On This Day

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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.
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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.
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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
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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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On This Day

“Twas the Night Before..”

Today, in 1823, a newspaper published what some now call the most well-known poem ever written by an American.

But who REALLY wrote it?

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“We know not who we are indebted for the following description of that unwearied patron of children – that homely but delightful personification of parental kindness – Santa Claus…but, from whomever it may have come, we give thanks for it.”

Troy Sentinel, the weekly newspaper that published, "ACCOUNT OF A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS" on Dec. 23, 1823. At the time, the author remained a mystery, and in some ways, still is.
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Clement Moore

  • Born into a prominent New York family.
  • Reportedly penned the poem on Christmas Eve in 1822, while on the way home to see his 6 children.
  • Clue: Said to have a Dutch sleigh driver the night he composed the poem.
  • A professor & scholar, some suggest he was embarrassed by the playful poem, which is why he stayed anonymous.
  • Published poem under his own name in 1844 – 20 years after first published.
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Henry Livingston, Jr.

  • Prominent Dutch farmer in upstate New York, served in Revolutionary War.
  • His family (children), and others, say they heard him recite the poem YEARS before it was published.
  • Clue: Original reindeer names “Dunder & Blixem” translate to “Thunder” & “Lightening” in Dutch. Later edits changed to German “Donder & Blixen.”
  • Never took credit for the poem; Died 5 yrs after the poem was first published.
On This Day

Why It Matters

“Though legend has it that Santa Claus hails from the North Pole, he was actually a New Yorker…”

The poem’s author solidified the image of Santa and his reindeer for the newly formed United States (& beyond), and has continued to do so for the last *nearly* 200 years.

On This Day

How did the paper get the poem? Another mystery. The paper wrote on that day: "We hope our little patrons, both lads and lasses, will accept it as proof of our unfeigned good will toward them—as a token of our warmest wish that they may have many a merry Christmas."

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On This Day

More than fifty years before the U.S. Constitution was amended to guarantee women equal voting rights, Wyoming granted women the right to vote on this day in 1869.

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Women’s Suffrage In WY

  • Wyoming was still a territory in 1869 when a bill was signed into law granting women the right to vote, sit on juries, and hold public office.
  • Some lawmakers didn’t take the bill seriously; others saw it as way to increase population in the new territory.
  • When WY applied for statehood in 1889, the legislature said it would rather stay out of the Union for 100 years than join without voting rights for women.
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Why?

  • No one really knows why Wyoming took a stand on women suffrage.
  • Many historians credit Esther Hobart Morris. As a young widow and mother, she quickly realized the societal and legal constraints for women in America.
  • After she remarried and moved to the Wyoming territory, she reportedly advocated for women’s voting rights; she soon became the territory’s first female justice of the peace.
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Name To Know:
Louisa Swain

  • On September 6, 1870 in Laramie, WY, the nearly 70-year-old became the FIRST woman to legally vote in the U.S. since 1807, when New Jersey rescinded women’s voting rights.
  • Swain beat #2 (a 27-year-old) to the polls by 30 minutes.
  • In 2008, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution proclaiming September 6th as “Louisa Swain Day.”
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Big Picture

  • Fighting for a woman’s right to vote happened on *both* state & fed levels.
  • Before the 19th Amendment passed in 1920 granting women the right to vote in all (federal, state & local) elections, 15 states allowed women to vote in state elections and 12 had laws allowing women to vote for president.
  • Women in 21 states gained the right to vote as a result of the 19th Amendment.
On This Day

December 10 is "Wyoming Day" to honor the first of many achievements toward women's equality in the Equality State. Wyoming, which is also home to the U.S.’s first female governor, elected its first female U.S. senator last month -- Republican Cynthia Lummis.

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On This Day

65 Years Ago Today

A 42-year-old black woman in Montgomery, Alabama was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat for a white passenger.

She became known as the
“first lady of civil rights.”

On This Day

“… At that time, there was legally enforced segregation. There were places black people couldn’t go, and rights we did not have. This was not acceptable to me. A lot of other people didn’t disobey the rules because they didn’t want to get into trouble… I was determined that I let it be known that I did not want to be treated in this manner.”

Rosa Parks reflecting on her arrest. She also said, "I did not get on the bus to get arrested; I got on the bus to go home."
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What Happened:

  • City law mandated that only white riders could sit in the front 10 bus seats.
  • Rosa Parks sat in the first row behind the front 10 bus seats. When more white passengers boarded, the bus driver asked her (and three other black passengers seated in her row) to give up their seats for the white passengers.
  • She refused & was arrested for disobeying the bus driver’s orders.
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BACKSTORY

  • Parks, who worked as a seamstress, was involved in her local chapter of the Nat’l Assoc. for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) & served as the secretary for its president — who helped post her bail.
  • Parks said she asked the officer who arrested her, “Why do you push us around?” His reply: “I don’t know. But the law is the law and you are under arrest.”
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“To me it was a regular, routine arrest, therefore I didn’t think anything else about it until the next morning after I went to work.”

Former police officer Leroy Pierce was the first officer to arrive on scene, though he did not arrest Parks. In 2018 at age 91, Pierce described the scene as he recalled it to a Montgomery newspaper; there are varying accounts of what happened. Immediately after Parks' arrest, word spread of a nonviolent protest; the Montgomery Bus Boycott started days later on Dec. 5th.
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AFTERMATH

Rosa Parks wasn’t the first (or last) one to confront segregation laws, but her actions fueled a lasting movement.

  • 381-Day Montgomery Bus Boycott: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a 13-month peaceful protest following her arrest.
  • 1956 U.S. Supreme Court Decision: The court upheld a lower court’s decision deeming segregation on public buses unconstitutional.
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Rosa Parks' impact lasted long after the civil rights movement. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996, the highest civilian honor in the United States. She died in 2005 at age 92, and became the first (and only) woman to "lie in honor" in the U.S. Capitol.

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On This Day

November 19, 1863

Pres. Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address.

But the famous speech would not have happened without this one man whose name isn’t as well known.

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“It will be a source of great gratification to the many widows and orphans that have been made almost friendless by the Great Battle here, to have you here personally.”

Gettysburg Attorney David Wills, who wrote a letter to President Abraham Lincoln on November 2, 1863, inviting him to speak at the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery on November 19.
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David Wills

  • 32 years old when the Civil War battle raged between Union & Confederate soldiers.
  • Helped provide care for those injured, clear the battlefield of dead, communicate with families looking for missing relatives.
  • One of the main forces behind purchasing 17 acres for a cemetery to honor the fallen.
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The Battle of Gettysburg

  • Brutal battle: July 1-3, 1863
  • 100,000+ Americans fought; 1 in 5 killed, wounded or missing.
  • Union soldiers pushed back Confederates, the victory arguably a tipping point in the war.
  • It took nearly another 2 years of fighting until the South officially surrendered.
On This Day

David Wills' home is still standing in Gettysburg, PA. You can visit the room where Pres. Lincoln slept the night before he delivered the Gettysburg Address. Re-read the whole speech on our source page.

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On This Day

October 15, 1860

 

 

 

How a little girl’s “beauty advice” to Abraham Lincoln may have shaped the future (& face) of America.

On This Day

“If you let your whiskers grow, I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you. You would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.”

11-year-old Grace Bedell of Westfield, NY writing to then-candidate Abraham Lincoln during his presidential campaign. Shortly after, Lincoln started growing a beard and he had a full beard on the day of his inauguration several months later.
On This Day

“Some three months ago, I received a letter from a young lady here; it was a very pretty letter, and she advised me to let my whiskers grow, as it would improve my personal appearance; acting partly upon her suggestion, I have done so; and now, if she is here, I would like to see her.”

President-Elect Lincoln during a brief stop in Westfield, NY on the way to his inauguration celebration in 1861.
On This Day

Guided By Grace?

Grace wrote the letter in Oct 1860, just weeks before Election Day.

In his response to Grace, Lincoln asked whether he might be made fun of for suddenly growing a beard; he was!

The beard likely didn’t impact his victory, BUT it did affect his appearance as the 16th President and his legacy.

On This Day

Pres. Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have one thing going for both of them this Election Day — NO facial hair. Researchers say beards are perceived as a sign of masculinity and self-confidence, yet no sitting president has sported facial hair in over a century.

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On This Day

October 13, 1792

“May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”

The cornerstone of the White House was laid.

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Not A Natural White

“…a quality of toughness without brittle hardness.”

A description of the unusual sandstone used to the build the White House. The stone was not *naturally* white - but "light gray or tan, and is streaked or clouded with buff, yellow, or red colors that give it a warm tone," according to the U.S. geographical survey.
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Why “White” House?

  • The Contrast: Traditionally, buildings of the era were constructed in red brick.
  • The “White Wash”: The original sandstone weathered poorly so after the British burned parts of the White House in the War of 1812, repairs incl. white-washing & painting the exterior.
  • The Style: Irish-born architect modeled the White House from a famous, grand mansion in Ireland.
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“The Seat Of The Empire”

  • Pres. Washington chose the location of the “executive mansion”, strategically near rivers (& his home in Mt. Vernon).
  • Maryland & Virginia each gave a little land to create the District of Colombia.
  • D.C. straddles the North & South, “harnessing” wealthy southern states to help pay the federal gov’t’s war debt.
  • What’s inside:  28 fireplaces, 132 rooms, & 35 bathrooms. The President’s residence has 6 levels.

 

On This Day

Whoever "wins the White House" this year will follow a tradition of every U.S, president since Pres. John Adams, the first inhabitant, in 1800 - a full 8 years after construction began. Adams wrote the line on the front of our card stack in a letter to his wife Abigail a day after moving in.

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On This Day

September 17, 1787

U.S. Constitution Signed

Today honors America’s founding document – the world’s longest surviving written government charter.

 

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“It is at all times difficult to draw with precision the line between those rights which must be surrendered, and those which may be preserved;”

George Washington submitting the final draft of the Constitution to the Continental Congress, Sept. 17, 1787. He highlighted the challenge of bringing states together with different "habits, and particular interests" but credited "concessions", "mutual deference" and the spirit of friendship for the final product.
On This Day

Constitutional Convention

  • Who: 55 delegates attended the Convention, but only 39 signed.
  • When: Written during four-month Convention (May 25 – Sept 17, 1787).
  • Where: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • Why: Created “a new form of government” ~ divided power between the states with a federal government with executive, judicial, & legislative branches.
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WHAT IS CELEBRATED

  • 1940: Congress designated “I Am An American Day” as the 3rd Sunday in May to honor new citizens.
  • 1952: Congress moved date to Sept. 17th, naming it “Citizenship Day.”
  • 2004: Congress designated Sept. 17th *BOTH* “Constitution Day & Citizenship Day” to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution and “recognize all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens.”

 

On This Day

DID YOU KNOW?

  • The first ten amendments are known as the the Bill of Rights.
  • The Constitution has been amended 27 times, most recently in 1992, adding one of the original amendments that didn’t make the cut in 1791, regarding federal lawmaker pay.
  • Only one amendment was repealed. In 1933, the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment, and put an end to Prohibition.
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THE NEXT AMENDMENT? In 2019 Congress held the first hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment in 36 years. The amendment, passed by Congress in 1972 would have made gender equality a fundamental right, but ultimately, it was not added to the Constitution. See our source page for more.

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On This Day

September 11, 2001

Why We Never Forget

What to Always Remember

What To Know:
America’s War On Terror

 

On This Day

“Jules, this is Brian—listen, I’m on an airplane that’s been hijacked. If things don’t go well, and it’s not looking good, I just want you to know I absolutely love you, I want you to do good, go have good times, same to my parents and everybody, and I just totally love you, and I’ll see you when you get there. Bye, babe. I hope I call you.”

Brian Sweeney calling his wife Julie from United Flight 175
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1 Hour & 17 Minutes

8:46 a.m.: American Flight 11 crashes into WTC’s North Tower

9:03 a.m.: United Flight 175 crashes into WTC’s South Tower

9:37 a.m.: American Flight 77 crashes into Pentagon

10:03 a.m.: United Flight 93 crashes near Shanksville, PA

On This Day

THE VICTIMS

Nearly 3,000 people died on Sept. 11

  • 2,753 in New York (including 343 firefighters & 23 police)
  • 184 at the Pentagon
  • 40 aboard Flight 93

Approximately 500 police officers, firefighters, EMTs and paramedics have since died from 9/11 related illnesses in NYC alone.

On This Day

THE TERRORISTS

  • 15 of 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. Others from Egypt, UAE (2), Lebanon (1) and Egypt (1).
  • 9/11 mastermind & al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. in 2011.
  • Trial for five men accused of helping plot the attacks, incl. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, is set for January 2021. They were captured in Pakistan & are held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
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THE AFTERMATH

  • October 7, 2001: Pres. Bush announced attacks on al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan by the U.S. with allies
  • 2003: U.S. & allies invaded Iraq.
  • Since 9/11, more than 2.7M U.S. service members have fought in the “War on Terror.” More than 5,400 killed in action, nearly half in Afghanistan. Tens of thousands injured.
  • The post 9/11 wars estimated to have cost American taxpayers $6.7T.
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THE LATEST

  • February: US & Taliban signed an “agreement for bringing peace” that *could* lead to the full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
  • Sept. 10: Pres. Trump: “a lot of progress” in Afghanistan, referencing no U.S. deaths since early Feb. (4 U.S. soldiers killed in action *so far* this year). Pres. Trump spoke about lower troop levels in Afghanistan, and said the U.S. military is “pretty much out” of Iraq & Syria.
On This Day

“The start of these talks marks a historic opportunity for Afghanistan to bring an end to four decades of war and bloodshed… Immense sacrifice and investment by the United States, our partners, and the people of Afghanistan have made this moment of hope possible.”

Sec. of State Pompeo will travel to Qatar this wknd for peace talks btwn Taliban & Afghan gov't. Questions remain about road ahead & if peace is possible.
On This Day

Wreaths Across America is encouraging Americans to wave a flag for one minute at four significant times on the 19th anniversary of Sept. 11 following a tradition started by 3 American women in Maine. It's an incredible story ~ Learn more on our source page.

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On This Day

September 7, 1813



 

Congress officially recognized the namesake of “Uncle Sam.”

On This Day

Was Uncle Sam Real?

  • Although best known from the U.S. Army’s “I Want You” posters of World War I, the origins of Uncle Sam date back to the War of 1812.
  • New York meat packer Samuel Wilson fed hungry troops. His meat barrels of beef & pork were stamped with a “U.S.” but soldiers called it “Uncle Sam’s.”
  • Sep 7, 1961: Congress recognized Wilson as “the progenitor of America’s national symbol of Uncle Sam.”
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How You See Him:

  • Over the years, many artists shaped Uncle Sam’s look, which began as a “congenial, folksy, older man.”
  • Cartoonist Thomas Nast popularized him with white beard and stars & stripes suit.
  • Artist James Montgomery Flagg’s 1917 “I Want You For The U.S. Army” depiction showed him stern and muscular. The famous poster was used during both World War I and World War II.
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Thomas Nast

  • German-born American raised in New York City during mid-19th century.
  • Known as one of the first political cartoonists.
  • Popularized the donkey as the symbol for the Democratic Party and the elephant as the symbol for the Republican Party.
  • Also credited with creating the modern image of Santa Claus.
On This Day

Why does Uncle Sam remain popular? Here's one theory: "Uncle Sam is rolling up his sleeves. He's going to go pound on somebody." Does that fit your image of America? Read more on why Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty both compete for the leading role for American symbolism.

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