History Matters
January 16 to January 31, 2021

Benjamin Franklin, the paternal polymath of Revolutionary America, was born January 17, 1706, and died eighty-four years later. His formal education ended at 10, but Franklin taught himself to read and write; subsequently, he matured into an expert, adolescent essayist, producing pieces, pseudonymously, as “Silence Dogood.”

Eventually, he authored the bestselling Poor Richard’s Almanack—a compendium of poems, calendar, and recipes; trivia, humor, practical advice; weather predictions, astrological information, and pithy proverbs.

And his later achievements as a printer, publisher, author, inventor, scientist, and diplomat, mutated the world.

Franklin’s triumphs were variegated, and the scope of his nimble masterminding of the Franklin Stove, bifocals, electricity, and swim fins was unprecedented. He was also America’s first Postmaster General, and founder of the University of Pennsylvania.

Most important: Franklin was a Founding Father. According to History.com, he was the only Founding Father “to have signed all four of the key documents establishing the U.S.: The Declaration of Independence (1776), the Treaty of Alliance with France (1778), the Treaty of Paris establishing peace with Great Britain (1783) and the U.S. Constitution (1787).”

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.

Apparently, it was a “practical joke” when the all-male student body at Geneva Medical College–now State University of New York–voted to accept Elizabeth Blackwell as a student in 1847. Two years later–on January 23, 1849–she graduated at the top of her class; at commencement, the school’s dean acknowledged her achievement in a rather cynical manner and concluded his remarks by declaring his hope that Dr. Blackwell would be the last woman to be admitted to the college.

The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal—now The New England Journal of Medicine– called her achievement “a farce.”

Blackwell completed her graduate studies in London; in 1851, she returned to the U.S., but she was shunned–and barred– from practicing in hospitals. Undaunted, she opened an office in New York City’s tenement district; six years later, she set up The New York Infirmary for Women and Children, with her sister Emily–also doctor–and a third female physician.

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Elizabeth Blackwell: First Woman M.D. by Nancy Kline.

Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days, was published in 1872, but it is still popular. His hero, Phileas T. Fogg, managed to accomplish the feat.

Because the book was a best seller in America and abroad, the editors of the New York World decided to challenge their paper’s star reporter, Nellie Bly, to circumnavigate the globe in under 80 days. The intrepid newspaperwoman did not hesitate. She departed New York City, heading east, and returned 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes, and 14 seconds later– on January 25, 1890.

Nellie Bly was not her real name; she was born Elizabeth Cochrane, but in those days, it was considered improper for a woman to write under her own moniker. She changed it to “Nellie Bly” when she became a journalist.

According to the Library of Congress, “No stranger to fame, the daring Miss Bly had already made a name for herself by exposing the deplorable conditions of an insane asylum on New York’s Blackwell’s Island. Bly researched the story by feigning insanity and having herself committed for ten days. Her exposé on the asylum and later reports on slum life brought about needed reforms and helped pave the way for women in journalism.”

 For more information, The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Bly’s memoir: Undercover: Reporting for The New York World 1887 – 1894.

History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize

History Matters
January 1 to January 15, 2021

Whatever you call it: “Continental Colors”; “Congress Flag”; “Cambridge Flag”, or “Grand Union Flag” — it was the first national flag of the United States. According to historical lore, George Washington unveiled it January 1, 1776 –during the American Revolution—but the stars and stripes motif encompassed a replica of the British flag in the upper left-hand corner.

“It was sort of a compromise between the radicals who wanted to see a separate nation, and the people who were more conciliatory, and wanted to see some accommodation with the crown,” according to historian and flag expert David Martucci.

The History Channel noted in June of 1777 that “the Continental Congress adopted a resolution stating, ‘the flag of the United States be thirteen alternate stripes red and white’ and that ‘the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation’.”

To learn more, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Kevin Keim’s and Peter Keim’s A Grand Old Flag: A History of the United States Through its Flags.










It is difficult for the iPhone generation to fathom the complexities of communication throughout history. For decades, telephones used hard-wired landlines to commence a call. And before that: the telegraph – an invention by Samuel Finley Breese Morse, who demonstrated its “efficiency” via an electrical impulse on January 6, 1838. It came with a code that Morse created using dots and dashes–instead of the alphabet–to move a message from point A to point B.

He formulated the idea in 1832; by 1838– with the assistance of his two partners, Leonard Gale and Alfred Vail, he had a working model. Morse requested funding from Congress to make the prototype–it included construction of overhead wires between Washington DC and Baltimore, Maryland— but the legislators demurred.

Five years later, he garnered the approval–and the money–to proceed; on May 24,1844 Morse sent his first telegraphic message: “What hath God wrought.”

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Lewis Coe’s The Telegraph: A History of Morse’s Invention and Its Predecessors in the United States.

The U.S. Constitution was signed into law by the delegates of the Constitutional Convention in September of 1787. It structured the Federal government; explained the essential laws of the country and guaranteed basic rights for every citizen.

But it was not the first American Constitution. That inaugural document was written and adopted on January 14, 1639 by the settlers from the original Massachusetts Bay Colony, who had migrated to the Connecticut River Valley. It was known as the Fundamental Orders.

According to History.com, “Roger Ludlow, a lawyer, wrote much of the Fundamental Orders, and presented a binding and compact frame of government that put the welfare of the community above that of individuals. It was also the first written constitution in the world to declare the modern idea that ‘the foundation of authority is in the free consent of the people.’ In 1662, the Charter of Connecticut superseded the Fundamental Orders, though the majority of the original document’s laws and statutes remained in force until 1818.”

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends A. Chamberlain’s The First Constitution Of Connecticut: The Fundamental Orders.

History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.

History Matters
December 16 to December 31, 2020

Orville and Wilbur Wright had an astute sense about how things worked, and–an enormous aptitude to build things, and monetize their businesses.

Early on, they set up a newspaper, and constructed printing presses; later, they operated a prosperous bicycle store, and designed bestselling bicycles with Charlie Taylor, an ingenious mechanic, and machinist. The profits generated from the variegated ventures–begun in 1892—financed their future flying machines.

In 1900, Orville and Wilbur constructed their first glider; two years later, it was fitted with a steering system, and a 12-cylinder internal combustion engine that was put in their new airplane. They took it to Kitty Hawk, NC, to run more tests. Then, on December 17, 1903, they launched the Wright Flyer with Orville at the controls. That inaugural flight of their gasoline-powered, propeller-driven biplane lasted 12 seconds, and flew only 120 feet, but it made history, and opened the Age of Aviation.

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Wright Brothers by David McCullough.












In 1812, the bullying British commandeered thousands of American seamen to serve in the Royal Navy; they ordered an economic blockade on France—the nation’s most loyal ally—and inflamed the Indian tribes in the Great Lakes.

In June of the same year, America’s “War Hawks” demanded retaliation, and—finally– got their way. President James Madison declared war. During the two years of combat, the world got a glimpse of America’s mighty military prowess.

The Treaty of Ghent—ratified on December 24, 1814, ended the enmities, but word did not reach the United States until the following year. The public was elated by the news, and President Madison left office a hero.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends 1812: The War That Forged a Nation by Walter R. Borneman.


America has a proud history of diversity—a “melting pot” that is especially conspicuous during the winter holidays. Jewish communities celebrate Hannukah; Christians observe Christmas, and African Americans relish Kwanzaa, a feast which honors family, community, and culture; it was begun December 26,1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, chairman of Black Studies at California State University. The turmoil of the Civil Rights movement had not yet climaxed, and Professor Karenga “was deeply disturbed by the devastation and searched for a way to overcome the despair he felt had gripped the African American community,” according to History.com.

His intention was to “empower and unite the nation’s African American community” by creating a “nonreligious holiday that would stress the importance of family and community while giving African Americans an opportunity to explore their African identities.”

Kwanzaa is a seven-day festival—from December 26 through January 1. Each night grandparents, parents, children, and grandchildren gather to remember one of the seven Kwanzaa principles: unity, self-determination, collective work; responsibility, economic cooperation; purpose, creativity, and faith.

To learn more about Kwanzaa, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends A Kwanzaa Story: Or How One Gentleman Found His Way by Nancy Harrington.

History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.

History Matters
December 1 to December 15, 2020

The 12th Amendment to the Constitution grants the House of Representatives with the authority to determine the winner of a presidential election if neither candidate receives a majority of the total electoral votes.

In November 1824, Andrew Jackson of Tennessee, and John Quincy Adams, the son of former president, John Adams, were grappling for the presidency. Secretary of State William H. Crawford and Representative Henry Clay of Kentucky were also on the ballot, but to win, one of the candidates had to receive at least 131 of the 261 electoral votes; nobody had managed it; so the House was scheduled to deliberate and decide on December 1, 1824.

Amendment 12 also requires the House to choose the winner based on the three candidates with the most electoral votes. Jackson had 99 electoral and 153,544 popular votes; John Quincy Adams had 84 electoral and 108,740 popular; William H. Crawford had 41, and Henry Clay, with 35 electoral votes, was the “odd man out.” But he and John Quincy Adams were friends; so Clay decided to transfer his support to him, and Adams was elected by the House to be the sixth President on February 9, 1825.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends The First Presidential Contest: 1796 and the Founding of American Democracy by Jeffrey L. Pasley.

John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson


Governor William Phips of Britain’s Massachusetts Bay Colony issued the first paper money on December 10, 1690. His decision was based on a loss to the French forces for control of Quebec City. The British and the French angled to dominate the North American colonies, by attacking and looting each other’s outposts. Purloined treasures paid their soldiers, but Phips returned from the Battle of Quebec City empty handed; to avoid a mutiny, he petitioned the General Court of Massachusetts to issue a limited amount of official paper currency, the first paper money in the Western Hemisphere. After a few months, the privilege was rolled back — out of necessity.

Paper currency was not popular with the citizens of the colony; they wanted to return to the coin of the realm. But within a few years, it was back in circulation. To assuage people, it was eventually tied to the price of gold. And so, it would remain–until 1973– when gold backed currency was discontinued and replaced with government backed Federal Reserve Notes.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Everyday Life in Early America by David Freeman Hawke.

The first paper money


American colonists fought the Revolutionary War to gain independence from Great Britain–and then relied, in part– on the English Bill of Rights of 1689 to draft the first 12 Amendments to the Constitution. They were to become the American Bill of Rights. But according to National Constitution Center, “the 12 amendments didn’t all make it through the state ratification process. And in fact, the original First and Second Amendments fell short of approval by enough states to make it into the Constitution.”

That left the first ten amendments to the Constitution, which became the Bill of Rights–ratified by the states on December 15, 1791.

Those Rights protect the freedoms of speech; the press; religion and assembly; the right to bear arms and petition the government. They shield against housing soldiers in civilian homes against unreasonable search and seizure; the issuing of warrants without probable cause; unreasonable search and seizure; the issuing of warrants without probable cause; trial without indictment; double jeopardy; self-incrimination; property seizure excessive bail; excessive fines; cruel and unusual punishment.

The Bill of Rights declares that the rights granted in the Constitution shall not infringe on other rights, and that the Power not granted to the Federal Government in the Constitution belongs to the states or the people.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Origins of the Bill of Rights by Leonard W. Levy.

Signing the Bill of Rights


History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.


History Matters
November 16 to November 30, 2020

At precisely high noon, on November 18, 1883, the railroad system introduced America to its four new zones: Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific; until then, villages, towns, and cities from coast to coast, counted on the sun to set their clocks, and based time on local estimates. People started their day at sunrise, assembled for meals, pushed through chores, and retired at dusk.

But the railroads required a reliable standard to maintain uniform timetables; prior to the decree, arrivals and departures confused travelers, and created chaos for commerce.

The change was embraced enthusiastically, but it wasn’t until 1918 that Congress passed the Standard Time Act, which transferred oversight of the time zone boundaries to the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). In 1966, the authority was re-assigned to the Department of Transportation.

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Great Railroad Revolution: The History of Trains in America by Christian Wolmar.


On September 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris ended the Revolutionary War, but it took the British nearly three months to complete their retreat. The last of the troops departed New York on November 25th—which coincidentally–was Thanksgiving, giving the former colonists-turned-Americans, another reason to gloat.

American System Now, a history website, published an article that included an excerpt from “a woman who had witnessed” the celebrations that day–as a girl. She wrote: “We had been accustomed for a long time to military display in all the finish and finery of garrison life; the troops just leaving us were as if equipped for show, and with their scarlet uniforms and burnished arms, made a brilliant display; the troops that marched in, on the contrary, were ill-clad and weather beaten, and made a forlorn appearance; but then they were our troops, and as I looked at them and thought upon all they had done and suffered for us, my heart and my eyes were full, and I admired and gloried in them the more, because they were weather beaten and forlorn.”

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier.


President Lyndon Johnson renamed Cape Canaveral in honor of the late John F. Kennedy on November 28, 1963, five days after his assassination. Two years earlier, President Kennedy had dared America’s rocket scientists to put a man on the moon within a decade—and it was accomplished, triumphantly–on July 20, 1969, when Astronaut Neil Armstrong landed–and walked–on the moon.

The Cape’s role in America’s efforts to conquer space–or what Star Trek fans call “The Last Frontier,” was begun in 1947, when it became a missile testing range. The plan was to put a satellite in orbit to sync with the 1957-1958 International Geophysical Year celebrations. But according to Space.com, “the Army ended up sending the first U.S. satellite, Explorer 1, into space on Jan. 31, 1958, on a modified Jupiter-C rocket called Juno 1”.

Meanwhile, in 1971, Cape Kennedy reverted to its original name, Cape Canaveral, but the main attraction remained the “Kennedy Space Center”.

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Moonport: A History of Apollo Launch Facilities and Operations by Charles D. Benson and William Faherty.

History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.


History Matters
November 1 to November 15, 2020

Americans assume that eligible voters have always participated in national elections, but–in a quirky 1801 act of congress–the residents of Washington, D.C. were barred from casting their ballots. The restriction was not revoked until the 23rd amendment was ratified in 1961; but the privilege to pick a president did not take effect until November 3, 1964.

In 1971, the District of Columbia was finally allowed to have one non-voting delegate in the House of Representatives. That status of neglect—comparable to a United States territory– has not wavered.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Every Vote Matters: The Power of Your Voice, from Student Elections to the Supreme Court by Thomas A. Jacobs, J.D., and Natalie Jacobs.


History happened on November 4, 2008 when 47-year-old Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States, the first black American to ascend to the office. He defeated the war hero/senator, John McCain, from Arizona.

According to History.com, “During the general-election campaign, as in the primaries, Obama’s team worked to build a following at the grassroots level and used what his supporters viewed as the candidate’s natural charisma, unique life story and inspiring message of hope and change to draw large crowds to his public appearances, both in the United States and on a campaign trip abroad. His team also worked to bring new voters–many of them young or black, both demographics they believed favored Obama–to become involved in the election. Additionally, the campaign was notable for its unprecedented use of the Internet for organizing constituents and fundraising.”

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Obama: An Intimate Portrait by Pete Souza, with a forward by President Obama.


On January 2, 1892, Annie Moore, a 15-year-old girl from Ireland, became the first immigrant to be “processed” at Ellis Island, in New York. The “people demand” peaked in 1907, but by then, more than one million prospective Americans had passed through.

Eventually, the kinetic activity was curtailed by World War I, and draconian congressional legislation to limit the number of people permitted entry into the country.

By 1954, the facility –which had welcomed 12 million potential new citizens—closed–and was converted into a detention center. In 1990, it re-emerged—after a $160 million renovation–as the Ellis Island Immigration Museum; two million persons visit each year.

According to History.com “an estimated 40 percent of all Americans can trace their roots through Ellis Island.”

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Hope and Tears: Ellis Island Voices by Gwenyth Swain.


History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.


History Matters
October 16 to October 31, 2020

Texas was in the middle of its war for independence from Mexico—and–in alarming need of protection for its spread-out settlers from the outlaws roaming its endless frontier. Finally, on October 17, 1835, the government of the new republic stationed a police force — the Texas Rangers — to “range and guard the frontier between the Brazos and Trinity Rivers.”

At first, the Rangers were ordinary citizens who supplied their own horses, weapons, and had the authority to maintain law and order in the republic even after Texas joined the Union as the 28th state in 1845. In the ensuing years, the Rangers garnered a legendary reputation for tracking down miscreants and, by 1935, they became the official police force of the state. The Rangers still wear the distinctive silver Cinco Peso badge, today.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Mike Cox’s The Texas Rangers: Wearing the Cinco Peso, 1821-1900.


It took more than two years of plowing and digging to make the 425-mile Erie Canal connect middle America’s Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean, by way of New York’s Hudson River. The prodigious project was started in August 1823 and completed—ready for commerce–on October 26, 1825. Although it was the pet project of Governor DeWitt Clinton, from New York, the concept of a waterway with such scope was originated by the Founding Fathers to unify America’s frontier with the original 13 colonies.

The Erie Canal — or Clinton’s Ditch, as it became known — helped provide that relationship. As History.com describes it: “Settlers poured into western New York, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Goods were transported at one-tenth the previous fee in less than half the time. Barges of farm produce and raw materials traveled east, as manufactured goods and supplies flowed west.”

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Peter L. Bernstein’s Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation.


Nineteen Fifty was a breakthrough in the Civil Rights Movement; on October 31st, Earl Lloyd became the first African American to play in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Washington Capitols. Two other black players were also selected in the draft that year: Chuck Cooper was picked up by the Boston Celtics, and Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton was chosen by the New York Knicks, but those teams did not start their seasons until November.

Suddenly, after seven games, the U.S. Army drafted Lloyd; by the time he was discharged, the Capitols were out of business, and so he signed with the Syracuse Nationals (later the Philadelphia 76ers), and later played for the Detroit Pistons. He became their scout, assistant coach, and in 1970, Lloyd was elevated to head coach—the first African American in the league in that position.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Fredrick McKissack’s Black Hoops: The History of African Americans in Basketball.




History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.


History Matters
October 1 to October 15, 2020

California’s Yosemite Valley, with its Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias, was a pristine home for Native Americans until the Gold Rush of 1849, but—then–thousands of prospectors trampled the environment. By 1864, conservationists were looking for a way to protect the valley’s fragile ecosystem; finally, they urged President Lincoln to come to the rescue, and he put the basin under the protection of a public trust. It wasn’t until October 1, 1890 that Congress, and President Benjamin Harrison–at the behest of concerned environmentalists shepherded by John Muir–officially created Yosemite National Park.

Today, there are more than 400 parks, comprising approximately 84 million acres—diffused throughout the country.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends America’s National Parks by Ester Tome.


When Washington DC was founded in 1790, it usurped Philadelphia as the nation’s capital; the new location was more favorable. Two years later, the cornerstone of the White House was laid. Why the “White House?” Perhaps, as History.com put it, “because its white-gray Virginia freestone contrasted strikingly with the red brick of nearby buildings.” The British had set fire to it during the War of 1812, but when it was rebuilt, the structure was painted white.

The original White House was designed by the American architect James Hoban, an Irish immigrant, who also supervised its reconstruction, but the nickname did not become official, until President Theodore Roosevelt declared—in 1901–that it would—henceforth–be known as the White House.

The Grateful American Book Prize suggests The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower.


Today we live in the “the space age.” But prior to October 14, 1947, supersonic flight–or even a trip to the moon– was unthinkable. But on that day, World War II ace, U.S. Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager, became the first pilot to break the sound barrier, over the Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert, in southern California. His Bell Aircraft Company experimental rocket plane, the X-1, was attached to the bomb bay of a B-29, rose to an altitude of 25,000 feet, and—released–with Yeager at the controls.

He took the aircraft to 40,000 feet, achieved a speed of more than 662 miles per hour, well past the sound barrier at that altitude.

Yeager was what some might call “a methodical daredevil.” During World War II he flew 64 missions over Europe, shot down 13 Nazi planes–and was shot down–over enemy territory. He escaped capture by making a four-month trek to neutral Spain.

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Yeager: An Autobiography by General Chuck Yeager and Leo Janos.


History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.


History Matters
September 16 to September 30, 2020

“The U.S. Constitution is the oldest written constitution in operation in the world,” according to History.com. It was signed September 17, 1787, but ten months would pass before it was ratified by the required nine of the 13 original states. But, in time, the holdouts — Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island – sanctioned the document, and on September 25, 1789, the first Congress of the United States convened, and adopted the Bill of Rights.

One hundred sixty-six years later, President Dwight D. Eisenhower designated September 17th as “Citizenship Day” to honor the signing of the Constitution. But in 1997, Louise Leigh, a devoted student, initiated a campaign to shift the focus from “Citizenship” to James Madison and “his” Constitution. Her persistence succeeded, and on September 17, 2004, “Constitution Day” was turned into an official holiday.

As Ms. Leigh put it during a 2005 interview with Education World: “I became acutely aware of the uniqueness, the greatness, and the miracle of our Constitution. Until the 1800s, every American child could recite all the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution, which is not done today. We celebrate Independence Day on July 4 with gusto. The Revolutionary War gave us independence from England, but the Constitution is the document that gave us freedom, which has made us the greatest and mightiest nation in history.”

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends W. Cleon Skousen’s The Making of America: The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution.

“A well-instructed people alone can be permanently a free people.”
– James Madison, fourth president of the United States.


Eighteen months after the start of the Civil War, 3,953,762 American slaves got a first glint of hope.

On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. The final version—on January 1, 1863—declared that “that all persons held as slaves are, and henceforward shall be free.”

But Lincoln’s presidential order did not become law until the 13th Amendment—ratified on December 6, 1865—ended slavery in America, eight months after his assassination.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Patricia C. & Frederick L. McKissick’s Days of Jubilee.

“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.”
– James Madison, author of the Bill of Rights


According to Article 3 of the Constitution, “The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” On September 24, 1789, President George Washington established the Inaugural Supreme Court of six justices.

Washington selected John Jay as his Chief Justice, along with five Associate Justices: John Rutledge, William Cushing, John Blair, Robert Harrison, and James Wilson. On February 1, 1790, the coterie gathered for their first session in New York City’s Royal Exchange Building.

Congress set the number of Justices–at varying sizes–until nine became the agreed-on standard, in 1869.

The Grateful American Prize recommends Natalie Wexler’s A More Obedient Wife: A Novel of the Early Supreme Court.

“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
– James Madison, father of the Constitution



History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.


History Matters
September 1 to September 15, 2020

On September 7th, Uncle Sam will be two-hundred and seven. The United States got its nickname when a Troy, NY newspaper ran a story about Samuel Wilson, a meatpacker who supplied beef to the American soldiers during the War of 1812. He loaded the portions into barrels marked “US”, which the troops started referring to as “Uncle Sam’s” rations; the moniker went viral, and—eventually— it became the personification of America.

Later in the 19th century, the cartoonist Thomas Nast designed an image to match the name: a white goateed man wearing a top hat, dressed in red, white, and blue.

In 1961 Congress passed a resolution acknowledging that Samuel Wilson was the ingenuity behind Uncle Sam.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For by David McCullough.


By the fall of 1776, the Declaration of Independence had already been signed, and delivered to the British. It unambiguously stated that the colonies were now an independent nation. On September 9, 1776, the Continental Congress officially replaced the designation, “United Colonies” with the “United States of America”.

Even though the American Revolution was in still going on, the Congressional resolution stated: “That in all continental commissions, and other instruments, where, heretofore, the words ‘United Colonies’ have been used, the stile be altered for the future to the “United States.”

Seven years later, The Treaty of Paris ended the War—officially–and America was free.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends its 2016 award winner, The Drum of Destiny, by Chris Stevenson.




On September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key wrote a poem called The Defence of Fort McHenry. The War of 1812 had ramped up rage between the United States and Britain a second time. Baltimore’s Fort McHenry was on the defensive, and Key was imprisoned on an enemy warship.

According to History.com “Key watched the bombing campaign unfold from aboard a ship located about eight miles away. After a day, the British were unable to destroy the fort and gave up. Key was relieved to see the American flag still flying over Fort McHenry and quickly penned a few lines in tribute to what he had witnessed.”

His poem was printed in newspapers—and then–set to music. Its popularity soared; people started calling it “The Star-Spangled Banner”; and, in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed it should be played and sung at all official gatherings.

Fifteen years later, Key’s “poem” metamorphosized into the national anthem.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends 1812: The War That Forged a Nation by Walter R. Borneman.



History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.



Inquiries from authors, publishers and the media should be directed to:

John Grimaldi      917.846.8485