Washington D.C. March 1843. John Quincy Adams sits for the camera of Philip Haas. At 75 “Old Man Eloquent” is the first President ever captured on a daguerreotype. He has been out of the white House for 14 years now, but his intense gaze still captivates Washington's political elite. Back in public service, he is devoting his congressional career to raising a consistent and forceful voice against slavery as a moral evil.
U.S. Seeks to annex Texas; Houston wary. Washington Oct. 16, 1843
Secretary of State, Abel Upshur today informed Isaac Van Zandt, the Texas minister to the United States, that the American government would like to begin annexation negotiations with the Republic of Texas as soon as possible. President Houston however, is beset by the Mexican threat of re-conquest, the uncertain attitude of the British and the indecisive policy of the United States.
Polk elected on motto “54-40 or Fight”. Dec. 4, 1844
James K Polk, with “54-40 or fight” as his slogan was elected President today, defeating his Whig rival, Senator Henry Claly. Polk’s running mate, George M Dallas, was elected Vice President. Polk, a leading supporter of Presidents Jackson and Van Buren during his years in Congress, had held the post of Speaker of the House and Governor of Tennessee. In his campaign for the presidency, he rallied the voters by pledging to fight for a treaty . defining Oregon’s northern border.
Mob kills Joseph Smith & his brother. Illinois, June 27, 1844
In Carthage today, a mob of 200 men burst into the jail and murdered Joseph Smith, the Mormon leader and his brother Hyrum. The two had been jailed for destroying the press and offices of the rival Mormon newspaper the Expositor, which opposed polygamy. The Mormons resisted the arrest and the militia was called out. The Governor assured Smith’s safety if he would give up, but this proved illusory. When it appeared that the Smiths would be freed, the mob formed, saying that as “law could not reach them powder and shot would”. The mob overran the guards, killing the Smiths and wounding two of their friends.
Margaret Fuller’s book for Women.
New York, Feb. 15, 1845.
A review of Miss Margaret Fullers revolutionary new book for Woman and the 19th Century appeared today in the Broadway Journal. The review was quite favourable: Ms. Fuller’s book reviews the history of women and reaches the conclusion that they should now seek careers and fulfillment outside of marital duties.
New Baseball: Knickerbockers are routed. Hoboken, New Jersey, June 19, 1846.
This was baseball as none had ever seen it before. A club made up mostly of volunteer firemen from Manhattan, named the Knickerbockers, was routed by another amateur team by the embarrassing score of 23 to 1. The winners who were simply called the New York Nine, romped to victory on the Elysian Fields under a new set of rules and a new ‘diamond’-shaped playing field.
Scott occupies Vera Cruz. Mexico March 29, 1847.
General Winfield Scott and his troops have taken possession of the Mexican stronghold at Vera Cruz. The general announced today that effective enemy opposition has been crushed and that his forces are in firm control of the city. Scott the United States Army Supreme Commander, is a giant of a man 6‘5“ and 250 pounds, and he is nicknamed ”old fuss and feathers“ because of his insistence that his men maintain a spit-and-polish appearance. In this campaign Scott led an armada of 200 warships and support craft that transported 10,000 soldiers and marines to the shores of Vera Cruz on the gulf of Mexico. Scott opted for an artillery bombardment to level the fortresses and reinforced bunkers and ground the enemy defences into the dust. After only a minimal fight the Mexicans surrendered.
American losses were put at 82 killed and wounded. Enemy casualties were about the same, but unfortunately they included a group of women and children who were in a church that collapsed while the bombardment occurred.
Taylor: War hero in the presidency New Orleans Dec. 3, 1847
General Zachary Taylor, hero of the Mexican war, returned to the country today to a resounding welcome. Rumours abound that the general wishes to ride his military glory to victory in next year’s presidential election. Taylor claims he doesn’t “care a fig about the office”. But in a January letter to New York’s Morning Express, he criticised the Polk administration for lax prosecution of the war. Taylor who grew up on the Kentucky frontier, is strongly pro-slavery, believing “the South must throw ourselves on the Constitution and appeal to the sword if necessary”.
20 die in riots tied to feud between actors. New York, May 10, 1849
Long simmering anti-British sentiments flared into a riot outside the Astor Place Opera House tonight, leaving at least 20 dead. Over 10,000 people many from Irish gangs, surrounded the theatre presenting the British Tragedian William Charles Macready, who is feuding with Edwin Forrest, the popular American actor now appearing at a nearby theatre. The Astor Place mob turned uglier as the night wore on, chanting “Down with the English hog”. hurling stones and charging the militia, who eventually opened fire.
Edgar Allan Poe dies. Maryland Oct 7, 1849.
In an ending as horrible as anything in his morbid and fantastic fiction, Edgar Allan Poe died today at the age of 40 four days after he was found drunk and delirious in front of a saloon here in Baltimore. In spite of Poe’s considerable talent, his vices had rendered him destitute during his final years.
Congress adopts slavery compromise. Washington Sept. 20, 1850.
After months of bitter sectional struggle and the threat of a civil war, a bundle of legislative bills that have become known collectively as the Compromise of 1850, has been signed into law by President Millard Fillmore. The great conflicts over the admission of California as a state and the extension of slavery are settled for now, and the Union has been preserved. The Compromise was finally completed earlier today when the last of the provisions was signed by President Fillmore.
Jenny Lind Arrives, welcomed by fans. New York, Sept. 12, 1850.
Amreica’s musical spirit took wings last night as Jenny Lind, “the Swedish Nightingale” made her long-awaited debut at the jam-packed Castle Garden. Although some wondered if her voice could live up to her reputation, a crowd of about 40,000 - one of the largest ever to greet a steamship - turned out and deluged the Son Bird with a shower of flowers. The purity of Lind’s voice last night dispelled any doubt as she offered songs by Bellini, Rossini, Weber, Meyerbeer and as an encore, Stephen Foster.
“Uncle Tom’s Cabin” published; sells 300,000. New York, 1852.
The anti-slavery movement has found its most effective spokeswoman in a novice novelist, Harriet Beecher Stowe, the 39-year-old daughter of Calvinist thinker Lyman Beecher and the wife of his disciple C.E.Stowe. Mrs. Stowe, who now lives in Maine, has stirred up a storm of controversy with “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” or “Life among the Lowly” the tragic tale of a devout and selfless slave who rescues a white child, but then is sold to a sadistic master, Simon Legree. Legree is so unhinged by Tom’s Christian virtue and quiet fortitude that he has the slave flogged to death. It was turned into a play in New York and ran for months before moving to the national Theatre and has been a triumph.
Yale, Harvard hold first rowing meet
Lake Winnepesaukee N.H. Aug, 1852
The sport of rowing is gaining steadily I popularity among New England colleges and Yale and Harvard have taken their friendly rivalry to the waters here for what is believed to be the first inter-collegiate meeting in any sport. The Eli crew has been rowing since 1845. The sport has also attracted the interest of the students at Amherst, Bowdoin, Brown and Massachusetts agricultural.
Levi Strauss sells brown jeans to miners. San Francisco 1853
A Bavarian dry goods dealer named Levi Strauss is doing a brisk business fashioning and selling a kind o heavyweight trousers to the gold prospectors here. The jeans, as they are sometimes called, being made of the durable twilled cotton cloth known in France as “genes,” are loose fitting with plenty of pockets. Miners need these pockets to keep their tools accessible. The pants are also very strong. In fact, when Strauss came to San Francisco three years ago, he intended to sell the same material for tents; not finding a market for them, he converted the fabric into trousers. Usually the cloth is brown, but Strauss has been experimenting with indigo dye a cheaper colouring that perhaps some of the less successful miners might appreciate.
First potato chips made in Saratoga. 1853.
Fried potatoes have long been popular in America, but a new variation has come in vogue since its accidental creation at Moon’s Lake Lodge here. It seems a customer ordered chef George Crum to make him thin sliced potatoes. Out of spite, Crum sliced them paper thin and fried them - to the delight of his customers. Thus were “Saratoga Chips” invented
Kansas, Nebraska free to chose slavery. Washington May 6, 1854
Congress today passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, allowing settlers of the newly created territories of Kansas and Nebraska to chose between free soil and slavery. The bill, which was accompanied by an amendment repealing the Missouri compromise of 1820, has touched off a violent and bloody struggle between pro-slavery and abolitionist forces. After three months of bitter debate, the Senate passed the bill t 1;10 am. By a vote of 37 to 14. Three days earlier, the House passed it by a vote of 113 to 110.
Prohibition gaining momentum in U.S. N.Y. 1855.
Drink it if you have got it, because as of today it is illegal to sell alcoholic beverages in New York State. The prohibition movement is gaining support across the nation, and 13 states now have banning laws. New York is following the example Maine set in 1851. The American Society for the Promotion of Temperance has been largely responsible for shaping public opinion, fighting the use of alcohol since 1826. New York City Mayor Fernando Wood, a foe of the law, has told police to use discretion , that while it is illegal to sell alcohol, it is not to drink it.
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