Edited by Gerald Boerner
Today has witnessed some important events through the past 400 years of our country’s history. There was one very significant event, the founding of Harvard College, as the first higher educational institution in our history. There were two events in Astronomy, one in the Arizona desert, as well as attempts of two heads of state, one of which was successful — the assassination of Czar Alexander II of Russia. In the Los Angeles area, this day witnessed the failure of the St. Francis Dam; the subsequent flood killed over 450 souls and wrecked extensive destruction to property and resources for miles ‘downstream.’ On the lighter side, this day saw the creation of the iconic image of Uncle Sam by Frank Henry Bellew. So, let’s take a closer look at these events.
Taking a closer look at some of these events, today is the birth of the first institution of higher education in these American colonies in 1639, only about 30 years after the first permanent colony was established here. The "new college" in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was later renamed Harvard College after the gift of half of Rev. John Harvard’s estate and his library of 400 books. Of course, Harvard University has emerged as one of the premiere academic institutions in this country. It has produced a number of U.S. Presidents, Supreme Court Justices, and notable congressmen. It is the mecca for the crème de la crème for our top students. It was also the college of choice of some of our most famous dropouts (Bill Gates and Mark Zucherberg)!
This day was also significant in the field of astronomy. In 1781, Sir William Herschel thought he had discover a new comet, but instead identified the planet Uranus. More recently, in this country, Clyde Tombaugh discovered the "dwarf planet" Pluto in the far end of our solar system in 1930. Working at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona fulfilled the prediction of Percival Lowell and William Pickering of a "planet X" in orbit beyond Uranus. Such is the way of science — one discovery leads to the prediction of another, but that discovery must wait for the development of the technology to observe that discovery. We saw this in the mapping of the human genome from the observations of genetic mutations by Mendel or the development of the analog or digital computer from the initial conceptualizations of Charles Babbage.
This day also found the attempt to end the reign of two world heads of state. It was successful in Russia in 1881 with the assassination of Czar Alexander II by a anti-czarist revolutionary group. This was the result of attacks on European monarchies in the aftermath of the French Revolution. In this country, Andrew Johnson, the VP who rose to the presidency following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. The attempt to end the presidency of Johnson, in 1868, did not come as a result of an assassination attempt, but through the impeachment process defined in the U.S. Constitution. The radical Republican House voted Articles of Impeachment against Johnson for his anti-civil rights support of the old Southern power lords; the Senate would NOT convict him of these charges and he would complete his term in office. President Bill Clinton was the only other President against whom Articles of Impeachment were approved by the House. The Senate would also fail to convict him of those charges. Ironically, the charges of sexual misconduct brought against Clinton would have hardly raised eyebrows in Andrew Johnson’s day!
On the tragic side of things, on this day, in 1928, we would witness the St. Francis Dam in the Los Angeles foothills collapsing. This disaster would send torrents of water stored in a reservoir near to the present city of Santa Clarita (Magic Mountain); this reservoir was part of the Los Angeles Aqueduct designed by William Mulholland in the early days of the 20th century. The water released at midnight would result in the death of over 450 residents of the wash below the dam. Property damage was also extensive. We have witnessed more recently the collapse of the Baldwin Hills dam in 1963 killing five and destroying 277 homes. When will we learn? In the latter case, especially, the reservoir was built by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power on an earthquake fault line!
To end on a more positive note, this day, in 1852, witness the creation of the iconic image of Uncle Sam by a graphic artist, Frank Henry Bellew. This graphic was published in the New York Lantern newspaper. This image would be enhanced and come to represent the benevolent nature of this nation. In this day of conflict and ideological divisions within our nation, we need to think of the benevolence of our beloved country and the care and safety net provided by its programs…
We now will proceed to examine some of the events that are associated with day in history... GLB
These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2012 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved
[ 1605 Words ]
Quotations Related to Uncle (Sam):
“It’s my firm conviction that when Uncle Sam calls, by God we go, and we do the best that we can.”
— R. Lee Ermey
“Wherever on this planet ideals of personal freedom and dignity apply, there you will find the cultural inheritance of England.”
— Karel Capek
“Right now, I’m worth a million dollars, and I owe Uncle Sam a million-and-a-half dollars, and I made a deal with him. I said, ‘Uncle Sam, I’m going to pay you 25 grand a month.’”
— Robert Blake
“Beware how you trifle with your marvelous inheritance, this great land of ordered liberty, for if we stumble and fall, freedom and civilization everywhere will go down in ruin.”
— Henry Cabot Lodge
“Men always talk about the most important things to perfect strangers. In the perfect stranger we perceive man himself; the image of a God is not disguised by resemblances to an uncle or doubts of wisdom of a mustache.”
— Gilbert K. Chesterton