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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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01 January
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The First New Years

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Julius Caesar introduced the Julian Calendar in 45BC and fixed January 1 as the first day of the year.  It is now marked with celebrations in many cultures.  It marks the new calendar year and the calendar’s year count is increased by one.   Roman dictator, Julius Caesar changed the traditional Roman calendar because he felt it was in dire need of reform.  The previous calendar, the Roman calendar, attempted to follow the lunar cycle but frequently fell out of phase with the seasons and had to be corrected often.

He year was calculated to be 365 and 1/4 days, and Caesar added 67 days to 45 B.C., making 46 B.C. begin on January 1, rather than in March. He also decreed that every four years a day be added to February, thus theoretically keeping his calendar from falling out of step. Shortly before his assassination in 44 B.C., he changed the name of the month Quintilis to Julius (July) after himself. Later, the month of Sextilis was renamed Augustus (August) after his successor. – History

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31 December
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Edison Shows Off First Light Bulb

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469px-Thomas_Edison2

Thomas Edison

In 1878, Edison formed the Edison Electric Light Company in New York City with backers that included J. P. Morgan and the members of the Vanderbilt family. He made the first public demonstration of his incandescent light bulb on December 31, 1879, in Menlo Park.

Edison was an American inventor and businessman. H invented many different things. He is often referred to as the wizard of Menlo Park. He was one of the first men to create an industrial research laboratory.

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29 December
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State of Texas History

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Texas

Texas by Flickr user: jpo

Texas was admitted to the Union on December 29, 1845 as the 28th state of the United States of America. Texas is the second largest state as far as population currently at 26.1 million (2012 est.) and the second largest by land (after Alaska) at 269,000 square miles. Texas sought statehood as early as 1837. But it was not until James Polk became president in March of 1845 that things stated to progress.

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I plan on adding more to this entry all the time.  Have a suggestion?  Please post it in the comments.

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27 December
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Peter Pan Play Opens in London

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Peter Pan

Peter Pan by Fickr User: tipoyock

On this day (December 27) in 1904 the play Peter Pan also known as the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up or Peter and Wendy.  The play debuted with Nina Boucicault, daughter of playwright Dion Boucicault, in the title role.  The story of Peter Pan is one of a mischievous little boy who can fly, and his adventures on the island of Neverland with Wendy Darling and her three brothers, the fairy Tinker Bell, the Lost Boys, the Indian princess Tiger Lily, and the pirate Captain Hook with his crew.  Peter Pan is also a book by J. M. Barrie.

The play took place at the Duke of York’s Theatre. Tinker Bell was represented on stage by a darting light. The most successful in the U.S. has been an American musical version first produced on Broadway in 1954 starring Mary Martin, which was later videotaped for television and rebroadcast several times.

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26 December
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Gangster Opens Flamingo Hotel

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bugsy's bar

bugsy’s bar by flickr user J.R.Ramos

In 1945 famous gangster Bugsy Siegel and his group came to Las Vegas to take advantage of the legalized gambling and off-track betting.  Siegel wanted more, he wanted a place of his own in Vegas.  He started by purchasing the El Cortez on Fremont, but city officials, who knew about his criminal background wouldn’t let him expand like he wanted to.  Then the heard that William Wilderson was looking for additional investors for his new property about 7 miles outside downtown Vegas.  Siegel and his partners bought two-thirds of the project and began construction.  Since he had no idea what he was doing construction costs skyrocketed due to rampant over billing and theft.

Eventually, the Flamingo, named after Siegel’s girlfriend, was opened on December 26, 1946.

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25 December
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Christmas 2013

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Christmas Ornaments

Christmas Ornaments by Flickr user Joe Buckingham

We have celebrated many Christmas with our listeners from the podcast and the readers of this blog.  Back in 2005 we created a history podcast just for Christmas (number 39).  In the newsletter I sent out on Saturday night you also learned about Christmas Island.  There is much more to that story so follow the link for the whole thing.  In 2007 we ran an article about all the myths surrounding this holiday.  That was one of those Top 5 type post that are total link bait, I know.

In addition to all that cool stuff there is to read and listen to about Christmas history I thought this year I would add just a bit more for you to read up on.


Skip to 0:28.

In 1914 there was a Christmas Truce.  These were unofficial cease fires that took place across many different battle fields during Christmas day 1914 in the middle of World War I, or as it was called then, The Great War.  There is a movie about it called Joyeux Noel.  If you have Amazon Instant you can watch it right now for free.  I couldn’t find it on Netflix instant.

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23 December
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Van Gogh Cuts Off His Ear

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Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh

It’s December 23, 1888 and you are a suffering painter.  Your a little depressed, what do you do?  Cut off your ear?  Thats what our painter friend Van Gogh did.  The story used to go that he cut it off in a fury after a fight with his friend and fellow artist Paul Gauguin.  But an ABC story in 2009 says it didn’t go down that way.  Instead a theory presented by Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans in their book Van Goghs Ohr, says that it was Gauguin, a skilled fencer who cut of Van Gogh’s ear during the argument and that Gogh would not rat on his friend so most of us know the story like this:

the disturbed Dutch painter severed his left ear lobe with a razor blade in a fit of lunacy after he had a row with Gauguin one evening shortly before Christmas 1888.  Bleeding heavily, van Gogh then wrapped it in cloth, walked to a nearby bordello and presented the severed ear to a prostitute, who fainted when he handed it to her.  He then went home to sleep in a blood-drenched bed, where he almost bled to death, before police, alerted by the prostitute, found him the next morning.  He was unconscious and immediately taken to the local hospital, where he asked to see his friend Gauguin when he woke up, but Gauguin refused to see him.  -ABC article

Either way today is the day that happened.  Ouch!  Van Gogh died in 1890 just two years after losing his ear.  He died of a self-inflicted shotgun shot to the head.  Makes the whole story of cutting off his own ear a little more believable huh?  Gauguin died in 1903.

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