“Let’s go back and set the record straight at some crucial points in history, starting with the American Revolution, Sherman My Boy.”
Memorial Day Beginnings
“We will go back to the American south and the birth of a national holiday to honor our fallen soldiers.”
The practice of decorating soldiers’ graves with flowers is an ancient custom. Soldiers’ graves were decorated in the U.S. before and during the American Civil War. A claim was made in 1906 that the first Civil War soldier’s grave ever decorated was in Warrenton, Virginia, on June 3, 1861, implying the first Memorial Day occurred there. Though not for Union soldiers, there is authentic documentation that women in Savannah, Georgia, decorated Confederate soldiers’ graves in 1862. In 1863, the cemetery dedication at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was a ceremony of commemoration at the graves of dead soldiers. Local historians in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, claim that ladies there decorated soldiers’ graves on July 4, 1864. As a result, Boalsburg promotes itself as the birthplace of Memorial Day.
Following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865, there were a variety of events of commemoration. The sheer number of soldiers of both sides who died in the Civil War, more than 600,000, meant that burial and memorialization took on new cultural significance. Under the leadership of women during the war, an increasingly formal practice of decorating graves had taken shape. In 1865, the federal government began creating national military cemeteries for the Union war dead.
The first widely publicized observance of a Memorial Day-type observance after the Civil War was in Charleston, South Carolina, on May 1, 1865. During the war, Union soldiers who were prisoners of war had been held at the Hampton Park Race Course in Charleston; at least 257 Union prisoners died there and were hastily buried in unmarked graves. Together with teachers and missionaries, black residents of Charleston organized a May Day ceremony in 1865, which was covered by theNew York Tribune and other national papers. The freedmen cleaned up and landscaped the burial ground, building an enclosure and an arch labeled “Martyrs of the Race Course”. Nearly 10,000 people, mostly freedmen, gathered on May 1 to commemorate the war dead. Involved were about 3,000 school children, newly enrolled in freedmen’s schools, as well as mutual aid societies, Union troops, black ministers and white northern missionaries. Most brought flowers to lay on the burial field.
David W. Blight described the day:
This was the first Memorial Day. African Americans invented Memorial Day in Charleston, South Carolina. What you have there is black Americans recently freed from slavery announcing to the world with their flowers, their feet, and their songs what the war had been about. What they basically were creating was the Independence Day of a Second American Revolution.
However, Blight stated he “has no evidence” that this event in Charleston inspired the establishment of Memorial Day across the country.
On May 26, 1966, President Johnson signed a presidential proclamation naming Waterloo, New York as the birthplace of Memorial Day. Earlier, the 89th Congress had adopted House Concurrent Resolution 587, which officially recognized that the patriotic tradition of observing Memorial Day began one hundred years prior in Waterloo, New York. Other communities claiming to be the birthplace of Memorial Day include Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, Carbondale, Illinois, Columbus, Georgia, andColumbus, Mississippi. A recent study investigating the Waterloo claim as well as dozens of other origination theories concludes that nearly all of them are apocryphal legends.
Thank You to WIKIPEDIA
Memorial Day Beginnings
– WABAC to The Old South
On December 18, 1898, French race car driver Gaston de Chassaloup-Laubat set the first recognized World Record for Land Speed at an unimpressive 63.13 kilometers per hour (39.25 mph). (Note: For Land Speed Record we are referring to human steered vehicles powered by a motor of some type, and not considering bicycles or horseback riding.)
Under the hood
Gaston was driving a Jeantaud electric car for his record run, and at that time when automobiles were in their infancy it was not yet clear which means of propulsion would become preeminent, whether gasoline, electric, steam or diesel powered motors.
Over the next couple years Gaston and his arch rival Camille Janatzy would trade the record status back and forth in an ever increasing raising of the bar. When Janatzy set a new record in 1899 as the first man to drive a car over 100 kph (62 mph) the record stood for a whopping 3 years (105 kph/65 mph). Also in 1899, “Mile a Minute” Murphy rode a human powered bicycle over a 1 mile course in 57 seconds, over 60mph! (The current bicycle speed record is 167 mph.)
The record setting Jeantaud electric car was a chain drive primitive affair that produced only 36 horsepower. Steering was done with a vertical stick that was attached to history‘s first known steering wheel, when other cars were steered with a tiller. The car was rebuilt and won back the land speed record 2 more times, for a distinguished career of having set the Land Speed Record 3 times in all. In fact, the first 5 times the record was set it would be in electric cars, before steam powered cars eclipsed the electrics and finally gasoline powered cars became king of the hill.
The record attempt would first come to the United States in 1904 when Henry Ford drove one of his early creations to the record setting performance, this time on frozen Lake St. Clair near Detroit. By 1927, almost every Land Speed World Record set was accomplished in the United States, though not always by Americans. The current record is held by the Thrust SSC, a jet powered car, at a supersonic 763 mph, set in 1997. (Note: The Ford 999 was powered by an 18.9 liter/ 1150 cubic inch 4 cylinder engine!)
– WABAC to 1898
“Let’s go back to when we really had freedoms that mattered.”
January 6, 1941:
Four Freedoms Speech
Way Back to WWII
On January 6, 1941, much of the world was enmeshed in World War II, with only the United States among the great powers not yet at war. Many US citizens wanted to keep it that way, and sentiment was largely against any involvement in the affairs of Europe where Hitler and Nazi Germany along with Italy were at war with Western democracies such as France and Britain, and Asia where Japan was fighting in China.
Inside the script
US President Franklin Roosevelt publicly echoed the party line of non-involvement with the war, but he personally wanted to help the democracies resist totalitarian domination. In his 1941 State of the Union speech Roosevelt addressed the security of the United States by recognizing that for the US to enjoy freedoms the country must exist in a world where such freedoms existed.
The freedoms delineated by FDR were:
The Freedom of Speech
The Freedom of Worship
The Freedom from Want
The Freedom from Fear
The speech about human rights and references to the US Constitution was a slap at the totalitarian dictatorships of the aggressive countries that had started World War II, the key instigators being Germany, Italy and Japan, along with our soon to be ally, the Soviet Union. The speech marked an end of official US isolationism and direct support of the Western allied democracies stopping short of committing military combat involvement. The speech was part of the introduction of the Lend-Lease program to provide war materiel to the Allies in exchange for the use of military bases and the transformation of the United States into “The Arsenal of Democracy,” a commitment to massive industrial mobilization to producing war weapons.
Although a stirring and inspirational speech that echoed throughout World War II and beyond, there were still detractors. Many Americans were unconvinced to abandon their isolationism (until after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor) and the obvious disconnect with US mistreatment of African-Americans, Mexican-Americans and other minorities despite the avowed “rights of men of every creed and every race wherever they live,” just apparently not the US. The detention of Japanese-Americans comes to mind as well. Still, many consider this speech one of History’s greatest.
After the war, former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt took the Four Freedoms as her personal cause and advocated for human rights in the US and United Nations. Despite his call for a massive armaments build up, FDR also called for nations to disarm as a way of keeping world peace. The speech inspired painter Norman Rockwell to paint a set of 4 paintings depicting his vision of the Four Freedoms. Other artists also rendered their depictions of these freedoms in paintings and posters, and the Marvel Comic superhero group, The Fantastic Four, was headquartered in the fictional Four Freedoms Plaza 1986-1998) Postage stamps and other references to this speech have also appeared since, leaving a lasting legacy.
FDR Four Freedoms
– WABAC to WWII
“Bully, Sherman My Boy!”
A Teddy Thumbnail
On December 10, 1906, President Theodore “Teddy” Rooseveltbecame the first American to earn a Nobel Prize when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation of the Russo-Japanese War. (Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter, and Barack Obama have also won Nobel Prizes since Roosevelt.)
The story of a genuine legend…
Roosevelt was no stranger to accomplishing things and is immortalized on Mount Rushmore along with Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson. By no means a namby pamby wimpy pencil pushing politician, Roosevelt, though born into the moneyed class, was a man of the American West and rushed to serve our country when we went to war with Spain.
Although an asthmatic as a child, Teddy went west to lead a life of outdoors ruggedness, a quality that stood him well when he led his men up the slopes of San Juan Hill (actually Kettle Hill) in Cuba against the Spanish. His time out west also stoked his wonder of the natural world, and his desire to protect our natural resources. While out west Roosevelt wrote outdoor themed articles and served as a deputy sheriff. He even met and befriended the legendary Seth Bullock, lawman of Deadwood, South Dakota (played by Timothy Olyphant in the HBO series, Deadwood).
Serving the public as a US Civil Service commissioner and later as the New York City Police Commissioner, Teddy became the Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President McKinley in 1897. Already a veteran of the New York National Guard, Roosevelt left his post in Washington to head up his famous “Rough Riders,” leading them to fame and glory in the Spanish-American War.
Riding his fame from the war to the governorship of New York, Roosevelt was nominated Vice President following the death in 1899 of McKinley’s VP, Garret Hobart who died of a heart attack. Roosevelt then became our youngest president ever in 1901 when President McKinley was assassinated, and served as President until 1909.
Sometimes called “Teddy the Trustbuster,” Roosevelt was concerned about the American consumer and was anti-monopoly for big businesses. He also created our first National Parks, including the massive Yellowstone Park, as well as The National Forest Service and other environmental initiatives. Teddy also sided with the miners during a major coal strike, though he stopped short of endorsing unions. Also an advocate of pure food and drugs, Roosevelt supported legislation to provide clean products for the consumer. Although personally pro-racial equality, the politics of the day prevented a more vigorous agenda in that regard. Roosevelt’s “Speak softly and carry a big stick” foreign policy let the world know the US was one of the big boys on the block.
Although Roosevelt lost the Presidential election of 1912, he proved his mettle while giving a campaign speech when he was shot in the chest, but insisted on continuing the speech until complete. He recovered from this wound, and it became part of his legend.
Teddy continued building his legend with a 2 year trip to Africa and an expedition to South America, where he continued his rugged out door ways, pressing on despite serious illness and injury while contributing to the scientific knowledge of the natural world.
TR as he was sometimes called, died of a blood clot in 1919, only 60 years old. His incredibly energetic lifestyle and numerous injuries and illnesses had finally caught up to him. He left behind a grand legacy of his own accomplishments, and also a son, Quentin, that died in aerial combat serving our country in World War I. Other sons, Kermit and Archie served during both World Wars. Teddy’s son Theodore Jr. was a US Army brigadier general that earned a Medal of Honor by tirelessly leading the D-Day landings at Normandy where he was the only US general to land with the troops by sea. A daughter, Ethel, served as a nurse in France during World War I and was active in the Red Cross and the affairs of her county afterwards. She also served on the board of Trustees of The American Museum of Natural History and was devoted to the Civil Rights Movement.
Teddy Roosevelt is by any estimation a Great American, and in the author’s eyes, the Greatest American President.
Great American Hero
– WABAC in History
“Are you ready for some football, Sherman My Boy?”
“Do you mean soccer Mr. Peabody/”
“Set the WABAC for 1932 Chicago Illinois, the place where real football was born.”
10 Historic Football Games
On December 18, 1932, the first National Football League (NFL) championship football game ever was played between the Chicago Bears and the Portsmouth Spartans. Obviously, this is what you would call an historic game, but for more reasons than you would think. For one thing, due to a blizzard, it had to be relocated from Wrigley field to Chicago Stadium which had a field only 80 yards long! Blasphemy! Here 10 such historic football games, both memorable and significant, are presented. Can you think of any others to add?
Untangling the pile
10. First NFL Championship, Chicago Bears vs. Portsmouth Spartans, 1932.
The home team, the Bears, won the game by a score of 9-0. Although the league had existed since 1920, it had previously picked its champion based on winning percentage. The NFL would go on to become the definitive professional American football league with many great champions. Cracked History Fact: With 13 wins so far, the Green Bay Packers are the team with the most championship wins.
9. First Night Football Game, 1902.
In 1902, the Philadelphia Athletics played the Kanaweola A.C. under electric lights in Elmira, New York. The first NFL night game took place in 1929 between the Providence Steamroller and the Chicago Cardinals. Fans have been getting home late ever since.
8. First Super Bowl, Green Bay Packers vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 1967.
Prior to the merger of the NFL and its rival league the American Football League (the AFL) in 1970, owners had agreed to let each league’s champion play the other in what became known as “The Super Bowl.” The NFL’s Packers won the first two Super Bowls convincingly, but then the AFL’s New York Jets rocked the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, and the Kansas City Chiefs repeated the trick for the AFL in Super Bowl IV. Only 4 teams have never played in a Super Bowl, the Browns, Lions, Jaguars and Texans. (Of course the Browns and the Lions had won championships before there even was a Super Bowl.)
7. Browns Enter NFL, Cleveland Browns vs. Philadelphia Eagles, 1950.
Not only the Cleveland Browns, but also the Baltimore Colts and the San Francisco 49ers joined the NFL from the now defunct All-American Football Conference (the AAFC), a 1940s rival league to the NFL. Like the AFL later, the AAFC got no respect! The Browns had compiled an incredible record of wins (47-4-3) in their AAFC history and went undefeated and untied in 1948, a feat unmatched until the Miami Dolphins managed to do it in 1972. (The Chicago Bears had been the first team to achieve this in 1934.) The Browns first game in 1950 was against the 2-time defending NFL champion, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Browns schooled them 35-10, setting the stage for the first Browns NFL championship win later that season. The Browns went on to win the championship game against the Los Angeles Rams, 30-28, on a late field goal in the last minute. The Browns would win further NFL titles in 1954, 1955 and 1964. Cracked History Fact: The Rams had been the previous Cleveland franchise. Cracked History Lament: The NFL does not recognize the statistics of those terrific players from the old AAFC, although it does for the old AFL. Its logic is that not all of AAFC was swallowed up in the merger. Still, 6 players from the Browns’ AAFC days went on to gain admittance to the NFL Hall of Fame.
6. First Man Paid to Play, Allegheny Athletic Association vs. Pittsburgh Athletic Club, 1892.
Although John Brailler was known to have been paid $10 in 1895 to play a game for the Latrobe Athletic Association, it was not until 1960 when information surfaced that William “Pudge” Heffelfinger of Minnesota had been paid $500 in 1892 to play football, making him the first professional player. Cracked History Side Note: The first African-American professional footballer may have been Charles Follis of the Shelby (Ohio) Steamfitters in 1902. Follis was from Wooster, Ohio.
5. First National Radio Broadcast of an NFL Game, Detroit Lions vs. Chicago Bears, 1934.
In addition to being the first game to be broadcast on radio, this game was also the first to take place on Thanksgiving, making it the first Turkey Day game in NFL history. Previously, high schools and colleges had regularly played on Thanksgiving Day, a tradition that has since faded away. Cracked History Note: The Detroit Lions were once the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans.
4. First TV Broadcast Game, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Brooklyn Dodgers, 1939.
NBC aired the game from Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, then also home to the like-named National League Baseball team the Brooklyn Dodgers. This historic event paved the way for the famous and sometimes infamous Super Bowl commercials!
3. First NFL Monday Night Football Game, Cleveland Browns vs. New York Jets, 1970.
In one of the most important non-championship games in NFL history, the Cleveland Browns beat Broadway Joe Namath and the New York Jets 31-21. Monday Night Football (MNF) has been an American television institution ever since and has made the NFL and (college football) zillions of dollars.
2. First NFL Football Games, Dayton Triangles vs. Columbus Panhandles and Rock Island Independents vs. Muncie Flyers, 1920.
In the first season, what eventually became the NFL was originally known as the American Professional Football Association (the APFA). The APFA was renamed the NFL in 1922, the first NFL champion being the Akron Professionals (the Pros), and the first 2-time champs being the Canton Bulldogs.
1. First College Football Game, Rutgers vs. New Jersey (Princeton), 1869.
Rutgers won this game against the College of New Jersey (which later became Princeton) by a score of 6-4. A rematch was played (the second ever college football game) with slightly different rules, and New Jersey prevailed this time 8-0. By default, Rutgers and Princeton are considered National Co-Champions for 1869! The first balls used were round (spherical), and no running was allowed. The first game o more closely resemble modern football was between Harvard and Tufts in 1875. This game was comprised of 11-men teams and played with an oval ball. Now that college football has evolved into an enormous American tradition, common sense dictates that Cracked History recognize The Ohio State University Buckeyes as the greatest college football team of all time.
– WABAC to Football History
“I don’t want to brag Sherman My Boy, but one of my relatives was the first astronaut.”
November 3, 1957:
The First Astronaut was a Dog!
A Dog’s Life
On November 3, 1957, before any chimpanzee, any man, any woman, any Russian, any American went into space, the Soviet dog Laika became the first astronaut (cosmonaut in Soviet terms) in history, an indication of just how important dogs are to people.
Digging, burying etc…
Unfortunately, poor Laika was on a one way mission, as the fledgling space programs of the day did not include the technology for a safe return to Earth. A stray found roaming the streets of Moscow, Laika was an 5 to 6 kilogram mixed breed dog. (Note: We say mixed breed instead of mongrel or mutt, terms better applied to certain people such as politicians.) Being a stray, Laika did not actually have a known given name, and the term Laika was merely a Russian description of a dog of that type. The name stuck in the world press, and History knows her as Laika.
Laika and other dogs in the Soviet space program were trained to become accustomed to being confined in small spaces and space capsule type environments. One of the scientists even took Laika home to play with his children as a reward to the doomed pup for her cooperation. Laika earned the right to be blasted into space by exhibiting a calm and cooperative nature.
Laika was hooked up to various instruments to measure her vital signs during her flight, and she was loaded into the Sputnik 2 capsule atop an R7 rocket and launched into orbit. The dog tolerated the launch forces well, with her hearbeat more than doubling during launch. Unfortunately, she died of overheating only a few hours (5 to 7 hours) into the flight. Interestingly, the steadfast canine did calm down after achieving orbit, and even ate her food provided. Cause of death by overheating was probably caused by a failure detach part of the booster rocket that resulted in failure of heat shielding insulation. The capsule containing Laika eventually made over 2700 orbits of the Earth before burning up upon reentry in April of 1958.
As governments are apt to do, the Soviets lied about the timing and cause of Laika’s death, giving various stories about her being euthanized by poison food, eventually suffocating, and living for several days into the flight. Only many years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union has the truth been told.
In 2008 the Russians unveiled a monument to Laika, the Space Dog in Moscow, and she also appears on another Russian monument to space pioneers. Criticism by animal lovers about the one way mission led to future missions using dogs and other animals being planned with live re-entry and recovery, although those were not always successful, just as human flight into space has not always concluded with live recovery.
Dogs are indeed “Man’s Best Friend,” being our companions and partners for as long as 30,000 years. No other animal on Earth is as in-tune to humans as dogs.