March 31, 1968: A Long Day for Lady Bird Johnson

This day began early because Lynda was coming in on “the red-eye special” from California, about 7am, having kissed Chuck  good-bye at Camp Pendelton last night as he departed for Vietnam.

I wanted to be right there at the door with open arms to meet her, but I begged Lyndon not to get up. “No, I want to,” he insisted. So the operator called us in what seemed the gray early morning and both of us were downstairs at the entrance to the Diplomatic Reception Room at 7 when she stepped out of the car. She looked like a ghost – pale, tall and drooping. We both hugged her and then we all went upstairs. I took her into her room, helped get her clothes off, and put her to bed. She’d had a sedative on the plane, slept a little, not much – and it was, I think partly emotion and partly the sedative that made her look so detached, like a wraith from another world.

She said, “Mother, they were awful – they kept on pushing and shoving to get to us, and they almost ran over a child. And there were lots of other wives there, saying good-bye to their husbands!” She meant the press.Lady Bird

When I went back to Lyndon’s room, his face was sagging and there was such pain in his eyes as I had not seen since his mother died. But he didn’t have time for grief. Today was a crescendo of a day. At 9 in the evening, Lyndon was to make his talk to the nation about the war. The speech was not yet firm. There were still revisions to be made and people to see. But he began to put on his clothes and got ready to go to church with Luci and Pat, something he does more and more often.

And I, exhausted, went back to bed, where I half-slept for a couple of hours.

On the way from church, Lyndon stopped to see the Vice President at his apartment. Hubert and Muriel are leaving for Mexico, for a ceremony, sometime during the day. It was a day of coming and going – and it’s hard to remember when what happened. Sometime during the morning Buzz came in, took up his place in the Treaty Room, and began to work on the speech. I had spent a good part of Saturday and part of Friday making suggestions on it myself. I read it over again for what was the umpteenth time, and then (I believe I was in his bedroom), Lyndon said to Arthur and Mathilde Krim and me, “What do you think about this? This is what I’m going to put at the end of the speech.” And he read a beautifully written statement which ended, “Accordingly, I shall not seek and I will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your President.”

The four of us had talked about this over and over, and hour after hour, but somehow we all acted and felt stunned. Maybe it was the calm finality in Lyndon’s voice, and maybe we believed him for the first time. Arthur said something like, “You can’t mean this!” And Mathilde exclaimed in an excited way, “Oh no, no!” Then we all began to discuss the reasons why, and why not, over and over again…

Mathilde’s eyes were full of tears, and Luci had obviously been crying forthrightly. Lyndon seemed to be congealing into a calm, quiet state of mind, out of reach. And I, what did I feel? … so uncertain of the future that I would not dare to try to persuade him one way or the other. There was much in me that cried out to go on, to call on every friend we have, to give and work, to spend and fight, right up to the last. And if we lost, well and good – we were free! But if we didn’t run, we could be free without all this draining of our friends. I think what was uppermost – what was going over and over in Lyndon’s mind – was what I’ve heard him say increasingly these last months: “I do not believe I can unite this country.”

March 30th, 1794: George Washington instructs his Farm Manager William Pearce to grow Hemp

Philadelphia Mar. 30th 1794

Mr Pearce,
The Reports, and your letter of the 25th have been duly recd.
If you are satisfied from repeated trials, that the pieces of the treading floor at Dogue Run Farm, are well placed at an inch and half a part, it would be well to lay them all at that distance, that you may derive as much benefit as you can Washington Farmfrom it in the present Crop, and that it may be ready against the next year.

The Oats might also be tread out on the same floor; and the sooner the better, as you will then know precisely the quantity which you will have to depend upon; and when known, inform me thereof. I have three and half bushels of a peculiar kind of Oats which I will send by the first Vessel bound to Alexandria: unfortunately they came to my hands too late for the Vessels which have lately departed from hence for that Port; but I would have you reserve and keep about two acres of ground in a good state of preparation for sowing the moment the seed shall reach you.

I am sorry to hear your drilled and other Wheat makes but an indifferent appearance. I was in hopes such extreme fine weather as we have had during the whole month of March would have occasioned a pleasing change in both. As grain puts on different looks at this season, according as the weather, while growing happens to be, let me know from time to time how mine comes on. If it stands thick enough on the ground, such uncommon mildness & warmth as we have had since February, must have recovered that Crop greatly, as well as the Winter Barley.

I doubted the Gardeners information at first, when you reported a pottle of St Foin seed; because the few plants could not bare so much; and next, because he did not take care in time to save what they did bare. Be the qty little or much, make the most of them & of the Hemp—and also the other seed he took for St Foin that you are able.

Let Abram get his deserts when taken by way of example; but do not trust to Crow to give it him; for I have reason to believe he is swayed more by passion than judgment in all his corrections.

All the labour that can be spared from more pressing & important work should be employed on the Mill Race; otherwise when the springs get low you will have no water for grinding; it being but a poor stream at best, and many leaks in the old part which will be avoided by the new, whilst those in other parts of the race should be carefully sought after, & effectually stopped.

If my Sister Lewis of Fredericksburgh should send for it, let her have one of the unbroke Mules of middling quality and size.

I am your friend,
George Washington

March 27, 1952: President Truman returns to the White House

The day after he took the oath of office as the 33rd President, Truman addressed the White House reporters: “Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don’t know if you fellas ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me what happened yesterday, I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me.”

What Harry Truman didn’t realize at the time, but would soon find out, as he moved into the Executive Mansion, was White House Restorationthat the very structure of the White House was about to fall on him as well. Shortly after moving in to his new residence, Truman started noticing signs that the building was under serious physical stress. He complained of drafts and unusual popping and creaking noises in the old house. When he wrote to his wife Bess, back home in Missouri, Truman often joked of the “ghosts” that inhabited the White House.

“The damned place is haunted, sure as shootin. . . . You and Margie had better come back and protect me before some of these ghosts carry me off.”
“The floors pop and the drapes move back and forth. I can just imagine old Andy and Teddy having an argument over Franklin.”

Early in 1948, in response to the President’s concerns, engineers confirmed that the White House was indeed in a serious state. Built in 1800, the mansion had been burned to the walls in 1814 (during the war of 1812), and then structurally compromised over the years by the additions of indoor plumbing, gas lighting, electric wiring, heating ducts, and major modifications in 1902 and 1927.

The house was declared to be in imminent danger of collapse. The addition of a steel roof and full third floor in 1927 had added more weight than the building could handle. Wooden beams had been weakened by cutting and drilling for plumbing and wiring. The heavy ceiling of the East Room was found to be sagging as much as 18 inches, the marble grand staircase was about to fall down, the mansion’s plumbing was “makeshift and unsanitary” and the president’s bathtub was sinking into the floor.

While the cost to just tear down and rebuild the White House was found to be cheaper than a full restoration, Truman deemed the ‘cultural’ value of the original structure more valuable than the cost savings of a tear-down.

So in December of 1948, President Truman moved back into Blair House across the street and as a multi-year renovation that would cost $5.7 million was commenced.

Crews began dismantling the interior, saving much of the wood trim, doors, and hardware for re-use. 126 new 25-feet-deep concrete columns were poured to provide support for the exterior walls. By the autumn of 1950, the White House was just a cavernous hollow space, 165 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 80 feet high.

In a little more than 15 months a new White House was constructed within the walls of the original. A new steel framework was built to support all the interior rooms. New wiring, plumbing, ductwork, and other utilities were installed throughout the structure as concrete floor slabs and then interior walls began to take shape.

On the evening of March 27, 1952, in a small ceremony at the entrance door, President Truman was welcomed back and presented with a gold key to the newly-renovated White House. After spending more than three years living in the Blair House a block to the North, the first family returned home.

March 26, 1886: Geronimo Surrenders:

When I arrived at their camp I went directly to General Miles and told him how I had been wronged, and that I wanted to return to the United States with my people, as we wished to see our families, who had been captured and taken away from us.

General Miles said to me:

“The President of the United States has sent me to speak to you. He has heard of your trouble with the white men, and Geronimosays that if you will agree to a few words of treaty we need have no more trouble. Geronimo, if you will agree to a few words of treaty all will be satisfactorily arranged.”

So General Miles told me how we could be brothers to each other. We raised our hands to heaven and said that the treaty was not to be broken. We took an oath not to do any wrong to each other or to scheme against each other.

Then he talked with me for a long time and told me what he would do for me in the future if I would agree to the treaty. I did not greatly believe General Miles, but because the President of the United States had sent me word I agreed to make the treaty, and to keep it. Then I asked General Miles what the treaty would be.

General Miles said to me:

“I will take you under Government protection; I will build you a house; I will fence you much land; I will give you cattle, horses, mules, and farming implements. You will be furnished with men to work the farm, for you yourself will not have to work. In the fall I will send you blankets and clothing so that you will not suffer from cold in the winter time.

“There is plenty of timber, water, and grass in the land to which I will send you. You will live with your tribe and with your family. If you agree to this treaty you shall see your family within five days.”

I said to General Miles:

“All the officers that have been in charge of the Indians have talked that way, and it sounds like a story to me; I hardly believe you.”

He said:

“This time it is the truth.”

I said:

“General Miles, I do not know the laws of the white man, nor of this new country where you are to send me, and I might break the laws.”

He said:

“While I live you will not be arrested.”

Then I agreed to make the treaty. (Since then I have been a prisoner of war, I have been arrested and placed in the guardhouse twice for drinking whisky.)

We stood between his troopers and my warriors. We placed a large stone on the blanket before us. Our treaty was made by this stone, as it was to last until the stone should crumble to dust; so we made the treaty, and bound each other with an oath.

I do not believe that I have ever violated that treaty; but General Miles never fulfilled his promises.

When we had made the treaty General Miles said to me:

“My brother, you have in your mind how you are going to kill me, and other thoughts of war; I want you to put that out of your mind, and change your thoughts to peace.”

Then I agreed and gave up my arms. I said:

“I will quit the war path and live at peace here after.”

Then General Miles swept a spot of ground clear with his hand, and said:

“Your past deeds shall be wiped out like this and you will start a new life.”

March 25, 1911: Lena Yaller escapes The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

Lena Yaller, was 19 years old and sewed on the 9th floor:

My dressing room was near the elevator near Washington Place, so as soon as I took my pocketbook I had heard a girl holler “Fire!.”  I wanted to turn my face so then I seen this girl- you know, she was a very jolly girl. She used to like very much to fool us, often saying “Here comes the boss,” “Here comes the floorlady”–and there was nothing.  So when I Triangleturned my face and I saw she is the one, why than I didn’t pay any attention to her afterwards.  Just continued my work in the dressing room.

When I got near the dressing room, then smoke was coming up all around us, in my face and in all the windows, up by all the windows, so I wanted to run my face back.  I saw flames coming up from the Greene Street side.  I wanted to turn around to Greene Street, so instead of going to Greene Street the girls were crowded around that place waiting for the Washington elevator, because I seen all the girls were out at that Washington Place.  They pushed me into the dressing room, so I could not see anything else.

It got very dark and I felt a draft so I wanted to go out, so I seen some breezes coming out from someplace, so I wanted to make my way over to see where it came from.  I seen it came from the Greene Street window.  Near the Greene Street it was a window and there is was near the elevator, so I wanted to and made my way through the door I wanted.  As soon as I pass I seen the examining tables were all burning.  As I was passing by I seen smoke.  You can see everything burning and I seen the rest of the girls remained in the dressing room, so when I passes the window I opened the window.  The window, I saw, opened down, so I wanted to open the window.  It opened double, and opened out, and so I burned my knee from the steam heat, so I turned back and stood there about two or three minutes.

Of course it seemed more than four hours from me, but I knocked at the elevator that it should come up, and I seen- I turned my face and I seen the door was burning from the elevator – the door was burning from the doors, that door was burning in the factory, so I wanted to jump out of the roof, to go upstairs on the roof, so I burned my arm, my head, my hair and all, but I went on the roof and then some fellows from the Washington Place took me out together on the roof….

All the people what I left in the dressing room are all dead….

March 24, 1882: Death of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

When Henry Longfellow was thirty-five, he contemplated his own death which wouldn’t arrive for another forty years, and wrote this sonnet, which he considered too personal to publish during his lifetime.  The title comes from the first line of Dante’s Inferno:Longfellow young

                 Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita 
                      mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
                           che la diritta via era smarrita.

                 (In the middle of the journey of our life,
                       I found myself in a dark wood 
                             with the right road lost.)


               MEZZO CAMMIN

Half of my life is gone, and I have let
The years slip from me and have not fulfilled
The asperations of my youth, to build
Some tower of song with lofty parapet.
Not indolence, nor pleasure, nor the fret
Of restless passions that would not be stilled,
But sorrow, and a care that almost killed,
Kept me from what I may accomplish yet;
Though, half-way up the hill, I see the Past
Lying beneath me with its sounds and sights,–
A city in the twilight dim and vast,
With smoking roofs, soft bells, and gleaming lights,–
And hear above me on the autumnal blast
The cataract of Death far thundering from the heights.

March 23, 1775: Patrick Henry rouses the Second Virginia Convention

When the Second Virginia Convention convened at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia in 1775 many of the delegates (which included Thomas Jefferson and George Washington) were unsure how to best assert their rights. Royal Governor Lord Dunmore had dissolved their House of Burgesses following its declaration of support for Massachusetts after the punitive Boston Port Act had been enacted by Parliament.

Patrick HenryPatrick Henry rose and put forward a resolution that the colony immediately be put in a “state of defense.” More moderate delegates objected, arguing that military preparations would undercut any hope of reconciling with Great Britain. Again, Henry rose to speak:

“Gentlemen may cry peace, peace—but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?

Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me,” cried he, with both his arms extended aloft, his brows knit, every feature marked with the resolute purpose of his soul, and his voice swelled to its boldest note of exclamation—“give me liberty, or give me death!”

According to Edmund Randolph, the convention sat in silence for several minutes. Then the resolution passed, and Henry was named chairman of the committee assigned to build a militia.

Lord Dunmore reacted by seizing the gunpowder in the public magazine at Williamsburg. The war was on.

March 20, 1852: “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is published

Late in the afternoon of a chilly day in February, two gentlemen were sitting alone over their wine, in a well-furnished dining parlor, in the town of P——, in Kentucky. There were no servants present, and the gentlemen, with chairs closely approaching, seemed to be discussing some subject with great earnestness.

For convenience sake, we have said, hitherto, two gentlemen. One of the parties, however, when critically examined, Uncle Tomdid not seem, strictly speaking, to come under the species. He was a short, thick-set man, with coarse, commonplace features, and that swaggering air of pretension which marks a low man who is trying to elbow his way upward in the world. He was much over-dressed, in a gaudy vest of many colors, a blue neckerchief, bedropped gayly with yellow spots, and arranged with a flaunting tie, quite in keeping with the general air of the man. His hands, large and coarse, were plentifully bedecked with rings; and he wore a heavy gold watch-chain, with a bundle of seals of portentous size, and a great variety of colors, attached to it,—which, in the ardor of conversation, he was in the habit of flourishing and jingling with evident satisfaction. His conversation was in free and easy defiance of Murray’s Grammar, and was garnished at convenient intervals with various profane expressions, which not even the desire to be graphic in our account shall induce us to transcribe.
His companion, Mr. Shelby, had the appearance of a gentleman; and the arrangements of the house, and the general air of the housekeeping, indicated easy, and even opulent circumstances. As we before stated, the two were in the midst of an earnest conversation.

“That is the way I should arrange the matter,” said Mr. Shelby.

“I can’t make trade that way—I positively can’t, Mr. Shelby,” said the other, holding up a glass of wine between his eye and the light.

“Why, the fact is, Haley, Tom is an uncommon fellow; he is certainly worth that sum anywhere,—steady, honest, capable, manages my whole farm like a clock.”

“You mean honest, as niggers go,” said Haley, helping himself to a glass of brandy.

“No; I mean, really, Tom is a good, steady, sensible, pious fellow. He got religion at a camp-meeting, four years ago; and I believe he really did get it. I’ve trusted him, since then, with everything I have,—money, house, horses,—and let him come and go round the country; and I always found him true and square in everything.”

“Some folks don’t believe there is pious niggers Shelby,” said Haley, with a candid flourish of his hand, “but I do. I had a fellow, now, in this yer last lot I took to Orleans—’t was as good as a meetin, now, really, to hear that critter pray; and he was quite gentle and quiet like. He fetched me a good sum, too, for I bought him cheap of a man that was ‘bliged to sell out; so I realized six hundred on him. Yes, I consider religion a valeyable thing in a nigger, when it’s the genuine article, and no mistake.”

“Well, Tom’s got the real article, if ever a fellow had,” rejoined the other. “Why, last fall, I let him go to Cincinnati alone, to do business for me, and bring home five hundred dollars. ‘Tom,’ says I to him, ‘I trust you, because I think you’re a Christian—I know you wouldn’t cheat.’ Tom comes back, sure enough; I knew he would. Some low fellows, they say, said to him—Tom, why don’t you make tracks for Canada?’ ‘Ah, master trusted me, and I couldn’t,’—they told me about it. I am sorry to part with Tom, I must say. You ought to let him cover the whole balance of the debt; and you would, Haley, if you had any conscience.”

March 19, 1931: Nevada Legalizes Gambling (and the Quickie Divorce)

The 1920s had not been kind to Las Vegas. It wasn’t much of a town to begin with, and the region’s mines weren’t producing much after the federal government halted silver subsidies and after the demand for zinc and tungsten plummeted with the end of the Great War. A railroad strike in 1922 prompted the Union Pacific to pull out its repair shops and there wasn’t much left.

Las Vegas was so isolated that there didn’t seem to be any possibility it would grow. The depression was already setting in before the 1929 stock market crash. In 1930, with a population of 5,165, Las Vegas didn’t even have a traffic light, and the state assembly was desperate for new sources of revenue.

Phil Tobin, was a state assemblyman back then. “I was just plumb sick and tired of seeing gambling going on all over Las Vegasthe state and the payoffs being made everywhere,” he told the Reno Journal-Gazette years later. “Some of those tinhorn cops were collecting 50 bucks a month for allowing it. Also, the damn state was broke and we needed the money.”

On March 19, 1931, Gov. Fred Balzar signed legislation that legalized all forms of casino gambling and simultaneously enacted the most liberal divorce laws in the country.

In short order the Northern Club opened in Las Vegas, and was soon followed by Binion’s Horseshoe, the California Hotel & Casino, the Fremont Hotel & Casino and the Main Street Casino.
Reno, being an easy drive from San Francisco, became the national center for high-society divorces. “Bugsy” Siegel, who launched the Vegas Strip when he opened the Flamingo in 1946, was one of the first to benefit from the new laws when he was divorced there by his wife, Esther. By 1939 Hollywood had discovered the benefits of a six week residence in Nevada when Clark Gable came to Las Vegas to end his marriage to Maria Franklin.

By the early 50’s the Sands Hotel had opened, the Rat Pack was in town, and neon lights lit up the strip until dawn.

March 18, 1848: Birth of Nat Herreshoff “The Wizard of Bristol”

Nat Herreshoff was born and bred on the eastern shore of Narragansett Bay. He showed mechanical aptitude from an early age and graduated in three years from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a degree in mechanical engineering. After graduation he took a position with the Corliss Steam Engine Company in Providence and was delegated to oversee the 40-foot tall, 1400-horsepower dynamo which the company built to power demonstration machinery at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.Herreshoff

After the exposition closed Nat returned to Rhode Island and formed the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company in Bristol with his older brother, John Brown Herreshoff, and started to build boats. Nat provided the engineering expertise, while his brother J.B., who had gone blind at the age of 14, did all the cost calculations in his head, was responsible for negotiating with the firm’s clientele, and managed the business.

The Herreshoff boat works quickly became renowned for building the fastest and finest steam yachts ever, in a wide variety of hull shapes. They paid their skilled craftsmen the highest wages in the state and the business burgeoned from about twenty employees to over 400.

RelianceaNat Herreshoff was always tinkering and experimenting with new materials and inventive concepts and designs, seeking to create the fastest and finest boats in the world. Henry Ford is said to have visited the company’s works before he set up his first automobile plant and was particularly impressed with Herreshoff’s innovative use of interchangeable parts.

In 1888 Herreshoff was supervising speed trials of a 138-foot, 875 horsepower steamboat named “Say When”. After a safety valve released to relieve excess pressure, Herreshoff shut it back off so the boat could achieve maximum speed. A boiler exploded and fatally injuring a member of the crew, and Herreshoff lost his steam engineer’s license.

After the steam accident, Captain Nat Herreshoff began focusing on sailing yachts. His designs were graceful, scientifically engineered, and speedy, and he built superbly crafted sailing yachts for Jay Gould, William Randolph Hearst, J. P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt III, and Harry Payne Whitney.

During a 72 year career, Herreshoff designed and built five winning America’s Cup yachts: Vigilant (1893 – of which Herreshoff was the helmsman), Defender (1895), Columbia (1899 & 1901), Reliance (1903), and Resolute (1920). He designed well over 2000 craft and produced more than 18,000 drawings. He built the first torpedo boats for the U.S. Navy, and received the first patent for a catamaran sailboat (the Amaryllis, 1876).

The range of boats designed by Captain Nat Herreshoff was vast and eclectic. The “New York 30” is widely considered among the finest racer/cruiser one-designs ever created. The 144-foot America’s Cup behemoth Reliance, which had a sail area of 16,000 square feet, could not have sailed from Bristol today as its mast would stand higher than the Newport Bridge.

Perhaps his best loved boat was the simple “12½”, which many consider the best small boat design ever. Designed for the children of yachtsmen to learn how to sail, the boat is buoyant and stable, with a ballasted keel. The jib can be reached from the cockpit, the rig is small enough so a child can sail the boat, but it is still powerful enough that any sailor can enjoy its performance in the choppy waters of Narragansett Bay.

Captain Nat Herreshoff was one of the few people ever made an honorary member of the New York Yacht Club; his name is listed
immediately before England’s King George V and the Prince of Wales.

The Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol RI, which occupies the site of the old Herreshoff Manufacturing Co., preserves Captain Nat’s legacy to this day.

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