1, 1751: On this date, one of America’s grand icons, The
Liberty Bell, is ordered from the Whitechapel
Foundry, England, by the Pennsylvania Assembly.
Today we associate the Liberty Bell with the
Declaration of Independence, but it was originally ordered
to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the
chartering of the colony of
’s traditional religious tolerance, the Biblical verse “PROCLAIM
LIBERTY THROUGHOUT ALL THE LAND UNTO ALL THE INHABITANTS
THEREOF” was cast into the bell.
In fact, the verse found in Leviticus just preceding
this is, “And
ye shall hallow the fiftieth year.”
Sadly, this first bell was too brittle and soon
cracked. It was
recast in Philadelphia by John Pass and Charles Stow, but
they didn’t get it right either, and it had to be cast a
third time. Once
installed in the Pennsylvania Statehouse (Independence
Hall), the “Great Bell,” as it was then referred
to, was rung for every excuse.
In fact, in 1772 a petition was sent to the Assembly
stating people were getting tired of listening to its
booming E-flat ding-dong. Often
July 4, 1776 is associated with the crack in the Liberty
Bell, and, in fact, it was rung loud and long for the
reading of the Declaration on July 8, 1776, but it did not
crack that day. As a
result, it had to be rescued for a while during the
Revolution to prevent the British from melting it down.
There is some confusion as to when the Liberty Bell
really cracked. Usually
the 1835 funeral of John Marshall, the first Chief Justice
of the Supreme Court, is credited as the event, but the
crack that rendered the bell unusable, and left it as it is
seen today, occurred on Washington’s Birthday in 1846.
FOOTNOTE: Nov. 10, 1975:
In a suddenly rising storm on Lake Superior, the
largest iron ore transport ship to ply the
, the SS Edmond
Fitzgerald, mysteriously sinks with all 29 of her crew.
The ship’s bell has since been recovered by divers,
and replaced by a replica bell inscribed with the names of
the dead. The
following partial verses of The
Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald are by singer /
songwriter, Gordon Lightfoot:
legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
the big lake they called Gitchigumi.
The lake, it is said,
never gives up her dead
the skies of November turn gloomy…
legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
captain wired he had water coming in
the good ship and crew was in peril.
later that night when his lights went out of sight
the wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald.
might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters
19, 1897: Some families seem to give more than their
fair share to our nation. As
virtually everyone knows, President
Theodore Roosevelt was elected partly on his
reputation as a soldier in the Spanish American War.
All four of his sons served America too.
On this date, his youngest son, Quentin, was born.
Roosevelt lived to be 21 years old.
He was a pilot in the 95th Aero Squadron
when he was shot down behind enemy lines during World War I.
28 crashed near
, and the Germans buried his body at the crash site.
Pieces of his airplane were used to erect a cross
over the grave. Later,
when the Germans retreated, American troops found the grave
and erected a wooden cross. Local
French citizens eventually honored the ex-president’s son
by constructing an elaborate marker.
President Roosevelt’s oldest boy, Theodore
Roosevelt Jr., served America both as a soldier in
World War I, where he was wounded, and as a Brigadier
General during the D-Day Invasion of World War II.
Only a month after D-Day, Theodore Jr. died in
of a heart attack. The
two middle boys, Kermit
served both in World War I and World War II.
Archibald was wounded in World War I, and Kermit died
of health-related problems while serving as an intelligence
during World War II. It
became a family tradition that the boys be buried where they
fell. Theodore Jr. is
buried in the American cemetery at
. Kermit is buried near
. In the 1950’s the
family requested that Quentin’s remains be moved.
He now rests next to his older brother, Theodore Jr.,
. As a grieving
father, President Roosevelt said of Quentin’s death, “It
is very dreadful to see the young stricken down in their
30, 1842: Often in the American West the isolation
brought by great distances made the little things we take
for granted difficult. An
example can be found in the early trading
. When George Simpson
(24) and his girlfriend Juana (14) fell deeply in love, the
nearest priest was at
, which was 170 miles away over snow-covered mountains.
To be accepted into polite society they could not
just live together. So the couple traveled down the Arkansas
River to Bent’s Fort. There
they found a man who had been a notary public back in
and still possessed the seal to prove it.
So, on this date, before witnesses and this once-was
notary, George and Juana signed a statement expressing their
desire to live together as man and wife. (Juana signed with
an “X.”) The
document was then properly signed by the witnesses,
certified by the notary, and decorated with a stamped gold
seal over a blue ribbon. This
“marriage license” was displayed proudly in the Simpson
home until two years and one baby girl later, when a Taos
priest both married the couple and baptized the baby.
1, 1889: A very
unusual situation brings British Colonial bridge
construction on the Uganda Railway across the Tsavo River
suddenly to an unscheduled stop.
Panicking workers, mostly “coolies” from
, throw themselves in front of a train to stop it.
Then, while the train engine huffs and puffs, they
hurriedly toss their belongings aboard and crowd atop the
cars to be taken from “the
place of slaughter.”
(The meaning of the word: “Tsavo”)
Two great lions have nightly dragged a screaming
victim from the thorn-bush walled camps to share a hideous
meal within easy listening of terrified workers.
Bones can be heard crunching.
Now each lion has started picking a victim of his
own, and each night two workers are dragged out to become
campfires, waved firebrands, shots fired into the dark,
beating on pots and pans, and courageous but futile hunting
efforts by Sahib
Lt. Colonel J.H. Patterson, do nothing to deter the ravenous
brutes. The natives
call them shaitani:
“the devils of the night.”
To all concerned the man-eaters of Tsavo are
certainly The Ghosts
in the Darkness.
7, 1941: On the small Hawaiian island of Niihau, church
services are about to begin in Puuawai, the island’s only
is an island paradise yet untouched by electricity or any
modern conveniences. Two
airplanes suddenly sweep over the island, one of which is
trailing black smoke. Although
isolated from the world, many of the islanders recognize the
planes’ Japanese insignias and some even realize that
has probably been attacked. The
smoking plane dives onto the island and bounces through a
fence into some rocks near the house of Hawila Keleohano.
Hawila courageously jumps on the wing, pulls open the
canopy, jerks the pistol away from the dazed Japanese pilot,
and takes him prisoner. For
several days the islanders hold the pilot, but a scheduled
boat fails to arrive. Finally,
a Japanese houseboy named Harada joins the pilot to overcome
the guard. They strip
the machineguns from the plane and begin terrorizing the
town looking for the pilot’s papers.
Defenseless and frightened, the islanders flee
into the jungle. However,
one very large Hawaiian, Beni Kanahali, has had enough.
Beni, along with his wife, jumps the pilot and while
struggling for the gun is shot through the stomach, groin
and thigh. Now Beni
is really angry. He
lifts the Japanese pilot high into the air and throwing him
down, smashes his head against a stone wall.
Looking on horrified, Harrada shoots himself.
Thus ends the “Japanese invasion” of the Hawaiian
16, 1811: An area of the Mississippi River Valley
including western Tennessee and eastern Missouri is
violently shaken by the first of a series of mighty
earthquakes – possibly the worst ever on the North
American continent. Because
the area is primarily uninhabited except for Native
Americans, the quake’s real severity is difficult to
the excessive geologic changes that have been attributed to
these New Madrid earthquakes, as they have since become
known, indicate that they were much more devastating than
even the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906.
Tremors are felt from
, and church bells vibrate into ringing in places like
. Since 1808, the
great Shawnee chief, Tecumseh,
has attempted to form a powerful confederacy of Native
American tribes in the Ohio Valley.
Each time he has talked to a village, he has handed
out bundles of painted sticks to tribal leaders.
Tecumseh has instructed them to dispose of a stick
each day, and predicts that when the last stick is burned in
the tribal fire there will come a great sign. The earthquake
becomes the sign that seals his leadership.
What is the famous quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet?
are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Day, 1881: By this date the southern buffalo
herds have been decimated, their hides going to supply
leather needs around the world.
The northern herds, which also have steadily
depleted, have been pushed into northern
. With the thicker
hair produced by colder weather, the northern hides go to
making “lap robes” for the covering of people’s lower
bodies while riding in carriages and sleighs.
The hunting must be done when the weather is clear.
Dressing in layers against the bitter cold, the hide
hunters even wrap their boots with gunnysacks - the smallest
mistake in such low temperature can be fatal.
On December 17, thinking of the coming holiday, a
pair of hide hunters leave their sod shelter to not only
take hides, but to also bring in Christmas dinner.
Along with their heavy rifles and butcher knives,
they pack an ax with which to cut out a roast.
Shooting a young buffalo heifer, which is best for
flavor, they work quickly skinning her out before she
freezes. Using the
ax, they chop through the huge backbone separating the
section of hump between the 12th and 6th
ribs. Then, using
knife and ax, they cut both meat and rib to take the
“saddle,” which is wrapped in the hide and transported
morning, in the sheltered warmth of the Soddy, the thawed
roast, is sawed in half through the length of the backbone
and trimmed to fit two large cast iron ovens.
Garlic, sautéed in bacon grease, along with salt and
pepper are rubbed into the meat, and using a hot, aromatic
fire built from split pine and cedar on top of each oven,
the roasts are seared to hold in their juices.
These hot fires burn out quickly, and then using
closely managed coals both over and under the Dutch ovens,
the roasts are slowly cooked to perfection.
As it is in the civilization of town, Christmas
dinner requires work and attention, but the results are
worth the wait.