Today in 1932 Charles Lindbergh III, the 20-month-old son of Charles Lindbergh, was kidnapped from the family’s new mansion in Hopewell, New Jersey. Lindbergh and his wife Anne discovered a ransom note demanding $50,000 in their son’s empty room. The kidnapper used a ladder to climb up to the open second-floor window and left muddy footprints in the room.
The Lindberghs were inundated by offers of assistance and false clues. Even Al Capone offered his help from prison. For three days, investigators found nothing and there was no further word from the kidnappers. Then, a new letter showed up, this time demanding $70,000.
The kidnappers eventually gave instructions for dropping off the money and when it was delivered, the Lindberghs were told their baby was on a boat called Nelly off the coast of Massachusetts. After an exhaustive search, however, there was no sign of either the boat or the child. Soon after, the baby’s body was discovered near the Lindbergh mansion. He had been killed the night of the kidnapping and was found less than a mile from home. The Lindberghs donated the mansion to charity and moved away.
In September 1934 a marked bill from the ransom turned up. The gas station attendant who had accepted the bill wrote down the license plate number because he was suspicious of the driver. It was tracked to a German immigrant and carpenter, Bruno Hauptmann. When his home was searched, detectives found Lindbergh ransom money.
Hauptmann claimed that a friend had given him the money to hold and that he had no connection to the crime. The resulting trial was a national sensation. The prosecution’s case was not particularly strong; the main evidence, besides the money, was testimony from handwriting experts that the ransom note had been written by Hauptmann. The prosecution also tried to establish a connection between Hauptmann and the type of wood that was used to make the ladder.
Still, the evidence and intense public pressure were enough to convict Hauptmann and he was electrocuted in April 1936. (There are arguments today that assert Hauptmann was innocent.) In the aftermath of the crime kidnapping was made a federal offense.
Today in 1781, Maryland approved the Articles of Confederation, affirming the Articles as the outline of the official government of the United States.
The Articles were signed by Congress and sent to the individual states for ratification on November 15, 1777, after 16 months of debate. The nation was guided by the Articles of Confederation until the implementation of the current U.S. Constitution in 1789.
The critical distinction between the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution can be understood by comparing the following Preamble lines:
The Articles of Confederation begin:
“To all to whom these Present shall come, we the undersigned Delegates of the States”
By contrast, the Constitution says:
“We the People of the United States do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The predominance of the states under the Articles of Confederation is made even more explicit by the claims of Article II:
“Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.”
Less than five years after the ratification of the Articles of Confederation, enough leading Americans decided that the system was inadequate to the task of governance that they peacefully overthrew their second government in just over 20 years. The difference between a collection of sovereign states forming a confederation and a federal government created by a sovereign people lay at the heart of debate as the new American people decided what form their government would take.
Between 1776 and 1787, Americans went from living under a sovereign king, to living in sovereign states, to becoming a sovereign people. That transformation defined the American Revolution.
Founding Father John Jay wrote that the Revolution began over a decade before it was a military conflict. In his view, the Revolution is an on-going evolution– that continues today.
Today in 1864, President Abraham Lincoln nominated Ulysses S. Grant for the newly revived rank of lieutenant general (three stars). (General of the Army was originally four stars; the five-star rank did not exist.) At the time, George Washington was the only other man to have held that rank. Winfield Scott also attained the title but by brevet only; he did not actually command with it. The promotion carried Grant to the supreme command of Union forces and capped one of the most remarkable success stories of the war.
Lincoln replaced Henry Halleck as the commander of all Union armies when he elevated Grant to the rank of lieutenant general. Unlike Halleck, Grant did not serve from behind a desk; he took the field with the largest Federal force, the Army of the Potomac, as he moved against Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Virginia.
Today in 1961 President John F. Kennedy issued an executive order establishing the Peace Corps. It proved to be one of the most innovative and highly publicized Cold War programs set up by the United States.
During the course of his campaign for the presidency in 1960, Kennedy floated the idea that a new “army” should be created by the United States. This force would be made up of civilians who would volunteer their time and skills to travel to underdeveloped nations to assist them in any way they could.
Kennedy sent a message to Congress asking for its support and made clear the significance of underdeveloped nations to the United States. The people of these nations were “struggling for economic and social progress.”
“Our own freedom,” Kennedy continued, “and the future of freedom around the world, depend, in a very real sense, on their ability to build growing and independent nations where men can live in dignity, liberated from the bonds of hunger, ignorance, and poverty.”
Many in Congress, and the U.S. public, were skeptical about the program’s costs and the effectiveness of American aid to what were perceived to be “backward” nations, but Kennedy’s warning about the dangers in the underdeveloped world could not be ignored.
During the 1960s and 1970s, thousands of Americans—especially young people—flocked to serve in dozens of nations, particularly in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Peace Corps volunteers helped build sewer and water systems; constructed and taught in schools; assisted in developing new crops and agricultural methods to increase productivity; and participated in numerous other projects. Volunteers often faced privation and sometimes danger, and they were not always welcomed by foreign people suspicious of American motives. Overall, however, the program was judged a success in terms of helping to “win the hearts and minds” of people in the underdeveloped world.
Budget cuts later reduced the number of Peace Corps volunteers, but today more than 7,000 Peace Corps volunteers are serving in over 70 countries. Since 1961, more than 180,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps, serving in 134 nations
Today in 1692 Salem Village in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Sarah Goode, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba, an Indian slave from Barbados, were charged with the illegal practice of witchcraft. Later that day, Tituba, possibly under coercion, confessed to the crime, encouraging the authorities to seek out more Salem witches.
Trouble in the small Puritan community began the month before, when nine-year-old Elizabeth Parris and 11-year-old Abigail Williams, the daughter and niece, respectively, of the Reverend Samuel Parris, began experiencing fits and other mysterious maladies. A doctor concluded that the children were suffering from the effects of witchcraft, and the young girls corroborated the doctor’s diagnosis. With encouragement from a number of adults in the community, the girls, who were soon joined by other “afflicted” Salem residents, accused a widening circle of local residents of witchcraft, mostly middle-aged women but also several men and even one four-year-old child. During the next few months, the afflicted area residents incriminated more than 150 women and men from Salem Village and the surrounding areas of Satanic practices.
In October 1692, Governor William Phipps of Massachusetts ordered the Court of Oyer and Terminer dissolved and replaced with the Superior Court of Judicature, which forbade the type of sensational testimony allowed in the earlier trials. The Salem witch trials, which resulted in the executions of 19 innocent women and men, had effectively ended.
Today in 1954 at the U.S. Capitol, four members of an extremist Puerto Rican nationalist group fired more than 30 shots at the floor of the House of Representatives from a visitors’ gallery, injuring five U.S. representatives. All eventually recovered from their gunshot wounds and returned to their seats in Congress.
Three of the Puerto Rican terrorists were detained immediately after the shooting, and the fourth was captured later. The group was protesting the new constitution of Puerto Rico, which granted the U.S. Congress ultimate authority over the commonwealth’s affairs.
Today in1969, New York Yankees Mickey Mantle announced his retirement from baseball. Mantle was an idol to millions, known for his remarkable power and speed and his everyman personality. “The Mick” made his debut for the Yankees in 1951 at age 19, playing right field alongside aging center fielder Joe DiMaggio.
Mantle dominated the American League for more than a decade. In 1956, he won the Triple Crown, leading his league in batting average, home runs and runs batted in. His output was so great that he led both leagues in 1956, hitting .353 with 52 home runs and 130 runs batted in. He was also voted American League MVP that year, and again in 1957 and 1962. After years of brilliance, Mantle’s career began to decline by 1967, and he was forced to move to first base. The next season would be his last.
Mantle died August 13, 1995, at age 63. At the time of his death he held many of the records for World Series play, including most home runs (18), most RBIs (40) and most runs (42). Mantle was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974 in his first year of eligibility.
Today in 1971 a bomb exploded at the Capitol building, Washington, D.C., causing an estimated $300,000 in damage but hurting no one. A group calling itself the “Weather Underground” claimed credit for the bombing, which was done in protest of the ongoing U.S.-supported Laos invasion.
Among the other targets of Weathermen bombings were the Long Island Court House, the New York Police Department headquarters, the Pentagon, and the State Department. No one was killed in these bombings, because the bombers always called in an advanced warning. However, three members of the Weather Underground died on March 6, 1970, when the house in which they were constructing the bombs exploded.
Today in 1974 seven high-ranking officials of the Nixon White House were indicted for conspiring to obstruct the investigation into the Watergate break-in. Among those indicted; former chief of staff H.R. Haldeman, former top aide John Ehrlichman, and former attorney general John Mitchell.
Today in 1642 York, Maine became the first incorporated American city. First settled in 1624, York was originally a plantation called Agamenticus, the Abenaki term for the York River.
Today in 1776 French minister Charles Gravier advised his Spanish counterpart to support the American rebels against the English. King Charles III did render aid to Patriot Americans during the Revolutionary War, though silently and reluctantly. Spain and France were at contention with England but King Charles did not want to be associated with a precedent of overthrowing royalty.
Today in 1780 Pennsylvania became the first U.S. state to abolish slavery.
Today in 1803 Ohio became the 17th state to join the Union.
Today in 1875 Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, sometimes called Enforcement Act or Force Act, which was invalidated by the Supreme Court in 1883.
The Court declared the act unconstitutional in with Justice John Marshall Harlan providing the lone dissent. The Court held the Equal Protection Clause within the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits discrimination by the state, but it does not give the federal government the power to prohibit discrimination by private individuals. The Court also held that the Thirteenth Amendment was meant to eliminate “the badge of slavery,” but not to prohibit racial discrimination in public accommodations. The Civil Rights Act of 1875 was the last civil rights bill to be signed into law in the United States until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957.
Today in 1912 Captain Albert Berry completed the first in-flight parachute jump, from a Benoist plane over Kinlock Field in St. Louis, Missouri.
Berry jumped from 1,500 feet and landed successfully at Jefferson Barracks. The 36 foot diameter parachute was contained in a metal canister attached to the underside of the plane. When Berry dropped from the plane his weight pulled the parachute from the canister. Rather than being attached to the parachute by a harness Berry was seated on a trapeze bar. According to Berry he dropped 500 feet before the parachute opened.
Berry is one of two people credited as the first person to make a successful parachute jump from a powered airplane. Grant Morton is reported to have jumped from a Wright Model B flying over Venice Beach, California sometime late in 1911.
Today in 1985 the Pentagon accepted the theory that an atomic war would block the sun, causing a “nuclear winter.”
Nuclear winter is a term that describes the climatic effects of nuclear war. Based on new work published in 2007 and 2008 by some of the pioneers of nuclear winter research who worked on the original studies, we now can say several things about this topic.
A minor nuclear war (such as between India and Pakistan or in the Middle East), with each country using 50 Hiroshima-sized atom bombs as airbursts on urban areas, could produce climate change unprecedented in recorded human history. This is only 0.03% of the explosive power of the current global arsenal.
This same scenario would produce global ozone depletion, because the heating of the stratosphere would enhance the chemical reactions that destroy ozone.
The only way to eliminate the possibility of this climatic catastrophe is to eliminate the nuclear weapons. If they exist, they can be used.
The spread of nuclear weapons to new emerging states threatens not only the people of those countries, but the entire planet.
Happy birthday Alton Glenn Miller, big band musician, arranger, composer, and bandleader in the swing era, born today in 1904 at Carilinda, Iowa.
His music gained enormous popularity during the 1940′s through recordings such as Moonlight Serenade and String of Pearls. He was one of the best-selling recording artists from 1939 to 1943.
On December 15, 1944, his plane disappeared over the English Channel while en route to Paris where he was scheduled to perform. His remains were never recovered and is regarded as missing in action.
Glenn Miller was posthumously inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, which is a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least 25 years old and that have “qualitative or historical significance.”
In 2002, the Glenn Miller Museum opened to the public at the former RAF Twinwood Farm, in Clapham, Bedfordshire, England. Miller’s surname resides on the ‘Wall of Missing’ at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial. A monument stone was also placed in Grove Street Cemetery in New Haven, Connecticut next to the campus of Yale University.
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording. The last surviving member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Paul Tanner, died on February 5, 2013.