November 28, 1922: First Skywriting Ad over New York’s Times Square

The hot shot pilots of the RAF had amused themselves during their air drills during the Great War by blowing smoke out their exhaust and creating designs in the sky. It is not clear who first thought of creating messages in the sky, but they might have learned the technique from Art Smith, the American barnstormer who flew at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915 and after attaching flares to his plane ended his dare-devil stunts by writing “Good night” in the sky.


It is documented that the first public use in America of skywriting as an advertising medium was made when Capt. Cyril Turner of the Royal Air Force travelled to New York City in 1922. While another RAF pilot, John Savage, escorted George Hill, the president of the American Tobacco Company, on the ground, Turner spelled out “Hello USA Call Vanderbilt 7200” in the sky high above Time’s Square.

The ad men on Madison Avenue were astounded by the public’s reaction. “VANDERBILT 7200” was the phone number of the hotel at which George Hill was staying, and in the next three hours the hotel switchboard lit up non-stop as eight operators fielded 47,000 telephone calls.

Following this display, Allan J. Cameron, along with Leroy Van Patten established the Skywriting Corporation of America at Curtiss Field. They acquired the patents for mixing the writing gas in the United States, and, although it was nothing more than light paraffin oil fed through the exhaust system, they controlled the market for years.

In 1923, using the Skywriting Corporation, the American Tobacco Company launched the first and very successful skywriting advertising campaign for Lucky Strike cigarettes, writing “L S M F T” (Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco) countless times across the skies of America. Pepsi-Cola Corporation became another of the longest-running contractors of skywriting; in the late 1930s to mid 1940s, it contracted or owned a total of 14 aircraft. In 1940 alone, it’s planes completed 2,225 sky writings over 48 states, Mexico, Canada, South America, and Cuba.

Skywriting is becoming something of a lost art, but in 1980, to celebrate the 40th birthday of her husband John Lennon and the fifth of her son Sean, Yoko Ono hired an aircraft pilot to skywrite another message in the sky above Manhattan.

At around 5pm the skywriting began above the Dakota, and as crowds of fans ran to the open space of Central Park hoping for a glimpse of John Lennon, New Yorkers of every stripe paused for a moment wherever they were and looked up to see “Happy Birthday John & Sean – Love Yoko” written nine times across the sky.

November 25, 1947: “The Hollywood 10” is blacklisted by Hollywood Movie Studios

John Howard Lawson, the president of the Screen Writers’ Guild was the first “unfriendly” witness subpoenaed to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) investigation into alleged Communist influence in Hollywood. This followed a week-long session during which numerous studio heads, stars, and others (including the current SAG president Ronald Reagan) spoke at length about purported Communist activity in the film industry:

Mr. STRIPLING. What is your occupation, Mr. Lawson? Hollyood 10 a

Mr. LAWSON. I am a writer.

Mr. STRIPLING. How long have you been a writer?

Mr. LAWSON. All my life—at least 35 years—my adult life.

Mr. STRIPLING. Are you a member of the Screen Writers Guild?

Mr. LAWSON. The raising of any question here in regard to membership, political beliefs, or affiliation—

Mr. STRIPLING. Mr. Chairman—

Mr. LAWSON. Is absolutely beyond the powers of this committee.

Mr. STRIPLING. Mr. Chairman—

Mr. LAWSON. But—
(The chairman pounding gavel.)

Mr. LAWSON. It is a matter of public record that I am a member of the Screen Writers Guild.


The CHAIRMAN. I want to caution the people in the audience: You are the guests of this committee and you will have to maintain order at all times. I do not care for any applause or any demonstrations of one kind or another. . .

Mr. LAWSON. Mr. Chairman, you permitted—

The CHAIRMAN (pounding gavel). Never mind—

Mr. LAWSON (continuing). Witnesses in this room to make answers of three or four or five hundred words to questions here.

The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Lawson, you will please be responsive to these questions and not continue to try to disrupt these hearings.

Mr. LAWSON. I am not on trial here, Mr. Chairman. This committee is on trial here before the American people. Let us get that straight.

The CHAIRMAN. We don’t want you to be on trial.

Mr. STRIPLING. Mr. Lawson, how long have you been a member of the Screen Writers Guild?

Mr. LAWSON. Since it was founded in its present form, in 1933.

Mr. STRIPLING. Have you ever held any office in the guild?

Mr. LAWSON. The question of whether I have held office is also a question which is beyond the purview of this Committee.
(The chairman pounding gavel.)

Mr. LAWSON. It is an invasion of the right of association under the Bill of Rights of this country.

The CHAIRMAN. Please be responsive to the question.

Mr. LAWSON. It is also a matter—
(The chairman pounding gavel.)

Mr. LAWSON. Of public record—

The CHAIRMAN. You asked to be heard. Through your attorney, you asked to be heard, and we want you to be heard. And if you don’t care to be heard, then we will excuse you and we will put the record in without your answers.

Mr. LAWSON. I wish to frame my own answers to your questions, Mr. Chairman, and I intend to do so.
. . . .
Mr. LAWSON. It is absolutely beyond the power of this committee to inquire into my association in any organization.

The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Lawson, you will have to stop or you will leave the witness stand. And you will leave the witness stand because you are in contempt. That is why you will leave the witness stand. And if you are just trying to force me to put you in contempt, you won’t have to try much harder. You know what has happened to a lot of people that have been in contempt of this committee this year, don’t you?

Mr. LAWSON. I am glad you have made it perfectly clear that you are going to threaten and intimidate the witnesses, Mr. Chairman.
(The chairman pounding gavel.)

Mr. LAWSON. I am an American and I am not at all easy to intimidate, and don’t think I am.
(The chairman pounding gavel.)
. . . .
The CHAIRMAN (pounding gavel). Mr. Lawson, just quiet down again.
Mr. Lawson, the most pertinent question that we can ask is whether or not you have ever been a member of the Communist Party. Now, do you care to answer that question?

Mr. LAWSON. You are using the old technique, which was used in Hitler Germany in order to create a scare here—

The CHAIRMAN (pounding gavel). Oh—

Mr. LAWSON. In order to create an entirely false atmosphere in which this hearing is conducted—
(The chairman pounding gavel.)
. . .
The CHAIRMAN (pounding gavel). Excuse the witness—

Mr. LAWSON. As they do from what I have written.

The CHAIRMAN (pounding gavel). Stand away from the stand—

Mr. LAWSON. I have written Americanism for many years, and I shall continue to fight for the Bill of Rights, which you are trying to destroy.
The CHAIRMAN. Officers, take this man away from the stand—
[Applause and boos.]




November 24, 1807: Death of Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant

When Joseph Brant was born in 1742, he was aptly named Thayendanegea, which in Mohawk means “he places two bets.”

He became a warrior at age 15 and first went into battle in the French and Indian War against Fort Niagara and at the siege of Montreal. Sir Brant1William Johnson, the Indian Agent for New York, was so impressed by the young brave that he sent him to Moor’s Indian Charity School. Young Brant was “of a Sprightly Genius, a manly and genteel Deportment, and of a Modest and benevolent Temper.” He was soon teaching the Mohawk language to missionaries and translating St Mark’s Gospel into Mohawk.  However, a letter from his sister called him home to Canajoharie, since the Indians were displeased with his being at the school, “don’t like the People &c.”

After war broke out at Concord and Lexington, Brant sailed to England to represent the interests of the Iroquois people. He was introduced to the leading men in London, but James Boswell noted “he chiefly admired the ladies and the horses.” He met King George III but refused to kneel, saying “I bow to no man for I am considered a prince among my own people. But I will gladly shake your hand.” He allowed he would be willing to kiss the queen.

He attended a performance of Romeo and Juliet. A Lady asked, “What do you think of that kind of love-making, Captain Brant?” He replied, “No lover worth a lady’s while would waste his time and breath in all that speech-making. If my people were to make love in that way our race would be extinct in two generations.”
He also presented grievances: “It is very hard when we have let the Kings subjects have so much of our lands for so little value, they should want to cheat us of the small spots we have left for our women and children to live on.” Brant was assured “of every support England could render.”

Brant returned to America. Urging his people to abandon neutrality and support the Crown, he raised a force of warriors and started raiding along the Mohawk River. In quick action he attacked Fort Stanwix, Oriskany, Cobleskill, Sharon, and German Flats. Along with British rangers and Seneca warriors he attacked Cherry Valley. Brant was ruthless against combatant soldiers, but when the Senecas started to massacre settlers, he desperately tried to save innocent lives.

Brant finally ran into General George Clinton’s expedition down the Susquehanna whose large force and superior weapons devastated the Indians.  The war ended and the Treaty of Paris ignored the Iroquois and transferred sovereignty over western lands to the Americans, even though the territory was occupied by Indians. Brant was furious; England had “sold the Indians to Congress.”

In 1785 he set sail again to present Indian’s claims for war losses to the Crown. He secured compensation and received an assurance of the king’s concern and a recommendation that the Indians conduct their affairs “with temper and moderation” which would “most likely secure to themselves the possession of those rights and privileges which their ancestors have heretofore enjoyed.”

When he returned to America, George Washington invited Brant to Philadelphia to help negotiate peace in the west. Washington offered him a large land grant and a pension, but he considered the offer a bribe and refused it, although he did agree to appeal to the western confederacy. Brant then retreated to Brantford, Ontario, where King George donated a chapel to his Mohawk tribe in gratitude for their service during the Revolution.

Brant was admired for his intellect, his dignity, and his ready wit. He understood that the old structure of women farmers and men hunters was passing, and he encouraged his people to learn to read and write.  He admired the industry of the whites, but was repelled by the class divisions in white society, the harshness of its laws, and disdained the fact that the courts could be manipulated by the powerful so  that the “estates of widows and orphans” could be “devoured by enterprising sharpers.”

“Cease, then, to call yourselves Christians, lest you publish to the world your hypocrisy. Cease, too, to call other nations savage, when you are tenfold more the children of cruelty than they.”

To the end, he cared for his people. Even at his death they were uppermost in his mind:

“Have pity on the poor Indians. If you have any influence with the great, endeavor to use it for their good.”



November 21, 1946: President Truman takes a Vacation Cruise in a Submarine

Washington was cold and miserable, the Republicans had just taken control of both houses of Congress, and Harry Truman really needed to get away. After 19 months in the White House the President was physically exhausted. His doctor ordered a warm vacation. keywest1_01Truman flew down to Key West on November 17th with an entourage of aides and newspapermen. The first thing he did when he arrived at the Navy Base in Key West was to call Bess and ensure her of his safe arrival. He wrote her a letter at the same time complimenting the fine house, the saltwater swimming pool, and the sea beach half a mile away. He told her he planned to swim at eight each morning, have breakfast at nine, rest half an hour, go to the beach at ten, stay there two hours, come back and rest at the house until lunch at one, take his usual nap, “work” from four to seven, have dinner and a “social” evening until eleven, go to bed and then do it all over again the next day. “I’m seeing no outsiders. I don’t give a damn how put out they get. I’m doing as I damn please for the next two weeks and to hell with all them.” It was ideal Key West weather – warm and bright. On Wednesday the President took the wheel of the Presidential automobile and drove some close staff thirty miles up the Miami Highway to the Boca Chita Naval Air Station. There they examined the latest secret devices – a plane equipped with rockets, a depth control device, a high voltage camera for night photography, and a blimp which the President boarded. On Thursday the 21st, Truman left early to inspect the submarines. A German U-Boat, the U-2513, had been surrendered to the Allies in May 1945. The U-boat had been taken from Hamburg to Northern Ireland where a crew of U.S. submariners sent from New London spent a month learning all they could about the boat’s advanced underwater technology (a process complicated by the sailors having to learn German along the way). At eight AM, the President boarded the captured sub along with his key aides and military personnel (but, due to its secret status, no press). Breakfast was served on the boat in relays – the quarters were extremely cramped, there was scarcely room to move, the air was stuffy and humid and breathing space was at a premium. Truman’s aide Ross joked “it took an order from the President to get Admiral Leahy down in a submarine.” At 9:15 all hands were ordered to their stations. The U-2513 commenced its dive. The sub descended to 100 feet, and then rigged for “silent running” it sped through the depths at 15 knots. It slowed, then dove to 250, 350, 400 feet. After descending to 450 feet, it cruised at that level for a minute or two. The sub then ascended to periscope depth, 50 feet. The President manned the periscope and was fascinated by what he could see. However, during the ascent the port engine room flooded and an alarming amount of smoke flooded the aft portion of the sub. Fortunately, the situation was quickly addressed and the U-2513 surfaced safely at 10:15 a.m. Five minutes after surfacing the Presidential party climbed onto the conning tower. Truman sat down, along with his aides, and immediately discovered the seats were still soaked. With convivial laughter, the President insinuated that his aides pants were wet, not from the sea water, but because of their “apprehension” during the dive. After watching a display of depth charges, the boat safely returned to the base where the sub’s commander inducted Truman into “The Ancient Order of Deep Dunkers.” The President returned to his house, took a nap and then set out for some deep sea fishing where he caught a Spanish mackerel, a barracuda and a grouper. That evening Harry Truman dropped in on an enlisted men’s dance held at the tennis courts on the base. He made a few impromptu remarks, expressing his pleasure at being the guest of the Navy, and then he got serious. He stressed to the young men and women that our great country belonged to those who made it great, and he urged them to study the Constitution, because the Constitution WAS the government of the United States. He told them “We are living in the greatest country in the greatest age in history,” and he pleaded with them to keep it great.



November 20, 1874: James Michael Curley is born

James Michael Curley was born and bred in Boston of good Irish stock. His parents, recently from Galway, lived in Ward Seventeen where his father sometimes found work as an unskilled laborer and his mother as a scrubwoman. When his father died when James Michael was just 12, he left school and had to pick up what learning he could in the public libraries. He held a variety of jobs, but by the time he was eligible to vote in 1896, he found his true calling –  politics.

At the age of 23, James Michael Curley won a seat on Boston’s Common Council.  His one motto — “Work harder than anyone else, preserve your self-respect and keep your word” was soon coupled with his other – “Do unto others before they do you.” He spent part of every day meeting with needy constituents and helping them find jobs, fuel, or food, or fend off creditors, the police, or the courts.Curley

By 1903 he was running for alderman. A barely literate constituent needed a job with the post office, so as a favor Curley took the civil service exam for him. Curley was recognized, prosecuted, and convicted for fraud; he was sentenced to 90 days in jail. The public was incensed by the authority’s actions. “He did it for a friend” became the slogan that aroused public sympathy. Campaigning from his jail cell, Curley won the election in a landslide.

In his first run for mayor in 1914 Curley called the powerful Democratic City Committee a group of “empty eggshells” and labeled the ward bosses a “collection of chowderheads.” The Good Government Association he called “Goo Goos” and business leaders the “State Street wrecking crew.” When Mayor John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald decided to run again, Curley was ready. The challenger knew that the incumbent was enjoying the charms of a woman not his wife, the young and lovely “Toodles” Ryan. Rather than overtly accusing his rival of infidelity, Curley announced that he would deliver a series of lectures including “Great Lovers, from Cleopatra to Toodles.” Fitzgerald dropped out of the race.

Curley had no use for Boston Brahmins, with their “clubs of female faddists, and old gentlemen with disordered livers or pessimists croaking over imaginary good old days and ignoring the sunlit present.” The day after he was sworn in, the “Mayor of the People” proposed to sell the Public Garden just off Beacon Hill and use the proceeds to build new gardens in neighborhoods “more easily accessible to the general public.”

Curley declared “The day of the Puritan has passed; the Anglo-Saxon is a joke; a new and better America is here.” What Boston needs is “men and mothers of men, not gabbing spinsters and dog-raising matrons in federation assembled.” In a classic gesture, he procured long-handled mops for City Hall scrubwomen because “a woman should only get on her knees to pray.”

Curley was elected to a second term over John R. Murphy, the candidate of “the Goo Goos” , calling him “an old mustard plaster that has been stuck on the back of the people for fifty years.” In 1929 Curley won his third term over Frederick Mansfield who was “as spectacular as a four-day-old codfish and as colorful as a lump of mud.”

In 1932, in a maverick, but prescient move, Curley backed Franklin Roosevelt over Al Smith for the Democratic nomination. Al Smith was an enormous favorite in Boston, so popular that for months the Boston people wouldn’t turn out to hear their mayor speak, and Curley was shunned from the delegation to the Democratic convention. Snubbed, but not discouraged, he travelled to Chicago alone. Somehow his blarney charmed the Puerto Rico delegation into handing him their standard. When the roll call finally got to Puerto Rico, “Alcalde Jaime Miguel Culeo” rose and, to tumultuous applause, delivered the Island’s one vote for Roosevelt.

Curley would be elected Congressman and Governor, but it was as Boston’s Mayor that he thrived. In 1947 he was sentenced to a term in federal prison for mail fraud. He ran for mayor for a fourth term from his cell in Danbury Prison. He was reelected, and then pardoned by Harry Truman. When he returned from Danbury to City Hall the band played “Hail to the Chief”.

Always sociable, Curley came back reporting that his closest friend in prison had been a Harvard graduate, and that he had, indeed, become acquainted there with representatives of all the Ivy League campuses.



November 19, 1863: Gettysburg National Cemetery is Dedicated

After the Battle of Gettysburg had ended in early July of 1863, the dead had to be buried quickly, without the respect that they had earned in the bloodiest battle of the War. It quickly became clear that a National Cemetery which would forever honor the men who sacrificed their lives for the cause of the Union should be dedicated near the battlefield. On October 17, the task of reburying the Union Soldiers began.Gettysburg Cemetery The dedication date was set for November 19th. Edward Everett would be the orator of the day, and President Lincoln was invited to formally dedicate the grounds with a few appropriate remarks. During the train trip from Washington, D.C., to Gettysburg Lincoln remarked to John Hay that he felt weak. On the morning of November 19, Lincoln mentioned to John Nicolay that he was dizzy. Hay noted that during the speech Lincoln’s face had ‘a ghastly color’ and that he was ‘sad, mournful, almost haggard.’ The ceremony was simple: Birgfeld’s Band played “Homage d’uns Heros” as an introit, the invocation was given by Reverend T. H. Stockton, the Marine Band played the “Old Hundred”, and then the Hon. Edward Everett began his oration: “Standing beneath this serene sky, overlooking these broad fields now reposing from the labors of the waning year, the mighty Alleghenies dimly towering before us, the graves of our brethren beneath our feet, it is with hesitation that I raise my poor voice to break the eloquent silence of God and Nature. But the duty to which you have called me must be performed; — grant me, I pray you, your indulgence and your sympathy.” Two hours later he ended: “But they, I am sure, will join us in saying, as we bid farewell to the dust of these martyr-heroes, that wheresoever throughout the civilized world the accounts of this great warfare are read, and down to the latest period of recorded time, in the glorious annals of our common country, there will be no brighter page than that which relates the Battles of Gettysburg.” The Baltimore Glee Club sang a Hymn (“Consecration Chant”) and then the President of the United States rose to give his brief Dedicatory Remarks: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” A choir selected for the occasion sang a dirge (“Oh! It is Great for Our Country to Die”) and then the Reverend H. L. Baugher gave the Benediction. The crowds scattered after the speech.  Lincoln boarded the 6:30 pm train for Washington, D.C.; he was feverish and weak, with a severe headache. A protracted illness followed, which was diagnosed as a mild case of smallpox. And the War went on.gettysburg dead



November 18, 1865: Mark Twain’s “Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” is Published

Well, Smiley kept the beast in a little lattice box, and he used to fetch him down town sometimes and lay for a bet. One day a feller a stranger in the camp, he was come across him with his box, and says: “What might it be that you’ve got in the box?”

And Smiley says, sorter indifferent like, “It might be a parrot, or it might be a canary, may be, but it an’t it’s only just a frog.”mark twain

And the feller took it, and looked at it careful, and turned it round this way and that, and says, “H’m so ’tis. Well, what’s he good for?”

“Well,” Smiley says, easy and careless, “He’s good enough for one thing, I should judge he can outjump any frog in Calaveras county.”

The feller took the box again, and took another long, particular look, and give it back to Smiley, and says, very deliberate, “Well, I don’t see no p’ints about that frog that’s any better’n any other frog.”

“May be you don’t,” Smiley says. “May be you understand frogs, and may be you don’t understand ’em; may be you’ve had experience, and may be you an’t only a amature, as it were. Anyways, I’ve got my opinion, and I’ll risk forty dollars that he can outjump any frog in Calaveras county.”

And the feller studied a minute, and then says, kinder sad like, “Well, I’m only a stranger here, and I an’t got no frog; but if I had a frog, I’d bet you.”

And then Smiley says, “That’s all right that’s all right if you’ll hold my box a minute, I’ll go and get you a frog.” And so the feller took the box, and put up his forty dollars along with Smiley’s, and set down to wait.

So he set there a good while thinking and thinking to hisself, and then he got the frog out and prized his mouth open and took a tea- spoon and filled him full of quail shot filled him pretty near up to his chin and set him on the floor. Smiley he went to the swamp and slopped around in the mud for a long time, and finally he ketched a frog, and fetched him in, and give him to this feller, and says:
“Now, if you’re ready, set him alongside of Dan’l, with his fore- paws just even with Dan’l, and I’ll give the word.” Then he says, “One two three jump!” and him and the feller touched up the frogs from behind, and the new frog hopped off, but Dan’l give a heave, and hysted up his shoulders so like a Frenchman, but it wan’s no use he couldn’t budge; he was planted as solid as an anvil, and he couldn’t no more stir than if he was anchored out. Smiley was a good deal surprised, and he was disgusted too, but he didn’t have no idea what the matter was, of course.

The feller took the money and started away; and when he was going out at the door, he sorter jerked his thumb over his shoulders this way at Dan’l, and says again, very deliberate, “Well, I don’t see no p’ints about that frog that’s any better’n any other frog.”

Smiley he stood scratching his head and looking down at Dan’l a long time, and at last he says, “I do wonder what in the nation that frog throw’d off for I wonder if there an’t something the matter with him he ‘pears to look mighty baggy, somehow.” And he ketched Dan’l by the nap of the neck, and lifted him up and says, “Why, blame my cats, if he don’t weigh five pound!” and turned him upside down, and he belched out a double handful of shot. And then he see how it was, and he was the maddest man he set the frog down and took out after that feller, but he never ketchd him.



November 17, 1934: Lyndon Johnson marries “Lady Bird” Taylor

Darling –

Your letter yesterday sort of put me on the spot, didn’t it, dear? All I can say, in absolute honesty, is–I love you, I don’t know how everlastingly I love you,–so I can’t answer you yet. And I’m coming to see you in January. Try and stop me! It’s the chief thing in the world I’m looking forward to…what made you say you didn’t think Gene and I would not really get there?Lady Bird

Lyndon, tell me more about this going in Owen D. Young’s office. In what capacity, dear? As public relations man? It sounds swell to me. Was that what Mr. Adams wanted to talk about this time?

I should say you are taking a hard course, Lyndon. Contracts was always the “piece de resistance” down the hill in Austin, and I’ve heard an awful lot about how hard Torts was too. Bless your heart–is it hard to stick to it?

Lyndon, when you said “After the first semester I may be in New York” did you mean Mr. Adams and the General Electric deal? And what was that about possibly being in Austin? Law school? Oh, I do hope you don’t go with the University of Houston!–Though I ought not to say that, ‘cause I don’t know enough about your offer there–and what you think of it.

I enjoyed hearing about you walking through the parks and up past the White House…I’ve walked in just those places…Dear, do you ever ride out along the Potomac toward Mount Vernon? I love it out there.
–I think the Potomac is the most aristocratic river I’ve ever seen.
Now I appreciate how you felt when you used to drive that truck, Lyndon! Because yesterday I had to take some big chairs to Marshall to be upholstered so I borrowed Dorris and Hugh’s truck and out I put! It made a noise like tin cans, full of rocks, falling downstairs, and dust came up through the floor, and it hadn’t any brakes or horn! It was quite an adventure–I felt as brave as Columbus! But I got everything done.

That was certainly good-looking paper you wrote me on. I surely am glad someone was ingenious enough to put our Texas cotton to some new use.

Dear, I am going to write you every day it looks like–or nearly! Unfortunately, I can talk much better than I can write…So many times I wish you were close enough for me to talk to you. I think of so much to say that eludes the written words. Tomorrow, Lyndon, I shall put those pictures in my letter. For today, goodbye,–and a hundred kisses.



~           ~            ~


Dear Bird:

Your Air Mail Special Delivery awaited me tonight when I came home with Maury after dinner down town. Enjoying your letters as I do, I would be an ingrate if I didn’t at least reaffirm my appreciation, tho’ I’ve just about lost my ambition. . .

34-9/10-4They have told me stories, and showed me shows, portraying the young fellow who seldom gave time and attention to women. His chief concern was success, selfish–yes–but it occupied all of his thoughts. Then she came along–and–well he went to the other extreme. You know the story. For a long time I’ve played with fire and haven’t even been scorched, but every man sooner or later meets his Waterloo. When I think what I’ve said–all I’ve done–how helpless I’ve been when thinking of you–there is but one appreciable and appropriate expression: “God pity him for he knows not what he does.” I justify my rashness, eagerness and anticipation by telling myself that there is only one Bird–that in reality she loves me just as I do her–and then I’m not so ashamed. Your letters help–but when you say “Fifty years and who knows what it will bring. Too important a decision to give attention to now. Everlasting? etc.” Well that’s what makes me feel like the chumps I used to see talk entertain the belles on the campus in the day time while some of us dined and danced with them after the sun had set. Why I’ve written all of this I don’t know–but sometimes I just start writing and say what I think before I proof read it. Proud as I am, sure as I’ve been (of myself) since I met you, I guess I can attribute it all to a lack of understanding of what prompts indecision and suspense. . .

Maury, amused at my thoughts approaching seriousness, says, “My camp on a hill in San Antonio, equipped with everything including a Mexican man and woman, is to house you and _____ during your honeymoon. I’m going to lend a lot of dignity to your wedding by my presence.” He is a great guy and thinks thought we would enjoy days in the Alamo, the Missions, and roaming the trails at his country home before we come to work in mad January.

Tomorrow I’m going to sit–for a picture. Told Bachrachs several days ago that I would see them at 9:30 Tuesday. Maury is also having some made. If mine are good I’m going to send them to all of my Grandmas and Aunts and will pass one on to you if you want one by that time.

Tell me when you get my letters, and if you read them–

I’m going to study personal property until two tonight in the morning. Can’t learn very fast but it’s good discipline. I’ve had a lot of discipline here of late. More to come?

Goodnite Bird. God bless you.

You’ve given me some sweet thoughts and lots of wholesome plans and ideas. It’s sweet of you to write.

Lyndon Baines

Source: LBJ Library
A collection of courtship letters are viewable online at:



November 14, 1889: Nellie Bly Begins her Trip Around the World

“Why not?” the thought came: “I need a vacation; why not take a trip around the world?”

It is easy to see how one thought followed another. The idea of a trip around the world pleased me and I added: “If I could do it as quickly as Phileas Fogg did, I should go.”

Then I wondered if it were possible to do the trip in eighty days and afterwards I went easily off to sleep with the determination to know before I saw my bed again if Phileas Fogg’s record could be broken.
I went to a steamship company’s office that day and made a selection of time tables. Anxiously I sat down and went over them and if I had found the elixir of life I should not have felt better than I did when I conceived a hope that a tour of the world might be made in even less than eighty days.

I approached my editor rather timidly on the subject. I was afraid that he would think the idea too wild and visionary.

“Have you any ideas?” he asked, as I sat down by his desk.

“One,” I answered quietly.

He sat toying with his pens, waiting for me to continue, so I blurted out:

“I want to go around the world!”


And so she went. Nelly Bly brought one dress, a sturdy overcoat, several changes of underwear, a small travel bag, and £200 in bank notes. As all of America followed her cables home to the New York World, she raced around the globe on ship, train, rickshaw, sampan, horse and donkey.

“I went up to London on the morning of my arrival at Southampton, and in the evening, instead of going to bed, as I ought to have done, I took the train and went to Amiens to see Jules Verne. I took the club train, went through Calais and there caught the Indian Express to Brindisi. I did not sleep at all from Wednesday till Saturday morning. I spent about half a day at Jules Verne’s house, which was one of the most enjoyable portions of my long journey. I arrived at Brindisi on the 24th. I next touched at Port Said and Aden, and reached Colombo on December 8th, where I lost five days in waiting for the steamer. From thence I proceeded to Penang and Singapore, and arrived in Hong Kong three days ahead of time.

“I spent Christmas day in Canton, and it was a Christmas to be long remembered. We visited the great Temple of the Dead and heard the weird chanting and masses. We saw the people with the dead in the little rooms, with their offerings of fruit, tea and chow. In Hong Kong I rode about the city in a sedan chair with four coolies carrying it and a Chinese guide. I was particularly struck with the courthouse and jail of the city. In front of the jail there was a big tan game running, and inside was an opium-smoking place. The peculiarity of the jail is that they don’t close the doors.”

Nelly arrived in San Francisco with a pet monkey in tow, and was hustled through customs to a special train chartered for her by Joseph Pulitzer, waiting “with steam up” to whirl her across the continent at lightning speed.

72 days, 6 hours and 11 minutes after she set out, she arrived back in New York. Almost eight days faster than Phileas Fogg, Nelly Bly completed her record journey around the world.



November 13, 1856: Birth of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

Brandeis was a militant crusader for social justice whoever his opponent might be. He was dangerous not only because of his brilliance, his arithmetic, his courage. He was dangerous because he was incorruptible . . . and the fears of the Establishment were greater because Brandeis was the first Jew to be named to the Court.
                                                                   – William O. Douglas

Louis Brandeis’s words still resonate with us today:

Brandeis“We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

“The most important political office is that of the private citizen.”
“America has believed that in differentiation, not in uniformity, lies the path of progress. It acted on this belief; it has advanced human happiness, and it has prospered.”

“Fear of serious injury alone cannot justify oppression of free speech and assembly. Men feared witches and burnt women. It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears.”

“I abhor averages. I like the individual case. A man may have six meals one day and none the next, making an average of three meals per day, but that is not a good way to live.”

“Our government … teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.”

“Experience teaches us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent.”

“The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.”

“The world presents enough problems if you believe it to be a world of law and order; do not add to them by believing it to be a world of miracles.”

“Behind every argument is someone’s ignorance.”

“If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable.”

“Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”

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