Saturday, May 31, 2008

Johnstown Flood

This picture shows the devastating scene of the flood at Johnstown, Pennsylvania. It was on this day, May 31, in the year 1889 that the South Fork Dam failed, and unleashed some 20 million tons of water. The water devastated the community of Johnstown, which was about 14 miles downstream. The flood killed 2,200 people. Disaster relief was coordinated by Clara Barton, and her newly formed organization . . . the American Red Cross.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Pedal Skates

This picture was taken in 1910, and shows a man wearing some sort of pedal skates. I am not sure how they work, but it looks like that by raising and lowering your feet would cause the wheels to move.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


This picture shows a survivor of the Empress of Ireland shipwreck. It was on this day, May 29, in the year 1914 that the Empress of Ireland sank near Quebec. There were 1012 people killed in the accident, making it the worst maritime disaster in Canadian history.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bedouin Girl

This picture was taken in 1934 in the Middle East. The photograph shows a Bedouin Girl dancing in the desert.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Surveying Crew

This photograph shows a group of Surveyors for the Deadwood Railroad. The picture was taken in 1888 in the Dakota Territory.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Repairing Track

During the Civil War, a favorite way of disrupting an enemies' supply line was to tear up his railroad tracks. After removing the rails from the track, the rails were often twisted, in an attempt to make them unusable in the future. The picture above was taken in about 1862, and it shows a large pile of these twisted rails. It also shows an ingenious device that was developed to straighten the rails. The device is a combination of a large jack and blocks, which was used to remove the bends from the rails.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Horse Drawn Fire Engine

This picture was taken in the early 1900's in New York. It shows a horse drawn fire engine, and a group of New York's finest fire fighters. It is hard to imagine how difficult it must have been to fight fires with old units like this. Given the amount of wood in many structures at this time, you wonder how they ever got big fires put out.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Brooklyn Bridge

Today we feature an early photograph of the Brooklyn Bridge, in New York. The bridge was opened on this day, May 24, in the year 1883. It took 14 years to construct the bridge.

Friday, May 23, 2008

William Carney

Today we feature a portrait of William Carney. William was born a slave. He managed to escape from slavery during the Civil War. He joined the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, and obtained the rank of Sergeant. He participated in the historic Assault on Fort Wagner, which was one of the first major battles in which Union Forces used Black Troops in the Civil War. The 54th Massachusetts Volunteers, and their assault on Fort Wagner was the subject of the movie "Glory". This move came out some time ago, but is truly an inspirational film.
On this day, May 23rd, in the year 1900, William Carney became the first Black man to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was honored for his heroism at the Assault on Fort Wagner.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Slave Traders

This photograph was taken in 1865. The picture shows a business engaged in the Slave Trade. The sign on the building reads, "Price, Birch, and Co. Dealers in Slaves." The building appears to be occupied by Union troops. It is hard to imagine that such business establishments existed in this country.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Telegraph Pole

This photograph was made in about 1862. It shows a worker repairing a telegraph line. The telegraph was a critical communication tool in the Civil War. Notice the worker is wearing spiked boots, allowing him to climb the pole.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Crowd at Taft Speech

This picture was taken in 1908. It shows a group of people listening to a campaign speech by William Taft. Taft went on to win the election and served as president from 1909 to 1913.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


This is a photograph of a Shepherd in Palestine. The picture was taken in the early 1900's. The man has augmented the traditional dress and gear of a shepherd with a rifle.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Cotton Workers

This photograph shows a group of young girls that work in a cotton mill. The picture was taken in about 1909 in Georgia. Work in a cotton mill would have amounted to little more than a sweatshop at this time. It is amazing how several of these girls manage a smile for the camera.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

John D. Rockefeller

This is a picture of John D. Rockefeller, taken in 1910. JD is the man on the right, and the younger man by his side is his son. Rockefeller founded Standard Oil, and at the time this picture was taken, he was probably the richest man in the world. It was on this day in 1911 that the Supreme Court decided Standard Oil was a monopoly and ordered that it be broken up.

I am probably the only person that thinks this way, but I don't think it is the oil companies' fault that gas is so high these days. I think it is our own fault gas it too high. I think to get cheaper prices we have to do three things:

1) Use Less - Which we are not. We are still driving SUVs, we don't carpool, we don't use mass transportation, and we don't reduce non-essential travel.

2) Find More- Which we are not, (Anwar, etc.)

3) Develop Alternatives- Which we are not doing. No one wants wind turbines off the coast in their area. No one wants new nuclear plants.

So, I am afraid that high prices are here to stay, and I don't think we have the stomach to do what needs to be done to fix the problem.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hydraulic Mining

This photo shows Hydraulic Mining. the picture was taken in 1889 in the Dakota Territory. It is amazing what people did to find gold.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Robert Smalls Decides to Go for It

I am always inspired by stories of the underdog or the oppressed rising above their circumstances. That is why Robert Smalls is one of my favorite historical figures. It was on this day, May 13, in the year 1862, that Robert Smalls decided to go for it.

You see, Robert Smalls was born in 1839 in Beaufort, South Carolina. Being born black in Beaufort in 1839 meant being born a slave. Robert grew up a slave. As a young man, he was assigned to dock work in Charleston, South Carolina. He eventually was told to work on a Confederate Transport Ship, the "Planter". The "Planter" was a high-pressure, side-wheel steamer, one hundred and forty feet in length, and about fifty feet beam, and drew about five feet of water. She was built to be a Cotton transport boat, but with the outbreak of the unpleasantness of 1861, she was commissioned by the Rebel Navy as a gunboat. Robert was given the job of being the helmsman of this Confederate Vessel.

Robert hatched a plan that was so daring it was almost unthinkable . . . he would commandeer the Planter, and use it to steam himself, the crew, and all their families to safety in the North. He shared his plans with the slave crew, and the crew agreed to go along. Robert planned the escape, but waited patiently for the perfect opportunity to execute it.

It was the evening of May 12 that the white confederate officers decided to go onshore to spend the night, as they were planning to take the planter on an expedition the next day. Robert saw this as his chance. He loaded his family, and the family of the slave crew on board the Planter. At about 3:00 AM on the morning of May 13, Robert fired up the boiler, and built a strong head of steam, and pulled the ship out of the docks. The tide was against them that morning, and they did not reach Fort Sumter until daylight. Robert now faced his greatest danger . . . the guns of Fort Sumter, which was under Confederate control. Smalls knew the secret signal, and as he passed the boat directly under the walls of Sumter, he gave the usual signal of two long pulls and a jerk at the whistle-cord, and they safely passed the Sumter Guards. Once out of range of the rebel guns he faced the new danger of steaming a Confederate warship directly at the Union Fleet. He had planned for this danger as well, and he hoisted the white flag of surrender, while steaming directly for the Union steamer Augusta. Captain Parrott, of the latter vessel saw the flag, and held his fire. He then heard their incredible story, and forwarded them on to Commodore Dupont. The crew and their families were warmly cared for by DuPont, who proposed that the US Congress make an appropriation of $20,000 as a reward to the Slaves who had so distinguished themselves by this gallant service.

In December 1863 Smalls became the first black captain of a vessel in the service of the United States Navy. On April 7, 1863 Smalls piloted the ironclad Keokuk in a Union attack on Fort Sumter, the very fort around which he had escaped.

Smalls was elected to the United States Congress as a Republican in 1875. He served in the 44th, 45th, 47th, 48th, and 49th U.S. Congresses.

So today, we tip our hats to Robert Smalls, and his daring escape, and his choice to not let his circumstances keep him from accomplishing great things.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

General JEB Stuart

This is a portrait of Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart. Stuart was a masterful cavalry commander, and served as the eyes and ears of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. It was on this day, May 11, in the year 1864 that Stuart was mortally wounded in a skirmish on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Dakota Territory

This picture was taken in 1889, and shows the Hotel Minnekahta in Hot Springs, Dakota Territory. You can see an old stage coach out to the side of the hotel.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Cotton Pickers

This photograph was taken in 1938, and it shows Cotton Pickers climbing into a truck, which will take them to the fields for work. I always liked this picture, as it shows the two men helping the older woman up onto the truck. Cotton picking was back-breaking work, long hours, and very low pay.

The photograph was taken by Russell Lee for the Farm Security Administration.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Mary Todd Lincoln

Today we feature a portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln. Mary Todd really had a tragic life. Her mother died when she was a child, and she had problems with her step mother. After marrying Abraham, they had 4 children, with three of the children dying at an early age, and only one living to be an adult. She of course was present at the tragic event of the assassination of her husband at Ford's theatre in 1865. She suffered from depression and other mental problems for the remainder of her life.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Hindenburg

This picture was taken on January 25, 1937 in New Jersey and shows the German airship "Hindenburg". The Hindenburg was used to carry people, mail, and some freight between Germany and the United States or South America.

It was on this day, May 6, in the year 1937 that the Hindenburg burned and crashed in Manchester Township, New Jersey. Thirty five of the ninety seven people on board died in the tragedy.

Monday, May 5, 2008


Did anyone notice how I celebrated Cinco de Mayo yesterday, when it is really today (Cinco being "five"). It is not that I thought Cinco de Mayo was on May 4, it was just that I thought yesterday was May 5th. Well, I was having a good old time, and then someone told me I had the wrong day.
Anyway, today, the real Cinco de Mayo, we feature this picture from Old Mexico in 1907 showing a little Mexican girl by a prickly pear.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Cinco de Mayo

We celebrate Cinco de Mayo today, with this picture from Taos, New Mexico in 1940.

Most people seem to think that Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day, but in fact it commemorates the Mexican victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. You see, while the US had its hands full with the Civil War, France invaded Mexico. The Battle of Puebla was a key Mexican Victory, and the date is commemorated to this day. So, today would be a great day for you to cook up some authentic Mexican Food.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Old Monoplane

This photograph shows the Demoisille monoplane, which was small enough to be transported on the back of a car. The photograph was taken in 1909, and captures an early moment in aviation history.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson

Today we feature a portrait of the famed Rebel General, Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. It was on this day, May 2, in the year 1863 that Stonewall was shot by friendly fire by a Rebel picket as he was returning from a raid to his Chancellorsville camp. He died 8 days later from complications from his wounds.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Empire State Building

This picture was taken in 1930's and shows a nice night view of New York City, with the Empire State Building in the left of the picture. The Empire State Building was dedicated on this day, May 1, in the year 1931.