Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas History and Facts: The Twelve Days of Christmas



Have you ever seen swans swimming in a pond and thought I should get that as a gift for my sweetie? Yeah me either especially when, according to PNC’s Christmas Price Index, it would cost $6300 to make that happen. As we all know that wonderfully repetitive song, the 12 Days of Christmas which gets played so often this time of year, however if one were to purchase all of those gifts for their significant other it would cost them a whopping $24,263. But seriously who in their right mind would buy all of these gifts for an individual or in what century would someone have purchased turtle doves and men jumping around as a Christmas gift. The question is when and why was this song created?
Many people hear the 12 days of Christmas and believe they are gifts leading up to Christmas Day, the 12th day, however the first day, a partridge in a pear tree, starts on Christmas Day and ends on January 5th. The period after Christmas is a Christian celebration dating as far back as the Middle Ages known as Christmastide, Twelvetide, or Yuletide. Whatever the name may be, this period after Christmas is meant for reflection on the birth of Jesus Christ with traditional feasts such as the feast of St. Stephen, which is meant to give leftovers to the poor, along with the feast of John the Evangelist and the feast of the Holy Innocents. Many of these traditions and celebrations vary throughout different countries and various religions. Here in the United States the traditions and celebrations of the Twelve Days of Christmas had largely been forgotten and relegated to a song.  
So the question is what is the origin of the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”? The song was published for the first time in England in 1780 however many historians believe its origins are French and the song could date back much further than that. Why the song was written and published at the time is unknown. In 1979, a Canadian teacher wrote an article suggesting that the song 12 days were coded catechisms for the Catholic Church. His argument was that the English people were not permitted to practice Catholicism publically from 1558-1829 so they secretly celebrated their traditions of Twelve Night through the song. Here are each of the meanings.
A Partridge in a Pear Tree –          Jesus
Two Turtle Doves  –                          The Old and New Testament
Three French Hens –                        The Kings bearing gifts
Four Callet (Calling) Birds –          The Four Gospels
Five Golden Rings –                          The Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible)
Six Geese-a-Laying –                       The Six Days of Creation
Seven Swans-a-Swimming –          Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Eight Maids-a-Milking –                  The Eight Beatitudes
Nine Ladies Dancing –                     Nine Fruits of the Spirit
Ten Lords-a-Leaping –                     The Ten Commandments
Eleven Pipers Piping –                     Eleven Apostles
Twelve Drummers Drumming –    Twelve Points of the Apostles Creed
However there are some problems in this theory. For one the first mention over the last century about a coded catechism in this song is with this Canadian teacher. The idea had been further perpetrated by religious scholars however with little additional evidence. You would have to believe that there would be more significant sources to back up this claim over the last couple centuries. The other major problem is that most of these meanings are not a departure from the Protestant church. In reality they are directly in line with nearly all major Christian denominations and faiths. The actual origin of the song and its purpose are unknown with ideas ranging from a child’s counting song, to a memory game played during Twelve Night in which the leader would start and would have to memorize the subsequent verses given by the participants. Whatever the purpose and origin of the song one thing we do know is that there are a “Twelve Days of Christmas” which do not lead up to Christmas Day but actually begin then. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas History and Facts: "Account of a visit by St. Nicholas"


I am very excited about starting our family tradition this Christmas Eve with reading “Twas the night before Christmas” to my son. I would expect this is a typical tradition in many households around the country. The words from the story are so familiar to all of us:
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.
Those lines role off the American tongue like no other story in our history, however what makes this story so famous, why is it so popular. The story was first published December 23, 1823 in the Troy Sentinel, by an anonymous writer under the title “Account of a visit by St. Nicholas.” It is surprising to see that this poems popularity exploded so much when it was buried on page 3 in between random stories and marriage announcements. Despite being credited to an anonymous writer the poem is widely attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, a professor and writer. At the time the poem was written, Christmas Day was slowly surpassing New Year’s Day as the family gathering holiday of the season however many Protestants were apprehensive of the holiday because Christ’s apparent birth was not in the winter months of December. The traditions of Christmas we have today, especially in connection with Santa Claus and gift giving, were not in existence like they are today. The historical figure of St. Nicholas was known by some, especially those who practice Catholicism, for giving generous gifts to the poor. The idea of Santa Claus transcended from there to a Sinterklaas and then a character named Father Christmas from the British tradition. The notion of incorporating characters such as Santa Claus, Father Christmas, or others during the Christmas season was far from the norm. Moore’s story actually helped establish many of our Christmas traditions including the character of Santa Claus that we know and love today. His physical appearance, the night he visits, his sleigh and reindeer, along with the number and names of the reindeer, as well as his mode of operation which involved landing on top of the house and going down the chimney to deliver toys to children all came from Moore’s story.
He was dress’d all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnish’d with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys was flung on his back,
And he look’d like a peddler just opening his pack:
His eyes – how they twinkled! His dimples how merry,
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He has a broad face, and a little round belly
That shook when he laugh’d, like a bowl full of jelly:
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
The jolly fat man, in a white beard and red suit visiting house to house every night was created by Moore in his story “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas. New York was one of the first major cities to embrace Moore’s Santa Claus, which saw a large proportion of non-Christian families using Santa Claus as their reason for celebration and gift giving. From there the story of Santa Claus was reproduced over and over again in various versions and from multiple perspectives. Between 1823 and today Santa Claus has grow into a center piece of the American culture and Christmas tradition. People from all over the world have taken this version of Santa and adapted it to fit to their own culture. So as you read and listen to “Twas the Night Before Christmas” this time of year, remember that this is the story that helped give birth to the legend that is Santa Claus.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas History and Facts: The Strange

The history of Christmas is such a fascinating story. Many of us grow up with Santa Claus, Christmas Trees, and mistletoe as just a normal part of the December 25th tradition. However many of these traditions and symbols have a history that do not go back as far as you may think. I have come across so History Channel videos as well as documents which I would like to share that may surprise you or enlighten you on why we celebrate Christmas the way we do and how other people celebrate Christmas that is much different than our own.

This video is from the History Channel which will surprise you in the different ways people have celebrated Christmas.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789


As we all do on this day here in America we gather together with family and friends. Some have traditions of going around the room and telling everyone what they are thankful for, some do it privately as they enjoy the company of family however we all gather for food. It is the cornerstone of this holiday. The turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and most importantly pies are the reason so many people look forward to this holiday. Yet who among us has ever examined the origin of the holiday. I don’t mean how the pilgrims first sat down with the Indians and had a big meal. I mean the founding of the holiday itself.

In 1789 George Washington established Thanksgiving as a “day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.” Thanksgiving, according to Washington’s proclamation, was established to give thanksgiving to God. I know too much of the time historians try to avoid the discussion of God and prayer because it associates this country and our heritage with Christianity. In this case it is a little hard to avoid. Washington continues on stating that the upcoming 26th of November will be set aside as a day in which it is “to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country.”

These quotes from the proclamation are simply a sample of the entire letter written by Washington and all of it points to one thing, Thanksgiving was established to gather as a country and give thanks to God for the country we have been provided and the blessings in which we have received as a nation. I understand the immediate reaction of all non-Christian citizens whose first thought is anger at reading how this holiday is centered on God and Christianity. Realistically our society viewed Christianity as a norm. It was a regular part of peoples’ everyday lives and to celebrate a day of thanksgiving to that God would not be seen as out of the ordinary. There is no reason a country we should ignore who we are and how we were established. This does not in any way take away from ones right to practice their own religion or no religion at all. It simply just establishes how this holiday was founded and the mentality of many of our founding fathers including George Washington.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!





Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Family's Oral History

The history behind family heirlooms I fear is being lost through each generation. I'm sure you have something in your house which was owned by your grandmother or great-grandfather which you plan to pass down to your children someday. However what is the true story behind it? Why was kept all these years besides being a nice piece of furniture? Oral tradition is lost in our day and age. There was once a time which oral history and tradition was the only gateway to ones past. With the internet and multimedia we seem to have no need for that oral history, passing our stories on from generation to generation. However I believe that the loss of that tradition has lost us some of the great stories of our own families' histories. Recently a relative of mine sent me a handmade quilt for my new son to enjoy. The gift itself was beautiful and wonderful but more than likely would be lost, thrown out, or sold once my son became an adult. However my she placed a story behind the quilt, a meaning which has turned an ordinary quilt into a memory giving it emotional value. She reminded me of my great-grandmother who I had the wonderful pleasure of knowing all the way up into my mid 20s, and her husband. 


My great-grandmother was a wonderful woman who used to visit my family every Sunday afternoon on her way from church to check on us and see how we were doing. In reality it was her loving way of pointing out that we should be in church too. Sometimes she'd bring us food but mostly it was to see what we were up to. When speaking with others they had only the most wonderful things to say about her. Many considered her their second mother because of how loving and gracious her company truly was. She cared for others, was a hard worker, could sew better than anyone on the planet, and loved her family through good times and bad. I did not have the pleasure of getting to know her husband, my great-grandfather however my mother could speak about him for days. She was very close to him and although I never had the pleasure of meeting him I know from their stories that he was a great man that meant a lot to his family. You see my relative that made this quilt created it in their memory. A memorial to a great couple which my son will never have the pleasure of meeting but can be told the story of who they were and what they meant to the people around them. A history of his family which can be passed down to him through an oral tradition. This quilt was very exciting for me because I look forward to the day I can tell my son about Joe and Martha, about the impact they had on the many lives they touched including my mother's and my own. I encourage everyone out there to seek out an oral tradition that you can start. Record histories of your family that are still alive and tell those stories to your children, or your children's children. Let us redevelop an oral history for our families and maybe teach future generation where they came from and who they are as an individual.  

Monday, October 3, 2011

Roman Shipyard Unearthed

According to researchers they believe they have uncovered one of the largest Roman shipyards dating back to the second century. This shipyard is apart of an ancient port known as Portus which linked Rome to the Mediterranean Sea. This discovery adds to the uses that Portus seems to have had including the storage of grain and military defense.


http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/09/24/huge-ancient-roman-shipyard-unearthed-in-italy/

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Brief Hiatus

So it has been nearly three months since I had the opportunity to discuss, contemplate, research, read, and/or write about history. My life has recently been blessed with the addition of my first child, a son, and I could not be more excited and happy about the moment. At two weeks old he is a bundle of energy at some moments and complete coma at another. As I consider him in the context of my blog I start to wonder what impact my son might have on this world. Is it possible he could be a catalyst for change, one in which we historians will write and read about in the future? Is it possible that my son could cure cancer, solve world hunger, balance economic woes, or even run the country from the desk of the White House. As I consider this and hope for what my son will one day become I am easily reminded at how each and everyone of us affects history everyday. At our job, school, or socially with friends and family we are affecting the world in every way, whether it be for the good or the bad. We make history at our jobs, at our schools, and even in our communities and that is a responsibility which we should not take lightly. It is in these small realms of history that we can better understand the very nature of a society at the time. This is an ideal I wish my son to be raised with, this is the way in which I want him to live his life. He should always remember that the actions he takes on a daily basis effect the lives of those around him and in turn help write the history of that moment and the history of the world. As I start to read, research, and write history again I am burden with the idea and hope to continue to convey this idea more in the future.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Poem by Johnny Cash


RAGGED OLD FLAG

I walked through a county courthouse square,
On a park bench an old man was sitting there.
I said, "Your old courthouse is kinda run down."
He said, "Naw, it'll do for our little town."
I said, "Your flagpole has leaned a little bit,
And that's a Ragged Old Flag you got hanging on it.

He said, "Have a seat", and I sat down.
"Is this the first time you've been to our little town?"
I said, "I think it is." He said, "I don't like to brag,
But we're kinda proud of that Ragged Old Flag."

"You see, we got a little hole in that flag there
When Washington took it across the Delaware.
And it got powder-burned the night Francis Scott Key
Sat watching it writing _Oh Say Can You See_.
And it got a bad rip in New Orleans
With Packingham and Jackson tuggin' at its seams."

"And it almost fell at the Alamo
Beside the Texas flag, but she waved on through.
She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill.
There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard, and Bragg,
And the south wind blew hard on that Ragged Old Flag."

"On Flanders Field in World War I
She got a big hole from a Bertha gun.
She turned blood red in World War II
She hung limp and low by the time it was through.
She was in Korea and Vietnam.
She went where she was sent by her Uncle Sam."

"She waved from our ships upon the briny foam,
And now they've about quit waving her back here at home.
In her own good land she's been abused --
She's been burned, dishonored, denied and refused."

"And the government for which she stands
Is scandalized throughout the land.
And she's getting threadbare and wearing thin,
But she's in good shape for the shape she's in.
'Cause she's been through the fire before
And I believe she can take a whole lot more."

"So we raise her up every morning,
Take her down every night.
We don't let her touch the ground
And we fold her up right.
On second thought I DO like to brag,
'Cause I'm mighty proud of that Ragged Old Flag."

Written by Johnny Cash

Thursday, June 30, 2011

What Was It Like 100 Years Ago...

I received this in an email so I take no credit for the research behind it but I absolutely love this information.

THE YEAR IS 1911
This will boggle your mind, I know it did mine!
**********************************

* The average life expectancy for men was 47 years.
* Fuel for this car was sold in drug stores only.
* Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub.
* Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.
* There were only 8,000 cars and only 144 miles of paved roads.
* The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.
* The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower!
* The average US wage in 1910 was 22 cents per hour.
* The average US worker made between $200 and $400 per year.
* A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year, a dentist $2,500 per year, a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year,and a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.
* More than 95 percent of all births took place at home.
* Ninety percent of all Doctors had NO COLLEGE EDUCATION!Instead, they attended so-called medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press and by the government as "substandard".
* Sugar cost four cents a pound.
* Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.
* Coffee was fifteen cents a pound.
* Most women only washed their hair once a month, and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
* Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering into their country for any reason.

The Five leading causes of death were:
1. Pneumonia and influenza
2. Tuberculosis
3. Diarrhea
4. Heart disease
5. Stroke


* The American flag had 45 stars.
* The population of Las Vegas, Nevada, was only 30.
* Crossword puzzles, canned beer and iced tea hadn't been invented yet.
* There was neither a Mother's Day nor a Father's Day.
* Two out of every 10 adults couldn't read or write and only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.
* Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at the local corner drugstores.
* Back then pharmacists said, "Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health!" (Shocking?)
* Eighteen percent of households had at least one full-time servant or domestic help.
* There were about 230 reported murders in the ENTIRE U.S.A.!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Mysterious Roman Dodecahedron...

The great mystery of the dodecahedron may never be truly solved. Its name comes from the 12 sides it has but the true purpose of the object is baffling historians and archaeologists. Many laymen who read about the mystery gave their opinion which ranged from a fishing net weight, to an ancient paper weight. See if you can figure out what this Roman object was used for, post your comments...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Very Old Light Bulb

I never thought I would sit and actually write about the history of the life of a light bulb but truly that is the case in this situation. Guinness Records has recently verified that the bulb which sits in the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire-Department in California has been running strong for 110 years. The bulb was apparently donated by the Power and Light Company which manufactured it in 1901 when at the time light bulbs in a building were a new adventure. The 60-watt bulb's life has been attributed to good old fashioned  engineering. A website has even been created in order for people to follow the lifespan of this historic bulb.   http://www.centennialbulb.org/cam.htm

I highly recommend taking a moment and consider what was going on in society when this bulb was first manufactured. You be may surprised when you consider how long this bulb has been running.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

We Struggle With The Basics

Since 2006, students in the United States are unchanged in their basic understanding of history. It is scary to think that only 35% of fourth-graders know the purpose behind the Declaration of Independence. If there is anything I have tried to address through this blog at times is the importance of our founding ideals and documents. Without those basics ideals we fail to understand who we are and where we came from as a people. As a social studies teacher I take it upon myself to be the one who teaches students these basic ideals. Making history matter to the everyday student is continually a difficult task but one in which I take upon myself to excel at everyday. 

There are many other statistics which students from fourth-grade to twelve-grade fall short on. I challenge anyone which reads this to test your own knowledge and see how well you stack up. Go to the WSJ's link and see how much you know about our history... 

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303714704576385370840592218.html#project%3DREPORTCARD1106%26articleTabs%3Darticle

Sunday, June 5, 2011

National Parks Passport


About four years ago when I was visiting Fort Sumter in South Carolina with family I came across the the National Parks Passport book. It is a booklet which allows visitors who go to any of the National Park to stamp their book with the exact day and location of your visit. At first I thought the idea was pretty cheesy. About 2 years earlier I was visiting historical sites with my father and someone showed us the passport book and how it worked. I felt the idea seemed a little childish so I decided against it. Now I wish I had purchased it years ago. This is a fantastic way to memorialize the visits you make throughout the country. Being a history guy its a great way to remind me of the many historical sites that I have visited and the many places I have yet to go. Plus my first child is on the way and I am looking forward to the time in which I can purchase a passport book for them and together we can collect our stamps and memories of all the wonderful places we visited together. It is such an excellent item to purchase and I highly recommend getting one as soon as possible.


http://passport.eparks.com/store/




Thursday, June 2, 2011

Worst Tornado Outbreaks in U.S. History

The months of April and May 2011 have been some of the worst months I can remember for severe weather. Areas such Smithville, Alabama and Joplin, Missouri have seen such dramatic devastation that it is difficult for many to wrap their minds around. Seeing all of these severe storms got me researching the largest tornado outbreaks in history. The list was difficult to compile because of the many categories that the storms fall. I was not sure if I should base it off of a single 24-hour period of tornadoes or the entire outbreak of storms itself or even base it off a single tornado and its individual destruction. The other option involved basing it on things such as number of tornadoes, destruction, and/or death toll. Because of the devastation of a tornado is many times based on the death toll the storm system causes the list is based mostly off of that number. The list could have easily been much longer and some might argue I left out others that should have been included, but here is simply 7 of the worst tornado outbreaks in history.

1) The Natchez Tornado of 1840 - Few events can cause over $1.2 million in damage to an area and in Pre-Civil War Mississippi that number was absolutely disastrous. Shortly before 2pm on May 7, 1840 a tornado first touched down along the banks of the Mississippi River. It travelled North along the Mississippi river, eventually striking Natchez, Mississippi. Due to the time of day and importance of the Mississippi River the water was full with steamboats barges. The fierce winds violently turned the water and rose the level of the river by seven feet, as a result 60 flatboats were destroyed. Out of total 317 people who died as a result of this tornado, 269 people died while on the river itself. As the storm passed the town of Natchez was in ruins. The merchant port in Natchez was destroyed along with most of the buildings including the Steamboat Hotel which was reported to have been leveled. Natchez Free-Trader was quoted as saying: “We are all in confusion, and surrounded by the destitute, the houseless, the wounded and the dying. Our beautiful city is shattered… We are peeled and desolate.” The death and injury seemed so high that one man was quoted as he “walked over the ruins, I passed the dead and wounded at every twenty paces.” The Natchez tornado is the second deadliest single tornado believed to have been registered as a F5 based on historical data since the Fujita Scale was around at the time.

2) Tri-State Tornado of 1925 - To say there has never been another single tornado like it is an understatement. This single tornado travelled 219 miles, stayed on the ground 3.5 hours, is said to have been wider then taller with the estimated diameter being nearly a mile, wiped through 15,000 homes, and killed nearly 700 people. Since 1887 weather forecasters were not even allowed to speak about tornadoes publicly because of the completely unpredictability of the event. Research on the phenomenon was halted. With this in mind the weather forecast for the day predicted showers and cooler temperatures. It is no surprise the complete lack of preparedness on the part of individuals in the wake of this storm. It first touched down around mid-afternoon and originated in Missouri, eventually ending in Indiana. Nothing in the path of this storm was safe. The worst devastation was in Illinois where it at one point cut through a school killing 30 students inside. It then came upon a mining community in West Frankfort, Illinois. Working down below the miners had no idea what was happening. When they emerged they found their town destroyed and 127 people killed. Another town decimated was Murphysboro, Illinois which was completely destroyed and half the population was killed. Thanks to various observational data and reports that were made at the time the Tri-State tornado is classified as a F5, which is the highest on the Fujita Scale. This single giant was not the only tornado apart of this weather system that touched down, eight others were reported with deaths tolls taking the total to over 750 people. This single event brought the need to research tornadoes back to the forefront. The sheer magnitude of this F5 tornado can be felt in this quote from a survivor.
"An invading army of debris swept over the western hill -- trees, boards, fences, roofs. Day became night. The house began to levitate and, at the same time, the piano shot across the room, gouging the floor and carpet where I had played only moments before. The walls began to crack as the roof ripped free and disappeared, joining the swirling mass of debris. But the walls and the floor held as we and the house took flight." - Akin The Forgotten Storm
3) Deep South Outbreak of 1932 - “It sounded like 49 trains running wide open,” said one man of the devastating tornado outbreak that struck the southern United States. He and six of his friends fled to a barn to escape, only he survived. The storm produced over 20 tornadoes between Texas and South Carolina with 10 of them being category F4s. Despite the large area of the country in which this system struck, Alabama was the hardest hit out of all the states. The most severe of the tornadoes in the outbreak cut a 60 mile path just south of Birmingham. Another F4 ripped through the Tuscaloosa region narrowly missing the downtown district but still leaving 2000 people homeless. Within a four hour span some 7,000 homes and businesses were destroyed, 1850 people injured and 268 people killed in the state of Alabama alone, with a total of around 332 being killed from the entire storm system. Being at the height of the Great Depression this was one incident in which the people of Alabama and the south as a whole were not in a position to handle.

4) Tupelo-Gainesville Outbreak of 1936 - A total of seventeen tornadoes torn through the southern states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia between April 5th and 6th of 1936 and packed a strong wallop to the area. The strongest of these was a F5 which struck the town of Tupelo, Mississippi and a F4 which hit Gainesville, Georgia. The Tupelo tornado struck around 8:30pm and is ranked as the fourth single deadliest tornado in American history which killed 233 people. Thankfully the tornado missed the downtown business district, preventing even more costly damage to the city. Narrowly escaping death from the disastrous tornadoes in Tupelo was a young Elvis Presley and his mother. As the storm progressed east through Alabama it reached Gainesville, Georgia by 8:30am the next morning. When it reached Gainesville two separate tornadoes merged and formed into a F4 which moved through the city, sadly this one torn straight through the business district of the city causing major damage. At the Cooper Pants Factory which was filled with workers for the morning shift the tornado struck and collapsed then caught fire, killing 70 people. The same happened to other stores in the area, being destroyed and even catching fire with people trapped inside. The final death toll in the Gainesville area reached 203 people and is registered as the fifth most devastating single tornado in American history. The final death toll for the entire outbreak reached nearly 436 people.

5) Palm Sunday Outbreak of 1965 - Like the Japanese in 1941 these tornadoes struck on a Sunday catching many people in the Midwest by surprise. With it also being a holiday, Palm Sunday, many were unprepared for the worst. Twelve tornadoes touched down starting in Iowa and into Illinois. Once the system hit Indiana it broke wide open with a total of ten additional tornadoes, eight of them being F4. One these F4 tornadoes tore through the small town and county in Indiana that I was born and raised in. I have heard numerous stories from my grandparents and other relatives about where they were at and what they saw when the twister came through. A pair of sister tornadoes formed over Goshen, Indiana which destroyed over 100 trailers. Another twister devastated the town of Russiaville, leveling 90% of the buildings. With telephone lines down due to the storm, Indiana officials were unable to warn Emergency Services in Michigan and Ohio about the coming destruction. A total of 47 tornadoes struck, killing 271. The outbreak was the worst ever to hit Indiana killing 137 and injuring nearly 1,200.

6) Super Outbreak of 1974 - This storm packed together more violent tornadoes than any that was ever recorded. Six F5 and twenty-four F4 tornadoes were recorded stretching from Indiana to northern Alabama and as far east as North Carolina and Virginia. The largest and first of the F5 tornadoes struck Xenia, Ohio, killing 34 and destroying most of the town. The devastation in Xenia was so great that President Nixon visited the site a few days later and said, “As I look back over the disasters, I saw the earthquake in Anchorage in 1964; I saw the hurricanes... Hurricane Camille in 1969 down in Mississippi, and I saw Hurricane Agnes in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. And it is hard to tell the difference among them all, but I would say in terms of destruction, just total devastation, this is the worst I have seen." A 10-month study was done of the Xenia tornado and they determined that it is as close to a F6 as they could determine. Overall 148 tornadoes touched down over a two-day period and saw some of the highest death tolls and greatest destruction until the tornado outbreak of 2011.

7) Super Southern Outbreak of 2011 - Several tornadoes touched down on the 25th, 26th, and 28th however it was on the 27th of April that saw the greatest amount of activity with a total of three EF5s reported. In addition the 24 hour-period from 8am to 8am the next day is the fifth deadliest tornado day in American history. The magnitude of this storm over the four day period is hard to believe and what really sparked the research of this blog entry. Twenty-one states recorded having at least one tornado touch down with the highest totals coming from Tennessee (55), Alabama (54), Mississippi (40), Texas (34), and Arkansas (27), for a grand total in all states of 327 confirmed. As one meteorologist had stated this is a once in a generational proved that to be true. At least 344 are confirmed to have been killed as a result of the four days of tornado activity with the vast majority coming on April 27th and from the state of Alabama. This string of storms has made it the largest outbreak of tornadoes on record and overall the second deadliest in American history, only to the Tri-State tornado of 1925.
"Ava, our friend Lisa, our dogs and I were in the basement, watching the progress of the storms on television. The storms were severe enough that local television programming was suspended, and stations devoted all their air time to tracking the tornadoes. The dogs were agitated, and we did our best to calm them. We were all very worried. As the tornado in our path approached, Lisa and I went into the interior of our basement — the room with no windows and no exterior walls. The newscaster directed everyone to take cover immediately. As Ava was moving to join us in the interior room, she saw the storm appear on one of the TV sky-cams. ‘Oh my God!’ she exclaimed. ‘Look at the size of that thing!” The picture went blank; the power flickered, and then went out completely."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Daily Updates on the Civil War

I have been following for the past month a fantastically put together blog by "The American Interest" called The Long Recall. Everyday this blog takes first-hand accounts from newspapers 150 years ago and prints them in a concise manner putting you as the reader into the civil conflict between the states. The information has opened my eyes to the things that went on before the war officially started and the resistance that sprang up in what became known as the border states. I am looking forward to the next four years and learning about the day-to-day events and drama that is the Civil War.


http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/civilwar/

Friday, May 6, 2011

Our Nation Divded: Confederacy Declares War on United States

May 6, 1861, the Confederate States of America made the 'War Between the States' official. It was today, 150 years ago that the Confederacy made it official in act and soon deed on their intention to remain a separate country and defend their territories in armed conflict. Since Fort Sumter both sides had been by time in an attempt to secure larger and stronger military forces. Neither side was completely ready for this fight. This day also marks the additional of two more states to the Confederacy, Arkansas and Tennessee which Lincoln was attempting to keeping as apart of the United States. As spring continues the North and South are poised on the edge of full-scale war which both sides want to avoid however both sides believe is inevitable and anxious to get it started.  

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Last World War 1 Veteran Dies

Claude Choules has passed on to glory being the last known veteran of the First World War. Joining the Royal Navy in 1916 Choules saw two years of service which took him to witnessing the surrender of the German fleet in 1918. The story of the First World War is much forgotten behind the grandeur of the Second World War however it is one war which time should not forget. Living in Austrlia most of his life since the First World War, Choules was a low key participator in the Second World War mainly helping with a German mine that washed ashore as well as the protection of Fremantle Harbor. The stories which Choules would have been able to tell about his experience would have been invaluable and I hope a portrait of his history can be passed down to other generations even if only through his family. Choules passing reminds us all of one of the bloodiest wars in world history and from my perspective I thank him for his service to England and the alliance which won the war.


http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/05/05/australia.ww1.veteran.dies/

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The North is Falling Behind

It has been apparent throughout my lifetime that the South takes the Civil War and the remembrance of it far more seriously than the North. With the majority of battlefields and without question the better stories being located south of the Mason-Dixon Line it is no surprise this is true. As we start the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War the disparity between the North and South is becoming more apparent. In states like New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania the celebrations of the Civil War are lacking compared to Virginia, South Carolina, and even western states such Tennessee and Missouri. True there are not a lot of battles to reenact in these Northern states like the South but the richness of the history is there. Hopefully we will see a revitalization in the Civil War by people all around the country and better learn who we are as a people based on where we came from.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/04/17/northcivil-war-sites-events-long-forgotten/?test=faces

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Our Nation Divided: Fort Sumter

Examining the newspaper articles from New York, to Kansas, to South Carolina it was very apparent that no matter where you went in the country everyone was waiting for a confrontation to break out and the focal point was Fort Sumter. Today marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the battle to take Fort Sumter. The Fort meant so much more than a strategic military complex. For the North it was a symbol of maintaining the integrity of the Union. To lose it signaled a need to confront the Southern rebellion by force, that diplomatic solutions were at an end. it signaled a loss of control, a loss of public property owned by the United States. For the South it represented their independence. To take control of it would legitimized their secession from the United States and solidified their position as an independent power. So it was no surprise that all eyes of the nation were focused on Charleston harbor in South Carolina.


This "Pro-Slavery War", as a Northern paper proclaimed, will forever define our country's future. This act of hostility by the Confederacy at Fort Sumter forced the hand of the United States to confront the issue of Southern secession with military action. It put this country into a war that although many in the country at the time thought would end in a matter of months, lasted four years and took the lives of hundreds of thousands of American men, women, and children. Stories of heroism, tales of valor, and so much more from this war has contributed to defining America, our way of life and most importantly changed the course of our future for the better. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Unique University Mascots

As I've been watching March Madness on TV over the last week I started to contemplate with some friends about where some of these universities got their names from. You come across teams like the Bulldogs, Huskies, Panthers, and Jawhawks its really pretty obvious the origin behind it. However have you ever asked yourself what a Tar Heel is, or Hoosier. Although there are numerous universities with unique and entertaining names I narrowed it down to simply 7.

North Carolina Tar Heels
Like so many odd names and phrases the exact origin of the term “tar heels is unknown. Luckily the legends behind the term keep us well entertained. Most of the legends connect two things; North Carolina’s early production of tar due to their vast pine forests that cover the state and the fighting style of North Carolina troops in both the American Revolution and the Civil War. One of the earliest references was in 1779 when General “Mad” Anthony Wayne led troops in New York to retake a position near West Point which became the headquarters for General Washington and his men. After the victory by the Continental army, General Wayne explained to Washington that much of the success of the battle goes to the North Carolina boys whose “heels were stuck like tar” as the British fire upon them relentlessly. There was a book written in 1901 about North Carolina’s history and in it referenced that the term Tar-heel State started during the Civil War because “in battle the soldiers of North Carolina stuck to their bloody work as if they had tar on their heels.” The book even stated that General Roberts E. Lee at one moment stated, “God bless the Tar-heel boys.” It seems that no matter when and where the term was first used it seems fairly obvious why it was started. So next time all you North Carolina see your team take the court or hit the field just remember, that they are “Tar-heels” and you should expect them to hold their ground and never give up under any circumstances.

Alabama Crimson Tide
The football tradition of Alabama University started as far back as 1892. Surprisingly it was not until 1899 that football at Alabama was a full time traveling sport. At the time the name for the team seemed to vary. Sometimes they were known as the “Crimson White” and other times they were simply known as “varsity”. In 1907 Alabama took the field against Auburn for the final time until the series was brought back in 1948. With Auburn a heavy favorite it was not looking good for Alabama. With all the rain that fell, the field was mired in mud which to the sports editor for the Birmingham Age-Herald, Hugh Roberts, seemed like a sea of mud; when the final seconds game off the clock, Alabama had tied the score 6-6. As Roberts wrote of the game the next day he compared Alabama to a Crimson Tide. It was at that point that Alabama became known as Crimson Tide. So to all those Alabama fans out there be glad you still aren’t called “varsity”, Roll-Tide.  

Stanford Cardinal
Win you first look at the Stanford Cardinal name your first thought is probably that it probably should be plural. You have multiple students on the field or court and they are each a cardinal, fighting together they are cardinals. However the name is actually not referencing the bird but rather the color. it probably Stanford’s first win as a football team was against California in 1892. Following that game the university established the color cardinal as their official primary color, however it was not until 1930 that the athletic department adopted a team mascot which was the Indian. By 1972 enough objections were made by Native American students that the President of the university dropped it and the name Cardinals took over. Despite the plural form being used the mascot name still referenced a color and not a bird. By 1981 the university president declared that athletic teams for Stanford would be name the Cardinal in the singular form to represent the color to avoid confusion. To this day Stanford has no official mascot however a member of the Stanford marching band continues the tradition of wearing a costume designed like a redwood tree. The tree is based on El Palo Alto which is believed to be over 1,000 year old and is depicted on the Stanford logo. At least for all Stanford fans it will be really easy to pick the right swatch when trying to paint your man-cave.

Delta State University Fighting Okra
 When one takes the court or the field it can be difficult to garner excitement for the “Statesmen”. It sounds more like a golf club society than a college mascot but sadly the teams of Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi wear it proudly. In the late 1980s the baseball and basketball players of Delta State were discussing how embarrassing and un-fearful a Fighting Statesmen was to their opponents. They all agreed that an alternative needed to be developed which was mean and maintained the school color, green. Bob Black a pitcher for Delta State suggested Okra because of its color and toughness. It was not long until baseball players who attended basketball games were chanting, Okra, Okra, Okra and from there the Fighting Okra of Delta State University developed. As something only college students could conjure up the costume depicts a giant Okra with an angry look on its face and boxing gloves. Tragically the university refuses to recognize the Fighting Okra as their official mascot but in the mid-1990s the student body elected to adopt the Okra as their unofficial university mascot. From there the popularity of the Fighting Okra grew exponentially with all kinds of merchandise available for purchase as well as folktales and legends about the “true” origin of the Okra. The most commonly told on involved a stubborn okra plant which grew near first base on the university field. However every time the okra was cut down to practice or play baseball the okra would spring back to life the following day. Although not an official team name for the university it is well worth learning the history behind the most feared vegetable in all of sports.

Indiana Hoosiers
Growing up in Indiana it was difficult to answer the question, what is a Hoosier? Because to be honest it sounds like a pretty silly word, almost made up but what could it possible mean? The number of possible legends and stories of the words etymology is too much to bear. Three stories involve men with the last name Hoosier. There was Harry Hoosier, a black Methodist minister, who evangelized throughout the frontier around 1800. Being one of the great preachers of his day his followers famously became known as “Hoosiers.” There was also Samuel Hoosier who was a contractor for the construction of the Louisville and Portland Canal in the late 1820s. Samuel was known for preferring to hire Indiana workers who quickly became known as “Hoosier men”. And finally a similar story as with Samuel Hoosier there was another contractor named Robert Hoosier whose employees had asked him if they could work on the new National Road being built in the Richmond, Indiana area. The federal foreman in charge of the project referred to those men working on the project as “Hoosiers.” Aside from these stories of men with the last name Hoosier, one historian of the Indiana Historical Society believes the word “Hoosier” was defined in the nineteenth-century as woodsmen or rough hill person. He believes the word comes from the Cumberland dialect of England which is “hoozer.” The word “hoozer” means anything unusually large, such as a hill. So from the word “hoozer” the people of Southern Indiana especially became known as “hoozers” and eventually “Hoosiers”. Where ever the term comes from it never has really given an Indiana native a great since of identity. Most of the time we try to ignore the question of “what is a hoosier” and focus on basketball or racing, things our state is normally pretty good at.

UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs
 When you first enter the Thimann Hall lecture building you will find a statute on the outside commemorating a sea lion. This was the mascot chosen in 1981 when UCSC started to first participate in collegiate sports. However long before the sea lion was selected the banana slug was the common mascot used in all campus coed sporting events. Even despite the university embracing the sea lion the student body would continue to chant for the slugs.  Quickly the student body rejected the notion of a fighting sea lion. In 1986, students rejecting the idea of a sea lion offered up a banana slug as apparently a better alternative. After a student vote was made to officially accept the banana slug as the official mascot of the school. The chancellor refused to honor the vote believing the athletes should choose the mascot. The athletes upheld the students’ choice and the banana slug was chosen as the official mascot of UCSC. The popularity of the Banana Slug mascot is so wide spread that ESPN voted it as the best team mascot name. Nice work UCSC, way to slug it up.

Akron Zips
The stories behind the names and mascots of universities and colleges can be unique and humorous. For the University of Akron there team name was selected from a contest back in 1925 by Margaret Hamlin who submitted “Zippers”. By the 1950s the school was seeking a mascot to represent the school. In steps All-American Akron diver Bob Savoy recommended the kangaroo and it was approved by the student council. Despite the initial resistance to the kangaroo it was eventually accepted and named “Zippy”. In fact Zippy is so widely accepted now that he won the 2007 Capital One Mascot of the Year award. Despite probably never seeing a kangaroo in real life, you have to love how popular their mascot has become.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lincoln's Assassin Escaped?

I've been watching the series "Brad Meltzer's Decoded" which is well worth your time to watch. Recently I watched the episode on John Wilkes Booth and the theory that he was not killed in a barn by Union soldiers. Instead the group chases down the possible aliases of John Wilkes Booth and the stories told by several people on why they believe he lived nearly forty years after Lincoln was assassinated.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Our Nation Divided: Cornerstone Speech

“The prevailing ideas entertained by him (Thomas Jefferson) and most of the leading statesman at the time of the formation of the old constitution (1787), were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that is was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with… Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.”
Alexander Stevens, Vice-President of the Confederacy, stated this to a packed crowd in Savannah, Georgia on March 21, 1861. The crowd grew so large that many demanded that Stevens give his speech outside but he felt that no matter where he gave it some would be unable to hear. Stevens’ speech was meant to layout for the people the clear differences between the United States constitution and the Confederacy’s newly formed one.  He started out referencing differences such as tariffs, responsibility of internal improvement, cabinet construction more in line with the style of the British parliament, term length and limit of the President, and finally, according to Stevens, the foundational difference between the United States and the Confederacy, slavery.

Stevens builds a detailed argument with the center of it being that the African’s inferiority was created and mandated by God. Stevens stated that “they (being anti-slavery advocates) were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal. Our system commits no such violation of nature’s laws. With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system.” Clearly the philosophy being laid out here has nothing to do with a need for slavery to maintain an agricultural economy but rather a superiority over the African laid out by God himself. In the context of 1861, the Confederacy is forming and the Union is trying to hold itself together. Citizens of the North are scrambling to find resolve and compromise to maintain the republic of our founders. However the battle lines are being drawn and Stevens is clearly defining the separation not in political ideals or legislative policies but rather a foundational philosophical and moral parallel which can not find compromise nor communion. Stevens speech is building the stark reality that two nations are now formed and it is the will of the Southern or Confederate people to maintain their independence from the United States. Not because of petty disagreements that have built over time but a basic difference in the way each views the world and it is because of that different worldview that the two sides can not coexist. 

From the Norths perspective after reading through this speech in the papers the following day two things seem quite clear. The time for unity through compromise has long past. And that the only way in which the Union can be maintain is through force. Stevens even understands this however believes that Lincoln is bluffing in his threats to use force, especially when it comes to Fort Sumter. "The prospect of war is, at least, not so threatening as it has been. The idea of coercion, shadowed forth in President Lincoln's inaugural, seems not to be followed up thus far so vigorously as was expected. Fort Sumter, it is believed, will soon be evacuated." The next steps are quite clear and the inevitable conflict is on the horizon. This cornerstone speech is clearly a necessary cog in the establishment of an independent republic to separate itself from its mother country and seek its own identity. Its identify, the Confederate States of America's identity is routed in practice and establishment of slavery. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

New 9/11 Footage from the Sky

For those of you who may not have realized this September will mark the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. For many of us that day will forever be burned into the memories of our lives. A few days ago leaked footage taken from a NYPD Sea and Rescue Chopper was posted on the Internet. It shows chilling footage of the towers after they were hit and even video of the area from sky after the first tower fell. I suggest spending a few minutes and watching the video. It gives you a different perspective of the destruction as well as reminds us of that terrible day and the many lives lost.  

Friday, March 4, 2011

Our Nation Divided: Lincoln's First Inaugural Address

By March 4, 1861 the Confederate States of America had been formed for nearly a month with a leader, Jefferson Davis, in place and a clear establishment of two countries. Then in steps Abraham Lincoln to give his first inaugural address as President of the United States of America. Immediately Lincoln tries to remind the people of our history and our Constitution, as well as the significance of its history to the American people. Then Lincoln jumps right into addressing the issue of the secession of Southern states.
Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that—I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”
We talk all the time about how Lincoln was the champion of abolitionists and how he emancipated the slaves. We can not discount Lincoln’s past speeches and writing that describe his distaste for slavery, however the reality is as President he was not planning on emancipating the slaves the very day he took office. In fact most of speech tries to reassure the South that slavery will be enforced by his administration because it is supported by the Constitution. He speaks directly to the seceded states of the South saying that the President and all members of Congress are sworn to protect the rights of all States per the Constitution. Lincoln was attempting to build a trust with the South that he is their President as much as he is the President of the North.


Lincoln then justifies his position of authority to protect the Union in the event of a break which was happening in the South. He looks to the Constitution and his position as an enforcer of laws. A secession of a state is a violation of the Constitution and as he points out the “more perfect Union” that the founders created must be protected. Without question Lincoln’s only objective was to maintain the Union and avoid conflict. He wanted the people of the South to realize that they have a place in United States of America as citizens protected by the Constitution and laws, not lost among a tidal wave of majority rule. Lincoln believed that conflicts could be resolved and war could be avoided but it was not up to him, it was up to the South.
“In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to "preserve, protect, and defend it. I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
Lincoln’s first inaugural establishes the direction that the North was going to take when it came to dealing with the South and their secession, their newly formed government. They wanted to maintain and preserve the Union through diplomatic and amicable means, however if it came down to it they would go to war to keep it together. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Portion of Jefferson's Extensive Library is Found

At Washington University in St Louis, Missouri some of Thomas Jefferson's books were discovered in the rare books section of the library. The search is on to see if there are more than the 28 titles and 74 volumes. Currently historians are pouring over the books looking for personal notes written by our Third President of the United States. The books were actually donated to the University by Jefferson's granddaughter, Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge. It was never believed these books were originally from the library of Thomas Jefferson however most of his library was sold off after his death to pay off debt and granddaughter Ellen purchased many of them. This is very exciting to see more of the library of Thomas Jefferson as well as what kind of notes and drawing he added to these books. I look forward to hearing more on this in the future. 


http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/02/22/jeffersons-books-university-library/

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Our Nation Divided: Confederacy is Born

And so it begins. One hundred fifty years-ago today the Confederate States of America was formally created and Jefferson Davis was selected as their first and what would be their only leader. I find it interesting as the Civil War develops and the drama unfolds how it seems Jefferson Davis' role as leader of the Confederacy is more ceremonial than anything else. Maybe Civil War buffs will argue how I'm wrong but to me it seemed that the people of the South looked toward Robert E. Lee as their leader and champion of their cause rather than Davis. I liken it to the American Revolution when John Hancock was President of the Congress and effectually the leader of the government however it was the general George Washington who was the leader of the people and the champion of their cause. Lee will eventually deny the commission from President Lincoln to lead the Union Army against the rebellious South and it won't be until April 1861 when we see him take command of Army of Virginia. When Lee takes command it truly is then when the South has its voice, although it is more the silent type, it speaks loudly on the field of battle.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Today in History: Celebrating Ronald Reagan

Few Presidents in our history have touched the lives of American people like Ronald Reagan. You could probably only count them on a single hand and argue about the second hand in terms of presidential superstars, those in the upper echelon of our history. One can easily argue that Reagan deserves to be on that first hand of Presidential superstars. We could argue all day long based on what political philosophy you hold to on what you really think of Reagan and his conservatism, but as a historian one must look at the presidency separate from ones own political viewpoint. 


In 1980, the United States seeking hope in the future of the American way of life. The scandal of the Nixon administration still had a bitter taste on the Americans mouths. Then followed a massive recession during the Carter Administration. To no surprise the American people saw no good coming from the government and their leaders. Then in steps Ronald Reagan, a charismatic leader who inspired the people to believe in themselves and not the solutions that government offered. It was exactly what the people wanted to hear at the time. 


Today we celebrate President Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday. To remind us all of who we was and most importantly what he stood for I have attached some YouTube videos. Take some time to look through them with an open mind. 


Reagan's First Inaugural Address - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpPt7xGx4Xo
"We the People" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlgTwp93E48
The Wit of Ronald Reagan - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X39dGQmBEww
Tribute to the Life of Ronald Reagan - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8_G-mlKxTY&feature=related

Monday, January 31, 2011

Today in History: The Milwaukee Bridge War

Despite studying history for some time now and then I occasionally come across a story that surprises me. For a couple years my family lived in the Milwaukee, WI area and I even had the pleasure of visiting the city. It was enjoyable to walk around, meet the people, and see the sights. It never crossed my mind that the founding of the city had such a unique story. 

In 1818, a man by the name of Solomon Juneau traveled down from Montreal, Canada. He helped found a town on the site of a trading post located on the east side of the Milwaukee River known affectionately as Juneau's Side and eventually Juneautown. Realizing the times were changing Juneau focused his efforts away from the fur trade, which dominated the area, and turned his attention toward real estate, building the settlement to a thriving town. Some years later a ruthless businessman named Byron Kilbourn, originally coming from Ohio, had worked as a government surveyor in Green Bay and personally staked out some land on the west side of the Milwaukee River. Like Juneau he saw the potential of the area as a possible port city for Lake Michigan which spills eventually into the Atlantic Ocean. The land Kilbourn staked out however was actually owned by the Potawatomi. After some secret dealings, Kilbourn snuck the land it into a federal survey and was able to take control of the area in 1835. Quickly the area grew like Juneautown and became known as Kilbourntown. 


Because of their close proximity and shared river both towns immediately developed a rivalry. Byron Kilbourn worked really hard at trying to isolate Juneautown so Kilbourntown would be the thriving metropolis. However in 1845 the Wisconsin legislature required the people of the area to build a draw bridge over the Milwaukee River because the original ferry system was not accomodating the growing population. Kilbourn and the people on the west side saw the bridge as a violation to their independence they had been trying to build for the last decade. Juneautown showed excitement for the bridge and the possibility of growth for their community as a result of it. Tensions between the two cities had been mounting over the last decade and the bridge construction brought all of it to a head. In May of 1845 Kilbourn made the decision to drop the west side of the bridge in the water. As a result, a mob of Juneautowners formed looking to fight for this bridge and stand up for their rights as a town. Violence was pushed off for a few weeks until Juneautown members destroyed two smaller bridges in an attempt to cut off the west side, Kilbourners. The goal was to give them a taste of their own medicine. Skirmishes broke out between the two sides with surprisingly no deaths. Eventually hostilities ended between the two sides and a call for corporation started. Even the founders realized that the only way their towns were going to survive is if they worked together. On January 31, 1846 the towns of Juneautown and Kilbourntown unified to create the City of Milwaukee. Solomon Juneau stepped in as the first mayor of the great city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 
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