Tuesday, February 24, 2009

For February 25: "Oh, Magoo, you've done it again!"

Do you know who this is?
-One of his teachers in grade school was Margaret Hamilton, who would later play Miss Gulch/The Wicked Witch, in the classic movie from 1939, The Wizard of Oz.
-He was expelled from Kentucky Military Institute for riding a horse into the Institute’s lunchroom.
-He reached the US Top 40 Pop charts for a couple of weeks in 1958 with his novelty recording, 'Delicious!'

As an actor, he did it all. Starting in the later years of vaudeville, transitioning to radio shows in the 1930s, the Broadway stage and movies in the 1940s, and finally television in the 1950s. He participated in over 230 films and television shows as an actor, was a television show writer, had a hit record, voice-overs in animated cartoons, and portrayed himself in an additional 30+ television shows and films. As a character actor in movies and television, he would excel in dramatic and comedic roles and he would work extensively in the entertainment industry for five decades. One of his most remembered roles - and one which gives away his name immediately - was as Thurston Howell III in Gilligan’s Island.

James Gilmore Backus was born in Cleveland, Ohio on February 25, 1913. He would attend prep school – and his kindergarten teacher was Margaret Hamilton. Hamilton would later become involved in the movie industry, with her most famous role being that of Miss Gulch/The Wicked Witch, in the classic 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz. Jim found as he progressed in school he discovered that his major interests lay outside of the classroom – in golf and acting.

His father was an engineer who became frustrated with the non-academic attitude in school and would enroll him in the Kentucky Military Institute – where he met and became a friend of future movie star Victor Mature. James managed to get himself expelled from the Institute by riding a horse into the school lunchroom. As a teenager, Jim would work for a stock theater company during the summers and – in one of the company’s productions – had a small role in a production starring future movie great Clark Gable.

Ultimately he would manage to struggle his way through high school and was able to convince his father to let him skip a traditional college education. Instead he went to New York City to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. After his graduation from the Academy in 1933, Jim spent two years working in a variety of stage productions and in summer stock before trying his hand at radio. He would appear on a number of radio shows throughout the ‘golden age of radio’ with roles in soap operas, dramas, detective shows, and variety shows. In 1937 he was able to open another phase of his career by securing a spot as the Master of Ceremonies in the Broadway play Hitch Your Wagon, then later as a character the drama Too Many Heroes (which lasted sixteen performances).

Jim’s biggest radio success was on the Alan Young Show where he created Hubert Updyke III - a stuffy, upper-crust character famous for dry quips such as “Careful, or I’ll have your mouth washed out with domestic champagne.” Updyke became a prototype for one of Jim’s most famous television era characters – Thurston Howell III.

As the 1940s neared its end, he was beginning a new aspect of his entertainment career: the movies. One of the first roles he had in the movies was a 1949 football drama titled Easy Living with Lucille Ball and former classmate Victor Mature. That same year he was selected to be the voice of a character in a cartoon titled Ragtime Bear that would become very popular: nearsighted Quincy Magoo. Jim would spend almost three decades as Mr. Magoo, from the original cartoon shorts to a television series, and finally to full-length films. Jim would also have significant roles in the 1955 comedy Francis in the Navy and – also in 1955 - as James Dean’s father in Rebel Without A Cause.

While Jim found work as a character actor in the movies – and was known around Hollywood as one of the funniest men around – it was a long time before producers would consider casting him in anything other than straight dramatic roles. He once said: "It's the curse of a sad face and cow-brown eyes. To them I must look like a Saint Bernard. They did everything but put a keg of brandy around my neck." However, he gradually entered into more comedic roles.

Perhaps television helped in that area. He starred in an early sitcom titled I Married Joan, starring in the role of Judge Bradley Stevens with costar comedienne Joan Davis as his TV wife. The series lasted from 1952 – 1953.

"No one can pull the wool over my eyes. Cashmere maybe, but wool, never." As Thurston Howell III

The role that Jim is most remembered for – and one that he leaped at the chance to play – was that of Thurston Howell III, the marooned millionaire on Gilligan’s Island who, with his wife Lovey, brought culture and social snobbery to the island setting. It was a reprisal of his radio days character, and brought a bright spot to the show. It is a still a popular character after four decades of reruns. He would bring back the character in several movies made with the Gilligan Island cast after the show ran its television course.

Jim would decline in health his last few years, suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. He passed away on July 3, 1989, and is buried in Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles, California.


No books are available in our local library


Answers Biography
International Movie Data Base Biography
Moviefone biography


Sunday, February 22, 2009

February 23: “the problem of the color line”

Do you know who this is?
-He was one of the founders of the NAACP.
-He has been identified as one of America’s hundred greatest African-Americans.
-He would become a naturalized citizen of Ghana.

He was a brilliant thinker, an author, a revolutionary, and highly educated. He grew up in an atmosphere of equality between the races, but was one who would become embroiled in the early African-American civil rights movement in the United States. He would eventually seek the equality that was promised in communism by embracing that theory of government, and would die in Africa – having by the time of his death made his mark on American history, helping to set the stage for the successful civil rights efforts of the 1950s and 1960s. Wikipedia provides the statement that David Levering Lewis, a biographer, wrote, "In the course of his long, turbulent career, W. E. B. Du Bois attempted virtually every possible solution to the problem of twentieth-century racism— scholarship, propaganda, integration, national self-determination, human rights, cultural and economic separatism, politics, international communism, expatriation, third world solidarity."

William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.) Du Bois was born to Alfred Du Bois and Mary Silvina Burghardt Du Bois on February 23, 1868, in Great Barrington, located in the western portion of Massachusetts. His parentage was termed ‘mixed race’ in the 19th century, a heritage leaving him with light skin and blue eyes. He would late write that it included "a flood of Negro blood, a strain of French, a bit of Dutch, but, Thank God! No 'Anglo-Saxon'...."

His father would desert the family by the time William was two. While he was still young, his mother would suffer a stroke, becoming unable to work regularly. The family was impoverished, and was often supported by family as well as William’s after-school jobs. Very early in his life William learned about responsibility, hard work, and became convinced that education was the key to improvement. He would set himself to that task, encouraged by many of his teachers.

While he grew up in a racially tolerant neighborhood that did not accurately reflect the racial attitudes of the 1870s and 1880s. Most of As he became exposed to racism, William came to believe that he would and should use his goal of higher education to help the move to equality between African-American and white society.

“Had it not been for the race problem early thrust upon me and enveloping me, I should have probably been an unquestioning worshipper at the shrine of the established social order into which I was born. But just that part of this order which seemed to most of my fellows nearest perfection seemed to me most inequitable and wrong; and starting from that critique, I gradually, as the year went by, found other things to question in my environment.” -W.E.B Du Bois
After high school, Du Bois wanted to attend Harvard University, but could not afford it. He attended Fisk University, a historically all-black school in Nashville, Tennessee, from 1885 to 1888. Fisk exposed him to “what it meant to be a Negro in a white dominated land”. He applied to Harvard as a junior in 1888 on a $250 scholarship, and would graduate with a Bachelor’s degree cum laude in 1890. He would spend two years at the University of Berlin, then in 1895, he would become the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard. His dissertation, "The Suppression of the African Slave-Trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870" was published in 1896 as the first volume in the Harvard Historical Studies series.

He would teach at African-American colleges in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and would – in 1897 – accept a position at Atlanta University. Using the University as his base, he would spend thirteen years there in his field of sociology studying African-American morality, urbanizations, business, crime, and a host of other social forces – conducting studies to help in creating social reform. This was an ideal time for this effort as America was in the middle of the Progressive Era.

“The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line,--the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea.” –W.E.B. DuBois
In July 1905 a group of men organized what became known as the Niagara Movement – the fore-runner of the N.A.A.C.P. (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), which was created in 1909. These organizations urged full equality – economic, social, and political – for African Americans. William was a key element in both of these organizations – and as director of publications and research, Du Bois was the only African American among its early officers. He would be the publications director for the NAACP for a quarter century, publishing numerous pamphlets, articles, and newspaper releases advocating the cause of equality. He also published a number of books, the most famous of which is probably The Souls of Black Folk (1903), as well as founding The Crisis – the association’s magazine.

"By 'Freedom' for Negroes, I meant and still mean, full economic, political and Social equality with American citizens, in thought, expression and action, with no discrimination based on race or color." –W.E.B. DuBois
Increasingly, Du Bois looked beyond American race relations to international economics and politics. In 1915 he wrote The Negro, a sociological examination of the African diaspora. In 1919 he helped organize the second Pan-African Congress. Visiting Africa in the 1920s, Du Bois wrote that his chief question was whether "Negroes are to lead in the rise of Africa or whether they must always and everywhere follow the guidance of white folk." His writing would become more militant during starting in the 1920s, and he would become an admirer of the Soviet Union, Imperial Japan, and Nazi Germany during the 1930s. In the late 1940s he would criticize American foreign policy, take a stand against the atomic bomb, and would be dismissed from the membership of the NAACP in 1948. He continued to support the Soviet Union in the 1950s, and received the Lenin Peace Prize in Moscow in 1959. Eventually he would move to Ghana, accepting Ghana national citizenship six months before his death on August 27, 1963.

The W.E.B. DuBois Learning Center wrote a fitting summary of W.E.B. DuBois: “Labeled as a "radical," he was ignored by those who hoped that his massive contributions would be buried along side of him. But, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, "history cannot ignore W.E.B. DuBois because history has to reflect truth and Dr. DuBois was a tireless explorer and a gifted discoverer of social truths. His singular greatness lay in his quest for truth about his own people. There were very few scholars who concerned themselves with honest study of the black man and he sought to fill this immense void. The degree to which he succeeded disclosed the great dimensions of the man."


Lewis, David L., W.E.B. Du Bois : The Fight For Equality and the American Century 1919-1963


1. Portrait Library of Congress digital ID cph.3a53178
2. Office portrait: University of Michigan, Harlem Collection
3. Niagara Movement: University of Massachusetts Library Collection. DuBois is second from the right in the middle row.
4. Souls of Black Folks cover: Wikipedia

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Feb. 20: "This is a cause worth dying for..."

Do you know who this is?
-She was threatened with arrest if she ever returned to her native state.
-She was the first woman to speak to a state legislature.
-She first became famous because of a letter she wrote.

She was born in South Carolina but was ostracized from Antebellum South’s society. She became a Quaker, but was expelled from that religion because of her marriage to a non-Quaker.

Angelina Emily Grimke was born on February 20, 1805, in South Carolina to a privileged caste: her father, John Grimaldi, had been an officer in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, was a distinguished jurist; cotton plantation owner; a member of the state legislature; a man of wealth and culture – and a slave owner. Angelina and her older sister Sarah would grow up in the South, but after their father died in 1819 they would find themselves dissatisfied with the Anglican Church and with the slave system that existed. One reason for their anti-slavery stance was because they saw the injustice of slavery through the actions of their father – who fathered fourteen children, both white and mulatto. They also saw the physical abuses on slavery – whippings, beatings, and death – all of which caused them to rebel against the established system of the South. In 1821 Sarah would become a member of the Society of Friends (Quaker), with Angelina following in 1829. They would form a team fighting for equal rights for the rest of their lives.

Angelina would be the first of the sisters to grow into a belief of immediate abolition. She wrote a letter that would change her life and the life of her sister forever and would shock many of her Quaker brethren. The letter was written to William Lloyd Garrison after he formed the American Anti-Slavery Society, the first interracial organization in the country. Soon after the Society was formed, riots began breaking out in many of the East Coast cities – because the divisive topic of abolition was now brought to the forefront. Angelina’s letter, titled “8th Month, 30th, 1835”, was printed by William Lloyd Garrison in the Liberator – without Angelina’s permission. Angelina started her letter with: "I can hardly express to thee the deep and solemn interest with which I have viewed the violent proceedings of the last few weeks." She told Garrison to keep up the fight and volunteered to join him, saying, "This is a cause worth dying for". Angelina’s letter would be reprinted throughout the North in all of the major reform newspapers of the day. This letter would thrust Angelina and her older sister into the front lines of the abolition movement.

“The denial of our duty to act in this case is a denial of our right to act; and if we have no right to act, then may we well be termed the white slaves of the North, for like our brethren in bonds, we must seal our lips in silence and despair.” Angelina Grimke
The following year – 1836 – she wrote her Appeal to the Christian Women of the South – addressed to Southern women by a Southern woman - and began giving private – then public – talks on slavery. By 1837 Angelina and her sister had to secure the use of large halls to hold the crowds that came to see the curiosity of women as public speakers. Most shocking of all – in the cultural norms of the day – what that their audiences were ‘mixed’, made up of both men and women. The sisters also published regularly in The Liberator, the Boston Spectator, and other newspapers. All of these activities put Angelina and her sister in the middle of the women’s rights debates, and earned them the rebuke of many ministers for their ‘unwomanly behavior.’ She also became the first women in US history to address a state legislature when in 1838 she was invited to address the Massachusetts State Legislature on the issue of slavery.

The reaction to Angelina’s public speaking was not always positive. The General Association of Congregational Ministers of Massachusetts called on the clergy to close their churches to ‘women exhorters’.

In 1838 Angelina married Theodore Dwight Weld, a reformer and abolition orator and pamphleteer. He spoke on the abolitionist lecture circuit for a while, but then lost his voice in 1836. He turned to becoming an editor for the American Anti-Slavery Society. Angelina and her husband – joined by Sarah – lived in New Jersey, and in 1854 conducted a school for black and white alike at Eagleswood, New Jersey. Angelina would end her public speaking career with her marriage, except once, two days after her marriage – at Pennsylvania Hall in Philadelphia, which was destroyed by a mob immediately after her address there. She would spend her time assisting her husband and teaching.

“I trust the time is coming, when the occupation of an instructor to children will be deemed the most honorable of human employment.” -Angelina Grimke
Angelina and her sister still had occasional forays into the public eye. One of the most famous was on March 7, 1870, when Angelina – age sixty six – and her sister – age seventy nine – declared that women had the right to vote under the fourteenth amendment, marched in a procession with forty-two other women in a fierce snowstorm to the polling place, and cast their ballots. Onlookers jeered but, because of their age, they were not arrested and while this gesture did not change the law against women voting, it did receive a lot of publicity, inspire the women’s suffrage movement, and move the nation a bit closer to the nineteenth Amendment – guaranteeing women the right to vote.

Sarah would die in 1873, and Angelina would suffer several strokes after Sarah’s death, which would leave her paralyzed for the last six years of her life. She died on October 26, 1879, survived by her husband Theodore. Both Angelina and her sister are buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, Boston.

Angelina and her sister had an effect on American history through their unrelenting and fluent promotion of equality of the races and the equality of women under our legal system. They saw what should be, and strove to make the nation aware of that vision through their writing and their lives. As Angelina once said: “We Abolition Women are turning the world upside down.”


Mark Perry, Lift Up Thy Voice : the Grimké Family's Journey from Slaveholders to Civil Rights Leaders

1911 Encyclopedia
Columbia Encyclopedia
Iowa State University
National Women’s Hall of Fame
The Grimke Sisters, Project Gutenberg
Women’s History

Grimke woodcut: Library of Congress
Pennsylvania Hall burning: GenDisasters

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Feb. 17: “Satisfaction or your money back”

Do you know who this is?
-Was the originator of mail-order sales in the United States
-His first business inventory was destroyed by the Great Chicago Fire
-Had to quit school at the age of 14

The mail-order business today is the route that many people prefer in finding products, value, and providing an ease of effort that is often not available in regular shopping expeditions to the stores. The concept of a mail-order business is a little over a hundred years old, with most people attributing its origins to Sears and Robuck. However, in reality the origins of the mail-order business lie in the mind and hands of Aaron Montgomery Ward.

Aaron Montgomery Ward was born on February 17, 1844, in Chatham, New Jersey. When he was about nine years old his father, Sylvester Ward, moved the Ward family to Niles, Michigan. Aaron attended public schools. The Ward family was large, and were not wealthy, so at the age of fourteen he was taken out of school and apprenticed to a barrel making shop, both to learn a trade and to provide financial assistance for his family. He first earned 25 cents per day at a cutting machine in a barrel stave factory, and then stacking brick in a kiln at 30 cents a day. Eventually he would leave the mechanic’s work, seeking employment that provided more of a challenge for his active mind and greater financial reward.

He moved to St. Joseph, Michigan, finding employment as a salesman – first in a shoe store and later in a general country store, where he earned six dollars per month plus board – a sizable salary for the era. He would remain at the store for three years, rising to head clerk and then general manager. When he left the store his salary was one hundred dollars a month plus board. Why did Montgomery leave his lucrative position? He was offered a better job at a competing store, where he worked for another two years. It was during these five years that he learned the complex art of successful retailing.

In 1865 Montgomery moved to Chicago, Illinois, going to work for Case and Sobin, a lamp house. He would soon move to a new job, working for the leading dry-goods store in the city: Field Palmer & Leiter, the forerunner of Marshall Field & Co. He would work there for two years, then moved to another dry goods business, Wills, Greg & Co. Here he made numerous train trips to southern communities, visiting crossroads stores, listening to the complaints of country store proprietors and their rural customers.

It was during this time that he conceived a new merchandising technique: direct mail sales to rural residents. It was a time when rural consumers longed for the comforts of the city, yet all too often were victimized by monopolists and overcharged by the costs of many middlemen required to bring manufactured products to the countryside. The quality of merchandise also was suspect and the hapless farmer had no recourse in a caveat emptor economy. Montgomery shaped a plan to buy goods at low cost for cash. By eliminating intermediaries, with their markups and commissions, and drastically cutting selling costs, he could sell goods to people, however remote, at appealing prices. He then invited them to send their orders by mail and delivered the purchases to their nearest railroad station. The only thing he lacked was capital.

None of Montgomery’s friends or associates would join him in his revolutionary idea at first. By 1871 he had been nearly ready to start business when his entire stock of supplies was destroyed by the Great Chicago Fire in October, 1871. Finally, in August 1872, Montgomery and two fellow employees, with an initial capital of $1,600, began selling merchandise by mail from a cramped office and shipping room at the corner of North Clark Street and Kidzie Street, Chicago. Surrounded in their office by hoop skirts, lace curtains, red flannel, and more, Montgomery sent out his first catalog – a one-page list of 162 items. The catalog was sent to farmers’ cooperatives throughout the rural Midwest. In 1873 – after the first year of business, his two employee-partners left the organization, to be replaced by his future brother-in-law, Richard Thorne. By 1874 his price list had grown to 32 pages and was bound into a catalog. Soon his catalogs would be filled with color illustrations, woodcuts, and drawings to better show the products. By 1875 the Montgomery Ward & Company coined the phrase, “Satisfaction or your money back.” By 1883 the catalog had grown to 240 pages with approximately ten thousand items. By 1895 the catalog was over 600 pages, containing six kinds of bicycle bells (from .30 to $1.10); a piano ($200); a buggy ($60). Other offerings to rural America included sewing machines, iron beds, bathtubs, book titles, chairs, watches, pages of jewelry, Colt six-shooters, and commodes. The man or woman interested in matrimony could by a solid-gold eighteen-karat wedding band for five dollars. When a new catalog was received, the well thumbed through previous year’s catalog was relegated to the privy out in back of the house.

It was a case of the right idea at the right time. Montgomery offered the rural farmers and small townspeople a wide variety of merchandise and could keep his prices low by eliminating the middleman. The homesteaders pushing west took the catalog with them, providing him with an expanding geographic base of customers.

His catalog was copied by other entrepreneurs, the most successful being Sears and Roebuck, who mailed their first catalog in 1896.

Aaron Montgomery Ward died on December 7, 1913, at the age of 69 and is buried in Rosehill Cemetery and Mausoleum, Chicago, Illinois.

His legacy? In 1946 the Grolier Club, a society of bibliophiles in New York, included a Montgomery Ward catalog on its list of the 100 American books that had most affected American life, noting "no idea ever mushroomed so far from so small a beginning, or had so profound an influence on the economics of a continent, as the concept, original to America, of direct selling by mail, for cash." CNN Money report had, perhaps, the best statement about the contributions of Montgomery: “Legacy: Ward founded the world's first mail-order business, Montgomery Ward Co., in 1872. Countless other catalog-based companies have followed in his footsteps, including information-age retailers like Amazon.com.”
No biographies are available at our local library.

Book Rags
Engines of our Ingenuity
Morning Call

Portrait: Wikipedia Commons
Catalog Cover: University of Delaware
Mrs. Potts Irons: White River Valley
Signature: The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography

Thursday, February 12, 2009

February 12: Clergyman, Author, and Witch Hunter

Do you know who this is?
-He had a speech impediment (stuttering)
-He survived three wives and 13 of his 15 children
-He was a prolific writer, authoring over 400 books and pamphlets

He was the son and grandson of a clergyman and was born in Boston, Massachusetts on February 12, 1663. He himself would become noted not only as a clergyman recognized in is own right, but also a prolific author and – perhaps most notably – as one of the judges in the Salem Witch Trials.

Cotton Mather was the eldest child of Increase and Maria Mather. He was given his first name after the family name of his mother, who was the daughter of John Cotton who, in turn, was one of the most recognized American religious theologians of the day. Cotton knew as a child that he was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps. His father was the minister of the Second Church in Boston, an respected and loyal agent of England in the colonies, as well as the non-resident President of Harvard College. This expectation created a very serious child, dedicated to his studies, and whose fear of failing his parents showed up in a speech impediment: a stutter when he spoke. It would take years of practice before Cotton overcame his speech problem.

Cotton attended the Boston Latin School under its most famous 17th century headmaster, Ezekiel Cheever. He would enter Harvard College at the age of twelve, and would graduate from Harvard in 1678 at the age of 15. His father would hand him his first degree. At the age of nineteen Cotton would receive his master’s degree, and in 1690 was made a fellow of Harvard College and was involved in the affairs of the college throughout his life. He would begin studying theology, but because of his stuttering he was forced to give it up. He began studying medicine instead. Later he would conquer his stuttering, and would finish his preparation for the ministry. In 1681 he was elected the assistant pastor of his father’s church. In 1688, at the age of twenty-five, he was left in charge of the largest congregation in New England when his father went to England as an agent for the colony. Cotton would become the full minister of the Second (or North) Church of Boston upon the death of his father in 1723.

Cotton would marry several times during his life, each marriage ending in sadness. In 1686 he married Abigail Philips, having nine children by her before her death in 1702. A year later he married a widow, Mrs. Elizabeth Hubbard, by whom he had six additional children before her death in 1713. He married a third time in 1715 to another widow, Mrs. Lydia George. She would go insane. Of his fifteen children, only six lived to adulthood, and only two outlived him.

Perhaps Cotton is best known for his involvement in the Salem witchcraft trials.

During the 17th Century, the idea that New England occupied what was known as the Devil’s land established a deep-set fear and concern among the English Puritan settlers that the Devil would fight back against the invaders. They also feared a divine retribution from God over an apparently increasing lack of faith and piety among New Englanders.

This was the climate that existed in New England when the Goodwin children incurred a strange illness. Cotton saw this as an opportunity to explore the spiritual world and treated the children with fasting and prayer, writing a detailed account of the illness in a booklet titled Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions. In 1692 the same strange illness the Goodwin children had began appearing in others, and the cry of witchcraft surfaced. Massachusetts governor Sir William Phips established a court to try the suspected witches that had recently been arrested in Salem, Massachusetts. Cotton would not be a judge at the trials, although his influence, sermons, investigations, and writings had – in effect – caused the trials to be held, and he would attend several of the trials. However, his voice on the existence of witchcraft was heard through his sermons and his writings. Still, although he had urged strong punishment of the devil's work, he suggested much milder punishment than death for those found to be guilty of witchcraft (the use of magic). His approach was both religious and scientific. He separated himself from the trials as such and in fact warned the judges against "spectral [ghostlike] evidences". However, the judges did not heed his advice. In his Magnalia Christi Americana (1702) Mather declared his disapproval of the methods used in the trials, even though he did not join the public protest while the trials were being held. Later criticism of the trials would fall in part on Cotton because of his beliefs and stands on the spiritual world and his early involvement with the unusual occurrences in Salem.

Despite a loss in popularity after the trials, Cotton would continue to contribute positively to the New England colonies. He received a doctorate in divinity from the University of Glasgow in 1710, and was honored in 1713 by being elected to the Royal Society of London. He advocated the use of vaccinations against smallpox, and was threatened for doing so – with a bomb being thrown through the window of his house. He regularly wrote letters to various men of learning around the world, was active in church and community, and continued to pastor the North Church. He continued to write and publish, and many later American writers, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Harriet Beecher Stowe, James Russell Lowell, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow all acknowledged their debt to him. Even American icon Benjamin Franklin noted the influence of some of Cotton’s writings on his life and his beliefs.
Cotton Mather died on February 13, 1728, in Boston and was interred in Copps Hill Burying Ground, Boston.

No biographries are available locally

1911 Encyclopedia
Cotton Mather Homepage
Notable Biographies

Library of Congress

Sunday, February 8, 2009

February 9: Aaron Burr’s Lawyer

Do you know who this is?
-He refused to sign the Constitution because he felt it violated State’s Rights.
-He was known as the “Federal Bull Dog”.
-He played the violin.

He would become a noted lawyer, a delegate to the Constitution Convention, and a promoter for the Bill of Rights.

Luther Martin was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey on February 9, 1748.

Luther would graduate from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) at the head of his class in 1766. After his graduation he moved to Maryland where he began teaching until 1770. He was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1771, and soon became recognized as one of the ablest lawyers in the United States. He would be the first attorney general of Maryland - from 1778-1805 and again from 1818-1822. Luther was an early advocate of Independence, and he was one of Maryland’s representatives to the Continental Congress in 1784-1785, as well as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia in 1787. His election to the Continental Congress proved to be honorary, as his public and private duties as a lawyer prevented him from attending. As Maryland’s Attorney General, he was very active in persecuting Loyalists.

At the Constitutional Convention, Luther expressed concern over the secrecy ruling that covered the discussions and decisions made at the Convention, as well as concern over the powers granted to a central government that he felt could threaten the rights and liberties of the individual states, especially the smaller states. He would call the Constitution, which he viewed as robbing individuals of freedom and self determination, “a stab in the back of the goddess of liberty.” He would accuse the convention of violating its mission to revise the Articles of Confederation, and would accuse the delegates of taking it upon themselves to create a new system of government. When George Washington and Benjamin Franklin backed the change of direction, Luther stated that we should not “suffer our eyes to be so far dazzled by the splendor of names, as to run blindfolded into what may be our destruction.” It was during this time he also said: “When the tempest rages, when the thunders roar, and the lightnings blaze around us it is then that the truly brave man stands firm at his post.” Maryland would ignore his concerns, becoming the seventh state to ratify the new Constitution.

While he started out as an Anti-Federalist, Luther would change his views and ally with the Federalists, largely because of his distain for Thomas Jefferson. Luther had married Maria, a daughter of the Captain Michael Cresap, who was unjustly charged by Jefferson, in his Notes on Virginia, with the murder of the family of the Indian chief, John Logan. Martin would write a pamphlet in defense of Captain Cresap, and would remember the attack made by Jefferson after Jefferson became President. Jefferson would, in 1807, speak of Luther as the “Federal Bull Dog” because of his ability in the courts to challenge Jefferson’s political aims and legislation.

Luther would focus upon his law practice, becoming one of the most successful attorneys of the day. He was a defense council for two controversial cases that attracted national attention. The first was the impeachment trial of Luther’s close friend Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase in 1805, where historian Henry Adams would speak of him as that "most formidable of American advocates." In 1807, Luther was one of the defense lawyers in Aaron Burr’s trial for treason. He won both cases. Between 1801 and 1813, he frequently appeared in the Supreme Court, arguing mainly admiralty, prize, and marine insurance cases and also the great constitutional case of Fletcher v. Peck (1810). As attorney general of Maryland, he unsuccessfully argued Maryland’s position in the landmark 1819 case, McCulloch v. Maryland, arguing against the plaintiff’s lawyers: Daniel Webster, William Pinkney, and William Wirt.

Soon after these cases, his fortunes began to decline. As the 1820s arrived, he found himself to be over seventy years old, drinking excessively, in ill health, suffering from a stroke and paralysis, and suffering bankruptcy. Partially in recognition of his long service as Attorney General, on February 22, 1822 the legislature of Maryland passed a remarkable resolution - the only one of the kind in American history - requiring every lawyer in the state to pay an annual license fee of five dollars, to be handed over to trustees appointed "for the appropriation of the proceeds raised by virtue of this resolution to the use of Luther Martin." This resolution was rescinded on February 6, 1823.

Aaron Burr took Luther in, providing a home and care for his former lawyer. Luther would die on July 8, 1826, at the age of seventy-eight, at Aaron Burr’s home. He was buried St. John’s churchyard in New York City.
Bill Kauffman: Forgotten Founder, Drunken Prophet: the Life of Luther Martin

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Feb. 5: “A Wild Western Amazon…”

Do you know who this is?
-She was nicknamed the “Outlaw Queen”
-She studied music and was an accomplished pianist
-She had three successive husbands: the first two died violent deaths, the third survived her violent death.

Books have been written and movies have been made about a true legend of the old West: the flamboyant ‘Outlaw Queen’, Belle Starr. Belle was born on February 5, 1848, in Carthage, Missouri. Her birth name was Myra Maybelle Shirley, and she was the only daughter of a prosperous innkeeper named John Shirley and his wife, Elizabeth "Eliza" Hatfield Shirley, who was related to the famous Hatfield family of Hatfield-McCoy feud fame. Young Belle would attend the Carthage Female Academy, where she excelled in reading, spelling, grammar, arithmetic, deportment, as well as languages such as Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. She also studied music, learning to play the piano. She also enjoyed outdoor activities, and became a better horsewoman than many of her contemporaries. Belle moved with her family to Sycene, Texas shortly before Carthage was burned to the ground by Confederate guerillas during the Civil War in 1864. That same year her older brother John "Bud" Shirley, who fought for the Confederacy with William C. Quantrill's guerillas, was killed by Union troops in Sarcoxie, Missouri.

Belle was a teenager during the Civil War and would report the positions of Union troops to her contacts in the Confederacy, and would associate with members of the Confederate guerrilla movement. One of her childhood friends was Cole Younger – a member of Quantrill’s Raiders. After the war, Younger – with other Quantrill veterans such as Jessie and Frank James – would turn to robbing banks, trains, and stagecoaches, and would on occasion hide on the Shirley farm. In 1866, she would marry a former guerrilla and childhood friend, James C. “Jim” Reed. They had a daughter (Rosie Lee “Pearl”) and a son (James Edwin “Ed”).

Reed would be unsuccessful at farming, and would join the Starr clan, a Cherokee Indian family living in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) that was infamous for whiskey, cattle, and horse theft. He would also again work with Younger and the James brothers. Soon a price was put on Reed’s head, and the family began moving and hiding, winding up in Texas. The law caught up with him near Paris, Texas on Aug. 6, 1874, when Reed was shot to death while trying to escape from the custody of a deputy sheriff.

Belle, a young widow of 26, put her two children in the care of relatives, left Texas, and joined the Starr clan, immersing herself in the role of outlaw. She became involved in planning, organizing, fencing stolen goods, as well as hiding outlaws from the law. She said: “I am a friend to any brave and gallant outlaw.” She would either use bribery or seduction to free her companions when they were caught by the law. She would marry Samuel Starr in 1880. He would be shot to death in 1886.

Belle would be arrested a number of times on charges of robbery, but would usually be released for lack of evidence. She was only convicted once, spending 9 months in the House of Correction, Detroit, Michigan.

With the death of Sam Starr, Belle left the outlaw trade and settled down. In order to keep her residence in Indian Territory, she married a Cherokee named Jim July Starr.

Belle would meet her end on February 3, 1889 – just two days before her 41st birthday. While riding back from the general store to her ranch near Eufaula, Oklahoma, Belle was killed by a shotgun blast to the back. The murderer was never identified. That same year, Belle’s name was popularized in the dime novels of the day, as well as the National Police Gazette, and fictionalized accounts of her life became accepted as factual.

Belle was buried in the front yard of the cabin at Younger's Bend. Months later Pearl hired a stonecutter to mount a monument over her mother's grave. On top of the stone was carved and image of her favorite mare, "Venus." On the stone was this inscription:

Shed not for her the bitter tear
Nor give the heart to vain regret
Tis but
the casket that lies here
The gem that filled it sparkles yet
Over the years legend and real life have merged to create a unique, bigger than life figure from the heyday of the American West: Belle Starr.


Corinne J. Naden: Belle Starr and the Wild West (Juvenile)
The History Channel: The Real West: Wild Women, Calamity Jane, Belle Starr, Annie Oakley (Video Recording)
Deborah Camp: Belle Starr: a Novel of the Old West

1886 Newspaper Article:
Frontier Times:
History Net
Legends of America
Outlaw Women
The Wild West

Monday, February 2, 2009

Feb. 3rd: “Only one thing endures and that is character”

Do you know who this is?
-He was a candidate for President in 1872.
-He backed a utopian colony in Colorado.
-Harpers Weekly called him “the most perfect Yankee the country has ever produced”.

Horace Greeley was born of February 3, 1811, to Zaccheus and Mary Greeley, poor farmers in Amherst, New Hampshire. Because of their economic difficulties, Horace received irregular schooling, which ended when he was fourteen. He apprenticed as a printer in Poultney, Vermont, at The Northern Spectator. He decided to try to improve his prospects, so he gathered his possessions and a small amount of money, moving to New York City in 1831 when he was twenty. In New York he was employed as a printer.

In 1834 he founded the weekly literary and news journal, the New Yorker, which consisted mostly of clippings from other magazines. Horace read widely, and began writing and contributing to the New Yorker, increasing its audience, and giving him a reputation as a writer. But, the New Yorker failed to make money. Horace was forced to supplement his income by writing for the Whig party which led to his being asked by Whig politicians in 1838 to edit a major national campaign newspaper, the Jeffersonian, which reached 15,000 circulation. His efforts at this led in 1840 to his editorship of the William Henry Harrison campaign weekly, the Log Cabin. The circulation of this paper rose to about 90,000, and contributed to both Harrison’s victory and Horace’s influence. This began a lifelong relationship with politics and writing. While he was elected as a Whig to the Thirtieth Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the unseating of David S. Jackson and served from December 4, 1848, to March 3, 1849, Horace was never successful at being elected to a full term of public office.

In 1841 Horace launched the New York Tribune, a newspaper which devoted space to politics, social reform, literacy, intellectual endeavors, and news. It was used as a personal vehicle by Horace for a variety of causes that he backed. He advocated all sorts of agrarian reforms including granting free land to farmers who lived on it for a set period of time; rejected land grants to railroads; denounced monopolies; flirted with utopianism(he supported utopian communities in New Jersey and Colorado); attacked the exploitation of workers; abhorred slavery; and opposed capital punishment. Many of the Tribune staff were partnered with the Transcendentalist movement, extending the influence of that philosophy. The newspaper, which merged with the Log Cabin and the New Yorker, had a weekly circulation of over a quarter million by 1860 – a number which should be larger as each newspaper usually was read by several people. The weekly Tribune was the dominant newspaper in the North. Yet, while Horace prided himself on taking then-radical positions on all sorts of issues, there were few readers who followed all of his suggestions.

His sentiments on slavery and the free-soil movement led him to the newly formed Republican Party’s camp, and he attended the national organization meeting of the Party in Pittsburgh in February 1856. The Tribune became the unofficial national newspaper support for the Republican Party, explaining and promoting the Republican platform. He supported John Fremont for President in 1856 and in 1860 was a supporter originally of Edward Bates, then Lincoln.

Once the civil war started, Horace joined the radical antislavery faction of the Republican Party, demanding an early end of slavery. He would criticize Lincoln for being cautious in his efforts to end slavery – as evidenced through an 1862 famous editorial titled The Prayer of Twenty Millions - though he applauded Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Because of Lincoln’s perceived moderation, the Tribune did not support Lincoln’s 1864 reelection, and Horace lost some popular support because of this.

The quote most frequently attributed to Horace was used to express his desires for a liberal agrarian policy, and was published in 1865. “Go West, young man, and grow up with the country” was probably enhanced from a phrase written by John Soule in the Terre Haute Express in 1851.

After the war he joined the Radical Republicans in supporting equality for the freedmen, advocated the impeachment of Andrew Johnson; desired reconciliation with the South; and recommended Jefferson Davis’s release from prison. He would later become disaffected with the Grant administration because of its corruption and continued support of the enforcement of reconstruction in the South. In 1872 the anti-Grant Liberal Republicans and Democrats – a party he had denounced for decades - would nominate Greeley for President. He had once said of the Democrats: “I never said all Democrats were saloonkeepers; what I said was all saloonkeepers are Democrats.” Horace would suffer a huge defeat, carrying only six border and southern states.

The election, the death of his wife, and the reduction of his influence in his beloved Tribune, all contributed to a physical and mental breakdown, followed by his death on November 28, 1872. He was buried in Green-Wood Cemetery, New York.
Horace Greeley was an excellent judge of determining what was newsworthy and emphasized a quality of reporting not seen before. His was an age of personal influence over the press. He was a Horatio Alger story unto himself, rising from abject poverty to national success and influence. He once said: “Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, and riches take wings. Only one thing endures and that is character.” He certainly was a character.
Robert C. Williams; Horace Greeley: Champion of American Freedom