Monday, December 31, 2012

The Dearborn Independent

The International Jew: The World's Problem in The Dearborn Independent, May 22, 1920
The Dearborn Independent, also known as The Ford International Weekly, was a weekly newspaper established in 1901, but published by Henry Ford from 1919 through 1927. The paper reached a circulation of 900,000 by 1925 (only the New York Daily News was larger in this respect), largely due to promotion by Ford dealers due to a quota system. Lawsuits regarding the anti-Semitic material caused Ford to close the paper, the last issue being published in December 1927.


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Francis Lewis

Francis Lewis (March 21, 1713 – December 31, 1802) was a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence as a representative of New York.
Born in Llandaff, Cardiff, Wales, he was the only child of Reverend Francis Lewis, but was orphaned at an early age. He went to live with his aunt and uncle soon after. He was educated in Scotland and attended Westminster School in England. He entered a mercantile house in London, then moved to Whitestone, New York in 1734. He was taken prisoner and shipped in a box to France while serving as a British mercantile agent in 1756. On his return to America, he became active in politics.
He was a member of the Committee of Sixty, a member of the New York Provincial Congress, and was elected a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1775. In 1778, he signed the United States Articles of Confederation. From 1779 to 1780, Lewis served as the Chairman of the Continental Board of Admiralty.
His home, located in Whitestone, on Queens, New York, was destroyed in the American Revolutionary War by British soldiers, who also arrested his wife and denied her a change of clothing or adequate food for weeks while in captivity.
His son Morgan Lewis served in the army during the Revolutionary War and later held many offices in New York State, including Governor


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Wounded Knee Massacre

Mass grave for the dead Lakota after the massacre at Wounded Knee Creek

The Wounded Knee Massacre occurred on December 29, 1890, near Wounded Knee Creek on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, USA. It was the last battle of the American Indian war. On the day before, a detachment of the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment commanded by Major Samuel M. Whitside intercepted Spotted Elk's band of Miniconjou Lakota and 38 Hunkpapa Lakota near Porcupine Butte and escorted them five miles westward (8 km) to Wounded Knee Creek where they made camp.
The remainder of the 7th Cavalry Regiment arrived led by Colonel James Forsyth and surrounded the encampment supported by four Hotchkiss guns.
On the morning of December 29, the troops went into the camp to disarm the Lakota. One version of events claims that during the process of disarming the Lakota, a deaf tribesman named Black Coyote was reluctant to give up his rifle, claiming he had paid a lot for it. A scuffle over Black Coyote's rifle escalated and a shot was fired which resulted in the 7th Cavalry's opening fire indiscriminately from all sides, killing men, women, and children, as well as some of their own fellow troopers. Those few Lakota warriors who still had weapons began shooting back at the attacking troopers, who quickly suppressed the Lakota fire. The surviving Lakota fled, but U.S. cavalrymen pursued and killed many who were unarmed.
By the time it was over, at least 150 men, women, and children of the Lakota Sioux had been killed and 51 wounded (4 men, 47 women and children, some of whom died later); some estimates placed the number of dead at 300. Twenty-five troopers also died, and 39 were wounded (6 of the wounded would later die). It is believed that many were the victims of friendly fire, as the shooting took place at close range in chaotic conditions. At least twenty troopers were awarded the coveted Medal of Honor.
The site has been designated a National Historic Landmark


Friday, December 28, 2012

The Lumiere Brothers

Auguste Lumière (left) and Louis Lumière (right)
The Lumière brothers, Auguste Marie Louis Nicolas  (19 October 1862 - 10 April 1954) and Louis Jean (5 October 1864 – 6 June 1948), were the earliest filmmakers in history.
The Lumières held their first private screening of projected motion pictures in 1895. Their first public screening of films at which admission was charged was held on December 28, 1895, at Salon Indien du Grand Café in Paris. This history-making presentation featured ten short films, including their first film, Sortie des Usines Lumière à Lyon (Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory). Each film is 17 meters long, which, when hand cranked through a projector, runs approximately 50 seconds.
It is believed their first film was actually recorded that same year (1895) with Léon Bouly's cinématographe device, which was patented the previous year. The cinématographe — a three-in-one device that could record, develop, and project motion pictures — was further developed by the Lumières.
The public debut at the Grand Café came a few months later and consisted of the following ten short films (in order of presentation):
  1. La Sortie de l'Usine Lumière à Lyon (literally, "the exit from the Lumière factory in Lyon", or, under its more common English title, Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory), 46 seconds
  2. La Voltige ("Horse Trick Riders"), 46 seconds
  3. La Pêche aux poissons rouges ("fishing for goldfish"), 42 seconds
  4. Le Débarquement du Congrès de Photographie à Lyon ("the disembarkment of the Congress of Photographers in Lyon"), 48 seconds
  5. Les Forgerons ("Blacksmiths"), 49 seconds
  6. Le Jardinier (l'Arroseur Arrosé) ("The Gardener," or "The Sprinkler Sprinkled"), 49 seconds
  7. Repas de bébé ("Baby's Breakfast" (lit. "baby's meal")), 41 seconds
  8. Le Saut à la couverture ("Jumping Onto the Blanket"), 41 seconds
  9. La Places des Cordeliers à Lyon ("Cordeliers Square in Lyon"—a street scene), 44 seconds
  10. La Mer (Baignade en mer) ("the sea [bathing in the sea]"), 38 seconds
The Lumières went on tour with the cinématographe in 1896, visiting Bombay, London, Montreal, New York and Buenos Aires.
The moving images had an immediate and significant influence on popular culture with L'Arrivée d'un Train en Gare de la Ciotat (literally, "the arrival of a train at La Ciotat", but more commonly known as Arrival of a Train at a Station) and Carmaux, défournage du coke (Drawing out the coke). Their actuality films, or actualités, are often cited as the first, primitive documentaries. They also made the first steps towards comedy film with the slapstick of L'Arroseur Arrosé.

The world's first film poster, for 1895's L'Arroseur arrosé


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Carrie Nation

Temperance advocate Carrie Nation with her hatchet in 1910
Carrie Amelia Moore Nation (November 25, 1846 – June 9, 1911) was a radical member of the temperance movement, which opposed alcohol in pre-Prohibition America. She is particularly noteworthy for promoting her viewpoint through vandalism. Nation frequently attacked the property of alcohol-serving establishments (most often taverns) with a hatchet. Recently, Nation's behavior has inspired fiction writers as well as an opera composer.
Nation was a relatively large woman, almost 6 feet (180 cm) tall and weighing 175 pounds (79 kg), with a stern countenance]. She described herself as "a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what He doesn't like," and claimed a divine ordination to promote temperance by destroying bars.
The spelling of her first name is ambiguous and both Carrie and Carry are considered correct. Official records say Carrie, which Nation used most of her life; the name Carry was used by her father in the family Bible. Upon beginning her campaign against liquor in the early 20th century, she adopted the name Carry A. Nation mainly for its value as a slogan, and had it registered as a trademark in the state of Kansas.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Trent Affair

James Murray Mason (1798–1871).
The Trent Affair, also known as the Mason and Slidell Affair, was an international diplomatic incident that occurred during the American Civil War. On November 8, 1861, the USS San Jacinto, commanded by Union Captain Charles Wilkes, intercepted the British mail packet RMS Trent and removed, as contraband of war, two Confederate diplomats, James Mason and John Slidell. The envoys were bound for Great Britain and France to press the Confederacy’s case for diplomatic recognition in Europe.
The initial reaction in the United States was to rally against Britain, threatening war; but President Abraham Lincoln and his top advisors did not want to risk war. In the Confederate States, the hope was that the incident would lead to a permanent rupture in Anglo-American relations and even diplomatic recognition by Britain of the Confederacy. Confederates realized their independence potentially depended on a war between Britain and the U.S. In Britain, the public expressed outrage at this violation of neutral rights and insult to their national honor. The British government demanded an apology and the release of the prisoners while it took steps to strengthen its military forces in Canada and the Atlantic.
After several weeks of tension and loose talk of war, the crisis was resolved when the Lincoln administration released the envoys and disavowed Captain Wilkes's actions. No formal apology was issued. Mason and Slidell resumed their voyage to Britain but failed in their goal of achieving diplomatic recognition.

John Slidell (1793–1871)


Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Crackers

Christmas crackers , "Christmas poppers or 'bon-bons are art of Christmas celebrations in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa, as well as the United States of America to a lesser degree. They are also popular in Ireland. A cracker consists of a cardboard tube wrapped in a brightly decorated twist of paper, making it resemble an oversized sweet-wrapper. The cracker is pulled by two people, and, much in the manner of a wishbone, the cracker splits unevenly. The split is accompanied by a small bang or snapping sound produced by the effect of friction on a chemically impregnated card strip (similar to that used in a cap gun). One chemical used for the friction strip is silver fulminate, which is highly unstable.
Crackers are typically pulled at the Christmas dinner table or at parties. In one version of the cracker tradition, the person with the larger portion of cracker empties the contents from the tube and keeps them. In another each person will have their own cracker and will keep its contents regardless of whose end they were in. Typically these contents are a coloured paper hat or crown; a small toy, small plastic model or other trinket and a motto, a joke, a riddle or piece of trivia on a small strip of paper.
Assembled crackers are typically sold in boxes of three to twelve. These typically have different designs usually with red, green and gold colors. Making crackers from scratch using the tubes from used toilet rolls and tissue paper is a common Commonwealth activity for children. Kits to make crackers can also be purchased.
Crackers are also a part of New Year celebrations in Russia (where they are called хлопушка - khlopushka) and some countries of the former Soviet Union. Those are however more similar to pyrotechnical devices, normally used outdoors, activated by one person, and produce a stronger bang accompanied by fire and smoke.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Van Gogh Cuts Off His Ear

Self-portrait, 1889, Courtauld Institute Galleries, London. Mirror-image self portrait with bandaged ear
On this day in 1888, Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, suffering from severe depression, cuts off the lower part of his left ear with a razor while staying in Arles, France. He later documented the event in a painting titled Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear. Today, Van Gogh is regarded as an artistic genius and his masterpieces sell for record-breaking prices; however, during his lifetime, he was a poster boy for tortured starving artists and sold only one painting.
Vincent Willem van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853, in the Netherlands. He had a difficult, nervous personality and worked unsuccessfully at an art gallery and then as a preacher among poor miners in Belgium. In 1880, he decided to become an artist. His work from this period--the most famous of which is The Potato Eaters (1885)--is dark and somber and reflective of the experiences he had among peasants and impoverished miners.
In 1886, Van Gogh moved to Paris where his younger brother Theo, with whom he was close, lived. Theo, an art dealer, supported his brother financially and introduced him to a number of artists, including Paul Gauguin, Camille Pisarro and Georges Seurat. Influenced by these and other painters, Van Gogh's own artistic style lightened up and he began using more color.
In 1888, Van Gogh rented a house in Arles in the south of France, where he hoped to found an artists' colony and be less of a burden to his brother. In Arles, Van Gogh painted vivid scenes from the countryside as well as still-lifes, including his famous sunflower series. Gauguin came to stay with him in Arles and the two men worked together for almost two months. However, tensions developed and on December 23, in a fit of dementia, Van Gogh threatened his friend with a knife before turning it on himself and mutilating his ear lobe. Afterward, he allegedly wrapped up the ear and gave it to a prostitute at a nearby brothel. Following that incident, Van Gogh was hospitalized in Arles and then checked himself into a mental institution in Saint-Remy for a year. During his stay in Saint-Remy, he fluctuated between periods of madness and intense creativity, in which he produced some of his best and most well-known works, including Starry Night and Irises.
In May 1890, Van Gogh moved to Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris, where he continued to be plagued by despair and loneliness. On July 27, 1890, he shot himself and died two days later at age 37.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Sherman's March to the Sea

Sherman's men destroying a railroad in Atlanta
Sherman's March to the Sea is the name commonly given to the Savannah Campaign conducted through Georgia from November 15, 1864 to December 21, 1864 by Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman of the Union Army in the American Civil War. The campaign began with Sherman's troops leaving the captured city of Atlanta, Georgia, on November 16 and ended with the capture of the port of Savannah on December 21. Sherman's forces destroyed military targets as well as industry, infrastructure, and other civilian property. Military historian David J. Eicher wrote that Sherman "defied military principles by operating deep within enemy territory and without lines of supply or communication. He destroyed much of the South's physical and psychological capacity to wage war


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ceding of Lands to the Federal Government

A map of the United States showing land claims and cessions from 1782–1802
Most of the British colonies on the east coast of North America were established in the 17th and early 18th century, when geographical knowledge of North America was incomplete. Many of these colonies were established by royal proclamation or charter that defined their boundaries as stretching "from sea to sea"; others did not have western boundaries established at all. These colonies thus ended up with theoretical extents that overlapped each other, and conflicted with the claims and settlements established by other European powers.
By the time of the American Revolution, the boundaries between the various colonies had been for the most part surveyed and agreed upon in the eastern part of the country, where European settlement was densest. (The one notable exception to this trend was the ongoing dispute between New York, New Hampshire, and independent Vermonters over the land that would eventually become Vermont.) The British government's Royal Proclamation of 1763, while not resolving the disputes over the colonies' trans-Appalachian claims, sought to cool them by placing significant restrictions on white settlement in the region. The proclamation was largely ignored on the ground, however, and various frontier settlement enterprises, owing allegiance to conflicting colonial governments, continued.
The claims of the colonies corresponded in varying degrees to the actual reality on the ground in the west at the eve of the Revolution. Kentucky, for instance, was organized into a county of Virginia in 1776, with Virginia serving as practical sovereign over the area right up until its admission into the Union as a separate state in 1792. Massachusetts' claims to land in modern-day Michigan and Wisconsin, by contrast, amounted to little more than lines drawn on a map.
The Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolution established American sovereignty over the land between the Appalachians and the Mississippi; the jobs of determining how that land should be governed, and how the conflicting claims to it by several of the states should be resolved, were one of the first major tasks facing the new nation.
The potential for trouble arising from these claims were twofold. One problem was obvious: in many cases more than one state laid claim to the same piece of territory, but clearly only one would be ultimately recognized as the owner. The other conflict also threatened the peace of the new union. Only seven of the thirteen states had western land claims, and the other, "landless" states were fearful of being overwhelmed by states that controlled vast stretches of the new frontier. Virginia in particular, which already encompassed 1 in 5 inhabitants of the new nation, laid claim to modern-day Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois, and the smaller states feared that it would come to completely dominate the union.
In the end, most of the trans-Appalachian land claims were ceded to the Federal government between 1781 and 1787; New York, New Hampshire, and the hitherto unrecognized Vermont government resolved their squabbles by 1791, and Kentucky was separated from Virginia and made into a new state in 1792. The cessions were not entirely selfless—in some cases the cessions were made in exchange for federal assumption of the states' Revolutionary War debts—but the states' reasonably graceful cessions of their often-conflicting claims prevented early, perhaps catastrophic, rifts among the states of the young Republic, and assuaged the fears of the "landless" states enough to convince them to ratify the new United States Constitution. The cessions also set the stage for the settlement of the Upper Midwest and the expansion of the U.S. into the center of the North American continent, and also established the pattern by which land newly acquired by the United States would be organized into new states rather than attached to old ones.
Georgia held on to its claims over trans-Appalachian land for another decade, and this claim was complicated by the fact that much of the land was also disputed between the United States and Spain. When Georgia finally sold the land west of its current boundaries to the United States for cash in 1802, the last phase of western cessions was complete.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Voyage to the New World

Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor by William Halsall (1882)
The Mayflower embarked about sixty-five passengers in London, probably off Blackwall or Wapping, about the middle of July 1620 and proceeded down the Thames into the English Channel and then on to Southampton Water, the rendezvous, where for seven days she awaited the coming of the Speedwell, bringing the Leyden church members, who had sailed from Delfts-Haven about the 22nd of the month (Bradford).
About August 5th, the two ships set sail for their destination. The unseaworthy Speedwell sprang a leak shortly after they put into Dartmouth for repairs. After the repairs, a new start was made. They were more than two hundred miles beyond Land’s End at the southwestern tip of England when Speedwell sprung another leak. Since it was now early September they had no choice but to abandon Speedwell and make a determination on its passengers. This was a dire event as the ship had wasted vital funds and was considered very important to the future success of their settlement in America. Soon after Mayflower continued on her voyage to America, Speedwell was sold, refitted, and ,according to Bradford, “made many voyages…to the great profit of her owners.” Bradford later assumed that the Speedwell master Mr. Reynolds’s “cunning and deceit” (in causing what may have been ‘man-made’ leaks in the ship) had been motivated by a fear of starving to death in America.
In addition to the 102 passengers, the officers and crew consisted of about 50 persons, including about 36 men before the mast, bringing the total persons on board the Mayflower to about one hundred and fifty.
In early September, western gales begin to make the North Atlantic a dangerous place for sailing. The Mayflower provisions, already quite low when departing Southampton, became much less by delays of more than of a month. And the passengers, who had been aboard ships for all this time, were quite worn out by now and in no condition for a very taxing lengthy Atlantic journey cooped up in cramped spaces in a small ship. But on September 6, 1620, the Mayflower sailed from Plymouth with what Bradford called “a prosperous wind.”
The known names of the ship’s crew are as follows: Christopher Jones Captain/Governor; masters mates: John Clarke (Pilot), Robert Coppin (Pilot), Andrew Williamson and John Parker; Surgeon: Doctor Giles Heale; Cooper: John Alden. Alden would later marry Priscilla, daughter of William Mullins, Mayflower passengers, and together would have a large family.
Tradition has it that the last port in England for the Mayflower was actually not Plymouth but Newlyn in Cornwall on the Land's End peninsula when it was found that the water picked up at Plymouth was contaminated. Scholarly works do not mention this stop but Newlyn has a plaque to this effort on their quay. Only the year "1620" is provided, with no date.
Aboard the Mayflower were many stores that supplied the pilgrims with the essentials needed for their journey and future lives. Among these stores it is assumed that they would have carried tools and weapons, including cannon, shot, and gunpowder, as well as some live animals, including dogs, sheep, goats, and poultry. Horses and cattle would come later. The Mayflower would also carry two boats: a long boat and a “shallop”, a sort of twenty-one foot dinghy. She also carried twelve artillery pieces (eight minions and four sakers), as the Pilgrims feared they might need to defend themselves against the Spaniards, Frenchmen, or the Dutch, as well as the Natives.
It had been a miserable passage with a huge wave crashing against the ship’s topside until a structural support timber fractured. So far the passengers had suffered agonizing delays, cold and the scorn and ridicule of the sailors but had done everything they could the help the carpenter repair the fractured ship’s beam. A mechanical device called screw-jack was loaded on board which was to help them in the construction of homes in the New World. The beam was loaded into place with the screw jack making the Mayflower secure enough to continue the voyage.
There were two deaths, but this was just a precursor of what happened after their arrival in Cape Cod, when almost half the company would die in the first winter.
On November 9/19, 1620, they sighted land, which was Cape Cod. After several days of trying to sail south to their planned destination of the Colony of Virginia where they had already obtained permission from the Company of Merchant Adventurers to settle, strong winter seas forced them to return to the harbor at Cape Cod hook, well north of the intended area. where they anchored on November 11/21. To establish legal order and to quell increasing strife within the ranks, the settlers wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact after the ship dropped anchor at the tip of Cape Cod on November 11/21, in what is now Provincetown Harbor. The Mayflower Compact was signed that day.
On Monday, November 27 an exploring expedition was launched to search for a settlement site under the direction of Christopher Jones. As master of the Mayflower, Jones was not required to assist in the search, but he apparently thought it in his best interest to assist the search expedition. There were thirty-four persons in an open shallop – twenty-four passengers and ten sailors. They were obviously not prepared for the bitter winter weather they encountered on their reconnoiter, the Mayflower passengers not used to the winter weather much colder than back home. Due to the bad weather encountered on the expedition, they were forced to spend the night ashore ill-clad in below freezing temperatures with wet shoes and stockings that became frozen. “(s)ome of our people that are dead,” Bradford wrote,”took the original of their death here.”
The settlers, explored the snow-covered area and discovered an empty native village. The curious settlers dug up some artificially made mounds, some of which stored corn, while others were burial sites. Nathaniel Philbrick claims that the settlers stole the corn and looted and desecrated the graves, sparking friction with the locals. Philbrick goes on to say that, as they moved down the coast to what is now Eastham, they explored the area of Cape Cod for several weeks, looting and stealing native stores as they went. He then writes about how they decided to relocate to Plymouth after a difficult encounter with the local native, the Nausets, at First Encounter Beach, in December 1620.
However, Bradford's History of Plymouth Plantation records that they took "some" of the corn to show the others back at the boat, leaving the rest. Then, later, they took what they needed from another store of grain, paying the locals back in six months, and it was gladly received.
Also there was found more of their corn and of their beans of various colors; the corn and beans they brought away, purposing to give them full satisfaction when they should meet with any of them as, about some six months afterward they did, to their good content.
During the winter the passengers remained on board the Mayflower, suffering an outbreak of a contagious disease described as a mixture of scurvy, pneumonia and tuberculosis. When it ended, there were only 53 passengers, just over half, still alive. Likewise, half of the crew died as well. In the spring, they built huts ashore, and on March 21/31, 1621, the surviving passengers disembarked from the Mayflower. The Mayflower lay in New Plymouth harbor through the winter of 1620-1. On April 5/15, 1621, the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth to return to England, where she arrived on May 6/16, 1621.
Due to the fear of Indian attack, in late February 1621, the settlers decided to mount “our great ordnances” on the hill overlooking the settlement. Christopher Jones supervised the transportation of the “great guns” – about six iron cannons that ranged between four and eight feet in length and weighed almost half a ton. The cannon were able to hurl iron balls as big as 3 ½ inches in diameter asbfar as 1,700 yards. This action made what was no more than a ramshackle village almost into a well-defended fortress.
Jones had originally planned to return to England as soon as the Pilgrims found a settlement site. But after his crew members began to be ravaged by the same diseases that were felling the Pilgrims, he realized he had to remain in Plymouth Harbor “till he saw his men began to recover.”
On April 5 the Mayflower, her empty hold ballasted with stones from the Plymouth Harbor shore, set sail for England. As with the Pilgrims, her sailors had been decimated by disease. Jones had lost his boatswain, his gunner, three quartermasters, the cook, and more than a dozen sailors. The Mayflower made excellent time on her voyage back to England. The westerlies that had buffeted her coming out, pushed her along going home and she arrived at home port of Rotherhithe in London on May 6, 1621 – less than half the time it had taken her to sail to America.”
Jones died after coming back from a voyage to France on March 5, 1622 at about age 52. It is suggested that his journey to the New World may have taken its toll on him. For the next two years the Mayflower lay at her berth in Rotherhithe, not far from the grave of Captain Jones at St. Mary’s church there. By 1624 the Mayflower was no longer useful as a ship and although her subsequent fate is unknown, she was probably broken up about that time. The Mayflower was the final casualty of a voyage that had cost her master, Christopher Jones, everything he could give.”


Monday, December 17, 2012

French Recognition of the United States

French troops (left) watch as the British surrender to the Americans (right), at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781
France formed a military alliance with the United States in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) in 1778, and fought Britain. French money, munitions, soldiers and naval forces proved essential to American victory in the American Revolutionary War, but France gained little except large debts.
Benjamin Franklin, served as the American ambassador to France from 1776 to 1783. He met with many leading diplomats, aristocrats, intellectuals, scientists and financiers. Franklin's image and writings caught the French imagination – there were many images of him sold on the market – and he became the image of the archetypal new American and even a hero for aspirations for a new order inside France. The French goal was to weaken Britain, both to keep it from getting too powerful and to exact revenge for the defeat in the Seven Year War. After the American capture of the British invasion army at Saratoga in 1777, and after the French navy had been built up, France was ready. In 1778 France recognized the United States of America as a sovereign nation, signed a military alliance, went to war with Britain, built coalitions with the Netherlands and Spain that kept Britain without a significant ally of its own, provided the Americans with grants, arms and loans, sent a combat army to serve under George Washington, and sent a navy that prevented the second British army from escaping from Yorktown in 1781. In all, the French spent about 1.3 billion livres (in modern currency, approximately thirteen billion U.S. dollars) to support the Americans directly, not including the money it spent fighting Britain on land and sea outside the U.S.
French aid proved vital in the victory of the Americans seeking independence from Britain. The U.S. gained much territory at the 1783 Treaty of Paris, but France – after losing some naval battles – fared poorly there. It did get its revenge and made a new ally and trading partner. However the high debt France accumulated was a major cause of the French Revolution in 1789.

“I took twelve turkeys to Dowdle & Townsend this morning 160 lbs and got 400# sugar $4.55 and a bbl of oil  5 ½ c.”

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Fredonian Rebellion

Flag of the Fredonian Rebellion
The Fredonian Rebellion, between December 22, 1826 – January 31, 1827, was the first attempt by Anglo settlers in Texas to secede from Mexico. The settlers, led by Empresario Haden Edwards, declared independence from Mexican Texas and created the Republic of Fredonia near Nacogdoches. The short-lived republic encompassed the land the Mexican government had granted to Edwards in 1825 and included areas that had been previously settled. Edwards's actions soon alienated these established residents, and the increasing hostilities between them and settlers recruited by Edwards led the Mexican government to revoke Edwards's contract.
In late December 1826, a group of Edwards's supporters took control of the region by arresting and removing from office several municipality officials affiliated without the established residents. A month later, the Edwards supporters declared their independence from Mexico. Although the nearby Cherokee tribe initially signed a treaty to support the new republic, overtures from Mexican authorities and respected Empresario Stephen F. Austin convinced tribal leaders to repudiate the rebellion. On January 31, 1827, a force of over 100 Mexican soldiers and 250 militiamen from Austin's colony marched into Nacogdoches to restore order. Many of the participants, including Edwards, fled to the United States. A local merchant was arrested and sentenced to death, but later paroled.
The rebellion led Mexican President Guadalupe Victoria to increase the military presence in the area. As a result, several hostile tribes in the area halted their raids on settlements and agreed to a peace treaty. The Comanche abided by this treaty for many years. Fearing that through the rebellion the United States hoped to gain control of Texas, the Mexican government severely curtailed immigration to Texas. This new immigration law was bitterly opposed by colonists and caused increasing dissatisfaction with Mexican rule. Some historians consider the Fredonian Rebellion to be the beginning of the Texas Revolution. Although "premature ... [the Fredonian Rebellion] sparked the powder for later success."

Mr. & Mrs. Haden Edwards


Friday, December 14, 2012

Charley Ross Kidnapping

1874 likeness published on his missing person
On July 1, 1874, Charley (then four years old) and his older brother Walter Lewis (aged five) were playing in the front yard of their family's home in Germantown, a well-to-do section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A horse-drawn carriage pulled up and they were approached by two men who offered the boys candy and fireworks if they would take a ride with them. The boys agreed and they all proceeded through Philadelphia to a store where Walter was directed to buy fireworks inside with 25 cents given to him. Walter did so, but the carriage left without him. Charley Ross was never seen again.
Christian K. Ross, the boys' father, began receiving ransom demands from the apparent kidnappers. They arrived in the form of notes mailed from post offices in Philadelphia and elsewhere, all written in an odd hand and in a coarse, semi-literate style with many simple words misspelled. The communications generally requested a ransom of $20,000, an enormous sum at the time. The notes cautioned against police intervention and threatened Charley's life if Christian did not cooperate. Christian Ross owned a large house and was thought to be wealthy, but was actually heavily in debt, due to the stock market crash of 1873, and could not afford such an amount. Seeing no other choice, Christian went to the police. The kidnapping soon became national news. In addition to the heavy press coverage, some prominent Philadelphians enlisted the help of the famous Pinkerton detective agency, who had millions of flyers and posters printed with Charley's likeness. A popular song based on the crime was even composed by Dexter Smith and W. H. Brockway, entitled "Bring Back Our Darling". Several attempts were made to provide the kidnappers with ransom money as dictated in the notes, but in each case the kidnappers failed to appear. Eventually, communication stopped.
On a December night in the same year, the Long Island house belonging to Judge Charles Van Brunt was burglarized. Holmes Van Brunt, Charles' brother, lived next door, and gathered the members of his household, armed with shotguns to stop the intruders in the act. As they entered Charles' house, they saw two lanterns go out, and the resulting torrent of gunfire from Holmes and his men brought down both burglars where they stood. They were Bill Mosher and Joe Douglas, career criminals who had recently been released from jail. Mosher was dead on the spot. Douglas was mortally wounded, but managed to live a few more seconds and was able to communicate with Holmes. Everyone present was understandably shaken by the experience, and there is no clear consensus regarding exactly what Douglas said. Most agree that Douglas said that there was no point in lying (as he was about to die) so he admitted that he and Mosher abducted Charley. His further statements, if any, are more controversial. He either said that Charley was killed, or that Mosher knew where Charley was, possibly adding that he would be returned unharmed to the Rosses within a few days. In any case, he did not give any clues to Charley's location or other particulars of the crime, and died soon afterwards. Charley's brother Walter was taken to New York City to look at the bodies of Mosher and Douglas so as to determine if they were the men from the carriage ride. Walter confirmed that they were the same men who took the boys from in front of their home the previous summer. Mosher in particular was very identifiable as he had a distinctively malformed nose, which he described to police as a "monkey nose". For most, the issue of who the men in the carriage were was settled beyond reasonable doubt. But Charley was not returned, and the case was far from over.
A former Philadelphia policeman named William Westervelt, a known associate of Bill Mosher, was arrested and held in connection with the case. He was tried in 1875 for kidnapping. Though Westervelt was a friend and perhaps a confidant of Mosher (while in prison awaiting trial he had told Christian Ross that Charley had been alive at the time of Mosher's death), there was virtually no evidence to tie him to the crime itself. Walter, for one, insisted that Westervelt was not one of the men in the carriage that took them away. Westervelt, perhaps inevitably, was found to be innocent of the kidnapping. However, he was found guilty of a lesser conspiracy charge and served six years in prison. He always maintained his own innocence and swore that he did not know where Charley was.
Two years after the kidnapping, Christian Ross published a book on the case, entitled The Father’s Story of Charley Ross, the Kidnapped Child. The Ross family continued to search for Charley for half a century or more, following leads and interviewing thousands of boys, teenagers, and eventually grown men who claimed to have been Charley. In 1939, a 69 year old carpenter named Gustave Blair who had legally changed his name to 'Charley Ross' became the last of the thousands of would-be 'Charley Rosses' to have his claims rejected by the Ross family. An estimate of the expenses incurred by the Rosses during the decades-long search amounts to more than three times what the original ransom would have been. The case, and in particular the fates of Mosher, Douglas, and Westervelt, served as a deterrent to other potential ransom kidnappers: it would be a quarter of a century before another high-profile ransom kidnapping case emerged with Edward Cudahy, Jr. in 1900. The fate of Charley Ross remains unknown. A major missing persons database is named after him. The common admonition "don't take candy from strangers" is said to have come from this affair.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Rape of Nanking

Soldiers from the Imperial Japanese Army enter Nanking in January 1938
The Nanking Massacre or Nanjing Massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanking, was a mass murder and war rape that occurred during the six-week period following the Japanese capture of the city of Nanking (Nanjing), the former capital of the Republic of China, on December 13, 1937 during the Second Sino-Japanese War. During this period, hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians and disarmed soldiers were murdered by soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army. Widespread rape and looting also occurred. Historians and witnesses have estimated that 250,000 to 300,000 people were killed. Several of the key perpetrators of the atrocities, at the time labelled as war crimes, were later tried and found guilty at the Nanjing War Crimes Tribunal, and were subsequently executed. Another key perpetrator, Prince Asaka, a member of the Imperial Family, escaped prosecution by having earlier been granted immunity by the Allies.
The event remains a contentious political issue, as various aspects of it have been disputed by some historical revisionists and Japanese nationalists, who have claimed that the massacre has been either exaggerated or wholly fabricated for propaganda purposes. As a result of the nationalist efforts to deny or rationalize the war crimes, the controversy surrounding the massacre remains a stumbling block in Sino-Japanese relations, as well as Japanese relations with other Asia-Pacific nations such as South Korea and the Philippines.
An accurate estimation of the death toll in the massacre has not been achieved because most of the Japanese military records on the killings were deliberately destroyed or kept secret shortly after the surrender of Japan in 1945. The International Military Tribunal of the Far East estimates more than 200,000 casualties in the incident; China's official estimate is about 300,000 casualties, based on the evaluation of the Nanjing War Crimes Tribunal. Estimates from Japanese historians vary widely, in the vicinity of 40,000–200,000. Some historical revisionists even deny that a widespread, systematic massacre occurred at all, claiming that any deaths were either justified militarily, accidental or isolated incidents of unauthorized atrocities. These revisionists claim that the characterization of the incident as a large-scale, systematic massacre was fabricated for the purpose of political propaganda.
Although the Japanese government has admitted to the acts of killing of a large number of noncombatants, looting and other violence committed by the Imperial Japanese Army after the fall of Nanking, a small but vocal minority within both the Japanese government and society have argued that the death toll was military in nature and that no such crimes ever occurred. Denial of the massacre (and a divergent array of revisionist accounts of the killings) has become a staple of Japanese nationalism. In Japan, public opinion of the massacres varies, and few deny the occurrence of the massacre outright. Nonetheless, recurring attempts by negationists to promote a revisionist history of the incident have created controversy that periodically reverberates in the international media, particularly in China, South Korea, and other East Asian nations.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Constitutional Crisis

Edward in 1945
In 1936, a constitutional crisis in the British Empire was caused by King-Emperor Edward VIII's proposal to marry Wallis Simpson, an American socialite who was divorced from her first husband and was pursuing a divorce of her second.
The marriage was opposed by the governments of the United Kingdom and the autonomous Dominions of the British Commonwealth. Religious, legal, political, and moral objections were raised. As British monarch, Edward was the nominal head of the Church of England, which did not allow divorced people to remarry if their ex-spouses were still alive; so it was widely believed that Edward could not marry Wallis Simpson and remain on the throne. Simpson was perceived to be politically and socially unsuitable as a consort because of her two failed marriages. It was widely assumed by the Establishment that she was driven by love of money or position rather than love for the King. Despite the opposition, Edward declared that he loved Simpson and intended to marry her whether his governments approved or not.
The widespread unwillingness to accept Simpson as the King's consort, and Edward's refusal to give her up, led to his abdication in December 1936. He remains the only British monarch to have voluntarily renounced the throne since the Anglo-Saxon period. He was succeeded by his brother Albert, who took the regal name George VI. Edward was given the title His Royal Highness the Duke of Windsor following his abdication, and he married Wallis Simpson the following year. They remained married until his death 35 years later.

Wallis Simpson in 1936