In the video below, A man in Denver, CO bought an 1891 Victorian once owned by someone in the Smaldone crime family in the 1930′s. However, he didn’t realize it until he started renovating the old mobster’s home and began finding evidence of booby traps. He found old newspapers, photos and even a hidden chamber that probably held liquor and money. The house was even raided during Prohibition.
In the upcoming movie “Lincoln” by Steven Spielberg, Tommy Lee Jones plays a prominent role as Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, a leader of the Radical Republicans who wanted an immediate end to slavery in the United States. But who was Thaddeus Stevens? And what drove him?
Born in Danville, Vermont, on the 4th of April 1792. His father died during the war of 1812 when Thaddeus was 20. Two years later Thaddeus graduated from Dartmouth College, admitted to the bar and went on to practice law for 15 years in Gettysburg, PA. Later he became a leader of the Anti-Mason Party, formed out of fear of the Masons and their “conspiracies.” He served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as an Anti-Mason, and later as a Whig. He retired from public life in 1842 to pay off a mountain of debt, but by 1849 he was back as a Whig in Congress, and the leader of the Free Soilers, who strongly believed in the repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law in which slaves caught in the North were to be returned to the Southern United States.
While a lawyer, he frequently represented fugitive slaves, solidifying his beliefs of ending slavery in the United States.
In 1855 he helped form the new Republican party and became the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee on the 4th of July 1861 which he held until his death.
He gained most prominence during the Civil War, supplying the Lincoln administration whatever money they needed to fight the Confederacy. He didn’t see eye to eye with Lincoln on everything as he thought Lincoln was too conservative and too broad minded when it came to ending slavery and the handling of the Rebellion. He opposed peace negotiations that wouldn’t include ending slavery. And his push for emancipation of the slaves was finally realized with the pass the 13th Amendment. He was also part of the movement to have black regiments formed.
After the Civil War he was chairman of the Reconstruction Committee. An unfortunate thing for the South and the country as a whole. Stevens was extremely anti-Southern. Not a good man to be in charge during the healing from a war that tore the country apart. He was vindictive and vengeful. During a speech on December 18, 1865 he proclaimed that by seceding from the United States, the former states of the Confederacy had become a foreign land, and as such a conquered province. That its government “was in the hands of Congress, which could do with it as it wished.”
He also advocated the Freedmen’s Bureau bills and the Tenure of Office Act, and went so far as favoring the confiscation of the property of the Confederate States and the real estate of 70,000 rebels who own above 200 acres, to benefit freedmen and loyal whites and to pay back the land owners who Suffered from Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania. Interestingly Stevens’s own ironworks at Chambersburg had been destroyed during the invasion. He was later the chairman of the committee appointed to draft the articles of impeachment against Andrew Johnson. However he didn’t take part in the impeachment hearings due to ill health that led to his death on August 11, 1868.
Above all, Steven’s wanted social equality for African Americans, but in the end he helped bring intense racial hatred due to his heavy handed punishment of white Southerners. Forcing most of the white population to join the Democratic party, increasing difficulties in race relations. But even so, Stevens was just part of the cog of a faction of politicians who were more interested in vengeance than reconciliation.
Stevens was buried at his own request in what had previously been an all-black cemetery in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
John Adams, after two fierce political battles with Thomas Jefferson for the presidency, had learned a great deal of the ways of politics by 1814. In that year he wrote that “democracy would revert to aristocracy once some men commanded the votes of others.” Adams didn’t necessarily mean “aristocrat” in it’s usual definition. Instead he wrote that his aristocrat did not require “artificial titles, tinsel decorations of stars, garters, ribbons, golden eagles and golden fleeces.” Depending instead on “his face, figure, eloquence, grace, air, attitude, movements, wealth, birth, art, address, intrigue, drunkenness, debauchery, fraud, perjury, violence, treachery.”
Adams surely wanted the citizen to cast his (later her) vote on the best candidate, with zero outside influence. Of course, the founders were probably well aware that there wouldn’t be a perfect election system in which money wasn’t an influence. Even in those early times the candidates used party owned newspapers to bash their opponent and influence the people. That is how the Thomas Jefferson/Sally Hemmings rumor was started. But what would the founders think of the ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission? Would they have approved of the ruling that corporations are people, or that giving millions to Super PACS is free speech. Justice Scalia in his book A Matter of Interpretation argued that ”The meaning of the Constitution must be “rooted in the moral perceptions of the time.” Meaning that our current definition of a citizen of the United States goes beyond flesh and blood.
To see the influence of Citizens United, we only have to look at the last presidential election in which billions were spent by Super PACS. Some will say with the election of Obama it has been proven that money can’t always buy a vote. The super PAC ads for Romney weren’t able to bring him a win in the swing states. However this probably had more to do with Romney himself rather than the effect of the ads. And this won’t stop future campaigns from spending billions and billions of dollars on their candidates anyway. The candidates who are able to buy the most advertising through their Super PACS will still win most of the time. And this will only increase in the future. Was this the original intent of the founders? It’s doubtful, but according to the conservative members of our Supreme Court, times change.
Most of us think of Richmond, VA as the only Confederate Capitol of the Confederate States of America. However, that wouldn’t be true, in fact the first Confederate Capitol was in Montgomery, AL. Even though it was temporary, and more out of convenience than anything, it is historically important to the beginnings of our deadliest war.
Representatives from the six states that had seceded from the Union; South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana, arrived in Alabama’s capitol on February 4, 1861. There the government was formed and documents signed. On February 8, the 37 delegates adopted a “Constitution for the Provisional Government of the Confederate States of America.” The next day, Jefferson Davis of Mississippi was elected the first and only President of the new Confederation. On February 18, Davis’ inauguration, the Confederate flag flew for the first time over the Alabama Capitol.
The stay was short lived however, as the provisional Confederate Congress only met in Montgomery until May 22, 1821. Richmond was named the new Confederate Capitol on May 30, 1861. This was more for political reasons, as Confederate Vice President Stephens thought a move would encourage “other border states to follow Virginia into the Confederacy.” Virginia also had the largest Southern population of white military aged men. Virginia also had good infrastructure, resources and supplies required to sustain a war.
You can find information on the first Confederate White House here.
Beer, to say the least, is quite important to us here in USA. Having made bad times more tolerable, and good times even better. Beer making stretches way way way back, but the first brewers took their cues from their European roots, as well as the Native Americans.
A typical Native American recipe would include corn, birch sap and water. However European influence arrived in the new lands, and non-natives started brewing around 1587, with the first commercial brewery opening at the Dutch West India Company of Lower Manhattan in 1632. Although some would say it was actually Adrian Block and Hans Christiansen who opened a brewery in 1612, also in Manhattan.
By 1660 twenty-six breweries and taverns were making beer for profit in New Amsterdam. However beer wasn’t the most profitable product to produce and keep since bottling was expensive, and beer did not “travel well.” People found it easier to brew their own beer at home, even Thomas Jefferson brewed his own. There was some large scale success though. In 1797, James Vassar founded a brewery in Poughkeepsie, New York. By 1811 demand for his beer grew. And by the early 1840s the Vassar brewery produced nearly 15,000 barrels of ale and porter annually. An amount comparable in scale to Budweiser today. By 1860 it was turning out 30,000 barrels of beer a year. Making it one of America’s first large breweries.
Other large early American breweries include Best Brewing, built by Phillip Best in 1840s Milwaukee. It was the first brewery to use rail to transport it’s beer. Other early successes were also by German immigrants including Valentin Blatz Brewing Company, Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company, Pabst, and the Miller Brewing Company.
Eberhard Anheuser, purchased a struggling brewery in 1860. With luck his daughter married a brewery supplier, Adolphus Busch. After Eberhard’s death, he took over the brewery and and renamed it Anheuser-Busch. He too was one of the first to transport his beer by rail, actually innovating the rail cars to use refrigeration, which helped make bottled Budweiser extremely popular.
The oldest large scale brewing operation still chugging along is D.G. Yuengling & Son. They’ve been brewing beer at their Pottsville, Pennsylvania brewery since 1829. This makes them the oldest brewery still in existence. It’s founder, David Yuenglig, carved his aging cellars deep into the rocky hillside in Pottsville. And he was able to survive prohibition, by making near beer and dairy products. Other early American breweries included one located on Castle Point, Hoboken, NJ.
A great place to find history near you is LandmarkHunter.com. With a search bar, and historic landmarks by state list; they have painstakingly cataloged every recognized historic site in the United States of America. While planning a trip recently, I used the site to find a few landmarks to stop at on the way. What surprised me was the sheer number of landmarks is some states. For example, there are over 4,000 in five states, including Kentucky, Missouri. Ohio, and not surprisingly Massachusetts. The top state, with over 5,000 historic landmarks is New York.
And speaking of historic landmarks in New York. The Statue of Liberty, unveiled in 1886, is one of most visited historic landmarks. A gift to the United States from the French in remembrance of the friendship and support during the American Revolution.
Everyone knows the story of Daniel Boone due mainly to the myth fortifying television show and theme song. An American hero he may have been, however most of what we know about him is myth. Such as the famous coon skin hat. He never wore it. Opting instead for a fashionable beaver felt hat. Boone wasn’t at the Alamo either. He died in 1820, years before the battle at the Alamo was fought. He also admitted to his son that he wasn’t the great Indian killer people believed him. He stated that he only killed three native Americans; that he could remember at least.
However the facts about Daniel Boone are far more interesting. For one, Boone was the father of ten children. One of his children was born to his brother, while Daniel was gone on a two year hunting trip. His wife believed him dead. Not a huge surprise. Two years is awfully long to be gone without word.
His relationship with native Americans was interesting to say the least. He was captured and held by them many times. Once he was adopted by a Shawnee Chief, who gave him the name, Shel-tow-ee, meaning “Big Turtle.” But besides that, sort of, positive experience (he escaped 5 months later), he had quite a few conflicts with native Americans as well. He fought on the British side during the French Indian Wars, and two of his sons were killed by native Americans. One was tortured to death as a warning for settlers to leave Kentucky, which under Daniel’s protest, was heeded. And two of his daughters were kidnapped by an Indian war party. Boone was able to get the girls back and scare the war party off.
Daniel Boone died September 26, 1820.He and his wife Rebecca Boone were buried on Tuque Creek in Missouri. In 1845 they were reburied in the Frankfort Cemetery in Kentucky. In 1862 a large monument was erected. The disinterment wasn’t taken kindly in Missouri. Rumors swirled that Boone’s body wasn’t moved. Boone’s son, Nathan, who was present at the burial and at the disinterment, stated the body was his father’s.
Boone was a complex man living in a rapidly changing world. But he was also like many great early American legends, a common man trying to make good in trying times. He was a true American pioneer.