On This Day

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On This Day

March 10, 1876

First successful test of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell.

On This Day

“…the day is coming when telegraph wires will be laid on to houses just like water and gas — and friends converse with each other without leaving home.”

Alexander Graham Bell wrote this in a letter to his father on the day of his first successful telephone test when "articulate speech was transmitted." Like his father, Bell taught school for the hearing impaired; his mother & wife were both deaf. His knowledge of speech and sound are said to have helped inspire his invention.
On This Day

DID YOU KNOW?

Alexander Graham Bell: lifelong inventor.

  • Bell invented a modern version of a metal detector used when Pres. Garfield was shot to try to find the bullet; he was unsuccessful.
  • Bell became involved in aeronautics, building kites that carried passengers and powered aircrafts.
  • Bell co-founded the National Geographic Society.
On This Day

Bell was 29 when he first successfully tested the telephone. Today, more than 95% of Americans own a cell phone of some kind.

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On This Day

March 4, 1933

The 40-hour work week, child labor laws, and social security, all policies she helped create after becoming the first woman named in a presidential cabinet on this day in 1933.

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“The people are what matter to government, and a government should aim to give all the people under its jurisdiction the best possible life.”

Frances Perkins began her work in public service as a social worker. Her pursuit for workers' rights was shaped during a trip to NYC on the day of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, when nearly 150 workers died. She held many positions in the New York government under then-Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt and his predecessor.
On This Day

“I came to Washington to work for God, FDR, and the millions of forgotten, plain common workingmen.”

Sec. Perkins, who came to the White House to help President Roosevelt draft and implement labor and economic policies during the height of the Great Depression, became the FIRST female cabinet secretary and the LONGEST-serving Labor Secretary in history. As the head of the labor department, she also oversaw the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
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Perkins’ Lasting Legacy

Perkins played a key role in several key parts of FDR’s New Deal – many of which are still in effect today, including:

  • establishing the Social Security program (1935)
  • creating union & collective bargaining laws (1935)
  • enacting child labor laws (1936)
  • setting up federal minimum wage laws & the 40-hour workweek (1938)
On This Day

In 2008, the Frances Perkins Center was established in Maine to honor Perkins' legacy and continue her work. The nonprofit and nonpartisan center recently purchased Perkins' ancestral homestead, which was designated a National Historic Landmark.

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On This Day

“Twas the Night Before..”

Today, in 1823, a newspaper published what some now call the most well-known poem ever written by an American.

But who REALLY wrote it?

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“We know not who we are indebted for the following description of that unwearied patron of children – that homely but delightful personification of parental kindness – Santa Claus…but, from whomever it may have come, we give thanks for it.”

Troy Sentinel, the weekly newspaper that published, "ACCOUNT OF A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS" on Dec. 23, 1823. At the time, the author remained a mystery, and in some ways, still is.
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Clement Moore

  • Born into a prominent New York family.
  • Reportedly penned the poem on Christmas Eve in 1822, while on the way home to see his 6 children.
  • Clue: Said to have a Dutch sleigh driver the night he composed the poem.
  • A professor & scholar, some suggest he was embarrassed by the playful poem, which is why he stayed anonymous.
  • Published poem under his own name in 1844 – 20 years after first published.
On This Day

Henry Livingston, Jr.

  • Prominent Dutch farmer in upstate New York, served in Revolutionary War.
  • His family (children), and others, say they heard him recite the poem YEARS before it was published.
  • Clue: Original reindeer names “Dunder & Blixem” translate to “Thunder” & “Lightening” in Dutch. Later edits changed to German “Donder & Blixen.”
  • Never took credit for the poem; Died 5 yrs after the poem was first published.
On This Day

Why It Matters

“Though legend has it that Santa Claus hails from the North Pole, he was actually a New Yorker…”

The poem’s author solidified the image of Santa and his reindeer for the newly formed United States (& beyond), and has continued to do so for the last *nearly* 200 years.

On This Day

How did the paper get the poem? Another mystery. The paper wrote on that day: "We hope our little patrons, both lads and lasses, will accept it as proof of our unfeigned good will toward them—as a token of our warmest wish that they may have many a merry Christmas."

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On This Day

Dec. 17, 1903

First Human Flight

2 brothers
12 seconds
120 feet

On This Day

“For some years, I have been afflicted with the belief that flight is possible to man. My disease has increased in severity and I feel that it will soon cost me an increased amount of money if not my life.”

Wilbur Wright writing in a letter 1900, 3 years before he and his brother, Orville, successfully took flight.
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Backstory

  • The Wright Brothers assembled their first glider and “flyer” (first airplane with an engine) in the back of their bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio.
  • First successful flight of the “flyer” took place in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, using the tall sand dunes for momentum.
  • The brothers took 4 flights that day – the longest lasting nearly a minute and flying for roughly 1/6th of mile.
On This Day

During testing in North Carolina, the Wrights came under assault by a creature that already mastered the art of flying - mosquitoes. Orville writing in 1901: “They [mosquitoes] chewed us clear through our underwear and socks. Lumps began swelling up all over my body like hen’s eggs. . . . Misery! Misery!”

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On This Day

150 Years Ago Today …

Wyoming granted women the right to vote – more than fifty years before the U.S. Constitution was amended to guarantee women equal voting rights.

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Women’s Suffrage In WY

  • Wyoming was still a territory in 1869 when a bill was signed into law granting women the right to vote, sit on juries, and hold public office.
  • Some saw the bill as a joke; others saw it as way to increase population in the new territory.
  • When WY applied for statehood in 1889, the legislature said it would rather stay out of the Union for 100 yrs than join without voting rights for women.
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Bigger Picture

  • Suffragists took a two-pronged approach – aiming to legalize voting for women on *both* state & fed levels.
  • Before the 19th Amendment passed in 1920 granting women the right to vote in all (federal, state & local) elections, 15 states allowed women to vote in state elections and 12 had laws allowing women to vote for president.
  • Women in 21 states gained the right to vote as a result of the 19th Amendment.
On This Day

Name To Know

Louisa Swain

  • On September 6, 1870 in Laramie, WY, the nearly 70-year-old became the FIRST woman to legally vote in the America. Swain beat #2 (a 27-year-old) to the polls by 30 minutes.
  • In 2008, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution proclaiming September 6th as “Louisa Swain Day.”
On This Day

December 10 is "Wyoming Day" to honor the first of many achievements toward women's equality in the Equality State. Wyoming, also home to the U.S.’s first female governor, marked the 150th anniversary of Wyoming Day this year by declaring 2019 the "Year of Wyoming Women."

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On This Day

November 14, 1732

How the simple hiring of a librarian in Philadelphia set the stage for the world’s largest library before America even existed.

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What Happened:

A young 20-something Benjamin Franklin helped found the Library Company of Philadelphia in 1731

On November 14, 1732, the Library Company hired its first librarian.

Operating like a membership service (costing 40 shillings to join &10 shillings per year), patrons could visit & borrow books arriving from Europe that would be too expensive for them to buy.

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Historical Importance

  • The library became the first lending library in America.
  • “The Club” allowed members of the first Continental Congress to use it as a resource for free. This privilege continued for politicians post-revolution and set the groundwork for The Library of Congress – “the oldest cultural institution in the nation.”
On This Day

We discovered this "On This Day" while perusing one of our favorite websites: LOC.gov (Library of Congress). If you put all the bookshelves in the Library of Congress end to end, they would stretch from Washington D.C. to Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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On This Day

November 19, 1863

Pres. Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address.

But the famous speech would not have happened without this one man whose name isn’t as well known.

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“It will be a source of great gratification to the many widows and orphans that have been made almost friendless by the Great Battle here, to have you here personally.”

Gettysburg Attorney David Wills who wrote a letter to President Abraham Lincoln on November 2, inviting him to speak at the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery on November 19.
On This Day

David Wills

32-years-old when the Civil War battle raged between Union & Confederate soldiers.

Helped care for those injured, clear the battlefield of dead, communicate with families looking for missing relatives.

One of the main forces behind purchasing 17 acres for a cemetery to honor the fallen.

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The Battle of Gettysburg

  • Brutal battle: July 1-3, 1863
  • 100,000+ Americans fought; 1 in 5 killed, wounded or missing.
  • Union soldiers pushed back Confederates, the victory arguably a tipping point in the war.
  • It took nearly another 2 years of fighting until the South officially surrendered.
On This Day

David Wills' home is still standing in Gettysburg, PA. You can visit the room where Pres. Lincoln slept the night before he delivered the Gettysburg Address. Re-read the whole speech on our source page.

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On This Day

June 14, 1777

 

 

 

 

The Continental Congress approved the design of the American flag.
The maker remains a mystery.

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The Final Resolution:

a… the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.a

Red: valor
White: purity
Blue:perseverance

On This Day

Who Made The First Flag?

  • It remains one of the great mysteries of American history.
  • Common lore suggests Betsy Ross, a seamstress in Philadelphia, the city where the Continental Congress met.
  • Surprisingly, no facts support or document this story.
  • Historians generally agree Ross likely knew Gen. Washington & sewed flags in her family’s shop.
On This Day

Pres. Woodrow Wilson proclaimed June 14th "Flag Day" in 1916, but it didn't become an official day until 1949 when Pres. Harry Truman signed it into law. Why does the flag get folded 13 times? Each fold has a meaning. Read more:

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On This Day

June 12, 1924

Pres. George H.W. Bush was born.

 

 

 

America’s 41st president died last November & received an honor today seldom given to someone so soon after they have passed.

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A *Forever* Honor

  • On what would’ve been his 95th birthday, the U.S. Postal Service revealed a Pres. George H.W. Bush *forever* stamp.
  • This is an exception to a USPS rule that no one will be honored earlier than 3 yrs after his/her death.
  • Special twist to this news: Pres. Bush was a prolific letter writer to friends, family & beyond.
On This Day

Did you know YOU can nominate someone for a stamp? You just have to make the request in writing. You cannot nominate a living person and the USPS asks you submit a nomination 3 year prior to a potential issuance date (for research). Who would you nominate for a stamp?

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On This Day

June 2, 1953

 

 

 

The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II – the only time in British royal history a mother had her child present for her official ascension to the throne.

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Historic

  • Queen Elizabeth II remains the longest serving British monarch (67 years & counting).
  • first televised coronation – an important milestone for the ceremony which dates back more than 1,000 years.
  • first time a mother had her child present at a coronation. 4-year-old Prince Charles watched his 25-yr-old mother become Queen.
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Royal Style

  • Silver & gold thread adorned the Queen’s white satin dress featuring emblems of her kingdom – the U.K. & the Commonwealth. She’s worn it again – 6 times to other events.
  • The coronation ceremony includes anointing oils. The ones used in Queen Elizabeth’s coronation? orange, roses, cinnamon, musk & ambergris.
On This Day

Queen Elizabeth II formally invited Pres. Trump for a State Visit starting tomorrow June 3rd. The timing is as important as the invitation - an invitation only extended to two other U.S. Presidents (Pres. G.W.Bush & Pres. Obama).

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On This Day

May 15, 1940

Two brothers open America’s first McDonald’s. They didn’t start with hamburgers, or even french fries … and there was no “Ronald.”

On This Day

“At first it was a struggle and we didn’t know where our next cent was coming from. But we believed in our enterprise.”

Maurice McDonald, who with his brother Richard opened the first McDonald's. The two brothers left their home state of New Hampshire after the Great Depression, and headed to California to make it in the movie business. When their Hollywood adventure failed, they started with a hot dog stand, & later opened a restaurant in San Bernadino.
On This Day

Did You Know….

  • The first McDonald’s was actually “McDonald’s Bar-B-Q.”
  • 1948: A “revamped” McDonald’s opens, focusing on a limited menu with 15-cent burgers & fast service. Fries appear on the menu the following year.
  • 1954: Milkshake machine salesman Ray Kroc visits restaurant, becomes a franchise operator & buys business in 1961.
On This Day

aI was an overnight success alright, but 30 years is a long, long night.a

Ray Kroc developed the "McDonald's System" which later became the McDonald's Corporation. He focused on consistent, fast service across franchises, which also led to the development of Hamburger University where attendees received their degree in Bachelor of Hamburgerology. The program continues today.
On This Day

The brothers sold their McDonald's to Kroc for just under $3M. Now the company's market cap: $150B+.

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On This Day

May 13, 1995

“I am on the top of the world and I love you dearly.”

A British mother sends this message to her children as she becomes the first woman to summit Everest unaided.

On This Day

Alison Hargreaves

  • Developed a love for climbing as a child in Britain.
  • Her 6 & 4-year-old son & daughter stayed with her husband in Scotland as she attempted her summit.
  • Climbed Everest with NO supplemental oxygen (only second person in history to do so), and did not use ropes left by other climbers.
On This Day

“My kids are pretty active, and they need a lot of time and energy, which is great. But sometimes you need a break. I found that solo climbing was totally opposite to looking after the kids because it’s so self-indulgent.”

Alison Hargreaves describing how she got into "solo-climbing." She said it was hard for her to find climbing partners because her husband, a climbing photographer, was often traveling. When he got home, he'd watch the kids and she'd head to the mountains alone.
On This Day

3 months after her historic Everest summit, she also became one of the first women to summit Pakistan's K2, one of the world's highest peaks, but didn't survive the descent. Tragically, her 30-year-old son died climbing in Pakistan this past March.

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