March 17, 1956: Senator John F. Kennedy addresses the Irish Fellowship Club of Chicago

I am glad to be in Chicago tonight, not only because my sister and her husband live here, but because I feel strongly the ties of a common kinship. All of us of Irish descent are bound together by the ties that come from a common experience, experience which may exist only in memories and in legend, but which is real enough to those who possess it. And thus whether we live in Cork or Boston, Chicago or Sydney, we are all members of a great family which is linked together by that strongest of chains – a common past. It is strange to think that the wellspring from which this fraternal empire has sprung is a small island in the far Atlantic with a population one-third the size of that of this prairie state. But this is the source, and it is to this green and misty island that we turn tonight and to its patron saint, Saint Patrick.

It is also fitting that we remember at this time three requests granted St. Patrick by the Angel of the Lord, in order to bring happiness and hope to the Irish: first, that the weather should always be fair on his special day to allow the faithful to attend the services of the church; secondly, that every Thursday and every Saturday twelve souls of the Irish people should be freed from the pains of Hell; and third, that no outlander should ever rule over Ireland.

I have not heard a weather report from the Emerald Isle tonight, but I am certain that no rain fell – officially. Who paysJFK Ireland any heed to a little Irish mist? And I have no doubt that twelve Irishmen have been freed from the nether regions this very Saturday. In fact, the toastmaster tells me he thinks he saw several of them here tonight – Governor Stevenson, I understand, was trying last week to get several dozen released in time for the New Hampshire primary. But certainly we need no report to tell us that tonight no outlander rules over Eire; and the Irish people are celebrating this day in peace and in liberty.

But it is not a bitter and tragic irony that the Irish should now enjoy their freedom at a time when personal liberty and national independence have become the most critical issues of our time …
I do not maintain that the Irish were the only race to display extraordinary devotion to liberty, or the only people to struggle unceasingly for their national independence. History proves otherwise. But the special contribution of the Irish, I believe – the emerald thread that runs throughout the tapestry of their past – has been the constancy, the endurance, the faith that they displayed through endless centuries of foreign oppression – centuries in which even the most rudimentary religious and civil rights were denied to them…

Listen, if you will, to the wild melancholy of the Irish after the murder by Cromwell’s agents of their beloved Chieftain, Owen Roe O’Neill:

“Sagest in the council was he, kindest in the Hall:
Sure we never won a battle – ’twas Owen won them all.
Soft as woman’s was your voice, O’Neill, bright was your eye.
Oh! why did you leave us, Owen? Why did you die

Your troubles are all over, you’re at rest with God on high:
But we’re slaves, and we’re orphans, Owen! – why did you die?
We’re sheep without a shepherd, when the snow shuts out the sky –
Oh! why did you leave us, Owen? Why did you die?”

It is not my purpose to recall needlessly the unhappy memories of an age gone by. But I think that the history of the Irish – and indeed of all people, East and West – demonstrates that along with the need to worship God there has been implanted in every man’s soul the desire to be free…

Thus Irishmen today can sympathize with the aspirations of all people everywhere to be free – and their own long and ultimately successful fight for independence offers encouragement and hope to all who struggle to be free. Let the United States and all free people today speak to captive peoples everywhere with the words of Sir Roger Casement as he addressed the British jury which had sentenced him to hang for high treason in 1914:

“When all your fights,” said Sir Roger, “become only an accumulated wrong; when man must beg with bated breath for leave to subsist in their own land, to think their own thoughts, to sign their own songs – then surely it is a braver, a saner and a truer thing to be a rebel in act and in deed. Gentlemen of the Jury: Ireland has outlived the failure of all her hopes – and yet she still hopes. And this faculty – of preserving through centuries of misery the remembrance of lost liberty – this surely is the noblest cause men ever strove for, ever lived for, ever died for. If this be the case for which I stand indicted here today, then I stand in a goodly company and in a right noble succession.”

There is our message, Mr. Toastmaster. There is our faith and our task. Let us not foil its fulfillment. Let us hold out our hands to those who struggle for freedom today as Ireland struggled for a thousand years. Let us not leave them to be “sheep without a shepherd, when the snow shuts the sky.” Let us show them we have not forgotten the constancy and the faith and the hope – of the Irish.

March 16, 1621: Samoset welcomes the Pilgrims to Patuxet

The Pilgrims had made it, for the most part, through the winter. March 16th dawned a fair, warm day. The new settlers considered some military exercises, but were interrupted when they noticed some “savages” (as they called their new neighbors) observing them from a distance.

They got busy arranging their defenses, when one of the “savages” boldly walked right up to their settlement. He was a Samosettall straight man, with long black hair, and was stark naked, with only a leather fringe hanging about his waist and carried a bow and two arrows. He boldly strode alone along the houses and seemed ready to walk right into the settlement before the settlers stopped him.

The “savage” greeted the new immigrants in English, and welcomed them and introduced himself as Samoset. He explained that he had learned to speak their language from the Englishmen that came to fish at Monchiggon (Monhegan Island), and he knew most of the captains, commanders, and masters that visited that place by name.

The Pilgrims questioned Samoset intensely, as he was the first savage they had actually met. He said he was not originally from the South Shore, but had been visiting the region for about eight months. He was originally one of the “sagamores” or lords of Morattiggon, which was a day’s sail with a great wind (or five days by land) distant.

Samoset talked at length about the whole country and of every province and of their sagamores and their men and their strength. When the wind kicked up the Pilgrims cast a horseman’s coat about him. He asked some beer, but the pilgrims gave him strong water and biscuit and butter, and cheese, and pudding, and a piece of mallard, all which he liked well, and had eaten previously with his English acquaintances.

He told the Pilgrims that the place where they were now living which they called Plymouth was actually called Patuxet, and that about four years prior all its inhabitants had died in a plague, which was why it was vacant and no-one else currently laid claim to it.

The Pilgrims talked with their visitor all afternoon, until the visit became tiresome. They would gladly have been rid of him at night, but he wasn’t ready to leave. They tried to have him sleep on the boat, but it was too windy, so he slept at Stephen Hopkins’ house, where they kept a close eye on him.

The next day Samoset went back to the Massasoits, who were the Pilgrims’ nearest neighbors. Apparently these people didn’t trust the English, as some years back a master of a ship named Hunt had started trading with them, and then had seized twenty men from Patuxet and seven men from Nauset, and carried them off and sold them for slaves for twenty pound a man.

The settlers gave Samoset a knife, a bracelet, and a ring; he promised come back in a night or two and to bring with him some of the Massasoits, and they would bring beavers’ skins which they could trade.

March 13, 1887: Chester Greenwood awarded patent #188,292 for the invention of earmuffs

Chester Greenwood’s ears got very cold in winter. Since Chester lived in the hills of western Maine, near the town of Farmington, cold ears were a major problem. In 1873, when Chester was fifteen years old, he got a pair of ice skates for his birthday. “Don’t forget to cover your ears—you know how easily they get frostbitten,” his mother warned him as he raced off to a nearby pond.

Ear muffsChester put on a hat, but the wool cap made his ears itch, as he was allergic to wool. It was a real problem. But Chester had an idea. He went home and found his grandmother at her sewing machine. Chester bent a piece of wire to the shape of his head, with circles on each end. Then he asked his grandmother to sew warm flannel and beaver fur on each circle to cover his ears and keep them warm. It worked.

Chester’s idea took off. Over the next three years, he replaced the wire with flat spring steel for the band. He also added tiny hinges to the flaps to allow the ear protectors to fit tightly against the ears. Chester was now able to fold up his ear protectors and keep them in his pocket when he wasn’t wearing them. His ears were warmer than ever!

On March 13, 1877, the United States Patent Office granted Chester Greenwood patent number 188,292 for his Greenwood Champion Ear Protector. Chester was just eighteen years old.

By 1883, when he was in his mid-twenties, Chester Greenwood employed eleven workers in his factory on the west side of Farmington who that year produced fifty thousand pairs of ear muffs—now made with black velvet and blue wool.

In 1977, one hundred years after Chester received his patent, the people in Farmington decided that Chester deserved recognition for his famous invention. The Maine State Legislature officially declared December 21, the first day of winter, as Chester Greenwood Day.

If you visit Farmington on the first Saturday of each December, you will find the whole town wearing earmuffs, and you can join in the earmuff parade.

March 12, 1865: William Tecumseh Sherman writes to Ulysses S. Grant from the Field of War

To: Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, commanding United States Army, City Point, Virginia.

DEAR GENERAL: We reached this place yesterday at noon; Hardee, as usual, retreating across the Cape Fear, burning his bridges; but our pontoons will be up to-day, and, with as little delay as possible, I will be after him toward Goldsboro. A tug has just come up from Wilmington, and before I get off from here, I hope to get from Wilmington some shoes and stockings, sugar, coffee, and flour. We are abundantly supplied with all else, having in a measure lived off the country.

ShermanThe army is in splendid health, condition, and spirits, though we have had foul weather, and roads that would have stopped travel to almost any other body of men I ever heard of.

Our march, was substantially what I designed–straight on Columbia, feigning on Branchville and Augusta. We destroyed, in passing, the railroad from the Edisto nearly up to Aiken; again, from Orangeburg to the Congaree; again, from Colombia down to Kingsville on the Wateree, and up toward Charlotte as far as the Chester line; thence we turned east on Cheraw and Fayetteville. At Colombia we destroyed immense arsenals and railroad establishments, among which wore forty-three cannon. At Cheraw we found also machinery and material of war sent from Charleston, among which were twenty-five guns and thirty-six hundred barrels of powder; and here we find about twenty guns and a magnificent United States’ arsenal.

We cannot afford to leave detachments, and I shall therefore destroy this valuable arsenal, so the enemy shall not have its use; and the United States should never again confide such valuable property to a people who have betrayed a trust.

I could leave here to-morrow, but want to clear my columns of the vast crowd of refugees and negroes that encumber us. Some I will send down the river in boats, and the rest to Wilmington by land, under small escort, as soon as we are across Cape Fear River.

I hope you have not been uneasy about us, and that the fruits of this march will be appreciated. It had to be made not only to destroy the valuable depots by the way, but for its incidents in the necessary fall of Charleston, Georgetown, and Wilmington. If I can now add Goldsboro’ without too much cost, I will be in a position to aid you materially in the spring campaign. Jos. Johnston may try to interpose between me here and Schofield about Newbern; but I think he will not try that, but concentrate his scattered armies at Raleigh, and I will go straight at him as soon as I get our men reclothed and our wagons reloaded. Keep everybody busy, and let Stoneman push toward Greensboro’ or Charlotte from Knoxville; even a feint in that quarter will be most important. The railroad from Charlotte to Danville is all that is left to the enemy, and it will not do for me to go there, on account of the red-clay hills which are impassable to wheels in wet weather.  I expect to make a junction with General Schofield in ten days.

Yours truly,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.

March 11, 1888: The Great White Hurricane

It seemed that spring was finally on its way to Boston. The winter had been very mild and weather had warmed up nicely for several days, and crocuses were starting to pop up in the Public Garden.

The evening of March 11th a gentle rain began to fall. Then it started to pour. By early the next morning the rain turnedBlizzard 88 to snow, and then it proceeded to snow heavier and heavier. By evening whiteout conditions brought life to a standstill in Boston and monster waves battered the coastline.

As the storm stalled off Rhode Island, a blizzard raged across New England as it continued to snow and snow and snow. For four days it snowed – fifty inches of snow fell in Connecticut and Massachusetts and forty inches covered New York and New Jersey, and the hurricane force winds blew it into drifts up to 50 feet high. The snow reached the second floor of many buildings; in some place only chimneys were visible.

As the winds blew and the snow fell the temperatures dropped into the single digits. Men and women with factory jobs tried desperately to make it to work so they wouldn’t miss out on their wages. In North Adams, a millworker on his way home was found just a short distance from the mill, stuck in a drift on Main Street, frozen to death. The local newspaper reported that the wind was so loud that it drowned out his cries for help.

Men living in the suburbs took the streetcar to work in the morning, but the trip home was a life-and-death struggle. The rapid accumulation of snow and drifts immobilized railroad cars. Passengers and crewmen were stranded without food, water, or heat. Passengers trapped in stranded railroad cars burned the seats and other wooden components to stave off the cold.

Telegraph poles snapped under the force of the wind and snow. The headline “CUT OFF!” appeared on front pages. Horse-drawn omnibuses and streetcars were quickly abandoned in the drifting snow. Snowplows drawn by teams of horses tried to clear the main streets, only to block the side streets and sidewalks. People were found a week later in snow drifts.

Two hundred ships were grounded, and at least one hundred sailors died. Fires broke out but the fire stations were immobilized. All told, the storm was responsible for as many as 1,000 deaths along the east coast.

It took weeks to recover. Soon afterwards both Boston and New York began serious discussions about moving their public transit underground.

March 10, 1849: Abraham Lincoln applies for a patent

“Be it known that I, Abraham Lincoln, of Springfield, in the County of Sangamon, in the State of Illinois, have invented a new and improved manner of combining adjustable buoyant air chambers with a steamboat or other vessel for the purpose of enabling their draught of water to be readily lessened to enable them to pass over bars, or through shallow water, without discharging their cargoes; and I do hereby declare the following to be a full, clear, and exact description thereof, reference being had to the accompanying drawings making a part of this specification.”Lincoln Patent a

When Abe Lincoln was a young man he twice helped take flatboats from his home in Indiana down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans.   During his brief experience as a ferryman, Lincoln found himself stranded twice on riverboats that had run aground on shoals. Abe thought there might be a better way to extricate vessels from such difficulties, and envisioned a system of waterproof fabric bladders that could be inflated when necessary to help ease a stuck ship over such obstacles. When crew members knew their ship was stuck, or at risk of hitting a shallow, Lincoln’s invention could be activated, which would inflate the air chambers along the bottom of the watercraft to lift it above the water’s surface, providing enough clearance to avoid a disaster. His invention would be attached to the sides of a boat. They could be lowered into the water and inflated to lift the boat over obstructions in the water.

Patent No. 6,469 was awarded to the future president on May 22, 1849. The scale patent model which Abe whittled is on display at the Smithsonian Institute.

March 9, 1841: The Supreme Court Frees the Men of The Amistad

In February of 1839, Portuguese slave hunters abducted a group of Africans from Sierra Leone and, in violation of all treaties then in existence, shipped them to Havana, Cuba. Fifty-three of the Africans were purchased by two Spanish Amistad Banaplanters and put aboard the schooner Amistad for shipment to a Caribbean plantation. On July 1, 1839, the Africans seized the ship, killed the captain and the cook, and ordered the ship’s navigator to sail to Africa.

The navigator headed north instead. On August 24, 1839, the Amistad was seized off Long Island, NY, by the U.S. brig Washington, and the Africans were imprisoned in New Haven on charges of murder.

The murder charges were dismissed, but the Africans continued to be held as the focus of the case Amistad Graboturned to salvage claims and property rights.

Claims to the Africans by the planters, the government of Spain, and the owner of the brig led to a trial in the Federal District Court, where the court ruled that the claims to ownership of the Africans as property were not legitimate because they were illegally held as slaves. The case went to the Supreme Court where former President John Quincy Adams argued the defendants’ case. On March 9, 1841 the Supreme Court decided that the men were natives of Africa and were born free and always had been and still held the right to be free and could not be held as slaves.Amistad Saby

New Haven resident William H. Townsend sketched the Amistad captives while they were awaiting trial – Twenty-two of these drawings can be seen at the Beinecke Library at Yale.Amistad Pona Amistad Sar Amistad Marqu Amistad Fargina Amistad Kimbo Amistad Farquanar

March 6, 1836: The Fall of the Alamo

To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World
Fellow citizens & compatriots

I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the alamo_postcardgarrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country VICTORY OR DEATH.

William Barret Travis,
Lt. Col. comdt.

P.S. The Lord is on our side. When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn. We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels and got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves. Travis

March 5, 1770: Captain Preston and his Troops are assaulted in Boston

John Adams called the crowd “a motley rabble of saucy boys, negros and molattoes, Irish Teague’s and outlandish Jack Tarrs.”  Captain Thomas Preston just called it a mob. He was in command of the British Soldiers that cold March evening, and this is his account of the events that came to be called “The Boston Massacre”:

“The mob still increased and were outrageous, striking their clubs or bludgeons one against another, and calling out Boston Massacre“Come on you rascals, you bloody backs, you lobster scoundrels, fire if you dare, God damn you, fire and be damned, we know you dare not”, and much more such language was used. At this time I was between the soldiers and the mob, parleying with and endeavouring all in my power to persuade them to retire peaceably, but to no purpose.

They advanced to the points of the bayonets, struck some of them and even the muzzles of the pieces, and seemed to be endeavouring to close with the soldiers. On which some well behaved persons asked me if the guns were charged. I replied yes. They then asked me if I intended to order the men to fire. I answered no, by no means, observing to them that I was advanced before the muzzles of the men’s pieces, and must fall a sacrifice if they fired; that the soldiers were upon the half cock and charged bayonets, and my giving the word fire under those circumstances would prove me to be no officer.

While I was thus speaking one of the soldiers, having received a severe blow with a stick, stepped a little to one side and instantly fired… On this a general attack was made on the men by a great number of heavy clubs and snowballs being thrown at them, by which all our lives were in imminent danger… some persons at the same time from behind calling out “Damn your bloods, why don’t you fire”. Instantly three or four of the soldiers fired… On my asking the soldiers why they fired without orders, they said they heard the word ‘fire’ and supposed it came from me. This might be the case as many of the mob called out fire, fire, but I assured the men that I gave no such order… that my words were “don’t fire, stop your firing”…”

March 4, 1841: William Henry Harrison delivers his Inaugural Address

When William Henry Harrison, the hero of Tippecanoe, came to Washington as President-elect, he wanted to show that he was a learned and thoughtful man, and not the backwoods caricature he had been made out to be in the campaign, but he also wanted all to know that he was a man of the people.Harrison

The day of his inauguration dawned cold and wet, and Harrison rode on horseback to the ceremony without a coat or a hat, rather than in the closed carriage that had been offered him.

He had asked his friend Daniel Webster to edit down his inaugural address, which was replete with classical allusions. Webster, who understood some of the limits of oration, boasted that he had killed “seventeen Roman proconsuls as dead as smelts, every one of them.” Even so, at 8,445 words, it was the longest inaugural address ever delivered, and it took Harrison nearly two hours to read it to his frozen audience. Afterwards, he rode to the White House in the inaugural parade, and that evening attended three inaugural balls.

Within a few days Harrison became ill with a cold. The cold worsened, rapidly turning to pneumonia and pleurisy. He sought rest in the White House, but could not find a quiet room because of the steady crowd of office seekers.

Doctors were called in. They applied heated suction cups to try to draw out the disease; they tried enemas and prescribed opium, castor oil, leeches and Virginia snakeweed. As a last resort, a number of Native American “remedies” were tried, including one involving the use of live snakes.

The remedies did not work, Thirty days, twelve hours, and thirty minutes after taking the oath of office, President William Henry Harrison was dead.

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