Today in History, September 17, 1908:
US Army Lt. Thomas Selfridge, who had been the first US military officer to fly a powered aircraft solo, also becomes the first fatality of powered flight.
He was a passenger flying in the Wright Flyer with Orville Wright, during a demonstration flight at Ft. Myer, Virginia. One of the propellers snapped, damaging the aircraft, causing it to crash.
Lt. Selfridge struck his head on impact and died 3 hours later. Orville suffered severe injuries but recovered. Lt. Selfridge rests at adjacent Arlington National Cemetery.
Today in History, September 13, 1847:
In the midst of the Battle for Mexico City during the Mexican-American War, The US Army, US Marines, work together to storm Chapultepec Castle, and take it. It was a key defensive position for General Antonio López de Santa Anna.
While the battle itself was of importance in establishing American presence on the international stage, it is much more important in my estimation for other reasons.
Key players amongst the American forces were US Army Capt Robert E. Lee, who convinced commanding General Winfield Scott of the winning strategy, along with a young US Army Lieutenant, Pierre G. T. Beauregard. Lt. Col. Joseph E. Johnston fought in the battle, and George Pickett was the first soldier to top the wall of the castle. Lt. Thomas J. Jackson (Stone Wall) fought valiantly;
Lt. Ulysses S. Grant found a strategic artillery position from which to fight during the taking of Mexico City; Naval officer Raphael Semmes saw Grant’s actions and found an equal position on the opposite side of the road to cover the enemy.
Can you imagine? All of these men served together, bled together, and then in the end took up arms against each other in the Civil War over ideological differences.
Think of your very best friend…and then think about taking up arms against him. This was an enigma of the Civil War. There are countless stories of episodes where, during a lull in a battle, or after a defeat, Confederates and Unionist soldiers took the opportunity to meet and commiserate with old friends on the opposite side.
Another aspect is that the US Marines played an important part in the seizure of the castle, thus the beginning lines of the Marine Hymn, “From the Halls of Montezuma…”. My research also indicates that the red stripe down the side of the blue slacks of the US Marine uniform represents the blood shed by US Marines during this battle.
Also that day, the last 30 of the “Saint Patrick’s Battalion”, deserters from the US Army who served as artillery for the Mexican Army, are publicly hanged en masse…by the US Army. They had been poor immigrants who, disenchanted with their lot, were coaxed to the opposite side, making them traitors to their new nation.
Today in History, September 10: 1953 – Swanson is the first to successfully sell “TV Dinners”, their first being a turkey dinner, in an aluminum foil tray. Soon beef and chicken offerings followed.
This seems simple if not quaint now. But at the time a prepared meal which could just be popped in the oven (no microwaves, kids) was a huge cultural change. Much like fast food restaurants, TV dinners helped free time for wives, mothers and bachelors. Not a sexist statement…those were the times. Not having to spend hours in the kitchen preparing every meal changed lives.
Have you ever eaten from an aluminum tray dinner? I personally preferred them to microwave safe trays.
Today in History, September 9, 1919:
The Boston Police Strike. By 1919, the cost of living had risen 76%, while Boston Police Officers pay had increased 18%. New hires were making $2 per day…the same as they made when the force was created in 1854. Elevator operators were making more than cops, and most city employees made at least twice what cops made, many of whom had just returned from serving in WWI. Conditions in the police stations were intolerable; on today’s date most of the force refused to show up for work.
Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge called out the National Guard to patrol the streets, and the Mayor refused to rehire the striking cops when the strike ended.
The events would propel Coolidge to the national stage; he would be elected Vice-President in 1920.
The cops eventually got higher pay, but it would be 20 years before they attempted to unionize again. Today it is illegal for police and other public safety personnel to strike, although there have been other incidents of “blue flu.”.
Through the efforts of the Fraternal Order of Police, salaries and work conditions are negotiated with municipalities.
Today in History, September 3, 1838:
A young man named Frederick Douglass manages, on his third attempt, to escape slavery by hiding aboard a train headed north.
The future abolitionist leader, author, statesman, marshal, and presidential confidant, after a dangerous trip through several states, finds himself in New York City.
“I have often been asked, how I felt when first I found myself on free soil. And my readers may share the same curiosity. There is scarcely anything in my experience about which I could not give a more satisfactory answer. A new world had opened upon me. If life is more than breath, and the ‘quick round of blood,’ I lived more in one day than in a year of my slave life. It was a time of joyous excitement which words can but tamely describe. In a letter written to a friend soon after reaching New York, I said: ‘I felt as one might feel upon escape from a den of hungry lions.’ Anguish and grief, like darkness and rain, may be depicted; but gladness and joy, like the rainbow, defy the skill of pen or pencil.”
Today in History, August 29: 1831 – Most of us have heard of the modern inventions involving protection from electromagnetic signals…in science fiction shows.
In real technology, a cell phone placed in a “Faraday bag” can’t be erased by a bad guy remotely. Such new, amazing technology!
In 1831 a scientist (who sucked at math) named Michael Faraday, discovered electromatic induction. He would discover and explain many other electronic and magnetic principles and would become an idol to other scientists…Albert Einstein had his photo on his office wall, one of his heroes.