The 1912 election was one of the most contentious in history. At this time in American history, the Republican Party was the liberal pro-change party, which had been formed on an anti-slavery platform; the Democratic Party, which dominated the South and had set up the Jim Crow segregation laws, was the conservative anti-reform party. Teddy Roosevelt would change all that. And during the campaign, Roosevelt’s life would be saved by the text of a campaign speech that he had folded up inside his pocket . . .
Today, we in the US take safe, clean, drinking water for granted. But it wasn’t very long ago that drinking the water in any major city was a pretty good way to die. We can thank a man named John Leal for solving that problem–in the face of public anti-science ignorance and hysteria.
She may be the most famous medical patient in US history who was never sick. “Typhoid Mary” infected at least 45 people in New York City and killed at least 3, and also touched off a legal battle that still resonates today. Here is her story.
Florida is the land of invasive species. Because of our status as a center for the importing of exotic pets and houseplants from overseas, and our neo-tropical climate, we have been invaded by everything from kudzu plants to Burmese pythons. One of Florida’s most famous invaders is actually a hybridized version of an earlier immigrant, one that has already been here for centuries.
Robert Lincoln, eldest son of assassinated President Abraham Lincoln who was with him when he died, was also present at the scene of two other Presidential assassinations–and once had his life saved by a member of the Booth family.
Corn flakes cereal is a staple on breakfast tables all over the world. Today it is marketed as a healthy part of a balanced breakfast. But corn flakes were originally invented by a fanatically religious doctor as a way to stop people from masturbating.
It has the most potent venom of any animal in North America. It is spectacularly colored, with bright red, yellow and black bands. It is lots more common than many people think. Yet few people in Florida have ever actually seen a Coral Snake.
It is a Sunday morning in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The rows of battleships anchored off Ford Island are quiet, much of the crew barely awake. Suddenly a wave of carrier-launched airplanes screams over the horizon. Unchallenged, they swarm over the entire base, including Battleship Row and the nearby airfields. The surprise is total.
But this is not December 7, 1941, and these attacking carrier planes are not Japanese. They are American.
USS Langley, America’s first aircraft carrier US Navy photo
The Egyptian pyramids are old. In fact they are so old that Queen Cleopatra was closer in time to us today than she was to the builders of the original pyramids. When Cleopatra ruled Egypt, the Great Pyramid at Giza was already 2500 years old.
When President Ronald Reagan assumed office in 1981, the Cold War took an immediate turn for the worse. Amidst his belligerent talk towards the Soviet “Evil Empire” and the largest expansion of the US military in history, including the introduction of new nuclear missiles and bombers, many progressives at the time assumed that if anyone were actually crazy enough to push the nuclear button, it would be Reagan. But instead, in an amazing turnaround, Reagan became the President who signed the first treaty with the USSR that actually eliminated a large number of nuclear weapons from both arsenals.
The Soviet SS-20 “Saber” and the American Pershing II intermediate-range nuclear missiles, the targets of the INF treaty.
When most people think of “genetic engineering”, they think of “Genetically Modified Organisms” and “Frankenfoods” and protests over Monsanto and “safety issues” with GMO foods. But the reality has always been that much of the genetic engineering research in the US has been carried out by the military, and the Pentagon was in on recombinant DNA technology almost from the ground floor, beginning way back in the 1970’s.
USAMRIID, at Ft Detrick, Maryland Photo by US Defense Department
Because the US electoral system is a winner-take-all contest that is decided on the basis of districts and states, its most stable configuration consists of two, and only two, major parties (a situation known in political science as “Duverger’s Law”). There have been several instances in US history where “Third Party” candidates have run in elections, sometimes getting significant portions of the vote (Teddy Roosevelt and the Bull Moose Party, Ross Perot’s Reform Party). But one of the most successful of these Third Parties was the Socialist Party of the early 20th century.
The Kalashnikov AK-47 is the most recognized gun in the world. It is the iconic symbol of revolution and rebellion. It has appeared on the flags and national seals of countries; it has appeared in iconic photographs of terrorists, guerrillas and liberation armies. It has been produced in over 30 nations, in numbers exceeding 100 million–and has been used by over 100 national armed forces. It has very likely killed more people than any other weapon in history. And here is its story . . . .
In 1777, things looked bleak for the fledgling United States of America. The rebellion against Britain was going badly, the rebel leader George Washington had lost a series of crucial battles near Philadelphia, the city was about to be occupied by the British Army, and the Liberty Bell in Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence had been adopted, looked like it would be captured and likely melted down to make cannon.
Then, the Liberty Bell was saved by a wagon trip–carried out by an ancestor of mine . . .