Sunday, August 19, 2012

Babe Ruth

George Herman Ruth was possibly the greatest baseball player of all time; certainly he was the most famous.   He was the “Sultan of Swat,” the “Bambino,” or simply the “Babe.”

Babe Ruth made the home run a new force in baseball, and so changed the way the game was played.   Fans in enormous numbers came to see him hit.  In the 1920s, at the peak of his game, Babe Ruth was as well known as anyone in America.

Ruth began his major-league career with the Boston Red Sox in 1915 – as a pitcher.  He became one of the best in the league, pitching a remarkable 29 straight scoreless innings in World Series play.  But he was also so powerful a hitter that he played in the outfield between pitching starts.   In 1919, pitcher-outfielder Ruth hit 29 home runs, breaking the season record set in 1884.

In 1920, Ruth, now a full-time outfielder, became a New York Yankee and his career climbed to new heights.  

Home runs crashed off his bat at an astonishing pace – 54 in his first Yankee season.

In 1921, he hit 59 home runs.  Ruth used a heavy 52-ounce bat and took a long stride, his quick powerful swing with its slight uppercut sent home runs soaring over high fences.  In 1927, he hit 60 homers, still the record for a 154-game season.

Over his twenty year major league career, 1915 to 1935, Babe Ruth had a home run for every 11.78 times that he came to bat.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Susan B. Anthony

Until the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution became law in 1920, American women were not allowed to vote.   Susan B. Anthony’s 50-year fight for women’s suffrage, or the right to vote, made this amendment possible.

Susan B. Anthony grew up in a Quaker home.  Like her parents, she believed the men and women should be treated equally.  In 1851, she began working with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, another suffragette.  Their first success was the passage of a law in 1860 in New York that gave women the right to own property and to keep their children if they divorced.

Anthony also fought for the abolition or end, of slavery, and for the right of former slaves to vote.  After the Civil War, she was disappointed when former slaves were given that right, but women were not.  

As a result, she formed suffrage associations and lectured all over the world.  She saw women get the right to vote in other countries, but not in the U.S.  But she remained hopeful, and in a month before her death in 1906, she said, “failure is impossible.”   She was right.   Fourteen years after Anthony’s death, the 19th Amendment became law, amd people called it is the “Anthony Amendment”.

In 1979, the U.S. government minted $1 coins with Susan B. Anthony’s picture on them.  This made her the first woman to be pictured on an American coin in general circulation.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Millard Fillmore

Millard Fillmore is considered one of the least successful Presidents.  But his administration had two important accomplishments:  the Compromise of 1850 and the opening of Japan.

Born in a poor family, Fillmore became a lawyer in Buffalo, New York, and a congressman.  In 1848, he was elected Vice President, and the death of President Zachary Taylor in July, 1850, made him President.

At that time, Congress was debating the Compromise of 1850, a group of laws designed to calm the disputes over slavery.  Fillmore disliked slavery but wanted to preserve the Union.  So he supported the Compromise, which admitted California as a free state and ended slavery  in the District of Columbia and made it easier for southerners to recover runaway slaves.  The Compromise helped delay the Civil War for 10 years

With California now a state, the U.S. looked to the Pacific.   In 1852, Fillmore sent a fleet under Commodore Matthew C. Perry to Japan, which had been closed to foreigners for 200 years.

This show of force resulted in a treaty opening two Japanese ports to U.S. trade.   But when the treaty was signed in 1854.  Fillmore was no longer President.   Unpopular for his support of the Compromise of 1850, he was denied the 1852 presidential nomination.

IN 1856, Fillmore ran for President for the anti-immigrant Americans, or Know-Nothing Party.   Maryland was the only state he carried.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


“With malice toward none, with charity for all….let us strive….to bind up the nation’s wounds.”  Abraham Lincoln spoke these words on March 4, 1865, as he was sworn in for a second term as President.  The Civil War, which had set North against South since 1861, was coming to a close.  Americans were ready to answer Lincoln’s call and “do all which may achieve a just and lasting peace.”

Peace finally came in 1865. On April 9, Southern General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.   Although scattered fighting continued, Lee’s surrender signaled the end of the war.  But the nation’s joy was cut short five days later.  President Lincoln, attending a play in Washington, D.C., was shot and killed by John Wilkes Booth, an actor who was a diehard supporter of the South.

Thousands of people came out to view the train that carried Lincoln’s body to the his home state, Illinois, to be buried. 

“Now he belongs to the ages,” a cabinet member said.   Vice President Andrew Johnson was immediately sworn in as President, and by the end of May, the last of the Southern forces had surrendered. 

In December, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution became law.  It banned slavery – a goal Lincoln had embraced during the war.

Ironically, the last battle of the war was fought May 12-13, 1864, at Palmetto Ranch, Texas, and the Southern forces won.

The picture is taken from the funeral procession held in New York City as the funeral train made its way to Illinois.