Tuesday, February 9, 2016

FEBRUARY 9 = J.Q. Adams is Elected by the House

On today's date, February 9 in 1825, John Quincy Adams (left) was elected President of the United States by the U.S. House of Representatives. It was the first election in which a candidate who had received  minority of the initial tally of the Electoral votes, as well as the minority of the popular votes went on to win the office of President.  But charges of a "Corrupt Bargain" would arise from this election and would go on to cripple the Adams administration.

The Election of 1824 - A MESS!
For those of you out there who are inclined to look a our present system of electing a President from too many candidates, you really should take a look at the situation faced by voters in 1824.  The old system that had produced the victors of the last three presidents, all from the Democrat-Republican Party (and YES, that is exactly what it was called) had broken down. There were quite a number of aspirants for the top job. One reporter described them as a group of "Hasbeens, Cantbees, Mightabees," and "Wouldabeens" none of whom were really qualified (does this begin to sound just a bit like our current crop of 2016 candidates??). Nevertheless, the field broke down into five, count 'em FIVE candidates: John Quincy Adams who was Secretary of State to the outgoing President, James Monroe, and the son of our 2'nd President, John Adams, Henry Clay who was the Speaker of the House, and a great favorite of the western states, General Andrew Jackson, also a western-favored candidate, William H. Crawford, Monroe's Secretary of the Treasury, and John C. Calhoun a favorite in the southeastern states.

The Election Goes Into the House...

Unfortunately for everyone, the election, held in the Fall of 1824, solved nothing, although it did produce a clear leader in both the popular and the Electoral tallies: Andrew Jackson won 151,271 of the popular vote, with 99 electoral, Adams with 113,122 and 84 electoral, Crawford getting fewer popular votes than Clay, but more electoral with 41 to Clay's 37.  Jackson (below), the fierce military hero of the Seminole Indian Wars and the victor of the Battle of New Orleans
during the War of 1812 had clearly come out as the leader.  But the total number of Electoral Votes cast was 261 and the Constitution required the winner to have a majority of the Electoral Votes which would be 131. Failing such a majority, the Constitution called for the top three Electoral winners to vie for a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.  This left Jackson, Adams and Crawford in the pool, with the balance in the hands of Henry Clay (John C. Calhoun took the vice Presidency). A letter was published in the papers on Jan. 28 saying that Clay had been offered the Secretary of State post in return for pledging his support to Adams.  This caused a huge furor, with Clay hotly denying any such offer. But the fact was that Clay did favor Adams. "...killing 2,500 Englishmen at New Orleans.." did not in Clay's view qualify Jackson for the Presidency.  So he put his support behind Adams in the House,  and on today's date Adams was elected in the House of Representatives on the first ballot.

"The Corrupt Bargain...."

Well however unhappy the Jackson faction was at this, they really went crazy, when three days after his election in the House, Adams did in fact offer the post of Secretary of State to Henry Clay. Adams knew and respected Clay, and Clay did not wish to give Adams a vote of  "no confidence" by turning the offer down, so he accepted the job.  There had in fact been no bargain between the two men. But
Jackson and his followers were having none of it. The two men had concluded a "Corrupt Bargain" afterall!! "The Judas of the West has closed the contract and will receive the thirty pieces of silver. . . Was there ever witnessed such a bare faced corruption in any country before?" railed Jackson in a letter to his wife. "His end will be the same!!" The cries of corruption would be howled by Jackson and his supporters unrelentingly for the next four years, effectively crippling the Adams administration, until Jackson won the re-match with Adams, winning the Presidency himself in the election of 1828.

Sources =

"Presidential Campaigns" by Paul F. Boller Jr., Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 1984



Thursday, January 21, 2016

JANUARY 21 = Louis XVI is Executed

"The carriage proceeded thus in silence to the Place de Louis XV, and stopped in the middle of a large space that had been left round the scaffold: this space was surrounded with cannon, and beyond, an armed multitude extended as far as the eye could reach. As soon as the King perceived that the carriage stopped, he turned and whispered to me, 'We are arrived, if I mistake not.' My silence answered that we were."

This was how Henry Essex Edgeworth recalled one of the last moments of Louis XVI (above), who was executed by the guillotine on today's date, January 21 in 1793.  Edgeworth was an Englishman, a priest living in France during this time, and had been requested by Louis as the man who would hear  his final confession. Edgeworth heard the final confession of Louis, and then stayed with him on his ride to his place of execution.

The Fall of Louis XVI

Louis XVI was as Nicholas II (the last Czar of Russia) would prove to be a century and a quarter later, the wrong man at the wrong time. He ascended to the throne of France in 1774, a time when his country had been driven nearly to the point of bankruptcy by the excessive spending on luxurious living committed by his royal predecessors, Louis XIV, and Louis XV.  Indeed it was Louis XV who was said to have spoken the
infamous phrase "Après moi le déluge" ("After me, the deluge"), meaning that after the wild excesses of his reign, the "deluge", or the "flood" would come and sweep away his successors.  Louis XVI was a decent man, but a man who lacked any genuine understanding of the economic and social forces which were combining to overwhelm him.  Plus, Louis had an unpopular foreign-born wife, Marie Atoinette (right), who being from Austria, became the object of the xenophobia of the lower classes, who blamed her for all of the nation's problems.

The Road to Execution

As the financial crisis deepened, there were calls for the King to call "the Estates General", an old legislative body, which had not met since 1614. Louis did in fact convoke that body, which met on May 1, 1789. In my Blog posting for July 14, "Bastille Day" I give a detailed account of why "the Estates General" didn't work ("France and Her Revolutionary Crisis"). For our purposes here let it suffice to say
Louis wound up being deposed as King, and he and his family were eventually imprisoned in the Tuileries Palace (See my posting for Jan. 4: "Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in Captivity"). When the royal family attempted to escape to Austria on June 21, 1791, they were recaptured (above) and thereafter were seen as plotting with a foreign government against France, thus losing any popular respect he still had. He was tried by the National Assembly for crimes against the people in 1792, and was convicted on Jan. 20, leading to his execution on January 21, 1793.

Louis Goes to the Guillotine

Edgeworth then describes how after an attempt was made to bind his hands Louis mounted the scaffold and went to the guillotine (a new form of execution named in 1789 for it's inventor, and was then hailed as a more humane form of capitol punishment) with bravery and dignity:

"The path leading to the scaffold was extremely rough and difficult to pass.... I saw him cross with a firm foot the breadth of the whole scaffold; silence, by his look alone, fifteen or twenty drums that were placed opposite to me; and in a voice so loud, that it must have been heard it the Pont Tournant, I heard him pronounce distinctly these memorable words: 'I die innocent of all the crimes laid to my charge; I Pardon those who have occasioned my death; and I pray to God that the blood you are going to shed may never be visited on France.'"

"Many voices were at the same time heard encouraging the executioners. They seemed reanimated themselves, in seizing with violence the most virtuous of Kings, they dragged him under the axe of the guillotine, which with one stroke severed his head from his body. All this passed in a moment. The youngest of the guards, who seemed about eighteen, immediately seized the head, and showed it to the people as he walked round the scaffold; he accompanied this monstrous ceremony with the most atrocious and indecent gestures. At first an awful silence prevailed; at length some cries of 'Vive la Republique!' were heard."

Marie Antoinette would follow her husband to the guillotine on October 19 of 1793. The body of Louis XVI was interred at the old Church of the Madeleine. On 21 January 1815 Louis XVI and his wife's remains were re-buried in the Basilica of Saint-Denis where in 1816 his brother, King Louis XVIII, had a funerary monument erected.

Sources =






Wednesday, January 6, 2016

SPECIAL = A Poem for the New Year

I would like if I may, to step out of my role as an historian for just a moment and post a poem for the New Year.  This was written by Frank M. Lee (pictured left as a boy), whose words you have read in these Blog pages before.  It was Frank's engaging autobiographical book, "Nekkid" on which I drew in my Blog about the Polio vaccine back on April 12, 2014: "Salk Polio Vaccine Works". Here is Frank's poem written for best hopes in the New Year:

Time he sed is a friend of mine
a helpful guide that gives me
space to be who I am
and a marvelous stage
for me to practice
what I'll be someday.

But he sed
but time is also a dragon
relentlessly sucking down it's throat
a nanosecond at a time
til our last shiny toenail disappears
down that maw of wuz

My wish for you for the New Year
is that the dragon will  swallow slowly
and that your life will blaze brightly
with the joy you make for yourself
and those you love or like a lot
with your precious time.

- Frank M. Lee

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


"December 22, 1944
To the German Commander,

N U T S ! 

The American Commander"

The Germans didn't know what to make of it. But to the American soldiers on whose behalf it was issued on today's date, December 22 in 1944 by Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe (above) the meaning of that one syllable reply was more than clear enough. It summed up the courage and fighting spirit of the American soldier, and their determination to stand fast against overwhelming odds.

The War in Europe in December, 1944

By the autumn of 1944, the morale of the Allies (the United States and Great Britain) was riding high. The summer of bloody fighting that began with the Invasion of Normandy, and the static fighting for yards at a time in the Hedgerow country* had given way to the breakout which had the Allies making a clean sweep across France.  Paris had been liberated on August 24 to wild cheering and celebration (below).
Since then, the Allies had pushed the reeling Germans back to the very borders of their own country. By mid-December the Allied line ran from the Belgian coast to the Swiss border But one section was considered quiet, and was lightly guarded by the 106th Infantry Division of the United States Army. This was an 80 mile section running from southern Belgium to central Luxembourg, which made up the thickly wooded Ardenne Forest. Because of the presence of the Ardenne, it was considered impassable by an Army with heavy equipment such as tanks.

The Surprise Attack, Bastogne, and "the Battle of the Bulge"

Little did the Allies know that under the greatest secrecy, and against the advice of his generals, the German leader Adolf Hitler had for months been diverting men and material from the Eastern (Russian) front, and bringing them west to make one last attempt to drive the Allies back. He had assembled 25 Divisions, including 250,000 men and over 340 Tiger Tanks. The Tiger (below) was a fearsome weapon
which packed an 88 mm cannon, and was heavily armored. But it used up a lot of fuel, on which the Germans were short. The objective of the attack was to split the Allied forces in two, and then push on to the Belgian port of Antwerp, and cut off the supplies which flowed to the Allies from that source.  The attack was unleashed on Dec. 16 under the command of Field Marshall Walter Model.  The Allied Generals, primarily Dwight Eisenhower, and Omar Bradley were taken completely by surprise, and it wasn't until the 17th that they fully realized their dire situation. They had only four and a half divisions in place to face the surprise attack. So they gathered up their only reserves, the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, and rushed them into a small town named Bastogne which stood at the confluence of several of the only passable roads through the Ardenne. This whole engagement came to be called "the Battle of the Bulge", because of the bulge which the German attack made in the American lines (see map below, click on to enlarge).

Bastogne is Surrounded; McAuliffe Speaks!

In spite of hard fighting on the part of the American troops, by December 20, the Germans had surrounded Bastogne.  At 11:30 a.m. on the morning of today's date, a group of four German soldiers approached the American lines under the cover of a white flag.  One of them, Lieutenant Hellmuth Henke, had a briefcase under his arm.  They said that they had a message for the American Commander. They were blindfolded and taken to the Headquarters of the 101st Airborne's acting commander, General McAuliffe. Their message from the German commander read in part:

"December 22nd 1944

To the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.

The fortune of war is changing. This time the U.S.A.
forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong
German armored units... There is only one possibility to save 
the encircled U.S.A troops from total annihilation: that is the 
honorable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think 
it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the 
presentation of this note....If this proposal should be rejected 
one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A. Battalions are 
ready to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne.
All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would 
not correspond with the well known American humanity.

The German Commander."

General McAuliffe was awakened from a nap to be told of the Germans
and their "offer". At first, coming out of his nap, he misunderstood and though that the Germans were offering to surrender to him. When their actual mission was explained, the General in frustration yelled "Us surrender? Awww, NUTS!"  They discussed their situation for some time. Finally, the General was told that the Germans, having presented a formal written offer, were expecting a formal written reply. The story, as told by Kenneth J. McAuliffe on the U.S. Army's website (listed below)
then continues:

"When (Col Bud) Harper arrived at the Headquarters, he was asked to wait outside of the closed door to McAulliffe's quarters. Inside, in the presence of his staff, McAulliffe wondered aloud, "Well, I don't know what to tell them." At that point, (Lt. Col. Harry) Kinnard said, 'What you said initially would be hard to beat.' McAulliffe asked 'What do you mean?' Kinnard, said, 'Sir, you said nuts.' All members of the staff enthusiastically agreed, so McAulliffe wrote it down on a message pad and said, 'Have it typed up.'"

This reply, given at the top of this posting left the Germans confused.

"...the Germans opened and looked at the reply. They asked, 'What does this mean?' They obviously didn't understand the American slang. Harper and (PFC Ernest) Premetz discussed how to explain it. Harper suggested, 'Tell them to take a flying s**t!' Premetz thought about it, then straightened up, faced the Germans and said, 'Du kannst zum Teufel gehen.' He told Harper it meant 'You can go to Hell.' Then Harper said, 'If you continue to attack, we will kill every goddamn German that tries to break into this city.'"

And that is how the story has come down to us. The Battle of the Bulge would go on for over a month, although General Patton's Third Army, having pulled out of it's own eastward attack to move 100 miles to the north an relieve the 101'st, did in fact break through to Bastogne on 
December 26.  Eventually the poor weather which had been protecting the German tanks cleared and left them exposed to Allied air attack. This and a huge amount of ground fighting by exhausted American infantry finally broke the back of the German offensive. And by January 25, the Germans had finally been pushed back to where they started. General McAuliffe's defiant and very terse reply to the Germans has since become the stuff of folklore... except that it really happened!!

* = A hedge or hedgerow is a line of closely spaced shrubs and tree species, planted and trained to form a barrier or to mark the boundary of an area. It was the division of Normandy into hundreds of such parcels of land that made the campaign in Normandy such a long, hard fight.  The infantry would be able to take one after hours of fighting, and then another would be there, having to be taken in the same way.  


"American Experience: Battle of the Bulge" Prod. by Thomas Lennon, written by Thomas Lennon and Mark Zwonitzer.  Found at the following web address = 

"NUTS! The Battle of the Bulge" by Donald M. Goldstein, Katherine V. Dillon, and J. Michael Wenger, Brassey's, Washington, 1994.

Friday, November 27, 2015

NOVEMBER 27 = Alger Hiss is Released from Prison

On today's date, November 27, in 1954 Alger Hiss, a former official at the U.S. State Department was released from prison after serving 44 months (left).  Hiss had been convicted of Perjury in lying to a Federal Grand Jury when he denied having stolen State Department documents and having passed them along to Whittaker Chambers and also when he denied having known Chambers after 1935.  All of this was part of a highly-charged and very public scandal in late 1948 - 50.  And it all got mixed up with a bunch of stuff involving "Pumpkin Papers" an old typewriter, and a bird called the "Prothonotary Warbler." WHAT?? And why is any of this important in this day of computers, and a modern global economy? Does the name Edward Snowden ring a bell?

Hiss -vs- Chambers: A Study in Contrasts

In August of 1948. The House Un-American Activities Committee was conducting hearings on possible communist infiltration into the American government.  This was a very real threat in the minds of Americans who were for the first time facing a world where one bomb could destroy a city, and where the Soviets stood just a secret away from acquiring such a bomb.  Richard M. Nixon, who was then an
ambitious young congressman from California was on the Committee which was hearing testimony from Whittaker Chambers (above), an Editor at Time Magazine, who confessed to having once been a communist. Chambers was about as unlikely a source for important information as one could imagine. Nixon was aghast: "I could hardly believe that this man was our witness.  Whittaker Chambers was one of the most disheveled-looking persons I had ever seen. Everything about him seemed wrinkled and unpressed. He was short and pudgy.  His shirt collar was curled up over his jacket.  He spoke in a rather bored monotone."

But his information was anything but boring.  He named several individuals who had been a part of this cell.  One of the men he named was Alger Hiss.  Hiss had risen to the highest ranks of the New Deal establishment of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman. He had
clerked for the legendary Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.  He had advised FDR at the Yalta Conference. He was friends with Dean Acheson, the former Under Secretary of State.  And he was presently the President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Hiss insisted on rebutting Chambers' charge and did so on Aug. 5 (above).  Nixon biographer Stephen Ambrose wrote: "Tall, thin, handsome, smartly dressed, the Carnegie Endowment president (above) carried himself with assurance, making the sharpest possible contrast with Chambers."  "In a firm voice.." Nixon recalled, "...he said 'I am here at my own request to deny unqualifiedly various statements which were made... by one Whittaker Chambers.." He then went on to deny that he had ever been a communist, and that not only did he not know anyone called Chambers but as far as he could recall, he never had. At the close of his remarks his many friends crowded around him to congratulate him on his superlative performance.

The HUAC and Nixon Question Hiss Further

But Nixon objected to Hiss' attitude towards the Committee which he considered to be "insulting in the extreme." So he arranged for the two men to be questioned privately. On August 7, Nixon and HUAC members questioned Chambers who seemed to know quite a bit about Hiss and his home life. This was fine, but they needed something specific. Chambers also recalled their hobbies.  "They used to get up early in the morning and go to Glen Echo, out the canal, to observe birds.  I recall once they saw, to their great excitement, a 
prothonotary warbler." Armed with this and other info. on Aug. 16, the Committee questioned Hiss who said that he did not recognize Chambers at all. After the morning recess he amended that to say he might have known a man who looked like that named "George Crosley". When Nixon asked if he had any hobbies he said yes, tennis and ornothology. When Congressman John MacDowell asked if Hiss had ever seen a prothonotary warbler Hiss responded enthusiastically: "I have--right here on the Potomac.  Do you know that place?" The HUAC was convinced - Chambers knowledge of Hiss had to be first hand. To their mind he was clearly lying to the HUAC when he said he had never known Chambers.

Chambers and "the Pumpkin Papers"

The HUAC published a report calling the testimony of Hiss "vague and evasive." Of course by the time the whole matter of a charge of espionage had become a moot point, as the Statute of Limitations had long since passed on any such indictment.  But Hiss was open to a charge of lying before a House committee. Chambers produced documents with handwritten notes from Hiss proving that Hiss had in fact known him in the 1930's. But there was more. Chambers had
hidden some of the film on which he had photographed incriminating documents in an odd place. On December 2, 1948, Chambers lead investigators from the HUAC to a pumpkin patch on his farm in Maryland. There in a hollowed out pumpkin, Chambers produced several strips of film of  State and Navy Department documents which he said Hiss had passed to him. The press referred ever after to all of the documents taken form Maryland as "the Pumpkin Papers", which Nixon and HUAC member Robert Stripling are examining above.  These documents containing more hand written notes from Hiss built a case against the man who was now wide open to the perjury charge.

Hiss is Tried for Perjury

Hiss was charged with Perjury in a trial that began on May 31, 1949.  There were charges that Chambers had indeed known Hiss, and character witnesses galore testifying to Hiss and his sterling character. There was also a lot of testimony as to the possession of an old typewriter - a "Woodstock" typewriter with keys that would jam up on the writer. Hiss was alleged to have written up some of the secret documents he had passed to Chambers on this machine, and there was testimony that the Hiss family had given the typewriter to a family - the Catlatt's - before Hiss could have written the secret
 documents on them.  All of this ended with a hung jury on July 6, 1949. The second trial began on Nov. 17, 1949, and had more testimony regarding the typewriters as well as testimony from a witness, one Hede Messing who provided some corroboration for Chamber's story. Also an expert witness, Dr. Carl A. Binger delivered testimony that Chambers was a (above, Chambers with the "Guilty" verdict announcement) psychopath who was a  "a pathological liar." Claude Cross, the attorney for Hiss said in his closing that the typewriter may have belonged to Hiss, but somehow been used by someone else to type the incriminating documents to frame Hiss. Whatever the case, the second trial returned a verdict of Guilty on Hiss on Jan. 21, and he was sentenced to five years imprisonment on the perjury charge.

The Guilty Verdict on Hiss and Its Legacy

The guilty verdict on Hiss has remained controversial . Hiss maintained his innocence to the end of his life. Richard Nixon, receiving his first national fame as a result of the case, went on with his career, which culminated in his election to the presidency in 1968, and his forced resignation amidst the Watergate Scandal in 1974.  Hiss held that his conviction had been a result of cold war paranoia, and that Nixon's forced departure was proof that he was innocent. But in 1976, Allen Weinstein wrote a book called "Perjury - the Hiss Chambers Case." Originally intended as the definitive proof that Hiss had been innocent, in reviewing the evidence, Weinstein instead came to the opposite conclusion. Further, documents released since the fall of the Soviet Union have made a strong case that Hiss was in fact a Soviet Spy during the 1930's. Whittaker Chambers died in 1961. Nixon died in 1994, and Hiss died in 1996. The case has long since faded from current memory. But as has been shown with the case of Edward Snowden (below), the problem of government operatives releasing classified
information for their own reasons, and receiving assistance from Russia for it is still very much with us - even in this age of the world wide web, and shared information. Foreign espionage did not die with the Soviet System.


"RN - the Memoirs of Richard Nixon" by Richard M. Nixon, Grosset & Dunlap, New York, 1978

"Nixon - the Education of a Politician 1913 - 1962" by Stephen E. Ambrose Simon & Schuster, New York, 1987





Monday, November 23, 2015

NOVEMBER 23 = "Boss" Tweed is Taken

"Had he gone more slowly and carried on his operations on a smaller scale, and been simpler in his habits and less ostentatious in his pleasures, he could have retained his power until now, and might have strengthened it and made his overthrow far more difficult. A villain of more brains would have had a modest dwelling and would have guzzled in secret. He found, however, the seizure of the government and the malversation of its funds so easy at the outset that he was thrown off his guard."

- The Nation Magazine on Tweed's death in 1878.

On today's date, November 23 in 1876, William Marcy Tweed, the one-time "Boss" of the corrupt Democratic Party political machine of Tammany Hall was handed over to New York City Police.  Tweed had been recognized from one of the political cartoons of Thomas Nast while he was on the lamb in Spain.

The Rise of William M. Tweed

Born on April 3, 1823 in New York City to a third generation Scottish-Irish chair maker, Tweed rose rapidly through the ranks of local politics from an ax-wielding volunteer fireman to a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1852. In 1858 the New York City democratic party, in an attempt to block Republican reformers at the state capitol of Albany, appointed Tweed to the NYC Board of
Supervisors. In this post, Tweed got his first taste of graft. Tweed and his fellows forced vendors to pay a 15% overcharge to them in order to do business with the city. Tammany Hall was the corrupt political organization (founded by Aaron Burr) which ruled NYC's democratic politics for many years. By the mid 1860s,  Tweed (right) had risen to command the organization and through the “Tweed Ring,” which openly bilked millions from city contracts, bought votes, and which cultivated judicial corruption, he and his henchmen dominated the political life of New York City. For example, Tweed's Ring got a new charter passed which put NYC's finances under the control of the Board of Audit, which consisted of Tweed and his men. This meant that the Ring was able to vastly over charge vendors for doing business with NYC, and then they could pocket the extra cash.

Tweed -vs- Thomas Nast 

Of course along the way to all of this ill-gotten gain Tweed, who actually held the office of a State Senator from New York, acquired a good many enemies. The New York Times attacked him vigorously. And most damaging of all were the illustrations of Thomas Nast,
a political cartoonist for Harper's Weekly, a very popular news magazine of the day. Nast regularly portrayed Tweed and his henchmen as stealing money from the people of the city, and loving every moment of it. A famous depiction of Tweed from the pen of Nast is at the top of this posting. Another (above) depicts the Tweed ring saying "Who stole the people's money? T'was him!" Tweed is said to have complained "Stop them damned pictures. I don't care so much what the papers say about me. My constituents don't know how to read, but they can't help seeing them damned pictures!"

Tweed's Downfall

But all of this activity came to a head with the New York Times reports on the cost overruns in the re-modeling of the City Courthouse in 1871. With the cost of the re-done NYC Courthouse reaching well over $3,000,000 and counting, greater scrutiny came onto the project than any other Tammany-backed project had ever seen before. In a series of articles, the Times made the greed of the Tweed Ring apparent, picking
apart piece by piece the obviously frivolous expenses attached to the project. Huge sums were attached to furniture, carpeting and shades. New Yorkers became outraged, and fully supported the investigation of the whole matter by Samuel Tilden (right), a non-Tammany democrat who was looking to end the corruption of the Tammany organization. Ultimately Tweed's man, the city Comptroller was obliged to resign, and was replaced by Tilden's man, Andrew Green. Tilden and Green examined the city's records and discovered that money from the contractors was going directly into Tweed's pockets. He was arrested the next day.

"Boss" Tweed Goes to Jail

He got out on bail, and attempted to regain his position via elections. But the public had had enough of Tweed and his cronies. The election went very poorly, and Tweed was re-arrested. The jury at his first trial in January of 1873 was unable to agree on a verdict. But the second trial in November of that year returned a verdict of guilty on most of the counts. Tweed was locked up in the Ludlow St. Jail. But he was
allowed visits to his home, and during one of these, he escaped and fled to Spain wherein he worked as a common seaman. But his infamy followed him, as did his image as depicted by Thomas Nast (left).  It was from one of Nast's drawings that he was recognized, and taken prisoner, and handed over to the U.S. Navy who returned him to the NYPD on today's date in 1876.  Tweed was returned to prison.  And it was there that he died from severe pneumonia on April 12, 1878. Tweed is to this day remembered as one of the most corrupt figures of all of the big city political bosses. And it was the cartoons of Thomas Nast that lead to his downfall, and eventually to his recapture. Then we shall let Nast have the final word on the man with his January, 1876 cartoon depicting Tweed's escape from prison: "Stone walls do not a prison make.."







Wednesday, November 18, 2015

NOVEMBER 18 = Time Zones Are Adopted in the U.S.A.

“All over the United States and Canada, people changed their clocks and watches in synchronization with their zone’s standard time... In one moment the many different standards of time that had caused conflict and confusion, were resolved into four simple standards.”

- The Library of Congress

On November 18, 1883, at the stroke of midnight, the United States adopted Standard Time Zones throughout the country.  This meant that instead of each town having its own time, the entire country would run according to four time zones: Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific. And all at once the confusion and chaos of time changes across the country became a thing of the past.

Time-Keeping Chaos Across America

For the most part in man's history, time was kept in towns according to the sundial. One had only to look up at the sun, and there was the standard time for the area you were in. Now this was fine, as long as man could travel no faster than he could on the back of a horse. And most towns did indeed keep their own time based on the sundial. But once the Telegraph was introduced, and the Railroads, and these new modes of transportation shrunk the amount of time it took to get from one place to the other scheduling became a nightmare. Railroad timetables in most of the major cities of the U.S. would be obliged to list several differing arrival and departure times for a single train each one linked to a separate time zone in a different locality.

The Effort to Standardize Time Zones

In order to keep an accurate schedule of when goods, services or passengers could be expected to arrive at a certain place at a certain time, railroads needed standardized time zones. It is a mark of the power possessed by railroads that they, and not the government brought about this fundamental change in everyday American life. In the 1870's international efforts to bring standardized time zones into use began being made. In 1870, Charles F. Dowd proposed running U.S. railroads on four different time zones based on a meridian that ran through Washington D.C. In 1872 he amended this
to basing it on a meridian that ran through Greenwhich, England. Sandford Fleming (right), a Canadian inventor and railroad engineer proposed worldwide Standard Time at a meeting of the Royal Canadian Institute on February 8, 1879. In 1879 at the General Time Convention, Cleveland Abbe, an American meteorologist recommended four time zones across the contiguous U.S. based on Greenwhich Mean Time (the basic standard for world time). Eventually this was the plan which was adopted. And the date set was the 18'th of November.

On November 18, 1883...

As Dennis Cummings has colorfully recorded:

"At noon on Nov. 18, the U.S. Naval Observatory adjusted its signals to reflect the new time zones. Crowds gathered near town clocks across the country to watch the clocks be changed. In many places where the time was moved back, it became known as the 'day of two noons,' while other areas 'lost' minutes."

There was consid- erable resistance to this change in certain localities, but the railroad was by this time the lifeblood of the country, and frequently the only link for many such towns with the rest of the world. So most Americans and Canadians fully embraced this new idea of time zones. But it was actually not until 1918 that Congress - then as now catching up with what the country was already doing - officially adopted the four tine zones, placing in the supervision of the Interstate Commerce Commission.