July 4, 1776:
Today is Independence Day, and
throughout the nation there will be traditional celebrations
and fireworks displays.
One of the Founding Fathers responsible for American
independence was Benjamin Franklin, and one of his most
famous quotes comes to us from this day.
(Actually, the quote was first recorded years after
the 1776 date, and may not have been said by Dr. Franklin at
all, but none-the-less, it certainly expresses his point of
of the Declaration of Independence was decided on July 4th,
and the president of the Congress, John Hancock, suggested
that the vote for acceptance should be unanimous.
Reportedly he said, “There must be no pulling
different ways, we must all hang together.”
replied, “Yes, we must indeed all hang together, or most
assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
Without a doubt, as rebels, their signatures on the
Declaration of Independence put their very lives on the
line. On July 2,
1776, Congress had voted to approve a motion calling for
independence. Two days later, on July 4, the declaration was
formally adopted by 12 of the thirteen colonies.
, that final 13th colony, then approved it on July 19, and
on August 2, 1776 the declaration was signed.
There are certain words in the human experience
destined to live forever: "We hold these truths to be
self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are
endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of
18, 64 AD: On
this date started the great fire which destroyed much of the
city of Rome. It
seems every disaster has its legend, and much like the story
of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow starting the Great Chicago Fire;
most of us have heard of Emperor Nero callously fiddling
while allowing Rome to burn.
Certainly there is truth to the fire, for it raged
out-of-control for three days and of Rome’s fourteen
districts it totally destroyed three and damaged most of the
of people died and thousands were left homeless.
But Nero wasn’t fiddling as the city burned.
In fact, at the time the fire started he wasn’t
even in town. Not
only that, but as of 64 AD the fiddle had not yet been
invented. As for
being callous about the fire, he allowed his palace to be
used as a shelter. So
what then is the source of the legend?
It probably comes from Nero’s actions after the
fire, for he politically used the disaster to institute
been unhappy with the pre-fire beauty of Rome, he ordered
new building codes, and suggesting that the growing
Christian movement had something to do with the fire, he
ordered hundreds arrested.
Many of these innocent people were tortured and
31, 1869: Hays
City, Kansas, was established in August 1867, and as an
“end-of-track” town during the construction of the Union
Pacific Railroad, it quickly gained a well-earned reputation
as a wide-open town. The
haunt of soldiers, buffalo hunters, track layers,
prostitutes and cardsharps, it was described as “a row of
saloons” – a “Sodom of the plains.”
From the start, law enforcement was both questionable
and sporadic. Several
elected sheriffs simply disappeared; possibly murdered or
fled to safer ground. One,
Isaac Thayer, who had earlier volunteered for Forthsyth’s
Scouts and had fought in the famous Indian attack at
Beecher’s Island, was certainly no coward.
Thus, Hays City law enforcement usually fell to a
controversial vigilance committee and/or an occasional city
men who offended the vigilance committee were Joseph Weiss
and Samuel Strawhun. Both
of definite criminal background, Weiss was a saloonkeeper,
while Strawhun was a teamster.
It fell to postal clerk, Alonzo Webster, an active
member of the vigilance committee, to inform Weiss and
Strawhun to leave town forthwith.
Instead of leaving, however, Weiss and Strawhun
attacked Webster in the Post Office.
According to the Junction City Union published on this date, Weiss and Strawhun
“abused, slapped, and finally drew a revolver on
like many a western man, postal clerk Webster was no
drew his own pistol and shot Weiss “through the bowels.”
Taking a quick parting shot, Strawhun fled for his
life. The real
conclusion to this story was subsequently told some twenty
years later in Webster’s 1887 obituary.
Strawhun returned to the Post Office in company with
several of his friends only to find James Butler Hickok
sitting on the counter.
Wild Bill, then apparently a Hays City police
officer, informed Strawhun and his friends that should they
wish revenge on Webster, he (Wild Bill) would be more than
willing to make an accommodation.
Apparently Strawhun and his group determined
discretion was the better part of valor.
1, 1801: A
line in the U.S.
Marine Hymn reads: “From the Halls of Montezuma to the
shores of Tripoli.” The
name “Tripoli” refers to one of the Barbary Coast
countries of North Africa bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
Traditionally these countries include today’s
nations of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya.
In the early days of the United States, these Barbary
nations (the name Barbary derives from the nomadic Berber
people) committed nationally sanctioned piracy against
“western” nations, which included the fledgling United
enough, documents surviving from this era reflect some of
the same Middle-Eastern religion-fired prejudices recognized
today. At any
rate, the Barbary Coast Pirates raided Mediterranean
shipping, and the crews of the seized ships were inhumanly
imprisoned to be sold into slavery.
The typical solution to prevent a nation’s merchant
ships from attack was to pay the exorbitant tribute demanded
by the sultans. Determining
such payments were both overly expensive and morally
dishonorable, the United States decided to handle the
situation militarily. At
the time, however, the United States did not really have
much of a navy. Yet,
on this date was fought the first naval engagement of the
Tripolitan War resulting in a victory for the United States
Navy. The armed
schooner Enterprise caught
a 14-gun Tripolitan galley and during the ensuing three-hour
battle killed or wounded sixty of its crew without any fatal
or serious injuries to the American crew.
Twice during the battle the Tripolitan attempted to
fatally trick the American commander by lowering his flag,
allowing the Enterprise
to close, and then re-commencing fire.
With the battle won, the American commander,
Lieutenant Andrew Sterrett, was unsure if a Tripolitan
vessel could be taken as a prize, so he ordered the
vessel’s masts cut away and her guns thrown into the sea.
Crippled, the vessel limped back to Tripoli, where
the angry Bashaw ordered the Tripolitan captain beaten and
to ride backwards on a donkey through the streets while
wearing a necklace of bloody sheep intestines.
4, 1892: A
skipping rhyme or skipping-rope rhyme, often also called a
playground rhyme, is a folk rhyme chanted by children
usually while playing jump-rope.
They have been recorded world-wide and may range from
recent origin to centuries old.
One American playground rhyme went as follows:
took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.
this date, Andrew Borden, an unpopular wealthy textile mill
owner and banker in Fall River, Massachusetts had breakfast
with his wife, made his usual rounds of the banks and post
office, and returned home about 10:45.
There were three others in the house, his wife, his
daughter Lizzie, and a maid, Bridget Sullivan, who was in
her third-floor bedroom.
Uncle John Morse had been there, but had stepped out
for the morning. The
other Borden daughter, Emma, was out of town.
Just before 11:00, Lizzie called up the stairs,
“Maggie, come quick! Father’s
came in and killed him.”
Andrew Borden lay on the first-floor sitting room
couch, his head a mass of wounds from a hatchet-like weapon.
Neighbors, doctors and the police were summoned and
while they administered to Lizzie, the maid found Mrs. Abby
Borden in an upstairs guest bedroom with her head also
was later believed that she was murdered first – possibly
while Mr. Borden was still out.
A hatchet was found, which both was free of blood and
missing much of its handle.
On August 11, after Lizzie was seen burning a soiled
dress in the kitchen stove, she was arrested for murder.
Due to the grisliness of the crime and the spinster
defendant, the trail was a sensation, but there was very
little actual evidence.
At one point, however, when the preserved, mangled
skulls of the Borden’s were displayed, Lizzie feinted dead
away. After an
hour and a half of deliberations at the trial’s conclusion
the jury acquitted Lizzie.
No one else was ever charged, and officially it
remains an unsolved crime.
Speculation continues to this day, which include
books, web-sites and movies.
No one will likely ever know the truth, for even the
playground rhyme is wrong: Andrew was whacked 10 or 11
times, Abby was whacked 19 times.
Well-known people in the news have historically had to
tolerate harassment from lessor people.
Good examples today can be found in many of the
articles in “checker-counter newspapers” such as The
National Enquirer. Published
this date in the New
York Sun was a story recounting a supposed run-in
between Wyatt Earp of Tombstone fame and a somewhat small in
stature Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman.
According to the story, although Earp was well along
in years since his famous marshaling days, when he arrived
in the yet wide-open Canadian town of Dawson he decided to
turn his back on peaceful old age, slip a Colt into his
belt, and push his reputation as “a bad man.”
Changing out of his respectable suit, he supposedly
loaded up on bad whiskey “ballyragging” the saloons and
gambling halls, and taking occasional shots at “men who
resented it.” Word
of his bad behavior finally got to “a little five foot
cockney member of the Canadian mounted police.”
Earp apparently did not know much about the mounted
police nor the “manner of men who composed it,” so when
the policeman quietly told him to either get rid of the gun
or hand it over, Earp was shocked.
His mouth dropped open, his eyes widened; he let off
a string of curses, and threatened to fill the policeman
full of holes. But
the little policeman smiled and said, “Now you have to
bury it or I’ll take it away from you, sir.”
Earp reportedly stalked away, but before he got to
the door, the policemen said, “…if you come out again
with a gun in sight tomorrow, I shall have to take it away
from you.” Supposedly
later Earp received some sage advice from bystanders, which
led him to sober-up and thoughtfully return to the street
wearing his respectable suit.
Of course, not a word of the story was true, and when
Earp saw another version of the story published in the Los
Angeles Herald, he responded with a letter to the
editor. In that
letter, published on September 8, 1903, he stated, “The
falsity of the article is shown by the fact that I never was
within 1000 miles of Dawson City.”
Further he added, “…neither I nor my brothers
were ever ‘bad men,’ in the sense that term is used…we
have been officers of the law and have had our experiences
in preserving the law...”
2, 1945: There
are certain American flags that have their own special
Star Spangled Banner, which is the flag that flew over Fort
McHenry during the War of 1812 bombardment is one such
Star Spangled Banner is an unusual American flag, in that it
is the only flag having fifteen stripes rather than the
usual thirteen stripes.
Another flag with a well-known name is Old Glory, but
few know the source of that name or the number of stars on
that particular flag. Traditionally
world-wide symbols of liberty, certain American flags that
have flown at crucial times in history have been flown again
to symbolize the struggle for freedom.
A flag with just such a special story is the flag
that flew over Washington during the Japanese attack on
Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
On December 8, 1941, when Congress declared war on
Japan, that same flag was raised again over Washington.
It was raised again when war was declared on Germany
and Italy. During
World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt personally
carried that flag to different conferences and events.
He called it the “Flag of Liberation.”
In 1943, it traveled to Casablanca with F.D.R. when
he met with Sir Winston Churchill.
On this date, the Flag of Liberation flew from the
mast of the battleship U.S.S. Missouri as the Japanese signed the formal surrender ending
World War II.
20, 1944: Expecting
to die, Waclaw Sobczak, a Polish prisoner and slave laborer
at the Nazi Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, stuffed a stolen
bottle containing a note between the bricks of a building.
The note listed his name and the tattooed number on
his forearm as well as those of five other Poles and one
was a feeble yet courageous attempt to leave at least some
trace of existence to posterity.
Surprisingly, it worked, for in April 2008 that note
and bottle were discovered by demolition workers.
They were tearing down the wall of a present school
– a wall that in 1944 had been part of the WW II death
discovery of the note, three men on the list including
Sobczak were found to still be living.
Sobczak, age 84, with the number 145664 still on his
arm, was living in western Poland.
Interviewed by telephone, he recalled that as slave
laborers they were constructing the building when he hid the
he could not recall whose idea it was to write the note.
Karol Czekalski, age 83, explained that they were
taught to be masons by other prisoners, primarily French
Jews, and were building anti-air raid bunkers.
The Frenchman on the list was Albert Veissid, age 84,
who was found living in southeastern France.
I remember everything from the camp…I can see the
images before my eyes.”
About the bottle, he said it was, “The biggest
surprise of my life.”
As a worker in the camp, he remembered meeting the
six named Poles, but it was a mystery why his name was
true I did do them some favors,” he said.
Irene Jankowiak, age 49, of Sweden, identified the
writer of the list as her father, Bronislaw Jankowiak.
Auschwitz number 121213, Jankowaik also survived the
death camp and immigrated to Sweden after the war.
He died in 1997.
Seeing published photos of the original message, she
compared the handwriting to surviving examples written by
her father. Between
1940 and 1945 more than one million people were
systematically killed at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.
Located in southern Poland, the camp was liberated by
Soviet troops in January 1945.
September 26, 1808:
has always been drawn to the romance and raw power of the
sea, and early seafarers had to temper that draw with a fear
of the unknown. Somewhere
was there an edge to the world off which a ship could
monsters hidden in its great depths rise to devour a ship?
Such sea monsters had been reported.
On this date, a Scottish farmer named John Peace
discovered the rotting corpse of a huge beast among the
rocks of Orkney Island.
He thought it a dead whale, “but as he approached,
he discovered that it was like no whale he had ever seen.
The putrefying monstrosity had several fins, or arms,
and when Peace lifted the largest one with his boat hook, he
found that it was surrounded by a row of ten-inch
it a sea monster? In
1852, the whaler, Monongahela,
out of New Bedford harpooned a strange creature in the
a lengthy chase the crew hauled it aboard dead.
It was 103 feet long by 50 feet around its widest
part; it had four “swimming fins,” an alligator-like
head with two spout holes, and 94 sharp teeth.
As in a whale, the crew rendered the creature’s
blubber into oil, and then preserved the head in a barrel.
But neither the creature’s head nor the Monongahela
ever returned to port.
Then how do we know about it? The
account of the creature was given in a high-seas
conversation with another whaler.
The Monongahela nameboard was found years
later washed up on an Alaskan island.