. She also set up a library for the women employees, which was called the McDowell Free Library. She died at the age of 75, in 1901.


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  • June 24

    What is the Jay Treaty?

    Jay's-treatyJune 24, 1795 — Officially titled the “Treaty of Amity Commerce and Navigation, between His Britannic Majesty; and The United States of America,” the John Jay Treaty was consented to by the US Senate today.

    Jay (December 23, 1745 (December 12, 1745 OS) – May 17, 1829) was an American statesman, diplomat, and a signer of the Treaty of Paris — he is perhaps best known as the first Chief Justice of the United States (1789–95).

    His treaty was designed to resolve conflicts between the US and Britain that lingered following the Revolutionary War, it was negotiated by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay and signed between the United States and Great Britain on November 19, 1794.

    Tensions between the two countries had increased since the end of the War over British military posts still located in America’s northwestern territory and British interference with American trade and shipping.

    Alexander Hamilton was in favor of the treaty — and many Jeffersonians also opposed it. They believed close ties to Britain supported an aristocracy instead of the Republicanism they found so hard for. In fact, George Washington was disappointed with the treaty’s provisions, but felt it was the best hope to avert war with Great Britain and submitted it to the Senate for approval.

    Jay’s Treaty passed the Senate by a vote of 20 to 10, exactly the two-thirds required for approval.

    Sources: wikipedia/JayTreaty, wikipedia/John_Jay,,,

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  • June 25

    What is the US Alien Act?

    250px-Alien_and_Sedition_Acts_(1798)June 25, 1798 — The US passed the Alien and Sedition Act today, which was a collection of four bills passed by the Federalists in Congress and signed into law by President John Adams.

    The bills were presumed to strengthen national security in response to French foreign threat, however many believed they were constructed in order to weaken forces that opposed the Federalist party. Indeed, the laws gave the government power to deport foreigners. They also made it harder for immigrants to vote, as the time of residency was raised to 14 years before eligibility. Which of the four bills was most controversial?

    The most controversial bill was the Sedition Act, which prohibited public opposition to the government and was enforced by fines and imprisonment. This Act expired in 1801, as Congress decided that it violated personal freedoms guaranteed by the first amendment in the constitution.

    Sources: wikipedia/AlienSeditionActs,,,

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  • June 26

    Why won’t farmers buy Charles Newbold cast-iron plow?

    TheNewboldPlowJune 26, 1797 — Charles Newbold of Chesterfield, NJ was awarded the patent for the cast-iron plow today. Unfortunately, farmers weren’t impressed. The reason: Those who first saw it demonstrated at General John Black’s orchard feared the iron would poison their soil.

    Undaunted, Newbold spent a significant amount of money on improvements. It was never to be. Although this invention could increase the efficiency of farm workers, cast iron contained imperfections. The metal wore down or the brittleness of the cast iron caused it to break when it hit an obstruction.

    A decade later, on April 1, 1807, fellow New Jersey native David Peacock, was granted a patent for an iron plow. Newbold sued for patent infringement — and won $1,500 in damages. While Peacock’s plow was better, it wasn’t perfect.

    He used moldboard, share and point and cast the in three separate pieces. These parts were joined, with the point of the colter entering a notch in the breast of the share. Thus if the point broke by striking a rock or root, the point alone could be replaced on Peacock’s plow. If the point broke on a Newbold plow, the entire cast unit had to be discarded.

    By 1819, Jethro Wood of Scipio, NY, came up with an even better solution. If the point broke on his plow by striking a root, spare parts were interchangeable so he fame didn’t have to buy an entirely new plow. Wood enjoyed more commercial success, but spent the proceeds defending his patent from infringers.

    At last, in 1833, steel was incorporated into the plow’s designed. The winner of the plow wars was John Deere, of Moline Illinois — who manufactured, and astutely marketed, the plow that most farmers own today.


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  • June 27

    Why was the Liberty Bell returned to Philadelphia’s State House today?

    BellJune 27, 1778 — The Liberty Bell came home to Philadelphia today after the British departed the city. It had been hidden in a church until it could be safely returned to the State House.

    Cast at London’s Whitechapel Bell Foundry, the bell arrived in Philadelphia in August 1752. Because the metal was too brittle, it cracked during a test strike and had to be recast twice. The final version—made of 70 percent copper, 25 percent tin and small amounts of lead, zinc, arsenic, gold and silver—weighed around 2,080 pounds and measured 12 feet in circumference around the lip and 3 feet from lip to crown.

    On July 8, 1776, the bell was rung to celebrate the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.

    Interestingly, it wasn’t called the “Liberty Bell” until the 1830s, when an abolitionist group adopted it as a symbol of their own cause.

    Sources: wikipedia/LibertyBell,,

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  • June 28

    What school in Philadelphia did the Quakers open today?

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

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

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


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  • June 29

    What war-altering order did General Lee give today?

    Thure_de_Thulstrup_-_L._Prang_and_Co._-_Battle_of_Gettysburg_-_Restoration_by_Adam_CuerdenJune 29, 1863 — The Civil War heated up today (literally, as temperatures reportedly hit 87-degrees) when General Robert E. Lee ordered his forces to concentrate near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

    On July 1, the Battle of Gettysburg will begin, and last until July 3. Between the two armies, approximately 51,000 soldiers will die or be injured. This is the turning point of the war — as it was one of the biggest victories for the Union.

    The battle is commemorated on November 19, when President Lincoln delivers his historic 272-word Gettysburg Address.

    Sources: abrahamlincolnonline, wikipedia/Gettysburg,

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  • June 30

    Who crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope today?

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

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

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


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