Articles From This Author
'Dewey Defeats Truman': The Election Upset Behind the Photo
Heading into Election Day on November 2, 1948, it seemed like Thomas Dewey had the U.S. presidency in the bag. Numerous polls and pundits predicted a win for the Michigan native, New York governor and prominent gang-busting attorney. But, as a now-famous photograph would show, ...read more
7 Surprising Facts about Royal Births
Five months after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, married at Windsor Castle, royal watchers around the world were thrilled with the announcement that the couple was expecting a child in the spring of 2019. On May 6, 2019, Meghan gave birth to a ...read more
Why Were American Soldiers in WWI Called Doughboys?
It’s unknown exactly how U.S. service members in World War I (1914-18) came to be dubbed doughboys—the term most typically was used to refer to troops deployed to Europe as part of the American Expeditionary Forces—but there are a variety of theories about the origins of the ...read more
The Worst Picnic in History Was Interrupted by a War
On July 21, 1861, Washingtonians trekked to the countryside near Manassas, Virginia, to watch Union and Confederate forces clash in the first major battle of the American Civil War. Known in the North as the First Battle of Bull Run and in the South as the Battle of First ...read more
Meet Jack Jouett, the Paul Revere of the South
Paul Revere gets all the glory but he wasn’t the only one to make a daring late-night ride to warn that the British were coming. In 1781, during the Revolutionary War (and six years after Revere’s ride), a 26-year-old Virginian, John “Jack” Jouett, made a dangerous, 40-mile dash ...read more
9 Famous Presidential Retreats
1. Hoover’s Fish Tale Shortly before his 1929 inauguration, Herbert Hoover bought 164 acres in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains to use as a retreat. A dedicated angler, the president picked the property, which he named Rapidan Camp, because it was a good spot for trout fishing ...read more
Are there countries the U.S. doesn’t have diplomatic relations with?
The history of American diplomacy stretches back to Ben Franklin, the country’s first diplomat, who helped the 13 colonies form official ties with France in 1778, during the Revolutionary War. Other nations that were among the earliest to make a formal diplomatic alliance with ...read more
Tuskegee Experiment: The Infamous Syphilis Study
The Tuskegee experiment began in 1932, at a time when there was no known treatment for syphilis, a contagious venereal disease. After being recruited by the promise of free medical care, 600 African American men in Macon County, Alabama were enrolled in the project, which aimed ...read more
Robert Hanssen: American Traitor
One of the most damaging double agents in modern American history, Robert Hanssen gave the Soviets, and later the Russians, thousands of pages of classified material that revealed such sensitive national security secrets as the identities of Soviets spying for the U.S., specifics ...read more
6 Famous Congressional Investigations
1. Delving into an Early Army Disaster On November 4, 1791, some 900 U.S. army troops under the command of Gen. Arthur St. Clair, a Revolutionary War veteran, were killed or wounded in a surprise attack by Native American warriors on the Ohio frontier. The following year, in ...read more
Who was the “king who never was”?
Prince Albert Victor, the grandson of Queen Victoria, became second in line to the British throne at the time of his birth in 1864. However, Eddy, as he was nicknamed, died at age 28, before his father and grandmother, and never became king. Since his death, there have been ...read more
9 Things You Should Know About the Vice Presidency
1. The job used to go to the person with the second-most votes. The drafters of the Constitution set up a system in which presidents were chosen by members of an Electoral College, and each elector got to vote for two people. The candidate with the most electoral votes (as long ...read more
Who was the first president to fly on Air Force One?
While it’s become synonymous with the blue and white jetliner stamped with the words “United States of America,” Air Force One is actually a call sign applied to any aircraft carrying the American president. The name was created following an incident in 1953, when President ...read more
How did Camp David gets its name?
Located some 60 miles north of Washington, D.C., in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountain Park, Camp David has served as a retreat for U.S. presidents since the early 1940s. Formally called Naval Support Facility Thurmont, the compound originally was referred to as Shangri-La by Franklin ...read more
6 Epic Family Feuds
1. Adolf and Rudolf Dassler After the Dassler brothers started a shoe company out of their mother’s home in the 1920s in Herzogenaurach, Germany, their business got a big boost when U.S. track-and-field gold medalist Jesse Owens sported the Dassler’s footwear at the 1936 Olympics ...read more
9 Presidential Pets
1. Franklin Roosevelt and Fala In 1940, FDR was given a Scottish terrier puppy he named Murray the Outlaw of Falahill, after one of his Scottish ancestors. Known as Fala, the pooch frequently traveled with the president, attended important meetings with him and slept by his bed ...read more
Has a U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ever Been Impeached?
Supreme Court justices serve for life, unless they resign or are impeached and removed from office. The reason for their lifetime tenure is ostensibly to enable them to make decisions free from any pressure by the executive or legislative branches of government. Since the Supreme ...read more
Why was Casey Jones an American folk hero?
Casey Jones was a locomotive engineer who became a folk hero after his death in a train crash in 1900 was commemorated in a number of songs. According to legend, Jones died with one hand on the train’s whistle and the other hand on its brake. Born John Luther Jones in Missouri in ...read more
7 Things You May Not Know About the Medicis
1. Legend says the dynasty descended from a giant-slaying knight. The family’s roots supposedly are linked to one of Charlemagne’s eighth-century knights, named Averardo. As the story goes, Averardo was riding through an area north of Florence known the Mugello when he ...read more
What happened to Hitler’s property?
As a young man, Hitler was a struggling artist who had little money and spent time living in hostels. He fought in World War I then became active in the recently formed Nazi Party. Following the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch in Munich, in which Hitler and his Nazi cohorts launched a ...read more
Who was the real Horatio Alger?
Referring to someone as a “Horatio Alger hero” means that person has overcome adversity and achieved success thanks to hard work and perseverance. The term is linked to the fictional stories of real-life, 19th-century author Horatio Alger Jr., who penned tales about street ...read more
The Disaster that Deluged Florence’s Cultural Treasures
Established around the first century B.C. as a Roman military colony, Florence became a cultural powerhouse between the 14th and 16th centuries, during the Renaissance period. The city was home to such luminaries as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Galileo, ...read more
What is Hadrian’s Wall?
Built on the orders of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and located in Great Britain, Hadrian’s Wall was a defensive fortification that marked the northwest frontier of the Roman Empire for three centuries. The wall measured 73 miles in length and stretched from coast to coast across ...read more
This is Why the Maya Abandoned Their Cities
The ancient Maya, whose early settlements date back to about 2,000 B.C., lived in present-day southern Mexico and northern Central America. As a civilization, they are recognized for their sophisticated calendar systems and hieroglyphic writing as well as their achievements in ...read more
Why is Oklahoma nicknamed the Sooner State?
In 1889, people poured into central Oklahoma to stake their claims to nearly 2 million acres opened for settlement by the U.S. government. Those who entered the region before the land run’s designated starting time, at noon on April 22, 1889, were dubbed “sooners.” The area to ...read more
At Least 3,000 Native Americans Died on the Trail of Tears
Davy Crockett objected to Indian removal. Frontiersman Davy Crockett, whose grandparents were killed by Creeks and Cherokees, was a scout for Andrew Jackson during the Creek War (1813-14). However, while serving as a U.S. congressman from Tennessee, Crockett broke with President ...read more
How Inuits Inspired The Modern Frozen Food Industry
From packages of waffles to bags of peas, the myriad items found in the frozen-food section of grocery stores today owe their existence, in part, to Clarence Birdseye, who in the 1920s developed a quick-freezing process that launched the modern frozen-food industry. Between 1912 ...read more
Which country has the world’s shortest written constitution?
The planet’s second-smallest nation by area (after Vatican City), has the world’s shortest constitution. Adopted in 1962 during the reign of Prince Rainier III, the governing document of Monaco currently clocks in at 3,814 words, according to the Comparative Constitutions Project ...read more
The World’s First Web Site
The son of computer scientists, Berners-Lee was born in London in 1955 (the same year as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates) and studied physics at Oxford. While employed at CERN in the 1980s, Berners-Lee observed how tough it was to keep track of the projects and computer systems of the ...read more
In 1916, German Terrorists Launched an Attack on American Soil
Two years after the start of World War I, the greater New York region was a major hub of the American munitions industry, with “75 percent of all ammunition and armaments shipped from the United States to Europe went out within a radius of five miles of City Hall in Lower ...read more
8 Things You May Not Know About Route 66
1. John Steinbeck gave it one of its most famous nicknames In his Pulitzer Prize-winning 1939 novel “The Grapes of Wrath,” about Dust Bowl migrants of the 1930s, Steinbeck devoted a chapter to Route 66, which he dubbed “the mother road,” a nickname that stuck. Like the ...read more
Who was the first elected female head of government?
The modern world’s first elected female head of government was Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who in 1960 became prime minister of Sri Lanka, the island nation in South Asia then known as Ceylon. Bandaranaike came to power a year after the assassination of her husband, who was prime ...read more
When was the first U.S. driver’s license issued?
In 1886, German inventor Karl Benz patented what is generally regarded as the first modern car. Less than two decades later, in 1903, Massachusetts and Missouri became the first states to require a driver’s license, although it wasn’t necessary to pass a test to obtain one. In ...read more
Did Caligula really make his horse a consul?
According to the ancient historian Suetonius, the Roman emperor known as Caligula loved one of his horses, Incitatus, so much that he gave the steed a marble stall, an ivory manger, a jeweled collar and even a house. Another chronicler, Cassius Dio, later wrote that servants fed ...read more
America 101: Are there term limits for U.S. vice presidents?
American presidents are limited to two, four-year terms in office (or a maximum of 10 years in a case of a president who ascended to the position as vice president), thanks to the 22nd Amendment, which was ratified in 1951. However, vice presidents, like members of the U.S. ...read more
The Life of Lou Gehrig
He was the son of German immigrants. Born Henry Louis Gehrig in New York City on June 19, 1903, the future sports icon was the son of German immigrants. His father and mother each arrived in America as young adults then met and married in New York City. Gehrig, the only one of ...read more
5 Lost and Found Historic Treasures
1. Stone of Scone On Christmas morning 1950 four college students from Scotland broke into London’s Westminster Abbey and snatched an ancient block of sandstone used for centuries in the coronation of Scottish monarchs until it was seized from Scotland’s Scone Abbey in 1296 by ...read more
Who Was the First President Born an American Citizen?
The nation’s eighth president was the first not born a British subject. Martin van Buren was a Democrat who served from 1837 to 1841. The seven men who held the country’s highest political office prior to him all were born before 1776, when the 13 American colonies declared their ...read more
How Did 'Taps' Originate?
The origins of “Taps,” the distinctive bugle melody played at U.S. military funerals and memorials and as a lights-out signal to soldiers at night, date back to the American Civil War. In July 1862, U.S. General Daniel Butterfield and his brigade were camped at Harrison’s ...read more
7 Historical Hoaxes
1. Drake’s Plate of Brass Once considered a major archaeological discovery, Drake’s Plate was an inscribed brass marker found in 1936 in Northern California, where it was thought to have been left in 1579 by explorer Francis Drake and the crew of the Golden Hind when they landed ...read more
Did Revolutionary War Heroine Molly Pitcher Exist?
A heroine of the Revolutionary War, Molly Pitcher was the nickname of a woman said to have carried water to American soldiers during the Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778, before taking over for her husband on the battlefield after he was no longer able to fight. While there’s ...read more
8 Things You Might Not Know about Mary I
1. She had lots of stepmothers. Born at Greenwich Palace on February 18, 1516 (seven years after the 1509 marriage of her parents, King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon,) Mary was their only child to survive past infancy. In the 1520s, Henry, unhappy his wife hadn’t produced a ...read more
Which U.S. vice president wrote a No. 1 pop song?
America’s 30th vice president has the distinction of being the only man who was both a heartbeat away from the presidency and the composer of a song that hit the top of the pop music charts. Charles Dawes, a descendant of Revolutionary War figure William Dawes (who, along with ...read more
Where did the phrase “mad as a hatter” come from?
Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” famously features an eccentric character called the Hatter, who’s referred to in the story as “mad” and became popularly known as the Mad Hatter. However, the phrase “mad as a hatter,” used to describe someone who’s ...read more
Where did the phrase “in the limelight” come from?
The origins of “in the limelight,” which refers to being the focus of public attention, are linked to a type of stage lighting that was popular in the 19th century. The “lime” in limelight has nothing to do with the green citrus fruit but rather with a chemical compound, calcium ...read more
Did an apple really fall on Isaac Newton’s head?
Legend has it that a young Isaac Newton was sitting under an apple tree when he was bonked on the head by a falling piece of fruit, a 17th-century “aha moment” that prompted him to suddenly come up with his law of gravity. In reality, things didn’t go down quite like that. ...read more
Why are American soldiers called GIs?
The origins of this popular nickname are somewhat murky. A popular theory links the term to the early 20th century, when “G.I.” was stamped on military trash cans and buckets. The two-letter abbreviation stood for the material from which these items were made: galvanized iron. ...read more
8 Things You May Not Know About Galileo
1. He was a college dropout. Galileo, whose father was a lute player and music theorist, was born in Pisa, Italy. Although his father was from a noble family, they weren’t wealthy. As a preteen, Galileo began studying at a monastery near Florence and considered becoming a monk; ...read more
What’s a 49er?
On January 24, 1848, gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill on the American River in Northern California. After James W. Marshall, who’d been overseeing the sawmill’s construction, found the gold nuggets he and his boss, John Sutter, attempted to keep the discovery a secret. ...read more
Who was the first U.S. president to travel abroad while in office?
Theodore Roosevelt was the first commander in chief to travel outside the U.S. on official business when he sailed to Panama in November 1906. Roosevelt made the trip in order to inspect the construction of the Panama Canal, a project he’d championed. In 1943, in the midst of ...read more