Thursday, July 28, 2016

JULY 28 = The 14'th Amendment is Adopted

On today's date, July 28 in 1868, the Fourteenth
Amend- ment to the Consti- tution of the United States was adopted following its ratification by the required two thirds of states. The amendment basically guaranteed the full rights and privileges
of U.S. citizenship to all African Americans who had been freed from the chains of slavery by the passage of the 13th Amendment (abolishing slavery) during the civil war.

The Need For the 14th Amendment

The American Civil War had left the southern states in a state of physical and political chaos. Although the masses of African Americans were legally free their precise legal status had been nowhere spelled out specifically. The death of Abraham Lincoln had left the pro-southern
Andrew Johnson (below) as the president, and he had been battling
with the Radical Republicans for control of Reconstruction (which was the process for the former Confederate states to rejoin the Union). Such barriers as literacy tests, poll taxes and outright intimidation had been set up to prevent citizens of color from exercising their right to vote. So the Radical Republicans pushed for and passed the 14th Amendment on June 13, 1866.  Johnson in announcing the amendment denigrated it by stating that his actions should "be considered as purely ministerial, and in no sense whatever committing the Executive to an approval or a recommendation of the amendment to the State legislatures or to the people."

The Passage of the 14th Amendment and Its Legaacy

Ratification of the amendment caused bitter debate throughout the State legislatures especially in every single formerly Confederate state. Except for Tennessee, they all refused to ratify it. This brought about the passage of the Reconstruction Acts. which ignored all such existing state governments and instead imposed military governments which
remained in place until the 14th Amendment was finally passed on today's date. It took more than two years but with some troubles over rescinded and re-ratified acts in Ohio and New Jersey, Secretary of State William Seward announced the unconditional certificate of ratification, declaring that the Fourteenth Amendment had been ratified by the required three-fourths of the states.

The Amendment has since been used for both good and ill; it was used to justify the Plessy -vs- Ferguson decision of 1896 which admitted legal segregation of "separate but equal" into law.  But then again, it was used to strike down that very decision with "Brown -vs- the Board of Education" of 1954 (above). The 15th (equal voting rights) and a whole host of laws and amendments had to be put in place before African Americans achieved full legal equality with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Meanwhile the "Equal Protection Clause" of the 16th amendment has since been cited in a whole host off non-racial cases ranging from abortion to gay marriage.

The actual text of article 1 of the 14th amendment reads as follows:

"Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

JULY 26 = Postal Service Born, Sam Houston Dies

On today's date, July 26 in 1775, at the Second Continen- tal Congress the U.S. postal system was established and Benjamin Franklin was appointed as its first postmaster general. Franklin (1706-1790) put in place the foundation for many facets of the mail system as we know it today.

The Mail of Colonial Days

Back in colonial times here in America most mail whether business or private was carried by hand along roads that were not well marked or well kept. Often it was carried by sea along the coastal routes.  And the carriers could be sailors, sea captains, slaves or simply travelers along the route. Needless to say, this was neither a very efficient, nor reliable
way to move correspondence around.  And the "post office" was often a
local inn, a tavern or a coffee house in the area. And time it would take
for delivery could vary from several days or weeks between points on land to one to three months from overseas.

Ben Franklin Fixes the Mess in the Postal Service

Benjamin Franklin was appointed Postmaster of Philadelphia in 1737, Joint Postmaster General of the colonies for the Crown in 1753, and Postmaster for the United Colonies in 1775. And it was due mostly to Franklin efforts that the time of delivery was cut by 50%. He had already made many improvements to the postal service between the colonies by the time of his appointment on today's date.  He had already set up standard routes for postal delivery between the colonies,
and had the mail wagon traveling day and night by way of relay teams. Franklin standardized the cost of delivery by basing all the mail expenses on weight and distance over which it was to be carried. Franklin made tours of each of the major post offices to inspect their operations and suggest improvements. And routes were surveyed and were set up to be more direct from point to point. He left his post late in 1776 to serve as the U.S. Minister to France but left in place a system that ran all the way from Florida to Maine and all points in between.

Sam Houston Dies

And a brief note marking the passing of one more casualty of the Civil War. Sam Houston (below) had been one of if not THE founding father of the state of Texas.  He had lead her through her War of Independence from Mexico (1835 - 1836), served two terms as President of the Republic of Texas (1836-1846), and helped guide her into statehood with the United States (1846). He was Governor of the
state of Texas as the winds of civil war began blowing across the south and into his
state. But he wanted no part of secession talk.  He was an unshakable supporter of the Union, and saw only misery for his state from joining the Confederacy: “In the name of the constitution of Texas, which has been trampled upon, I refuse to take this oath. I love Texas too well to bring civil strife and bloodshed upon her.” was what he said when refusing to take the oath of loyalty to the Confederacy. As a result, he was deposed from office on March 15, 1861. He died on today's date in 1863.  He had said of his approaching death:

"...(I) ask that He who buildeth up and pulleth down nations will, the mercy preserve and unite us. For a Nation divided against itself cannot stand. I wish, if this Union must be dissolved, that its ruins may be the monument of my grave, and the graves of my family. I wish no epitaph to be written to tell that I survive the ruin of this glorious Union."

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Postal Service:

Sam Houston :

Thursday, July 21, 2016

JULY 21 = The First Battle of Bull Run

 “You are green it is true, but they are green also, you are all green alike.” - Abraham Lincoln

"....we shall probably have a chance to pay our southern brethren a visit upon the sacred soil of Virginia very soon. I hope that we shall be successful and give the rebels a good pounding."

- Elijah Hunt Rhodes, 2'nd Rhode Island Infantry, July 16, 1861

These were among some of the optimistic views with which the Union Army and it's leaders marched into battle in this campaign. On today's date, July 21 in 1861 the Union and the Confederate armies clashed in the first major battle of the American Civil War. Their leader, Gen. Irvin McDowell was not at all sure that his green and only partially trained troops were ready for a major fight. But the 90 day enlistments of this first group of volunteers was coming to an end soon, and Lincoln didn't have time to wait. So with the assurance quoted above he ordered McDowell into action.

The First Battle of Bull Run Commences

So on July 16 McDowell marched his army of 35,000 men 30 miles south with the intention of capturing the vital railroad hub at Manassas, Virginia, and then to move on to Richmond, the Confederate Capitol, and end this rebellion quickly as everyone expected. But Confederate spies had alerted the Rebel leadership that they were coming.  So an army of 22,000 under the command of Gen. Beauregard was sent north to meet them.  It appeared that everyone knew that a battle was going, because some of the finest members of society came along to watch with picnic baskets and bottles of Champagne. On July 21 the Union army, tired from their long march showed up, and moved across Bull Run Creek which ran through a portion of the battlefield
and smashed into the Rebel left, driving the rebels from their positions.  It looked as if it was going to be a quick victory afterall. But one commander held fast to his position at a hill at thee Rebel center. This was Gen. Thomas Jackson (right). While other regiments faltered, Jackson held firm.  One Confederate officer trying to steady his men yelled "Look! There's Jackson with his Virginians standing like a stone wall!" And thus was earned the nick-name by which Jackson would be known ever after.

The Tide Begins to Turn

The battle went back and forth throughout much of the day.  But then some 9,000 Rebel reinforcements began to arrive, many by train, this being the first time in this war that troops would be moved in this way. At 4:00 in the afternoon Gen. Beauregard ordered a counterattack. This broke into the Union lines and sent them running
from the field. Jackson urged his men forward telling them to "Yell like furies!" Thus was introduced the blood-curdling sound of the "Rebel Yell" that would echo across hundreds of battlefields in that war. The Union assault had been broken. These green troops were clearly not up to this kind of sustained fighting.  By later in the afternoon McDowell was forced to pull his men back across Bull Run Creek (below).  One
soldier, Corporal Samuel J. English of the 2'nd Rhode Island recalled the hurry and the disorder of this retreat:

"After I crossed I started up the hill as fast as my legs could carry and passed through Centreville and continued on to Fairfax where we arrived about 10 o'clock halting about 15 minutes, then kept on to Washington where we arrived about 2 o'clock Monday noon more dead than alive, having been on our feet 36 hours without a mouthful to eat, and traveled a distance of 60 miles without twenty minutes halt. The last five miles of that march was perfect misery, none of us having scarcely strength to put one foot before the other...."

Fortunately for the Union, the rebel troops were far too exhausted to chase after their beaten foes and thoroughly take advantage of their victory. But it was clearly a humiliating defeat for the mighty Union Army which wound up getting back to Washington D.C. just ahead of all of the High Society swells who had come out to watch the war like it was a picnic, and wound up retreating along with their beaten army. But one thing was quite clear: this was going to be a long and bloody war; nothing at all like the three month excursion that so many had been expecting.

Sources =

"The Civil War" - Vol. 1, "the Cause" Produced and Directed by Ken Burns for PBS, 1985.

"The American Heritage Picture History off the Civil War" by Bruce Catton, American Heritage
 Publishing Co. Inc., 1960

Friday, July 8, 2016

JULY 8 = The "Liberty Bell" is Rung

On today's date, July 8 in 1776, the Liberty Bell was rung in celebration of the Declaration of Independence.
Of course as readers of this Blog are aware, the Declaration was actually passed on July 2, but it wasn't ready to be signed until July 4. And no announcement was made about it until copies of it came back from the printers on July 8.  At that time the contents of the Declaration were ready for reading to the public, and it was on this day that the Liberty Bell tolled for the newly proclaimed United States of America. Although no contemporary accounts mention it specifically, bells were rung all over the city, and most historians agree that Liberty was one of them. But it was not especially famous at the time, and wasn't even called the "Liberty Bell" until some years later.

The Liberty Bell Was Cast in 1751

The Bell's construction was ordered originally to commemorate the 50'th Anniversary of the constitution of the then colony of Pennsylvania.  Isaac Norris, speaker of the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly, sent orders to Robert Charles, Pennsylvania's agent in London to acquire "good Bell of about two thousands pound weight". Norris also added the following directions:

"Let the bell be cast by the best workmen & examined carefully before it is Shipped with the following words well shaped around it vizt. By Order of the Assembly of the Povince of Pensylvania for the State house in the City of Philada 1752 and Underneath Proclaim Liberty thro' all the Land to all the Inhabitants thereof.-Levit. XXV. 10."

So with this biblical quote going onto it to "Proclaim Liberty thro' all the Land" as Moses did in the Old Testament, the Bell was cast and brought to Philly and hung in the steeple of the Statehouse (above) in June of 1753. And from that  perch it did honorable service for years being rung to call the people together for important events and proclamations such as King George's accession to the throne in 1761, and also to announce discussion off the very unpopular Stamp Act. In April 1775 it tolled to the news of the fighting at Lexington and Concord.

The Liberty Bell is Moved, Named, and Cracked

As the war shifted and the British moved on Philadelphia in the autumn of 1777 the bell was in danger off being captured by the Brits and melted down to be made into a cannon. So the bell was moved to Allentown where it was hidden for the duration of the war, being returned in 1781.  It continued in use for ceremonial occasions for many years. In 1839 William Lloyd Garrison, the famed abolitionist printed a pamphlet which included a poem called "The Liberty Bell" in which it was noted that in spite of its inscription, the bell did not proclaim liberty to all the inhabitants off the land. And the application stuck. There are differing accounts on how the bell acquired its famous crack. One account holds that it was cracked in 1835 while being rung for the funeral of Chief Justice
John Marshall. Another account holds that the  bell was damaged beyond repair in 1846 while beig rung in honor of George Washington's birthday. Whatever the cause, the Liberty Bell continues to be kept in Philadelphia to this day (right); an enduring symbol of our nation's freedom.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

JULY 5 = The "Bikini" is Introduced in Paris

In my never-ending quest to see that you, my T.I.H. readers are kept aware of the most important events in history on any given day I bring you this: on today's date, July 5 in 1946 - 71 years ago - French designer Louis Reard introduced a revealing two-piece swimsuit at the Piscine Molitor, a popular swimming pool in Paris. Reard named his new product the "Bikini" after Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean wherein Atomic Bomb testing was being conducted. Why it is that the designer chose to link a small women's bathing suit with the ultimate weapon of mass destruction seems an odd question to which I may have a possible partial answer by the end of this posting. We'll see... but I make no promises.

What EXACTLY IS a Bikini?

Well, just in case any of you out there are somehow unclear on this point we will turn to "Wikipedia" for a proper definition:
"A bikini is usually a women's abbreviated two-piece swimsuit with a bra top for the chest and underwear cut below the navel. The basic design is simple: two triangles of fabric on top cover the woman's breasts and two triangles of fabric on the bottom cover the groin in front and the buttocks in back. The size of a bikini bottom can range from full pelvic coverage to a revealing thong or G-string design." So there you have it - two triangles on top and two (or maybe just one) on the bottom.

The Bikini Developed as a Wartime Measure

Ok, while that may be stretching the truth a bit, wartime needs did play a role in this story. In Europe of the 1930's women had been wearing a 
kind of two-piece bathing suit all along which was made up of a halter top and shorts.  But very little of the midriff was exposed, and none of the navel was visible. Over here in America a fairly tame version of the two piece began appearing during World War II.  The war brought on fabric shortages and the rationing of their use requiring the removal of the skirt panel and other unnecessary bits of material. This version looked something like the suit Betty Grable is wearing at right. But heavily fortified coastlines pretty much put a stop to developments in ladies swimwear like everything else not related directly with the war. 

The War Ends and Things Cut Loose

So the war ended in 1945. And beach lovers in 1946 were looking forward getting back to the beach for the first time in years.  And some, including a pair of French fashion designers were really ready to cut loose. Fabric shortages due to the war were still in effect, so in an
attempt to revive sale of ladies swimsuits, two French designers – Jacques Heim and Louis RĂ©ard (right), launched a new and quite daring design which took advantage of the lingering fabric shortage simply by using less fabric, and leaving more skin on display than had ever been tried before. Heim called his version the "Atome" named after the world's smallest particle - the Atom - calling his creation "the smallest bathing suit in the world". Whereas Reard went a step further introducing his creation as "smaller than the smallest bathing suit in the world." At a mere 30 inches of fabric a fair claim, and naming it the"Bikini"... in his words: "like the [atom] bomb, the bikini is small and devastating".  Reard at first thought the Bikini would horrify the world perhaps with this name reference, but he stuck to it.

The Bikini's Reception is Shock and Awe
Whatever Reard's confidence in his design, he ran into trouble conveying that to others, as no professional model was willing to
appear in this (nearly) show-all design.  So he wound up hiring one Micheline Bernardini (left), a nude dancer at the Casino de Paris, who had no trouble at with the idea of strutting her stuff nearly nude in public. Reard was so certain of the newspaper headlines his suit would generate, that he made the suit with newspaper design printed across it. and he had his model holding a 2" x 2" box into which the suit would fit. Naturally the suit was a tremendous hit critically with men who sent Reard about 50,000 fan letters. But the staid French newspaper "Le Figaro" kept all the fuss in prospective: "People were craving the simple pleasures of the sea and the sun. For women, wearing a bikini signaled a kind of second liberation. There was really nothing sexual about this. It was instead a celebration of freedom and a return to the joys in life."

The Bikini Is Slow to Catch On

The Bikini was a great success in France, and soon began making appearances along the Mediterranean and Spanish coasts.  Although some attempts were made to outlaw it in some such spots, eventually local officials bowed to the popular tide.  But in spite of it's initial success in France, sales were sluggish, and by the 1950's Reard was back to making the more traditional one-piece design. And in America, buyers resisted the bikini through the 1950's. But once the 1960's arrived with its care-free youth movement in the air the bikini finally began to catch on with it being featured in the Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello beach party movies.
And since then the bikini has become a fashion mainstay for better or for worse, although it seems to be getting progressively smaller all the time to a degree that might have made even Micheline Bernardini blush...  well a little bit anyway....

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