Over the summer of 1582 a group of English Catholic gentlemen met to hammer out their plans for a colony in North America — not Roanoke Island, Sir Walter Raleigh’s settlement of 1585, but Norumbega in present-day New England. The scheme was promoted by two knights of the realm, Sir George Peckham and Sir Thomas Gerard, and it attracted several wealthy backers, including a gentleman from the midlands called Sir William Catesby.
Signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on 3 September 1964, the Wilderness Act defined wilderness “as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” It not only put 1.9 million acres under federal protection, it created an entire preservation system that today includes nearly 110 million acres across forty-four states and Puerto Rico—some 5 percent of the land in the United States.
Ninety-four years ago today, the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States took effect, enshrining American women’s right to vote. Fifty years later, in the midst of a new wave of feminist activism, Congress designated 26 August as Women’s Equality Day in the United States.
Antebellum Americans were enamored of maps. In addition to mapping the United States’ land hunger, they also plotted weather patterns, epidemics, the spread of slavery, and events from the nation’s past.
And the afterlife.
On 19 August 1692, George Burroughs stood on the ladder and calmly made a perfect recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. Some in the large crowd of observers were moved to tears, so much so that it seemed the proceedings might come to a halt. But Reverend Burroughs had uttered his last words. He was soon “turned off” the ladder, hanged to death for the high crime of witchcraft.
This week—August 15, to be exact—celebrates the climax of Air Conditioning Appreciation Days, a month-long tribute to the wonderful technology that has made summer heat a little more bearable for millions of people.
There are many exciting things coming down the Oral History Review pipeline, including OHR volume 41, issue 2, the Oral History Association annual meeting and a new staff member.
By Richard S. Grossman
As an early-stage graduate student in the 1980s, I took a summer off from academia to work at an investment bank. One of my most eye-opening experiences was discovering just how much effort Wall Street devoted to “Fed watching,” that is, trying to figure out the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy plans.
By Nancy C. Unger
When I was invited by the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco to participate in its month-long program “The LGBT Journey,” I was a bit overwhelmed by all the possibilities. I’ve been teaching “Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.” since 2002, and my enthusiasm for the subject grows every time the course is offered. It’s a passion shared by my students. They never sigh and say, “Gay and lesbian history again?” But what to present in only forty-five minutes? My most recent scholarship examines lesbian alternative environments in the 1970s and 1980s. In the end, though, I decided to make a larger point. For many people, LGBTQ American history begins with the Stonewall Riots in 1969, so I determined to use this opportunity to talk about the history of same-sex desire that is as old as this nation.
John Ferling is one of the premier historians on the American Revolution. He has written numerous books on the battles, historical figures, and events that led to American independence, most recently with contributions to The American Revolution: A Historical Guidebook. Here, he answers questions and discusses some of the lesser-known aspects of the American Revolution.
By Elaine Lewinnek
On 27 July 1919, a black boy swam across an invisible line in the water. “By common consent and custom,” an imaginary line extending out across Lake Michigan from Chicago’s 29th Street separated the area where blacks were permitted to swim from where whites swam. Seventeen-year-old Eugene Williams crossed that line.
By W. Caleb McDaniel
This past weekend, the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic held its thirty-sixth annual meeting in Philadelphia. Members attended conference sessions, browsed the book exhibit, and met up with colleagues old and new.
By Matthew D. Tribbe
Today marks the forty-fifth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. To understand Apollo’s place in history, it might be helpful to go back forty-four rather than forty-five years, to the very first anniversary of the event in 1970. That July, several newspapers conducted informal surveys that revealed large majorities of Americans could no longer remember the name of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.
By Salvatore Basile
Those who love celebrations, take note — July 17 marks the birthday of air conditioning. To recap the story, it was 112 years ago today that young engineer Willis Carrier unveiled the plans for his “Apparatus for Treating Air,” a contraption that was designed to lower the humidity in a Brooklyn printing plant.
By Rachel Hope Cleves
Same-sex marriage is having a moment. The accelerating legalization of same-sex marriage at the state level since the Supreme Court’s June 2013 United States v. Windsor decision, striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, has truly been astonishing. Who is not dumbstruck by the spectacle of legal same-sex marriages performed in a state such as Utah, which criminalized same-sex sexual behavior until 2003?
By Alan McPherson
Recent talk of declining US influence in the Middle East has emphasized the Obama administration’s diplomatic blunders. Its poor security in Benghazi, its failure to predict events in Egypt, its difficulty in reaching a deal on withdrawal in Afghanistan, and its powerlessness before sectarian violence in Iraq, to be sure, all are symptoms of this loss of influence.