August 29, 1868: Frederick Douglas writes to Harriet Tubman

Rochester, August 29, 1868

Dear Harriet: I am glad to know that the story of your eventful life has been written by a kind lady, and that the same is soon to be published. You ask for what you do not need when you call upon me for a word of commendation. I need such words from you far more than you can need them from me, especially where your superior labors and devotion to the cause of the lately enslaved of our land are known as I know them. The difference between us is very marked. Most that I have done and suffered in the service of our cause has been in public, and I have Douglas Tubmanreceived much encouragement at every step of the way. You, on the other hand, have labored in a private way. I have wrought in the day – you in the night. I have had the applause of the crowd and the satisfaction that comes of being approved by the multitude, while the most that you have done has been witnessed by a few trembling, scarred, and foot-sore bondmen and women, whom you have led out of the house of bondage, and whose heartfelt, “God bless you,” has been your only reward. The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism. Excepting John Brown – of sacred memory – I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than you have. Much that you have done would seem improbable to those who do not know you as I know you. It is to me a great pleasure and a great privilege to bear testimony for your character and your works, and to say to those to whom you may come, that I regard you in every way truthful and trustworthy.

Your friend,

Frederick Douglass.

August 28, 1830: The Great “Tom Thumb” Race

Peter Cooper built the “Tom Thumb” a small locomotive engine which weighed about a ton, to demonstrate the practicality of steam locomotion pulling railcars. Baltimore was losing trade to the Erie Canal, and Cooper hoped that the B&O Railroad to the Ohio Valley would help save its fortunes.

The wheels of the “Tom Thumb” were two and a half feet in diameter. An anthracite furnace heated a boiler the size Tom Thumb
of a large kitchen pot. A pulley attached to the wheels drove a bellows which blew on the coals so a three-and-a half inch steam cylinder could power the car. The “Tom Thumb” had been out a number of times, and although starting off with much puffing and leaking of steam from its joints, had answered all the expectations of its inventor.

Cooper decided to show off his invention with a trip from Baltimore to Ellicott’s Mills. An open car was attached to the “Tom Thumb” and the B & O directors and friends were invited aboard to enjoy the first journey by steam in America.

The day was fine and the company in high spirits. The “Tom Thumb” negotiated curves without difficulty at speeds up to fifteen miles an hour, and the grades were ascended with comparative ease. Some excited gentlemen on board pulled out memorandum books, and when the train reached its highest speed (eighteen miles an hour) wrote out their names and sentences to prove that it was possible even at that great velocity. The return trip from the Mills – a distance of thirteen miles – was made in fifty-seven minutes.

On the return trip the local stage proprietors, hearing the noise of the engine, “brought down a gallant gray of great beauty and power, and attached him to a car on the second track, and met the returning engine at the Relay House—so called because relays of horses were generally procured there. From this point they determined to have a race back, and away went horse and engine—the snort of the one keeping time to the puff of the other.

The gray had the best of it at first, getting a quarter of a mile ahead while the engine was getting up its steam. The blower whistled, the steam blew off in vapory clouds, the pace increased, the passengers shouted, the engine gained on the horse, lapped him, the silk was applied, the race was neck-and-neck, nose-to-nose; then the engine passed the horse, and a great hurrah hailed the victory.

But just at this moment, when the gray’s master was about giving up, the band which turned the pulley that moved the blower slipped from the drum, the safety valve ceased to scream, and the engine, for want of breath, began to wheeze and pant.

In vain Mr. Cooper, who was his own engineer and fireman, lacerated his hands in attempting to replace the band on the wheel; the horse gained on the machine, and passed it, to his great chagrin; and, although the band was presently replaced, and steam again did its best, the horse was too far ahead to be overtaken, and came in winner of the race.”

August 27, 1918: The Battle of Ambos Nogales brings the Fence to the Border

In 1918, International Street ran right down the center of Ambos (“Both”) Nogales.

Arizona lay to the north; Sonora to the south. The railroad depot, stores and saloons straddled the border. If one lived in Nogales, Arizona or Nogales, Sonora it made little difference socially – the residents from either side occasionally brawled over women or too much mescal, but for the most part they enjoyed friendly relations and shared the benefits from the local economy based on smuggling cigars, liquor, firearms and cattle.
There had been a few skirmishes in the past (as when Pancho Villa had ridden into town), but still there was no fence down the middle of International Street. The residents understood the protocol – they were expected to cross at one of two entry points, either at Morley Avenue or farther west at Grand Avenue. When trains arrived at the border, First Class passengers could ride across in the cars, while those in coach got off the train, walked and then re-boarded after passing through customs.

On August 27 a carpenter named Gil Lamadrid was walking back into Mexico. As he crossed the border, a U.S. Customs Inspector ordered him to halt, curious about the large parcel he was carrying. Only a few feet away, Mexican customs officers directed him to ignore the summons and continue into Mexico. Gil Lamadrid became confused and hesitated as the two competing groups of customs agents shouted instructions to him. At this point, a U.S. Infantryman raised his Springfield rifle to encourage his return. In the midst of the ensuing commotion a shot was fired, and the carpenter dropped to the ground.

Thinking that the man had been shot, a Mexican Customs Officer grabbed his pistol and opened fire on the U.S. guards, wounding an army private in the face. A U.S. Inspector drew his revolver and returned fire, killing two Mexican Customs Officers. Shaken but unhurt, Gil Lamadrid jumped up and sprinted down a nearby street. As the sound of gunfire rattled the neighborhood, citizens on the Mexican side of the border ran to their homes and picked up rifles to join the Mexican troops.

The U.S. border authorities panicked – World War I was being fought in Europe and the Germans had been urging the Mexicans to abandon their neutrality. Was another front in the war now open? A troop of Buffalo Soldiers was called into town. Under heavy fire, the 10th Cavalry dismounted and crossed the border into the streets and buildings of Nogales, Sonora. Looking for a tactical advantage the troops mounted an assault on the heights immediately to the east of the towns, while militia on the Arizona side started firing their weapons from the windows and rooftops of their houses. Late in the fighting, members of the 35th Infantry placed a machine gun on top of a stone building and fired into the Mexican positions.

As the violence escalated, the Mayor of Nogales, Sonora, took a white handkerchief, tied it to his cane, and ran into the streets of his city in an attempt to quell the violence. As U.S. troops crossed to the Mexican side of International Street he pleaded with the angry crowd to put down their weapons. A shot from the Arizona side felled the Mexican mayor. About 7:45 PM, the Mexicans waved a large white flag of surrender over their customs building.

After the battle was over and the dead were buried and peace restored, the U.S. and Mexico authorities agreed to divide the two border communities with a chain-link border fence, the first border wall put in place between the two countries.



August 26, 1916: Harry Truman writes a letter to Bess

T.C.H Mining Company – Zinc and Lead Ores – Commerce, Okla.

Dear Bess:
Your very good letter came day before yesterday in the morning but I have been so hard pushed trying to raise this week’s payroll that I couldn’tharry & bess write. I succeeded in doing it, although I hope I never have such another time doing it. The banker had broken the National Bank Act by paying me out last week and it looked as if he’d either have to bust it wide open or turn me down today. There is a lead buyer here who has a heart, and he happens to be a friend of my ground boss and also of the banker. They succeeded in having him advance me a payroll on the expectation that I would get out some lead by fourteen days hence. He wasn’t my last resort though by any means because Old Man Bigham had already promised to let me have it if I failed to make connection. Everyone says he’s a hoss thief and a pussyfoot but I wish I knew some more of that kind. You know he’s already paid my gas bill to save me $35. He may have an ax to grind but I can’t find it. If he has, I’ll certainly try to grind it.

The mine is a mine now sure enough if my eyebrows don’t give way before it pays out. Every shot makes things come better. More lead and more jack every shot.

The old gink I went to see Tuesday was as lenient as he could be. He told me to go right ahead and do what I could to run because he is for me. I shall get to the point after a while when I can ask Morgan, himself, for a loan and not even think I’ll get a refusal. If the mine could only be persuaded by conversation to yield something, I guess I’d surely get a bonanza. It is totally deaf to all my entreaties so far but I am still hoping for the best.

I am the sole boss and proprietor on the job now. Hughes hasn’t returned or written me. If the thing goes, I suppose I’ll have plenty help to run it. Perhaps I won’t need it. I am surely sorry to hear that your mother is sick and I am hoping that she is well by this time. The fair I know is fine. I hate to miss it but it can’t be helped. Do you suppose I’ll ever get to come over every Sunday and twice a week? It seems a year since I saw you. Mr. Hughes will surely come so I can get home for Labor Day. I shall certainly scalp him if he doesn’t. I hope you are having a good time entertaining Walter. Please send me a letter quickly because I spend a half-hour daily going to the P.O. and it’s some disappointment when your letter fails.

Hope to see you very soon.

Most sincerely,



August 25, 1718: “La Nouvelle-Orléans” starts its Jambalaya

new orleans Pour sturdy French stock over Chitimacha corn, beans and squash.
Simmer slowly, add Acadian bouillabaisse.
Stir in African okra and black-eyed peas.
Spice with Spanish onions, peppers, and paprika.
Toss in a crawfish, revert to the heavier sauce of the French.
Blend Haitian red beans and rice.
Shake Choctaw filé powder into the roux.
Fire the cannon if the British take a taste.
Add flatboats of corn and hogs from up the river.
Grate turnips and mustard greens from the garden.
Sautee shrimp, crab, and oysters from the gulf.
Season with saffron and cinnamon from foreign ports of call.
Chop in German sausage.
Cover with Sicilian red gravy.

Serve with Po-Boys, Gumbo, and Crawfish Étouffée.
Laissez les bon temps roule!



August 22 1762: Ann Franklin takes over as Editor of the Newport Mercury

Ann Smith Franklin was sixty-seven years old when her son James Jr. died and left her a four-year-old newspaper to tend. Ann Franklin knew exactly what to do.

printShe had learned the printing business in Boston alongside her husband James, and had instructed his young apprenticed brother Benjamin well enough for him to be able to set up his own press. Ann and James published the New England Courant, which many considered disrespectful of the civil authorities, so after James spent a month in jail for expressing his opinions a bit too clearly, the couple decamped for Newport.

There they set up Rhode Island’s first printing press and all went well until 1735 when her husband James got terribly sick and died. Ann was thirty-nine years old and found herself left with the family printing business and five young children to feed.

In 1736, she asked the General Assembly of Rhode Island for a contract: Whereas your petitioner being left with several small children which is a great charge to her, and having not sufficient business at the printing trade, humbly prays hour Honors will grant her the favor to print Acts of the Colony and what other things shall be lawful and necessary to be printed, in order for your Petitioner’s support and maintenance of her family, she having no other way to support herself.

She got the job. Operating under the imprint of “The Widow Franklin” she also printed books, sermons, pamphlets, election ballots, legal forms, the Rhode Island Almanack, the colony’s charter, paper currency, broadsides of private quarrels, advertisements for merchants, as well as popular British novels.

She sent her son James, Jr. off to apprentice with his Uncle Benjamin in Philadelphia, while her daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, helped her set type in the shop. When James returned from Philadelphia in 1748, they named the business ‘Ann and James Franklin.’ Ten years later they started The Newport Mercury and it became one of colonial America’s important newspapers.
When James, Jr. died in 1762, Ann went right back to the printing press and became editor of the newspaper as well.

Ann Smith Franklin died on April 16, 1763. Her obituary appeared in The Mercury describing her as someone whose ‘economy and industry … supported herself and her family, and brought up her children in a genteel manner.’ She was the first American woman newspaper editor, the first woman to write an almanac, the official printer to the colony of Rhode Island, and a pioneer in American publishing.



Aug. 21, 1883: The Mayo Clinic is conceived in an F-5 Tornado

The day began beautiful and clear as Doctors Will and Charlie Mayo visited their patients in Rochester, Minnesota, but as the day wore on it became stiflingly hot and humid and an oppressive haze covered the city. At 6 PM the brothers drove their buggy to a slaughterhouse on the north side of town thinking they might procure a sheep’s head on which they could practice eye surgery.

As the buggy made its way, the brothers kept an eye on the sky. Upon arrival at the slaughterhouse, they found the workers leaving early, and they were warned take cover. Fleecy clouds scudded rapidly across the sky and the dark mass in the west took on an evil greenish cast. Rain came down in sheets, the heavens blazed with lightning and a massive funnel cloud bore down with a terrifying roar.Rochester_tornado-300x176 1

Just as the Mayo brothers took shelter in a blacksmith’s shop its roof was torn away – the roof of the Chicago & Northwestern depot was torn off and the roundhouse demolished – the railroad bridge was blown into the river and the Broadway Bridge was destroyed – Cole’s stone mill was blown in. Eight rail cars were overturned and two carloads of flour dumped in the race – the spire of the Lutheran church was blown off – Gilman’s factory was demolished – the Rochester Harvester Works were ruined – Whitten’s warehouse was destroyed – the County Courthouse and the High School were wrecked. The water had been sucked right out from Cascade Creek, leaving fish beached on its banks. Livestock and buggies and debris were scattered and strewn everywhere.

Mayor Samuel Whitten telegraphed Minnesota Gov. Hubbard: “Rochester is in ruins. Twenty-four people are killed. Over 40 are seriously injured. One-third of the city laid waste. We need immediate help.”

That night Mayor Whitten organized volunteers to begin rescue efforts. Townspeople pulled the dead from flattened homes and rushed the injured to Rommel Hall, a dance hall transformed into an emergency hospital.

The two Mayo brothers, their brother-in-law Dr. David Berkman, and their father Dr. William Worrall Mayo took charge of the trauma ward. The senior Dr. Mayo quickly realized that the task of caring for patients around the clock would require more helpers. He called on Mother Alfred and the Sisters of Saint Francis, teachers at the Catholic school, to tend to the patients. The Sisters responded and nursed the patients until the temporary hospital closed.

After the storm Mother Alfred recognized that the growing city of Rochester needed a full time hospital. She proposed that the Mayos could be the resident physicians and the Sisters of St. Francis would provide nursing care. The Mayos were not sure – they thought the town was too small to support such an ambitious venture, but Mother Alfred was determined. The Sisters proceeded to raise all of the money needed to begin.

Before the storm, Rochester was best known as the hub of the wheat market in southeastern Minnesota. Now it is world-famous as the home of the Mayo Clinic.



August 20, 1908: The Great White Fleet visits Australia

What a “bully” idea! A round the world cruise of 16 modern steel battleships would demonstrate to the entire world that Teddy Roosevelt’s America was now a global power – willing and ready to show the flag in any ocean, anywhere. The hulls would be painted white – the Navy’s peacetime color scheme, and the armada would be known as “The Great White Fleet”.auusie2

The fleet sailed from Hampton Roads south to Brazil, through the Straits of Magellan to the Pacific, north to Chile, Peru, and Mexico and on to San Francisco, then across the Pacific to Hawaii and New Zealand, and now they neared Australia. Aboard the flagship Connecticut, Rear Adm. Evans looked out with pride upon the majestic fleet under his command. His ships “were ready at the drop of a hat for a feast, a frolic or a fight”.

Before daylight on August 20th sight-seers steamed out as far as 30 miles off shore to meet the fleet.  By the time the ships reached the headlands of Botany Bay, they enjoyed a huge escort of excursion vessels. From Coogee Bay to Port Jackson harbor, thousands upon thousands of people peered out from the bluffs, the high cliffs, and headlands and cheered across the waters. As soon as the USS Connecticut turned into Port Jackson, the bands struck up “The Star Spangled Banner”.

Half a million people turned out for the arrival – a public holiday was declared and a week-long “Fleet Week” celebration followed. Perhaps the folks Down Under didn’t need the protection of the Crown and the Royal Navy if they had friends like this from the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. The Official Landing was followed by a review at Centennial Park, parades, luncheons, dinners, balls, concerts, theatre parties, boxing, football and baseball matches, a gymkhana,a tug-of-war, fireworks, and a regatta.

For the sailors every moment of every day was filled with so much celebration that it was difficult to keep up. One tar fell asleep on the railroad tracks and got run over by a train. Another sailor fell asleep on a bench in one of Sydney’s parks. Not wishing to be disturbed, he posted a sign above his head which read: “Yes, I am delighted with the Australian people. “Yes, I think your park is the finest in the world.
“I am very tired and would like to go to sleep.”

After a week the fleet sailed to Melbourne for more celebration. The city fathers sponsored a giant official dinner for the sailors, but only a handful showed up – the others all found girls who were eager to personally show them the town.

On September 5th. 1908, fifteen of the battleships of the Great White Fleet sailed out of port. The USS Kansas stayed behind to try to collect the 154 sailors from throughout the fleet who had decided not to return to their ships, but to stay behind with the girls they had met on shore.



August 19, 1692: Four Men and a Woman are Hung in Salem

salemJohn Proctor was a successful farmer in Salem. He believed the girls accusing his fellow villagers were frauds and liars and he scoffed at the idea of witchcraft. When his own young servant, Mary Warren, began having fits in March of 1692, he beat her in an attempt to get her to behave. Proctor’s wife Elizabeth, pregnant at the time, was accused of witchcraft on April 4th and then Abigail Williams and Mary Walcott accused John Proctor’s spirit of having tormented them and pinched them. Mary Warren confirmed the accusations: I have seen the apparition of John Procter Sr among the witches and he hath often tortured me by pinching me and biting me and choking me and pressing me one my stomach tell the blood came out of my mouth …” Proctor appealed to the ministers in Boston on the use of spectral evidence in a trial, but it was too late. John Proctor and his wife were convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to the gallows, but Elizabeth’s execution was commuted until after the birth of her child

George Jacob’s maidservant, Elizabeth Churchill, as well as Mary Walcott testified that he had tempted them to sign the Devil’s Book, and threatened them with harm if they refused. Jacobs steadfastly maintained his innocence. Justice Hathorne badgered him concerning his knowledge of witchcraft:  “I know not of it, any more than the child that was born tonight.”  During his examination Jacobs was asked to recite “The Lord’s Prayer” as it was generally known that no witch could recite it perfectly.  The nervous old man jumbled his words and omitted an entire sentence.  Knowing his mistake, and fearing the worst, he remarked bravely, “Well, burn me or hang me, I will stand in the truth of Christ.”

On the Reverend George Burroughs’s body, the jury could find no witches’ marks, but the minister was still convicted of witchcraft and conspiracy with the Devil. He was carried in a cart with others through the streets of Salem to Gallows Hill. While standing on a ladder before the crowd he successfully recited the Lord’s Prayer, something that George Jacobs had been unable to do. The accusers said the Devil dictated the words to him and as soon as he was hung Cotton Mather mounted on his horse and declared to the crowd that Burroughs was no ordained minister and that the devil had often been transformed into the Angel of Light.

Martha Allen married Thomas Carrier, a Welsh servant, in Andover in 1674, but not until after giving birth to their first child; the scandal was not forgotten. She was later accused of bringing smallpox to town, and folks found it curious how she had inherited property from her father after he died from the disease. Martha’s children testified against her; young Sarah confessed first and then her brother Thomas confessed, while tied with a rope from his neck to his heels. Martha shouted her innocence from the scaffold, refusing to confess to “a falsehood so filthy” in order to avoid hanging.  “…I am wronged. It is a shameful thing that you should mind these folks that are out of their wits.” Cotton Mather noted in his diary Martha Carrier was a “rampant hag” and possibly the “Queen of Hell.”

John Willard was constable in Salem at the time of the first
allegations.  It was his duty to bring the accused before the court, but he began to doubt the truth of the accusations. In May 1692 he refused to make any more arrests, and then he himself was accused of witchcraft and of murdering thirteen citizens. His wife’s grandfather, Bray Wilkins, who may have been suffering from kidney stones, claimed that after a mean look from Willard he became immediately sick. About the “afflicted girls,” Willard is said to have spoken out against the proceedings with the words, “Hang them. They are all witches.”

The Executions went on; when the Reverend Burroughs was cut down, he was dragged by a halter to a hole between the rocks, about two feet deep; his shirt and breeches being pulled off, and an old pair of trousers of one executed put on his lower parts: he was so put in, together with John Willard and Martha Carrier, that one of his hands, and his chin, and a foot of one of them, was left uncovered.




August 18, 1817: Linnaean Society investigates a Sea Serpent

On the third Monday of August, 1817, the Linnaean Society of New England commenced its formal scientific investigation into the curious sightings in Gloucester Harbor.

A week earlier, on a calm and sunny day, fishermen had seen a strange marine creature break the surface right in the harbor. It moved in sea_serpent.1jolting, up-and-down motions, and it was really, really big. Solomon Allen reported, “I should judge him between eighty and ninety feet in length, and about the size of a half barrel, apparently having joints from his head to his tail. His head formed something like the head of a rattle snake, but nearly as large as the head of a horse.”

The Salem Essex Register reported, “The head of it, eight feet out of the water, was as large as the head of a horse, and great in length.” Two muskets had been fired at it, and appeared to hit it on the head, but without effect. “Monstrous Serpent,” ran the headline in the Boston Weekly Messenger. “I have been to sea many years,” Master Toppan of the schooner Laura reported “and never saw any fish that had the least resemblance to this animal.” Shipmaster Eppes Ellory saw it through his spy-glass: “When I saw him open his mouth and his mouth appeared like that of a serpent; the top of his head appeared flat.” Lonson Nash saw him for nearly half an hour. “I should judge he was two hundred and fifty yards from me, when the nearest … I saw, at no time, more than eight distinct portions … I believe the animal to be straight, that the apparent bunches were caused by his vertical motion.”

The Linnaean Society named the serpent: Scoliophis Atlanticus, for its kinked back that floated out of the water, and published its findings: “Report of a Committee of the Linnaean Society of New England Relative to a Large Marine Animal Supposed to be a Serpent, Seen near Cape Ann, Massachusetts, in August 1817″ through the Harvard University Press.

The depositions taken by the society were uniform: The animal only appeared in calm weather and in flat water; its body was thick as a keg and its skin dark chocolate brown, nearly black, and reflected sunlight brightly when it rested on the surface. It had black eyes and a head the size of a big dog or a horse but leathery and snake-like. It swam fast – perhaps 15 miles per hour, but its humps didn’t glide horizontally through the water as dolphins’ do; they sank directly down, submerging and reappearing like a big, marine caterpillar, scooting just under the surface.

Included in the report was a five-page foldout rendering of Scoliophis modeled after a snake-like creature found near the beach, presumed to be the serpent’s offspring.

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