Today in 1776 General George Washington ordered American artillery forces to begin bombarding Boston from their positions at Lechmere Point, northwest of the city center.
After two straight days of bombardment, American Brigadier General John Thomas slipped 2,000 troops, cannons and artillery into position just south of Boston at Dorchester Heights. The 56 cannon involved in the move were those taken at Ticonderoga, New York, by Lieutenant Colonel Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen with his Green Mountain Boys, which had then been transported to Boston by Colonel of Artillery Henry Knox the previous winter.
By March 5 the Continental Army had artillery troops in position around Boston, including the elevated position at Dorchester Heights, overlooking the city. British General William Howe realized Boston was indefensible to the American positions and decided, on March 7, 1776, to leave the city. Ten days later, on March 17, 1776, the eight-year British occupation of Boston ended when British troops evacuated the city and sailed to the safety of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Today in 1966, at Dearborn, Michigan, the Ford Motor Company celebrated the production of its 1 millionth Mustang, a white convertible. The sporty, affordable vehicle was officially launched two years earlier, on April 17, 1964, at the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York. That same day, the new car debuted in Ford showrooms across America; almost immediately, buyers snapped up nearly 22,000 of them. More than 400,000 Mustangs were sold within that first year, exceeding sales expectations.
The first models featured a long hood and short rear deck and a chassis based on the compact Ford Falcon. It was available in a hardtop, coupe or convertible and carried an average price tag of about $2,300. Within three years of its debut, approximately 500 Mustang fan clubs had cropped up. In 1999, in honor of the Mustang’s 35th anniversary, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating the original model. Over the decades, the Mustang has undergone numerous evolutions and remains in production today.
Today in 1929 The Jones Act was passed by Congress. Since 1920 when the Eighteenth Amendment went into effect, the United States had banned the production, importation and sale of alcoholic beverages. But the laws were ineffective at actually stopping the consumption of alcohol. The Jones Act strengthened the federal penalties for bootlegging. Of course, within five years the country ended up rejecting Prohibition and repealing the Eighteenth Amendment.
.Today in 1807 Congress passed an act to “prohibit the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States…from any foreign kingdom, place, or country.”
The first shipload of African captives to North America arrived at Jamestown, Virginia, in August 1619, but for most of the 17th century, European indentured servants were far more numerous in the North American British colonies than were African slaves. However, after 1680, the flow of indentured servants sharply declined, leading to an explosion in the African slave trade. By the middle of the 18th century, slavery could be found in all 13 colonies and was at the core of the Southern colonies’ agricultural economy. By the time of the American Revolution, the English importers alone had brought some three million captive Africans to the Americas.
After the war, as slave labor was not a crucial element of the Northern economy, most Northern states passed legislation to abolish slavery. However, in the South, the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 made cotton a major industry and sharply increased the need for slave labor. With a self-sustaining population of over four million slaves in the South, some Southern congressmen joined with the North in voting to abolish the African slave trade, an act that became effective January 1, 1808. The widespread trade of slaves within the South was not prohibited, however, and children of slaves automatically became slave themselves, thus ensuring a self-sustaining slave population in the South.
Great Britain also banned the African slave trade in 1807, but the trade of African slaves to Brazil and Cuba continued until the 1860s. By 1865, some 12 million Africans had been shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas, and more than one million of these individuals had died from mistreatment during the voyage. In addition, an unknown number of Africans died in slave wars and forced marches directly resulting from the Western Hemisphere’s demand for African slaves.
On this day in 1861, Texas becomes the seventh state to secede from the Union when a state convention votes 166 to 8 in favor of the measure.
Texas’ move completed the first round of secession. Seven states–South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas–left the Union before Lincoln took office. Four more states–Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas– waited until the formal start of the Civil War, with the April 1861 firing on Fort Sumter before deciding to leave the Union. The remaining slave states–Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri–never mustered the necessary majority for secession.
Today in 1972 Pioneer 10, was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a mission to Jupiter. In June 1983, the spacecraft left the solar system and the next day radioed back the first scientific data on interstellar space. NASA officially ended the Pioneer 10 project on March 31, 1997, with the spacecraft having traveled a distance of some six billion miles.
Headed in the direction of the Taurus constellation, Pioneer 10 will pass within three light years of another star–Ross 246–in the year 34,600 A.D. Bolted to the probe’s exterior wall is a gold-anodized plaque, 6 by 9 inches in area, that displays a drawing of a human man and woman, a star map marked with the location of the sun, and another map showing the flight path of Pioneer 10. The plaque, intended for intelligent life forms elsewhere in the galaxy, was designed by astronomer Carl Sagan.
Today in1962, Philadelphia Warriors center Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points against the New York Knicks. It was the first time that a professional basketball player had scored 100 points in a single contest; the previous record, 78, had been set by Chamberlain earlier in the season. During the game, Chamberlain sank 36 field goals and 28 foul shots, both league records.
Chamberlain retired from the NBA after the 1972-73 season. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978 and still holds a number of NBA records, including most points per game for a season (50.1), most rebounds per game for a season (27.2) and most rebounds in a career, with 23,924.
Chamberlain gained notoriety later in life by claiming in his autobiography, A View From Above (1991) that he had slept with 20,000 women in his lifetime. On October 12, 1999, he died of a heart attack at his home in Los Angeles. He was 63 years old.
Today in 1943 a Japanese convoy was attacked by 137 American bombers as the Battle of Bismarck Sea began. The convoy included eight destroyers and eight transports carrying 7,000 Japanese soldiers heading toward New Guinea. Four destroyers and all eight transports were sunk, resulting in 3,500 Japanese drowned, ending Japanese efforts to send reinforcements to New Guinea.
Today in 1955 Claudette Colvin was the first person arrested for resisting bus segregation in Montgomery, Alabama, preceding the better known Rosa Parks incident by nine months.
She was among the five women originally included in the federal court case, filed on February 1, 1956 as Browder v. Gayle and testified before the three-judge panel that heard the case in the United States District Court. On June 13, 1956, the judges determined that the state and local laws requiring bus segregation in Alabama were unconstitutional. The case went to the Supreme Court which upheld their ruling on December 17, 1956. Three days later, the Supreme Court issued an order to Montgomery and the state to end bus segregation in Alabama.
Montgomery’s black leaders did not publicize Colvin’s pioneering effort for long because she was a teenager and became pregnant while unmarried. Given the social norms of the time and her youth, the NAACP leaders worried about using her to represent their movement.
Today in 1797 The Directory of Great Britain authorizes vessels of war to board and seize neutral vessels, particularly if the ships are American.
Happy birthday Samuel Houston, statesman, politician, and soldier, born today in 1793 at Rockbridge County, Virginia.
As a teenager Houston ran away and joined the Cherokee Indians who accepted him as a member of their tribe. He later served as a Congressman and Governor of Tennessee. In 1832, he became commander of the Texan army in the War for Texan Independence. He then served as Senator and Governor of the new state of Texas but was removed in 1861 after refusing to swear allegiance to the Confederacy.
Sam Houston died on July 26, 1863 at Huntsville, Texas. He was age 70.
Happy birthday Theodor Seuss Geisel , writer, poet, and cartoonist, born today in 1904 at Springfield, Massachusetts.
Geisel is widely known for his children’s books written under the pen names Dr. Seuss (his most popular and familiar), Theo LeSieg (Geisel spelled backwards) and, in one case, Rosetta Stone. He published 46 children’s books, which were often characterized by imaginative characters and rhyme. His most celebrated books include the bestselling Green Eggs and Ham (1960), The Cat in the Hat (1957), and How the Grinch Stole Christmas!(1957).
Over the course of his long career, Geisel wrote over 60 books 60 books, though most were published under his well-known pseudonym Dr. Seuss. His books have topped many bestseller lists, sold over 600 million copies, and been translated into more than 20 languages.
His last book, written a year before his death, was Oh, the Places You’ll Go!(1990), a popular gift for graduating students.
Geisel died September 24, 1991, at his home in La Jolla, California. He was age 87. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered.
Geisel’s birthday, March 2, has been adopted as the annual date for National Read Across America Day, an initiative on reading created by the National Education Association.