AMERICA’S FAVORITE MONTH TO GO TO WAR
War clouds may be gathering over the Koreas. Again. And the timing couldn’t be worse to those who know history. Because April is when America most often goes to war.
Fate has a thing for April. It loves unleashing major events then. More serious history has been made in this one month than any other: Paul Revere’s ride (1775); Lincoln’s assassination (1865); Jesse James killed (1882 – click here for more); the Titanic sank (1912); Martin Luther King’s assassination (1968), plus many more.
Here’s another little-known fact: the majority of American wars began in April. Continue reading
Did you know three major historical events happened on April 12?
1861: The Civil War began with the bombardment of Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Charlestonians watched in fascination from The Battery. The attack triggered the bloodiest conflict in American history (which ended almost exactly four years to the very day later).
1945: President Franklin D. Roosevelt died unexpectedly of a cerebral hemorrhage in Warm Springs, Georgia. FDR successfully kept his physical disability due to polio out of the public eye; and although he had been in visibly failing health for several years, the extent of his decline was kept secret from the public and even the man who followed him in the White House, Harry Truman.
1961: Soviet Yuri Gagarin became the first human to enter outer space with a single orbit around Earth. (American Alan Shepard quickly followed on May 5.) The Space Age had officially begun. Gagarin died seven years later when his training jet crashed.
Each event was highly significant. But to have three major milestones occur on the same date is simply amazing.
I’ll be back soon with next week’s regular forgotten tale from history. See you here Sunday!
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HOW ASTRO EATING LAUNCHED 3 FOOD FADS
Things were supposed be so different by now. Futurists predicted that by the 21st Century we’d travel in helicopter cars, vacation on Mars and wear those nifty space jumpsuits.
It didn’t turn out that way.
One thing they especially got wrong was food. Yet Americans’ fascination with the early Space Age did send folks over the Moon for several astronaut-related products.
Time to revisit three food fads from a future that wasn’t. Continue reading
THE VEEP WHO BRIEFLY OUTRANKED HIS BOSS
History surrenders this secret grudgingly: several men technically were president, but aren’t considered Presidents of the United States. You have to look hard to find them, but they’re there.
For example, George H. W. Bush was Acting President for almost eight hours in 1985 while Ronald Reagan had colon surgery. Dick Cheney did likewise in 2002 and 2007 when boss George W. Bush was anesthetized for colonoscopies.
Then there was David Rice Atchison who may, or may not, have been president for one day in 1849. (Read here and decide for yourself.)
But here’s the most overlooked incident of all. Continue reading
SHE MADE THE PRESIDENT’S MEALS MISERABLE
(White House photo by Paul Morse)
Imagine a formal White House meal. Glistening silver, glittering china and crystal. And the food! I was a guest of the first President Bush at a luncheon in 1991. The chow there is good. Trust me.
Except for once during the 20th Century, when the woman charged with feeding the president served meals that were so bad guests cringed. That hottest ticket in Washington, an invitation to dine with the president, was something to dread. “Eat before you go to the White House” was the rule.
Incredibly, the man who brought down Hitler and Mussolini was powerless to do anything about the dictator under his own roof.
Meet the Tyrant of the White House Kitchen.
The Movie Star Who Wasn’t the Gerber Baby
You’ve seen that face for years. An adorable baby, all innocence and wide-eyed wonder. I first noticed it as a child when my mother fed my hungry infant sisters.
It’s the Gerber Baby, one of the most widely recognized logos in advertising history. For decades an urban myth claimed the image was drawn from a real-life baby who grew up to become a famous movie star. Problem was, it didn’t happen that way. (Though there is a tiny grain of truth in the story.)
Blame the misunderstanding on Maud’s boy.
IT’S EASY TO WIN WHEN THE ENEMY DOESN’T KNOW THERE’S A WAR
Admit it: you’ve never stopped to wonder how the United States gained the Pacific island of Guam, have you? There’s no reason to. It doesn’t come up in dinner party conversations. And they certainly didn’t teach it in school.
Guam wasn’t seized in some great battle or handed over through diplomatic negotiation. The reason we acquired it was simple: bureaucratic bungling. As they said in the movie Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is failure to communicate.” Here’s how it went down. Continue reading
A Reporter’s Goof Made Americans Party Like Crazy
We’re hearing much these days about fake news. Don’t worry – I’m not touching that discussion with the proverbial 10-foot pole.
But fake news isn’t new. A century ago one incident of it drove America into a frenzied celebration. The problem was, it wasn’t factual. Here’s how it happened. Continue reading
FORGOTTEN TRIVIA FROM FIVE CHIEF EXECUTIVES
Happy Presidents’ Day. Or President’s Day. Or Washington’s & Lincoln’s Birthday. Take your pick. This holiday is known by all those names, depending on your state.
Officially, Uncle Sam calls it Washington’s Birthday (according to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968) with its observance mandated for the third Monday in February. But Washington’s actual birthday is February 22, which never falls on the third Monday. Since it’s ridiculous to celebrate George’s birthday before the fact, and since Nancy Lincoln conveniently delivered Abraham on February 12, Americans gloss over this minor inconsistency by splitting the difference and saying the holiday celebrates all presidents. (Much the same way your parents told you, “Every day is Children’s Day.”) Continue reading
FORGOTTEN QUEEN OF THE WILD WEST SHOWS
It was a simple idea: if Americans couldn’t travel to see the West for themselves, the West would come to them.
So for 30 years from 1883 to 1913, the region was celebrated in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. It combined the breathtaking spectacles of a circus with a Smithsonian-level dedication to preserving the West’s unique legacy. My Grandfather Powell told me about seeing Buffalo Bill and his show as a boy in 1910.
Imitation, they say, is the most sincere form of flattery. And Buffalo Bill’s show had many imitators. Some very good, like Pawnee Bill’s West West. And many that were not so good.
With that entertainment form largely forgotten today, it’s no surprise that people also forgot the important role women played in those shows. Continue reading