Thursday, May 17, 2012

Learn Our History Today: May 17

Learn Our History:
On May 17, 1792, the New York Stock Exchange was founded by 24 stockbrokers who were meeting under a buttonwood tree near what is today 68 Wall Street. Little did these 24 men know that their small company would grow to be the world’s largest stock exchange, with an average daily trading value of over 150 million US dollars.

In Addition, on May 17, 1863, the Battle of Big Black River Bridge was fought during the Civil War as part of the Vicksburg Campaign. On the morning of May 17, Union Major General John A. McClernand, with three divisions of the Union’s 13th corps, encountered Confederate troops, under the command of Brigadier General John S. Bowen, who were entrenched behind cotton bales near the Big Black River Bridge. The Union men were soon forced to take cover due to rebel artillery fire. Soon, however, Union Brigadier General Michael K. Lawler formed his brigade, and surged out of a meander scar, strait into the Confederate breastworks. The confederates in the breastworks quickly panicked and began to flee across the Big Black River, but not before burning the bridges across it. In all, the battle was a complete disaster for the Confederates, who lost around 200 men killed or wounded, and 1,800 captured. In contrast, the Union lost a mere 273 total casualties. This battle essentially sealed Vicksburg’s fate: the Confederates were bottled up.

Also, on May 17, 1875, the first ever Kentucky Derby was run, at a distance of 1 ½ miles, which in the future would be changed to the current distance of 1 ¼ mile. Only 3 horses competed in the first derby, in front of a crowd of around 10,000 people, with a colt named Aristides winning the race.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Learn Our History Today: May 15

Learn Our History Today:
On May 15, 1864, the Battle of New Market, Virginia, was fought. This battle occurred as part of the Valley Campaigns of 1864, during the Civil War. The battle began when union troops under the command of Major General Franz Sigel opened fire on Confederates, under the command of Major General John C. Breckenridge, prompting the Confederates to launch a frontal attack on the Union troops.  Soon, however, the rebel attack began to falter and a gap opened in their line. This caused Sigel to launch a counterattack. Seeing that he had no choice, Breckenridge sent his reserves, 257 young cadets from the Virginia Military Institute, to plug the hole. Breckenridge was very resistant to using the cadets, and when he finally realized he had no other options he said, “Put the boys in and may God forgive me for that order.” The cadets turned back the union charge, and the Confederate troops, with the cadets at the head, soon swept the Union troops from the field.

Also, on May 15, 1940, the very first McDonald’s restaurant was opened in San Bernardino, California. It started out as barbecue restaurant, but by 1948 they reorganized the restaurant as a hamburger stand, using production line principles. Today, McDonald’s restaurants are found in 119 countries and serve 58 million customers per day.

Another event that occurred on May 15 was the attempted assassination of presidential candidate George Wallace by Arthur Bremer. On May 15, 1972, while campaigning for president in Laurel, Maryland, politician George Wallace was shot five times in the abdomen and chest by Bremer, who also hit three bystanders. This assassination attempt left Wallace paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life. Bremer was sentenced to 63 years in prison, but served only 35 years, being released in 2007.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Learn Our History Today: On May 14, 1607, Jamestown was formed in the English Colony of Virginia. It was established by the Virginia Company of London as “James Fort”, and was the first permanent English settlement In the New World.  Jamestown would serve as the Capital of the Virginia Colony for 83 years.

Also On May 14, 1804, the Lewis and Clark Expedition departed St. Louis, Missouri to explore the massive territory acquired by the United States through the Louisiana Purchase. The Historic expedition was led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, both Military veterans. The objectives of the expedition were scientific and commercial- they were to study the region’s plant and animal life, study the vast region’s geography, and figure out how the region could be economically exploited. In all, the expedition took three years, and traversed 7,689 miles of some of North America’s most rugged terrain.

In Addition, on May 14, 1973, the United States’ first space station, Skylab, was launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Skylab orbited earth from 1973 to 1979, and numerous scientific experiments were done aboard Skylab, including one which confirmed the existence of coronal holes in the Sun. Skylab reentered the earth’s atmosphere and disintegrated on July 11, 1979.

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Learn Our History Today:
On May 11, 1943, during World War II, the Allies began an operation to recapture the Island of Attu in the Aleutian Island chain, which had been captured by Japanese forces earlier in April 1942. Unfortunately, the Allies were plagued by problems. First off, the Allies did not have nearly enough landing craft to properly land all their troops and equipment. In addition, the equipment that was available struggled to operate properly due to the bitter cold. There was also a shortage of suitable beaches where the landings could take place. This lack of beaches caused some of the troops to suffer from frostbite because proper supplies could not be delivered.  The fighting on Attu was brutal because the Japanese decided to dig in on the hills of the Island, instead of contesting the landings. At the end of the campaign, the last Japanese forces on the Island launched one of the largest banzai charges of the entire war, resulting in brutal, furious hand-to-hand combat.  A total of 3,929 U.S. troops were lost taking Attu, with many being killed or wounded by Japanese booby traps.  The Japanese lost over 2,850 men killed, almost their entire force. Only 29 Japanese soldiers were taken alive.

Also on May 11, during the Second World War, in 1945, off the coast of Okinawa, the USS Bunker Hill was hit by two Japanese kamikaze planes. One plane hit the flight deck destroying warplanes filled with gasoline and ammunition, igniting a massive fire. 30 seconds afterward, a second plane crashed through the area where the fire had erupted, dropping a 550-pound bomb simultaneously. Several huge explosions then shook the ship and the already massive gasoline fires flared up even further. The Bunker Hill’s crew suffered 346 killed, 264 wounded, and 43 missing. The ship itself was heavily damaged and required months of repair to be fully operational once again.

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Learn Our History Today: May 10

On May 10, a group a continental militia known as the Green Mountain Boys, under the command of Ethan Allen and Colonel Benedict Arnold, attacked and captured British held Fort Ticonderoga. In the early morning, on May 10, 1775, patriot forces rushed into the Fort Ticonderoga, after the only sentry posted fled, following a musket misfire. The Green Mountain boys quickly roused and disarmed the few redcoats in the fort, while Arnold and Allen charged towards the officer’s quarters. Upon noticing Arnold and Allen running towards him, a British officer demanded to know by what authority Fort Ticonderoga was being entered. Allen replied, “In the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!” Soon after this, the Captain of the fort emerged and surrendered to Arnold and Allen.  The capture of Fort Ticonderoga was of great significance to the young United States. The Cannons from the fort were taken to Boston by Henry Knox and played a crucial role in breaking the standoff of the Siege of Boston. The fort also gave the Continental Army a great staging point for the invasion of Quebec, which took place in winter 1775.

On a sad note, May 10 marks the death of Confederate Lieutenant General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Jackson was wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville, his arm later amputated from the injury. Unfortunately, pneumonia set in and Stonewall died on May 10, 1863 in Guinea Station, Virginia. His last words were, “let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.”

Also on May 10, 1865, during the Civil War, near Irwinville, Georgia, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was captured by Union troops. Upon spotting the Union troops approaching, Davis threw his wife’s overcoat over his shoulders, in an attempt to disguise himself. This guise did not fool the troops however and he was quickly captured. Davis’ attempted disguise led to many caricatures being made of him trying to escape in women’s clothing.

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Learn our History Today: April 27

Learn Our History Today: During the Revolutionary War on April 27, the Battle of Ridgefield was fought in the state of Connecticut.  Although it is called the Battle of Ridgefield, it was actually a series of different little battles that all took place on April 27, 1777. Two days before the battle, British forces landed in Connecticut and quickly set out to destroy Continental Army supplies located in Danbury, Connecticut.
They easily destroyed the supplies in Danbury as there were few continentals there to guard them, but word of these actions spread quickly and Major General David Wooster, Brigadier General Benedict Arnold, and Brigadier General Gold S. Silliman hastily assembled a mixed force of 700 continentals and militiamen. Unfortunately for the Americans, by the time they got to Danbury the supplies had already been destroyed. They now turned their focus to harassing the redcoats on their return to their landing site. A small company under the command of General Wooster struck the British first, right as the redcoats were enjoying their breakfast. He attacked the British twice, the first time he and his men killed two redcoats and captured another forty.
The second time however, the British were much better prepared and they gave the Americans a fierce fight, in which Wooster was mortally wounded. This engagement gave Arnold and Silliman just enough time to set up defenses in the town of Ridgefield. When the British arrived they fought a running battle with the continentals and managed to capture the entire town. Benedict Arnold had an extremely close call during this fight when his horse was killed and he was pinned under it as the redcoats charged him and his troops.
A British soldier ran up to him demanding he surrender, but Arnold instead answered with a pistol shot, killing the redcoat. Arnold managed to escape these dire straits with simply a small leg wound.  For many Americans the name Benedict Arnold is synonymous with traitor, but prior to turning on his country Arnold fought valiantly for it.  Although this battle was technically a British victory, the actions of the continentals made for much stronger American sympathy in the State of Connecticut.
Also on April 27, 1813, one of the first major land battles of the war of 1812 war fought near York in Canada. American troops, under the command of Brigadier General Zebulon Pike, battled the British for more than three hours after landing near the city of York. After losing 62 killed and 94 wounded, British commander Sir Roger Sheaffe decided to pull out of the City of York. First, however, he ordered the destruction of the main powder magazine at the government house. General Pike and his men were just arriving at the government house when it exploded, sending stones and chunks of debris careening hundreds of feet through the air. This massive explosion killed thirty-eight Americans and wounded two hundred and twenty-two.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Learn Our History Today: April 26

On April 26, 1607, the first English colonists landed in Virginia, making landfall at Cape Henry. This became known as “the First Landing”. These colonists quickly moved inland and established the city of Jamestown, the New World’s first permanent settlement.

On April 26, the largest surrender of the Civil war took place at Bennett Place in North Carolina. On April 26, 1865, confederate General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered 89,270 confederate soldiers to union General William Tecumseh Sherman. This effectively ended the fighting in Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia.

Also on April 26, 1865, union cavalry cornered John Wilkes Booth in a tobacco barn near Port Royal, Virginia. Booth was hiding in the barn along with David Herold, who was a fellow Lincoln Assassination conspirator. Upon noticing the cavalry, Herold promptly surrendered, leaving Booth alone in the barn. Unlike Herold, Booth refused to surrender saying, “I prefer to come out and fight”. Before Booth had a chance to fight however, he was shot in the neck through a crack in the barn wall. The Union men then carried him to the porch of the Garret Farm where he died about three hours after his wounding.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Learn Our History Today: April 25

Learn Our History Today: On April 25, 1846, a party of 70 U.S. Dragoons, under the command of Captain Seth Thornton, was ordered to scout an area northwest of current day Brownsville, Texas, to determine if the Mexican army had crossed the Rio Grande River into Texas. While investigating an abandoned hacienda, the dragoons ran into two thousand Mexican troops under the command of Colonel Mastasio Torrejon, who were camped near the hacienda. Immediately fighting broke out. For hours the two groups clashed until the dragoons, being hugely outnumbered, were forced to surrender. 16 U.S. Dragoons were killed and the rest were captured except for a single dragoon who was able to escape and report of the battle. After hearing of the fight that became known as the Thornton Affair, President James K. Polk asked congress to declare war on Mexico, beginning the Mexican-American War.

Another event that happened on April 25 was the Battle of Mark’s Mill, which was fought in Cleveland County, Arkansas, as part of the Camden Campaign. At Mark’s Mill on April 25, 1864, two confederate divisions under the command of James F. Fagan, launched a devastating attack on a small union force under the command of Francis M. Drake. The overwhelming confederate numbers obliged the union to surrender. The confederates lost 293 men in battle and the union lost over 1300 men.

April 25 is also remembered as Elbe Day...On this day in 1945, American and Soviet troops finally met along the Elbe River in Germany. This effectively cut Nazi Germany in two and was a large step towards the end of World War II in Europe.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Learn Our History Today: April 24

Learn Our History Today: On April 24, 1800 in Washington D.C. the Library of Congress was established. $5,000 was originally raised for the purchase of books for use by Congress. Unfortunately, the first collection was destroyed during the infamous burning of Washington during the War of 1812. After the war, Thomas Jefferson’s personal collection was used to replace the destroyed collection. Today the Library of Congress has approximately 140 million items and roughly 10,000 items are added daily.

Also on April 24, the post-Civil War reconstruction of the south was ended. In 1877 the final U.S. soldiers stationed in New Orleans, Louisiana, were removed by President Rutherford B. Hayes.

Another April 24th event was the Operation Eagle Claw debacle. On April 24, 1980, the United States launched a raid to free the Tehran hostages. Before the U.S. Special Forces troops even began their advance to rescue the hostages there was a devastating crash in the Iranian desert. A C-130 airplane and a RH-53 helicopter crashed into each other and burst into flames. 8 crewmen lost their lives. While this event was a tragedy for the service members and our nation as a whole, the military was able to examine and learn from this event and make procedural changes to ensure the safety of its forces in the future. The hostages would later be freed on January 21, 1981 as Jimmy Carter left office and Ronald Reagan was sworn in.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Learn Our History Today: April 23rd

Learn Our History Today:  On April 23rd, 1910 Theodore Roosevelt delivered his famous Citizens in a Republic speech. The most familiar, and often re-quoted, portion of the speech is where the more well-known name for the speech, “The Man in the Arena”, is derived:
 It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
Originally delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, it was enthusiastically received by the French people. It was also well loved by President Richard Nixon, who quoted from it in on November 6th, 1968 and used parts of it in his resignation speech.  Before the start of the 1995 Rugby World Cup, Nelson Mandela gave a copy of the speech to the captain of the South African Rugby team.
Also on April 23, 1934 in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin, a fierce fire fight broke out at the Little Bohemia Lodge between John Dillinger, his gang, and FBI agents under the leadership of Melvin Purvis. In the early morning, Purvis and the G-men crept up on the Little Bohemia Lodge, where they knew the Dillinger gang was staying. Armed to the hilt with Thompson sub-machine guns and Browning automatic rifles, the G-men were clearly ready for a fight. As they approached the lodge, the FBI agents noticed three men jumping into a car and suspected they were part of the Dillinger gang. After the men neglected an order to halt, the agents showered their car with bullets, killing one of them and wounding two. Unfortunately, the men in the car were actually civilians who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
All of the noise and gun fire was enough to rouse John Dillinger, Baby-face Nelson and the rest of the gang in the lodge. They grabbed their Tommy guns and sprayed automatic fire at the FBI agents, who returned fire, sending bullets flying through the walls and windows of the lodge. In the end all of the members of the Dillinger gang managed to escape the melee. FBI Agent Carter Baum wasn’t as lucky, he as killed in the firefight by Baby-face Nelson.
And in pop-culture history, on April 23, 1985 the Coca-Cola Company introduced America to its new formula, handing out the first samples to workers renovating the Statue of Liberty and in Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C.  – hoping to sell America on the New Coke. An extremely negative reaction to this new formula spread swiftly across the country, and prompted Coca-Cola executives to bring back the original formula after only 77 days. The original formula, under the name Coca-Cola Classic, is still being stocked on the shelves of American stored today.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Learn Our History Today: April 5

Learn Our History Today:  Here’s what happened on April 5th in American History...

In 1774, Ben Franklin published an open letter to British Prime Minister Lord North in the British newspaper, The Public Advertiser.  A tongue-in-cheek, comical letter in which Franklin suggested that the British impose martial law upon the colonies, Franklin implied that the British view these “Yankee Doodles” as inferior, stating that “one born in Britain is equal to 20 Americans.”  Ironically, the letter proved to be prophetic...the following Month, Lord North did in fact impose martial law on Massachusetts with the passage of the Massachusetts Government Act!

In 1792, President George Washington exercised the very first presidential veto, a veto of a bill that introduced a plan to divide the seats in the House of Representatives and increasing the number of seats for northern states.  He claimed that the plan was unconstitutional because it would have introduced a number of reps that was greater than that dictated by the Constitution.  Instead of overriding Washington’s veto with a two-thirds vote, Congress threw out the original bill and instituted a new one that distributed representatives at the ration of one for every 33,000 people in the respective states.

And in 1862, Union forces established siege lines against the Confederacy in what was known as the Siege of Yorktown.  General George McClelland sailed his massive Union Army down the Chesapeake toward the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia. His strategy was to cause the Confederates angst as they would be forced to gather scattered forces from around the James Peninsula.  He was met with resistance at Yorktown, with about 11,000 troops under General John B. Magruder.  Magruder, who was outnumbered by McClelland’s vast army, came up with a clever scheme to paint logs black, giving them the appearance of numerous artillery pieces, and ordered his troops to march back and forth around the logs to further enhance the illusion.  Magruder’s performance worked, convincing McClelland that it would be too dangerous to make a frontal assault.  Instead, McClelland opted to lay siege, surrounding Yorktown.

And in 1951, at the height of the “red scare,” Julius and Ethel Rosenberge were sentenced to death one week after the couple was found guilty of conspiring to provide atomic secrets to the Soviet Union.  The couple was accused of convincing Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass, to provide Philadelphia chemist, Harry Gold with atomic secrets.  Harry Gold was an accomplice of Klaus Fuchs, a German-born U.S. scientist who earlier confessed to passing classified information about America’s atomic program to the Soviets.  During the trial in which Greenglass testified against the couple, the Rosenbergs maintained their innocence.  Despite appeals and pleas for executive clemency, the Rosenbergs became the first U.S. civilians to be given the death penalty in an espionage trial.  The couple was executed by electrocution on June 19, 1953.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Learn Our History Today: April 2

Learn Our History Today:  On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war when he requested that U.S. troops be sent into battle against Germany in World War I.  His request came after two months of increased attacks by Germany against neutral shipping in the Atlantic and offers to Mexico to regain Arizona, Texas and New Mexico if Mexico would join Germany in a war against the United States.  Public outcry toward Germany persuaded President Wilson to ask Congress to forfeit America’s neutrality and declare war.

On the same day, April 2, 1917, Jeannette Pickering Rankin—a representative from Montana—entered Congress, making her the first woman ever to be elected to Congress. A social worker in both Montana and Washington, Rankin became involved in the women’s suffrage movement in 1910, campaigning for the women’s vote on a national level.  In 1914, she played a key role in the passage of suffrage legislation in Montana.  During her campaign, she stood for total women’s suffrage, child protection laws and U.S. neutrality in the European war.  In her first day in office, as President Wilson asked Congress for approval to go to war against Germany, Rankin was one of the only 50 representatives who voted against taking America to war.

Also on this day in 2005, Pope John Paul II, the first non-Italian pope since the 16th century, died at home in the vatican.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Learn Our History Today: March 30

Learn Our History Today: 31 years ago today, on March 30, 1981, a mentally unstable John Hinckley, Jr. shot President Ronald Reagan in the chest outside a hotel in Washington, D.C., where the president had just finished a speech at a labor meeting.

Reagan was walking to his limousine when Hinckley, who was standing with a group of reporters, fired six shots in the president’s direction.  Hinckley’s bullets struck Reagan and three of his attendants including White House Press Secretary, James Brady, who was shot in the head, D.C. police officer, Thomas Delahaney, who was shot in the neck, and Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy, who was shot in the side.

Hinckley was quickly subdued, while Reagan was pushed into the safety of his limo by a Secret Service agent.  The president, initially unaware that he had been hit, was shot in his left lung, and the .22 caliber bullet just missed hitting his heart. 

Not wanting to cause alarm, President Reagan insisted on walking into George Washington University Hospital unassisted.  While he was being prepped for surgery, he displayed his unwavering sense of humor as he joked to his wife, Nancy, “Honey, I forgot to duck,” then turned to his surgeons and said, “Please tell me you’re Republicans!”

After a two-hour surgery to remove the bullet and repair his collapsed lung, it was back to business for Reagan.  He actually resumed his executive duties and even signed legislation right from his hospital bed!  The president returned to the White House on April 11 and enjoyed soaring popularity shortly thereafter.

As for 25-year old John Hinckley, he was booked on charges of attempted assassination of the president.  During his trial in June, 1982, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity.  Hinckley’s attorneys claimed that he suffered from narcissistic personality disorder and an obsession with the film Taxi Driver and the movie’s leading female, Jodie Foster.  The assassination attempt, they claimed, was an attempt to reenact the events of the film in his own life, arguing that the movie (not Hinckley) was the actual planning force behind the attempt on Reagan’s life.

Our history is chock-full of dramatic, captivating stories, and it’s so important that we inspire our children and grandchildren to take an interest in the events that shaped our nation.  Just imagine the course that history could have taken if Hinckley had successfully assasinated Reagan! 

We created Learn Our History DVDs as an aid for you, the parents and grandparents of our children, to help your child not only take an interest in history, but to be inspired by the important lessons in our nation’s stories and passionate about leading our nation in the right direction in the future.

With the Learn Our History series, your kids will learn all about President Reagan, his assassination attempt and how he went on to become one of the most revered presidents of our time.  If you haven’t tried our DVDs yet, why not take advantage of our incredible offer to get a FREE DVD and 6 FREE gifts for your kids when you try our introductory DVD today?  Just click here to get started:

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Learn Our History Today: March 29

Learn Our History Today:  On March 29, 1790, our 10th President—John Tyler—was born in Virginia.  Before becoming president, he was elected by the Whigs to serve as the Vice President for William Henry Harrison in 1841.  Here’s an interesting factoid about John Tyler...he was the first Vice President to ever become President as a result of his predecessor’s death.  He is also the last president from the colonial Virginia planter class, which also gave us Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe.  He was politically despised and often received death threats during his tenure.   However, he was a devoted husband and father, and he holds the record as the president who fathered the most children—15 in all.  He had 8 with his first wife Letitia, who died during his presidency, and another 7 with his second wife, Julia, who was 30 years younger than him.  His last child was born when he was 70 years old!  He died on January 16, 1862, just a few days before the first meeting of the Confederate Congress.

And in 1929, the first telephone was installed in the Oval Office, during the Hoover administration.  Previously, Hoover had been using a telephone located just outside the oval office.

 Also on this day in 1945, General George Patton’s 3rd Army seized Frankfurt, Germany.  Known in some circles as “Old Blood and Guts,” Patton and his troops crossed the Rhine in Remagen, Germany on March 7, 1945—something that no enemy army had accomplished since Napoleon in 1805—and went on to capture Frankfurt on the 29th.

And on March 29, 1973, under the provisions of the Paris Peace Accords, the last of the American troops left South Vietnam, putting an end to nearly 10 years of U.S. military presence.  As a result, the U.S. Military Assistance Command headquarters was disestablished in Vietnam, and only a few guards at the American Embassy in Saigon remained.  And, as part of the Paris Peace Accords, 67 American prisoners of war were released.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Learn Our History Today: March 28

Learn Our History Today: On March 28, 1774, British Parliament enacted the Coercive Acts, following the Boston Tea Party and other destructive measures by American colonists.  The Coercive Acts were four individual Acts aimed at restoring order in Massachusetts and punishing Boston’s colonists for the Tea Party.  The four Acts included:

The Boston Port Act, which shut down the port of Boston until damages from the Tea Party were repaid
The Massachusetts Government Act, restricting town meetings in Massachusetts
The Administration of Justice Act, protecting British officials from any form of criminal prosecution
The Quartering Act, which required colonists to house British troops in on demand

A fifth act, known as the Quebec Act, which gave freedom of worship to Catholics in Canada, was added in colonial parlance as one of the Intolerable Acts—the largely Protestant colonists did not like the ability of Catholics to worship freely on their borders.

You can introduce your children to the Boston Tea Party and the Coercive Acts with Learn Our History’s video, “The Birth of a Revolution,” available at  And when you try this video, we’ll give you our “Columbus and the Great Discovery” video free, along with 6 more free gifts.

Now back to today’s day in history...In 1862, the Union turned away Rebel forces at the Battle of Glorietta Pass, stopping the invasion of New Mexico Territory.  The Confederates had the goal of claiming the territory they deemed rightfully theirs and use the Western mines to fill its treasury.  But at Pigeon’s Range, near Glorietta Pass, the Confederates stumbled upon some 1,300 Yankees under the command of Colonel John Slough and a battle ensued in the late morning.  In the late afternoon, the Confederates were able to force the Union further down the pass, but night fell and halted their advance.  Then, the tides were turned as the Union managed to attack a Confederate supply train burning 90 wagons and crippling the Confederates.

Also on this day in 1969, our 34th President and a respected World War II general, Dwight D. Eisenhower, died at the age of 78.  Widely known as “Ike,” he was a popular president who held two terms in which he oversaw a period of strong economic growth in the United States and navigated the country through the increasing tensions of the Cold War.

Finally, on this day in 1979, the worst accident in the history of nuclear power in the United States occurred when a pressure valve in a reactor at Three Mile Island on Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna River failed to close.  Cooling water contaminated with radiation was released into adjoining buildings and the core began to overheat.  Although emergency cooling pumps automatically started, operators misread the confusing data in the control room and shut off the emergency water system.  The reactor was shut down but, due to the fission process, residual heat continued to be released.  As a result, the core heated to over 4,000 degrees.  At 5,000 degrees, the core would experience a meltdown causing radiation to drift across the countryside causing fatal illnesses.  Fortunately, by 8:00pm, operators realized that they needed to circulate water through the core so they restarted the pumps, causing the temperature to drop.  It was an extremely close-call as the reactor was less than an hour away from a complete meltdown. 

Although more than half the core was destroyed, the protective shell was in tact and no radiation was escaping.  But two days later, a highly flammable hydrogen gas bubble was discovered inside the reactor building.  Some of the gas had exploded on the 28th and a small amount of radiation was released into the atmosphere, although the explosion was not registered and the public was not notified.  Once the bubble and leak were discovered on the 30th, residents were instructed to take precautionary measures and pregnant women and pre-school children were instructed to leave the area until further notice, causing a widespread panic and prompting over 100,000 people to flee surrounding towns.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Learn our History Today: March 26

Learn Our History Today:  On March 26, 1776, four months prior to the Continental Congress declaring independence, South Carolina approved a new constitution and government with the legislature renaming itself the General Assembly of South Carolina.  Under the General Assembly, John Rutledge was elected president and Henry Laurens was elected vice president. 

And on this day in 1953, an American medical researcher named Dr. Jonas Salk announced that he had successfully tested a new vaccine against the crippling virus, poliomyelitis, the cause of polio.  His announcement on national radio followed an epidemic year for polio, in which 58,000 new cases popped up in the U.S.  Salk went on to be celebrated as the greatest doctor of his time by promising to eventually eradicate the disease known as “infant paralysis.”

Also on this day in 1969, a women’s group called Women Strike for Peace held the first large antiwar demonstration since President Richard Nixon took office in January of that year. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Learn Our History Today: March 19

Learn Our History Today: On March 19, 1865, as the Civil War was in its final days, Union General William T. Sherman and his mighty army was attacked by some 17,000 Rebel forces under Confederate General Joseph Johnston at the Battle of Bentonville, in North Carolina.  In the previous days, Sherman and his troops blazed through the Carolinas, destroying everything in their path to further demoralize the South and speed the end of the war.  While the Confederates had surprised Sherman’s troops on the first day of the battle, more Union troops arrived in the days that followed, giving Sherman a 3-to-1 advantage over the South, forcing Johnston to withdraw.  All in all, the Union suffered 194 confirmed deaths, 221 missing soldiers and 1,112 wounded.  The toll to the Confederates was slightly more severe at 240 killed, 1,500 missing and 1,700 wounded.

Also on this day in U.S. history, the first U.S. air combat mission began in 1916, as eight Curtiss “Jenny” planes were deployed on an 11-month mission to support 7,000 troops who invated Mexico to capture Pancho Villa, a Mexican revolutionary who, on March 9, led a band of guerrillas on a raid of Columbus, New Mexico, killing 17 Americans.  the U.S. failed to capture Villa and in late January, 1917, President Woodrow Willson ordered the troops home.

And on March 19, 2003, President George W. Bush announced the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the mission to take down Saddam Hussein and eliminate his ability to develop weapons of mass destruction.  On live TV, Bush told Americans that Iraq was the next target in the fight against terrorism.  In his speech, he added “helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable and free country will require our sustained commitment” and reaffirmed his administrations refusal to “live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder.”

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Learn Our History Today: March 15

Learn Our History Today: Today, March 15, is known as the Ides of March. While having nothing to do with American history, it bears mentioning.  In 44 B.C. Julius Caesar was murdered (stabbed in the back 23 times) by his friend and protege Marcus Brutus.  Caesar had been warned by a prophet of sorts (called a “seer”) that he would be harmed no later than the Ides of March on his way to the Theater of Pompey.  When Caesar met the seer on that day, he joked “The Ides of March have come” meaning that the prophecy had not been fulfilled.  The seer was quick to reply, “Ay, Caesar, but not gone!”  This meeting was immortalized by William Shakespeare in the play, Julius Caesar, with the line “beware the Ides of March.”  The word “Ides” comes from the Latin word “Idus” meaning “half division” and especially pertains to a month.
In more recent history, in 1767, Andrew Jackson was born in South Carolina to Irish immigrant parents.  He became the 7th president of the United States, serving from 1829 to 1837.
And on this day in 1783, General George Washington appeared at an assembly of army officers in Newburgh, New York.  The purpose of his visit was to calm the growing frustration and distrust that the army had been expressing towards Congress, which was brought on by Congress’ failure to honor its promise to pay them and reimburse them for food and clothing.  Washington emplored his officers to place “full confidence in the purity of the intentions of Congress.”  His meeting was a success; the officers realized that Washington was sincere and, within minutes, they voted unanimously to express confidence in Congress and their country.
And on this day in 1820, Maine is admitted into the Union as the 23rd state, as part of the Missouri Compromise between the North and South.  The Compromise granted the entrance of Maine as a free state in exchange for the entrance of Missouri as a slave state.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Learn Our History Today: March 12

Learn Our History Today:  On March 12, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his very first national radio address as president.  Broadcasted directly from the White House, he made the address just eight days after his inauguration. 

Directed at the American people who were facing the lowest point of the Great Depression and 25-33% unemployment rates, Roosevelt’s first address was designed to ease public fear and instill confidence in his leadership.  Between March 1933 and June 1944, Roosevelt delivered more than 30 public radio addresses.

A journalist named Robert Trout is responsible for coining the phrase “Fireside Chat” to describe Roosevelt’s public radio addresses. The term was meant to create an image of the president sitting in a cozy room near a fireplace, being very conversational in his communications to the American people.  Trout, however, credited the phrase to Harry Butcher, a CBS vice president in Washington at the time.

And on this day in 1993, Janet Reno was sworn in as the first female attorney general of the United States.  She previously served as the Dade County (FL) district attorney, making her responsible for overseeing 120,000 criminal cases each year.  During her 15- year tenure in Miami, she created the Miami Drug Court to try nonviolent criminals and offer alternative punishments for nonviolent offenders with substance abuse problems.  The Miami Drug Court model was used by other courts around the country, and in February of 1993, President Clinton nominated Reno for U.S. attorney general.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Learn Our History Today: March 9

Learn Our History Today: On March 9, 1862, the U.S.S. Monitor and the C.S.S. Virginia engaged in one of the most famous naval battles in the Civil War and possibly all of American history.  All morning long, the two ironclads exchanged cannon fire off Hampton Roads, VA, south of the Chesapeake Bay.  Despite the consistent pounding, each ship easily resisted the cannon shots thanks to the use of armor plates which signaled a new era of steam-powered iron ships.

Originally known as the U.S.S. Merrimak, the C.S.S. Virgninia was captured by the Confederates who then covered the ship in heavy armor plating and outfitted it with powerful guns.  The Confederates launched the ship for their new ship first time in February of 1862, and on March 8th (yesterday in history!) the ship sunk two Union ships. 

The U.S.S. Monitor, which was designed with an unusually low 18” profile for operation in the shallow harbors of the south, featured a flat iron deck and a 20-foot cylindrical turret.  As it snaked through the Chesapeake Bay on the morning of March 9, it engaged the Virginia and fought for four hours.  As the ships circled one another, cannon balls flew threw the air and simply bounced off of the iron ships.  Early in the afternoon, the Virginia retreated to Norfolk and neither ship suffered any serious damage.

Also on this day in history, Republican senators took action to limit fellow Republican Joseph McCarthy’s power.  McCarthy is best known for his accusations of communists operating in the U.S. Department of State, yet he was unsuccessful in producing any evidence to substantiate his claims.  His peers accused him of being a one-man party and “doing his best to shatter that party whose label he wears.”

Also, in pop-culture history, the infamous Barbie doll makes her debut at the American Toy Fair in New York City.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Learn Our History Today: March 5

Learn Our History Today: On today’s date in 1770, a group of furious colonists gathered outside of the Customs House in Boston, MA, and began throwing rocks and snowballs at a British Soldier who was guarding the building.  This was in response to their opposition against British troops who had occupied the city to enforce the strict taxation laws passed by British parliament without American representation.
When the sentinel at the Customs House called for assistance, a British corporal and seven Redcoats came to help, affixing their bayonets to their rifles.  The angry colonists continued to hurl snow at the soldiers, daring them to fire.  Private Hugh Montgomery slipped in the snow and fell, accidentally firing his rifle into the crowd, prompting the other soldiers to fire, too.  After the smoke cleared, 5 colonists lay dying or dead while another three were seriously injured.  It’s a common belief that the deaths of the five men were the first fatalities of the American Revolution.  The event in which I’m writing about has gone down in history as the Boston Massacre.
Also on March 5, 1977, the first and only airing of the Dial-a-President radio program aired on CBS.  The show featured President Jimmy Carter and CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite, and allowed callers from across the nation to telephone in and ask questions of the president.  In the course of the two-hour broadcast, about 9 million calls were made to the CBS radio studio. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Learn Our History Today: March 3

Learn Our History Today:  On March 3, 1791, Congress passed America’s first tax law, which levied a duty on distilled spirits and other items. 

And in 1873, Congress banned the sending of obscene material through the mail.  Called the Comstock Law, after a Connecticut salesman named Anthony Comstock who vehemently opposed obscenity and other vices, the legislation made it illegal to send any obscene, lewd or lavacious books via mail.  In addition, the law also made illegal anything “designed or intended for the prevention of conception or procuring of abortion.”

And in 1845, Congress overrode a presidential veto for the first time in history.  The veto—made by President John Tyler—was on a Congressional bill that would have denied him the authority to appropriate funds to build revenue-cutter ships without congressional approval.  Tyler holds the second spot for the usage frequency of the presidential veto—he used it 10 times, second to Andrew Jackson who used it 12 times during his presidency.

Learn Our History would like to wish Theodor Seuss Geisel (a.k.a Dr. Seuss), the beloved children’s author, a happy belated birthday.  Dr. Seuss’ birthday was yesterday, March 2.   He was born in 1904 and died on September 24, 1991.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Learn Our History Today: March 1

Learn Our History Today:  March 1st is quite a busy day in our history... 1781, the Articles of Confederation were ratified.  The Articles guided the nation until 1789, when the U.S. Constitution was implemented.    Then, in 1790, Congress ordered the first U.S. census.

And on March 1, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the first bill ever to set aside land as a national park.  That land is one of our nation’s most beautiful parks, and home to the cone geyser best known as Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park.

In 1932, Charles Lindberg’s 20-month old son was kidnapped from the family home in Hopewell, New Jersey.  The Lindberg’s paid a $50,000 ransom but the baby was never returned.  Charles Lindberg, Jr. was found dead just a mile from the Lindberg’s mansion.  It looked like the case would go unsolved, but in 1934, a gas station attendant recorded the license plate number of a suspicious customer.  Turns out the customer paid with a marked bill from the ransom money.  The customer, a German immigrant named Bruno Hauptmann, was tracked down and detectives later found $14,000 of the ransom money in his home. He was convicted, and in April of 1936, he was executed by electric chair.

On March 1, 1961, JFK established the Peace Corps, designed to send trained men and women to assist in the development efforts in foreign nations. In just the first week after JFK created the agency, Washington received thousands of letters from young Americans offering to volunteer.

And on March 1, 1971, a bomb exploded inside the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.  Fortunately, no on was harmed.  However, the bomb’s explosion caused $300,000 in damages.  A group called the “Weathered Underground” claimed responsibility for the attack in response to the U.S.-supported invasion of Laos.  The group was a radical faction of the Students for a Democratic Society, and they advocated violence-usually in the form of bombings and arson.  They also targeted the State Department, the Pentagon, the NYPD headquarters and the Long Island Court House.  No one was ever killed in their bombings because they always made bomb threats.  Three members of their group died on March 6, 1970 when the building in which they were constructing the bombs exploded!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Learn Our History Today: February 28

Learn Our History Today:  On February 28, 1844, President John Tyler, who was aboard the Navy ship USS Princeton, narrowly escaped death.  The ship sported a 12-inch, 27,000 lb cannon called the Peacemaker.  The Captain of the ship, Robert Stockton—who was also the co-designer of the cannon—was eager to show off the weapon, despite warnings that it hadn’t been sufficiently tested yet.  Stockton fired two successful shots and the 400 passengers on board went wild with applause. 

Below deck, 54-year old President Tyler toasted the Princeton, her commander and the Peacemaker cannon.  Then, the secretary of war requested a third firing in honor of George Washington.  The third firing proved deadly...the cannon exploded and killed several passengers, including David Gardiner, the father of 20-year old Julia Gardiner, whom Tyler was courting and had recently proposed.  The explosion also took the lives of two of Tyler’s cabinet members. Tyler was far enough away from the blast that he was spared, as was Julia, who was climbing up the ladder to the upper deck when the explosion occurred.  The story has a happy ending, however.  Julia and Tyler were married later that year.

And, on this day in 1987, Mikhail Gorbachev indicated that the Soviet Union was ready to sign a treaty that would eliminate U.S. and Soviet medium-range nuclear missiles from Europe.  The offer led to the eventual signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in December of that year.

And on February 28 in 1784, John Wesley charters the first Methodist Church in the United States.   The move was Wesley’s response to provide church structure for his followers during the American Revolution, after the Anglican Church abandoned its American patrons.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Learn Our History Today: February 27

Learn Our History Today: On today’s date in 1927, The Supreme Court approved the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when its eight members unanimously declared it constitutional, giving women the right to vote.  The 19th Amendment states that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex.”  

Also on this day in history, 1,000 Patriots under the lead of Commander Richard Caswell scored the first American victory in the first organized campaign of the Revolutionary War during the Battle of Moores Creek, which they fought against 1,600 British loyalists.  The British, who were advancing toward the North Carolina shore expected to meet Patriots at Moores Creek but were expecting a much smaller assembly of troops!  As the loyalists crossed a bridge to attack the small gathering of troops they were expecting, they were largely taken out by a barrage of cannon fire and muskets and were forced to surrender.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Learn Our History Today: February 22. George Washington's Birthday

Learn Our History Today:  On this day in 1732, George Washingon was born in Virginia. and was the second son from the second marriage of a colonial plantation owner.
Although initially loyal to the British, serving as a lieutenant in the French and Indian War, Washington led the Continental Army as a general during the American Revolution.

In 1759, Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis, a wealthy widow who had two children from her previous marriage (Washington and Martha never had children of their own, and Washington went on to adopt Martha’s son and daughter).

In 1775, Washington took charge of the Continental Army after being unanimously chosen to do so by Congress.  A rare ‘born leader’, Washington is remembered for his calm demeanor and even temper in stressful situations.  In fact, during his service to the British in the French and Indian War, he faced a variety of stressful situations including being shot at, having his horse shot from beneath him and even being taken prisoner by the French!

Much of his success during the Revolutionary War is attributed to his tactics of guerrilla warfare in which he employed stealth ‘hit and run’ attacks on the British.  And although he suffered about as many losing battles as he won during the War, his leadership was recognized as top-notch by the Continental Congress, which elected Washington as the first American president.  As president, he set dozens of unwritten rules of conduct for future presidents and he was often at odds with his advisors over the image that a president should project.  He served two terms, resigning after being disillusioned with vicious partisan politics.

After his presidency, Washington embraced the rural life by returning to his home in Mount Vernon and starting a successful whiskey distillery.  During that time, he grew very uncomfortable with the idea of owning slaves and he publicly promoted a gradual abolition of slavery.  In fact, in his will, he requested that all his slaves be freed upon Martha’s death.  Speaking of his will, he simply and humbly identified himself in the document as “George Washington, a citizen of the United States.”

There are many funny and popular rumors about Washington.  Of course, there’s the famous chopping down of the cherry tree, which is just a myth.  Then, there’s the tale about Washington having wooden teeth, which is also bogus.  However, by the time he became president, he did only have one real tooth remaining, and he wore various dentures constructed of metal and cow or hippopotamus bone.  Interestingly, he lost several teeth by cracking the shells of Brazil nuts-one of his favorite foods-in his mouth.

While an extraordinary leader, Washington was also a very regular guy.  He liked the sports cricket and fox hunting, and strove to resist the vanities of public life. But he was also vindictive; when Thomas Jefferson admitted slandering Washington in an anonymously published newspaper article, Washington cut Jefferson out of his life.

You may recall from a previous post that George Washington died on December 14, 1799 of a severe respiratory ailment.

You can learn more about Washington and his contributions to the American Revolution in Learn Our History’s DVD, “Winning Our Future,” available at

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Learn Our History Today: February 12

Learn Our History Today:  On February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States is born in Hodgenville, Kentucky.  It’s without question that Lincoln is one of our nation’s most admired presidents.  He is known as The Great Emancipator for his signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.  The Emancipation Proclamation was signed on January 1, 1863, proclaiming the freedom of the 3.1 million slaves throughout the 10 states of the rebellion. 

Lincoln had a quirky, self-deprecating sense of humor, which is believed he used to mask bouts of depression.  He often made cracks about his looks; for example, when one of his opponents in the Senate race of 1858 called him “two-faced,” Lincoln responded, “If I had another face, do you think I would wear this one?”  Standing 6’ 4”, he was the tallest president.

Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865, which happened to be Good Friday.  John Wilkes Booth was a stage actor and a Confederate.  Lincoln’s assassination was planned as part of a larger conspiracy to help the Confederacy’s cause.  Booth’s co-conspirators, Lewis Powell and David Herold, were assigned to kill Secretary of State William H. Seward, while a third co-consiprator named George Atzerodt was assigned to kill Lincoln’s VP, Andrew Johnson.  Their thinking was that, by eliminating the top three of the Federal government, they would cause chaos throughout the government, thereby giving an advantage to the Confederacy.  While Booth successfully killed Lincoln at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C., during the play, Our American Cousin, his co-conspirators failed.  Seward was wounded, but Atzerodt lost his nerve to kill Johnson and fled D.C.

Also on this day in 1789, Patriot Ethan Allen passed away as the result of a stroke.  He was 52 when he died.  You may recall from an earlier post that Ethan Allen is known for being the leader of the Green Mountain Boys, a group which took the British fort at Ticonderoga along with Benedict Arnold in May, 1775. 

While Benedict Arnold is probably the first name that comes to your mind when you hear the word “treason,” Allen, too, was charged with treason for attempting to negotiate terms with the British that would allow the territory of Vermont to rejoin the British empire in the early 1780s after New York rejected it as one of the United States.  

You can read more about Ethan Allen here:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Learn Our History Today: February 9

Learn Our History Today:  On February 9, 1950, Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy  made a speech in Wheeling, WV, claiming to have a list that included 200 members of the Department of the State who were “known communists.”

During his speech, McCarthy waived a piece of paper at his audience—The Ohio County Women’s Republican Club—and according to the only published account of his speech, McCarthy said, “I have here in my hand a list of 205 [State Department employees] that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department.”  Following his speech, McCarthy made several statements in which the number of the presumed communists fluctuated wildly, but he never did produce solid evidence to back his claim.  McCarthy’s hunt for communists became known as “McCarthyism.”  After failing to locate any communists, his credibility collapsed in 1954 after he claimed the Army was friendly to known communists.  His televised hearings and investigation into the Army showed Americans that he lacked credibility, and he lost support.   Shortly after, the Senate expressed their disapproval of McCarthy’s actions. McCarthy passed away in 1957.

Also on this day in 1773, William Henry Harrison was born. Harrison was the 9th president of the United States, and he holds the record for the shortest term ever served...just 32 days in 1841.  He came down with a cold on his inauguration day.  The cold lingered and eventually turned into pneumonia, which killed him on April 4, 1841.

And on this day in 1942, Congress imposed daylight saving time.  The concept was suggested by President Roosevelt as an effort to conserve fuel.  The idea is traced back to World War I when Congress imposed the 1918 Standard Time Act, designed to enable the US to better utilize resources, following a European model.  While the Act was only to be in effect for seven months of the year, some states continued to turn clocks ahead an hour in the spring and back an hour in the fall.  Roosevelt’s World War II legislation imposted daylight saving time across the nation for the full year, but it was repealed on September 30, 1945 and individual states were allowed to set their own standard time.  In 1966, Congress set a standard time that superceded state habits.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Learn Our History Today: February 6

Learn Our History Today: On today’s date in 1911, President Ronald Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois. 

Before becoming the nation’s 40th president in 1981, Reagan had several careers—he started out as a radio sports announcer in the Midwest, which served as a springboard to a Hollywood career during the 1930s.  He earned the nickname “The Gipper” from his role of George “The Gipper” Gipp in “Knute Rockne, All American.”

During World War II, Reagan served as a lieutenant in the Army Air Corps, appearing in various propaganda films.  After the war, he served as the President of the Screen Actor’s Guild between 1947 and 1952.  During that same time, Reagan was a proponent of FDR’s New Deal.  In 1960, he made the switch to the Republican Party.

Reagan’s entered a life in politics in 1966, when he was nominated by California Republicans for Governor.  He was elected Governor and served two terms between 1967 and 1975. 

1976, he challenged incumbent President Gerald Ford to become the Republican Party’s candidate and established himself as a more conservative choice compared to Ford, who appeared more moderate. Ford prevailed, earning the nomination with 1,187 delegates compared to Reagan’s 1,070.  Of course, Ford lost the election of ’76 to Democrat Jimmy Carter.

Reagan campaigned for the highest office in the United States again in 1980 and swept into office, carrying 44 states with 489 electoral votes (remember, 270 are needed to win the White House)!  He served two terms as president—and he managed to break his record when he was reelected in 1984; he received a record 525 electoral votes, winning 49 out of 50 states.

For the most part, Reagan’s presidency was marked by huge success—he influenced change both domestically and internationally.  During what would become known as the “Reagan Revolution,” Reagan reinvigorated American morale and reduced people’s reliance on government.  During his first inaugural address on January 20, 1981, he said “In the present crisis, government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem!” On that same day, Iran freed 52 U.S. hostages who had been detailed for 444 days during the Iran Hostage Crisis. 

Just 69 days into his presidency, an attempt was made on Reagan’s life when he was shot by John Hinkley, Jr. as he left a speaking engagement at the Washington Hilton Hotel.  Reagan suffered a punctured lung, but recovered quickly.

During his tenure, Reagan resurrected a no-nonsense perception of America throughout the world.  He boosted military spending and took a bold stance against Communism, which, in part, led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Yet, because of his charisma, he was able to cultivate a successful diplomatic and personal relationship with the Russian leader, Mikhail Gorbachev.

In 1986, many Americans became upset with his administration when evidence surfaced that it struck a deal to sell Iran arms, and used the money to finance anti-Communist guerrillas in Nicaragua.  Reagan, however, successfully plead plausible deniability and was dubbed the “Teflon President.”
Despite the scandal, to this day Ronald Reagan’s embodiment of a powerful leader who supported traditional American values has endured and he is recognized as one of the greatest presidents in American history.

You can help your children learn all about Reagan’s contribution by giving them Learn Our History’s very first DVD, “The Reagan Revolution” available at

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Learn Our History Today: February 4

Learn Our History Today:  On February 4, 1789, George Washington became the first and the only president in our nation’s history to be unanimously elected by the Electoral College.  And if you think that in itself is an incredible feat, he did it again on the exact same day in 1792 when the Electoral College unanimously elected him for his second term!

But voting in America was peculiar in its infancy.  Even though Washington won the election unanimously, he had a runner up in John Adams. Adams ultimately served as Washington’s vice president, but the Electoral Collage actually named two choices for president.  Each elector cast two ballots without placing a priority on one candidate over another for president vs. vice president.  In Washington’s case, he was chosen by every elector which is why he is considered to have been unanimously elected, thereby earning the office of the president.  In Adam’s case, he had the second most number of votes, which earned him the vice presidency.

With the 12th Amendment in 1804, this original system of election was replaced by a system that stipulated separate votes be cast for president and vice president. Even though each election since 1804 has been conducted under the 12th Amendment, in modern elections, a presidential candidate selects a running mate to appeal to a wider voter pool.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Learn Our History Today: February 1

 On this day in 1861, after a vote of 166 to 8 in favor of seceding, and against the objections of Governor Sam Houston, the state of Texas became the seventh to secede from the Union.

An in 1968, Richard Nixon announced his candidacy for the presidency.  This marked the second time Nixon ran for president; In 1960, he ran against John F. Kennedy.  Nixon went on to win the nomination on the first ballot at the Rebublican National Convention in Miami Beach and chose Maryland governor Spiro Agnew as his running mate.  Of course, Nixon went on to win the election later that year against his democratic opponent, Vice President Hubert Humphrey with a majority of Electoral College votes.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 31

On today’s date in 1950, President Harry S. (with a period) Truman announced his support to develop the hydrogen bomb.  In contrast to the atomic bombs dropped on Japan during the second World War, the hydrogen bomb was  believed to be hundreds of times more powerful.  Truman approved the massive funding for the development of what he called a “superbomb” for two reasons.  First, five months before Truman’s announcement, the Soviet Union was successful in detonating an atomic bomb at their test site in Kazakhstan.  And second, around the same time, British and U.S. intelligence concluded that a top scientist for the U.S. nuclear program was actually spying for the Soviet Union.   In November, 1952, nearly three years after Truman’s announcement, the U.S. successfully detonated the world’s first hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Martial Islands.  The explosion from  “Mike”, the 10.4 megaton bomb, vaporized an entire island and produced a mushroom cloud that reached 57,000 feet in 90 seconds!  The cloud kept growing, and capped out at 120,000 feet high, stretching 60 miles across.  It took the Soviet Union three years to create and detonate their own Hydrogen bomb, which they exploded in November, 1955.

Also on this day in 1971, Apollo 14 launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on a manned mission to the moon.   The third lunar landing occurred five days later on February 5, and on February 9, Apollo 14 and crew safely returned to the Earth, along with 96 pounds of lunar samples.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 30

Here’s something you probably didn’t learn in history class...On January 30, 1835, Andrew Jackson was almost assassinated.  As the president was leaving a congressional funeral at the Capitol building, an unemployed house painter named Richard Lawrence attempted to shoot Jackson, but his gun misfired.  Infuriated by the attempt, the president approached Lawrence and beat him several times with his walking cane!  During the brawl, Lawrence pulled out a second pistol and attempted to shoot the president, but the second gun also misfired - clearly, the assassination wasn’t meant to be and historians believe the double misfire was due to humid weather. The attempt on Jackson’s life was the first attempt to ever assassinate a president of the United States.  Lawrence’s reason for the attempt on Jackson’s life was simply that he blamed the president for the loss of his job.

In other presidential news, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born on this day in 1882.  If you recall from a recent post, “FDR” was the only president to serve four terms.  FDR died in office on April 12, 1945, leaving his vice president, Harry S. Truman, to succeed him as president.

Without peaking, who can tell us what the “S” in Truman’s name stands for?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 29

January 29, 1777...After beginning an assault on Fort Independence on January, 18, 1777, under orders from General George Washington, Major General William Heath and an army of 6,000 abandoned their siege. 

Washington had believed that an attack on Fort Independence would force the British to move troops from New Jersey (where Washington was under attack) to Fort Independence, which was located in Bronx County, New York.

But on January 25, the Bronx River flooded as a result of a rainstorm, which made the battlefield nearly impossible for the Patriots to navigate.  What’s more, the British staged a counterassault, forcing General Health to admit defeat and abandon the battlefield on January 29.

The Patriots, who built the Fort in 1776, burned it as they retreated from New York City.  But the British partially rebuilt it after taking control of the city.  While the Fort withstood the Patriots’ attacks in 1777, it was destroyed when the British evacuated in 1779.

Also on this day in 1843, William McKinley—the 25th U.S. president—was born in Niles, Ohio.  William McKinley served in the white house from 1897 to 1901, when the American automotive industry was just getting started.  Consequently, President McKinley became the very first president to ride in an automobile!  The automobile was a steam-powered Stanley Steamer, built by the Stanley Motor Carriage Company.  When McKinley was assassinated in 1901, his successor’s administration, President Theodor Roosevelt, had a Stanley Steamer.  However, it’s believed that President Roosevelt preferred horses to the Steamer.

And here’s one for baseball fans...On this day in 1936, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, inducted its first members, Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson, Ty Cobb and, of course, Babe Ruth.  The charter members were elected by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

And on January 29, 2002, President George W. Bush gave his first State of the Union Address following the attacks of 9/11.  In the address, the president denounced countries suspected of harboring terrorists and developing weapons of mass destruction.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 28th

January 28th, 1986 was a tragic day in our nation’s history.  Many of us were watching live TV to see the launch of the space shuttle Challenger.  The Challenger was carrying Christa McAuliffe, a 37-year old social studies teacher who won a competition that let her join in the seven-member crew.  After six days of scrubbed launches due to weather and technical problems, the Challenger finally launched at 11:38a.m. at Cape Canaveral.  Just seventy-three seconds after liftoff, the shuttle exploded, killing all on board while hundreds of families and friends on the ground—and millions watching on TV—witnessed the tragedy unfold before their eyes.

President Reagan responded by assembling an all-star commission to determine what went wrong and to avert future disasters.  Headed by former secretary of state, William Rogers, and served by astronaut Neil Armstrong and test pilot Chuck Yeager, the team determined that the explosion was caused by a failed O-ring seal.  For two years, the shuttle program was halted.  And, in February, 2003, disaster struck again when the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon reentry into the atmosphere, killing all aboard.

Do  you remember where you were when the Challenger exploded?  Were you watching it on TV?  Were you at Cape Canaveral?  Share your stories with us.  We read them.  And, please talk to your kids and grandkids about this sad day in our nation’s history.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 26

On January 26, 1838, Tennessee became the first state to pass a Prohibition law, making it illegal to sell alcoholic beverages in taverns and stores.  The law stated that any person convicted of selling alcohol would be fined at the court’s discretion and any such funds earned from the fines would be used to support public schools.

The prohibition movement was born in the early 19th century out of concerns about the adverse effects of drinking. By the end of the century, several states and individual cities had put prohibition laws in place, and supporters of prohibition were calling for total national abstinence.  This movement led to the 18th Amendment, or “Prohibition Amendment”, which was passed in 1917 and took effect in 1919.  Despite the Amendment, the government could not prevent the distribution of alcohol—organized crime flourished during the 20s.  And in 1933, the 21st Amendment was passed, reversing the 18th Amendment and repealing Prohibition.

And in 1961, after holding office for just one week, President JFK appointed Janet Travell, as his personal physician, making Travell the first woman in history to ever hold the post of physician to the president.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 25

On January 25, 1942, Thailand declared war on the United States and England.

When war broke out in September 1939, both France and England had hoped Thailand would support the Allied effort.  The reason for this is that both countries had territories that surrounded Thailand, and Thailand’s support would mitigate the Japanese from encroaching on their territories.  However, Thailand swayed in the opposite direction, building strong relations with Japan.

On December 8, 1941, after the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, Thailand’s prime minister, Lang Pipul collaborated with the Japanese in what was a comprehensive sweep of the South Pacific islands.  By doing this, he embraced the Axis power’s mission to take Chinese territory by force and have a stronghold in the South Pacific.  As Pipul wanted to partake, he declared war against the United States and England.

And on this day in 1971, Charles Manson and three rebellious female followers were convicted of the brutal murder of Sharon Tate and six others in 1969.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 24

On January 24, 1980, reacting to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan during 1979, the Carter administration announced that it would sell military equipment, excluding weapons, to communist China.  The decision was part of the U.S. effort to secure a stronger relationship with China, which could be used as leverage to thwart possible Soviet aggression.  On the same day, Congress approved most-favored-nation trading status for China, and an agreement was signed for the construction of a Chinese station that would receive American satellite transmissions.
These decisions were all indicative of how seriously the United States perceived the Soviet attack on Afghanistan.  In addition to the above, and in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. and a number of other countries boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympic games in Moscow.

And on this day in 1965, Sir Winston Churchill died in London at the age of 90.  Churchill led Great Britain through World War II and was an important ally to the United States.  He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century and served as Britain’s prime minister twice (in 1940-1945 and again in 1951-1955).  Churchill received the Nobel Prize in Literature for his six-volume historical study of World War II and for his political speeches, and he was the first person ever to be made an Honorary Citizen of the United States.  Sir Jacob Epstein crafted a bronze bust of Churchill, which was loaned to George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks and put on display in the White House.  The bust has since been removed.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 23

On January 23, 1968, the U.S. ship Pueblo was seized by the North Korean navy.  North Korea charged the 83-man crew of the U.S. ship with spying and violating North Korean territorial waters, a charge which the U.S. government vehemently denied.  Negotiations to free the men lasted nearly a year, damaging U.S. public confidence in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration.  It wasn’t until December that North Korea freed all the crew and captain, following a grudgingly signed confession from the Pueblo’s captain, Lloyd Bucher, that stated the ship was spying on North Korea.

Other Vietnam War history was made today in 1973, when President Nixon announced that Henry Kissinger and the chief North Vietnamese negotiator, Lo Duc Tho, initialed a peace agreement in Paris “to end the war and bring peace with honor in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.”  The agreement became known as the Paris Peace Accords (although the actual document was titled “An Agreement Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam”).  It outlined a cease-fire beginning at 8:00a.m., January 28, 1973 (Saigon time).  It also called for the release of all prisoners of war along with the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Vietnam within 60 days.  The document was formally signed on January 27th.

Looking back to World War II, aviator hero Charles Lindbergh suggested to the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the United States should negotiate a neutrality pact with Hitler. 

Lindbergh is known for making the first solo flight from New York to Paris in his plane, the Spirit of St. Louis.  You may also recall that Lindbergh’s two-year-old son was kidnapped and murdered.  Following the crime, Lindbergh and his wife fled the United States to avoid publicity, settling in Europe. 

While there, Lindbergh learned of German advances in aviation, and warned the U.S. of Germany’s growing threat in air superiority.  He also became fascinated with Germany’s national “revitalization” in the mid 1930s and he allowed himself to be decorated by Hitler’s government. 

This move drew staunch criticism back in the States.  When he returned to the states, he testified before Congress on January 23, 1941, opposing the Lend-Lease policy (which offered aid to countries who assisted the U.S. in their war efforts against Axis powers).  He denounced the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt Administration, calling them instigators of American intervention.  In turn, President Roosevelt publicly denounced Lindbergh, prompting Lindbergh to resign from the Air Corps Reserve.  With all of that said, Lindbergh did eventually contribute to the U.S. war effort by flying dozens of combat missions over the Pacific.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 21

On January 21, 1738, Revolutionary Patriot and hero Ethan Allen was born in northwestern Connecticut.  As a young man, Allen acquired land north of Connecticut and in 1770, he became the colonel-commandant of the Green Mountain Boys, a militia that defended the New Hampshire Grants.  And in 1777, when colonists in the area formally declared their independence from Britain, Allen played a key role in the creation of the public of Vermont.  But due to differences between Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York who all claimed the territory as their own, Vermont was unable to join the new republic as a state.  It wasn’t until two years after Allen’s death in 1789 that Vermont was made a state, the 14th in America.

Also on this day in 1977, President Jimmy Carter pardoned all who dodged the draft in the Vietnam War, whether the draft dodgers failed to register or simply left the country to avoid service.  Carter issued his pardon on his second day in office to any civilian who was convicted of violating the Military Selective Service Act between August 4, 1964 and March 28, 1973.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 20

On this day in history, January 20, several US Presidents were inaugurated into office, beginning with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his second term in 1937.  Prior to this, most presidents were inaugurated on  March 4 (with exception to the presidents who took office following the death of their predecessors), but the 20th Amendment which was passed in 1933 made January 20th the official inauguration date for all future presidents.

It’s common knowledge that our president can serve up to two terms in office, meaning up to two inaugurations, but did you know that President Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated four times?  The two term tradition was an unwritten rule dating back to George Washington’s decision to decline a third-term run in 1796. In 1940, Roosevelt had said he would not run unless he was drafted; well, the delegates ended up nominating him by 946 to 147 on the first ballot, and he went on to win the presidency.  He ran again in 1944, carrying 36 states.  The 22nd Amendment, which was ratified in February 1951, officially set the limit to two terms in office.  In addition, it also limits a president to serving 10 years, in the event one succeeds to the office.

Also on this day in history, the Iran Hostage Crisis ended, just minutes after Ronald Reagan’s inauguration as the 40th president of the United States. Reagan’s first course of business upon entering office was to free the nearly $8 billion in frozen Iranian assets, promoting Iran to release the hostages.

You can teach your children about the Iranian Hostage Crisis and Ronald Reagan’s achievements in Learn Our History’s video, “The Reagan Revolution”, available at

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 19

On this day in 1807, Confederate General Robert E. Lee was born in Virginia.  Lee was admired for his brilliant leadership on the battlefield during the Civil War.  He holds a place in history as one of the greatest military leaders for consistently defeating larger Union armies.

Sharing a birthday with General Lee is one of America’s most legendary poets and authors, Edgar Allen Poe, who was born in Boston, Massachusetts two years after Lee, in 1809.  Poe is best known for his dark works such as “The Fall of the House of Usher”, “The Tell-Tale Heart” and his poem, “The Raven.”

And in 1977, President Gerald Ford pardoned Iva Toguri, a Japanese-American woman and American citizen also known as Tokyo Rose.  In July, 1941, Toguri left her hometown of Los Angeles to visit Japan to care for a sick aunt.  She was in Japan during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and she decided to stay for the duration of the war. 

In August 1943, she got a job working for Radio Tokyo and in November, she began broadcasting as “Orphan Ann” on a radio program referred to as “Zero Hour” .  Under pressure from the Japanese government, Toguri was forced to participate in propaganda broadcast transmissions of psychological warfare against U.S. troops in Japan intended to lower their morale.  While the term Tokyo Rose applied to about 12 English-speaking women who participated in the taunting broadcasts, Toguri became the most famous after the war ended, as the FBI and Army Counterintelligence Corps began extensive reviews of her broadcasts.

Following much accusation and false testimony against Toguri,  she was indicted in September of 1948 and escorted back to the U.S. for trial.  She was found guilty of treason and sentenced to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.  In 1976, after a journalist named Ron Yates discovered that her accusers had committed perjury, her name was cleared, prompting President Ford to pardon her.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 18

On January 18, 1778, an English explorer named James Cook discovered the Hawaiian Islands.  The first European to discover the islands, Cook first sailed past Oahu and landed on Kauai two days later.  He named the islands the Sandwich Islands after the earl of Sandwich, John Montague, who was also one of his patrons.

Hawaiian natives welcomed Cook and his crew with open arms.  they were fascinated by Cook’s ships and their use of iron.  It’s believed that the Hawaiians saw Cooks’ visit as a religious phenomenon, and Cook and his crew were welcomed as gods.  The Europeans took advantage of their warm welcome as long as they could, but when one of Cook’s crewmembers died, it was clear they were just mortals and their jig was up!

Also on this day in 1919, the world leaders met in Paris, France, to begin negotiations that marked the end of World War I.  The six month-long conference culminated with the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919, exactly 5 years to the day of the event that led to the beginning of the first world war.  That event, of course, was the shooting death of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Throughout the Post-World War I conference, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson struggled with his concept of ‘peace without victory’ and strove to make sure that the major losers of the war—the Central Powers—were not treated poorly.  Wilson was met with resistance from the prime ministers of France and Britain who attested that Germany should be punished to ensure its weakness, thereby justifying the cost of the war. 

In the end, Wilson compromised on the treatment of Germany so that he could get his pet project started, which was the international peacekeeping organization called the League of Nations.  Germany wasn’t invited to the conference until May, and they were deeply disturbed by the Treaty, which forced them to forfeit territory, pay substantial repatriations and—under Article 231—accept sole blame for the war. 

As anger and resentment festered in Germany, extremist Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party (Nazi) took advantage of the country’s bitter emotions to gain power, which, for the most part, led to the very thing the organizers of the peace conference in Paris wanted to avoid...World War II.

One of the very first Learn Our History episodes is called Origins of World War II.  Why not give your kids the facts and make it fun for them to learn US History.  Visit today to take advantage of a special buy one, get one free offer and get your kids started on a lifetime appreciation of history!