The Ten Most Dramatic July 4th’s in American History

July 2, 2013

The Top Ten Most Dramatic July 4ths in American History.

There are many dramatic days in the history of our Fourth of July.  Two American presidents were born on that day, Ulysses S. Grant and Calvin Coolidge.  George Steinbrenner, Geraldo Rivera and Malia Obama are just a few of the many public figures who celebrate their birthdays on July 4th.  It was on this day in 1939 that Lou Gerhig appeared at Yankee Stadium and gave his retirement speech, calling himself “the luckiest man on earth.”  And on this day in 2004, the cornerstone was laid for the Freedom Tower in New York City, a building that would rise from the ashes of the World Trade Center.

Here, in chronological order, are ten of the most dramatic July 4ths in American history.

1.) 1776:  The Second Continental Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence.

2.) 1802: U.S. Military Academy opens at West Point.

3.) 1826: Thomas Jefferson, the third American president, and John Adams, the second president, both die. American songwriter Stephen Foster is born.

4.) 1831: President James Monroe dies.  Samuel Francis Smith writes “My Country Tis of Thee” for July 4th festivities.

5.) 1863: The Union armies win the battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania and the Battle of Vicksburg in Mississippi.  Both victories are crucial.  It is the turning point of the Civil War.

6.) 1876: News of the Battle of the Little Big Horn reaches New York City.  It is learned that George Armstrong Custer and the 7th Cavalry were massacred by Sitting Bull and the Sioux Indians on June 25.  The nation goes into shock as the news from the remote battlefield finally reaches civilization.  It is the 9-11 of its generation.

7.) 1881: President James Garfield hovers between life and death after being shot twice on July 2.  He would die in September.  His vice president Chester Arthur would become president.

8.) 1886: The Statue of Liberty is given to the United States by the nation of France.

9.) 1946: The U.S. grants independence to the Philippines.  America reaffirms to the world that it is not an empire but respects the independence of nations.

10.) 1997: US Pathfinder space probe lands on the planet Mars.

 


July 4th Trivia for the 2013 celebration

July 1, 2013

Which three presidents died on the Fourth of July?
John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe.  Adams, the second president, and Jefferson, the third president, both died on the same day in 1826, Monroe died in 1831. (Thanks to David Gurowsky for catching a typo on the dates.)

What other presidents died close to the 4th of July?
On July 4, 1850, President Zachary Taylor attended ceremonies for the Washington Memorial and returned to the White House for a bowl of cherries and milk. He became sick to his stomach that night and died five days later. On July 2, 1881, President James Garfield was shot. He died several months later.

How many people signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th?
Only two.

When was the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence?
It was July 8, 1776.  The Liberty Bell rang out from Independence Hall to summon the crowd.

On what date did most of the signers actually sign the doc?
August 2, 1776.

Who was the oldest signatory?
Benjamin Franklin. He was 70.

Who was the youngest?
Edward Rutledge.  He was 26 years old.  Rutledge owned 50 slaves. He later became governor of South Carolina.

Name the State that had the most delegates sign?
Pennsylvania.  There were nine. 

Who was the last signatory of the Declaration of Independence?

Thomas McKean, January, 1777. He was at one time the president of the continental congress, later became a governor of Pa.

When did Abraham Lincoln give his 1863, July fourth address?
On July 7, 1863. On July 4, citizens in Washington were celebrating what appeared to be a victory at Gettysburg and wanted Lincoln to give a speech but he would only issue a short proclamation. He was waiting to get a complete report and for further news out west, where General Grant was laying siege to Vicksburg. He later found out that Vicksburg had fallen on July 4th. Lincoln gave his speech three days late.

What other countries celebrate the 4th of July?
Denmark, Norway, Sweden and England.

In what year did July 4 become a paid legal federal holiday?
It became an unpaid federal holiday in 1870. And a lot of trivia sites say that it became a paid holiday in 1941 but it was actually passed by congress in 1938.

How did Nathan’s, Fourth of July, Hot Dog contest begin?
It started out as a dispute among four immigrants over who was the most patriotic. And so, that explains why this country is overweight. We are patriotic?

What American President was famous for playing golf every Fourth of July?
Dwight D. Eisenhower.

What modern First Lady wore a bejeweled American Flag in her lapel on every Fourth of July? Pat Nixon, Jackie Kennedy, Hillary Clinton or Betty Ford?
Jackie Kennedy. And the jewelry actually sells on e-bay.


July Fourth Trivia

July 5, 2009

Which three presidents died on the Fourth of July?
(John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. Adams, the second president, and Jefferson, the third president, both died on the same day in 1826.)

What other presidents were near misses?
(On July 4, 1850, President Zachary Taylor attended ceremonies for the Washington Memorial and returned to the White House for a bowl of cherries and milk. He became sick to his stomach that night and died five days later. On July 2, 1881, President James Garfield was shot. He died several months later.)

How many people signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th?
(Two)

When was the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence?
(July 8, 1776. Actually, the Liberty Bell rang out from Independence Hall to summon the crowd.)

On what date did most of the signers actually sign the doc?
(August 2, 1776)

Who was the oldest signatory?
(Ben Franklin. He was 70.)

Who was the youngest?
(Edward Rutledge. 26 years old. He owned 50 slaves. Later became governor of South Carolina.)

Which state had the most delegates sign?
( Pennsylvania. There were nine.)

Who was the last signatory of the Declaration of Independence?
(Thomas McKean, January, 1777. He was at one time the president of the continental congress, later became a governor of Pa.)

When did Abraham Lincoln give his 1863, July fourth address?
(On July 7, 1863. On July 4, citizens in Washington were celebrating what appeared to be a victory at Gettysburg and wanted Lincoln to give a speech but he would only issue a short proclamation. He was waiting to get a complete report and for further news out west, where General Grant was laying siege to Vicksburg. He later found out that Vicksburg had fallen on July 4th. Lincoln gave his speech three days late.)

What other countries celebrate the 4th of July?
(Denmark, Norway, Sweden and England.)

In what year did July 4 become a paid legal federal holiday?
(It became an unpaid federal holiday in 1870. And a lot of trivia sites say that it became a paid holiday in 1941 but it was actually passed by congress in 1938.)

How did Nathan’s, Fourth of July, Hot Dog contest begin?
(It started out as a dispute among four immigrants over who was the most patriotic. And so, that explains why this country is overweight. We are patriotic?)

What American President was famous for playing golf every Fourth of July?
(Dwight D. Eisenhower.)

What modern First Lady wore a bejeweled American Flag in her lapel on every Fourth of July? Pat Nixon, Jackie Kennedy, Hillary Clinton or Betty Ford?
(Jackie Kennedy. And the jewelry actually sells on e-bay.)

What pitcher threw a no hitter on the fourth of July?
(Dave Righetti of the NY Yankees in 1983. But perhaps the wildest game ever played happened on July 4 between the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets. It went 19 innings and ended close to 4 AM. Mets won 16-13.)


The attacks on Bristol Palin

September 8, 2008

 Presidential Campaigns: When the children become the issue.

The media’s cruel attacks on Bristol Palin, the seventeen year old daughter of vice presidential nominee, Governor Sarah Palin, are nothing new.   The young Palin is single and apparently pregnant and some in the media are self righteously, outraged.  After all, isn’t Governor Palin an evangelical Christian?  As sordid as this whole episode may sound, it has all happened before.

Gerald Ford’s children were targeted for using marijuana and Ronald Reagan’s son, Michael, was wrongly accused of shop lifting.  Chelsea Clinton was lampooned by television comics as “ugly,” an experience that the now gorgeous Chelsea has lived to laugh about but it was no laughing matter for a vulnerable, adolescent girl.  The Bush twins were chastised for underage drinking.

During the height of the Clinton years, a major network assigned a crew to the “Chelsea Clinton Virginity Watch.”  They learned that she had a boyfriend and thought that is was all big news, especially in light of the ongoing story of her father.  Thankfully, the network bosses came to their senses and the story was scrapped.  One of the producers learned that I was writing the book, All the Presidents’ Children, and offered to pass on his rather colorful notes.  I declined.

In fact, public and media attacks on presidential families started with George Washington, whose stepson was reviled for his business practices and was accused of cheating his own famous stepfather in a cattle deal.  The young man died in his twenties.

John Quincy Adams had a son who sired a child out of wedlock.  Dreading the public airing of his story, he died in what most historians believe to be a suicide.  His little brother was expelled from Harvard.  He died an alcoholic in his twenties.

Robert Todd Lincoln received unmerciful press criticism for avoiding service in the Civil War.  But First Lady, Mary Lincoln, had lost son Eddie in Illinois and son Willie in the White House.  Her sobs prevailed with her husband and son.  Toward the end of the war young Lincoln was assigned to General Grant’s personal staff with implicit orders to keep the boy safe.  Mary would lose her husband instead and her beloved, Robert Todd would have her committed to an insane asylum.

Andrew Johnson, Jr. caused a ruckus when it was learned that he was sneaking prostitutes into the White House.  It couldn’t have come at a worse time.  His father was the target of impeachment.   The Johnson son died in an apparent suicide a few months after the family left the White House.

In more modern times, the media has been just as relentless and the children just as colorful.  Alice Roosevelt was the target of pulpits and newspaper editorials across the country.  They were outraged to see a woman smoking in public and considered it shamelessly erotic and offensive.  When she got behind the steering wheel of a new fangled automobile and took an un-chaperoned marathon drive from Washington to New York City it prompted both outrage and cheers.

 All of Franklin Roosevelt’s children were ripped by the media at one time or another, sometimes deservedly, sometimes not.  They were criticized for insider business deals, mafia connections and preferential treatment in the military.  And yet they were all remarkable achievers.  Anna was a super White House aide, practically running the place during the last year of FDR’s presidency and the older sons were all military heroes.

Perhaps the most stunning of all media attacks on candidates’ children took place in the early 19th century.  Andrew Jackson had seen his wife viciously attacked in the election of 1828. After winning the election, Jackson’s deeply devout and saintly wife, Rachel, went shopping in Nashville for something to wear to the inauguration.  In the city she finally found the newspapers that her husband had been keeping from her.  Journalists had pieced together the dates of her divorce and re-marriage and determined that she was technically a bigamist and adulterer.  Rachel Jackson read the newspapers and became sick.  She died a few weeks later and was buried in her inauguration dress. 

Andrew Jackson fumed at the newspapers that he believed had killed his wife.  But in his pain he built an even more powerful media weapon and it would kill even more viciously.  In 1830, a network of “Jackson newspapers” began attacking rival William Henry Harrison.  When they couldn’t find anything on the old man they turned to his son. 

It was alleged that Symmes Harrison, who ran the Vincennes, Indiana land office, had committed embezzlement and fraud.  The government fired him.  Historians differ on the young Harrison’s infraction.  My own research shows the claims of fraud to be highly unlikely.  In any case, the media storm grew so bitter and intense that young Symmes Harrison died, leaving behind six fatherless children.  Citizens of Indiana were so outraged that they wore black armbands in protest.

It was only the beginning of sorrows.  Harrison and his wife would bury three adult sons during the three consecutive years leading up to his own election to the White House.   Mrs. Harrison found no joy in the victory.  While her husband journeyed back to Washington for the inauguration, she remained behind in mourning.  Like Rachel Jackson, she would never set foot in the White House as “First Lady.”   William Henry Harrison would die after a month in office.

 The only good news is that decency has a resilience of its own.  After the death of the old president, one by one his remaining children, including his daughters, began to die off.  It was like the light had gone out of their lives, as if the media had ultimately triumphed over a family.  Within five years, nine of the ten Harrison children were gone.  But like a flower blooming in a junkyard, one son, Scott Harrison, survived.  He would serve quietly in congress and he would inculcate within his son the family lessons learned.  That son, Benjamin Harrison, the grandson of the old general, would grow to become our twenty third president.

So it has happened before, these frenzied, vicious media attacks on the children of the candidates. The jackals that howled over the prostrate body of Symmes Harrison 180 years ago are the same species that are now howling over the prone body of Bridget Palin.  They are related to the bureaucrats of former communist countries who used family members as hostages to enforce their will.  If it is no easy thing for many in the public to stomach, it is nonetheless the nature of the beast.  The impalement of Sarah Palin and her family will not be the end of it for human nature itself is at work here.  Power is at stake and money is at stake.  And where there is power and money the jackals will gather.  It is nothing personal.  It is their nature. 


The Absent Father: A surprising lesson from history

June 14, 2008

“There is no passion more deeply rooted in my bosom than the longing for posterity to support my father’s name.”

 

- John Quincy Adams

 

There is curious anecdotal evidence that some of history’s most powerful leaders came from homes with absent fathers.  And we are seeing this scenario acted out again in the lives of our two presidential candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain. 

 

Senator Barack Obama, whose father left home in 1963, was only two years old.  They were separated by continents. Obama was twenty-one years old when he was told in a telephone call that the father he never knew was killed in an automobile accident.

 

John McCain, son and grandson of navy officers, had a father who was a four star admiral.  He was very loving but very busy and usually faraway.

 

Many fathers of the American presidents die young.  And even the ones who live usually fall into the Obama-McCain category.  “I was never there,” says George Herbert Walker Bush, “Barbara raised him.”

 

Three fathers of presidents died before their sons were even born.

 

            Andrew Jackson

            Rutherford B. Hayes

            Bill Clinton

 

And many others died at an early age.  James Garfield was one year old when his father died.  Andrew Johnson was three, Herbert Hoover six, George Washington eleven, and Thomas Jefferson fourteen.  Fully nineteen presidents lost their fathers before they reached age thirty.  And only two fathers actually attended their sons’ inaugurations.

 

There is a very predictable family formula for strong leaders, good and bad.  They have an attachment to the mother and an absent father.  Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedung all fit the pattern as neatly as Washington and Jefferson.

 

This is why presidential historians always wax eloquent on Mother’s Day.  Curiously, most presidents, including the current occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, are openly “mama’s boys.”  It must make Sigmund Freud smile for one of his most enduring discoveries was how the perceived favorite child of a mother is empowered for life.  But what is the father’s role in our presidents’ lives?  There is a surprising, positive, answer to that question and it reveals much about the development of great leaders.

 

But first, consider the overwhelming evidence that mothers play a key role.  Many recent presidents were literally named after their mothers but none of their many siblings.

 

            Ronald Wilson Reagan named after his mother Nelle Wilson.

            Richard Milhous Nixon named after his mother Hannah Nixon.

            Lyndon Baines Johnson named after his mother Rebecca Baines.

            John Fitzgerald Kennedy named after his mother Rose Fitzgerald.

            Franklin Delano Roosevelt named after his mother Sarah Delano.

            Woodrow Wilson named after his mother Janet Woodrow.

 

And on and on it goes back into history. Rutherford Birchard Hayes named after his mother Sophia Birchard.  Of course it is not a perfect formula or Marvin Pierce Bush would be the president, not his older brother, George W. Bush, but it is common enough to defy any odds.   “You are a Delano,” FDR’s mother, Sarah Delano used to tell him, “not a Roosevelt.”

           

“God bless my mother,” Abraham Lincoln supposedly said to his law partner William Herndon,” all I am or ever hope to be I owe to her.”

 

 “I was a mama’s boy,” said Woodrow Wilson, “no question about it, but the best

of womanhood came to me through those apron strings.”

 

So what is going on here and what does it mean for Father’s Day?  Not only are most presidents unabashed devotees to their mothers but, to add insult to injury, in most cases, the fathers were not even there.

 

For many years this dynamic nagged on me.  Not only is it the template for leadership but it seemed to be the template for aggressive and criminal behavior.  America’s prisons, for example, are full of young men who are also attached to their mothers and have an absent father.  For many years I agreed with psychologists who theorized that both presidents and criminals drink from the same poison cup with vastly differing results.  It was a strange tonic for good to the achieving presidents and a formula for terrible emotional damage to the criminal.

 

And then the puzzle was solved.  The source of the solution, as in the case of many of the world’s great solutions, came from a Pakistani taxi cab driver, on my way to a television studio interview.  “Have you checked out the fathers in question?” he asked.  “Yes, they are absent from their families but what do the fathers of presidents and the fathers of criminals do differently with their lives?”

 

Bingo.

           

A quick study showed that the fathers of criminals are just absent.  The fathers of presidents are absent but high achievers or sometimes heroes who expressed their interest or love to their sons.  Even the poorest presidential father, Jacob Johnson, father to our seventeenth president, was a veritable legend in his home town.

 

According to Barack Obama, his father was the first African admitted to the University of Hawaii and he surprised the school by graduating first in his class. “He won another scholarship to pursue his PhD at Harvard, but not the money to take his new family with him – or so I was told. A separation occurred, and he returned to Africa to fulfill his promise to the continent.”

 

John McCain’s father and grandfather were both four star admirals.  It was a first in American military history.  And both were legendary, even heroic.  But often gone.

 

The fathers of presidents were governors, senators, multi millionaires, generals, ambassadors, preachers and in two cases presidents themselves.  Franklin Roosevelt’s father was seeking to build the first canal to link the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

 

There is a compelling moral to the story.

 

If a father only spends his life serving his sons, reducing himself to the role of a taxi driver, running them to little league and soccer practice and math camp, all to show that they are a loving father willing to sacrifice their own advancement to give their sons an opportunity they never had, don’t expect the sons to grow up to be major league ball players or brilliant engineers.  They will likely grow up to be taxi drivers just like their fathers, driving their sons all over suburbia as well.

 

On the other hand, if a father does something great with his life, achieves something significant or heroic, then, even if he is absent, his son will likely follow and may even do better, just to rub it in.

 

There is now much evidence that the role of the father, even his absence, is just as important in shaping leaders and presidents as is the role of the mother.  Affirmed and empowered by their mother’s love but also hurt and frustrated by their father’s absence, a leader, including most American presidents, will strive to prove their value and worth with their great achievements.

 

(Selected quotes taken from The Raising of President and All the Presidents’ Children by Doug Wead, Atria Books.)

 See Doug Wead quoted in this recent New York Post article on the fathers of our presidents.

http://www.nypost.com/seven/06152008/postopinion/opedcolumnists/hale_to_the_chief_115598.htm

 


Was there a son of a president married in the White House?

May 9, 2008

DW:  Yes, John Adams, II.  He was the son of John Quincy Adams and the second child of a president to be married in the White House.  The bride was Mary Catherine Hellen, his own first cousin.

 

The John Quincy Adams’ were empty nesters when they went into the White House, all three of their boys were away at college.  So the first Lady brought in her nephews and nieces to fill up the mansion.  Mary was one of the nieces and she was a precocious flirt who managed to get all three of the Adams sons to fall in love with her and at one time or another they were all engaged to marry her. 

 

When John Adams, II was expelled from Harvard, he came home to the White house, was the last one to fall for her and they were married in what is now the Blue Room, then the Elliptical Room of the White House.  Neither of the other brothers came to the wedding and one of them committed suicide a year later.

 

The groom, John Adams, II died an alcoholic in his twenties.  But Mary Catherine Hellen made up for the pain she brought into the family.  She lived long and cared for John Quincy Adams and the First lady well into their senior years.

 

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 476 other followers