Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Day 151, August 20

Railroads in the United States were built on a far larger scale than those in Europe, both in terms of the distances covered and also in the loading gauge which allowed for heavier locomotives and double-deck trains. The railroad era in the United States began in 1830 when Peter Cooper's locomotive, Tom Thumb, first steamed along 13 miles of Baltimore and Ohio railroad track. In 1833, the nation's second railroad ran 136 miles from Charleston to Hamburg in South Carolina.

Not until the 1850s, though, did railroads offer long distance service at reasonable rates. A journey from Philadelphia to Charleston involved eight different gauges, which meant that passengers and freight had to change trains seven times. Only at places like Bowling Green, Kentucky, the railroads were connected to one another.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Day 150, August 19

We're jumping ahead in time (again), this time to the 1920s where H.L. Mencken wrote something 93 years ago that may be seen as prophetic for our own times:
H.L. Mencken (born 1880 - died 1956) was a journalist, satirist, critic, and Democrat. He wrote this editorial while working for the Baltimore Evening Sun, which appeared in the July 26, 1920, edition:

"As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and complete narcissistic moron."

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Day 149, August 18

The 32-year-old doctor was charged with being an accomplice to the assassination, though it was proven he had no previous relationship with the assassin.  A military ourt tried him and sentenced him to life imprisonment in the horrible federal prison on Shark Island off the coast of Florida.

Mudd never stopped practicing medicine despite his imprisonment.  During an epidemic of yellow fever in the prison, he worked arond the clock saving the livles of hundreds of prisoners and guards alike.

So impressive were his actions that he was officially pardoned by President Andrew Johnson in 1869 and given his freedom.  Mudd returned to Maryland and tried to resume his medical practice, but his life was essentially ruined.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Day 148, August 17

When Dr. Samuel Alexander Mudd answered his door one night in 1865, he had no idea that he would ruin the rest of his life.   How could he have known that the man who showed up at his door needing help was John Wilkes Booth, who had just assassinated Braham Lincoln?

His leg broken from his jump from the President's box in Ford's Theater to the stage where he made his escape, Booth was in tremendous pain.

Lost and nearly delerious in the surrounding countryside, Booth finally came upon the doctor's cottage and begged for help.  Unaware that the president had been assassinated, Dr. Mudd did as he had promised when he took his oath:  he helped someone in need.  He set Booth's leg, gave him medicine, and offereed him a bed and food for the night.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Day 147, August 16

Here we are back in the Civil War again. 

Did you know that General Ulysses S. Grant had to hold up the fighting because he had lost his false teeth?  This near tragic event occurred during the seige of Vicksburg.  General Grant placed his headquaraters aborad a Mississippi steamboat near the town of Vicksburg.  After retiring one night, he placed his false teeth in a wash basin.

His orderly came during the night and emptied the basin, along with the teeth, into the Mississippi River.  Grant was understandably upset.  He couldn't eat.  He couldn't chomp on his favored cigars without his teeth.

Hence, the battle was temporarily suspended until a dentist, summoned by a rush call, made the general a new set of teeth.

Day 146, August 15

Way back in 1861, the King of Siam thought America could benefit by having a few elephants to help with the "heavy lifting" involved in a nation less than a 100 years old.

The King kindly wrote the United States State Department and offered to send elephants to Washington.  He offered to get the young male and female elephants from the Siamese jungles and (shades of Noah's ark)  ship them one or two pairs at a time to America.  The Siamese king believed that the nation could use the strong animals to travel through the unchartered "jungles" of the United States.

President Abraham Lincoln learned of the proposed gift when he became president, but he declined the offer.  He explained that most of the heavy work in the United States was being done by steam and machines.

He politely thanked the king for the offer but pointed out that the temperature of America was not conducive to the raising of Siamese elephants!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Day 145, August 14

Which president do you think shook the most hands?  If you guessed Theodore Roosevelt, you'd be right.

Rooselvelt set the record on New Year's Day in 1907.  It was traditional at that time for the President to hold a New year's Day open house and to personally greet those attending. 

At the reception in 1907, President Roosevelt personally shook hands with 8,513 visitors.