April 30, 1789: The First Inauguration of George Washington

as recorded by William Maclay, Senator from Pennsylvania

This is a great, important day. Goddess of etiquette, assist me while I describe it. …

Turned into the Hall. The crowd already great. The Senate met. The Vice-President rose in the most solemn manner. Washington InaugurationThis son of Adam seemed impressed with deeper gravity, yet what shall I think of him? He often, in the midst of his most important airs–I believe when he is at loss for expressions (and this he often is, wrapped up, I suppose, in the contemplation of his own importance) — suffers an unmeaning kind of vacant laugh to escape him. This was the case to-day, and really to me bore the air of ridiculing the farce he was acting.

“Gentlemen, I wish for the direction of the Senate. The President will, I suppose, address the Congress. How shall I behave? How shall we receive it? Shall it be standing or sitting?”

Here followed a considerable deal of talk … Mr. Lee began with the House of Commons (as is usual with him), then the House of Lords, then the King, and then back again. The result of his information was, that the Lords sat and the Commons stood on the delivery of the King’s speech. Mr. Izard got up and told how often he had been in the Houses of Parliament. He said a great deal of what he had seen there. He made, however, this sagacious discovery, that the Commons stood because they had no seats to sit on…

The Speaker was introduced, followed by the Representatives. Here we sat an hour and ten minutes before the President arrived–this delay was owing to Lee, Izard, and Dalton, who had stayed with us … instead of going to attend the President. The President advanced between the Senate and Representatives, bowing to each. He was placed in the chair by the Vice-President …. The Vice-President rose and addressed a short sentence to him. The import of it was that he should now take the oath of office as President. He seemed to have forgot half what he was to say, for he made a dead pause and stood for some time, to appearance, in a vacant mood. He finished with a formal bow, and the President was conducted out of the middle window into the gallery, and the oath was administered by the Chancellor.

Notice that the business done was communicated to the crowd by proclamation, etc., who gave three cheers, and repeated it on the President’s bowing to them.

As the company returned into the Senate chamber, the President took the chair and the Senators and Representatives their seats. He rose…and addressed them. This great man was agitated and embarrassed more than ever he was by the leveled cannon or pointed musket. He trembled, and several times could scarce make out to read, though it must be supposed he had often read it before. He put part of the fingers of his left hand into the side of what I think the tailors call the fall of the breeches, changing the paper into his left hand. After some time he then did the same with some of the fingers of his right hand. When he came to the words “all the world”, he made a flourish with his right hand, which left rather an ungainly impression. I sincerely, for my part, wished all set ceremony in the hands of the dancing-masters, and that this first of men had read off his address in the plainest manner, without ever taking his eyes from the paper, for I felt hurt that he was not first in everything. He was dressed in deep brown, with metal buttons, with an eagle on them, white stockings, a bag, and sword.

From the hall there was a grand procession to Saint Paul’s Church, where prayers were said by the Bishop. The procession was well conducted and without accident, as far as I have heard. The militia were all under arms, lined the street near the church, made a good figure, and behaved well.


April 29, 1865: Queen Victoria sends her condolence to May Todd Lincoln

Dear Madam,

Though a Stranger to you I cannot remain silent when so terrible a calamity has fallen upon you & your Country & must personally express my deep & heartfelt sympathy with you under the shocking circumstances of your present dreadful Queen_Victoriamisfortune —

No one can better appreciate than I can, who am myself utterly broken-hearted by the loss of my own beloved Husband, who was the Light of my Life, — my Stay — my all, — what your sufferings must be; and I earnestly pray that you may be supported by Him to whom Alone the sorely stricken can look for comfort, in this hour of heavy affliction.

With the renewed Expression of true sympathy, I remain,

dear Madam,

Your Sincere friend

Victoria Rg


April 28, 1985: George Steinbrenner fires Casey Stengel and rehires Billy Martin (for the 4th time)

The Yankees were 6-10 and in last place in the American League East. They had lost three straight games to Chicago and four of their past five games by a total of five runs.

George Steinbrenner was in Culver, Indiana to visit his son in school. He called General Manager Clyde King in the berra martinfourth inning of a 4-3 loss to the White Sox and told him to fire Yogi Berra and replace him with Billy Martin. It is the 12th time in 15 years that Steinbrenner had changed managers, and it was his fourth time around with Martin.

“He’s been here four or five times,” Rickey Henderson said. “Why don’t they just leave him here?”

Steinbrenner was quoted as saying, “This action has been taken by the Yankees and we feel that it is in the best interests of the club. Yogi’s no different; he has to win like anybody else.”
King delivered the news to Berra in the manager’s office after the game. Copies of a press release quickly passed from player to player. Many players cursed loudly and expressed disbelief. Don Baylor kicked over a large trash barrel.

Berra’s son Dale was an infielder for the Yankees that year. Wearing only a towel and still dripping from a shower, he made his way into his father’s office. He came out crying.

An hour later, Dale stood facing his locker still wiping the tears from his eyes with his dirty socks. “That’s the way the game is today,” Dale said. “Sixteen games. What happens if Billy goes 4 and 12?”

Said Yogi: “I told him (Dale) like I told you. Managers are hired to be fired. I know that’s an old saying, but it’s true.”

When asked what he would do next, Berra said: “Go home and play golf.”

April 27, 1865: The Sultana Explodes

It was less than two weeks since the murder of Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theater and the country was still reeling. The Civil War was slowly, violently, limping to a close.

The Sultana was a typical side-wheeled coal-burning steamboat. Weighing 1,719 tons, the steamer carried a crew of 85Sultana and had a legal capacity to carry 376 passengers, and hauled cotton and other freight between St. Louis and New Orleans. The Sultana left New Orleans on April 21, 1865 with about a hundred passengers and a load of livestock bound for St. Louis. When the steamship stopped at Vicksburg, it was excitedly greeted by over two thousand Union veterans swarming the docks.

The soldiers had just been released from the Cahaba Prison Camp in Alabama and Andersonville Prison in Georgia and were desperate to rejoin their families – but the Sultana was not prepared to take them up river. Upon tying up at Vicksburg the ship’s engineer had discovered leaks in the boilers. The captain instructed that the defective section of boiler plate be quickly removed, and a patch plate riveted in its place, so that the repair only took one day (replacing the boiler completely would have taken three days).

With the patch complete, the Sultana proceeded to board the throng of veterans, many of whom were weak and ill from the horrific conditions in the prison camps. They packed into every available space on the open decks and were anxious for the voyage to begin; it had been years since they’d seen their homes in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, or Tennessee.

The ship departed, then stopped again in Memphis, and made a few more repairs. At about 1:00 a.m. on April 27, the dangerously overloaded steamboat proceeded up-river toward Cairo, Illinois.

An hour later, 7 miles north of Memphis, a boiler gave way, causing a huge explosion that tore the center out of the boat, throwing sleeping men high into the air before landing in the river. The violent steam-blast scalded many; many others leapt into the river to face hours in the dark, frigid water listening to the shrieks and cries of the injured and dying.

The exact death toll remains unknown. The official number of deaths is recorded as 1,547, but many believe the number could be as high as 1,800, making the Sultana disaster even more terrible than the Titanic tragedy.

The first boat on the scene (an hour after the explosion) was the southbound steamer Bostonia II, which rescued scores of survivors.  The steamer Arkansas, the Jenny Lind, the Essex, and the Navy gunboat USS Tyler joined the rescue.

What was left of the Sultana drifted to the west bank of the Mississippi and sank about dawn off of Mound City, Arkansas. Local citizens rescued victims floating by in the river and others who drifted into the trees on the flooded Arkansas shore. About 800 survivors, many with horrible burns, were transported to hospitals in Memphis, where many died later from burns or exposure. Bodies continued to be found downriver for months, some as far as Vicksburg.

Newspaper accounts record that the people of Memphis had sympathy for the victims despite the fact that they had recently been enemies. The Chicago Opera Troupe, which was traveling through Memphis, staged a benefit; the crew of the Essex raised $1,000, and the mayor took in three survivors.

April 24, 1903: Letter of Fus Fixico to The Indian Journal

Well, so Big Man at Washington was made another rule like that one about making the Injin cut his hair off short like aPosey prize fighter or saloon keeper. Big Man he was say this time the Injin was had to change his name just like if the marshal was had a writ for him. So, if the Injin’s name is Wolf Warrior, he was had to call himself John Smith, or maybe so Bill Jones, so nobody else could get his mail out of the post office. Big Man say Injin name like Sitting Bull or Tecumseh was too hard to remember and don’t sound civilized, like General Cussed Her or old Grand Pa Harry’s Son.

Hotgun he say the Big Man’s rule was heap worse than allotment, and Crazy Snake he say he was hear white man say all time you could take everything away from a him but you cou1d’nt steal his good name.

Guess so that was alright ’cause they was nothing to a name nohow if you can’t borrow some money on it at the bank. Tookpafka Micco he say he was druther had a deed to his land than a big name in the newspaper. When I ask him what he do after he sell his land, he say he don’t know, like Bob Ingersoll. Then he say he was let the future take care of its own self like a calf when it was get too old to suck. Guess so Tookpafka Micco was made up his mind to drink sofky and eat sour bread and be glad like a young cat with a ball a yarn before the fire place in the winter time.

Well, so we hear lots a talk about big progress in Creek nation and read about it in the newspaper before breakfast time. They was good news all time about long stride and development and things like that till you can’t make a crop and get out of the hole if you was try to hear all of it. Hotgun he say he think he was had to put beeswax in his ears like Few Leases (Ulysses) in olden time.

But look like you don’t hear nothing about fullblood Injins ‘way back behind the hills that was had they sofky patch and cabin on land that was done filed on by some half-breed or maybe so white man that was had a right. We don’t hear nothing about them kind a Injin at all. But we hear all time about some fellow that was find a coal mine with a post auger, or maybe so some other fellow that was strike oil that was shoot up like a squirrel gun soon as he touch it.

Must be the Big Man that was look out for Injin was look out for himself too much. Hotgun he say it was natural for the Big Man to do that way ’cause he was had the chance. Maybe so, Hotgun he say, that was the only law civilized man don’t want to break.

Credit: University of Oklahoma Libraries Western History Collections


Fus Fixico was the penname of Alexander Posey (1873-1908), a Wind Clan member of the Muskogee Creek Tribe. Posey was raised speaking only Muscogee, but when he was fourteen his father sent him to Bacone Indian University in Muskogee.

At Bacone, Posey learned English, studied writing and read John Burroughs and Henry David Thoreau. After college he became a member of the Creek National Council and founded the first Indian-published daily newspaper, the Eufaula Indian Journal.

As editor, Posey created a fictional persona, Fus Fixico  (“Heartless Bird”), whose letters to the Journal shared accounts of everyday life as related by the medicine man Hotgun and Creek elders Kono Harjo, Tookpafka Micco, and Wolf Warrior.

The Fus Fixico letters offered sharp commentary at a time when Creek lands were being broken up and tribal governments destroyed as the Indian Territory transitioned into the state of Oklahoma. Posey led a group of politicians from the Five Civilized Tribes in an attempt to create an indigenous-controlled State of Sequoyah, but their proposals were rebuffed.

Various US newspapers proposed syndicating the Fus Fixico letters nationwide, but Posey refused. He didn’t believe a non-Native audience would understand his humor.

April 23, 1949: Adlai Stevenson Vetoes “Cat Bill”

To the Honorable, the Members of the Senate of the Sixth-sixth General Assembly:

I herewith return, without my approval, Senate Bill No. 93, entitled, “An Act to Provide Protection to Insectivorous Birds by Restraining Cats.” This is the so-called “Cat Bill.” I veto and withhold my approval from this Bill for the following reasons:
adlai stevensonIt would impose fines on owners or keepers who permitted their cats to run at large off their premises. It would permit any person to capture or call upon the police to pick up and imprison, cats at large. It would permit the use of traps. The bill would have statewide application — on farms, in villages, and in metropolitan centers.

This legislation has been introduced in the past several sessions of the Legislature, and it has, over the years, been the source of much comment — not all of which has been in a serious vein. It may be that the General Assembly has now seen fit to refer it to one who can view it with a fresh outlook. Whatever the reasons for passage at this session, I cannot believe there is a widespread public demand for this law or that it could, as a practical matter, be enforced.

Furthermore, I cannot agree that it should be the declared public policy of Illinois that a cat visiting a neighbor’s yard or crossing the highway is a public nuisance. It is in the nature of cats to do a certain amount of unescorted roaming. Many live with their owners in apartments or other restricted premises, and I doubt if we want to make their every brief foray an opportunity for a small game hunt by zealous citizens — with traps or otherwise. I am afraid this Bill could only create discord, recrimination and enmity. Also consider the owner’s dilemma: To escort a cat abroad on a leash is against the nature of the cat, and to permit it to venture forth for exercise unattended into a night of new dangers is against the nature of the owner. Moreover, cats perform useful service, particularly in rural areas, in combating rodents — work they necessarily perform alone and without regard for property lines.

We are all interested in protecting certain varieties of birds. That cats destroy some birds, I well know, but I believe this legislation would further but little the worthy cause to with its proponents give such unselfish effort. The problem of cat versus bird is as old as time. If we attempt to resolve it by legislation why knows but what we may be called upon to take sides as well in the age old problems of dog versus cat, bird versus bird, or even bird versus worm. In my opinion, the State of Illinois and its local governing bodies already have enough to do without trying to control feline delinquency.

For these reasons, and not because I love birds the less or cats the more, I veto and withhold my approval from Senate Bill No. 93.

April 22, 1885: Arbor Day Established

“Arbor Day (which means simply Tree Day) is now observed in every State in our Union – and mainly in the schools. At various times from January to December, but chiefly in this month of April, you give a day or part of a day to special exercises and perhaps to actual tree planting, in recognition of the importance of trees to us as a nation, and of what they yield in adornment, comfort, and useful products to the communities in which you live.arbor

It is well that you should celebrate your Arbor Day thoughtfully, for within your lifetime the Nation’s need of trees will become serious. We of an older generation can get along with what we have, though with growing hardship; but in your full manhood and womanhood you will want what nature once so bountifully supplied and man so thoughtlessly destroyed; and because of that want you will reproach us, not for what we have used, but for what we have wasted.

For the nation as for the man or woman and the boy or girl, the road to success is the right use of what we have and the improvement of present opportunity. If you neglect to prepare yourselves now for the duties and responsibilities which will fall upon you later, if you do not learn the things which you will need to know when your school days are over, you will suffer the consequences. So any nation which in its youth lives only for the day, reaps without sowing, and consumes without husbanding must expect the penalty of the prodigal, whose labor could with difficulty find him the bare means of life.

A people without children would face a hopeless future; a country without trees is almost as hopeless; forests which are so used that they can not renew themselves will soon vanish, and with them all their benefits. A true forest is not merely a storehouse full of wood, but, as it were, a factory of wood, and at the same time a reservoir of water. When you help to preserve our forests or to plant new ones you are acting the part of good citizens. The value of forestry deserves, therefore, to be taught in the schools, which aim to make good citizens of you. If your Arbor Day exercises help you to realize what benefits each one of you receives from the forests, and how by your assistance these benefits may continue, they will serve a good end.”

– Theodore Roosevelt

April 21, 1838: Birth of John Muir

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.

muir bAwakening from the stupefying effects of the vice of over-industry and the deadly apathy of luxury, they are trying as best they can to mix and enrich their own little ongoings with those of Nature, and to get rid of rust and disease. Briskly venturing and roaming, some are washing off sins and cobweb cares of the devil’s spinning in all-day storms on mountains; sauntering in rosiny pinewoods or in gentian meadows, brushing through chaparral, bending down and parting sweet, flowery sprays; tracing rivers to their sources, getting in touch with the nerves of Mother Earth; jumping from rock to rock, feeling the life of them, learning the songs of them, panting in whole-souled exercise, and rejoicing in deep, long-drawn breaths of pure wildness.

This is fine and natural and full of promise. So also is the growing interest in the care and preservation of forests and wild places in general, and in the half wild parks and gardens of towns. Even the scenery habit in its most artificial forms, mixed with spectacles, silliness, and kodaks; its devotees arrayed more gorgeously than scarlet tanagers, frightening the wild game with red umbrellas,—even this is encouraging, and may well be regarded as a hopeful sign of the times.”

April 20, 1775: Lord Percy reports on the Retreat from Lexington and Concord

In obedience to your Excellency’s orders I marched yesterday morning at 9 o’clock with the 1st brigade and 2 field pieces, in order to cover the retreat of the grenadiers and light infantry in their return from their expedition to Concord. As all the houses were shut up, and there was not the appearance of a single inhabitant, I could get no intelligence concerning them till I had passed Menotomy, when I was informed that the rebels had attacked his Majesty’s troops who were retiring, overpowered by numbers, greatly exhausted and fatigued, and having expensed almost all their ammunition—and at about 2 o’clock I met them retiring rough the town of Lexington – I immediately ordered the 2 field pieces to fire at the rebels, and drew up the brigade on a height.

LexingtonThe shot from the cannon had the desired effect, and stopped the rebels for a little time, who immediately dispersed, and endeavoured to surround us being very numerous. As it began now to grow pretty late and we had 15 miles to retire, and only 36 rounds, I ordered the grenadiers and light infantry to move of first; and covered them with my brigade sending out very strong flanking parties which were absolutely very necessary, as there was not a stone wall, or house, though before in appearance evacuated, from whence the rebels did not fire upon us.

As soon as they saw us begin to retire, they pressed very much upon our rear guard, which for that reason, I relieved every now and then. In this manner we retired for 15 miles under incessant fire all round us, till we arrived at Charlestown, between 7 and 8 in the evening and having expended almost all our ammunition.

We had the misfortune of losing a good many men in the retreat, though nothing like the number which from many circumstances I have reason to believe were killed of the rebels. His Majesty’s troops during the whole of the affair behaved with their usual intrepidity and spirit nor were they a little exasperated at the cruelty and barbarity of the rebels, who scalped and cut off the ears of some of the wounded men who fell into their hands.

April 17, 1907: Ellis Island processes 11,747 immigrants

“My first impression of the new world will always remain etched in my memory, particularly that hazy … morning when I first saw Ellis Island. The steamer Florida, fourteen days out of Naples, filled to capacity with sixteen hundred natives of Italy, had weathered one of the worst storms in our captain’s memory; and glad we were, both children and grown-ups, to leave the open sea and come at last through the Narrows into the Bay.  . . Passengers all about us were crowded against the rail. Jabbered conversations, sharp cries, laugh and cheers—a steadily rising din filled the air. Mothers and fathers lifted up the babies so that they too could see, off to the left, the Statue of Liberty.”   -Edward Corsi

Ellis IslandOn an average day in 1907 5,000 immigrants passed the raised torch of “Liberty Enlightening the World” in New York Harbor and landed at Ellis Island, ready to begin new lives in a new world.

First class passengers underwent a cursory inspection aboard ship and were quickly processed through customs, but second and third class passengers landed at Ellis Island for a more thorough inspection. Many immigrants changed their names upon arrival, hopoing new “American” identities would help them quickly fit in to their new homeland.

The passengers would queue up in long lines in the Great Hall. There were twenty inspection lines and at least four special inquiry boards. Doctors would briefly scan each person for obvious physical ailments and mental deficiencies in a “six second physical.” Then legal inspectors cross-examined the immigrants, checking against the ship’s manifest that had been filled out upon embarkation, which contained the immigrant’s name and answers to twenty-nine questions.

Interpreters interviewed the arrivees in Arabic, Albanian, Armenian, Czech, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Dalmatian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Flemish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Hungarian, Montenegrin, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Rumanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, and Yiddish.

If the immigrant’s papers were in order and they were in reasonably good health, the inspection process would last about three to five hours. If not, or if they landed late in the day, they might spend the night; or if one was considered to be detrimental to American society, they could be sent back to their country on the vessel in which they arrived.

The surge of immigration crested on April 17, 1907 when the ships La Gascogne, United States, Nieuw Amsterdam, Carmaia, Republic, and Allianca arrived from Le Havre, Copenhagen, Rotterdam, Liverpool, Naples, St. Michaels, and Colon. During that month of April the Port of New York received 197 ships, and more than a quarter-million passengers from around the world.

In all, 1,004,756 new Americans passed through Ellis Island in the year of 1907.

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