Sunday, May 9, 2021

A Bunch Of Alligators Is Called What?

I was watching a quiz show on television (probably Jeopardy) and one of the questions referred to the collective group name for a bunch of crows. My first thought was that I knew the answer…a murder of crows. My second thought had to do with why a bunch of crows would be referred to as a murder rather than a flock of crows.

We've all used the commonly known term of herd when referring to a group of cattle or horses or buffalo. Different groups of animals are collectively referred to by specific designations. And many of those collective group names make us scratch our heads and wonder who called them that and why.

So, my curiosity got to me and I did a little digging into collective group names for various animals.

Here's a cross section of some I found particularly interesting…and strange.

Alligators? They congregate in a congregation. However, crocodiles group together in a bask or a float. And rattlesnakes are a rhumba.

Barracudas are referred to as a battery (seems more appropriate for a group of electric eels). Jellyfish group together in a smack. And sharks form into a shiver (a name that seems very appropriate and properly descriptive).

Buzzards bunch into a wake. Although both birds of prey, buzzards and vultures are not interchangeable names for the same bird. Eagles form a convocation or an aerie. A group of owls is a parliament or a stare. Ravens form an unkindness or a storytelling (shades of Edgar Allen Poe). And swallows give us a flight or gulp (which seems to fit with swallow).

Cats…as a general collective they can be a clowder or clutter or pounce or dout or nuisance or glorying or a glare. Wild cats specifically form into a destruction.

Giraffes group into a tower (seems very appropriate).

Gnus are an implausibility (seems only right for an animal that starts with a silent letter).

Porcupines come in a prickle (again, an appropriately named collective).

Wolves, in general, group into a pack. However, if the wolves are moving they are known as a route or rout.

Zebras are known as a zeal or crossing or dazzle or cohorts in addition to the traditional herd.

And in the rodent community…we have ferrets grouped into a business. Squirrels are known as a dray or scurry.

But what about people, you might be asking. Well, here's a suggestion I came across that might be appropriate:  a nag of wives and a jerk of husbands.  :)

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Mother's Day—A Brief History

Mother's Day is a holiday honoring motherhood. It's observed in different forms in many countries, the date traditionally falling on the second Sunday in May in the United States (for 2021 that's Sunday, May 9).

The celebration of mothers and motherhood goes back to the ancient Greeks and Romans who held festivals honoring the mother goddesses. The clearest precedent for Mother's Day is the early Christian festival known as Mothering Sunday. This was once a major tradition in the UK and parts of Europe, falling on the fourth Sunday in Lent. It was a time when the faithful would return to their mother church (the main church in the vicinity of their home) for a special service. Over time the tradition shifted into a secular holiday with children bringing flowers to their mothers as tokens of appreciation.

Although the roots of the modern American Mother's Day go back to the years prior to our Civil War (1861-1865), the official Mother's Day holiday in the U.S. arose in the 1900s as a result of the efforts of Anna Jarvis. Following her mother's death in 1905, Anna Jarvis conceived of Mother's Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children. After gaining financial backing from a Philadelphia department store owner, in May 1908 she organized the first official Mother's Day celebration at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia. That same day also saw thousands of people attend a Mothers Day event at a retail store in Philadelphia.

Following the success of her first Mother's Day, Jarvis—who remained unmarried and childless her whole life—resolved to see her holiday added to the national calendar. Arguing that American holidays were biased toward male achievements, she started a massive letter writing campaign to newspapers and prominent politicians urging the adoption of a special day honoring motherhood. By 1912, many states, towns and churches had adopted Mother's Day as an annual holiday, and Jarvis had established the Mother's Day International Association to help promote her cause. Her persistence paid off in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day.

Anna Jarvis had originally conceived of Mother's Day as a day of personal celebration between mothers and families. Her version of the day involved wearing a white carnation and visiting one's mother or attending church services. But once Mother's Day became a national holiday, it wasn't long before florists, card companies and other merchants capitalized on its popularity.

While Jarvis had initially worked with the floral industry to help raise the Mother's Day profile, by 1920 she had become disgusted with how the holiday had been commercialized. She outwardly denounced what she believed it had become and urged people to stop buying Mother's Day flowers, cards and candies. Jarvis eventually resorted to an open campaign against Mother's Day profiteers and even charities. She also launched countless lawsuits against groups that had used the name "Mother's Day," eventually spending most of her personal wealth in legal fees. By the time of her death in 1948 Jarvis had disowned the holiday altogether, and even actively lobbied the government to see it removed from the American calendar.

Even though versions of Mother's Day are celebrated throughout the world, traditions vary from country to country. For example—in Thailand, Mother's Day is always celebrated in August on the birthday of the current queen. And in Ethiopia, families gather each fall to sing songs and eat a large feast as part of a multi-day celebration honoring motherhood.

In the US, Mother's Day has become one of the biggest holidays for consumer spending. 

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Important Historical Event in Each State—part 5 of 5 South Dakota-Wyoming

This is the final installment of my 5 part blog series presenting one important historical event in each of the 50 states. This week covers South Dakota through Wyoming.

41. South Dakota

Event: Mount Rushmore

Year: 1941

Location: Keystone

One of America's iconic images is among the newest. Mount Rushmore National Memorial was opened in 1941. The 60-foot high stone images of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson are framed against the Black Hills of South Dakota. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum selected Mount Rushmore in the early 1920s because of the site's dimensions—1,000 feet long and 440 feet wide. Work started on the project in 1927. The original plans from Borglum called for all four presidents to be shown from the waist up, but there was not enough funding to realize his vision so only the heads of the Presidents are shown.

42. Tennessee

Event: Scopes Monkey Trial

Year: 1925

Location: Dayton

John Thomas Scopes, a high school science teacher in Dayton, Tennessee, taught his students about evolution in 1925 to protest a new law that would fine anyone who taught a "theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation." Scopes was fined. He called on the American Civil Liberties Union to help prove the law was unconstitutional. Former presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan offered to help the prosecution. Clarence Darrow represented John Scopes. The case garnered so much attention that it was moved to the courthouse lawn over concerns the extra people in the court would cause the floor to collapse. The defense wasn't allowed to question the constitutionality of the law, so it called Bryan to the stand to defend his beliefs. But Bryan couldn't do it, instead making contradictory statements about his faith. The defense eventually requested a guilty verdict so it could later be appealed. Scopes was ordered to pay the minimum fine of $100, but that verdict was later overturned by the Supreme Court which was the ultimate goal of the defense. [For those of you who have never seen the 1960 movie, Inherit The Wind, starring Spencer Tracy as Clarence Darrow and Frederick March as William Jennings Bryan, it's an excellent film about the Scopes trial.]

43. Texas

Event: Kennedy Assassination

Year: 1963

Location: Dallas

Texas certainly has many notable events in its history, but there is one that certainly stands out above the others. Even though the campaign for the 1964 election had not yet started and President John F. Kennedy had not formally announced he was seeking re-election, the Democrat had come to Texas seeking early support for a re-election bid, hoping to garner support from staunchly conservative Texas. Kennedy's popularity was building and he was greeted by enthusiastic crowds in Dallas. Then the unthinkable happened when he was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. Kennedy was prevented from being able to fulfill his ambitious goals for the country. The assassination of Kennedy traumatized the nation and has haunted the city of Dallas for many years. And even now, almost 58 years later, conspiracy theories about the assassination still run rampant.

44. Utah

Event: Transcontinental railroad completed

Year: 1869

Location: Promontory Point

On May 10, 1869, the transcontinental railroad finally connected both coasts of the United States at Promontory Point in Utah. The task was completed by rival railroads Central Pacific and Union Pacific. The Central Pacific, moving east from Sacramento, California, used mostly Chinese laborers, which was controversial at the time because they were looked down upon due to entrenched racism in the country. The Chinese persevered through terrible conditions in the Sierra Nevada mountains and proved to be indefatigable workers. The Union Pacific, which moved west from Omaha, Nebraska, used mostly Irish workers and Civil War veterans.

45. Vermont

Event: First state to ban slavery

Year: 1777

Location: Statewide

Nearly a century before the Civil War, Vermont became the first state to outlaw slavery, just after the Colonies declared their independence. Vermont was, at that point, an independent republic. The transatlantic slave trade had yet to reach its peak. Other states, such as Pennsylvania, followed suit within a few years, using laws that only gradually released current slaves while preventing any new ones from being brought to the state. Despite the 1777 law, there now appears to be evidence that some Vermonters still held slaves in the 19th century.

46. Virginia

Event: First English settlement in the United States

Year: 1607

Location: Jamestown

Early attempts by the English to establish a colony in the New World had failed, including the "lost colony" of Roanoke in 1587. The English tried again in 1606. King James I issued a charter to the Virginia Company to create a settlement in the New World. About 100 colonists in three ships reached a peninsula on the James River on May 14, 1607. The early settlers fought off hunger and illness, and council leader John Smith forged an understanding with Native American Chief Powhatan. More settlers and supplies came to support the colony to finally secure England's toehold in the New World.

47. Washington

Event: Mount St. Helens eruption

Year: 1980

Location: Mount St. Helens

The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens remains the largest volcanic event in U.S. history. The explosion was triggered by an earthquake underneath the mountain. It caused huge clouds of ash and pyroclastic flows. It also triggered the largest landslide in recorded history. The volcano, located in the Cascade Mountains, tossed more than 500 million tons of ash into the air and blotted out the sun hundreds of miles away. All told, 57 people were killed as a result of the eruption. [I visited Mount St. Helens in 1990, ten years after the eruption. The devastation was still starkly evident. Driving along the two-lane highway through lush green forest, I rounded a curve in the road and found myself in a surreal area of flattened trees and gray landscape as far as the eye could see as if I had gone through a portal into an otherworldly dimension or alternate reality. It was a totally eerie sensation that I'll never forget.]

48. West Virginia

Event: John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry

Year: 1859

Location: Harper's Ferry

John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry was one of the key incidents leading up to the Civil War. Brown, an abolitionist, came to Harper's Ferry to seize the federal armory and arsenal. His plan was for slaves to rise up in rebellion. The local militia resisted and U.S. Marines, led by Colonel Robert E. Lee, arrived and killed many of the raiders and captured Brown. He was tried for treason, murder, and slave insurrection against the state of Virginia (West Virginia was not its own state yet) and hanged.

49. Wisconsin

Event: Peshtigo Fire

Year: 1871

Location: Northeastern Wisconsin

The most destructive and deadly fire in U.S. history took place in Wisconsin and Michigan in 1871. The Peshtigo Fire killed at least 1,200 people, though some estimates place the death toll at over 2,000. The area around Peshtigo was largely supported by logging, so sawdust and branches littered the surrounding forest. That summer had been unusually dry, putting the area at huge risk of fire. The blaze started on Oct. 8 and moved so quickly that many people were unable to outrun the flames. Coincidently, the Peshtigo Fire took place on the same day as the Great Chicago Fire. Recovery efforts of the American people, including Wisconsin's governor, were initially focused on Chicago. Peshtigo never recovered. The event is largely forgotten to this day.

50. Wyoming

Event: Establishment of Yellowstone National Park

Year: 1872

Location: Northwestern Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park isn't just the first national park in the U.S., but also in the world. According to legend, explorers came to Madison Plateau in 1870. Struck by the beauty of the place, they decided Yellowstone needed to be preserved. It's unclear if that story is true, but President Ulysses S. Grant did sign a law establishing the park in 1872. Yellowstone stretches well over 3,000 square miles, almost all of it in Wyoming. It's also home to Old Faithful, a world famous geyser. [Note: Yellowstone is technically the first national park, but not the first time the federal government set aside land to be protected for all time. In 1864, Abraham Lincoln took time from the Civil War to set aside Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia Trees. The National Park Service did not exist and the federal government had no means of administrating this. California was a state, so the federal government deeded the land to the state to be protected for all time. In 1872, when the federal government set aside Yellowstone, Wyoming was not a state—no governing authority existed to take it over. So, the National Park Service was created. California returned Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove to the federal government when the surrounding area was set aside as Yosemite National Park.]

As I said at the beginning of part 1 of this series, the important historical event for each state is a list I came across, I did not compile it. I thought the list would make interesting information for my blog. I hope you've enjoyed it. 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Important Historical Event in Each State—part 4 of 5 New Mexico-South Carolina

This week, part 4 of my 5 part blog series about historical events in the states covers New Mexico to South Carolina.

31. New Mexico

Event: Atomic bomb testing

Year: 1945

Location: Alamogordo

Scientists detonated the first atomic bomb on July 16, 1945, in the New Mexico desert, and from that moment on the world would never be the same. The nuclear test was code-named "Trinity." The following month atomic weapons were used against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with such devastating results that the Japanese surrendered shortly after. The Soviet Union set off its first atomic bomb in 1949, ratcheting up Cold War tensions.

32. New York

Event: Sept. 11 terrorist attacks

Year: 2001

Location: New York City

On September 11, 2001, two hijacked commercial airplanes hit the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. The skyscrapers collapsed trapping thousands of people and first responders. In all, close to 3,000 people died in the attacks. Another hijacked plane hit the Pentagon and another was brought down in a field in Pennsylvania by the passengers, sacrificing their lives to stop the attack. The destination of the hijackers of the downed plane was believed to be Washington, D.C.—either the White House or the Capitol building.

33. North Carolina

Event: Manned flight

Year: 1903

Location: Kitty Hawk

Though the Wright Brothers grew up in Ohio, they found the perfect place for their flying machine experiments in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The brothers pored over weather records before determining that North Carolina would suit their needs. The first flight lasted just 12 seconds and covered 120 feet. By the end of the day, the world's first airplane stayed in the air for nearly one minute. There was another inventor of the time who also had created a heavier-than-air flying machine and tested it before the Wright Brothers event at Kitty Hawk. Unlike the Wright Brothers, he had his drawings and notes but no proof of his successful flight. The Wright Brothers had filmed their flying event.

34. North Dakota

Event: Standing Rock protest

Year: 2016

Location: Standing Rock reservation

In 2016 and 2017, a protest against a proposed oil pipeline grabbed the nation's attention. The Dakota Access Pipeline route in North Dakota ran through Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and under the Missouri River, the reservation's source for drinking water. Residents protested, fearing the oil would contaminate the water. Hundreds of Native American activists and their allies descended on the reservation to protest what reservation residents believed was an encroachment on their sacred lands and a threat to their crucial water supply. Dozens of protesters were arrested, and the Obama administration blocked the project. Though the Trump administration has since reversed the decision and construction of the pipeline was completed, the company responsible for the pipeline is facing a litany of lawsuits that claim its security officers used unnecessary force on those protesting.

35. Ohio

Event: Ohio and Erie canal opened

Year: 1833

Location: Ohio and Erie Canal

During the early days of Ohio's history, the area was tough to access from much of the country due to its geography and lack of infrastructure. An ambitious construction project which became known as the Ohio and Erie Canal sought to change that. The canal, which took nearly seven years to build, now serves as a 110-mile link between the Ohio River and Lake Erie. In addition to connecting two sides of Ohio, the canal provided an important link between the Midwest and the East Coast. Before the canal, it cost $125 to ship a ton of goods between the Ohio and the east coast. After the canal became functional, the price dropped to $25 per ton.

36. Oklahoma

Event: Federal Building bombing

Year: 1995

Location: Oklahoma City

Before the Twin Towers attack on Sept. 11, 2001, the worst terror attack on American soil was committed by domestic terrorists. The attack killed 168 people, injured about 650 others, and damaged some 300 buildings. Anti-government militant Timothy McVeigh loaded a truck with explosive materials and detonated it outside the Alfred Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. He chose that building because it contained the offices of federal agencies—the Drug Enforcement Agency, Secret Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives. McVeigh was captured, tried in Federal Court under Federal laws, and eventually executed. Co-conspirator Terry Nichols was tried in State court under Oklahoma state laws, and sentenced to life in prison.

37. Oregon

Event: Lewis and Clark Expedition

Year: 1806

Location: Clatsop County

Shortly after the Louisiana Purchase, President Thomas Jefferson asked Meriwether Lewis to lead an expedition to explore the new land west of the Mississippi River. Lewis was joined by William Clark as co-commander and other adventurers who became known as the Corps of Discovery. In 1804, they set out from St. Louis in what is now Missouri. More than a year later, they arrived at the northwestern tip of what is now Oregon where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. There they constructed Fort Clatsop to ride out the winter. In 1806, they returned to St. Louis to complete their nearly 8,000-mile round trip journey.

38. Pennsylvania

Event: Signing of Declaration of Independence

Year: 1776

Location: Philadelphia

The Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia and expressed the ideals of the new nation and why it chose to separate from Great Britain. The document put forth the assertion that all men are created equal, the creator endows men with "certain unalienable rights," and that governments derive their power from the people they govern. Philadelphia, the largest city in the Colonies at the time the Declaration of Independence was approved, was also where the Constitution was adopted.

39. Rhode Island

Event: King Philip's War

Year: 1675

Location: Statewide

King Philip's War, also known as the Great Narragansett War, marked a turning point in the relationship between natives and white settlers. While there had been simmering resentment and some violent skirmishes between natives and settlers for decades, the war became one of the largest conflicts since European settlers arrived. Tribal leader Metacom, called King Philip by the settlers, led a revolt against the Europeans following the execution of three of his warriors who were found guilty of murdering a native who converted to the settler's belief in puritanism. During the 14-month conflict, colonial militias attacked and destroyed native villages, with much of the fighting taking place in Rhode Island.

40. South Carolina

Event: Attack on Fort Sumter

Year: 1861

Location: Charleston Harbor

Seven states seceded from the Union, throwing the new Confederate government and existing U.S. government at odds over who owned what in the South. President Abraham Lincoln wanted to resupply Union forces at South Carolina's Fort Sumter, but Confederate forces turned the supplies away. Months later, in April 1861, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard ordered his men to fire on the fort. Union troops quickly ran out of ammunition and were forced to surrender Fort Sumter. Though no people were killed in the fighting, the battle marks the beginning of the Civil War.

Next week is the last of my 5 part series highlighting an important historical event in each of the 50 states. Part 5 covers South Dakota to Wyoming.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Important Historical Event in Each State—part 3 of 5 Massachusetts-New Jersey

This week I'm covering Massachusetts through New Jersey in part 3 of my 5 part blog series showing an important historical event from each state.

21. Massachusetts

Event: Battle of Lexington

Year: 1775

Location: Lexington

Resentment toward the English crown was very intense in Lexington and that was where the militiamen from Massachusetts chose to stand their ground against the British Empire. As battles go, the Battle of Lexington was little more than a skirmish. The British killed eight militiamen and wounded nine others at Lexington, then they continued on to Concord to destroy munitions stored there. But when the British tried to return to Boston, more colonists attacked them, killing or wounding 250 British soldiers. The American Revolution had begun.

22. Michigan

Event: Model T built

Year: 1908

Location: Detroit

The Model T built by Henry Ford revolutionized travel in the United States. It was constructed to make car ownership affordable to average American workers. Ford built more than 15 million of the vehicles, also called the "Tin Lizzie," from 1908 to 1927. Most models were started by a hand crank and reached top speeds of 45 miles an hour. Ford and others decided to build cars in Michigan because of the availability of iron ore and timber, and the rail and water routes made it convenient to ship cars to large cities such as Chicago and New York City.

23. Minnesota

Event: Mayo Clinic founded

Year: 1864

Location: Rochester

The Mayo Clinic has become the standard by which all hospitals are measured. The institution was chosen as the best hospital in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. The Mayo Clinic has its roots in immigrant founders Dr. William Worrall Mayo and Mother Alfred Moes, each of whom took separate routes to Rochester before they founded the hospital. Their visions of hospital care and teams of specialists have been realized today. In 1919, the institution became a not-for-profit organization.

24. Mississippi

Event: Lynching of Emmett Till

Year: 1955

Location: Money

The lynching of 14-year-old African American Emmett Till shocked the nation and served as a catalyst for the civil rights movement. Till, a Chicago resident, was visiting relatives in Mississippi. He was kidnapped and killed after white residents in the town of Money claimed he whistled at a white woman. When Till's body was found, it had been grotesquely disfigured. His mother chose to have an open casket at his wake to show the world the horror of the crime. There was a trial and the accused murders were acquitted by an all-white, male jury. In January 2017, Timothy Tyson, author of The Blood of Emmett Till, said the woman whom Till allegedly made advances toward told him she lied about the incident.

25. Missouri

Event: Admitted as slave state

Year: 1820

Location: Statewide

Tensions between slave states and free states were rising in the United States in the early 19th century, particularly over the issue of whether the expanding nation should admit new states as free or slave states. In 1820, Congress passed legislation known as the Missouri Compromise that maintained the balance of power between free states and slave states. The compromise allowed the admission of Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state. Neither the North nor the South was happy with the compromise, but the Union managed to hold together for another 41 years before it finally erupted into the Civil Wal.

26. Montana

Event: Battle of the Little Bighorn

Year: 1876

Location: Little Big Horn

We've all heard the story of Custer's Last Stand. In 1876, George Armstrong Custer led U.S. Army soldiers to forcibly relocate members of the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes after gold was discovered on their lands. Thousands of Native Americans, led by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, rallied at the Little Bighorn River. Custer was ordered to wait for reinforcements, but he attacked the main encampment of the tribes. Custer and his soldiers were overwhelmed and all killed within an hour. That would be the last decisive victory of indigenous tribes against the Army, as the government increased the use of force to put down any rebellions. The story of Custer's Last Stand has been embellished over the years following the event, mostly at the hand of Custer's widow, to include "facts" that have subsequently been proven false.

27. Nebraska

Event: Kansas-Nebraska Act

Year: 1854

Location: Statewide

The Kansas-Nebraska Act allowed people in the territories of Kansas and Nebraska to decide if the state would be a slave state or a free state. The legislation prompted settlers on each side of the slavery issue to pour into Kansas to affect the outcome of the first election after the law had passed. The election results produced violence, earning the state the name "Bleeding Kansas." A pro-slavery legislature was chosen amid charges of fraud. Because of this, Congress refused to admit Kansas as a state. Anti-slavery settlers eventually outnumbered pro-slavery supporters and Kansas was admitted as a free state just before the Civil War.

28. Nevada

Event: Gambling legalized

Year: 1931

Location: Statewide

With the nation in the throes of the Great Depression, Nevada became the first state to legalize gambling in 1931 as a means of creating a revenue source. The decision would have profound consequences for the state and the nation. At the time, Las Vegas was nothing more than a desert stopover. The construction of nearby Hoover Dam gave the area a big boost. Gambling and casinos, run by organized crime, turned Las Vegas into an entertainment colossus. With regard to the story of mobster Bugsy Siegel being the one who "invented" today's Las Vegas by building the first casino to attract tourists—Las Vegas already had 3 casino/hotels before Bugsy arrived on the scene. And Bugsy didn't create the concept of the Flamingo Hotel, he "appropriated" a project that was already a work in progress.

29. New Hampshire

Event: First government independent from England

Year: 1776

Location: Statewide

New Hampshire's state motto is "Live Free or Die," so it shouldn't be surprising that the state was the first to declare itself independent from England. The state set up its own government away from colonial rule in January 1776, months before the Continental Congress. In 1778, it was also the first state to hold a constitutional convention.

30. New Jersey

Event: Battle of Trenton

Year: 1776

Location: Trenton

By the end of 1776, the Continental Army was in trouble. It had been beaten in New York and chased across New Jersey into Pennsylvania by the British Army. General George Washington needed a victory to lift the hopes of the budding nation. He took a risk by crossing an ice-choked Delaware River the day after Christmas to surprise the Hessian troops billeted at Trenton. The Army killed or captured the entire force of 1,400 Hessians. The victory boosted Americans' belief in the cause of fighting to liberate themselves from British rule.

Next week is part 4 of 5 covering New Mexico through South Carolina. 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Important Historical Event in Each State—part 2 of 5 Hawaii-Maryland

This week is part 2 of 5 of my series highlighting an important historical event in each State. This week's blog post covers Hawaii through Maryland.

11. Hawaii

Event: Attack on Pearl Harbor

Year: 1941

Location: Honolulu

The Japanese Empire's assault on the United States naval fleet at Pearl Harbor was a surprise attack, though relations between the two nations had been deteriorating for years. The United States did not think an attack would occur near the U.S. mainland, and the naval facilities at Pearl Harbor, where the fleet was based, were not well defended. The attack destroyed 20 American ships, more than 300 airplanes, and killed more than 2,400 people. Fortunately for America, oil storage depots, shipyards, and other facilities in Hawaii were not destroyed. The U.S. aircraft carriers were not in Hawaii at the time. The attack brought the United States into World War II.

12. Idaho

Event: The Big Burn

Year: 1910

Location: Northern Idaho

In 1910, the Western United States suffered a severe drought that left much of the wilderness susceptible to fire. The extreme conditions led to The Big Burn, a massive forest fire that scorched over 3 million acres of land across Montana, Washington, and Idaho killing 87 people with at least 78 of them firefighters. The deaths and wide spread damage started a renewed interest in conservation among the American people. President Theodore Roosevelt attempted to acquire land for the national forest system after his election in 1904, but Congress refused. The Big Burn shifted public interest, and in 1911, Congress passed a law leading to the purchase of more than 20 million acres of land for the national forest system. The National Forest Service's budget was doubled.

13. Illinois

Event: Chicago Fire

Year: 1871

Location: Chicago

Prolonged dry weather and the haphazard construction of wooden structures all contributed to the conditions for the Chicago Fire. The blaze killed 300 people, destroyed thousands of buildings, and damaged an estimated $200 million worth of property. Luckily for the city, its transportation infrastructure was left intact. In the wake of the conflagration, Chicago implemented stricter building and fire codes. From the ruins emerged the nation's first skyscrapers and a teeming metropolis.

14. Indiana

Event: Native American Uprising

Year: 1811

Location: Tippecanoe

By the early 19th century, Native American tribes had enough of white settlers moving into their lands. Shawnee Chief Tecumseh organized a resistance and set up a village in Central Indiana. Gov. William Henry Harrison led approximately 1,100 men to confront them. Tecumseh's brother, Tenskwatawa, initially requested a ceasefire, but he broke it and attacked the militia in the early morning. Harrison's troops endured the attack and eventually forced the native fighters to retreat. Though Harrison lost more troops than the tribes, he developed a reputation as a war hero that eventually helped him get elected president decades later.

15. Iowa

Event: Creation of caucuses

Year: 1976

Location: Statewide

The caucuses are unique to Iowa in its political procedure of selecting presidential candidates. For candidates such as Jimmy Carter, success at the caucuses in 1976 generated momentum toward his eventual nomination for president. The process emerged out of the chaos of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. For the Democrats, the caucuses are akin to a neighborhood meeting in which supporters of a particular candidate make their pitch to caucus-goers. Caucus attendees then gather in groups in various parts of the room for the candidate of their choice. The elected chairperson of the caucus counts the supporters of each candidate. The Republican process is less complicated.

16. Kansas

Event: Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka

Year: 1954

Location: Topeka

The Supreme Court's decision in the Brown v. Board of Education case provided one of the first major victories of the civil rights movement. Oliver Brown sued the Topeka, Kansas, Board of Education, saying the city's schools for black students were not as good as those for white students. The case made it to the Supreme Court in 1952, where the justices ruled that the idea of public facilities being "separate but equal" was unconstitutional. This decision made racial integration the law of the land and marked a major step forward in U.S. history.

17. Kentucky

Event: Fort Knox starts holding gold bullion

Year: 1937

Location: Fort Knox

Opened in 1937, the United States Bullion Depository in Fort Knox stores the nation's gold reserves. It is one of six U.S. Mint facilities and is located next to a U.S. Army garrison. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the holdings swelled to 649.6 million ounces, the highest amount ever held there. The gold is kept in the form of bars measuring 7 inches in length, 3.625 inches in width, and are 1.75 inches thick. The depository has held other valuables such as the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution.

18. Louisiana

Event: Hurricane Katrina

Year: 2005

Location: Southeastern Louisiana

Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf of Mexico in August 2005. The hurricane hit several states, but Louisiana took the brunt of the storm. Katrina battered New Orleans and the surrounding area with 127 mile per hour winds. Most of the levees in New Orleans failed, leading to overwhelming flooding. The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimated that 1,833 people were killed either directly or indirectly as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Over 1,500 of those fatalities were in Louisiana. The storm also caused over $108 billion in damages, making it the costliest hurricane in U.S. history.

19. Maine

Event: The Year Maine Burned

Year: 1947

Location: Statewide

In 1947, Maine received about half of its normal rainfall for the summer and into the fall, setting up dry conditions that led to a fire. The blaze began on Oct. 17 in a cranberry bog. Strong winds fanned the flames, spreading the fire until it eventually engulfed more than 17,000 acres, including 10,000 acres of Acadia National Park. Today, the aftermath of the fire at the park can be seen in the diversity of its scenery. Nature has replaced many evergreen trees by a colorful spread of deciduous trees. That fire was a prelude for the rest of the year. The fall of 1947 saw many other serious fires. By the end of the year, more than 200,000 acres and 1,000 homes had been destroyed. The repeated destruction earned 1947 the nickname "The Year Maine Burned."

20. Maryland

Event: The Toleration Act

Year: 1649

Location: Statewide

The colony of Maryland was settled in 1634 with the intention of expanding religious freedoms compared to England at the time. Anglicans and Catholics were often at odds, which made it a surprise when the charter for Maryland was given to a Catholic family from the Anglican King James. Maryland sealed its reputation as a haven for religious liberty when it passed the Toleration Act, which said that no one who "professes to believe in Jesus Christ, shall from henceforth be any way troubled, harassed or embarrassed for…his or her religion." Although restrictive by today's standards, it was a big step in the 17th century.

Next week in part 3 of 5, I'll present Massachusetts through New Jersey.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Important Historical Event in Each State—Part 1 of 5 Alabama-Georgia

I've done a previous blog series showing a weird fact about each of the 50 states. This 5 part blog series highlights an important historical event in each of the 50 states—an event that has shaped that state's history for better or worse. In many cases, the event has had implications beyond the state's borders, with consequences for the nation and, in some cases, the world.

These events include political changes, armed conflict, legal rulings, tragedies, cultural shifts, economic upheavals, ecological episodes, and scientific breakthroughs. But all of them changed the destiny of a particular state. The important historical event for each state is a list I came across, I did not determine or select the specific events. I thought the list would make interesting information for my blog. I hope you enjoy it.

So, in alphabetical order with 10 states represented in each of the 5 blog posts, here are the historical events. Today's blog post covers Alabama through Georgia.

1. Alabama

Event: Selma-to-Montgomery march

Year: 1965

Location: Selma to Montgomery

The 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery was an effort to register African American voters in Alabama. Marchers were attacked by local police and those opposed to equal voting rights. The incident was broadcast on television, and it horrified the nation. Eventually, the marchers received protection from the National Guard. After three days they reached Montgomery. That August, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act that guaranteed the vote for African Americans.

2. Alaska

Event: Exxon Valdez oil spill

Year: 1989

Location: Prince William Sound

The Exxon Valdez oil tanker crashed into a reef in the Prince William Sound. The hull was pierced and more than 10 million gallons of oil spilled into the water. The problems were compounded as a storm spread the oil even farther across Alaska's Southern coast. As a result, thousands of animals died and hundreds of miles of coastlines were polluted. Much of the coast is still damaged today. The Exxon Valdez spill is now known as one of the most environmentally damaging events in history.

3. Arizona

Event: Grand Canyon National Park opened

Year: 1919

Location: Northern Arizona

The Grand Canyon is one of the world's most impressive landscapes. In 1919, the U.S. government declared it a national park. The canyon is 277 river miles long, 18 miles wide at its widest point, and one mile deep. The canyon is famous for its colors and ancient rock formations that tell the geological story of the North American continent. Nearly five million people visit the park each year.

4. Arkansas

Event: Desegregation of Little Rock schools

Year: 1957

Location: Little Rock

Even though the Supreme Court ruled school segregation unconstitutional in 1954, segregation remained in effect in many areas with fierce opposition to the ruling. When nine black children attempted to attend classes at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, Gov. Orval Faubus used the Arkansas National Guard to stop them from going to class. The Little Rock Nine were unable to go to class until President Dwight Eisenhower sent federal troops to enforce the ruling. The students attending a previously all-white high school, despite the racial abuse they endured, proved to be a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement.

5. California

Event: Gold Rush

Year: 1849

Location: Sutter's Mill

James Marshall, a carpenter from New Jersey, discovered bits of gold in the American River near Sutter's Mill (an area that is now part of Sacramento, California). This discovery set off one of the greatest gold rushes of all time. Miners took about $2 billion worth of gold during the California Gold Rush. California's non-native population grew from about 800 in early 1848 to 100,000 by the end of 1849. The gold rush fast-tracked California's admission to the Union, and it became a state in 1850.

6. Colorado

Event: Legalization of marijuana

Year: 2012

Location: Statewide

Nationwide support for marijuana legalization has slowly increased since the 1970s. One of the biggest victories for cannabis advocates came in Colorado in 2012 when the state voted to legalize it for recreational consumption for anyone over 21. Previously, states only allowed medical marijuana which required a prescription from a doctor. This law is in direct violation of federal laws banning marijuana, but there has so far been no federal crackdown. Both Colorado and Washington State voted to legalize marijuana on election day in 2012. Colorado was a bit quicker in drafting rules to sell it, so it is considered the first state to legalize marijuana.

7. Connecticut

Event: First colonial constitution

Year: 1639

Location: Hartford

Connecticut adopted the first colonial constitution in 1639, about 150 years before the United States Constitution was ratified. The document was titled Fundamental Orders. Written mostly by lawyer Roger Ludlow, it outlined a framework of government that placed the well-being of the community above that of the individual. The document conveyed the notion that the basis for authority originated from the "free consent of the people." This document paved the way for the U.S. Constitution. Connecticut is still known as the "Constitution State".

8. Delaware

Event: First state to join the U.S.

Year: 1787

Location: Statewide

Known as "The First State," Delaware was the first of the original 13 states to ratify the Constitution, making it the first member of the United States of America. Even though some states were somewhat skeptical of this new document, Delaware's delegation voted 30-0 to unanimously ratify it on Dec. 7, 1787. Other states in the Constitutional Convention were much slower to adopt the Constitution. Virginia and New York held out until 1788; North Carolina refused to sign before the Bill of Rights was introduced in 1789; and Rhode Island became the last of the 13 states to approve the Constitution in 1790.

9. Florida

Event: Launch of Apollo 11

Year: 1969

Location: Cape Canaveral

Neil Armstrong and Eugene "Buzz" Aldrin were the first humans to set foot on the moon, and Apollo 11 got them there. They lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral (then called Cape Kennedy) on July 16, 1969. Cape Canaveral became the site for space launches because rockets taking off from an East Coast location got a boost from the Earth's spin. The launching facility was located near the ocean in case of accidents.

10. Georgia

Event: Trail of Tears

Year: 1831

Location: Statewide

The forced removal of Native Americans from their homelands, known as the Trail of Tears, took place across several Southern states. However, it is particularly connected to Georgia as the state was involved in two influential court cases that set the stage for the removal. Cherokee Nation v. Georgia and Worcester v. Georgia affirmed that the indigenous tribes could operate as sovereign nations. However, President Andrew Jackson ignored the rulings. From 1831 to 1840, tens of thousands of Native Americans were relocated west. Thousands did not survive the trip.

Next week on part 2 of 5 of my Important Historical Events In Each State blog series, I'll cover Hawaii through Maryland.