Posts Tagged ‘U.S. history’
Every school child knows that the Spanish nobleman and explorer Juan Ponce de Léon discovered Florida in the Spring of 1513 while searching for the legendary Fountain of Youth. We know this because the state of Florida commemorated the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Léon’s arrival with a year-long celebration called Viva Florida 500 in 2013. Tourists can visit Ponce de Léon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park in St. Augustine, Ponce de Léon Springs State Park in the northwest panhandle, or various statues of the famed explorer–located in front of St. Augustine’s city hall, in Bayfront Park in Miami, at Juan Ponce de Léon Landing Park near Melbourne Beach, and another in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he was the first governor.
His legacy continues today in the towns, cities, and streets all over America that are named for him, but let’s explore some of the myths surrounding Ponce de Léon’s “discovery” of Florida and his search for the “Fountain of Youth.”
Myth: Ponce de Léon Was Born in 1460
* Early historians and scholars believed that he was born in 1460, and many reference books still cite this date. One of the factors that originally supported the legend that Ponce de Léon was seeking a fountain of youth was the mistaken belief that he was a relatively old man (53) at the time of his voyage.
* In 1974, American historian and Harvard professor Samuel Eliot Morison was the first to document that Ponce de Léon was actually born in 1474, making him only 39 years old when he landed in Florida.
Myth: Ponce de Léon Was a Spanish Nobleman
* Ponce de Léon was born in San Tervás del Campo. While the names of his parents aren’t known, it is believed that he was the illegitimate son of a powerful Andalusian nobleman.
* As a young boy, he became the page of a Spanish knight of Calatrava named Pedro Núñez de Guzmán. Even though he was poor and illegitimate, he was educated and received some military training. He participated in military campaigns, including the war to conquer the Kingdom of Granada.
* In 1493, he volunteered to serve on one of the 17 ships that were part of Christopher Columbus’ second voyage to the new World.
Myth: Ponce de Léon Discovered Florida
* When he first arrived on Florida’s shores, there were an estimated 100,000 to as many as 350,000 native Americans already living there. Among the known tribes were Timucuans, Apalachee, Pensacola, Tocobaga, Calusa, Tequesta, Jeaga, Jobe, Ais, and others.
* Archeological evidence indicates that their earliest ancestors arrived there some 12,000 years ago. By the end of the 17th century, nearly all of these indigenous peoples were gone–due to a combination of European aggression, enslavement and the introduction of diseases like smallpox, influenza, typhus and measles.
* He was probably not even the first European to visit Florida, though he was the first to land under the authority of the King of Spain, so it was recorded and recognized. He called the land La Florida, the Spanish term for “place of flowers,” or because the Spanish religious festival Pascua Florida (Easter) was occurring at the time.
* The Spanish had already been sending expeditions to the Bahamas for years to capture slaves, and there is evidence that some made it to the east coast of Florida. By 1513, when Ponce de Léon first arrived, so many Europeans had visited Florida that some Indians greeted him in Spanish.
* The English explorers John Cabot and his son Sebastian explored the east coast of North America in 1497-1498—from present-day Canada to possibly even as far as Florida. Others say that Saint Brendan of Ireland may have traveled to Florida’s shores sometime between 512 and 530 AD, or perhaps the Viking explorer Leif Eriksson landed there in 1000 AD.
* As many as six different maps dated from 1500-1511 have been discovered that appear to show the peninsula of Florida.
Myth: He Was Searching for the Fountain of Youth
* Ponce de León received a contract from King Ferdinand of Spain in 1512 to explore and settle an island called Bimini. He was in search of riches in the form of gold and land, as well as a possible governorship for himself.
* “No mention of a Fountain of Youth occurs in any known documents from Ponce’s lifetime, including contracts and other official correspondence with the Crown,” according to University of South Florida historian J. Michael Francis.
* It wasn’t until fourteen years after his death that the Fountain of Youth legend came about. In 1535, Spanish historian and writer Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés, who was a political adversary of Ponce de Léon, wrote about the Fountain of Youth in an account of the Spanish presence in the Americas entitled Historia general y natural de las Indias. It’s widely viewed as an attempt to discredit his achievements and make the explorer appear foolish.
* Ponce de Léon most certainly never found the Fountain of Youth. While he and his men were attempting to establish a colony on Florida’s west coast, they were ambushed by a group of Calusa Indians. He was wounded by a poison arrow in the attack and died in Cuba in 1521, at the age of 47.
* The Fountain of Youth Archeological park in St. Augustine is a not the legitimate site of the legendary fountain, but a tourist attraction that first opened in 1904–dreamed up by a woman named Louella Day McConnell. The current park was developed by Walter B. Fraser after he purchased it in 1927. His family still runs the park, which is one of Florida’s oldest continuous tourist attractions, with 100,000 annual visitors.
To find out more about Ponce de Léon, the exploration of Florida, and the Fountain of Youth, direct your students to these ProQuest Research Topic pages available on eLibrary:
ProQuest Guided Research products support information literacy, writing, and research skills instruction by providing educator resources and curriculum-aligned content. Not a ProQuest customer? Free trials are available.
How well do you know U.S. women’s history?
To celebrate Women’s History Month, take this Playbuzz quiz to see if you can pair up the correct state with an event in U.S. women’s history. Each question is based on facts taken from SIRS Issues Researcher timelines, including the one for our Women’s Rights Leading Issue.
(If you can’t view the matching game below, you can access it on PlayBuzz.)
What are you doing with your students to celebrate Women’s History Month?
Tweet us at #ProQuest or comment below!
With the presidential election a mere one week away, the debates concluded, and with name-calling such as “Crooked Hillary” and “Deplorables” still being thrown around as often as a post-debate tweet, you might wonder whether this election holds the distinction of being the most contentious and dirtiest campaign ever. For many people living today, that answer would most certainly ring true. But as Lee Corso on College GameDay on ESPN would say, not so fast, my friend!
In the presidential election of 1800, founding fathers Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who were good friends before running against each other, would have made men like Donald Trump gasp in shock at their electioneering tactics. Jefferson’s detractors accused him of being “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia Mulatto father … raised wholly on hoe-cake made of coarse-ground Southern corn, bacon and hominy, with an occasional change of fricasseed bullfrog.” Jefferson was probably the first to hire a hatchet man (James Callendar) to do his dirty work, who characterized John Adams as a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” One Adams supporter suggested that if Jefferson was elected president “we would see our wives and daughters the victims of legal prostitution.”
The negative campaigning didn’t stop there. Equally appalling was the campaign of 1828 when proponents of John Quincy Adams called his opponent Andrew Jackson a cannibal and a murderer, accusing Jackson of summarily executing six militiamen during the Creek War of 1813. Conversely, Jackson supporters called Adams a pimp for Czar Alexander I while Adams was minister of Russia.
In the election of 1884 between Grover Cleveland and James Blaine, the mudslinging included an illegitimate child and anti-Catholicism sentiments. Democrats portrayed James Blaine as a liar, exclaiming “Blaine! Blaine! The Continental Liar from the State of Maine!” For their part, Republicans claimed in campaign posters and political cartoons that Cleveland had an illegitimate child. Cleveland later admitted that he was giving child support to a woman in Buffalo, New York.
It’s probably safe to say that after the election is over, whoever has won, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump probably won’t be best buddies. But it’s well worth noting that after the ruthless campaigning for the presidency in 1800, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson once again became good friends. Both died on July 4th, 1826 within hours of each other, and Adams’ last words were said to be “Thomas Jefferson survives.” In fact, Jefferson had died five hours earlier.
eLibrary has updated its U.S. Presidential Election, 2016 Research Topic with new up-to-date articles on the debates and polls, along with accompanying graphs.
Be sure to check out more of the past U.S. Presidential election Research Topics and other resources below.
- U.S. Presidential Election, 1800
- U.S. Presidential Election, 1852
- U.S. Presidential Election, 1856
- U.S. Presidential Election, 1860
- U.S. Presidential Election, 1864
- U.S. Presidential Election, 1876
- U.S. Presidential Election, 1912
- U.S. Presidential Election, 1960
- U.S. Presidential Election, 1968
- U.S. Presidential Election, 2000
- U.S. Presidential Election, 2004
- U.S. Presidential Election, 2008
- U.S. Presidential Election, 2012
Other related Research Topics:
- American Presidency
- Democratic Party
- Political Parties in the U.S.
- Presidential Debates
- Presidential Inauguration
- Republican Party
The Great American History Fact-Finder (Reference Book)
The Reader’s Companion to American History (Reference Book)
The United States Constitution is considered to be “the supreme law of the land.” And it has been for more than two centuries. No small feat for a document uniting the ideas of nationhood, independence, defense, general welfare, and all sorts of liberties.
This document certainly was not created alone.
Many people contributed to the development, shaping, and writing of the U.S. Constitution. Those who had the most significant impact on its outcome are considered to be the U.S. Founding Fathers (remember that this was the 18th century–women, such as Abigail Adams, influenced the Constitution, but through their husbands…a blog post for another day).
With all of the hullabaloo around the upcoming presidential election, and with all of the recent discussions on and controversies around gun rights and women’s rights and immigrants’ rights and LGBTQ rights and criminal rights and voting rights…, let’s take a listen to what some of our Founding Fathers have said about the U.S. Constitution.
“The Constitution is the guide which I never will abandon.”–George Washington (1732-1799)
George Washington is considered by many to be the “father of the country.” He was, after all, the nation’s first President. He served that office from 1789 to 1797. Prior to that, he was a general in the Revolutionary War and is considered to have played a pivotal role in leading the American Army to victory.
Our first president was known as a man of few and select words, as embodied by the above quote. He thoughtfully deemed the U.S. Constitution a “guide” to be followed, not the zenith or the ultimate truth.
“Whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force.”–Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States (1801-1809), was a terrible speaker but a terrific writer. He wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, and his input was invaluable to the drafting of the U.S. Constitution.
Jefferson was a lawyer, diplomat, naturalist, architect, educator, statesman, musician, inventor, scientist, geographer…he was fluent in many languages…he supported women’s rights, free public education, and a free library system. All in all, a brilliant and cultured man. He knew government had to be kept in check, and that the general population was essential to maintaining this stability: “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing.”
“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government–lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.”–Patrick Henry (1736-1799)
Patrick Henry was never president, but he certainly made a name for himself as an orator, lawyer, and politician. He served as first and sixth governor of Virginia, and was instrumental in opposing the Stamp Act of 1765. In fact, he may be most famous for saying, “Give me liberty, or give me death!”
This guy liked freedom.
Henry’s political priorities always aligned with affirming the general population’s rights and well-being. He was consistently against the idea of a strong central government. He initially opposed the idea of a U.S. Constitution, fearing it would jeopardize individual freedoms and state sovereignty. He only became an ardent supporter of the Constitution once the Bill of Rights was added.
Henry wanted the U.S. Constitution to serve as an “instrument” for the people, providing them with the means necessary to maintain their freedoms and hold their government accountable.
“Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government.”–James Madison (1751-1836)
James Madison, fourth president of the United States (1809-1817), is considered to be the “father of the Constitution.” He had helped write Virginia’s State Constitution, the model for the U.S. Constitution. Both are grounded in his belief that the United States’ potential would be “derived from the superior power of the people.”
Madison predicted a national crisis if no Constitution was drafted. His advocacy for creating a U.S. Constitution paved the way for the Constitutional Congress.
He understood the importance of understanding and interpreting the context in which the document was written. As the context of the living documents changes, should the Constitution?
“It is every American’s right and obligation to read and interpret the Constitution for himself.”–Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
Benjamin Franklin’s words could not be more timely.
Franklin–statesman, writer, scientist, philosopher, inventor, political theorist, printer–understood that true freedom in this nation began with freedom to choose for oneself.
Franklin’s highest political office was Minister to France. But as the oldest delegate at the Constitutional Convention, he had participated in significant events in American history, such as the signing of the peace treaty that ended the Revolutionary War, and the writing of the Declaration of Independence.
As a participant in the signing of the Constitution, Franklin shared an observation that all hoped would be a symbol for the new country. Upon seeing the sun sitting atop George Washington’s chair at the closing of the Constitutional Convention, Franklin said: “I have the happiness to know it is a rising sun and not a setting sun.”
What are your students’ thoughts about the U.S. Constitution? Find resources in SKS and SIRS Discoverer and join us throughout the month of September as we celebrate National Constitution Month.
“When my mother was born, women did not have the right to vote, so we’ve come,
in really just a few generations, having to fight for the right to vote
to finally a potential woman head of state.”
–Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton
The first efforts to achieve women’s suffrage began before the Civil War. In 1848, a group of over 300 men and women gathered in Seneca Falls, New York to hold the first women’s rights convention. It took more than 70 years for American women to eventually gain that right.
Passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, the 19th Amendment guarantees all American women the right to vote. Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment on August 18, 1920. On August 26, it was formally adopted into the Constitution by proclamation of Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby.
Though women finally achieved the right to vote, their struggle for equal representation in government has continued, and today they are still largely underrepresented in elected offices all across the nation. It took almost a full century for the first woman to be nominated for the office of president by a major political party, when Hillary Rodham Clinton secured the Democratic party’s nomination this year.
Below are a few more firsts by American women in government and politics:
1887: Susanna Medora Salter became the first woman elected mayor of an American town, in Argonia, Kansas.
1916: Montana Republican Jeannette Rankin carries the distinction of being the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress.
1924: Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming became the Nation’s first female governor when she was elected to succeed her deceased husband, William Bradford Ross.
1932: Hattie Wyatt Caraway of Arkansas is the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate.
1933: Frances Perkins is appointed secretary of labor by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, making her the first woman to serve as a member of a U.S. presidential cabinet.
1964: Senator Margaret Chase Smith from Maine becomes the first woman formally nominated for president of the United States by a major political party, at the Republican National Convention in San Francisco.
1981: Sandra Day O’Connor is appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the Supreme Court, making her its first woman justice.
1984: Democrat Geraldine Ferraro is the first woman nominated for vice-president on a major party ticket.
1993: Dr. Sheila E. Widnall was the first woman to head a branch of the U.S. military as Secretary of the Air Force. The first female U.S. attorney general, Janet Reno was confirmed 98-0 by the U.S. Senate.
1997: Madeleine Albright https://www.britannica.com/biography/Madeleine-Albright is sworn in as the first female U.S. secretary of state.
2007: Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is the first woman to be elected Speaker of the House of Representatives.
According to the World Economic Forum, 63 of 142 countries in the world have had a female leader at some point in the past 50 years, but the United States has never had one in its 240-year history. Why has it taken so long? And will 2016 finally be the year? We’ll find out on November 8!
This day in history marks the beginning of the United States’ official journey to explore the “final frontier”–outer space. Featured here are a few of the significant events in the history of American manned space flight.
“Equipping the United States for Leadership in the Space Age”—President Dwight D. Eisenhower
When the Soviet Union put the first human-made object into space by launching the artificial satellite named Sputnik in October 1957, the United States faced mounting pressures to enter the “Space Race.” Fearful of being surpassed in missile technology, Congress quickly passed legislation to create a new government agency to conduct civilian space exploration. President Dwight Eisenhower signed the legislation creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration into law on July 29, 1958.
“Sailor Among the Stars”—Dr. Allen O. Gamble
The word astronaut first appeared in the English language in 1929, probably in science fiction, but it wasn’t commonly used until December 1958. That’s when NASA adopted it as the name for the men (and eventually women) it would train to compete in the space race. Dr. Gamble, NASA’s manpower director from 1958-1964, described the selection this way: “Someone found that the term aeronaut, referring to those who ride in balloons and other lighter-than-air vehicles, was derived from ‘sailor in the air.’ From this we arrived at astronaut, meaning ‘sailor among the stars.'”
“Why Don’t You Fix Your Little Problem and Light This Candle?”—Astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr.
The men who made up NASA’s first astronaut class were called the “Mercury 7.” The seven men chosen from a pool of more than 500 American military aviators were Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper, John H. Glenn Jr., Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Walter M. “Wally” Schirra Jr., Alan B. Shepard Jr., and Donald K. “Deke” Slayton.
Shepard became the first American man in space, making his historic suborbital flight on May 5, 1961. He made the above statement to Mission Control as he sat in the cramped Mercury capsule atop a Redstone rocket on the launch pad, while the launch was delayed for over four hours. The actual flight lasted only 15 minutes but was a success.
“Not Because They Are Easy, But Because They Are Hard”—President John F. Kennedy
President Kennedy gave NASA the goal of sending a man to the moon by the end of the 1960s. On May 25, 1961, he stood before Congress and proclaimed that “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” On September 12, 1962, he gave another speech at Rice University in Houston, Texas, outlining his goals for America’s space program. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Less than seven years later, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would fulfill Kennedy’s vision by landing on the moon.
“We Came in Peace for All Mankind”—Plaque affixed to the leg of the Apollo 11 lunar landing vehicle
When astronauts first landed on the moon in 1969 as part of the Apollo 11 mission, they left behind evidence that they’d been there. Among these items were an American flag and a plaque, which was signed by President Richard Nixon and astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. The plaque bears a map of the Earth and this inscription:
HERE MEN FROM THE PLANET EARTH
FIRST SET FOOT UPON THE MOON
JULY 1969 A.D.
WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND
“The Eagle Has Landed”—Astronaut Neil Armstrong
Six Apollo missions landed on the moon during the years between 1968 and 1972: Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17. Twelve men actually walked on its surface. Each of the five later Apollo missions also left a flag. Photographs taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) satellite show the five flags still standing in place. (Buzz Aldrin reported that he saw Apollo 11’s flag blown down by rocket exhaust when the lunar lander blasted off the Moon’s surface to rejoin the orbiting command module.) The LRO images also show objects such as the lunar rovers used by some Apollo missions, and even the tire tracks they left behind.
“Okay, Houston, We’ve Had a Problem Here”—Astronaut Jack Swigert
Apollo 13’s journey to the moon was aborted when two of the oxygen-producing fuel cells exploded 2 days after its launch, with the spacecraft about 200,000 miles from Earth. The lack of oxygen wasn’t a real issue, but there was a problem with the CO2 scrubbers–which meant that the three astronauts on board could be suffocated by their own carbon dioxide exhalations. Guided by engineers on the ground at Mission Control, the astronauts used duct tape and surplus materials to repair air filtration canisters in the lunar module to help them survive the journey back to Earth.
“We Will Never Forget Them, Nor the Last Time We Saw Them”—President Ronald Reagan
President Reagan addressed the nation on January 28, 1986, after the Space Shuttle Challenger blew apart just 73 seconds after launch. The entire country mourned the loss of all seven astronauts aboard. The tragedy was a huge setback for the program, and the next mission wasn’t launched until almost three years later. The program suffered another catastrophe on February 1, 2003, when the Space Shuttle Columbia exploded over Texas during re-entry, killing all seven crew members.
The space shuttle program was launched in 1981, designed to be the “world’s first reusable spacecraft“–launching like a rocket, orbiting like a spacecraft, and landing like a plane. Crews ranged in size from five to seven people. NASA’s space shuttles have traveled 542,398,878 miles, making 21,152 Earth orbits. In all, there were 833 crew members in the 135 shuttle missions that were carried out through the end of the program in July 2011.
The history of NASA includes not only manned spaceflight, but also the exploration of our solar system, galaxies, and the entire universe. Scientific advances have been made in astronomy, astrophysics, astrobiology, aeronautics, Earth and life sciences, as well as lunar and planetary exploration and much more. NASA technology and research have contributed countless innovations and technologies first pioneered in space exploration that benefit everyday life. Among these are cordless power tools, telemedicine, carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, satellite television, joysticks and GPS navigation systems. The impact of our nation’s decision to enter the “Space Race” nearly 60 years ago can’t be truly defined or accurately measured.
The first glass of Coca-Cola was served on May 8, 1886, in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. John Stith Pemberton was a physician and pharmacist who made and sold medicines, photographic chemicals, and cosmetic products in his state-of-the-art laboratories. Among these were a popular perfume called Sweet Southern Bouquet, and a patent medicine known as French Wine Coca. It was advertised as a “nerve tonic, a mental aid, a headache remedy, and a cure for morphine addiction.” The product contained wine and coca leaves from South America and was served at pharmacy counters.
In 1886, Atlanta experimented with an early prohibition law. Since Pemberton’s drink was made with wine, he needed to change the formula. He experimented in his home laboratory to create a new drink that was sweetened with sugar instead of wine. By May 1886, his new formula was ready. Pemberton carried a jug of syrup down the street to Jacobs’ Pharmacy, where it was sold as a soda fountain drink for a nickel a glass. The beverage was later named “Coca Cola”–from its two “medicinal” ingredients: extract of coca leaves and kola nuts. Although the name was used in the marketplace starting in 1886, the Coca-Cola trademark was not registered in the U.S. Patent Office until January 31, 1893.
Dr. Pemberton never realized the potential of his invention. In failing health, he gradually sold portions of his business to various partners. In 1888, just before his death, he sold his remaining interest in Coca-Cola to Asa Griggs Candler, an Atlanta banker, real estate developer and manufacturer of patent medicines. Candler’s genius was in marketing and promotion. In order to get customers to try the product, he created the first coupon, which offered a complimentary glass of Coca-Cola at any fountain. Between 1894 and 1913 an estimated 8.5 million drinks free drinks had been served, and by 1895 Coca-Cola was being sold in every state.
Consumer demand increased even further in the summer of 1894 when the first Coca-Cola was bottled in Vicksburg, Mississippi. This ultimately led to another brilliant innovation–the unique and iconic bottle. Before refrigeration, soft drinks were kept in coolers of ice. Competitors used similar bottles, and the paper labels often fell off as they soaked in ice water, so consumers often couldn’t distinguish the real thing. So in 1915, the company asked bottling partners to design a new bottle.
In the design brief, they called for “A bottle which a person could recognize even if they felt it in the dark, and so shaped that, even if broken, a person could tell at a glance what it was.” The winning design was submitted by the Root Glass Company of Terre Haute, Indiana. Ironically, it was mistakenly based on the shape of a cocoa pod, which is NOT one of the ingredients of Coca-Cola. The naturally occurring minerals in the sandstone of the local cliffs gave the glass bottle its distinctive green color.
If you want to find out more about the history of this iconic American beverage, view the ProQuest eLibrary Research Topic page on Coca Cola, or visit these websites available on SIRS WebSelect:
- The Coca-Cola Bottle: An American Icon at 100
- Fifty Years of Coca-Cola Television Advertisements
- The History of Coca-Cola
- John Stith Pemberton (1831-1888)
This day in history marks the inauguration of the first and only president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. After being named President of the newly-formed Confederate States of America, he delivered his inaugural address from the portico of the Alabama state capitol building in Montgomery on February 18, 1861. Most people know that Davis was the Confederate president. But did you know he was also a West Point graduate, a war hero, the son-in-law of a future U.S President, a U.S. Congressman, a Cabinet member and a U.S. Senator? While Davis did support slavery, he advocated for states’ rights and argued against secession.
Davis graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1828. He then served as an infantry Lieutenant at various posts in Missouri, Illinois, and in the Iowa and Wisconsin territories. He also took part in the Black Hawk War of 1832, along with a Captain of the Illinois volunteers named Abraham Lincoln. While serving under Colonel Zachary Taylor (later elected the 12th President of the United States), he met and fell in love with Taylor’s daughter, Sarah Knox Taylor. Taylor disapproved of the relationship, and Davis resigned his military commission in 1835 in order to marry her against her father’s wishes. She died only three months later, after contracting malaria in Louisiana.
He was elected as a Democrat to the Twenty-ninth Congress and served from March 4, 1845, until June 1846, when he resigned to command the First Regiment of Mississippi Riflemen in the Mexican-American War. He distinguished himself by contributing to victories in the Battles of Monterrey (1846) and Buena Vista (1847), where he was wounded. Returning to Mississippi as a war hero, Davis was elected to the U.S. Senate, serving from 1847-1851 and again from 1857-1861. During his time there, he was a key supporter of the creation of the Smithsonian Institution, and a member of its Board of Regents.
President Franklin Pierce selected Davis as his Secretary of War in 1853. During his tenure in office, he helped design the National Capitol and the Statue of Freedom atop its dome. At the close of Pierce’s term in 1857, Davis reentered the Senate and became a prominent spokesman for the South. On June 27, 1850, while the Senate was debating the Compromise Bill, Davis had stated, “God forbid that the day should ever come when to be true to my constituents is to be hostile to the Union.” That day came on January 21, 1861, when he joined four of his colleagues who resigned their seats in the U.S. Senate after their states had seceded from the Union. A month later, he was chosen by acclamation to be the Confederate president.
After the Civil War ended, Davis was captured by Union forces near Irwinville, Georgia on May 10, 1865. Charged with treason but never tried, he was detained in a military prison for two years at Fort Monroe, Virginia. President Andrew Johnson issued a pardon on Christmas Day, 1868 to all persons who participated in the “rebellion.” Davis refused to take the oath of allegiance to regain his American citizenship, which was restored only posthumously by the U.S. Congress and President Jimmy Carter in 1978.
Davis died in New Orleans on December 6, 1889. Over 70,000 people paid their respects at New Orleans City Hall, and he was buried there on December 11. His body was moved to the former Confederate Capital of Richmond, Virginia in 1893.
To learn more about the life and legacy of this often misunderstood American statesman, visit these sites available on SIRS WebSelect:
You can find even more information in these Research Topic pages available on ProQuest’s eLibrary:
Honoring the sacrifices many have made for our country in the name of freedom
and democracy is the very foundation of Veterans Day.
–Representative Charles B. Rangel (D-NY)
1918: Near the end of World War I (then called the “Great War”) an armistice, or temporary ceasefire agreement, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, effectively ending the war.
1919: President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day.
1938: An Act of Congress approved on May 13 made the 11th of November in each year a legal federal holiday–a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.”
1954: Armistice Day was originally intended to honor the veterans who served in World War I. But the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, a national campaign was launched to make the holiday one dedicated to all American veterans. Congress amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.” With the approval of this legislation, on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
1968: President Lyndon Johnson signed The Uniform Holiday Bill on June 28, which was intended to ensure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. The bill took effect in 1971 though many states continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates.
1971-1975: The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on October 25, 1971. The Federal observance of Veterans Day was held on the fourth Monday of October for four years.
1975: On September 20th, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97, which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. Ford noted that “it has become apparent that the commemoration of this day on November 11 is a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens.”
1982: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C. to honor the “courage, sacrifice and devotion to duty and country” of the more than 58,000 men and women who gave their lives or remained missing during America’s longest war.
1997: On October 18, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial was dedicated to the nearly two million women who have served in defense of our nation.
2014: According to the Census Bureau, there are 21.8 million living veterans of the U.S. armed forces. If you are one of them, thank you. If not, take the opportunity today to honor the bravery, patriotism, sacrifices and service of America’s veterans at an event or celebration near you. After all, in the words of American journalist Elmer Davis (1890-1958):
“The Republic was not established by cowards; and cowards will not preserve it.…
This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.”
One would think that designing the Gateway Arch would be a career-topping achievement, but the engineering triumph was the first major independent project that Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen would undertake. After Saarinen entered the 1947 architectural competition for Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, he set out to design a monument not only to Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase and the nation, but also to the modern age. For Saarinen, “The major concern was to create a monument which would have lasting significance and would be a landmark of our time…Neither an obelisk nor a rectangular box nor a dome seemed right on this site or for this purpose. But here, at the edge of the Mississippi River, a great arch did seem right.” Construction began February 12, 1963 and was completed October 28, 1965. Sadly, Saarinen did not live to see the completion of his design. He died of a brain tumor in 1961 at the age of 51. St. Louis was chosen as the site for the Arch because of its central role in the westward expansion of the United States; it was the starting point for many of the westward pioneers. Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery left on their 3-year journey from a camp just north of St. Louis.
Some interesting facts: The Gateway Arch stands at a height of 630 feet, compared to the Washington Monument at 555 feet and the Statue of Liberty at 305 feet. The 60-foot heads carved on Mount Rushmore are designed to the scale of men who would stand 465 feet tall, a height that would allow such giants to walk through the Arch. During the summer months, up to 6,400 people a day visit the Arch. 16 trams or pods, each holding 5 people, take visitors on a 4-minute trip to the observation area where one can see for 30 miles on a clear day. The stainless steel arch has foundations that are sunk 60 feet into the ground, and is built to withstand earthquakes and high winds. In fact, the Arch is designed to sway up to 18 inches. The inverted, weighted catenary arch is the world’s tallest arch and the tallest monument in the Western Hemisphere.
During the 50th anniversary of the Gateway Arch, use resources from eLibrary to study both history (Westward expansion of the United States) and science (architecture and engineering) at the same time.
Research Topics: Publications: