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.