Pictures That Never Made It Home

The Dead Letter Office Photos

Frequent readers know I’ve been a certified Civil War nut since age 9. I’ve visited every major battlefield. In my younger (and thinner) days I was a Civil War reenactor. I even have a collection of 5,000 original War-era photos.

One image especially stands out. Not because of what it depicts, but because of what happened to it.

This is the story of the pictures that never made it home. Continue reading

Lincoln’s Leak


Unauthorized release of sensitive information is all the rage these days. Washington leaks like pipes in the “charming fixer upper” a smooth-talking real estate agent wants to unload.

This is hardly new. In fact, history’s most egregious leak involved the guy on the penny, a source dangerously close to the president, a sketchy character and a dying First Child.

Meet Lincoln’s leaker. Continue reading

The Drummer Boy Hero


There I was the day before Memorial Day, walking through Springfield National Cemetery in southwest Missouri, paying my respects to the Civil War dead. It’s one of the few national cemeteries where men from both sides rest.

One marker caught my eye. Its inscription said, “Orion P. Howe, Medal of Honor.”

A Medal of Honor recipient in an obscure Ozarks cemetery? This merited investigation. And what I learned astonished me.

Meet the Drummer Boy Hero. Continue reading

The Hero Bureaucrat

An Obscure Clerk Saved Our History

Face it: bureaucrats, those unelected holders of colorless government jobs, are among the least popular Americans. They rate at the bottom of the list, right alongside used car salesmen and sewer cleaners.

Yet we owe a huge debt to one such drone who, when crisis came, acted calmly, cooly and saved the greatest documents in our history. This is his story.

Continue reading

A.Y.’s Costly Mistake


You’ve got one. I’ve got one. Everyone from professional plumbers to weekend do-it-yourselfers has one. But a common tool came within a whisker of becoming a casualty of the Civil War because of confusion caused by the color of a uniform. Really.

Here’s how it happened. Continue reading

Mussolini & Those Tardy Trains


Think quick: when I say Benito Mussolini, what comes to mind? Bad guy. Bellicose. Bald.

The man who styled himself Il Duce (The Leader) was all those. And more. Yet 72 years after he was shot and hanged upside down before an angry mob, one remnant of his legacy still lingers. “He made the trains run on time.”

But did he really? Continue reading

The Skinny on Streaking

America Bared It All for Its Strangest Fad

There are eight million stories in the naked city that we call History. And this is one of the strangest.

Springtime always reminds me of a crazy fad from the 1970s. It arrived out of nowhere, flying by in a fleshy blur that left some people horrified, others amused, plus a good many unsure just what to make of it. And in a flash, it was gone.

This is the short, strange story of Streaking. Continue reading

One Candy’s Sweet Secret


If you were a child in the 1960s or 70s, you likely feasted on a certain type of candy while watching a baseball game. Or walking home from school. Or after pulling it out of your Halloween treats pile.

Personally, I enjoyed its biting sugariness at the movie theater while taking in Saturday afternoon matinees. Those little circles of sweetness have stood the test of time and are still popular today. Yet you’ll be surprised to learn messy Baby Boomers played a big role in their creation. This is their story. Continue reading

April, Always April


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

Midweek Holy Cow! History Mini-Tale

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!

Did you find this enjoyable? Please continue to join me each week, and I invite you to read Tell it Like Tupper and share your review!

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