This Month in History: September

September 28, 1781 — General George Washington commanded a force of 17,000 French and Continental troops today, thus beginning the siege known as the Battle of Yorktown against British General Lord Charles Cornwallis and a contingent of 9,000 British troops at Yorktown, Virginia. This is considered the most important battle of the Revolutionary War.

Painting by Thomas Sautelle Roberts (1748-1778), creative common

  • September 1

    Did Colonial Era Americans really imbibe from breakfast till bedtime?

    20140405_Colonial_Drinks_1While we think of the Founding Fathers and Founding Mothers as prim and proper, the truth may be that our Colonial ancestors “swam in a sea of booze from breakfast till bedtime,” according to Serious Eats.

    “Whether they were working, writing, selling goods, getting married, or even fighting, early Americans were often tipsy — their incessant drinking a cultural extension of Old World beliefs that fermented beverages were safer than water. The Colonial Era day didn’t begin until after a dram of bitters or stiffener of beer.”

    In fact, by the time the Revolutionary War began, the adults of the 13 Colonies reportedly drank the equivalent of several shots every day.

    What were they imbibing? Click here to find out.

    Sources: Serious Eats

  • September 1

    Was Aaron Burr acquitted of charges of plotting to set up an empire?

    Arron BurrSeptember 1, 1807 — Aaron Burr was acquitted today of charges of plotting to set up an empire. A Founding Father — and the man who killed Alexander Hamilton in a famous duel three years earlier — Burr had stepped down from the vice presidency after serving under Thomas Jefferson from 1800 to 1804.

    In that time, he devised a plan to annex sections of Louisiana and Mexico in order to establish an independent republic over which he would rule. Enlisting the help of James Wilkinson, the commander in chief of the US Army, Burr petitioned the British government for assistance but was unsuccessful.

    Continuing with his plan, he led an armed group of colonists toward New Orleans in the fall of 1806. However, the attempted siege ended when Wilkinson, concerned over the possibility of punishment, alerted the government to Burr’s act of treason. Burr was arrested in Louisiana and sent to face trial in Virginia. He was acquitted on the grounds that he had not engaged in an “overt act” against the United States.


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  • September 2

    Who established the US Treasury Department today?

    $10 billSeptember 2, 1789 — The First Congress of the United States was called to convene in New York on March 4, 1789, marking the beginning of government under the Constitution.  But it wasn’t until six months later on Sept. 2, 1789 that Congress created a permanent institution for the management of government finances.

    Alexander Hamilton served as the first Secretary of the Treasury, from Sept. 11, 1789, to 1795. Considered one of the most brilliant statesmen of the early American republic, he was killed in a duel in 1804 by Vice President Aaron Burr. Hamilton had served as George Washington’s aide-de-camp during the Revolution and was of great importance in the ratification of the Constitution. Because of his financial and managerial acumen, Hamilton was a logical choice for solving the problem of the new nation’s heavy war debt.

    Hamilton’s first official act was to submit a report to Congress in which he laid the foundation for the nation’s financial health. He insisted upon federal assumption and dollar-for-dollar repayment of the country’s war debt of $75 million in order to revitalize the public credit. He foresaw the development of industry and trade in the United States and suggested that government revenues be based upon customs duties. His sound financial policies also inspired investment in the Bank of the United States, which acted as the government’s fiscal agent.

  • September 3

    Which New York newspaper began publishing today?

    New York SunSeptember 3, 1833 — The nation’s first newspaper — the New York Sun — began publishing today. It was the first general-interest broadsheet, and published until 1950.

    Considered a serious paper — like the city’s two more successful broadsheets, The New York Times and the New York Herald Tribune — The Sun was the most politically conservative of the three. It was edited by Benjamin Day with the slogan “It Shines for All.”

    A penny press newspaper, The Sun was groundbreaking in that it was the first newspaper to report crimes and personal events such as suicides, deaths, and divorces.

    The Sun first became famous for its central role in the Great Moon Hoax of 1835, a fabricated story of life and civilization on the moon which the paper falsely attributed to British astronomer John Herschel and never retracted.[3] On April 13, 1844, The Sun published as factual a story by Edgar Allan Poe now known as “The Balloon-Hoax,” retracted two days after publication. The story told of an imagined Atlantic crossing by hot-air balloon.

    Today, the paper is best known for the 1897 editorial “Is There a Santa Claus?” (commonly referred to as “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus”), written by Francis Pharcellus Church.


  • September 4

    Which California city was founded today in 1781?

    Los Angeles is foundedSeptember 4, 1781 — Los Angeles is founded by 44 Spanish speaking mestizos in the Bahia de las Fumas (Bay of Smokes). Felipe de Neve, Governor of Spanish California, names the settlement El Pueblo Sobre el Rio de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Río de Porciúncula. The name is shortened rather quickly.

    The town grew as soldiers and other settlers came into town and stayed. In 1784 a chapel was built on the Plaza. The pobladores were given title to their land two years later. By 1800, there were 29 buildings that surrounded the Plaza, flat-roofed, one-story adobe buildings with thatched roofs made of tule.

    By 1821 Los Angeles had grown into a self-sustaining farming community, the largest in Southern California.


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  • September 5

    Where did the first Opium War begin today in 1839?

    a_1831_WaterWitch_PW7767478September 5, 1839 — The First Opium War began in China today, and lasted until 1842. Also known as the Anglo-Chinese War, the battle was fought between Great Britain and Ireland and the Qing Empire over their conflicting viewpoints on diplomatic relations, trade, and the administration of justice for foreign nationals, according to Steve Tsang, author of “A Modern History of Hong Kong.”

    “In the 17th and 18th centuries, the demand for Chinese goods (particularly silk, porcelain, and tea) in the European market created a trade imbalance because the market for Western goods in China was virtually non-existent,” Tsang explains. “China was largely self-sufficient and Europeans were not allowed access to China’s interior.”

    This marked a new stage in China’s relations with the West. However, he notes, “European silver flowed into China when the Canton System, instituted in the mid-17th century, confined the sea trade to Canton and to the Chinese merchants of the Thirteen Factories. The British East India Company had a matching monopoly of British trade. The British East India Company began to auction opium grown on its plantations in India to independent foreign traders in exchange for silver. The opium was then transported to the China coast and sold to Chinese middlemen who retailed the drug inside China. This reverse flow of silver and the increasing numbers of opium addicts alarmed Chinese officials.”

    Today, the Daoguang Emperor rejected proposals to legalise and tax opium, appointed Lin Zexu to solve the problem by abolishing the trade.

    “Lin confiscated around 20,000 chests of opium (approximately 1210 tons or 2.66 million pounds) without offering compensation, blockaded trade, and confined foreign merchants to their quarters. The British government, although not officially denying China’s right to control imports of the drug, objected to this unexpected seizure and used its naval and gunnery power to inflict a quick and decisive defeat. In China, the war is considered as the beginning of modern Chinese history.”


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  • September 6

    Which collegiate institute went co-ed today in 1837?

    10BlackwellMediumSeptember 6, 1837 — Oberlin Collegiate Institute of Ohio went co-ed today in 1837 with 4 women and 30 men.

    Oberlin College pioneered “the joint education of the sexes,” enrolling women students beside men from its opening in 1833. As Philo P. Stewart wrote, the Oberlin Collegiate Institute held as one of its primary objectives: “the elevation of the female character, bringing within the reach of the misjudge and neglected sex, all the instructive privileges which hitherto have unreasonably distinguished the leading sex from theirs.”

    While the first women took classes with men, they pursued diplomas from the Ladies Course. In 1837, four women, Mary Kellogg, Mary Caroline Rudd, Mary Hosford and Elizabeth Prall, enrolled in the Collegiate Department, and in 1841, all but Kellogg graduated. Kellogg, who had left school for lack of funds, later returned to Oberlin after marrying James Harris Fairchild, future Oberlin College president.

    Oberlin fused its commitment to coeducation with its support for the education of African Americans. So, in 1862, Oberlin graduated Mary Jane Patterson, the first African American woman to earn a college degree. Oberlin also enrolled Margru, also known as Sarah Kinson, who, as an African child, had been among the Amistad captives; Kinson was probably the first African woman to participate in American higher education.

    Throughout its history, Oberlin has graduated remarkable women of passion, commitment, and achievement. Among the most famous nineteenth-century women included Antoinette Brown Blackwell (pictured above), Lucy Stone, Anna Julia Cooper, and Mary Church Terrell.


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  • September 7

    What is the origin of the nickname, “Uncle Sam”?

    UnclesamwantyouSeptember 7, 1813 — Today, the United States got its nickname, “Uncle Sam.” Credit goes to a meat-packer from Troy, New York, named Samuel Wilson, who supplied barrels of beef to the US Army during the War of 1812, stamping the barrels with “U.S.” for United States. But soldiers began referring to the grub as “Uncle Sam’s.”

    The local newspaper picked up on the story, and “Uncle Sam” eventually gained widespread acceptance as the nickname for the federal government.

    Political cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902) popularized the Uncle Sam image, eventually adding a white beard and stars-and-stripes suit. He’s also credited with creating the modern image of Santa Claus, and the donkey/elephant as the symbols for the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively.

    Perhaps the most famous image of Uncle Sam was created by James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960). In Flagg’s version (shown here), Uncle Sam wears a tall top hat with a blue jacket and is pointing straight ahead. His “I Want YOU for the U.S. Army” was used as a recruiting poster in World War I.

    In September 1961, the US Congress recognized Samuel Wilson as “the progenitor of America’s national symbol of Uncle Sam.” The artist died at age 88 in 1854 and was buried next to his wife, Betsey Mann, in the Oakwood Cemetery in Troy. The town now calls itself, “The Home of Uncle Sam.”


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  • September 8

    What is the significance of the Mission San Gabriel Archangel?

    mission painting_1September 8, 1771 — Mission San Gabriel Archangel was formed today in San Gabriel, California. A fully functioning Roman Catholic mission, the settlement was founded by Spaniards of the Franciscan order on what is known as the Feast of the Birth of Mary.

    This is the fourth of what will become 21 Spanish missions in California.

    Named after the Archangel Gabriel — and often referred to as the “Godmother of the Pueblo of Los Angeles” — this mission was designed by Father Antonio Cruzado of Córdoba, Spain. He ensured the building would have a strong Moorish architectural influence. The capped buttresses and the tall, narrow windows are unique among the missions of the California chain.

    Prior to the creation of missions, native-Americans developed a complex, self-sufficient culture. But the goal of the missions was to become self-sufficient, and farming was the most important industry. Leaders  believed the native Tongva people were inferior and in need of conversion to Christianity. The mission priests established what they thought of as a manual training school, with the goal of teaching Indians their style of agriculture, mechanical arts, and the raising and care of livestock. The missions produced everything they used and consumed.

    Indeed, post-1811, the mission Indians were able to sustain the entire military and civil government of California.

    Sources: wikipediamissionscaliforniamissiontour

  • September 9

    Who is the first US aeronaut to fly a balloon?

    1835_CharlesFDurant_balloon_AmericanMagazine_v1_BostonSeptember 9, 1830 — Charles Durant is the first US aeronaut to fly a balloon. He flew about 25 miles — off from Castle Garden in New York City and landed in Perth Amboy, New Jersey — in three hours.

    Durant dressed up for the occasion, wearing a top hat and tails. From the air, he dropped copies of poems praising the joys of flight.

    According to Writersalmanac: “Americans were late to embrace hot-air balloons. The first manned balloon ride had taken place in Paris in 1783 — almost 50 years before Durant’s flight. Within a year of the Paris flight, a group had crossed the English Channel. The first flight in America actually occurred in 1793, and it was observed by a crowd that included President Washington; but the aeronaut was French, and despite a number of fundraising schemes, he was unable to pay off the debt from his flight, and he returned to France.”

    Historians tell us that when Durant took off from Manhattan in 1830, ballooning seemed new and exciting to Americans. A huge crowd gathered to watch.

    The New York Post reported: “The spectacle drew many persons to the Battery, which was literally covered with an immense multitude of every age, sex, condition and color, whose faces were all turned upwards. It is estimated that upwards of twenty thousand persons were collected to see a man risk his neck for their amusement and for their money.”

    Sources: writersalmanaccivilwarsignalsnyctimetravelerwikimedia


  • September 10

    Who received the first US patent for a sewing machine?

    Elias_Howe_portraitSeptember 10, 1846 — American inventor Elias Howe, Jr. (July 9, 1819 – October 3, 1867) today received U.S. Patent 4,750 for a sewing machine using a lockstitch design.

    Contrary to popular belief, Howe was not the first to conceive of the idea of a sewing machine. Others came up with the idea, one as early as 1790, and some had patented their designs and produced working machines — in one case at least 80 of them.

    However, Howe originated significant refinements to the design concepts of his predecessors. His machine contained the three essential features common to most modern machines: a needle with the eye at the point, a shuttle operating beneath the cloth to form the lock stitch, and an automatic feed.

    Sources: wikipediaLeading American Inventors“A Brief History of the Sewing Machine”

  • September 11

    What was the goal of the Staten Island Peace Conference?

    StatenIslandConference_By_ChappelSeptember 11, 1773 — Today’s Staten Island Peace Conference was a brief meeting held in the hope of bringing an end to the American Revolutionary War. Held at Billop Manor, the residence of Colonel Christopher Billop, participants included British Admiral Lord Richard Howe, and members of the Second Continental Congress — John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Edward Rutledge.

    Held in the days after the British capture of Long Island, it lasted just three hours, and was a failure.

    The Americans insisted on recognition of their recently declared independence, and Howe’s limited authority was inadequate to deal with that development. After the conference, the British continued their military campaign for control of New York City.


    Sources: wikipedia/Staten_Island_Peace_Conference,

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  • September 12

    What didn’t George Mason sign the Bill of Rights?

    CopyWorkSeptember 12, 1787 — In early 1776, before the Declaration of Independence was written, American statesman George Mason drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights and framed Virginia’s constitution. He was rightfully proud of the Declaration, and pleased that it became a model for other states.

    But when he suggested the addition of a Bill of Rights to the Constitution be modeled on previous state declarations, the motion is defeated. As a result, he didn’t sign the document.

    Why? Historians explain that Mason did not believe the Constitution established a wise and just government, hotly fought against it during Virginia ratification. He was one of only three delegates present in the final days of the convention who didn’t sign. (The other two were Elbridge Gerry, who was known to be cantankerous by nature, and Edmond Randolph, who was afraid to be associated with something that might fail.)

    Sources:,, wikipedia/George_Mason,

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  • September 13

    Who suffered the first boxing fatality in the US?

    Picture-of-Bare-Knuckled-BoxerSeptember 13, 1842 — Today, in Hastings, New York, a prize fight between Christopher Lilly and Thomas McCoy lasted 2.41 hours. In the 77th round, McCoy collapsed and died in front of 2,000 fans.

    According to news sources, the coroner’s investigation of McCoy’s remains showed that fluid from wounds that he had received during the fight had drained into McCoy’s lungs and that he had drown. It was the first fatality n an fight that took place in the US.

    According to historians, bare-knuckled fights were of importance to the British, the results were not quite as important in America who took no notice to these boxing bouts.

    Boxing in the USA, during the 19th century, could be placed in two categories: prize fighting, or boxers fought for money in bare knuckled contested bouts. Both categories of boxing was to the attraction of professional gamblers and consolidated organised criminality that found their way into the boxing circles, that caused the sport to fall foul of local authorities laws.


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  • September 14

    Can you name the poem that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star-Spangled Banner?

    Star Spangled BannerSeptember 14, 1814 — Francis Scott Key was today inspired to write the poem, “Defence of Fort M’Henry.” Those words  later become lyrics of “Star-Spangled Banner.”

    While at Fort McHenry, the entrance of the harbor of Baltimore, Key witnessed the bombardment from the British vessel in which he was detained as a prisoner. When it was unsuccessfully bombarded by the British today, the American lawyer, author, and amateur poet from Georgetown was inspired.

    Sailing back to Baltimore he composed more lines, and in his lodgings at the Indian Queen Hotel he finished the poem. His brother-in-law, Judge J. H. Nicholson, took it to a printer and copies were circulated around Baltimore. (Two of these copies survive.)

    It was then printed in the Baltimore Patriot on September 20, and word soon spread to across the colonies. In October of 1814,  a Baltimore actor sang Key’s new song in a public performance and called it “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It was adopted as our national anthem on March 3, 1931.

    Sources:,, wikipedia/Francis_Scott_Key,

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  • September 15

    What adventure did Charles Darwin embark on today in 1835?

    PSM_V57_D097_Hms_beagle_in_the_straits_of_magellanSeptember 15, 1835 — Charles Darwin and the H.M.S. Beagl reached the Galapagos Islands today. His five-year voyage is legendary, as insights gained on his trip to exotic places greatly influenced his masterwork, Origin of Species.

    Of course, Darwin didn’t actually formulate his theory of evolution while sailing around the world aboard the Royal Navy ship. But the exotic plants and animals he encountered challenged his thinking and led him to consider scientific evidence in new ways.

    H.M.S. Beagle actually sailed on a lengthy scientific mission several years before Darwin came into the picture. A warship carrying 10 cannons, it sailed in 1826 to explore the coastline of South America. The ship had an unfortunate episode when its captain sank into a depression, perhaps caused by the isolation of the voyage, and committed suicide.

    Sources: history1800s, wikipedia/Origin_of_Species,

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  • September 16

    Who published “Old Ironsides” today in 1830?

    NH-54592September 16, 1830 — Oliver Wendell Holmes writes “Old Ironsides” today, a poem that is a tribute to the 18th century frigate USS Constitution.

    Thanks in part to the poem, the boat was saved from being decommissioned, and is now the oldest commissioned ship in the world still afloat.

    The Boston-based poet was a member of the Fireside Poets, his peers acclaimed him as one of the best writers of the day. His most famous prose works are the “Breakfast-Table” series, which began with The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table(1858). He was also an important medical reformer.

    Sources: wikipedia/Old_Ironsides, wikipedia/USS_Constitution, wikipedia/Oliver_Wendell_Holmes,

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  • September 17

    Who helped Harriet Tubman escape from slavery today?

    600px-Harriet_Tubman_Reward_Notice_1849September 17, 1849 — Harriet Tubman escaped slavery today in Maryland, thanks to the help of two of her brothers, Ben and Henry.

    Tubman had been hired out to Dr. Anthony Thompson, who owned a large plantation in an area called Poplar Neck in neighboring Caroline County. Historians believe her brothers labored for Thompson as well. And because the slaves were hired out to another household, Eliza Brodess probably did not recognize their absence as an escape attempt for some time.

    Two weeks later, she posted a runaway notice in the Cambridge Democrat, offering a reward of up to $100 dollars for each slave returned. Once they had left, Tubman’s brothers had second thoughts. Ben may have just become a father. The two men went back, forcing Tubman to return with them.

    Soon afterward, Tubman escaped again, this time without her brothers. Beforehand, she tried to send word to her mother of her plans. She sang a coded song to Mary, a trusted fellow slave, that was a farewell. “I’ll meet you in the morning,” she intoned, “I’m bound for the promised land.” While her exact route is unknown, Tubman made use of the network known as the Underground Railroad.

    Born Araminta Ross in 1822 (she died March 10, 1913), Tubman is the famous African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, and, during the American Civil War, a Union spy. She was beaten and whipped by her various masters as a child, early in life, she suffered a traumatic head wound when an irate slave owner threw a heavy metal weight intending to hit another slave and hit her instead. The injury caused dizziness, pain, and spells of hypersomnia, which occurred throughout her life.

    She was a devout Christian and experienced strange visions and vivid dreams, which she ascribed to premonitions from God.

    Sources:,, wikipedia/Harriet_Tubman,

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  • September 17

    Why is Americans’ Knowledge of the Branches of Government Declining?

    screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-10-55-26-amSeptember 17, 2016 — Today marks the 229th birthday of the U.S. Constitution. In honor of the day, The Annenberg Public Policy Center conducted a survey to test the public’s knowledge of basic civics.

    One of the questions asked respondents to name the three branches of government. The number of Americans able to do so has dropped dramatically in only three years. Today, only 26 percent are able to identify the executive, the legislative, and the judicial as the three branches.

    screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-10-55-42-amThat number, however, is quite interesting, as it almost perfectly matches the number of American high school seniors who are proficient in civics.


    Click here to read the research.

  • September 18

    Who wrote the first love letter — Robert Browning or Elizabeth Barrett?

    440px-Elizabeth_Barrett_BrowningSeptember 18, 1846 — Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning exchange last letters today before eloping.

    Browning, a respected working poet for many years before her courtship and marriage to Browning, their secret romance and controversial elopement and fairytale ending of a happy marriage is legendary.

    Robert Browning (7 May 1812 – 12 December 1889) was an English poet and playwright whose mastery of dramatic verse, and in particular the dramatic monologue, made him one of the foremost Victorian poets. His poems are known for their irony, characterization, dark humor, social commentary, historical settings, and challenging vocabulary and syntax. The speakers in his poems are often musicians or painters whose work functions as a metaphor for poetry.

    Their love affair began when in 1845 when Robert wrote to Elizabeth in praise of her poetry. His admiration for Barrett as a poet was not unusual, for Browning (6 March 1806 – 29 June 1861) was one of the most prominent English poets of the Victorian era. Her poetry was widely popular in both Britain and the United States during her lifetime.[but after 20 months of correspondence and meetings, they eloped and moved to Italy.

    During the time of their courtship, Barrett began a sonnet sequence. It began immediately after their first meeting and chronicled her reactions. She did not reveal the poems to Robert until thee years after the marriage, and the birth of their son.

    Sources:,, wikipedia/Robert_Browning,

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  • September 19

    What did George Washington say today in his farewell address as president?

    doc_015_bigSeptember 19, 1796 — George Washington gave his farewell address as president today. Historians consider it a classic statement of republicanism, for it warned Americans of the political dangers they can and must avoid if they are to remain true to their values.

    The speech was actually a letter written by Washington, to “The People of the United States of America.” He penned it near the end of his second term as President, before his retirement to his home Mount Vernon.

    James Madison helped prepare the original letter when Washington prepared to retire following a single term in office. However, he set aside the letter and ran for a second term after the rancor between his Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, and his Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, convinced him that the growing divisions between the newly formed Federalist and Republican parties, along with the current state of foreign affairs, would rip the country apart in the absence of his leadership.

    As his second term came to a close, Washington revisited the letter and, with the help of Hamilton, prepared a revision of the original draft to announce his intention to decline a third term in office. He also reflects on the emerging issues of the American political landscape in 1796, expresses his support for the government eight years after the adoption of the Constitution, defends his administration’s record, and gives valedictory advice to the American people.

    Sources:, wikipedia/GW_Farewell_Address,

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  • September 20

    What did 87 members of the American scientific community establish today?

    500px-Alexander_Dalls_Bache_pers0117September 20, 1848 — The American Association for the Advancement of Science was created at noon today in 1848.

    Eighty-seven of the most distinguished members of the former Association of American Geologists and Naturalists convened, and elected as their president William Redfield of New York, a meteorologist, geologist, and promoter of railway and steamship development.

    Following the organizational meeting, members adjourned to the Hall of the University of Pennsylvania where they reconvened at 4 p.m. to begin five days of scientific sessions.

    In its early years, AAAS sought to establish a cohesive organization that would “aid in bringing together and combining the labours of individuals who are widely scattered, into an institution that will represent the whole.”

    This quest began under the forceful leadership of Alexander Dallas Bache (July 19, 1806 – February 17, 1867), great-grandson of Benjamin Franklin. He was an American physicist, scientist and surveyor who erected coastal fortifications and conducted a detailed survey mapping of the United States coastline.

    Founding members included Louis AgassizJoseph HenryBenjamin Peirce, Henry Darwin Rogers and his brother William Barton RogersJames Dwight DanaOliver Wolcott GibbsBenjamin A. Gould, William Redfield, and Benjamin Silliman, Jr.

    The AAAS’ first president was William C. Redfield (1789 – 1857), a saddle and harness maker by trade, as well as a meteorologist, geologist, and promoter of railway and steamship development.

    Sources:,, wikipedia/American_Association_for_the_Advancement_of_Science,

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  • September 21

    Who volunteered to for a dangerous mission today at the request of George Washington?

    Nathan_Hale_hanged_by_British_1776September 21, 1776 — Today, Nathan Hale of the 19th Regiment of the Continental Army General volunteers for he dangerous mission at the request of George Washington, who needed a volunteer to gather intelligence behind enemy lines before the coming Battle of Harlem Heights.

    One of the first known American spies of the Revolutionary War, the Yale University-educated soldier disguised himself as a Dutch schoolmaster. He then slipped behind British lines on Long Island and gathered information about British troop movements.

    However, the British invaded the island of Manhattan and took control of the city on September 15, 1776. When the city was set on fire on September 20, 1776, British soldiers captured Hale while he sailing Long Island Sound trying to get back into American-controlled territory.

    British General William Howe ordered his execution. Hale was hanged by the British on the morning of September 22, 1776. He was just 21 years old.


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  • September 22

    What famous announcement did President Lincoln issue today?

    eman-proc-docSeptember 22, 1862 — President Lincoln announced today that he will free slaves in all states on January 1, 1863. This preliminary proclamation led to the official Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves residing in territory in rebellion against the federal government.

    However, the official proclamation actually freed few people for it did not apply to slaves in border states fighting on the Union side; nor did it affect slaves in southern areas already under Union control. The states in rebellion did not act on Lincoln’s order, but the proclamation did show Americans — and the world — that the civil war was now being fought to end slavery.

    Noteworthy is that Lincoln had been reluctant to come to this position. A believer in white supremacy, he initially viewed the war only in terms of preserving the Union. As pressure for abolition mounted in Congress and the country, however, Lincoln became more sympathetic to the idea. Click here to 10 Facts about the Emancipation Proclamation.

    Sources:,, wikipedia/Emancipation_Proclamation,

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  • September 23

    Where did explorers Lewis & Clark land today?

    Lewis_and_ClarkSeptember 23, 1806 — Explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark returned today to St. Louis, MO from their trek to the Pacific Northwest. They brought back a wealth of information about the largely unexplored region, as well as US claims to Oregon Territory.

    The “Corps of Discovery” set off more than two years before on on May 14 1804 to explore the territory of the Louisiana Purchase. President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the duo — his private secretary (Lewis) and Clark (an army captain). With them were 28 men and one woman—Native American Sacagawea.

    According to “The expedition traveled up the Missouri River in six canoes and two longboats and wintered in Dakota before crossing into Montana, where they first saw the Rocky Mountains. On the other side of the Continental Divide, they were met by Sacagawea’s tribe, the Shoshone Indians, who sold them horses for their journey down through the Bitterroot Mountains. After passing through the dangerous rapids of the Clearwater and Snake rivers in canoes, the explorers reached the calm of the Columbia River, which led them to the sea. On November 8, 1805, the expedition arrived at the Pacific Ocean, the first European explorers to do so by an overland route from the east. After pausing there for winter, the explorers began their long journey back to St. Louis.”

    Sourceshistory.comwikipedianational geographicsacagawea-biography

    Sources:,,, wikipedia/Sacagawea,

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  • September 24

    What did the US Federal Judiciary Act accomplish?

    p6September 24, 1789 — President George Washington signed the US Federal Judiciary Act today, creating a six-person Supreme Court. “The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish,” explains Article III, Section 1.

    The Old Royal Exchange Building in New York City was site of the meetings of the first U.S. Supreme Court. (Image: Courtesy of the New York Historical Society.)

    Since the federal court system was being created from scratch, writing the Judiciary Act of 1789 was a monumental task,” according to historians, noting that in addition to creating federal courts, the Act also created the positions of United States Attorney General, United States Attorney, United States Marshal and Clerk of Court.

    These four positions still exist and have been expanded upon in the modern United States.

    On the same day, President Washington nominated John Jay (December 23, 1745 – May 17, 1829) to be the first Chief Justice; he served until 1795.

    Jay was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, and a signer of the Treaty of Paris. Born into a wealthy family of merchants and government officials in New York City, he became a lawyer and joined the New York Committee of Correspondence and organized opposition to British rule.

    Jay joined a conservative political faction that, fearing mob rule, sought to protect property rights and maintain the rule of law while resisting British violations of human rights. His major diplomatic achievement was to negotiate favorable trade terms with Great Britain in the Treaty of London of 1794.

    Sources:, wikipedia/John_Jay,

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  • September 25

    What did French Physicist Francois Arago discover today in 1820?

    Page500_218_7September 25, 1820 — French Physicist Francois Arago (Feb. 26, 1786, Estagel, Roussillon, France—died Oct. 2, 1853, Paris) discovered the principle of the production of magnetism by rotation of a nonmagnetic conductor. He also devised an experiment that proved the wave theory of lightand engaged with others in research that led to the discovery of the laws of light polarization.

    Educated in Perpignan and at the École Polytechnique in Paris, at 23, he succeeded Gaspard Monge in the chair of analytic geometry. Subsequently he was director of the Paris Observatory and permanent secretary of the Academy of Sciences. And, he was active as a republican in French politics. As minister of war and marine in the provisional government formed after the Revolution of 1848, he introduced many reforms.

    In 1820, Arago elaborated on the work of H.C. Ørsted of Denmark, showing that the passage of an electric current through a cylindrical spiral of copper wire caused it to attract iron filings as if it were a magnet and that the filings fell off when the current ceased. In 1824 he demonstrated that a rotating copper disk produced rotation in a magnetic needle suspended above it. Michael Faradaylater proved these to be induction phenomena.


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  • September 26

    Who won the second British Golf Open in 1861?

    Old_and_Young_Tom_MorrisSeptember 26, 1861 — The second British Golf Open is held today, and golfer Thomas Mitchell Morris, Sr. (16 June 1821 – 24 May 1908) shoots a 163 at the Prestwick Club.

    Otherwise known as Old Tom Morris, the Scottish golfer was born in St Andrews, Fife — aka: the “home of golf.”  Morris also played a role in designing courses across the British Isles. He began by assisting Robertson lay out ten holes at Carnoustie in 1842.

    Morris is also considered the father of modern green keeping, and introduced the concept of top-dressing greens with sand, which significantly helped turf growth. He introduced other novel ideas on turf and course management, including actively managing hazards and yardage markers. He was the first to use a push mower to cut greens.

    He’s pictured above with his son, Tom Morris, Jr. (died 1875), who is best known as “Young Tom Morris.”

    Sources:,, wikipedia/Old_Tom_Morris,

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  • September 27

    Who deciphered the Rosetta stone today in 1822?

    Rosetta_StoneSeptember 27, 1822 — Jean-François Champollion (23 December 1790 – 4 March 1832) announced today that he has deciphered the Rosetta stone, a decree issued at Memphis, Egypt, in 196 BC on behalf of King Ptolemy V.

    The decree appears in three scripts: the upper text is Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the middle portion Demotic script, and the lowest Ancient Greek. Because it presents essentially the same text in all three scripts (with some minor differences among them), it provided the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs.

    The French scholar, philologist and orientalist, Champollion was a child prodigy in philology who gave his first public paper on the decipherment of demotic in 1806. As a young man, he held many posts of honor in scientific circles, and spoke Coptic and Arabic fluently.

    During the early 19th century French culture experienced a period of ‘Egyptomania’, brought on by Napoleon’s discoveries in Egypt during his campaign there (1797–1801) which also brought to light the trilingual Rosetta Stone.

    Scholars debated the age of the Egyptian civilization and the function and nature of the hieroglyphic script. Many thought the script was only used for sacred and ritual functions, and that as such it was unlikely to be decipherable since it was tied to esoteric and philosophical ideas, and did not record historical information.

    The significance of Champollion’s decipherment was that he showed these assumptions to be wrong, and made it possible to begin to retrieve the many kinds of information recorded by the ancient Egyptians.

    Sources:,, wikipedia/Jean-FrançoisChampollion, wikipedia/RosettaStone,

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  • September 28

    What is considered the most important battle of the Revolutionary War?

    header-chronicle5September 28, 1781 — About 9,000 American forces and 7,000 French forces begin the Battle of Yorktown against British Gen. Lord Charles Cornwallis and a contingent of 9,000 British troops.

    Historians consider this the most important battle of the Revolutionary War.

    Washington ordered Marquis de Lafayette and an American army of 5,000 troops to block Cornwallis’ escape from Yorktown by land while the French naval fleet blocked the British escape by sea. Today, he  encircled Cornwallis and Yorktown with the combined forces of Continental and French troops. After three weeks of nonstop bombardment, both day and night, from cannon and artillery, Cornwallis surrendered to Washington in the field at Yorktown on October 17, 1781, effectively ending the War for Independence.

    By the end of the battle, 60 French were killed and 194 wounded; of the Americans, 28 were killed and 107 wounded, totaling 88 killed and 301 wounded.

    Cornwallis surrendered 7,087 officers and enlisted men in Yorktown when he capitulated and a further 840 sailors from the British fleet in the York River. Pleading illness, he did not attend the formal surrender ceremony, held on October 19. Instead, his second in command, General Charles O’Hara, carried Cornwallis’ sword to the American and French commanders.

    Peace negotiations began in 1782, and on September 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed, formally recognizing the United States as a free and independent nation after eight years of war.

    Sources:,, wikipedia/SiegeofYorktown,

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  • September 29

    Who established London’s Metropolitan Police today in 1829?

    1181638.jpgSeptember 29, 1829 — British Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel established the London’s Metropolitan Police today, hence the nicknames “bobbies” and “peelers.”

    The police force replaced the old system of watchmen and eventually supplanted the River (Thames) Police and the Bow Street patrols, the latter a small body of police in London who had been organized in the mid-18th century by the novelist and magistrate Henry Fielding and his half brother, Sir John Fielding. The original headquarters of the new London police force were in Whitehall, with an entrance in Great Scotland Yard, from which the name originates. (Scotland Yard was so named because it stood on the site of a medieval palace that had housed Scottish royalty when the latter were in London on visits.)

    Peel (born on 5 February 1788 in Bury, Lancashire) was twice British prime minister and his period in government saw landmark social reforms and the repeal of the Corn Laws. His father was a wealthy cotton mill owner, and Peel was educated at Oxford, entering parliament as a Tory in 1809. His early political career included appointments as under-secretary for war and colonies (1809) and chief secretary for Ireland (1812). In 1822, he become home secretary, and introduced far-ranging criminal law and prison reform.

    Sources:, britannica.comScotland-Yard,

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  • September 30

    How many black soldiers are given US Medal of Honor today?

    Ortega_meda_of_HonorSeptember 30, 1864 — Black soldiers are given US Medal of Honor today, which was created during the American Civil War and is the highest military decoration presented by the United States government to a member of its armed forces.

    Recipients must have distinguished themselves at the risk of their own life above and beyond the call of duty in action against an enemy of the United States. Because of the nature of this medal, it is commonly presented posthumously.

    Of the 3,470 Medals of Honor awarded as of June 2015, 90 have been awarded to 89 different African American recipients. Robert Augustus Sweeney is one of 19 men, and the only African American, to have been awarded two Medals of Honor.

    Sources:, wikipediaAfrican-American_Medal_of_Honor,

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