October 31, 1941: Sinking of the USS Reuben James

A little over a month before the attack on Pearl Harbor, a German U-boat torpedoed the Reuben James, a merchant marine ship traveling in a convoy to England.

Have you heard of a ship called the good Reuben James
Manned by hard fighting men both of honor and fame?
She flew the Stars and Stripes of the land of the free
But tonight she’s in her grave at the bottom of the sea.

Tell me what were their names, tell me what were their names,
Did you have a friend on the good Reuben James?
What were their names, tell me, what were their names?
Did you have a friend on the good Reuben James

Well, a hundred men went down in that dark watery grave
When that good ship went down only forty-four were saved.
‘Twas the last day of October we saved the forty-four
From the cold ocean waters and the cold icy shore.

It was there in the dark of that uncertain night
That we watched for the U-boats and waited for a fight.
Then a whine and a rock and a great explosion roared
And they laid the Reuben James on that cold ocean floor.

Now tonight there are lights in our country so bright
In the farms and in the cities they’re telling of the fight.
And now our mighty battleships will steam the bounding main
And remember the name of that good Reuben James.

– Woody Guthrie

October 30, 1735: John Adams is born

When I went home to my family in May, 1770, from the town meeting in Boston, which was the first I had ever attended, and where I had been chosen in my absence, without any solicitation, one of their representatives, I said to my wife, “I have accepted a seat in the House of AdamsRepresentatives, and thereby have consented to my own ruin, to your ruin, and to the ruin of our children. I give you this warning, that you may prepare your mind for your fate.” She burst into tears, but instantly cried out in a transport of magnanimity, “Well, I am willing in this cause to run all risks with you, and be ruined with you, if you are ruined.” These were times, my friend, in Boston, which tried women’s souls as well as men’s.”
“I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is a disgrace, that two become a law firm, and that three or more become a congress.”

“Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God’s service when it is violating all his laws.”

“It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished. But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, “whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection,” and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.”

“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other.”

“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”

“There are two types of education… One should teach us how to make a living, and the other how to live.”

“Let the human mind loose. It must be loose. It will be loose. Superstition and dogmatism cannot confine it.”

“Thanks to God that he gave me stubbornness when I know I am right.”

“To believe all men honest is folly. To believe none is something worse.”

“Virtue is not always amiable.”

“The only thing most people do better than anyone else is read their own handwriting.”

“You will never be alone with a poet in your pocket.”

“Old minds are like old horses; you must exercise them if you wish to keep them in working order.”

“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.”

October 29, 1727: Great Earthquake Strikes New England

JOB. xxi. 6. “Even when I REMEMBER, I am afraid, and trembling taketh hold on my flesh.”

The earthquake, which was throughout the country, in the night between the 29th and 30th of October, 1727, was in this town much as it was in other places, of which there are divers printed accounts; only, as I suppose, it was something weaker here than in those towns that lie upon the Merrimack; so, I believe it was stronger here than in Boston, or the towns thereabouts.

earthquake 1727The shake was very hard, and was attended with a terrible noise, something like thunder. The houses trembled as if they were falling; divers chimneys were cracked and some had their tops broken off. It was especially so in the south parish, where the hardest shake seemed to be on the hill, where the house of God stands. Three houses on that hill had their chimneys broken, one of which was the house of the Reverend Mr. Whipple. When the shake was beginning, some persons observed a flash of light at their windows, and one or two saw streams of light running on the earth; the flame seemed to them to be of a bluish color. These flashes, no doubt, broke out of the earth; otherwise it is probable, they would have been seen more generally, especially by those who were abroad. The sea was observed to roar in an unusual manner. The earth broke open, near the south bounds of the town (as it did in divers places in Newbury) and cast up a very fine bluish sand. At the place of the eruption, there now (above two months after) continually issues out considerable quantities of water; and for about a rod around it, the ground is so soft, that a man can’t tread upon it without throwing brush or some other thing to bear him up. It is indeed in meadow ground, but before the earthquake, it was not so soft but that men might freely walk upon it. A spring of water, which had run freely for fourscore years, and was never known to freeze, was much sunk by the earthquake, and frozen afterwards like any standing water. There were divers other shocks the same night; yea, the sound was heard, and sometimes the shake felt every day for a fortnight after…

It is hard to express the consternation that fell, both on men and beast, in the time of the great shock. The brute creatures ran roaring about the fields, as in the greatest distress. And mankind were as much surprised as they, and some with very great terror; so that they might say, as Psalm 55:5; “Fearfulness and terror hath come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me.” All of us saw a necessity of looking to God for his favor and protection; and I would hope that many did, not only look to God in that time of their distress, but did truly and heartily return to him. Many are now asking the way to Zion with their faces thitherward. They say, Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant, not to be forgotten.

Making a credible profession of faith and repentance, they draw nigh to the Lord’s table, and observe that (hitherto) too much neglected ordinance of his supper. So the jailer, (Acts xvi.) was awakened by an earthquake, and so prepared for the receiving of the word, which by God’s blessing, immediately brought him home to Christ, and he rejoiced, believing in God with all his house. This is the happy effect, which by the grace of God, the earthquake has had upon some among us. The Lord increase their number! And make them faithful in his covenant, and give them the blessings of it!

Sermon by Rev. Nathaniel Gookin; Delivered in November 1727 in Hampton, NH

October 28, 1886: Statue of “Liberty Enlightening the World” is dedicated in New York Harbor

The New Colossus


Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,liberty
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

-Emma Lazarus

October 27, 1963: John F. Kennedy Honors Robert Frost

Less than a month before his assassination, President John F Kennedy spoke at a convocation at Amherst College honoring Robert Frost, who had died earlier that year:

…In America our heroes have customarily run to men of large accomplishments. But today this college and country honors a man whose contribution was not to our size but to our spirit; not to our political beliefs but to our insight; not to our self-esteem but to our self-comprehension.

In honoring Robert Frost, we therefore can pay honor to the deepest sources of our national strength. That strength takes many forms, and the JFK & Frostmost obvious forms are not always the most significant.

The men who created power make an indispensable contribution to the nation’s greatness. But the men who question power make a contribution just as indispensable, especially when that questioning is disinterested.

For they determine whether we use power or power uses us. Ours national strength matters; but the spirit which informs and controls ours strength matters just as much. This was the special significance of Robert Frost

He brought an unsparing instinct for reality to bear on the platitudes and pieties of society. His sense of the human tragedy fortified him against self-deception and easy consolation. “I have been,” he wrote, “one acquainted with the night.”

And because he knew the midnight as well as the high noon, because he understood the ordeal as wells as the triumph of the human spirit, he gave his age strength with which to overcome despair.

At bottom he held a deep faith in the spirit of man. And it’s hardly an accident that Robert Frost coupled poetry and power. For he saw poetry as the means of saving power from itself.

When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.

For art establishes the basic human truths which must serve as the touchstones of our judgment. The artist, however faithful to his personal vision of reality, becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an officious state.

The great artist is thus a solitary figure. He has, as Frost said, “a lover’s quarrel with the world.” In pursuing his perceptions of reality, he must often sail against the currents of his time. This is not a popular role.

If Robert Frost was much honored during his lifetime, it was because a good many preferred to ignore his darker truths. . .

It may be different elsewhere. But democratic society– in it– the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may.

In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation. And the nation which disdains the mission of art invites the fate of Robert Frost’s hired man– “the fate of having nothing to look backward to with pride and nothing to look forward to with hope.”

I look forward to a great future for America– a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose.

I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty, which will protect the beauty of our national environment, which will preserve the great old American houses and squares and parks of our national past and which will build handsome and balanced cities for our future.

I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft.

I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens.

And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength but for its civilization as well.

And I look forward to a world which will be safe not only for democracy and diversity but also for personal distinction.

Robert Frost was often skeptical about projects for human improvement. Yet I do not think he would disdain this hope.

As he wrote during the uncertain days of the Second War:

Take human nature altogether since time began …
And it must be a little more in favor of man,
Say a fraction of one percent at the very least …
Our hold on the planet wouldn’t have so increased.

Because of Mr. Frost’s life and work, because of the life and work of this college, our hold on this planet has increased.

October 24, 1901: Annie Edson Taylor goes over Niagara Falls in a Barrel

Annie Taylor told the New York Times that she was forty-three, but it was really her sixty-third birthday. Her life had not always been easy, but this would be her last shot at fame and fortune.

Born into a comfortable life, the daughter of a successful flour mill owner, it had all started to fade when her father passed away. Annie got Annie Taylor1married, but her husband David was killed in the Civil War. She moved to San Antonio. She enrolled in a dance school to become an instructor. She taught dancing in Chattanooga, Birmingham, San Francisco, Washington, Chicago, Indianapolis, Syracuse…

As the years passed by, her savings dwindled. Annie dreaded the thought of having to lower her life style to make ends meet. By the time she arrived in Bay City, Michigan, the money was gone, and Annie was so distressed that she contemplated throwing herself into the Saginaw River.

“For a woman who had had money all her life and been used to refined surroundings and the society of cultured people, it is horrible to be poor. . . I was always well dressed, a member and regular attendant of the Episcopal Church… My relatives sent me a certain amount every month, but it got to be begrudgingly given, and I made up my mind I would have no more of it.”

It is out of this mind-set that that Annie hatched her grand scheme. She was reading a news article about the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, and the popularity of Niagara Falls. “I laid the paper down, sat thinking, when the thought came to me like a flash of light — ‘Go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. No one had ever accomplished this feat.’ ”

Annie TaylorAnnie wasted no time. The West Bay City Cooperage Company, a supplier of kegs to Kolb Brewery, agreed to design a special barrel. Frank M. “Tussy” Russell, a local promoter of carnivals, agreed to become her manager.

Word went out about her plans and, as she headed out of Bay City, a reporter asked Annie to share her thoughts.
“I might as well be dead as to remain in my present condition.”

Was she contemplating suicide?
“Not by any means, I am too good an Episcopalian to do such a thing as that.”

What put this suicidal idea into your head?
“It is not a suicidal idea with me. I entertain the utmost confidence that I shall succeed in going over the Falls without any harm resulting to me.”

How did she plan on making money for her daring feat?
“My manager knows all about that.”

On October 24, 1901, a small audience gathered upstream of the Horseshoe Falls. Two attendants set the barrel in the river and held it stable while Annie climbed inside. The lid was secured and a bicycle pump pressurized the chamber. The strong currents swept her off on a course towards the roaring falls.

Cramped inside her pitch-black cabin, Annie could see nothing, only feel herself being tossed about, as she nervously listened to the increasingly thunderous roar.

The crowd on shore gasped – They spotted the barrel bobbing above the precipice, and then, at 4:23 PM, it plunged over the lip and into the mist.

Below the falls onlookers from the shorelines searched anxiously for a sighting of the barrel — many just looked for splinters of wood.

Suddenly, the barrel appeared, bobbing in the mist – it was still in one piece! It swept downstream, until the current cast it aside in an eddy. A boat and crew set out and captured the barrel as it cleared the turbulent waters. They reached it at 4:40 PM, grabbing the barrel with their poles and hooks. They had to saw a portion of the top away…..

With shocked disbelief they opened the barrel. “My God, she’s alive!”

Annie had a pretty big cut on her scalp and was shook up and bruised, but she was alive. “I prayed every second I was in the barrel except for a few seconds after the fall when I went unconscious.”

She was taken down the river to the Maid of the Mist Dock, where she entered a carriage and was brought to her hotel. When reporters asked her about her experience, she made herself clear:

“Nobody ought ever to do that again… If it was with my dying breath, I would caution anyone against attempting the feat… I would sooner walk up to the mouth of a cannon, knowing it was going to blow me to pieces than make another trip over the Fall.”

October 23, 1789: Martha Washington writes to her niece Fanny Bassett Washington

My dear Fanny
I have by Mrs Sims sent you a watch it is one of the cargo that I have so long mentioned to you, that was expected, I hope is such a one as will please you – it is of the newest fashion, if that has any influence on your taste – The chain is of Mr Lear’s choosing and such as Mrs Adams the vice Martha WashingtonPresidents Lady and those in the polite circle wares. It will last as long as the fashion – and by that time you can get another of a fashionable kind – I send to dear Maria a piece of Chino to make her a frock – the piece of muslin I hope is long enough for an apron for you, and in exchange for it, I beg you will give me the worked muslin apron you have like my gown that I made just before I left home of worked muslin as I wish to make a petticoat of the two aprons – for my gown – Mrs Sims will give you a better account of the fashions than I can – I live a very dull life hear and know nothing that passes in the town – I never go to the public place – indeed I think I am more like a state prisoner than anything else, there is certain bounds set for me which I must not depart from – and as I can not doe as I like I am obstinate and stay at home a great deal –

The President set out this day week on a tour to the eastward Mr Lear and Major Jackson attended him – my dear children has had very bad colds but thank god they are getting better My love and good wishes attend you and all with you – remember me to Mr & Mrs L Wn how is the poor child – kiss Maria I send her two little handkerchiefs to wipe her nose

I am my dear Fanny yours
most affectionately

M Washington

Source: George Washington’s Mount Vernon

October 22, 1962: Letter from President Kennedy to Chairman Khrushchev

Sir:JFK & Kruschev

A copy of the statement I am making tonight concerning developments in Cuba and the reaction of my Government thereto has been handed to your Ambassador in Washington. In view of the gravity of the developments to which I refer, I want you to know immediately and accurately the position of my Government in this matter.

In our discussions and exchanges on Berlin and other international questions, the one thing that has most concerned me has been the possibility that your Government would not correctly understand the will and determination of the United States in any given situation, since I have not assumed that you or any other sane man would, in this nuclear age, deliberately plunge the world into war which it is crystal clear no country could win and which could only result in catastrophic consequences to the whole world, including the aggressor.

At our meeting in Vienna and subsequently, I expressed our readiness and desire to find, through peaceful negotiation, a solution to any and all problems that divide us. At the same time, I made clear that in view of the objectives of the ideology to which you adhere, the United States could not tolerate any action on your part which in a major way disturbed the existing over-all balance of power in the world. I stated that an attempt to force abandonment of our responsibilities and commitments in Berlin would constitute such an action and that the United States would resist with all the power at its command.

It was in order to avoid any incorrect assessment on the part of your Government with respect to Cuba that I publicly stated that if certain developments in Cuba took place, the United States would do whatever must be done to protect its own security and that of its allies.

Moreover, the Congress adopted a resolution expressing its support of this declared policy. Despite this, the rapid development of long-range missile bases and other offensive weapons systems in Cuba has proceeded. I must tell you that the United States is determined that this threat to the security of this hemisphere be removed. At the same time, I wish to point out that the action we are taking is the minimum necessary to remove the threat to the security of the nations of this hemisphere. The fact of this minimum response should not be taken as a basis, however, for any misjudgment on your part.

I hope that your Government will refrain from any action which would widen or deepen this already grave crisis and that we can agree to resume the path of peaceful negotiations.

John F. Kennedy

October 21, 1918: Margaret Owen sets World Typing Speed Record

As a Daily Newspaper Reporter Viewed It:

Business colleges held their annual athletic meet at the 69th Regiment Armory last night. Crouched behind their trusty Underwoods, Remingtons, et al., two-score stenographers, male and female, raced for the professional, amateur and novice championships of the world, hammering off more words to the minute than even Mr. Bryan could speak in an hour. When the flying sheets of paper had cleared away and the last click of the typewriters stilled it was discovered that Miss Margaret B Owen had driven her Underwood at a pace unequaled even in ancient Olympic times.

Miss Owen is to-day professional champion of the world and holder of the record in keyboard calisthenics by seven words to the minute. The former title holder, Emil Trefzger battered off 129 words per minute for an hour Miss Owen’s slim agile fingers dickered over the keys of her machine at the rate of 136 words per minute. When her 60 minutes were up she had written more than 8.000 words.

The weather was perfect and the track fast. At the west end of the armory gallery, crouched over their machines, the girls and men waited. The Business Show on the floor below faded away into insignificance, while parents, sweethearts and friends of the competitors crowded upstairs to see the start. Trainer Simmons, of the Underwood team, rushed from charge to charge, giving them final directions.

“Keep your eyes on the copy, and hit the keys hard,” he whispered. “Don’t try to pocket that Remington entry; you can run her off her chair. That Monarch filly looks good, but she will blow at the half. She has speed, but no stamina.”

A whistle shrilled. A roar of racing machines responded. The classic of stenography was on.

At the quarter, the field was bunched with Miss Owen just hitting her stride. At the half she led by a comma and two letters, closely pursued by Miss Rose Fritz, holder of the title in 1907 1908 and 1909. Miss Owen then stepped on the throttle. Miss Fritz was game, and the pair swept into the third quarter, word and word. In the stretch a semicolon caused Miss Fritz to waver, and she was lost. A full sentence ahead of the ruck, Miss Owen breasted the typewriter ribbon, and the race was over.

Haggard from the ordeal, the contestants left the arena and were greeted like prodigal children by breathless relatives. No Brickley, spattered with the blood of the bulldog, ever was accorded such a reception. Mothers cast themselves upon the bosoms of their sons who had wrestled with the speed demon.

The starter madly waved his recall flag. He thought another race had started without official sanction. But it was the rattle of rapturous kisses and not typewriter keys that resounded through the armory.
The athletes then repaired to a private room and were given the pleasing task of deducting from each other’s papers five words for each mistake made. Whatever errors got past them weren’t worth missing. Meanwhile, in the booths of the various typewriter concerns on the floor below, palefaced relatives and friends waited for the result. Trainer Simmons insisted that his chief entry had won and predicted that she had broken the record. She had, and the reception accorded her when the final results were known rivaled ancient France in its pomp and ceremony.

With the hair, eyes and skin of a Stanlaws magazine cover, but with much, much more clothing, the Champion of the World took her honor lightly.

“It is simply a question of nerve,” she said. “It is not physically tiring. If I were to lose a few days from my practice my work would fall off. Every morning and afternoon we are put through trial heats. We do nothing else. Every typewriter concern has its string of racers.”

Source: Business Equipment Topics

October 20, 1962: John F. Kerry writes to John F. Kennedy

1078 Yale Station
New Haven, CT

Dear Mr. President,

Having met you several times this summer at Hammersmith Farm, and having worked for your brother in Massachusetts during that same time, I am to say the least, an ardent Kennedy supporter. My remarks however, are at no point based on this fact, and are as best as possible from the bystanders point of view.jfk x 2

I wish to apologize for the deplorable behavior of some of my fellow undergraduates here at Yale. Your very recent visit has left behind it much discussion – not on its political, but social aspects. Gradually the realization of the disrespect shown the office of the President of the United States is sinking in to those who are the offenders. It does little good for a non-offender to write and apologize for the acts of others, but perhaps it will do something to say that people here are aware of the disgrace they brought upon the University and themselves. It is possible that you personally were not bothered by what happened here, but the insult was made and there is no one here who is not now conscious of it.

May I also take this time for a very unforgettable and exciting time the weekend of the America’s Cup races.

With best wishes for the future,

John F. Kerry

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