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11 January
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Grand Canyon Becomes a National Monument

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Theodore Roosevelt declared the massive Canyon in northwestern Arizona a national monument on this day 105 years ago. The Spanish explorer Coronado was the first European to set eyes on this modern day national park back in 1540. If you have ever been there you know that the canyon is really in the middle of nowhere, which is why it took American settlers until 1869 to discover it. John Wesley Powell, a geologist lead a group there.

Roosevelt made environmental conservation a major part of his presidency. Although only Congress can create national parks, Roosevelt created a new presidential practice of making places national monuments. He stated,

“Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”

It was not a national park until 1919 when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Grand Canyon National Park Act.

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10 January
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Dashiell Hammett Dies

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Dashiell Hammett

Dashiell Hammett

Dashiell Hammett was the author of The Maltese Falcon a 1930 detective novel dreamed up with ideas from his time working at Pinkerton’s detective agency, where he was employed for 8 years.  He was born in 1894 and died at the age of 67 from lung cancer, which he was diagnosed with just two months before his death.

Hammett is known for inventing the “hard-boiled” detective writing style that became very popular in detective novels.  In 1998 the novel was ranked 56 in Modern Libraries 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.  That’s out of all novels not just detective ones, very impressive!

The book was made into a film three times, in 1931, 1936 under the title Satan Met a Lady with Bette Davis and in 1941 starring Humphrey Bogart.  The last being the most well known and one of my personal favorite movies.  It was also nominated for three Academy Awards.  It is named as one of the greatest films of all time by Roger Ebert and Entertainment Weekly.  The movie premiered on October 3, 1941 in New York City and was selected for inclusion by the Library of National Film Registry in 1989, which was the very first year the registry took nominations.  The registry takes 25 films each year that are culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant films.  The films must be at least 10 years old.

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09 January
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iPhone Debuts

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It is hard to believe that it was only 6 years ago that the world was introduced to the iPhone. That iconic device that has changed the world so much in such a short amount of time. When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in San Francisco at the MacWorld convention he describe it as an “evolutionary and magical product that is literally five years ahead of any other mobile phone.” And for the most part, I think he was correct.

That first year 1.4 million iPhones were sold, since then they have sold over 421 million iPhones. The device has caused legendary lines outside of apple stores all over the world. In November 2007 Time magazine named the tiny device the invention of the year. Each new phone launch from competitors is not held up against this device as the gold standard in high-tech smart phones.

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08 January
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Crazy Horse’s Last Stand

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I’m partial to this topic as I once did a school report on Crazy Horse. 136 years ago today Crazy Horse and his warriors fought the U.S. Cavalry in Montana. After Custer’s last stand 6 month’s previous to this battle General Nelson Miles was sent to offer the remaining Indians a chance to surrender. Some accepted others like Sitting Bull and Crazy horse refused. Crazy Horses band of warriors were low on ammunition, outnumbered, and those not ill were nearly starving.

In January 8, 1877 General Miles found Crazy Horse’s camp. Crazy Horse has parked his group at along the Tongue river in Montana. General Miles ordered the large gun mounted wagons to open fire. This forced the Indians from their tents into a raging blizzard. Crazy Horse and his warriors managed to hold off the Calvary until the women and children could run for it. He and his warriors followed on their heels.

Even though Crazy Horse escaped this encounter he realized that he would not make it through another. He and his group surrendered at the Red Cloud reservation near Nebraska’s Fort Robinson on May 6, 1877. Five months later Crazy Horse was stabbed to death by a guard.

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07 January
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First U.S. Presidential Election

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Electoral College 1789

Electoral College 1789

On this day 224 years ago, Americans as a country chose their first president. However, some might argue that John Hanson was actually America’s first president. You can read and listen to more about that in history podcast #11. During this first election only white male, landowners were allowed to vote. Of course, Washington won this election and was sworn into office on April 30, 1789 to start the very first term of an American President.

It was also the first time the Electoral College was used. That’s they system we still use. It’s a common misconception that the people vote for the president. Americans actually vote for electors who in turn vote for a president. However, the media does follow the popular vote during election night, but the popular vote is not the official mechanism to get a president elected.
There has been much debate about whether America should continue with the Electoral College or use the popular vote. History Channel sums it up well with this:

Critics of the Electoral College argue that the winner-take-all system makes it possible for a candidate to be elected president even if he gets fewer popular votes than his opponent. This happened in the elections of 1876, 1888 and 2000. However, supporters contend that if the Electoral College were done away with, heavily populated states such as California and Texas might decide every election and issues important to voters in smaller states would be ignored.

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06 January
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Morse Demonstrates the Telegraph

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International Morse Code

International Morse Code

On this day in history Samuel Morse demonstrated his new telegraph system at the Speedwell Ironworks in Morristown, New Jersey. Speedwell Ironworks was the major industrial center of northern New Jersey in that time. Morse, was born in 1791 at Charlestown, Massachusetts was interested in electricity and art. He attended Yale and was on his way to becoming a artist when in 1832 he discovered electromagnets and came up with an idea to use it to create the telegraph. He didn’t know that others were already at work doing the same thing. He worked with Alfred Vail and another partner, which explains why the invention was demonstrated at Speedwell Ironworks, as it was the home of Vail.

In 1838 Morse came up with the “code” of dashes and dots that we know today. And in 1843 he convinced Congress to fund the building of a telegraph line from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore. At its height telegraphs were sent at a speed of 45.45 baud (45.5 symbols per second), to give you an idea, today’s fax machines operate at a speed of 14,400 baud rate.

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05 January
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Divorce in the American Colonies

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There is some debate on this one. The history channel website says this was the first divorce in the colonies, but another website Law Blogs states there was a divorce before this one in 1639. I confirmed this on a second website called archives.com.

On this day in history Anne Clarke was granted a divorce from her husband Denis Clarke because he had abandoned her and hooked up with another woman with whom he had already had two children by this time. I think Anne was very patient! Tom James of Law Blogs describes divorce as extremely rare only 6 divorces happened in the 72 years of the Plymouth Colony. Tom points out that most people think women did not have the right to divorce their husbands but in fact most women were the ones who filed for divorce.

As the note in the beginning of the post states, this was not the first divorce but the second in the colonies. The first was between James Luxford and his wife. Mrs. Luxford was granted a divorce on the grounds that her husband had committed bigamy. In addition to getting the divorce granted she also got all of her husband’s property and he was sent to the stocks, fined (how he was to pay this, once his ex-wife had all his money I don’t know) and banished to England.

Although the image above has divorce rates only since 1950 you can glean more from sites like Law Blogs and Archives.com if you are interested in learning more about the divorce rates in the colonies.

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04 January
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Utah

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In a 1890 Manifesto, the Latter-day Saints (LDS) Church banned polygamy. When Utah applied for statehood again, it was accepted. One of the conditions for granting Utah statehood was that a ban on polygamy be written into the state constitution. This was a condition required of other western states that were admitted into the Union later.  Utah became the 45th state admitted to the Union on January 4, 1896 by President Cleveland. Utah is the 13th-largest and the 10th-least-densely populated of the all states.

In 1848 The United States won the Mexican War and in the Treaty of the Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexico had to give what is now the American West (including Utah) to the United States.  Mormon leaders hosted a constitutional convention to write a constitution where they wanted to name the state Deseret (a term used in the book of Mormon to mean “honeybee”).  As you can see from the above image the state would have been huge if they had gotten what they wanted.

Of course Congress didn’t want to create a state of this size.  Another fact that stopped Utah from becoming a state as previously mentioned was the announcement in 1856 that the LDS authorities were letting some mormons have plural marriages.  The rest of the country was shocked.  In 1862 after things had settled down a bit, Utah or “Deseret” applied for statehood again.  They were denied and congress passed the Morrill Anti-bigamy Act. This Act prohibited polygamy in the territories and disincorporated the LDS church.  In 1867 Utah asked Congress to appeal the new act and also asked to be a state again.  They were denied again.  In 1874 Congress passed the Poland Act which gave authorities more power to prosecute polygamists. Congress then passed the Edmunds Act, outlawing “unlawful cohabitation.” It also banned polygamists from voting, holding public office, or serving on juries.  Congress passed yet another act the Edmunds-Tucker Act that confiscated LDS church property and took away the right of Utah women to vote.  However, this whole time Utah kept asking for statehood.

In 1894 Congress passed the Enabling Act which step up a step-by-step process for Utah to become a state.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utah

http://www.ilovehistory.utah.gov/topics/statehood/index.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

http://www.utah.gov/about/quickfacts.html

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03 January
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Alaska

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Alaska becomes a state on this day in 1959.  President Eisenhower signed the official declaration which made Alaska the 49th state on this day.

New Flag Unveiled; 7 Staggered Rows Have 7 Stars Each – New York Times

On March 30, 1867, Secretary of State William H. Seward signed an agreement with Baron Edouard Stoeckl, the Russian Minister to the United States.  Widely referred to as “Seward’s Folly”, it ceded possession of the vast territory of Alaska to the United States for $7.2 million. Few citizens of the U. S. could fathom what possible use or interest the 586,000 square miles of land would have for their country. In a speech given at Sitka (the capital until 1906, when it was moved to Juneau) on August 12, 1868, however.

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/0103.html#article

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaska#Statehood

http://xroads.virginia.edu/~cap/bartlett/49state.html

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02 January
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I Can’t Drive 55

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On January 2, 1974 President Richard Nixon signed the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act setting a national speed limit of 55 miles per hour (mph).  Before this law was singed the speed limit was governed by the individual states, which had speed limits that ranged from 40 to 80 mph.  In 1972 Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) stopping shipping oil to the United States because they were protesting the the US’s support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War.  OPEC also tripled prices for the US.  This action sent the US and European economies into a recession.  The new 55 speed limit was deemed more fuel-efficient, thereby curbing the U.S. appetite for foreign oil.

Source:

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/nixon-signs-national-speed-limit-into-law

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