On This Day

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On This Day

March 27, 1912

First Cherry Trees Planted In D.C.’s Potomac Park

How thousands of the iconic Japanese trees made their way to America’s capital.

Plus: The women who made it happen.

On This Day

Why Cherry Trees?

  • Eliza Scidmore: Well-known traveler, reporter, author, photographer, & the woman who first introduced the idea of planting flowering cherry trees in D.C.
  • 1885: After returning from a trip to Japan, she began advocating for cherry trees to be planted along the tidal wetlands near the White House & Potomac River.
  • She was repeatedly turned down for 24 years – until First Lady Helen Taft heard her idea.
On This Day

How It Happened

  • 1909: First Lady Taft introduced her plan to develop & improve Potomac Park.
  • Scidmore heard of the plans & reached out, explaining the cherry trees “would be a great showing … a rosy tunnel of interlaced branches.”
  • First Lady Taft immediately agreed. Two notable Japanese men working in D.C. – a celebrated chemist and the consul general – heard of her proposal & helped arrange a donation from Tokyo.
On This Day

The First Trees Planted

  • March 27, 1912: First Lady Taft and Iwa Chinda, the wife of the Japanese Ambassador, planted the first cherry trees along the Potomac River.
  • The ceremony served as a symbol of international friendship.
  • The two trees are still standing & located near the MLK Jr. Memorial.
  • Out of the approximately 4,000 cherry trees in D.C. parks today, fewer than 100 are original trees planted in 1912.
On This Day

“Since they had to plant something in that great stretch of raw, reclaimed ground by the river bank … they might as well plant the most beautiful thing in the world—the Japanese cherry tree.”

Eliza Scidmore in a 1928 interview reflecting on why she advocated for cherry blossoms to be planted around the Tidal Basin in D.C. The land, mostly barren then, is now home to monuments such as the Jefferson Memorial and the MLK Jr. Memorial.
On This Day

Japan's initial donation of 2,000 cherry trees came two years earlier (1910). However, the trees arrived infected with insects and diseases, and had to be burned to ensure native plants would not be harmed. In March 1912, around 3,000 more cherry trees were donated (free of infections) and were quickly planted around D.C. to usher in spring.

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On This Day

March 23, 1857

The birthdate of the woman who revolutionized the way we cook … and why her recipes are still being used to this day.

Before Julia Child … there was Fannie Merritt Farmer.

On This Day

Fannie Merritt Farmer

  • 1857: Born in Boston.
  • Suffered from paralysis (later thought to be polio) as a teen. Wanted to be a teacher, but was unable to work for yrs.
  • Enrolled in the Boston Cooking School in her early 30s; hired as the school’s asst. director after her 1889 graduation.
  • 1896: Published The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. It quickly became a bestseller due to its reliable results & use of precise measurements.
On This Day

“Correct measurements are absolutely necessary to ensure the best results. Good judgment, with experience, has taught some to measure by sight; but the majority need definite guides.”

Fannie Merritt Farmer, "The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book" (1896). Before her cookbook, recipes used general measurements such as "a handful" instead of "1 cup." Farmer, who admitted to not being the most skilled cook, believed precision was the key to success in the kitchen.
On This Day

Why She Matters:

  • Farmer wanted everyone, no matter their occupation, to understand the science of nutrition.
  • She has been “widely credited with inventing the modern recipe” (NYT) and is one of the few American women whose cooking influence has spread worldwide.
  • In 1902, she founded Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery. It operated & trained chefs for about 40 years.
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Farmer’s Legacy

  • Her cookbook is in its 13th edition & can still be found in stores today under its updated title, “The Fannie Farmer Cookbook”.
  • She is accredited with publishing one of the first chocolate brownie recipes.
  • Julia Child, another widely-known American cook, regularly referred to “The Fannie Farmer Cookbook” while growing up and followed it for recipes such as fudge & pancakes.
On This Day

21.5 million printed cookbooks were sold in 2020 as people opted for more meals at home amidst the pandemic - a 17% increase compared to 2019. But whom do we have to thank for the modern day recipe - whether in a cookbook or online? Fannie Farmer, the Boston cook who was born on this day in 1857. 

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On This Day

March 7, 1965

“Bloody Sunday”

A pivotal turning point in America’s civil rights movement.

On This Day

The Background

  • Congress passed the 15th Amendment in 1870 to guarantee that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
  • However, many states passed laws or employed practices that still limited access for some voters – i.e. poll taxes, literacy exams, fraud, and intimidation.
On This Day

“Bloody Sunday”

  • Approx. 600 nonviolent activists planned to march 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery, AL as a protest for African-American voting rights.
  • They made it only 6 blocks, crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge – where law enforcement ordered the march to stop & disperse.
  • Armed officers, many in gas masks, beat and tear-gassed protesters.
  • Photographers captured the violent scene, broadcast around the world.
On This Day

“Mr. Williams said, ‘Can I have a word?’ He said, ‘There will be no word.’ And about a minute or more Major Cloud ordered the Troopers to advance … they moved forward with their clubs up over their—near their shoulder, the top part of the body; they came rushing in, knocking us down and pushing us.”

Congressman John Lewis - a young civil rights leader at the time - led the march with Hosea Williams, a fellow activist.
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Aftermath

In the days that followed, 80 cities around the nation held demonstrations in support of the protestors.

Faith & civil rights leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., flew to Selma.

3 weeks later, under the protection of thousands of soldiers (& federal agents), 3000+ set out to march from Selma to Montgomery. Ultimately, 25,000 marchers arrived.

On This Day

“What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and State of America … And we shall overcome.”

Pres. Lyndon Johnson in the days following the march. Months later, he signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law, which many see as a direct legislative action in response to "Bloody Sunday." The law prohibits literacy tests and requires federal oversight over any other local laws that could lead to limiting voting rights.
On This Day

“There are more bridges to cross, but we will make it … ​I just believe deeply within it’s just a matter of time, that fate and history will come together. And we will get there.”

The late U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) in 2019 discussing "Bloody Sunday." Rep. Lewis, who died in July 2020 at the age of 80, was brutally beaten that day. He spent his career in public service advocating for racial equality; this is the first Sunday in 56 years he will not be present to mark the day in person.
On This Day

In 2013 the Edmund Pettus Bridge, named after a Confederate general, was designated as a U.S. National Historic Landmark to honor the events of Bloody Sunday. In recent years, there's been a movement to rename the bridge; these efforts gained further steam after Rep. John Lewis' death in 2020.

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On This Day

March 5, 1770

 

 

 

THE BOSTON MASSACRE

“On that night the formation of American independence was laid.”
Pres. John Adams

On This Day

Crispus Attucks

  • African-American sailor believed to have escaped slavery 20 years prior.
  • The first of five men to die as a result of the Boston Massacre; reportedly killed instantly when outnumbered British soldiers fired suddenly into a crowd of dozens of angry colonists (protesting British taxes, restrictions, overall rule).
  • Attucks was championed as the first martyr for the cause of American liberty.
On This Day

Why It Matters:

6 years before the Declaration of Independence, the Boston Massacre created greater momentum for colonists who desired freedom from Great Britain.

Those killed on March 5, 1770 were promoted by the “Sons of Liberty” as martyrs for the cause of freedom; Attucks’ name was the only one to become widely-known.

On This Day

Lawyer & future U.S. Pres. John Adams' defense of British soldiers led to their acquittal in an American court... an irony since the "Boston Massacre," by its name & story, unified colonists vs. the British & sowed the seeds of the American Revolution.

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On This Day

March 4, 1933

The 40-hour work week, minimum wage, child labor laws, and social security – all policies Frances Perkins helped create after becoming the first woman named to a presidential cabinet on this day in 1933.

On This Day

“The people are what matter to government, and a government should aim to give all the people under its jurisdiction the best possible life.”

Frances Perkins began her work in public service as a social worker. Her pursuit for workers' rights was shaped during a trip to NYC on the day of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, when nearly 150 workers died. She held many positions in the New York government under then-Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt and his predecessor.
On This Day

“I came to Washington to work for God, FDR, and the millions of forgotten, plain common workingmen.”

Sec. Perkins, who came to the White House to help President Roosevelt draft and implement labor and economic policies during the height of the Great Depression, became the FIRST female cabinet secretary and the LONGEST-serving labor secretary in history. As the head of the Dept. of Labor, she also oversaw the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
On This Day

Perkins’ Lasting Legacy

She played a key role in several parts of FDR’s New Deal – including the passing of the Fair Labor Standards Act (1938).

  • The act established a federal minimum wage ($0.25/hour with a gradual increase over the course of 7 years).
  • It also lowered the standard work week to 44 hours/week (which would decrease to 40 hours/week by 1940).
On This Day

What’s Happening Now:

  • 40-hour Work Week: The pandemic has impacted this routine for nearly all employees. Managerial workers report working around an hour more each day. As of last summer, hourly employees report working an average of 36% less hours per week.
  • Federal Min. Wage: The recent economic stimulus bill incl. a *new* federal min. wage of $15 per hour, but it was removed due to lack of support.
On This Day

The future of legislation for a new federal minimum wage remains TBD. Since we're speaking of work life, based on 2018 analytics, duties performed by stay-at-home moms equated to a yearly salary of $162,581 with an average of 98 hours of work per week. Like much of our employment data, we don't have recent updated numbers of the impact of the pandemic.

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On This Day

February 26, 1919

“…one great sight which every American should see.”

The nation welcomes a new national park, home to the
Grand Canyon.

On This Day

“The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison—beyond description; absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world.”

Pres. Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 after visiting the Grand Canyon. Years earlier, Sen. Harrison (who later became president) proposed legislation to protect the Grand Canyon, but repeated congressional action failed. One of the challenges? Few lawmakers had seen the site to understand its importance.
On This Day

John Wesley Powell

  • Civil War veteran & one of the first Grand Canyon explorers.
  • Lost his right arm in battle but ventured into completely unknown & uncharted territory exploring the West.
  • In 1869, 10 men set out on an exploration expedition; only 6 returned, incl. Powell – who spread the word of the wonder of the land & the Colorado River.
  • Well-known for his work as a map maker, scientist, & conservationist.
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How It Happened

  • 1882: The first bill to establish the Grand Canyon as a national park was introduced; it took five bills over several decades before Congress approved the measure.
  • 1908: Pres. Roosevelt made the Grand Canyon a national monument.
  • 1919: After congressional action, Pres. Wilson declared the Grand Canyon America’s 15th national park – three yrs after creating the National Park Service.
On This Day

Pres. Roosevelt underscored this point about Grand Canyon: "You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children's children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see." More than 5M people visit the national park every year.

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On This Day

February 23, 1945

Marines raise an American flag
on Iwo Jima.

The backstory of the photo that captured the iconic moment in WWII (and why it was actually the second flag to be raised that day).

On This Day

The Battle of Iwo Jima:

  • A critical battle in WWII on the island of Iwo Jima: Feb. 19 – March 26, 1945.
  • The photo was taken on Mount Suribachi; the volcano’s summit overlooks the entire island.
  • The Japanese used the summit to fire on U.S. forces, making it an important mission for the Marines to capture this specific position.
  • U.S. gained control of the summit & raised the flag to signal the victory.
On This Day

“The United States Marines by their individual and collective courage have conquered a base which is as necessary to us in our continuing forward movement toward final victory as it was vital to the enemy in staving off ultimate defeat… Among the Americans who served on Iwo Island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz
On This Day

“Everybody cheered and it was really something because the flag from the [USS] Missoula was the very first to be raised on Japanese territory… We were very proud.”

U.S. Navy vet Tom Price who sailed on the USS Missoula, one of many ships involved in the battle. A flag from the ship became the *first* raised on Iwo Jima. The Marine photographer who captured that image fell 50 feet dodging a grenade - he (and his film) survived.
On This Day

“… speaking for myself—and yet I am sure there are many others aboard who feel the same—the part we played in the invasion of Iwo Jima was pretty small compared to the willing and simple heroism with which the Marines did their bloody job.”

Naval communications officer Alan Wood in a letter reflecting on providing the now-iconic flag after the request reached the ship he served on for a larger Stars and Stripes.
On This Day

Interesting To Note:

  • Marines took the summit early on Feb. 23, but the Pulitzer prize-winning photograph was taken with a second flag later in the day by AP photographer Joe Rosenthal.
  • Why? The original flag was too small for everyone to see from below – so a second patrol climbed to the summit to raise the larger flag.
  • 27 Medals of Honor awarded – more than any other battle in U.S. history.
On This Day

The iconic flag was raised days into the battle for Iwo Jima, but the island wasn't secure for another month. Nearly 7,000 Americans died in the fighting, including 3 of the men who hoisted the flag. You can view the famous flag in the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Virginia. See rare footage of the flag raising on our source page.

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On This Day

February 6, 1952

Queen Elizabeth II Ascended To The British Throne

69 years ago, following the death of her father, Elizabeth became queen at age 25.

On This Day

Record-Breaking Queen

In 2007, at 81, she became the oldest British monarch, beating a record set by Queen Victoria (her paternal great-great-grandmother).

In 2015, at 88, she became the world’s oldest reigning monarch. Months later, she passed Queen Victoria again, and became Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.

On This Day

The Queen & Her Jewels

  • Among her many royal crowns & tiaras, one of the Queen’s most-worn pieces is the Vladimir Tiara. 
  • The tiara was originally crafted for a Russian Duchess, and smuggled out of Russia between 1917-1920.
  • Queen Mary, the Queen’s grandmother, bought the tiara in 1921 & added the ability to switch out the jewels; besides its diamonds, the Queen may also add emeralds or pearls.
On This Day

“Each day is a new beginning, I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God.”

Queen Elizabeth II during The Queen's Christmas Broadcast in 2002, reflecting on 50 years of her reign.
On This Day

Queen Elizabeth will turn 95 years old this spring. She and her husband, Prince Philip, the 99-year-old Duke of Edinburgh, both received COVID-19 vaccines last month.

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On This Day

January 30, 1815

During an 1814 attack on the U.S. Capitol, British troops burned the entire collection of books for the nation’s new Library of Congress.

Today in history marks the beginning of the incredible rebuild for what is now the world’s largest library.

On This Day

What Happened?

  • The War of 1812: Great Britain vs. U.S. – it lasted nearly 3 years (longer than U.S. involvement in WWI).
  • Caused by disputes over trade, clashes between the Royal Navy & U.S. sea merchants, AND the whole pesky U.S. fight for independence years earlier.
  • 1814 Burning of the Capitol & White House: In retaliation for the U.S. burning the capital of Upper Canada, British forces burned gov’t structures in D.C.
On This Day

Why It Matters

  • 1800: Pres. John Adams approved the Library of Congress.
  • Purpose: to serve Congress through providing necessary books to lawmakers (and the general public) by combining government, learning, and librarianship.” 
  • 1815: After the fire, the House voted to buy Thomas Jefferson’s personal library of 6,487 books for $23,950 – the largest collection of books in the U.S. at the time.
On This Day

“An interesting treasure is added to your city . . . unquestionably the choicest collection of books in the U.S. and I hope it will not be without some general effect on the literature of the country.”

President Thomas Jefferson after his collection of books was successfully moved into the Library of Congress in 1815.
On This Day

The Library of Congress

  • Oldest U.S. federal cultural institution.
  • 170+ million items – making it the largest library in the world.
  • Daily: the library receives 15,000 items (maps, books, music, posters etc.) and adds 10,000+ items to its vast collections.
  • The library has offices in 6 other countries to acquire & preserve important research materials.
  • 470+ languages are represented.
On This Day

The smallest book in the Library of Congress is about the size of a period at the end of this sentence; the largest book is 5' by 7'. The Library's rare books collection also holds treasures such as one of the earliest mass-produced books - a 15th-century Gutenburg Bible.

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On This Day

January 25, 1890

A journalist returns home after circumnavigating the globe with a special goal.

She met it, *with* one navy blue dress and *without* a chaperone – igniting headlines around the world and sidestepping a global pandemic.

On This Day

“The American Girl will no longer be misunderstood. She will be recognized as pushing, determined, independent, able to take care of herself alone and single-handed, wherever she may be.”

Mayor Cleveland of Jersey City, Jan. 25, 1890, as Nellie Bly arrived at her final stop after attempting her goal to travel the world in less than 80 days; she did it in 72.
On This Day

Who Is Nellie Bly?

  • Born Elizabeth Cochran.
  • Trail-blazing female journalist.
  • Made a name for herself as a fearless reporter covering the forgotten: the poor & mentally ill.
  • Big Break: She pretended to be insane so she could be committed to a notorious asylum – Blackwell’s Island. She spent 10 days inside the institution & exposed abusive conditions.
On This Day

January 25, 1890

  • On assignment, Nellie reported on whether or not one could indeed travel “Around The World in 80 Days” (a famous fiction book).
  • She traveled alone wearing one navy dress, carrying a small bag, & using every form of transport available: ship, train, rickshaw, horse, etc.
  • Her circumnavigation of the globe started Nov. 14 and ended January 25 – in 72 days, 6 hours.
On This Day

“The influenza is coming around the world in a good deal faster time than Nellie Bly…”

A Nevada newspaper reflecting on Bly's trip during an unexpected pandemic of 1889. The pandemic, caused by the "Russian" or "Asiatic" flu, impacted travel for many and caused symptoms including fever, cough, headache, and fatigue; more serious cases resulted in pneumonia or heart failure.
On This Day

Nellie completed this adventure shortly before her 26th birthday. Click on our source page for a complete list of what she brought with her on her journey.

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On This Day

Jan. 23, 1849

Graduation day for the first woman to earn a medical degree in the U.S.

“I do not wish to give [women] a first place, still less a second one – but the most complete freedom, to take their true place whatever it may be.”

Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell
On This Day

Elizabeth Blackwell

  • Born February 3, 1821 in England.
  • Decided to study medicine after a sick friend believed she could have been treated better by a female doctor.
  • Admitted to Geneva Medical College in New York only because her application was believed to be a joke from the college’s rival school; she graduated at the top of her class.
On This Day

Notable Accomplishments

  • 1851: Returned to the U.S. after continuing her medical training in Europe. Unable to find a hospital willing to hire a woman doctor, she opened her own small clinic instead.
  • 1857: Opened the New York Infirmary for Women & Children with her sister (also a doctor) to provide jobs for women physicians & medical care to the poor.
  • 1867: Opened a medical college for women in NYC.
On This Day

While men continue to outnumber women nearly 2:1 in the U.S. medical field, in 2019 more women than men enrolled in medical school for the very first time on record. The new Dir. of the CDC is Dr. Rochelle Walensky - the third woman to hold the post.

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On This Day

CHRISTMAS MIRACLE

General Washington’s choice to cross the Delaware River, Christmas Night 1776, arguably changed the course of America history forever.

On This Day

These are the times that try men’ souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict the more glorious the triumph.”

Thomas Paine's "The American Crisis" reportedly read to soldiers Xmas night.
On This Day

What Happened:

  • July 4, 1776 – Declaration of Independence signed. British have many high profile victories.
  • By Winter 1776, Gen. Washington’s Continental Army is in retreat & running out of men & money: high casualties, attrition & low morale.
  • Gen. Washington takes a gamble, and hatches a difficult plan to surprise British forces the day after Christmas.
On This Day

Dec. 25-26 1776

  • On Christmas night, the Continental Army took 10 hours to cross the Delaware River in a freezing cold snowstorm.
  • Once across, many didn’t have proper shoes to march hours to Trenton for the battle leaving bloody footprints in the snow.
  • Gen. Washington surprised the British side day after Christmas, winning Battle of Trenton quickly.
On This Day

Why It Matters

“It’s really almost a miracle event, viewed by the population at the time. It looked as if the war was over…This victory is a huge morale confidence building victory that’s going to allow the war to continue.”

Historian Clay Craighead. Washington's victory changed the early course of the American Revolution & arguably, America's fate.
On This Day

Even the British felt a shift after this battle. Some, like Historian Clay Craighead, point to it as a real turning point in momentum. Listen to Clay tell the story from the grounds of Washington Crossing State Park - It was a perilous night that changed America forever.

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