Subject: Krakatau explodes
The most powerful volcanic eruption in recorded history occurs on Krakatau (also called Krakatoa), a small, uninhabited volcanic island located west of Sumatra in Indonesia, on this day in 1883. Heard 3,000 miles away, the explosions threw five cubic miles of earth 50 miles into the air, created 120-foot tsunamis and killed 36,000 people.
Krakatau exhibited its first stirrings in more than 200 years on May 20, 1883. A German warship passing by reported a seven-mile high cloud of ash and dust over Krakatau. For the next two months, similar explosions would be witnessed by commercial liners and natives on nearby Java and Sumatra. With little to no idea of the impending catastrophe, the local inhabitants greeted the volcanic activity with festive excitement.
On August 26 and August 27, excitement turned to horror as Krakatau literally blew itself apart, setting off a chain of natural disasters that would be felt around the world for years to come. An enormous blast on the afternoon of August 26 destroyed the northern two-thirds of the island; as it plunged into the Sunda Strait, between the Java Sea and Indian Ocean, the gushing mountain generated a series of pyroclastic flows (fast-moving fluid bodies of molten gas, ash and rock) and monstrous tsunamis that swept over nearby coastlines. Four more eruptions beginning at 5:30 a.m. the following day proved cataclysmic. The explosions could be heard as far as 3,000 miles away, and ash was propelled to a height of 50 miles. Fine dust from the explosion drifted around the earth, causing spectacular sunsets and forming an atmospheric veil that lowered temperatures worldwide by several degrees.
Of the estimated 36,000 deaths resulting from the eruption, at least 31,000 were caused by the tsunamis created when much of the island fell into the water. The greatest of these waves measured 120 feet high, and washed over nearby islands, stripping away vegetation and carrying people out to sea. Another 4,500 people were scorched to death from the pyroclastic flows that rolled over the sea, stretching as far as 40 miles, according to some sources.
In addition to Krakatau, which is still active, Indonesia has another 130 active volcanoes, the most of any country in the world.
Subject: Charles and Diana divorce
After four years of separation, Charles, Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne, and his wife, Princess Diana, formally divorce.
On July 29, 1981, nearly one billion television viewers in 74 countries tuned in to witness the marriage of Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, to Lady Diana Spencer, a young English schoolteacher. Married in a grand ceremony at St. Paul's Cathedral in the presence of 2,650 guests, the couple's romance was, for the moment, the envy of the world. Their first child, Prince William, was born in 1982, and their second, Prince Harry, in 1984.
Before long, however, the fairy tale couple grew apart, an experience that was particularly painful under the ubiquitous eyes of the world's tabloid media. Diana and Charles announced a separation in 1992, though they continued to carry out their royal duties. In August 1996, two months after Queen Elizabeth II urged the couple to divorce, the prince and princess reached a final agreement. In exchange for a generous settlement, and the right to retain her apartments at Kensington Palace and her title of "Princess of Wales," Diana agreed to relinquish the title of "Her Royal Highness" and any future claims to the British throne.
In the year following the divorce, the popular princess seemed well on her way to achieving her dream of becoming "a queen in people's hearts," but on August 31, 1997, she was killed with her companion Dodi Fayed in a car accident in Paris. An investigation conducted by the French police concluded that the driver, who also died in the crash, was heavily intoxicated and caused the accident while trying to escape the paparazzi photographers who consistently tailed Diana during any public outing.
Prince Charles married his longtime mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles, on April 9, 2005.
Subject: Hurricane Katrina slams into Gulf Coast
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered a mandatory evacuation of the city on August 28, when Katrina briefly achieved Category 5 status and the National Weather Service predicted "devastating" damage to the area. But an estimated 150,000 people, who either did not want to or did not have the resources to leave, ignored the order and stayed behind. The storm brought sustained winds of 145 miles per hour, which cut power lines and destroyed homes, even turning cars into projectile missiles. Katrina caused record storm surges all along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The surges overwhelmed the levees that protected New Orleans, located at six feet below sea level, from Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River. Soon, 80 percent of the city was flooded up to the rooftops of many homes and small buildings.
Tens of thousands of people sought shelter in the New Orleans Convention Center and the Louisiana Superdome. The situation in both places quickly deteriorated, as food and water ran low and conditions became unsanitary. Frustration mounted as it took up to two days for a full-scale relief effort to begin. In the meantime, the stranded residents suffered from heat, hunger, and a lack of medical care. Reports of looting, rape, and even murder began to surface. As news networks broadcast scenes from the devastated city to the world, it became obvious that a vast majority of the victims were African-American and poor, leading to difficult questions among the public about the state of racial equality in the United States. The federal government and President George W. Bush were roundly criticized for what was perceived as their slow response to the disaster. The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Michael Brown, resigned amid the ensuing controversy.
Finally, on September 1, the tens of thousands of people staying in the damaged Superdome and Convention Center begin to be moved to the Astrodome in Houston, Texas, and another mandatory evacuation order was issued for the city. The next day, military convoys arrived with supplies and the National Guard was brought in to bring a halt to lawlessness. Efforts began to collect and identify corpses. On September 6, eight days after the hurricane, the Army Corps of Engineers finally completed temporary repairs to the three major holes in New Orleans' levee system and were able to begin pumping water out of the city.
In all, it is believed that the hurricane caused more than 1,300 deaths and up to $150 billion in damages to both private property and public infrastructure. It is estimated that only about $40 billion of that number will be covered by insurance. One million people were displaced by the disaster, a phenomenon unseen in the United States since the Great Depression. Four hundred thousand people lost their jobs as a result of the disaster. Offers of international aid poured in from around the world, even from poor countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Private donations from U.S. citizens alone approached $600 million.
The storm also set off 36 tornadoes in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, resulting in one death.
President Bush declared September 16 a national day of remembrance for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Subject: Thurgood Marshall confirmed as Supreme Court justice
On this day in 1967, Thurgood Marshall becomes the first African American to be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. He would remain on the Supreme Court for 24 years before retiring for health reasons, leaving a legacy of upholding the rights of the individual as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
From a young age, Marshall seemed destined for a place in the American justice system. His parents instilled in him an appreciation for the Constitution, a feeling that was reinforced by his schoolteachers, who forced him to read the document as punishment for his misbehavior. After graduating from Lincoln University in 1930, Marshall sought admission to the University of Maryland School of Law, but was turned away because of the school's segregation policy, which effectively forbade blacks from studying with whites. Instead, Marshall attended Howard University Law School, from which he graduated magna cum laude in 1933. (Marshall later successfully sued Maryland School of Law for their unfair admissions policy.)
Setting up a private practice in his home state of Maryland, Marshall quickly established a reputation as a lawyer for the "little man." In a year's time, he began working with the Baltimore NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), and went on to become the organization’s chief counsel by the time he was 32, in 1940. Over the next two decades, Marshall distinguished himself as one of the country's leading advocates for individual rights, winning 29 of the 32 cases he argued in front of the Supreme Court, all of which challenged in some way the 'separate but equal' doctrine that had been established by the landmark case Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). The high-water mark of Marshall's career as a litigator came in 1954 with his victory in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. In that case, Marshall argued that the 'separate but equal' principle was unconstitutional, and designed to keep blacks "as near [slavery] as possible."
In 1961, Marshall was appointed by then-President John F. Kennedy to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, a position he held until 1965, when Kennedy's successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, named him solicitor general. Following the retirement of Justice Tom Clark in 1967, President Johnson appointed Marshall to the Supreme Court, a decision confirmed by the Senate with a 69-11 vote. Over the next 24 years, Justice Marshall came out in favor of abortion rights and against the death penalty, as he continued his tireless commitment to ensuring equitable treatment of individuals--particularly minorities--by state and federal governments.
Subject: Princess Diana dies
Diana, Princess of Wales, dies in Paris' Pitie-Salpetiere Hospital after suffering massive chest injuries in an early morning car accident. Her companion, Dodi Fayed, was killed instantly in the 12:25 a.m. crash, as was driver Henri Paul, who was drunk and lost control of the Mercedes in a highway underpass. He was driving at excessive speeds in a reckless attempt to escape paparazzi photographers. Diana's bodyguard, Trevor Rees Jones, escaped with serious but nonfatal injuries. He was the only one wearing his seat belt. The death of Diana, beloved by millions for her beauty and good nature, plunged the world into mourning.
On July 1, 1961, Diana Frances Spencer was born at Park House, the home that her parents rented on Queen Elizabeth II's estate at Sandringham, England. In her childhood, her playmates were Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, the younger sons of Queen Elizabeth. When her father inherited the title Earl of Spencer in 1975, she became known as Lady Diana Spencer. After completing her education, Lady Diana became a kindergarten teacher at a fashionable school in a suburb of London.
In 1980, she began a romance with Prince Charles, the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth. In February 1981, the 33-year-old Prince of Wales announced his engagement to the 19-year-old schoolteacher. Diana's beauty and shy demeanor made her an instant media sensation, and on July 29, 1981, nearly one billion television viewers in 74 countries tuned in to witness her marriage to the heir to the British throne. Married in a grand ceremony at St. Paul's Cathedral, the couple's romance was, for the moment, the envy of the world. Their first child, Prince William, was born in 1982, and their second, Prince Harry, in 1984.
Before long, however, the fairy tale couple grew apart, an experience that was particularly painful under the ubiquitous eyes of the world's tabloid media. The paparazzi--freelance photographers--made Diana one of the most photographed women in the world, and privately she suffered from eating disorders and depression. In 1992, Diana and Charles formally separated. In August 1996, the prince and princess reached a final divorce agreement after prolonged negotiations. In exchange for a generous settlement and the right to retain her apartments at Kensington Palace and her title Princess of Wales, Diana agreed to relinquish the title Her Royal Highness and any future claims to the British throne.
In the year after her divorce, the popular princess seemed well on her way to achieving her dream of becoming "a queen in people's hearts." She maintained a high public profile and continued to promote many humanitarian causes, including support for AIDS victims and a campaign against land mines. In late 1996, she became involved with millionaire Dodi Al Fayed, the son of the Egyptian-born owner of the Harrods department stores. Their romance grew in 1997, and in August Diana took a holiday with Dodi in the Mediterranean. As always, the paparazzi followed closely behind, and one photographer was paid $3 million by the tabloids for a photo of Diana and Dodi kissing on Fayed's yacht.
On August 30, Diana and Dodi flew from Sardinia to Paris. Diana planned to return to Kensington Palace the next morning after spending a night in Dodi's Paris villa. That evening, Diana and Dodi dined at a restaurant in Paris' Ritz Hotel, owned by Dodi's father since 1979. The paparazzi came out in force. Toward the end of the meal, Dodi told his chauffeur to drive his car back to his mansion in an attempt to draw off photographers. Henri Paul, the deputy chief of security at the Ritz, was enlisted to be the new driver. He agreed, even though he had been drinking heavily and was taking anti-depressant drugs that were not supposed to be mixed with alcohol.
Around midnight, Dodi and Diana emerged from the rear entrance of the Ritz. The paparazzi had not been fooled by the earlier ruse, and the couple were photographed getting into a bullet-proof Mercedes along with Diana's bodyguard. As they made their way across town, they were followed closely by paparazzi on motorcycles. On the Place de la Concorde, Henri Paul hit the accelerator in an attempt to escape the press. By the time they reached the underpass below the Pont de l'Alma, the driver was traveling an estimated 120 mph in a 30-mph speed zone. Paul lost control as they flew into the underpass, and the Mercedes ricocheted off a wall and slammed into pillars supporting the tunnel roof. The paparazzi, 100 yards behind at the time of the accident, were able to stop in time. Several of them then ran down the tunnel and began taking photos, which were later confiscated by police.
The Mercedes, lying crushed against the 13th pillar, was a tangle of smoking metal. Diana, barely alive with serious chest injuries, was trapped inside. Emergency crews arrived within minutes, but because the car was made of reinforced steel meant to withstand bullets it took nearly an hour and a half to extricate her from the crumbled vehicle. She was taken to the Pitie-Salpetiere Hospital, where she suffered cardiac arrest minutes after her arrival. Surgeons failed to revive her, and at 3 a.m. she was pronounced dead. She was 36.
Diana's bodyguard was the only survivor of the crash. He suffered a concussion and other injuries and has no memory of the crash nor the events immediately preceding or following it. French authorities arrested 10 paparazzi photographers who were tailing the Mercedes and charged them with involuntary manslaughter. The charges were dropped when a formal investigation concluded that Henri Paul was solely at fault for the fatal accident.
The tragic death of Diana caused an outpouring of British national feeling not seen since the celebrations surrounding the end of World War II. Mourners brought more than a million bouquets of flowers to the royal palaces and waited in line more than 12 hours to sign books of condolences. More than 3,500 phone lines were set up to take donations for a memorial fund, and within a year the charity fund raised $133 million, of which $48 million came from sales of Elton John's memorial recording "Candle in the Wind 1997" and $20 million from official Diana souvenirs.
After being criticized for failing to satisfactorily match the grief of the British people, the royal family arranged for a state funeral to be held for Diana at Westminster Abbey on September 6. Diana's coffin was taken from Kensington Palace to the Abbey on a horse-drawn gun carriage, and an estimated one million mourners lined the route. Diana's sons, William, 15, and Harry, 12, joined their father, Prince Charles; grandfather Prince Philip; and uncle Charles, the Earl of Spencer, to walk the final stretch of the procession with the casket. The only sound was the clatter of the horses' hooves and the peal of a church bell.
The service, watched by an estimated two billion people worldwide, sacrificed royal pomp for a more human touch. Workers associated with Diana's various charities represented 500 of the 2,000 people invited to attend the funeral. Elton John, a friend of Diana, lent a popular touch to the ceremony when he sang "Candle in the Wind," accompanying himself on piano. After the service, Diana's body was taken by hearse to her family's ancestral estate near Althorp, north of London. In a private ceremony, she was laid to rest on a tree-shaded island in a small lake, securely beyond the reach of the camera lens.
Since the death of Princess Diana, Althorp, which has been in the Spencer family for over 500 years, is now a popular tourist attraction that offers tours to the general public.
Subject: Atlanta falls to Union forces
On this day in 1864, Union Army General William Tecumseh Sherman lays siege to Atlanta, Georgia, a critical Confederate hub, shelling civilians and cutting off supply lines. The Confederates retreated, destroying the city's munitions as they went. On November 15 of that year, Sherman's troops burned much of the city before continuing their march through the South. Sherman's Atlanta campaign was one of the most decisive victories of the Civil War.
William Sherman, born May 8, 1820, in Lancaster, Ohio, attended West Point and served in the army before becoming a banker and then president of a military school in Louisiana. When the Civil War broke out in 1861 after 11 Southern slave states seceded from the Union, Sherman joined the Union Army and eventually commanded large numbers of troops, under General Ulysses S. Grant, at the battles of Shiloh (1862), Vicksburg (1863) and Chattanooga (1863). In the spring of 1864, Sherman became supreme commander of the armies in the West and was ordered by Grant to take the city of Atlanta, then a key military supply center and railroad hub for the Confederates.
Sherman's Atlanta campaign began on May 4, 1864, and in the first few months his troops engaged in several fierce battles with Confederate soldiers on the outskirts of the city, including the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, which the Union forces lost. However, on September 1, Sherman's men successfully captured Atlanta and continued to defend it through mid-November against Confederate forces led by John Hood. Before he set off on his famous March to the Sea on November 15, Sherman ordered that Atlanta's military resources, including munitions factories, clothing mills and railway yards, be burned. The fire got out of control and left Atlanta in ruins.
Sherman and 60,000 of his soldiers then headed toward Savannah, Georgia, destroying everything in their path that could help the Confederates. They captured Savannah and completed their March to the Sea on December 23, 1864. The Civil War ended on April 9, 1865, when the Confederate commander in chief, Robert E. Lee, surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia.
After the war, Sherman succeeded Grant as commander in chief of the U.S. Army, serving from 1869 to 1883. Sherman, who is credited with the phrase "war is hell," died February 14, 1891, in New York City. The city of Atlanta swiftly recovered from the war and became the capital of Georgia in 1868, first on a temporary basis and then permanently by popular vote in 1877.
Subject: First ATM opens for business
On this day in 1969, America's first automatic teller machine (ATM) makes its public debut, dispensing cash to customers at Chemical Bank in Rockville Center, New York. ATMs went on to revolutionize the banking industry, eliminating the need to visit a bank to conduct basic financial transactions. By the 1980s, these money machines had become widely popular and handled many of the functions previously performed by human tellers, such as check deposits and money transfers between accounts. Today, ATMs are as indispensable to most people as cell phones and e-mail.
Several inventors worked on early versions of a cash-dispensing machine, but Don Wetzel, an executive at Docutel, a Dallas company that developed automated baggage-handling equipment, is generally credited as coming up with the idea for the modern ATM. Wetzel reportedly conceived of the concept while waiting on line at a bank. The ATM that debuted in New York in 1969 was only able to give out cash, but in 1971, an ATM that could handle multiple functions, including providing customers' account balances, was introduced.
ATMs eventually expanded beyond the confines of banks and today can be found everywhere from gas stations to convenience stores to cruise ships. There is even an ATM at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Non-banks lease the machines (so-called "off premise" ATMs) or own them outright.
Today there are well over 1 million ATMs around the world, with a new one added approximately every five minutes. It's estimated that more than 170 Americans over the age of 18 had an ATM card in 2005 and used it six to eight times a month. Not surprisingly, ATMs get their busiest workouts on Fridays.
In the 1990s, banks began charging fees to use ATMs, a profitable move for them and an annoying one for consumers. Consumers were also faced with an increase in ATM crimes and scams. Robbers preyed on people using money machines in poorly lit or otherwise unsafe locations, and criminals also devised ways to steal customers' PINs (personal identification numbers), even setting up fake money machines to capture the information. In response, city and state governments passed legislation such as New York's ATM Safety Act in 1996, which required banks to install such things as surveillance cameras, reflective mirrors and locked entryways for their ATMs.
Subject: First ATM opens for business
Wed Sep 02 2009 12:35:33 PM EDT from rss @ Subject: First ATM opens for business
Today there are well over 1 million ATMs around the world, with a new one added approximately every five minutes. It's estimated that more than 170 Americans over the age of 18 had an ATM card in 2005 and used it six to eight times a month. Not surprisingly, ATMs get their busiest workouts on Fridays.
More than 170 Americans over the age of 18? Hardly worth the effort of putting so many ATMs up around the country, I'd think. ;-)
Subject: First ATM opens for business
lol nice typ0
Subject: Treaty of Paris signed
The American Revolution officially comes to an end when representatives of the United States, Great Britain, Spain and France sign the Treaty of Paris on this day in 1783. The signing signified America's status as a free nation, as Britain formally recognized the independence of its 13 former American colonies, and the boundaries of the new republic were agreed upon: Florida north to the Great Lakes and the Atlantic coast west to the Mississippi River.
The events leading up to the treaty stretched back to April 1775, on a common green in Lexington, Massachusetts, when American colonists answered King George III's refusal to grant them political and economic reform with armed revolution. On July 4, 1776, more than a year after the first volleys of the war were fired, the Second Continental Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence. Five difficult years later, in October 1781, British General Charles Lord Cornwallis surrendered to American and French forces at Yorktown, Virginia, bringing to an end the last major battle of the Revolution.
In September 1782, Benjamin Franklin, along with John Adams and John Jay, began official peace negotiations with the British. The Continental Congress had originally named a five-person committee--including Franklin, Adams and Jay, along with Thomas Jefferson and Henry Laurens--to handle the talks. However, both Jefferson and Laurens missed the sessions--Jefferson had travel delays and Laurens had been captured by the British and was being held in the Tower of London. The U.S. delegation, which was distrustful of the French, opted to negotiate separately with the British.
During the talks Franklin demanded that Britain hand over Canada to the United States. This did not come to pass, but America did gain enough new territory south of the Canadian border to double its size. The United States also successfully negotiated for important fishing rights in Canadian waters and agreed, among other things, not to prevent British creditors from attempting to recover debts owed to them. Two months later, the key details had been hammered out and on November 30, 1882, the United States and Britain signed the preliminary articles of the treaty. France signed its own preliminary peace agreement with Britain on January 20, 1783, and then in September of that year, the final treaty was signed by all three nations and Spain. The Treaty of Paris was ratified by the Continental Congress on January 14, 1884.
Subject: Geronimo surrenders
On this day in 1886, Apache chief Geronimo surrenders to U.S. government troops. For 30 years, the mighty Native American warrior had battled to protect his tribe's homeland; however, by 1886 the Apaches were exhausted and hopelessly outnumbered. General Nelson Miles accepted Geronimo's surrender, making him the last Indian warrior to formally give in to U.S. forces and signaling the end of the Indian Wars in the Southwest.
Geronimo was born in 1829 and grew up in what is present-day Arizona and Mexico. His tribe, the Chiricahua Apaches, clashed with non-Indian settlers trying to take their land. In 1858, Geronimo's family was murdered by Mexicans. Seeking revenge, he later led raids against Mexican and American settlers. In 1874, the U.S. government moved Geronimo and his people from their land to a reservation in east-central Arizona. Conditions on the reservation were restrictive and harsh and Geronimo and some of his followers escaped. Over the next decade, they battled federal troops and launched raids on white settlements. During this time, Geronimo and his supporters were forced back onto the reservation several times. In May 1885, Geronimo and approximately 150 followers fled one last time. They were pursued into Mexico by 5,000 U.S. troops. In March 1886, General George Crook (1829–90) forced Geronimo to surrender; however, Geronimo quickly escaped and continued his raids. General Nelson Miles (1839–1925) then took over the pursuit of Geronimo, eventually forcing him to surrender that September near Fort Bowie along the Arizona-New Mexico border. Geronimo and a band of Apaches were sent to Florida and then Alabama, eventually ending up at the Comanche and Kiowa reservation near Fort Sill, Oklahoma Territory. There, Geronimo became a successful farmer and converted to Christianity. He participated in President Theodore Roosevelt's inaugural parade in 1905. The Apache chief dictated his autobiography, published in 1906 as Geronimo's Story of His Life. He died at Fort Sill on February 17, 1909.
Subject: Israeli athletes killed at Munich Olympics
On this day in 1972, at the Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, a group of Palestinian terrorists storms the Olympic Village apartment of the Israeli athletes, killing two and taking nine others hostage. The terrorists, known as Black September, demanded that Israel release over 230 Arab prisoners being held in Israeli jails and two German terrorists. In an ensuing shootout at the Munich airport, the nine Israeli hostages were killed along with five terrorists and one West German policeman. Olympic competition was suspended for 24 hours to hold memorial services for the slain athletes.
After being founded in 776 B.C. in ancient Greece, the first modern Olympics were held in Athens in 1896, with 13 countries and 311 athletes competing. The games were meant to foster peace and bring people together. Germany had hoped that the 1972 Olympics would be a celebration of peace, as it was the first time it had hosted the games since 1936, when Adolf Hitler, who used the games to promote his Aryan master race theory, was in power.
The Munich Olympics opened on August 26, 1972, with 195 events and 7,173 athletes representing 121 countries. On the morning of September 5, Palestinian terrorists in ski masks ambushed the Israeli team. After negotiations to free the nine Israelis broke down, the terrorists took the hostages to the Munich airport. Once there, German police opened fire from rooftops and killed three of the terrorists. A gun battle erupted and left the hostages, two more Palestinians and a policeman dead.
After a memorial service was held for the athletes at the main Olympic stadium, International Olympic Committee President Avery Brundage ordered that the games continue, to show that the terrorists hadn't won. Although the tragedy deeply marred the games, there were numerous moments of spectacular athletic achievement, including American swimmer Mark Spitz's seven gold medals and teenage Russian gymnast Olga Korbut's two dramatic gold-medal victories.
In the aftermath of the murders at the '72 Olympics, the Israeli government, headed by Golda Meir, hired a group of Mossad agents to track down and kill the Black September assassins. In 2005, Steven Spielberg made a movie, Munich, about these events.
Subject: First tank produced
On this day in 1915, a prototype tank nicknamed Little Willie rolls off the assembly line in England. Little Willie was far from an overnight success. It weighed 14 tons, got stuck in trenches and crawled over rough terrain at only two miles per hour. However, improvements were made to the original prototype and tanks eventually transformed military battlefields.
The British developed the tank in response to the trench warfare of World War I. In 1914, a British army colonel named Ernest Swinton and William Hankey, secretary of the Committee for Imperial Defence, championed the idea of an armored vehicle with conveyor-belt-like tracks over its wheels that could break through enemy lines and traverse difficult territory. The men appealed to British navy minister Winston Churchill, who believed in the concept of a "land boat" and organized a Landships Committee to begin developing a prototype. To keep the project secret from enemies, production workers were reportedly told the vehicles they were building would be used to carry water on the battlefield (alternate theories suggest the shells of the new vehicles resembled water tanks). Either way, the new vehicles were shipped in crates labeled "tank" and the name stuck.
The first tank prototype, Little Willie, was unveiled in September 1915. Following its underwhelming performance--it was slow, became overheated and couldn’t cross trenches--a second prototype, known as "Big Willie," was produced. By 1916, this armored vehicle was deemed ready for battle and made its debut at the First Battle of the Somme near Courcelette, France, on September 15 of that year. Known as the Mark I, this first batch of tanks was hot, noisy and unwieldy and suffered mechanical malfunctions on the battlefield; nevertheless, people realized the tank's potential. Further design improvements were made and at the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917, 400 Mark IV’s proved much more successful than the Mark I, capturing 8,000 enemy troops and 100 guns.
Tanks rapidly became an important military weapon. During World War II, they played a prominent role across numerous battlefields. More recently, tanks have been essential for desert combat during the conflicts in the Persian Gulf.
Subject: United States nicknamed Uncle Sam
On this day in 1813, the United States gets its nickname, Uncle Sam. The name is linked to Samuel Wilson, a meat packer from Troy, New York, who supplied barrels of beef to the United States Army during the War of 1812. Wilson (1766-1854) stamped the barrels with "U.S." for United States, but soldiers began referring to the grub as "Uncle Sam's." The local newspaper picked up on the story and Uncle Sam eventually gained widespread acceptance as the nickname for the U.S. federal government.
In the late 1860s and 1870s, political cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902) began popularizing the image of Uncle Sam. Nast continued to evolve the image, eventually giving Sam the white beard and stars-and-stripes suit that are associated with the character today. The German-born Nast was also credited with creating the modern image of Santa Claus as well as coming up with the donkey as a symbol for the Democratic Party and the elephant as a symbol for the Republicans. Nast also famously lampooned the corruption of New York City's Tammany Hall in his editorial cartoons and was, in part, responsible for the downfall of Tammany leader William Tweed.
Perhaps the most famous image of Uncle Sam was created by artist James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960). In Flagg's version, Uncle Sam wears a tall top hat and blue jacket and is pointing straight ahead at the viewer. During World War I, this portrait of Sam with the words "I Want You For The U.S. Army" was used as a recruiting poster. The image, which became immensely popular, was first used on the cover of Leslie's Weekly in July 1916 with the title "What Are You Doing for Preparedness?" The poster was widely distributed and has subsequently been re-used numerous times with different captions.
In September 1961, the U.S. Congress recognized Samuel Wilson as "the progenitor of America's national symbol of Uncle Sam." Wilson died at age 88 in 1854, and was buried next to his wife Betsey Mann in the Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, New York, the town that calls itself "The Home of Uncle Sam."
Subject: Ford pardons Nixon
In a controversial executive action, President Gerald Ford pardons his disgraced predecessor Richard Nixon for any crimes he may have committed or participated in while in office. Ford later defended this action before the House Judiciary Committee, explaining that he wanted to end the national divisions created by the Watergate scandal.
The Watergate scandal erupted after it was revealed that Nixon and his aides had engaged in illegal activities during his reelection campaign--and then attempted to cover up evidence of wrongdoing. With impeachment proceedings underway against him in Congress, Nixon bowed to public pressure and became the first American president to resign. At noon on August 9, Nixon officially ended his term, departing with his family in a helicopter from the White House lawn. Minutes later, Vice President Gerald R. Ford was sworn in as the 38th president of the United States in the East Room of the White House. After taking the oath of office, President Ford spoke to the nation in a television address, declaring, "My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over."
Ford, the first president who came to the office through appointment rather than election, had replaced Spiro Agnew as vice president only eight months before. In a political scandal independent of the Nixon administration's wrongdoings in the Watergate affair, Agnew had been forced to resign in disgrace after he was charged with income tax evasion and political corruption. Exactly one month after Nixon announced his resignation, Ford issued the former president a "full, free and absolute" pardon for any crimes he committed while in office. The pardon was widely condemned at the time.
Decades later, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation presented its 2001 Profile in Courage Award to Gerald Ford for his 1974 pardon of Nixon. In pardoning Nixon, said the foundation, Ford placed his love of country ahead of his own political future and brought needed closure to the divisive Watergate affair. Ford left politics after losing the 1976 presidential election to Democrat Jimmy Carter.
Ford died on December 26, 2006, at the age of 93.
Subject: President's child born in White House
Frances Folsom Cleveland, the wife of President Grover Cleveland, gives birth to a daughter, Esther, in the White House.
On June 2, 1886, in an intimate ceremony held in the Blue Room of the White House, President Grover Cleveland married Frances Folsom, the daughter of Cleveland's late law partner and friend, Oscar Folsom. Fewer than 40 people were present to witness the 49-year-old president exchange vows with Frances, who at 21 years of age became the youngest first lady in U.S. history.
As a devoted family friend, Cleveland allegedly bought "Frank" her first baby carriage. After her father's death, he administered her estate. When Frances entered Wells College, Cleveland, then the governor of New York, asked Mrs. Folsom's permission to correspond with the young lady. After his inauguration as president in 1885, Frances visited Cleveland at the executive mansion. Despite a 27-year difference in age, their affection turned to romance, and in 1886 the couple were married in the White House.
Mrs. Cleveland, who replaced Cleveland's sister Rose Elizabeth as White House hostess, won immediate popularity for her good looks and unaffected charm. After the president's defeat in his 1888 reelection bid, the Clevelands lived in New York City, where their first child, Ruth, was born in 1891. In 1892, in an event unprecedented in U.S. political history, the out-of-office Cleveland was elected president again. Frances Cleveland returned to Washington and resumed her duties as first lady as if she had been gone but a day. On September 9, 1893, the first family saw the addition of a second child. Esther was the first child of a president to be born in the White House but not the first child ever to be born there. In 1806, James Madison Randolph was born to Martha Randolph, the daughter of President Thomas Jefferson.
When Grover Cleveland left the presidency in 1897, his wife had become one of the most popular first ladies in history. In 1908, she was at his side when he died at their home in Princeton, New Jersey. Five years later, she married Thomas J. Preston, Jr., a professor of archeology at Princeton University.
Subject: First drunk driving arrest
On this day in 1897, a 25-year-old London taxi driver named George Smith becomes the first person ever arrested for drunk driving after slamming his cab into a building. Smith later pled guilty and was fined 25 shillings.
In the United States, the first laws against operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol went into effect in New York in 1910. In 1936, Dr. Rolla Harger, a professor of biochemistry and toxicology, patented the Drunkometer, a balloon-like device into which people would breathe to determine whether they were inebriated. In 1953, Robert Borkenstein, a former Indiana state police captain and university professor who had collaborated with Harger on the Drunkometer, invented the Breathalyzer. Easier-to-use and more accurate than the Drunkometer, the Breathalyzer was the first practical device and scientific test available to police officers to establish whether someone had too much to drink. A person would blow into the Breathalyzer and it would gauge the proportion of alcohol vapors in the exhaled breath, which reflected the level of alcohol in the blood.
Despite the invention of the Breathalyzer and other developments, it was not until the late 1970s and early 1980s that public awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving increased and lawmakers and police officers began to get tougher on offenders. In 1980, a Californian named Candy Lightner founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, after her 13-year-old daughter Cari was killed by a drunk driver while walking home from a school carnival. The driver had three previous drunk-driving convictions and was out on bail from a hit-and-run arrest two days earlier. Lightner and MADD were instrumental in helping to change attitudes about drunk driving and pushed for legislation that increased the penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. MADD also helped get the minimum drinking age raised in many states. Today, the legal drinking age is 21 everywhere in the United States and convicted drunk drivers face everything from jail time and fines to the loss of their driver's licenses and increased car insurance rates. Some drunk drivers are ordered to have ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles. These devices require a driver to breath into a sensor attached to the dashboard; the car won't start if the driver's blood alcohol concentration is above a certain limit.
Despite the stiff penalties and public awareness campaigns, drunk driving remains a serious problem in the United States. In 2005, 16,885 people died in alcohol-related crashes and almost 1.4 million people were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Subject: Attack on America
At 8:45 a.m. on a clear Tuesday morning, an American Airlines Boeing 767 loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel crashes into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. The impact left a gaping, burning hole near the 80th floor of the 110-story skyscraper, instantly killing hundreds of people and trapping hundreds more in higher floors. As the evacuation of the tower and its twin got underway, television cameras broadcasted live images of what initially appeared to be a freak accident. Then, 18 minutes after the first plane hit, a second Boeing 767--United Airlines Flight 175--appeared out of the sky, turned sharply toward the World Trade Center, and sliced into the south tower at about the 60th floor. The collision caused a massive explosion that showered burning debris over surrounding buildings and the streets below. America was under attack.
The attackers were Islamic terrorists from Saudi Arabia and several other Arab nations. Reportedly financed by Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist organization, they were allegedly acting in retaliation for America's support of Israel, its involvement in the Persian Gulf War, and its continued military presence in the Middle East. Some of the terrorists had lived in the United States for more than a year and had taken flying lessons at American commercial flight schools. Others had slipped into the U.S. in the months before September 11 and acted as the "muscle" in the operation. The 19 terrorists easily smuggled box-cutters and knives through security at three East Coast airports and boarded four flights bound for California, chosen because the planes were loaded with fuel for the long transcontinental journey. Soon after takeoff, the terrorists commandeered the four planes and took the controls, transforming the ordinary commuter jets into guided missiles.
As millions watched in horror the events unfolding in New York, American Airlines Flight 77 circled over downtown Washington and slammed into the west side of the Pentagon military headquarters at 9:45 a.m. Jet fuel from the Boeing 757 caused a devastating inferno that led to a structural collapse of a portion of the giant concrete building. All told, 125 military personnel and civilians were killed in the Pentagon along with all 64 people aboard the airliner.
Less than 15 minutes after the terrorists struck the nerve center of the U.S. military, the horror in New York took a catastrophic turn for the worse when the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed in a massive cloud of dust and smoke. The structural steel of the skyscraper, built to withstand winds in excess of 200 mph and a large conventional fire, could not withstand the tremendous heat generated by the burning jet fuel. At 10:30 a.m., the other Trade Center tower collapsed. Close to 3,000 people died in the World Trade Center and its vicinity, including a staggering 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 New York City police officers, and 37 Port Authority police officers who were struggling to complete an evacuation of the buildings and save the office workers trapped on higher floors. Only six people in the World Trade Center towers at the time of their collapse survived. Almost 10,000 other people were treated for injuries, many severe.
Meanwhile, a fourth California-bound plane--United Flight 93--was hijacked about 40 minutes after leaving Newark International Airport in New Jersey. Because the plane had been delayed in taking off, passengers on board learned of events in New York and Washington via cell phone and Airfone calls to the ground. Knowing that the aircraft was not returning to an airport as the hijackers claimed, a group of passengers and flight attendants planned an insurrection. One of the passengers, Thomas Burnett, Jr., told his wife over the phone that "I know we're all going to die. There's three of us who are going to do something about it. I love you, honey." Another passenger--Todd Beamer--was heard saying "Are you guys ready? Let's roll" over an open line. Sandy Bradshaw, a flight attendant, called her husband and explained that she had slipped into a galley and was filling pitchers with boiling water. Her last words to him were "Everyone's running to first class. I've got to go. Bye."
The passengers fought the four hijackers and are suspected to have attacked the cockpit with a fire extinguisher. The plane then flipped over and sped toward the ground at upwards of 500 miles per hour, crashing in a rural field in western Pennsylvania at 10:10 a.m. All 45 people aboard were killed. Its intended target is not known, but theories include the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland, or one of several nuclear power plants along the eastern seaboard.
At 7 p.m., President George W. Bush, who had spent the day being shuttled around the country because of security concerns, returned to the White House. At 9 p.m., he delivered a televised address from the Oval Office, declaring "Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve." In a reference to the eventual U.S. military response he declared: "We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them."
Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S.-led international effort to oust the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and destroy Osama bin Laden's terrorist network based there, began on October 7. Although the Taliban is no longer in power, fighting in Afghanistan continues, and Osama bin Laden is still at large.
Subject: Key pens Star-Spangled Banner
On this day in 1814, Francis Scott Key pens a poem which is later set to music and in 1931 becomes America's national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner." The poem, originally titled "The Defence of Fort McHenry," was written after Key witnessed the Maryland fort being bombarded by the British during the War of 1812. Key was inspired by the sight of a lone U.S. flag still flying over Fort McHenry at daybreak, as reflected in the now-famous words of the "Star-Spangled Banner": "And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there."
Francis Scott Key was born on August 1, 1779, at Terra Rubra, his family's estate in Frederick County (now Carroll County), Maryland. He became a successful lawyer in Maryland and Washington, D.C., and was later appointed U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.
On June 18, 1812, America declared war on Great Britain after a series of trade disagreements. In August 1814, British troops invaded Washington, D.C., and burned the White House, Capitol Building and Library of Congress. Their next target was Baltimore.
After one of Key's friends, Dr. William Beanes, was taken prisoner by the British, Key went to Baltimore, located the ship where Beanes was being held and negotiated his release. However, Key and Beanes weren't allowed to leave until after the British bombardment of Fort McHenry. 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.
The poem was printed in newspapers and eventually set to the music of a popular English drinking tune called "To Anacreon in Heaven" by composer John Stafford Smith. People began referring to the song as "The Star-Spangled Banner" and in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson announced that it should be played at all official events. It was adopted as the national anthem on March 3, 1931.
Francis Scott Key died of pleurisy on January 11, 1843. Today, the flag that flew over Fort McHenry in 1914 is housed at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
Subject: McKinley dies of infection from gunshot wounds
On this day in 1901, U.S. President William McKinley dies after being shot by a deranged anarchist during the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.
McKinley won his first Congressional seat at the age of 34 and spent 14 years in the House, becoming known as the leading Republican expert on tariffs. After losing his seat in 1890, McKinley served two terms as governor of Ohio. By 1896, he had emerged as the leading Republican candidate for president, aided by the support of the wealthy Ohio industrialist Mark Hanna. That fall, McKinley defeated his Democratic rival, William Jennings Bryan, by the largest popular margin since the Civil War.
As president, McKinley became known--controversially--as a protector of big businesses, which enjoyed unprecedented growth during his administration. He advocated the protective tariff as a way of shielding U.S. business and labor from foreign competition, and he successfully argued for using the gold standard of currency.
Above all, however, McKinley's presidency was dominated by his foreign policy. In April 1898, he was pushed by Congress and American public opinion to intervene in Cuba's struggle for independence from Spanish colonial rule. In the first American war against a foreign power since 1812, the United States handily defeated Spain in just three months, freeing Cuba--although the island became a U.S. protectorate--and annexing Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. For the first time, the United States had become a colonialist power.
America's growing interests in the Pacific led McKinley's administration to greatly increase its involvement in Asian politics. In 1900, McKinley sent thousands of U.S. troops to China to help put down the Boxer Rebellion, aimed at driving out foreigners. His aggressive "Open Door" policy declared U.S. support for an independent China and argued that all nations with commercial interests in China should be able to compete on equal footing.
The popular McKinley won a second term by even greater margins over Bryan, who attacked him on his "imperialism" in the Pacific and, domestically, on the growth of illegal monopolies, or trusts. There was little time to see what his second term would bring, however. On September 6, 1901, while standing in a receiving line at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, McKinley was approached by Leon Czolgosz, a Polish-American anarchist carrying a concealed .32 revolver in a handkerchief. Drawing his weapon, Czolgosz shot McKinley twice at close range. One bullet deflected off a suit button, but the other entered his stomach, passed through the kidneys, and lodged in his back. When he was operated on, doctors failed to find the bullet, and gangrene soon spread throughout his body. McKinley died eight days later. Czolgosz was convicted of murder and executed soon after the shooting.