Wednesday, November 26, 2014

FDR Decides Thanksgiving

Are you ready for Thanksgiving?  Here is a fun article talking about setting the date for Thanksgiving and the furor FDR created in 1939 when he set the date for Thanksgiving!
American Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday in November. Countless institutions depend on this date being predictable year in and year out: football teams planning their "Turkey Bowl" games, schools setting their vacation schedules, department stores deciding when to put up their Christmas decorations.

But the Thanksgiving date wasn't always so reliable. For decades, the president got to decide when the holiday fell each year. They tended to follow the example of Abraham Lincoln, who in 1863 set Thanksgiving on the final Thursday of November—until Franklin D. Roosevelt went rogue. In 1939 there were five Thursdays in November, so according to Lincoln's example, Thanksgiving would have been on the last day of the month. Roosevelt worried that such a late Thanksgiving would mean that Christmas shopping season would be too short, which would be hard on merchants already hurting from the Great Depression. So he declared that Thanksgiving that year would fall on the second-to-last Thursday, November 23rd. 

Though the change was intended to help a struggling nation, it ended up dividing the country. Twenty-two states refused to go along with Roosevelt's decision and instead celebrated Thanksgiving on the 30th. Almost all the other states sided with the president and feasted the week before. (Texas, Mississippi, and Colorado couldn't make up their minds and declared both the 23rd and the 30th holidays.)

Friday, November 21, 2014

President Kennedy's Election: Vote Counting Fraud?

I bookmarked this article back during the election, but am just getting around to post it (much like my state on finally deciding important races....seriously, do we have a governor or senator yet? And yes, both were finally settled).   What was interesting about this article is that it mentioned some vote counting controversies that I didn't know about.  When I teach the 1960 election, I tend to really emphasis the use of media and how that changed the outcome, but the vote counting is interesting as most students automatically think of the 2000 election with that now:
Kennedy defeated Nixon when votes were finally counted in the Electoral College, by a margin of 303 to 219. But in the popular vote, Kennedy won by just 112,000 votes out of 68 million cast, or a margin on 0.2 percent.

So arguments persist to this day about vote-counting in two states, specifically Illinois (where Kennedy won by 9,000 votes) and Texas (where Kennedy won by 46,000 votes). If Nixon had won those two states, he would have defeated Kennedy by two votes in the Electoral College.

That fact wasn’t lost on Nixon’s supporters, who urged the candidate to contest the results. At the time, Kennedy was also leading in the critical state of California, which was Nixon’s home state. But a count of absentee ballots gave Nixon the state several weeks later, after he conceded it to Kennedy.
In Illinois, there were rampant rumors that Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley used his political machine to stuff the ballot box in Cook County. Democrats charged the GOP with similar tactics in southern Illinois. Down in Texas, there were similar claims about the influence of Kennedy’s running mate, Lyndon B. Johnson, over that state’s election.

On Wednesday afternoon, November 9, 1960, Nixon officially conceded the election to Kennedy. He told his friend, journalist Earl Mazo, that “our country cannot afford the agony of a constitutional crisis.” (Mazo had written a series of articles about voter fraud after the 1960 election, which he stopped at Nixon’s request.)

In later years, Nixon also claimed in an autobiography that widespread fraud happened in Illinois and Texas during the 1960 election.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Washington Facts

So I don't know about you, but I knew most of these "forgotten" facts and I wouldn't even call them "forgotten," more ignored. 

The one I didn't know was that Washington grew hemp!
Like other farmers, Washington grew hemp as a cash crop, but it’s not what you think. The hemp wasn’t smoked for pleasure. It was used to make rope, paper, and other products. Washington also grew corn and wheat. He was actually quite an agricultural innovator; he introduced the concept of crop rotation. Washington, the farmer, introduced the mule to America when he bred donkeys from the King of Spain and the Marquis de Lafayette with his own horses. He had 57 mules at Mount Vernon at the time of his death.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Eisenhower on D-Day

This article asks the question of what did Eisenhower actually say to put D-Day into action.  Eisenhower himself didn't remember, and no one can seem to agree what he said. What would seem like it should have an historical send off really doesn't.  So what does this mean?  It comes down to Eisenhower's own character, according to this article:
There is no memorable quote, in other words, because of Eisenhower's good old-fashioned Kansas modesty.  He did not have the kind of ego that spawns lofty sentiments for the press or posterity Ike was a plain speaker from the plains of America's heartland...Eisenhower's self-effacing character is also revealed in his other D-day words, words he never intended anyone to hear.  The words show he was far more concerned with taking responsibility for failure than with glorying whatever success crowned D-day.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

7 Famous Presidential Pardons

One of the powers of the American President is the ability to pardon anyone of any crime for almost any reason. Section Two, Clause on of the Constitution notes, "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment."

The History Channel has an article titled 7 Famous Presidential Pardons. The list includes the ringleaders of the Whiskey Rebellion, Brigham Young (pictured below), Fitz John Porter, Eugene Debs, Jimmy Hoffa, Richard Nixon, and Patty Hearst.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

McKinley Shot!

The sad news of the McKinley assassination from the the Evening Star (Washington D.C.) on September 6, 1901.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

John Quincy Adams, Executive Order of July 11, 1826

Most are aware that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on the same day (July 4th) in 1826. Needless to say, this coincidence on Independence Day got a lot of attention at the time. There were public honors from the military for both men.

John Quincy Adams Administration issued an Executive Order on July 11, 1826 to elaborate on this.

It noted, "A coincidence of circumstances so wonderful gives confidence to the belief that the patriotic efforts of these illustrious men were Heaven directed, and furnishes a new seal to the hope that the prosperity of these States is under the special protection of a kind Providence."

Honors included, "Sharing in the grief which every heart must feel for so heavy and afflicting a public loss, and desirous to express his high sense of the vast debt of gratitude which is due to the virtues, talents, and ever-memorable services of the illustrious deceased, the President directs that funeral honors be paid to him at all the military stations, and that the officers of the Army wear crape on the left arm, by way of mourning, for six months."

And more praise, "Never has it fallen to the lot of any commander to announce to an army such an event as now calls forth the mingled grief and astonishment of this Republic; never since History first wrote the record of time has one day thus mingled every triumphant with every tender emotion, and consecrated a nation's joy by blending it with the most sacred of sorrows. Yes, soldiers, in one day, almost in the same hour, have two of the Founders of the Republic, the Patriarchs of Liberty, closed their services to social man, after beholding them crowned with the richest and most unlimited success. United in their end as they had been in their highest aim, their toils completed, their hopes surpassed, their honors full, and the dearest wish of their bosoms gratified in death, they closed their eyes in patriot ecstasy, amidst the gratulations and thanksgivings of a people on all, on every individual, of whom they had conferred the best of all earthly benefits."

"Such men need no trophies; they ask no splendid mausolea. We are their monuments; their mausolea is their country, and her growing prosperity the amaranthine wreath that Time shall place over their dust. Well may the Genius of the Republic mourn. If she turns her eyes in one direction, she beholds the hall where Jefferson wrote the charter of her rights; if in another, she sees the city where Adams kindled the fires of the Revolution. To no period of our history, to no department of our affairs, can she direct her views and not meet the multiplied memorials of her loss and of their glory."