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Prof. Boerner's Explorations

Thoughts and Essays that explore the world of Technology, Computers, Photography, History and Family.


Archive for November 3rd, 2009

The invasion of the ‘droids’ has begun… The next ‘iPhone’ killer is being prepared for release this week (Friday, 11/06) by Verizon Wireless. It’s based upon Google’s Android and is supposed to sport the types of Apps that make the iPhone so popular. But it remains to be seen if its graphics and other features can compete. And there are sure to be suits and countersuits that will emerge over the ‘feature set’ on these phones. And there will probably be the same synching problems with iTunes that has plagued the Palm Pre…

It will be interesting to see what happens…

Droid by Motorola (Verizon Wireless) – Full Review – Reviews by PC Magazine 

The first Google Android 2.0-powered phone is the most exciting thing to appear on Verizon’s network in quite a while.

The Motorola Droid is the first truly lust-worthy smartphone from Verizon Wireless, and it puts all other Google Android phones to shame. Motorola may have stinted on a few of the basics in its quest for mind-blowing smartphone power. But the first Android 2.0 phone is definitely the most advanced and exciting device connecting to Verizon today.

The Droid is a big, industrial, even a little steampunk-looking contraption at 4.56 by 2.36 by .54 inches (HWD) and a hefty 5.96 ounces. The front is a bright, rich 3.7-inch, 854-by-480 LCD capacitive touch screen. Below the huge screen are four light-up, touch-sensitive buttons, and then a bit of a lip with the microphone on it. The back is burgundy soft-touch plastic. The whole effect feels pleasantly expensive, but also rather masculine; it’s not androgynous or organic like the iPhone. [MORE]

A ‘warm fuzzy’ for your day… This cute photo of a sleeping dog probably expresses the sentiment a lot of us feel on an afternoon like today. I pass it along to you, courtesy of Photoandmac’s web site. Enjoy it and have a great day…

I think our fuzzy dog #2 has the right idea. Taking the day off. – photoandmac’s posterous 
Source: photoandmac.posterou…

Photographers: Fill your gadget bag on a shoestring… This article gives ten very useful tips on getting some of the things that you have heard will let you get better photos, but have never been able to afford. I think that this is a great compilation of helpful tips that would be of value. Do they do the same thing that the ‘real’ products do? Pretty much. Are they compromises? Of course. But, none the less, these tips will, no doubt, help you get some great photos. Try some of them out… Let me know if they work for you…

Top ten DIY photography tips – Crave at CNET UK 

We’re going to tell you how to stand out from the Jessops jockeys with ten DIY tips for distinctive looking — and almost free — photography hardware. Plus more technology news in Crave, the gadget blog at CNET UK.

On the day the digital camera was invented, the photographer died. Go on to the street these days and the only thing a digital camera tells you about a person is the size of their bank balance. As an alternative-lifestyle statement, SLR ownership is now right up there with owning a Coldplay CD. In these troubled times, when SLRs are no longer a badge of actual photography skills, you need something to distinguish yourself from the crowd.

We’re going to tell you how to stand out from the Jessops jockeys with ten DIY tips for distinctive looking — and almost free — photography hardware. Sellotape at the ready: let’s go! [MORE]

An interesting device, but do we really need it? That’s the question. This device sends and receives unlimited numbers of tweets, but cannot connect to the web pages included. You can see the TwitPics, but so what! How many of your messages come in with them anyway. Pricing isn’t too bad, but it’s just another device to carry, charge, and respond to… Is this something that you’re interested in?

Peek Launches Its Twitter-Only Mobile Device 

Last week we covered the early emergence of the TwitterPeek, a handheld device made exclusively to provide Twitter service on the go. Now that it’s officially announced, we wanted to follow up with the final pricing and more details.

The TwitterPeek was initially listed for $199.99 with lifetime service, which is still one of the two purchase options. The other pricing option is $99.99 with 6 months of free service, after which you’ll be paying $7.95 a month to use Twitter on the device. In either case there’s no contract and no obligation to continue using the service if you opt for the latter $99 price plan. For either price you get unlimited tweets, a full QWERTY keyboard and an always-on device with nationwide coverage.

You won’t be able to browse the web on the device, but you’ll be able to view Twitpics, according to the FAQ. The battery should last a reported 3-4 days before needing a recharge, with extra batteries and car chargers available for purchase at extra cost. The user interface has been completely designed in collaboration with Twitter to be intuitive for use with the service, including special keyboard shortcuts for easy access to common functions. [MORE]

Hear Ye! The wall has fallen… As we approach the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, we will see more and more items in the news about the events that surrounded this major break, some say end, of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. This article points out the human side of the event that many of our countrymen will not be aware of: The divided Germany was reality to one or two generations of German youth.

I remember the event well, since we had a German foreign exchange student living with us at that time. She was devastated when the event was announced. It was an interesting experience to see the reaction of those who had never known a world without a wall. We just need to be sure that we don’t put up invisible walls to our existence.

Read it and think about the implications…

The Berlin Wall Was Never Just a Wall | Newsweek International | 


When the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended, it meant the end of the only world I had ever known.

For anyone who saw it firsthand, as I did, the Berlin Wall was never just a wall. It was half a century of epic global conflict distilled into impenetrable concrete. In the city that had launched the bloodiest war in history and been reduced to an enormous pile of rubble, the 12-foot-high rampart snaking its way through spottily rebuilt streets marked the exact spot where the armies of capitalist democracy and communist totalitarianism had dug in for their nuclear-armed standoff. Divided here was not just a city, but the world my generation had grown up in.

Standing on one of the rickety wooden viewing platforms erected on the western side, you could look east across the floodlit death strip and see the guard towers, barbed wire, tank traps, and People’s Army patrols, with their Kalashnikovs and attack dogs. The place was lethal to the end. As late as February 1989, those patrols pumped three bullets into a 20-year-old East German named Chris Gueffroy as he tried to make a run for freedom. They left him to die on the death strip. The wall was ground zero, where nearly half a century of Cold War began and where, one cold gray day in November 1989, I watched it end. [MORE]

Here again: Business as usual… The little guy may be getting ‘screwed’ again. Even a non-disclosure agreement saved a small startup with some brilliant ideas for a new eReader to compete with the Amazon Kindle. Another of the 800 pound gorilla strikes again. The bully this time is Barnes & Noble and their new ‘Nook’ that shares many features with the startup’s eReader. I’m sure that this will reverberate through the court system until the bully finally wears down the little guy, but wouldn’t be nice for ‘justice’ to be served for once? Take a look and decide for yourself… 

Alex eReader

A Silicon Valley start-up said it sued Barnes & Noble on Friday, claiming that the bookseller misappropriated trade secrets in creating the Nook e-reader.

Cupertino, Calif-based Spring Design said it had a nondisclosure agreement with Barnes & Noble and had been discussing its e-reader plans with the bookseller since early this year.

"Since the beginning of 2009 Spring and Barnes & Noble worked within a non-disclosure agreement, including many meetings, emails and conference calls with executives ranging up to the president of, discussing confidential information regarding the features, functionality and capabilities of Alex," Spring Design said in a statement. "Throughout, Barnes & Noble’s marketing and technical executives extolled Alex’s ‘innovative’ features, never mentioning their use of those features until the public disclosure of the Nook."

The press release from Spring Design did not say in what court the suit was filed, or mention what damages were being sought.

Spring Design announced its Alex e-reader just days before Barnes & Noble formally unveiled the Nook. Both e-readers use the Android operating system and combine an e-ink screen with a color touch screen. [MORE]

by Gerald Boerner


“It is easy to take a photograph, but it is harder to make a masterpiece in photography than in any other art medium.”
— Ansel Adams

“His photographs are like portraits of the giant peaks, which seem to be inhabited by mythical gods.”
Washington Post

“Pure photography is defined as possessing no qualities of technique, composition or idea, derivative of any other art form.”
— Group f/64

“…the splendor of Yosemite burst upon us and it was glorious… One wonder after another descended upon us… There was light everywhere… A new era began for me.”
— Ansel Adams

“I had been able to realize a desired image: not the way the subject appeared in reality but how it felt to me and how it must appear in the finished print.”
— Ansel Adams

“My photographs have now reached a stage when they are worthy of the world’s critical examination. I have suddenly come upon a new style which I believe will place my work equal to anything of its kind.”
— Ansel Adams

“I know that I am one with beauty and that my comrades are one. Let our souls be mountains, Let our spirits be stars, Let our hearts be worlds.”
— Ansel Adams’ Gaelic Mantra

“Ansel Adams attuned himself more precisely than any photographer before him to a visual understanding of the specific quality of the light that fell on a specific place at a specific moment. For Adams the natural landscape is not a fixed and solid sculpture but an insubstantial image, as transient as the light that continually redefines it. This sensibility to the specificity of light was the motive that forced Adams to develop his legendary photographic technique.”
— John Szarkowski, N.Y. Museum of Modern Art

“We all know the tragedy of the dustbowls, the cruel unforgivable erosions of the soil, the depletion of fish or game, and the shrinking of the noble forests. And we know that such catastrophes shrivel the spirit of the people… The wilderness is pushed back, man is everywhere. Solitude, so vital to the individual man, is almost nowhere.”
— Ansel Adams


Ansel Adams (1902 – 1984)

Ansel_Adams Ansel Easton Adams was an American photographer and environmentalist, best known for his black-and-white photographs of the American West and primarily Yosemite National Park.

For his images, he developed the zone system, a way to determine proper exposure and adjust the contrast of the final print. The resulting clarity and depth characterized his photographs. Although his large-format view cameras were difficult to use because of their size, weight, setup time, and film cost, their high resolution ensured sharpness in his images.

He founded the Group f/64 along with fellow photographers Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham, which in turn created the Museum of Modern Art’s department of photography. Adams’s timeless and visually stunning photographs are reproduced on calendars, posters, and in books, making his photographs widely recognizable.


Adams was a hyperactive child and prone to frequent sickness. He had few friends but his family home and surroundings on the heights facing San Francisco Bay provided ample childhood activities. Although he had no patience for games or sports, the curious child took to nature at an early age, collecting bugs and exploring the nearby beach. His father bought a telescope and they shared the hobby enthusiastically. His parents raised him to follow the ideas of Ralph Waldo Emerson, to live a modest, moral life guided by a social responsibility to man and to nature.

Ansel Adams_Tall Cactus_sm After the death of his grandfather and the aftermath of the Panic of 1907, his father’s business suffered great financial losses and by 1912, the family’s standard of living had dropped sharply. After young Ansel was dismissed from several private schools for his restlessness and inattentiveness, his father decided to pull him out of school in 1915, at the age of 12. Adams was then educated by private tutors, his Aunt Mary, and by his father. During the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915, his father insisted that, as part of his education, Adams spend a good part of each day studying the exhibits. After a while, Adams resumed and then completed his formal education by attending another private school until eighth grade.

Music became the main focus of his later youth. Possessing a photographic memory, Adams quickly learned to read music and play the piano. Through a series of dedicated piano teachers, the regimen of grueling piano exercises and strict discipline quieted his hyperactivity and his musical skills blossomed. Music also provided the channeled emotional outlet he had craved. He applied himself seriously toward becoming a concert pianist.

Ansel_Adams,_1980_402pxAdams first visited Yosemite National Park in 1916 with his family. The famous valley was the first place in the United States to be designated a protected nature area by a Congressional act, signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1864. He wrote of his first view of the valley which so inspired him, “the splendor of Yosemite burst upon us and it was glorious… One wonder after another descended upon us… There was light everywhere… A new era began for me." His father gave him his first camera, a Kodak Brownie box camera, during that stay and he took his first photographs with his “usual hyperactive enthusiasm”. He returned to Yosemite on his own the following year with better cameras and a tripod. In the winter, he learned basic darkroom technique working part-time for a San Francisco photo finisher. Adams avidly read photography magazines, attended camera club meetings, and went to photography and art exhibits. With his Uncle Frank he explored the High Sierra, in summer and winter, developing the stamina and skill needed to photograph at high altitude and under difficult weather conditions.


Close-up of leaves
In Glacier National Park

While in Yosemite, he had frequent contact with the Best family, owners of Best’s Studio, who allowed him to practice on their old square piano. In 1928, Ansel Adams married Virginia Best in Best’s Studio in Yosemite Valley. Virginia inherited the studio from her artist father on his death in 1935, and the Adams continued to operate the studio until 1971. The studio, now known as the Ansel Adams Gallery, remains in the hands of the Adams family.

At age 17, Adams joined the Sierra Club, a group dedicated to preserving the natural world’s wonders and resources, and he was the custodian of the organization’s headquarters at Yosemite, for four years. He remained a member throughout his lifetime and served as a director, as did his wife. He was first elected to the Sierra Club’s board of directors in 1934, and served on the board for 37 years. Adams participated in the club’s annual "high trips", and was later responsible for several first ascents in the Sierra Nevada.


Adams_Monolith In 1927, Adams contracted for his first portfolio, in his new style, which included his famous image Monolith, the vertical western face of Half Dome taken with his Korona view camera utilizing glass plates and a dark red filter (to heighten the tonal contrasts). On that excursion, he had only one plate left and he “visualized” the effect of the blackened sky before risking the last shot. As he stated, “I had been able to realize a desired image: not the way the subject appeared in reality but how it felt to me and how it must appear in the finished print”. As he wrote confidently in April, 1927, “My photographs have now reached a stage when they are worthy of the world’s critical examination. I have suddenly come upon a new style which I believe will place my work equal to anything of its kind.”

With the sponsorship and promotion of Albert Bender, an arts-connected businessman, Adams’s first portfolio was a success (earning nearly $3,900) and soon he received commercial assignments to photograph the wealthy patrons who bought his portfolio. Adams also came to understand how important it was that his carefully crafted photos were reproduced to best effect. At Bender’s invitation, he joined the prestigious Roxburghe Club, an association devoted to fine printing and high standards in book arts. He learned much about printing techniques, inks, design, and layout which he later applied to other projects. Unfortunately, at that time, most of his darkroom work was still being done in the basement of his parent’s home, and he was somewhat limited by barely adequate equipment.


Evening, McDonald Lake,
Glacier National Park


After a cooling off period with Virginia Best during 1925–6, during which he had short-lasting relationships with various women, many of them students of his mentor Cedric Wright, he married Virginia in 1928. The newlyweds moved in with his parents to save expenses. His marriage also marked the end of his serious attempt at a musical career, as well as her ambitions to be a classical singer.

Between 1929 and 1942, Adams’ works became more mature and he became more established. In the course of his 60-year career, the 1930s were a particularly productive and experimental time. Adams expanded his works, focusing on detailed close-ups as well as large forms from mountains to factories. In 1930 Taos Pueblo, Adams second portfolio, was published with text by writer Mary Austin.

Ansell Adams_Two ExplorersIn New Mexico, he was introduced to notables from Stieglitz’s circle, including painter Georgia O’Keeffe, artist John Marin, and photographer Paul Strand, all of whom created famous works during their stays in the Southwest. Adams’s talkative, high-spirited nature combined with his excellent piano playing made him a hit within his enlarging circle of elite artist friends. Strand especially proved influential, sharing secrets of his technique with Adams, and finally convincing Adams to pursue photography with all his talent and energy. One of Strand’s suggestions which Adams immediately adopted was to use glossy paper rather than matte to intensify tonal values.

Through a friend with Washington connections Adams was able to put on his first solo museum exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution in 1931, featuring 60 prints taken in the High Sierra. He received an excellent review from the Washington Post, “His photographs are like portraits of the giant peaks, which seem to be inhabited by mythical gods”. Despite his success, Adams felt he was not yet up to the standards of Strand. He decided to broaden his subject matter to include still life and close-up photos, and to achieve higher quality by “visualizing” each image before taking it. He emphasized the use of small apertures and long exposures in natural light, which created sharp details with a wide range of focus, as demonstrated in Rose and Driftwood (1933), one of his finest still-life photographs.

In 1932, Adams had a group show at the M. H. de Young Museum with Imogen Cunningham and Edward Weston and they soon formed Group f/64, which espoused “pure or straight photography” over pictorialism (f/64 being a very small aperture setting that gives great depth of field). The group’s manifesto stated that “Pure photography is defined as possessing no qualities of technique, composition or idea, derivative of any other art form”. In reality, “pure photography” did borrow from some of the established principles of painting, especially compositional balance and perspective, and some manipulation of subject and effect. By these standards, not only were “soft focus” lenses prohibited but Adams earlier photo Monolith, which used a strong red filter to create a black sky, would have been considered unacceptable.


Taos Pueblo

In September 1941, Adams contracted with the Department of the Interior to make photographs of National Parks, Indian reservations, and other locations for use as mural-sized prints for decoration of the Department’s new building. Part of his understanding with the Department was that he might also make photographs for his own use, using his own film and processing. Although Adams kept meticulous records of his travel and expenses, he was less disciplined about recording the dates of his images, and neglected to note the date of Moonrise, so it was not clear whether it belonged to Adams or to the U.S. Government. But the position of the Moon allowed the image to eventually be dated from astronomical calculations, and it was determined that Moonrise was made on November 1, 1941, a day for which he had not billed the Department, so the image belonged to Adams. The same was not true for many of his other negatives, including The Tetons and the Snake River, which, having been made for the Mural Project, became the property of the U.S. Government.


Farm workers at Manzanar
War Relocation Center
with Mt. Williamson
in the background.

Adams was distressed by the Japanese American Internment that occurred after the Pearl Harbor attack. He requested permission to visit the Manzanar War Relocation Center in the Owens Valley, at the foot of Mount Williamson. The resulting photo-essay first appeared in a Museum of Modern Art exhibit, and later was published as Born Free and Equal: The Story of Loyal Japanese-Americans. He also contributed to the war effort by doing many photographic assignments for the military, including making prints of secret Japanese installations in the Aleutians. Adams was the recipient of three Guggenheim fellowships during his career, the first in 1946 to photograph every National Park. This series of photographs produced memorable images of “Old Faithful Geyser”, Grand Teton, and Mount McKinley.

In 1945, Adams was asked to form the first fine art photography department at the California School of Fine Arts (CSFA). Adams invited Dorothea Lange, Imogen Cunningham and Minor White to become faculty members.

In 1952 Adams was one of the founders of the magazine Aperture, which was intended as a serious journal of photography showcasing its best practitioners and newest innovations. He was also a contributor to Arizona Highways, a photo-rich travel magazine which continues today. His article on Mission San Xavier del Bac, with text by longtime friend Nancy Newhall, was enlarged into a book published in 1954. This was the first of many collaborations with her. In June 1955, Adams began his annual workshops, teaching thousands of students until 1981.

Ansel Adams_Moon over Half DomeBy the 1950s, Adams came to believe that he was on the down side of his creative life. He continued with commercial assignments for another twenty years and became a consultant on a monthly retainer for Polaroid Corporation, founded by good friend Edwin Land. He made thousands of photographs with Polaroid products, El Capitan, Winter, Sunrise (1968) being the one he considered his most memorable. In the final twenty years of his life, the Hasselblad was his camera of choice, with Moon and Half Dome (1960) being his favorite photo made with that brand of camera.

Contributions and influence

Romantic landscapists Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran portrayed the Grand Canyon and Yosemite at the end of their reign, and were subsequently displaced by daredevil photographers Carleton Watkins, Eadweard Muybridge, and George Fiske. But it was Adams’s black-and-white photographs of the West which became the foremost record of what many of the National Parks were like before tourism, and his persistent advocacy helped expand the National Park system. He skillfully used his works to promote many of the goals of the Sierra Club and of the nascent environmental movement, but always insisted that, as far as his photographs were concerned, “beauty comes first”. His stirring images are still very popular in calendars, posters, and books.

Ansel Adams_Plants Realistic about development and the subsequent loss of habitat, Adams advocated for balanced growth, but was pained by the ravages of “progress”. He stated, “We all know the tragedy of the dustbowls, the cruel unforgivable erosions of the soil, the depletion of fish or game, and the shrinking of the noble forests. And we know that such catastrophes shrivel the spirit of the people… The wilderness is pushed back, man is everywhere. Solitude, so vital to the individual man, is almost nowhere.”

Adams co-founded Group f/64 with other masters like Edward Weston, Willard Van Dyke, and Imogen Cunningham. With Fred Archer, he pioneered the zone system, a technique for translating perceived light into specific densities on negatives and paper, giving photographers better control over finished photographs. Adams also advocated the idea of visualization (which he often called ‘previsualization’, though he later acknowledged that term to be a redundancy) whereby the final image is “seen” in the mind’s eye before taking the photo, toward the goal of achieving all together the aesthetic, intellectual, spiritual, and mechanical effects desired. He taught these and other techniques to thousands of amateur photographers through his publications and his workshops. His many books about photography, including the Morgan & Morgan Basic Photo Series (The Camera, The Negative, The Print, Natural Light Photography, and Artificial Light Photography) have become classics in the field.

He was elected in 1966 a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1980 Jimmy Carter awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Adams_The_Tetons_and_the_Snake_River_749px The Tetons and the
Snake River (1942)

Adams’s photograph The Tetons and the Snake River has the distinction of being one of the 115 images recorded on the Voyager Golden Record aboard the Voyager spacecraft. These images were selected to convey information about humans, plants and animals, and geological features of the Earth to a possible alien civilization. These photographs eloquently mirror his favorite saying, a Gaelic mantra, which states “I know that I am one with beauty and that my comrades are one. Let our souls be mountains, Let our spirits be stars, Let our hearts be worlds.”

His lasting legacy includes helping to elevate photography to an art comparable with painting and music, and equally capable of expressing emotion and beauty. As he reminded his students, “It is easy to take a photograph, but it is harder to make a masterpiece in photography than in any other art medium”.

“Ansel Adams,” wrote John Szarkowski, of the N.Y. Museum of Modern Art, “attuned himself more precisely than any photographer before him to a visual understanding of the specific quality of the light that fell on a specific place at a specific moment. For Adams the natural landscape is not a fixed and solid sculpture but an insubstantial image, as transient as the light that continually redefines it. This sensibility to the specificity of light was the motive that forced Adams to develop his legendary photographic technique.”


Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Ansel Adams that can be found at…


Ansel Adams Biography…

by Gerald Boerner


“Free trade and sailors’ rights…”
— Rallying cry of Americans

“We have met the enemy and they are ours.”
— Oliver Hazard Perry

“Don’t give up the ship!”
— Captain James Lawrence

“Britain’s sole objective throughout the period was the defeat of France.”
— Jon Latimer

“I believe that in four weeks from the time a declaration of war is heard on our frontier, the whole of Upper Canada and a part of Lower Canada will be in our power.”
— John C. Calhoun

“Alas, I can descry only groups of military wandering in all directions, as if there was a lack of arms, or of spirit to fight for their own fireside! . . .I insist on waiting until the large picture of Gen. Washington is secured.”
— First Lady Dolley Madison

“The war has renewed and reinstated the national feelings and character which the Revolution had given, and which were daily lessened. The people … are more American; they feel and act more as a nation; and I hope the permanency of the Union is thereby better secured.”
— Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury

“If possible, England wished to avoid war with America, but not to the extent of allowing her to hinder the British war effort against France. Moreover… a large section of influential British opinion, both in the government and in the country, thought that America presented a threat to British maritime supremacy.”
— Reginald Horsman, British Historian


Veterans Day: Remembering the War of 1812

The War of 1812, between the United States of America and the British Empire (particularly Great Britain and British North America), lasted from 1812 to 1815. It was fought chiefly on the Atlantic Ocean and on the land, coasts and waterways of North America.

There were several immediate stated causes for the U.S. declaration of war: first, a series of trade restrictions introduced by Britain to impede American trade with France, a country with which Britain was at war (the U.S. contested these restrictions as illegal under international law); second, the impressment (forced recruitment) of U.S. citizens into the Royal Navy; third, the British military support for American Indians who were offering armed resistance to the expansion of the American frontier to the Northwest. An unstated but powerful motivation for the Americans was the desire to uphold national honor in the face of what they considered to be British insults (such as the Chesapeake affair).

American expansion into the Northwest (Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin) was impeded by Indian raids. Some Canadian historians in the early 20th century maintained that Americans had wanted to seize parts of Canada, a view that many Canadians still share, while others argue that inducing the fear of such a seizure had merely been a U.S. tactic designed to obtain a bargaining chip. Some members of the British Parliament at the time and dissident American politicians such as John Randolph of Roanoke claimed that land hunger rather than maritime disputes was the main motivation for the American declaration. Although the British made some concessions before the war on neutral trade, they insisted on the right to reclaim their deserting sailors. The British also had the long-standing goal of creating a large "neutral" Indian state that would cover much of Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. They made the demand as late as 1814 at the peace conference, but lost battles that would have validated their claims.

“To have shrunk, under such circumstances, from manly resistence, would have been a degradation blasting our best and proudest hopes; it would have struck us from the high ranks where the virtuous struggles of our fathers had placed us, and have betrayed the magnificent legacy which we hold in trust for future generations. It would have acknowledged that on the element which forms three-fourths of the globe we inhabit, where all independent nations have equal and common rights, the American people were not an independent people, but colonists and vassals.” — President James Madison

The war was fought in four theatres: on the oceans, where the warships and privateers of both sides preyed on each other’s merchant shipping; along the Atlantic coast of the U.S., which was blockaded with increasing severity by the British, who also mounted large-scale raids in the later stages of the war; on the long frontier, running along the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River, which separated the U.S. from Upper and Lower Canada (Ontario and Quebec); and finally along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. During the course of the war, both the Americans and British launched invasions of each other’s territory, all of which were unsuccessful or gained only temporary success. At the end of the war, the British held parts of Maine and some outposts in the sparsely populated West while the Americans held Canadian territory near Detroit, but these occupied territories were restored at the end of the war.


An artist’s rendering of the
battle at Fort McHenry,
where Francis Scott Key
was inspired to write
"The Star-Spangled Banner."

In the United States, battles such as New Orleans and the earlier successful defence of Baltimore (which inspired the lyrics of the U.S. national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner) produced a sense of euphoria over a "second war of independence" against Britain. It ushered in an "Era of Good Feelings," in which the partisan animosity that had once verged on treason practically vanished. Canada also emerged from the war with a heightened sense of national feeling and solidarity. Britain, which had regarded the war as a sideshow to the Napoleonic Wars raging in Europe, was less affected by the fighting; its government and people subsequently welcomed an era of peaceful relations with the United States.

Origins of the war

On June 18, the United States declared war on Britain. The war had many causes, but at the centre of the conflict was Britain’s ongoing war with Napoleon’s France. The British, said Jon Latimer in 2007, had only one goal: "Britain’s sole objective throughout the period was the defeat of France."  If America helped France, then America had to be damaged until she stopped, or "Britain was prepared to go to any lengths to deny neutral trade with France." Latimer concludes, "All this British activity seriously angered Americans."

Trade tensions

The British were engaged in war with the First French Empire and did not wish to allow the Americans to trade with France, regardless of their theoretical neutral rights to do so. As Horsman explains, "If possible, England wished to avoid war with America, but not to the extent of allowing her to hinder the British war effort against France. Moreover… a large section of influential British opinion, both in the government and in the country, thought that America presented a threat to British maritime supremacy."


During the Napoleonic Wars, the Royal Navy expanded to 175 ships of the line and 600 ships overall, requiring 140,000 sailors. While the Royal Navy was able to man its ships with volunteers in peacetime, in war, it competed with merchant shipping and privateers for a small pool of experienced sailors and turned to impressment when unable to man ships with volunteers alone. A sizeable number of sailors (estimated to be as many as 11,000 in 1805) in the United States merchant navy were Royal Navy veterans or deserters who had left for better pay and conditions. The Royal Navy went after them by intercepting and searching U.S. merchant ships for deserters. Such actions, especially the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair, incensed the Americans.

Question of United States expansionism

American expansion into the Northwest Territory (the modern states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin) was being obstructed by indigenous leaders like Tecumseh, supplied and encouraged by the British. Americans on the frontier demanded that interference be stopped. Before 1940, some historians held that United States expansionism into Canada was also a reason for the war, but the theory lost supporters. The territory in question (western Ontario), had already been largely settled by Americans, and they remained mostly neutral during the war. Some Canadian historians propounded the notion in the early 20th century, and it survives among most Canadians. This view was also shared by members of the British Parliament at the time.

Where the War took Place

The early disasters brought about chiefly by American unpreparedness and lack of leadership drove United States Secretary of War William Eustis from office. His successor, John Armstrong, Jr., attempted a coordinated strategy late in 1813 aimed at the capture of Montreal, but was thwarted by logistical difficulties, uncooperative and quarrelsome commanders and ill-trained troops. By 1814, the United States Army’s morale and leadership had greatly improved, but the embarrassing Burning of Washington led to Armstrong’s dismissal from office in turn. The war ended before the new Secretary of War James Monroe could put any new strategy into effect.

BurningofWashington1814American prosecution of the war also suffered from its unpopularity, especially in New England, where antiwar spokesmen were vocal. The failure of New England to provide militia units or financial support was a serious blow. Threats of secession by New England states were loud; Britain immediately exploited these divisions, blockading only southern ports for much of the war and encouraging smuggling.

The war was conducted in three theatres of operations:

  1. The Atlantic Ocean
  2. The Great Lakes and the Canadian frontier
  3. The Southern States

The blockade of American ports later tightened to the extent that most American merchant ships and naval vessels were confined to port. The American frigates USS United States and USS Macedonian ended the war blockaded and hulked in New London, Connecticut. Some merchant ships were based in Europe or Asia and continued operations. Others, mainly from New England, were issued licenses to trade by Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren, commander in chief on the American station in 1813. This allowed Wellington’s army in Spain to be supplied with American goods, as well as maintaining the New Englanders’ opposition to the war.

Negotiations and peace

On December 24, 1814, diplomats from the two countries, meeting in Ghent, United Kingdom of the Netherlands (now in Belgium), signed the Treaty of Ghent. This was ratified by the Americans on February 16, 1815.

Britain, which had forces in uninhabited areas near Lake Superior and Lake Michigan and two towns in Maine, demanded the ceding of large areas, plus turning most of the Midwest into a neutral zone for Indians. American public opinion was outraged when Madison published the demands; even the Federalists were now willing to fight on. The British were planning three invasions. One force burned Washington but failed to capture Baltimore, and sailed away when its commander was killed. In New York, 10,000 British veterans were marching south until a decisive defeat at the Battle of Plattsburgh forced them back to Canada. Nothing was known of the fate of the third large invasion force aimed at capturing New Orleans and southwest. The Prime Minister wanted the Duke of Wellington to command in Canada and finally win the war; Wellington said no, because the war was a military stalemate and should be promptly ended:

I think you have no right, from the state of war, to demand any concession of territory from America … You have not been able to carry it into the enemy’s territory, notwithstanding your military success and now undoubted military superiority, and have not even cleared your own territory on the point of attack. You can not on any principle of equality in negotiation claim a cessation of territory except in exchange for other advantages which you have in your power … Then if this reasoning be true, why stipulate for the uti possidetis? You can get no territory: indeed, the state of your military operations, however creditable, does not entitle you to demand any.

The Battle of New Orleans and other post-treaty fighting

Unaware of the peace, Andrew Jackson’s forces moved to New Orleans, Louisiana in late 1814 to defend against a large-scale British invasion. Jackson defeated the British at the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815, At the end of the day, the British had a little over 2,000 casualties: 278 dead (including three senior generals Pakenham, Gibbs, and Major General Keane), 1186 wounded, and 484 captured or missing. (ref: Brooks, Charles B p.252, Reilly, Robin p.297) The Americans had 71 casualties: 13 dead, 39 wounded, and 19 missing. It was hailed as a great victory for the U.S., making Jackson a national hero and eventually propelling him to the presidency.

Terms of the Treaty of Ghent

The war was ended by the Treaty of Ghent, signed on December 24, 1814 and taking effect February 18, 1815. The terms stated that fighting between the United States and Britain would cease, all conquered territory was to be returned to the prewar claimant, the Americans were to gain fishing rights in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, and that both the United States and Britain agreed to recognize the prewar boundary between Canada and the United States.

US_Capitol_1814c_800px The Treaty of Ghent, which was promptly ratified by the Senate in 1815, ignored the grievances that led to war. American complaints of Indian raids, impressment and blockades had ended when Britain’s war with France (apparently) ended, and were not mentioned in the treaty. The treaty proved to be merely an expedient to end the fighting. Mobile and parts of western Florida remained permanently in American possession, despite objections by Spain. Thus, the war ended with no significant territorial losses for either side.


Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

War of 1812 that can be found at…

by Gerald Boerner


“The words of a President have an enormous weight, and ought not to be used indiscriminately.”
— Calvin Coolidge

“If I take another term, I will be in the White House till 1933 … Ten years in Washington is longer than any other man has had it—too long!”
— Calvin Coolidge

“The Presidential office takes a heavy toll of those who occupy it and those who are dear to them. While we should not refuse to spend and be spent in the service of our country, it is hazardous to attempt what we feel is beyond our strength to accomplish.”
— Calvin Coolidge

“…I was amazed to receive such a letter. During the war 500,000 colored men and boys were called up under the draft, not one of whom sought to evade it. [As president, I am] one who feels a responsibility for living up to the traditions and maintaining the principles of the Republican Party. Our Constitution guarantees equal rights to all our citizens, without discrimination on account of race or color. I have taken my oath to support that Constitution…”
— Calvin Coolidge’s response to letter about “white man’s country”

“It is probable that a press which maintains an intimate touch with the business currents of the nation is likely to be more reliable than it would be if it were a stranger to these influences. After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world.”
— President Calvin Coolidge’s address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors

“Your assertion that the Commissioner was wrong cannot justify the wrong of leaving the city unguarded. That furnished the opportunity; the criminal element furnished the action. There is no right to strike against the public safety by anyone, anywhere, any time.  … I am equally determined to defend the sovereignty of Massachusetts and to maintain the authority and jurisdiction over her public officers where it has been placed by the Constitution and laws of her people.”
— Governor Calvin Coolidge to Samuel Gompers

“Do the day’s work. If it be to protect the rights of the weak, whoever objects, do it. If it is to help a powerful corporation, do that. Expect to be called a stand-patter, but do not be a stand-patter. Expect to be called a demagogue, but do not be a demagogue. Do not hesitate to be called as revolutionary as science. Do not hesitate to be as reactionary as the multiplication table. Do not expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong. Do not hurry to legislate. Give administration a chance to catch up with legislation.”
Have Faith in Massachusetts as delivered by Calvin Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge and the Ballot Box

Calvin_Coolidge_photo_portrait_head_and_shoulders_460px John Calvin Coolidge, Jr. was the 30th President of the United States (1923–1929). A Republican lawyer from Vermont, Coolidge worked his way up the ladder of Massachusetts state politics, eventually becoming governor of that state. His actions during the Boston Police Strike of 1919 thrust him into the national spotlight. Soon after, he was elected as the 29th Vice President in 1920 and succeeded to the Presidency upon the death of Warren G. Harding. Elected in his own right in 1924, he gained a reputation as a small-government conservative.

Coolidge restored public confidence in the White House after the scandals of his predecessor’s administration, and left office with considerable popularity. As his biographer later put it, “he embodied the spirit and hopes of the middle class, could interpret their longings and express their opinions. That he did represent the genius of the average is the most convincing proof of his strength.” Many later criticized Coolidge as part of a general criticism of laissez-faire government. His reputation underwent a renaissance during the Ronald Reagan Administration, but the ultimate assessment of his presidency is still divided between those who approve of his reduction of the size of government and those who believe the federal government should be more involved in regulating and controlling the economy.

As President, Coolidge demonstrated his determination to preserve the old moral and economic precepts amid the material prosperity which many Americans were enjoying. He refused to use Federal economic power to check the growing boom or to ameliorate the depressed condition of agriculture and certain industries. His first message to Congress in December 1923 called for isolation in foreign policy, and for tax cuts, economy, and limited aid to farmers.

In his Inaugural he asserted that the country had achieved “a state of contentment seldom before seen,” and pledged himself to maintain the status quo. In subsequent years he twice vetoed farm relief bills, and killed a plan to produce cheap Federal electric power on the Tennessee River.

The political genius of President Coolidge, Walter Lippmann pointed out in 1926, was his talent for effectively doing nothing: “This active inactivity suits the mood and certain of the needs of the country admirably. It suits all the business interests which want to be let alone…. And it suits all those who have become convinced that government in this country has become dangerously complicated and top-heavy….”

Coolidge was both the most negative and remote of Presidents, and the most accessible. He once explained to Bernard Baruch why he often sat silently through interviews: “Well, Baruch, many times I say only ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to people. Even that is too much. It winds them up for twenty minutes more.”

As President, Coolidge’s reputation as a quiet man continued. “The words of a President have an enormous weight,” he would later write, “and ought not to be used indiscriminately.” Coolidge was aware of his stiff reputation; indeed, he cultivated it. “I think the American people want a solemn ass as a President,” he once told Ethel Barrymore, “and I think I will go along with them.” However, he did hold a then-record number of presidential press conferences, 520 during his presidency. He was the first president to accept follow-up questions at press conferences.

“All the opportunity for self-government through the rule of the people depends upon one single factor. That is the ballot box… The people of our country are sovereign. If they do not vote they abdicate that sovereighty, and they may be entirely sure that if they relinquish it other forces will seize it, and if they fail to govern themselves some other power will rise up to govern them. The choice is always before them, whether they will be slaves or whther they will be free is to exercise actively and energetically the privileges, and discharge faithfully the duties which make freedom. It is not to be secured by passive resistance. It is the result of energy and action…”
— Calvin Coolidge


Other Events on this Day
  • In 1868…
    Republican Ulysses S. Grant defeats Democrat Horatio Seymour to become the eighteenth U.S. president.
  • In 1896…
    Republican William McKinley defeats Democrate William Jennings Bryant to become the twenty-fifth U.S. president.
  • In 1924…
    President Calvin Coolidge, in a radio address, reminds Americans of their duty to vote
  • In 1948…
    The Chicago Daily Tribune announces “Dewey Defeats Truman” in a front-page headline (when, in fact, Truman had come from behind to win the presidential race).
  • In 1964…
    Incumbent president Lyndon B. Johnson defeats Republican challenger Barry Goldwater.

Dates and events based on:

William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)

Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Calvin Coolidge that can be found at…

The Presidential Biography of Calvin Coolidge that can be found at…