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Archive for March, 2009

19 March

John Adams


Today I would like to talk about the John Adams (HBO Miniseries). This originally aired March 16, 2008, but since we don’t have HBO we never watched it. Recently, we were giving a Netflix account from family for Christmas. Michelle, Samantha and I all watched it. As you may know it is largely based on the novel John Adams by David McCullough. I have not yet read McCullough’s book on Adams, but I have read 1776 and think McCullough did a great job covering that momentous year for the new US.

Now that I have watched the HBO mini-series on Adams, I really look forward to reading the book. If you have not watched this series on John Adams you really should, check your local library, use Netflix, like I did or buy it from amazon. You will not be disappointed. But don’t take my word for it. It won 12 Emmy’s, 4 Golden Globes, 2 SAG’s, and many other awards and nominations. This is not to be missed for anyone who is into history, especially those who are into the American Revolution.

Other McCullough Books:
The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914
The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge
Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt
Brave Companions

18 March

On This Day…


On this day in 1965, the first spacewalk took place as Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov left his Voskhod 2 capsule and remained outside the spacecraft for 20 minutes, secured by only a five-foot tether. Leonov is the first human to walk in space. Leonov was chosen from 20 air force pilots to make the first space walk on the Vostok 11 mission, this walk was cancelled though, so it took place Voskhod 2 flight instead. Voskhod 2 was a two man mission.

Leonov was almost stuck out in the endless vacuum of space. After 20-minutes of his spacewalking, Leonov’s spacesuit had ballooned in the vacuum of space to the point where he could not reenter the airlock. He opened a valve to allow some of the suit’s pressure to bleed off, and was barely able to get back inside the capsule. The capsule is currently on display at the museum of RKK Energiya in Korolyov, near Moscow.  The space walk beginning over north-central Africa (northern Sudan/southern Egypt), and ending over eastern Siberia. Leonov reported looking down and seeing from the Straits of Gibraltar to the Caspian Sea.

Leonov’s problems didn’t end with the space walk either.  After coming back inside, there were problems with sealing the hatch properly, and this was followed by a troublesome re-entry, when the automatic landing system had malfunctioned and the manual system had to be used. Finally, the crew landed in an inhospitable and heavily-wooded part of the Ural Mountains and spent a night surrounded by wolves while waiting for their recovery team.

Fast Facts:

  • Leonov’s space suit was called the “golden eagle”
  • He only had 45 minutes of oxygen
  • three 16mm cameras — two in the airlock, one outside on a boom mounted to the upper ring — recorded the historic first spacewalk
  • Leonov said that he had a suicide pill to swallow had he been unable to re-enter the Voskhod 2


 Further Reading:
This New Ocean: The Story of the First Space Age (Modern Library Paperbacks)
Space Odyssey: The First Forty Years of Space Exploration

First Image: This image may be copyrighted under Russian law; however, as a unique historical document of the first spacewalk ever conducted by mankind it is being used here under the fair use doctrine to illustrate the event.

Second Image:

Third Image:

17 March

Happy St. Patrick’s Day


As mentioned yesterday, please check out episode 52, for our History of St. Patrick’s Day podcast.  In the meantime, check out all the content online related to St. Patrick’s Day:

St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is one of Christianity’s most widely known figures. But for all his celebrity, his life remains somewhat of a mystery. Many of the stories traditionally associated with St. Patrick, including the famous account of his banishing all the snakes from Ireland, are false, the products of hundreds of years of exaggerated storytelling.

Image from flickr user

Great information on the History Channel’s Website.

Wikipedia article

Celtic Lore from History Undressed.

On this St. Patrick’s Day, with a black president in the White House, it is interesting – and maybe even somewhat inspiring – to look back on the way the Irish-American and African-American stories have coursed through our history on parallel lines, each struggling against terrific prejudices and slanders.

From History News Network.

Read up on it!

St. Patrick’s Day (Holiday Histories)
The Harp and The Shamrock
The Story of St. Patrick’s Day
Paddy Whacked – The Irish Mob (History Channel)

16 March

Be Ready For Tomorrow


Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day.  Be ready to impress your friends with all your knowledge of St. Patrick’s History.  Listen to episode 52 – The History of St. Patrick’s Day and you will be all set for tomorrow.  Image from Flickr user Paul Keleher.

15 March

Last Week in History News


The best of last weeks big history news stories:

Lincoln’s Watch

 Watchmaker Jonathan Dillon scrawled:

Fort Sumpter [sic] was attacked by the rebels…thank God we have a government.

along with his name, the date and a short account of the attack at Fort Sumter, the event that sparked the American Civil War, behind the watch’s face.

Read more:




Diamond Heist

“They had executed the plan perfectly: no alarms, no police, no problems. The heist wouldn’t be discovered until guards checked the vault on Monday morning.”

Check out “The Untold Story of the World’s Biggest Diamond Heist” at Wired.

Last Photo Taken of Abraham Lincoln

Supposedly the last photo taken of Lincoln before he was shot.

Read the stories:

Discovery News

History Rhymes


Barbie’s 50th Anniversary

Only this American institution could have inspired Barbara Karleskint, 48, to spend nearly $700 so she and one of her dolls could wear matching red chiffon gowns and capes at an annual collectors gathering.  “Look, we’re not as bad as the Star Trek convention people,” Karleskint, who lives outside of Orlando, Florida, said with a laugh. Collecting Barbies “brings me joy; that’s all I can say. And life’s not worth living unless you have some joy.

Quote above from CNN.  Read more on BBC and mental_floss, two great articles.

Photo of Shakespeare

A newly discovered painting, in private hands for 300 years, may just be the only (known) portrait of William Shakespeare painted in his own lifetime.

Found on You’re History.

14 March

Olympic Construction Uncovers Treasures


Archaeologists have examined findings at the 500-acre site as building work continues for the 2012 Games.  Medieval pottery, a Roman coin and four prehistoric skeletons were also uncovered at the east London site.  The Museum of London is documenting the discoveries. Senior archaeologist Kieron Tyler said they revealed a “previously unknown” London.

Read the whole article at the BBC.  Found via The History Blog.  Image credit: Wessex Archaeology.

13 March

Daylight Savings Time History


Well, we switched over at 2am on Sunday, so hopefully you survived the transition and are now asking yourself, why the heck did that happen?  Well, that is why I am here.  Blame Congress!  According to Title 15, Chapter 6, Sub Chapter IX, Section 260 of Commerce and Trade:  Congressional declaration of policy; adoption and observance of uniform standard of time; authority of Secretary of Transportation

It is the policy of the United States to promote the adoption and observance of uniform time within the standard time zones prescribed by sections 261 to 264 of this title, as modified by section 265 of this title. To this end the Secretary of Transportation is authorized and directed to foster and promote widespread and uniform adoption and observance of the same standard of time within and throughout each such standard time zone.

There is a long great article at National Geographic that describes everything about the why, how and when of Daylight Savings Time.  Image credit: flungabunga.

12 March

Mary E. Surratt


Who?  Exactly!  I have never heard of this person before.  But low and behold, You’re History tells us that, Mary Surratt was the first woman ever executed by the governement of the United States. Image credit: NCinDC.  The image above is of the boarding house, now a Chinese restaurant.

Find out more about Mary:

Wikipedia article

A book: The Assassin’s Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln

11 March

Boston Massacre Week


…was last week.  Sorry I missed it, but better late than never.

March 5th is the 239th anniversary of that faithful night, when British soldiers surrounded by an angry mob killed four men and one boy (or two) outside Boston’s Customs House.  And there is a ton of links about the Boston Massacre!  Image credit:  Night Owl City.

The folks at Boston 1775 have a lot of information about it.

Read up on it:
The Boston Massacre
The Boston Massacre (New England Remembers)
The Boston Massacre (Graphic History)

10 March

Clovis Tools Found in Denver, Colorado


Landscapers were digging a hole for a fish pond in the front yard of a Boulder home last May when they heard a “chink” that didn’t sound right. Just some lost tools. Some 13,000-year-old lost tools. They had stumbled onto a cache of more than 83 ancient tools buried by the Clovis people — ice age hunter-gatherers who remain a puzzle to anthropologists.

Read the whole article on Yahoo! News.  Found via The History Blog.  Image credit: ragesoss.