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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

History Matters
August 16 to August 31, 2020

The official acknowledgement that gave women the right to vote came to a successful resolution 100 years ago this month. After the state of Tennessee ratified the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920, the two-thirds requirement to make it law was satisfied. Eight days later, the Constitution was formally modified to reflect the change.

Historical documentation shows that the suffrage movement started in 1848 when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized a meeting of 200 suffragists in Seneca Falls, NY, and adopted a resolution: “it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.”

However, there is strong evidence that the notion of voting rights for women might have begun even earlier, before America’s independence. In a March 31, 1776 letter written by Abigail Adams to her husband, John Adams, the nation’s future second president, she wrote “If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebelion and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends One Half the People: The Fight for Woman Suffrage by Anne Firor Scott and Andrew MacKay Scott.

Historic Deerfield’s Blog about Abigail & John, Part 3 by David Bruce Smith

This is the third part of a continuing series of blog posts with author David Bruce Smith about Abigail and John Adams.

 

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On August 21, 1959, another star was added to the American flag. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a proclamation, which admitted Hawaii into the union as the 50th state.

According to The Washington Historical Quarterly, traders from Boston were probably the first Americans to visit the Islands in 1789; during the succeeding centuries, commerce between the American colonists, planters and missionaries proliferated, and throngs of people made the Islands their home; by 1894, the newly formed Republic of Hawaii was turned into an American protectorate.

For more information about the Aloha State, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Unsustainable Empire: Alternative Histories of Hawai‘i Statehood by Dean Itsuji Saranillio.

 

 

 

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On August 28, 1963 America’s most prominent civil rights leader — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – delivered the words that have gone down in history—perhaps—as the most stirring call for the end of racial segregation and discrimination: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal’.”

The event took place in front of the Lincoln Memorial, surrounded by 250,000 persons–the largest audience in the history of the civil rights movement. Later, The New York Times said the speech played an important role in the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Clayborne Carson.


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

 

History Matters
August 1 to August 15, 2020

By August 1782, the American Revolution was over, John Adams was in Paris toiling over a peace agreement, and George Washington was taking a respite from his duties as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. After contemplating the six years of valor, bravery, and privations he had gotten from his troops, the General decided to create the Badge of Military Merit.

According to the Military Order of the Purple Heart: “In its shape and color, the Badge anticipated and inspired the modern Purple Heart. In the exceptional level of courage required to be considered for the Badge, however, it was the forerunner of the Medal of Honor.”

But it fell out of use, even after it was presented to three known recipients of the original Badge: Elijah Churchill, William Brown and Daniel Bissell, Jr. In 1931, Generals Charles Summerall and Douglas MacArthur lobbied Congress to reauthorize a newly named “Order of the Purple Heart” in time for Washington’s 200th birthday celebration on February 22, 1932.

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Military Medals of the United States by Frank Foster and Lawrence Borts.

 

 

 

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Often, museums are named after their artifacts or collections; for example, it is easy to know what one will find in the Museum of Natural History. But, what about the Smithsonian Institution? In August 1846, James Smithson, a British benefactor, who had never been to America, bequeathed his $500,000 estate—$16,740,065 in today’s dollars—to “the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.”

Since then, it has morphed into 18 museums, including the National Zoo. Learn more about it in The Smithsonian Experience: Science, History, the Arts … the Treasures of the Nation by the Smithsonian Institution.

 

 

 

 

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Music festivals are an American tradition, but the grandest was the fabled Woodstock; it opened August 15, 1969 on a 600-acre patch of farmland near the village of Bethel, NY. Its young promoters, John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfield, and Michael Lang were relatively inexperienced, but they were optimistic about attracting a sizeable audience–enough to help them finance a rock-and-roll recording studio.

Early estimates indicated 50,000 music enthusiasts would show for the three-day event, but nearly 500,000 came, because of the enticing lineup of performers, which included Jefferson Airplane, the Who, the Grateful Dead; Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix; Creedence Clearwater Revival, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Melanie; Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, and Joe Cocker.

America’s love of music started during Colonial times. The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Music: INVESTIGATE THE EVOLUTION OF AMERICAN SOUND by Donna Latham.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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

History Matters
July 16 to July 31, 2020

“We have lift off!” Destination: The Moon.

With astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins aboard, Apollo 11 was launched on July 16, 1969 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Seventy-six hours and 240,000 miles later, they entered lunar orbit and started preparations for Neil Armstrong’s moon walk. The following day, Armstrong piloted the landing module, Eagle, to its surface; stepped down the ladder—and in a moment that was broadcasted on radios and television all over the world, — he uttered the unforgettable: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

In 1961, President Kennedy had challenged the nation to “…commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends First on the Moon: The Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Experience by Rod Pyle– with a forward by Buzz Aldrin.

 

 

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Walt Disney was a comprehensive innovator of unprecedented creative reach in American entertainment. He pioneered cartoons, feature films, television programming, and–theme parks.

On July 17, 1955 Disneyland opened in Anaheim, CA. History.com called it his “metropolis of nostalgia, fantasy, and futurism” for the kid in all of us. It was arguably the world’s first park that was designed to amuse, and—educate– with its Epcot Center that featured a virtual tour of the world.

Eventually, the success of Disneyland California ramped up a global gobble for more real estate. Disney World Florida, France, Japan, Shanghai, and Hong Kong were next.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney’s Dream by Sam Gennawey.

 

 

 

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In 1774, the British fired Benjamin Franklin from his postmaster general position, because of his loyalty to the Rebel cause. A year later — the start of the American Revolution [1775-1783] — he was re-appointed by the Continental Congress. During his tenure, Franklin revamped the hit-or-miss colonial mail system, inaugurated routes from Florida to Maine; the colonies to Britain, and he created a standardized rate chart based on weight and destination.

In late 1776, he was dispatched to France to negotiate a diplomatic alliance.

The U.S. Postal Service was founded on July 26, 1789 under the Constitution. Samuel Osgood, a former Massachusetts congressman, was the first U.S. Postmaster General.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Neither Snow Nor Rain: A History of the United States Postal Service by Devon Leonard.

 


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

History Matters
July 1 to July 15, 2020

In a swipe against Jim Crow, the Supreme Court ruled in 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education that segregation in American schools was illegal.

Eight years later, President Lyndon Johnson ratified the Civil Rights Act—landmark legislation that was powered—in part–by Dr. Martin Luther King, and his philosophy of passionate, passive, and peaceful resistance.

For more information about those turbulent times, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Juan Williams’s Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965.

 

 

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The fourth of July is not about barbecues, beaches, or even festive fireworks. It is intended to commemorate the 1776 founding of America, and ratification of the Declaration of Independence.

In the beginning, Colonial Americans intended to assert their rights as British citizens, but the Redcoats misread their message, perceived defiance, tightened their control over the colonists, and backed into the fiery freedom fighters. Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, Common Sense, published in January of 1776, pushed perspective onto the people, and a mass of momentum for the revolution.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Marilyn Boyer’s For You They Signed.

 

 

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Tennessee made it a crime to “teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.”

John Thomas Scopes, a local high school science teacher, was accused of violating the law, and in July 1925, the Scopes Monkey Trial began.

The inquiry lasted eleven days; thousands of spectators gathered around the Dayton, TN courthouse. The curious were mesmerized by the issue under consideration—and– the reason why William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow’s–two of the most notable orators and legal experts of the times– were siding with the defense.

When the overflow became unmanageable, Judge John Raulston moved the proceedings to the front lawn of the court.

On July 21, the jury delivered a “guilty” verdict in less than nine minutes, but two years later, the decision was overturned by the Supreme Court of Tennessee; in 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court, forever resolved the issue when it declared that the original verdict violated the Constitution.

For more information about the Scopes Trial, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Ronald Kidd’s Monkey Town: The Summer of the Scopes Trial.

 


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

History Matters
June 16 to June 30, 2020

What could be a bigger treat than a summertime, roller coaster ride? That fistful of fun debuted June 16, 1884 on Coney Island–home of the amusement park—and some say– the hot dog, too.

Twenty-first century entertainment festivals boast of blood-curdling, high-speed rides that challenge the imagination, and one’s facility to hold down food. But, when it was decided to update Coney Island’s 1927 Cyclone, the wooden structure was kept intact, and the speed was capped at 60 mph.

Adventuresome or risk adverse, the roller coaster is an integral part of American history. The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Scott Rutherford’s The American Roller Coaster.

 

 

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On July 17, 1885, the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York Harbor. It was a gift from France, America’s staunch ally during the Revolutionary War. Even though more than a century had passed since the Colonies had become an independent nation, France still chose to honor the United States and its exemplary democracy.

Designed by sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, and engineer Gustave Eiffel [Tower], the colossus arrived in “erector set” pieces–packed in 200 crates–that took more than a year to re-assemble. Lady Liberty was dedicated by President Grover Cleveland on October 28, 1886 at a ceremony on Bedloe’s Island, now known as Liberty Island, in New York Harbor.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Yasmin Sabina Khan’s Enlightening the World: The Creation of the Statue of Liberty.

 

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Sally Ride took the journey of her life when she boarded the Challenger on June 18, 1983 and became the first American woman in space.

How did she get the job? Ride answered a newspaper ad that had been placed by NASA, who was on the hunt for a mission specialist.

With her Bachelor of Science degree in physics, Bachelor of Arts degree in English, a Master of Science and doctorate in physics, the Agency determined she would make the ideal rocket scientist. Ride quickly mastered the maneuvers to man the robotic arm. During her historic six-day mission, she and the crew used it to place new satellites into orbit, and–retrieve one that had done its time.

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Sally Ride and Susan Okie’s To Space and Back.

 


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

 

 

History Matters
June 1 to June 15, 2020

He was known as “the Sultan of Swat” and “the Bambino,” but whatever they called him, George Herman Ruth Jr.–one of the greatest players in the history of baseball–retired on June 2, 1935.

“Babe” Ruth signed with the Baltimore Orioles when he was 19, but the law—then–required a legal guardian to authorize his contract. Jack Dunn, the team’s owner, took on the responsibility, and soon Ruth became known–among his teammates–as “Dunn’s new babe.”

And the legendary Babe Ruth was born.

He played six seasons with the Boston Red Sox; afterwards, he was purchased by the New York Yankees for $125,000, but by then, Ruth had distinguished himself to the point where the Stadium became known–and still is–as “the House that Ruth Built.”

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Wilborn Hampton’s Babe Ruth (Up Close)—especially for people who love baseball.

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On June 3, 1965, Major Edward H. White II became the first American to walk in space–less than three months after Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei A. Leonov. It was in the midst of the Cold War; the Russians had been flexing their mental muscles any which way to get an advantageous edge over America in the space race, but Major White’s tour de force flattened the competitive gap.

In fact, Leonov may have been the first human in space, but his 12-minute extravehicular feat did not go as planned. He had so much difficulty re-entering his Voskhod capsule that he almost did not make it; the spacecraft malfunctioned, and he had to make an emergency landing, hundreds of miles off course.

White, by contrast, had an uneventful 20-minute spacewalk; he returned in his Gemini 4 command module without any complications. That finesse foreshadowed the subsequent success of the Apollo missions, which put a man on the moon—first.

The story of White’s walk is told, well, in David J. Shayler’s Gemini 4: An Astronaut Steps into the Void.

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It is said that the flag of the United States — the Stars and Stripes — was designed by Betsy Ross, a seamstress who lived in Philadelphia during the American Revolution. Whether it is true or not, on June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress adopted a resolution declaring that “the flag of the United States be thirteen alternate stripes red and white…the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” And so, it came to be that our Grand Old Flag became official, based on the Continental Army’s banner.

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.

 

 

 


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

 

 

Contact

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

John Grimaldi      917.846.8485