October 30, 1820: The Headless Horseman first rides through Sleepy Hollow

In the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan Zee, and where they always prudently shortened sail and implored the protection of St. Nicholas when they crossed, there lies a small market town or rural port, which by Headless_Horseman_Pursuing_Ichabod_Cranesome is called Greensburgh, but which is more generally and properly known by the name of Tarry Town. This name was given, we are told, in former days, by the good housewives of the adjacent country, from the inveterate propensity of their husbands to linger about the village tavern on market days. Be that as it may, I do not vouch for the fact, but merely advert to it, for the sake of being precise and authentic. Not far from this village, perhaps about two miles, there is a little valley or rather lap of land among high hills, which is one of the quietest places in the whole world. A small brook glides through it, with just murmur enough to lull one to repose; and the occasional whistle of a quail or tapping of a woodpecker is almost the only sound that ever breaks in upon the uniform tranquillity.

I recollect that, when a stripling, my first exploit in squirrel-shooting was in a grove of tall walnut-trees that shades one side of the valley. I had wandered into it at noontime, when all nature is peculiarly quiet, and was startled by the roar of my own gun, as it broke the Sabbath stillness around and was prolonged and reverberated by the angry echoes. If ever I should wish for a retreat whither I might steal from the world and its distractions, and dream quietly away the remnant of a troubled life, I know of none more promising than this little valley.

From the listless repose of the place, and the peculiar character of its inhabitants, who are descendants from the original Dutch settlers, this sequestered glen has long been known by the name of SLEEPY HOLLOW, and its rustic lads are called the Sleepy Hollow Boys throughout all the neighboring country. A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere. Some say that the place was bewitched by a High German doctor, during the early days of the settlement; others, that an old Indian chief, the prophet or wizard of his tribe, held his powwows there before the country was discovered by Master Hendrick Hudson. Certain it is, the place still continues under the sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie. They are given to all kinds of marvellous beliefs, are subject to trances and visions, and frequently see strange sights, and hear music and voices in the air. The whole neighborhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions; stars shoot and meteors glare oftener across the valley than in any other part of the country, and the nightmare, with her whole ninefold, seems to make it the favorite scene of her gambols.

The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, and seems to be commander-in-chief of all the powers of the air, is the apparition of a figure on horseback, without a head. It is said by some to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper, whose head had been carried away by a cannon-ball, in some nameless battle during the Revolutionary War, and who is ever and anon seen by the country folk hurrying along in the gloom of night, as if on the wings of the wind. His haunts are not confined to the valley, but extend at times to the adjacent roads, and especially to the vicinity of a church at no great distance. Indeed, certain of the most authentic historians of those parts, who have been careful in collecting and collating the floating facts concerning this spectre, allege that the body of the trooper having been buried in the churchyard, the ghost rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head, and that the rushing speed with which he sometimes passes along the Hollow, like a midnight blast, is owing to his being belated, and in a hurry to get back to the churchyard before daybreak.

October 29, 1727: Great Earthquake Strikes New England

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

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

The shake was very hard, and was attended with a terrible noise, something like thunder. The houses trembled as if they were falling; divers chimneys were cracked and some had their tops broken off. It was especially so in the south parish, where the hardest shake seemed to be on the hill, where the house of God stands. Three houses on that hill had their chimneys broken, one of which was the house of the Reverend Mr. Whipple.

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

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

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

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

October 28, 1886: Dedication of the Statue of Liberty

The idea of building a colossal statue of “Liberty Enlightening the World” in New York Harbor seemed a harebrained scheme. There was an avalanche of criticism – architects declared the statue would blow over in the first storm. Wealthy patrons were slow to accept the artistic merits of the statue; the New York Board of Education refused to allow school children to perform fundraising concerts; an appropriation in Congress failed; and Grover Cleveland, then statueoflibertymoran1886Governor of New York, vetoed a bill by the New York legislature to contribute $50,000.

But Senator William M. Evarts thought it was a grand idea. The former Secretary of State was the chair of the American arm of the Franco-American Union and was working tirelessly to raise American funds for the statue’s pedestal and erection on Bedloe’s Island. Eventually Evarts enlisted Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the World to successfully recruit enough school children across the country to raise pennies for the project, and financing for the pedestal was completed by the summer of 1885.

It took twenty years for the project to come to fruition, but on October 28, 1886, the Statue of Liberty was finally set to be unveiled. Senator Evarts, one of the most noted orators of the day, would make the keynote speech.

On the morning of the dedication, hundreds of thousands gathered from Madison Square to Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan. As the parade passed the Stock Exchange, traders threw ticker tape from the windows, beginning a New York tradition. A nautical parade proceeded to Bedloe’s Island for the dedication.

After the French representative spoke, Senator Evarts launched into his grand oration. At the end of a particularly eloquent passage, Evarts paused for effect and received a hearty round of applause. The sculptor Bartholdi had gone up into the statue and held the rope with which he was to pull away the French flag which enshrouded Liberty’s head, and unveil his masterpiece. A young boy gave him the “high sign”; thinking the applause marked the end of Evarts’ oration.

Bartholdi pulled the rope. The hundreds of steam craft in the harbor, discovering the giant face of Liberty, unanimously saluted her with their horns and whistles. Senator Evarts was about to continue when the U.S.S. Tennessee, flagship of the squadron, fired a broadside. The band then struck up “My Country, ’tis of Thee.”

Amid the din of the crowd, Senator Evarts inaudibly finished his address; only President Cleveland – who possessed a keen sense of humor – appeared to give the speech which no one could hear his most grave and concentrated attention.

October 27, 1964: Ronald Reagan joins the GOP

I have spent most of my life as a Democrat. I recently have seen fit to follow another course. I believe that the issues confronting us cross party lines. Now, one side in this campaign has been telling us that the issues of this election are the maintenance of peace and prosperity. The line has been used, “We’ve never had it so good.” Reagan w goldwater

But I have an uncomfortable feeling that this prosperity isn’t something on which we can base our hopes for the future. No nation in history has ever survived a tax burden that reached a third of its national income. Today, 37 cents out of every dollar earned in this country is the tax collector’s share, and yet our government continues to spend 17 million dollars a day more than the government takes in. We haven’t balanced our budget 28 out of the last 34 years. We’ve raised our debt limit three times in the last twelve months, and now our national debt is one and a half times bigger than all the combined debts of all the nations of the world…

As for the peace that we would preserve, I wonder who among us would like to approach the wife or mother whose husband or son has died in South Vietnam and ask them if they think this is a peace that should be maintained indefinitely. Do they mean peace, or do they mean we just want to be left in peace? There can be no real peace while one American is dying some place in the world for the rest of us. We’re at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars, and it’s been said if we lose that war, and in so doing lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening. Well I think it’s time we ask ourselves if we still know the freedoms that were intended for us by the Founding Fathers…

You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. Well I’d like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There’s only an up or down—[up] man’s old—old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. And regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.

In this vote-harvesting time, they use terms like the “Great Society,” or as we were told a few days ago by the President, we must accept a greater government activity in the affairs of the people. But they’ve been a little more explicit in the past and among themselves; and all of the things I now will quote have appeared in print… They have voices that say, “The cold war will end through our acceptance of a not undemocratic socialism.” Another voice says, “The profit motive has become outmoded. It must be replaced by the incentives of the welfare state.” Or, “Our traditional system of individual freedom is incapable of solving the complex problems of the 20th century.” Senator Fullbright has said at Stanford University that the Constitution is outmoded. He referred to the President as “our moral teacher and our leader,” and he says he is “hobbled in his task by the restrictions of power imposed on him by this antiquated document.” He must “be freed,” so that he “can do for us” what he knows “is best.” And Senator Clark of Pennsylvania, another articulate spokesman, defines liberalism as “meeting the material needs of the masses through the full power of centralized government.”

Well, I, for one, resent it when a representative of the people refers to you and me, the free men and women of this country, as “the masses.” This is a term we haven’t applied to ourselves in America. But beyond that, “the full power of centralized government”—this was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew that governments don’t control things. A government can’t control the economy without controlling people. And they know when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. They also knew, those Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.


October 26, 1900: Henry James writes to Edith Wharton

In October 1900 Lippincott’s Magazine published “The Line of Least Resistance,” a story set in Newport about an unfaithful wife and her wealthy but weak husband. Many of Wharton’s friends in Lenox, Massachusetts were appalled by the story’s scandalous resemblance to the affairs of the Vanderbilt family, but Henry James loved it:

Henry James & Edith WhartonAMESWHARTON-large570Dear Mrs. Wharton,

I brave your interdiction & thank you both for your letter & for the brilliant little tale in the Philadelphia repository [Lippincott’s]. The latter has an admirable sharpness & neatness, & infinite wit & point – it only suffers a little, I think, from one’s not having a direct glimpse of the husband’s provoking causes – literally provoking ones. . . The subject is really a big one for the canvas – that was really your difficulty. But the thing is done. And I applaud, I mean I value, I egg you on in, your study of the American life that surrounds you. Let yourself go in it & at it – it’s an untouched field, really: the folk who try, over there, don’t come within miles of any civilized, however superficially, any “evolved” life. And use to the full your ironic and satiric gifts; they form a most valuable (I hold) & beneficent engine. Only, the Lippincott tale is a little hard, a little purely derisive. But that’s because you’re so young, &, with it, so clever. Youth is hard–& your needle-point, later on, will muffle itself in a little blur of silk. It is a needle-point! Do send me what you write, when you can kindly find time, & do, some day, better still, come to see yours, dear Mrs. Wharton, most truly,

Henry James

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

My dear Fanny

I have by Mrs. Sims sent you a watch it is one of the cargo that I have so long mentioned to you, that was expected, I Martha Washington Family_ National Gallery of Art_hope is such a one as will please you – it is of the newest fashion, if that has any influence on your taste – The chain is of Mr. Lear’s choosing and such as Mrs. Adams the vice Presidents Lady and those in the polite circle wares. It will last as long as the fashion – and by that time you can get another of a fashionable kind –

I send to dear Maria a piece of Chino to make her a frock – the piece of muslin I hope is long enough for an apron for you, and in exchange for it, I beg you will give me the worked muslin apron you have like my gown that I made just before I left home of worked muslin as I wish to make a petticoat of the two aprons – for my gown –

Mrs. Sims will give you a better account of the fashions than I can – I live a very dull life hear and know nothing that passes in the town – I never go to the publick place – indeed I think I am more like a state prisoner than anything else, there is certain bounds set for me which I must not depart from – and as I can not do as I like I am obstinate and stay at home a great deal –

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


I am my dear Fanny yours
most affectionately

M Washington

October 22, 1965: “Lady Bird’s Bill” is signed into law

“Ugliness is so grim,” Lady Bird Johnson once said. “A little beauty, something that is lovely, I think, can help create harmony which will lessen tensions.”Lady Bird tree

The belief that beauty can improve the health of society, and the determination to make the United States a more beautiful country became Lady Bird Johnson’s legacy.

“Getting on the subject of beautification is like picking up a tangled skein of wool,” she wrote in her diary. “All the threads are interwoven — recreation and pollution and mental health, and the crime rate, and rapid transit, and highway beautification, and the war on poverty, and parks — national, state and local. It is hard to hitch the conversation into one straight line, because everything leads to something else.”

Lady Bird understood how deeply conservation and beautification was interwoven with President Johnson’s Great Society agenda. She believed that if she could help clean up the impoverished capital city of Washington, DC, it would become an example to other cities across the country.

In February 1965, Lady Bird invited possible donors and activists to the White House to “stimulate new interest in making our city truly beautiful for the people who live here and come here.”

Many she met with believed that money should be channeled towards improving places which tourists frequented; others insisted that the inner city needed resources for playgrounds and general infrastructure. Lady Bird supported both camps.

“My criteria for the project are that it receive the fullest use, that it can be maintained easily, and that the desire emanate from the neighborhood and its people.” She wanted to “make a showcase of beauty on the Mall, which would be used by the American people, instead of just looked at. Take the small triangles and squares with which Washington abounds, now quite barren except for a dispirited sprig of grass, and maybe a tottering bench, and put shrubs and flowers in them, through the volunteer help of neighborhood associations or business firms (it would take some cutting of red tape to do that); perhaps have a volunteer committee of landscape architects to draw up plans, so that we can have continuity and good taste and a wise choice of plants.”

Lady Bird and her husband had driven many times from their home in Texas to Washington, DC, and had been appalled by the junkyards and billboards along the way. Lady Bird wanted the highways clear of billboards and junkyards, and filled with green landscaping and wildflowers. In his State of the Union address in 1965, President Johnson supported this issue saying “a new and substantial effort must be made to landscape highways to provide places of relaxation and recreation wherever our roads run.”

The power of the billboard industry was a tough match for the White House and the battle to pass the Highway Beautification Act was fierce, but President Johnson told his cabinet and staff members “You know I love that woman and she wants that Highway Beautification Act – by God, we’re going to get it for her.”

At one in the morning on Oct. 8, 1965, the House of Representatives finally voted on “Lady Bird’s bill,” as Representative Bob Dole, one of the leaders of the opposition, patronizingly called it. The vote finally passed, 245 to 138, and a few exhausted representatives went to the White House to present the bill as a gift to the first lady.

On October 22, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Highway Beautification Act, saying “This bill will enrich our spirits and restore a small measure of our national greatness. Beauty belongs to all the people. And so long as I am President, what has been divinely given to nature will not be taken recklessly away by man.”

October 21, 1960: Eleanor Roosevelt reflects on Life in the White House

“As we watch the Presidential campaign unroll, I wonder how many have noticed one rather interesting change in the modern type of campaign. This was brought to my attention the other day when a young newspaper reporter said to me: ‘Do you really think that the decision as to a man’s fitness for the office of President should depend, in part at least, on what kind of a President’s wife his wife will be?’Eleanor Roosevelt & JFK

I looked at her in surprise for a moment, because it had not dawned on me what changes had come about since Mr. Eisenhower’s first campaign.

Apparently we have started on a new trend. I can’t remember in my husband’s campaign, nor in Mr. Truman’s, that such a question could be asked. Some of the children or I would accompany my husband on the various campaign trips, and if we were around at railroad stops he would introduce us to the crowd in a rather casual manner. He often said, “My little boy, Jimmy,” when Jimmy was as tall as he was!

My husband insisted always that a man stood on his own record. He did not bring his family in to be responsible in getting him votes or in taking the blame for his decisions. I think he sometimes found it amusing to let me do things just so as to find out what the reaction of the public would be. But nothing we did was ever calculated and thought out as part of the campaign in the way we feel that Mr. Nixon plans every appearance with his wife.

There must be times when the whole situation becomes practically unbearable, I would think, for the woman of the family. And I hope that we will return to the old and rather pleasanter way of looking upon White House families as people who have a right to their own lives.

The wives, of course, have certain official obligations, but they are certainly not responsible for their husband’s policies. And they do not have to feel that sense of obligation at every point to uphold the ideas of the man of the family.

With so many people around a President who say “yes” to everything he says, it is fun sometimes for the family around him to say “no” just for the sake of devilment—but that should be a private family relaxation.”

October 20, 1858: Abe Lincoln worries about Election Fraud

I now have a high degree of confidence that we shall succeed, if we are not over-run with fraudulent votes to a greater extent than usual. On alighting from the cars and walking three squares at Naples on Monday, I met about fifteen Celtic gentlemen, with black carpet-sacks in their hands.Lincoln early

I learned that they had crossed over from the Rail-road in Brown county, but where they were going no one could tell. They dropped in about the doggeries, and were still hanging about when I left. At Brown County yesterday I was told that about four hundred of the same sort were to be brought into Schuyler, before the election, to work on some new Railroad; but on reaching here I find Bagby thinks that is not so.

What I most dread is that they will introduce into the doubtful districts numbers of men who are legal voters in all respects except residence and who will swear to residence and thus put it beyond our power to exclude them. They can & I fear will swear falsely on that point, because they know it is next to impossible to convict them of Perjury upon it.

Now the great remaining part of the campaign, is finding a way to head this thing off. Can it be done at all?

I have a bare suggestion. When there is a known body of these voters, could not a true man, of the “detective” class, be introduced among them in disguise, who could, at the nick of time, control their votes? Think this over. It would be a great thing, when this trick is attempted upon us, to have the saddle come up on the other horse.

I have talked, more fully than I can write, to Mr. Scripps, and he will talk to you.

If we can head off the fraudulent votes we shall carry the day.

Yours as ever

October 19, 1781: The British Surrender at Yorktown

As the British band played “The World Turned Upside Down”, General Cornwallis retreated to his quarters, claiming he was not feeling well. His subordinate, General O’Hara, first tried to surrender to the Comte de Rochambeau, who directed the British officer to General Washington; Washington in turn directed him to his own subordinate General Lincoln.Yorktown

Dr. James Thacher witnessed the surrender:

“At about twelve o’clock, the combined army was arranged and drawn up in two lines extending more than a mile in length. The Americans were drawn up in a line on the right side of the road, and the French occupied the left. At the head of the former, the great American commander [George Washington], mounted on his noble courser, took his station, attended by his aides. At the head of the latter was posted the excellent Count Rochambeau and his suite. The French troops, in complete uniform, displayed a martial and noble appearance; their bands of music, of which the timbrel formed a part, is a delightful novelty, and produced while marching to the ground a most enchanting effect.

The Americans, though not all in uniform, nor their dress so neat, yet exhibited an erect, soldierly air, and every countenance beamed with satisfaction and joy. The concourse of spectators from the country was prodigious, in point of numbers was probably equal to the military, but universal silence and order prevailed.
It was about two o’clock when the captive army advanced through the line formed for their reception.

Every eye was prepared to gaze on Lord Cornwallis, the object of peculiar interest and solicitude; but he disappointed our anxious expectations; pretending indisposition, he made General O’Hara his substitute as the leader of his army. This officer was followed by the conquered troops in a slow and solemn step, with shouldered arms, colors cased and drums beating a British march.

Having arrived at the head of the line, General O’Hara, elegantly mounted, advanced to his excellency the commander-in-chief, taking off his hat, and apologized for the non-appearance of Earl Cornwallis. With his usual dignity and politeness, his excellency pointed to Major-General Lincoln for directions, by whom the British army was conducted into a spacious field, where it was intended they should ground their arms.

The royal troops, while marching through the line formed by the allied army, exhibited a decent and neat appearance, as respects arms and clothing, for their commander opened his store and directed every soldier to be furnished with a new suit complete, prior to the capitulation. But in their line of march we remarked a disorderly and unsoldierly conduct, their step was irregular, and their ranks frequently broken.

But it was in the field, when they came to the last act of the drama, that the spirit and pride of the British soldier was put to the severest test: here their mortification could not be concealed.

Some of the platoon officers appeared to be exceedingly chagrined when giving the word “ground arms,” and I am a witness that they performed this duty in a very unofficer-like manner; and that many of the soldiers manifested a sullen temper, throwing their arms on the pile with violence, as if determined to render them useless. This irregularity, however, was checked by the authority of General Lincoln.

After having grounded their arms and divested themselves of their accoutrements, the captive troops were conducted back to Yorktown and guarded by our troops till they could be removed to the place of their destination.”

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