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!