Friday, July 4, 2014

This Day In History... July 4

On this day in history the American colonies declared their independence from England, setting in motion the Revolutionary War. Had the colonialists lost in their bid for freedom,  the signers of the Declaration would all have been tried for treason and hanged. They were willing to put everything on the line for their ideals.

Most interestingly, two of these signees -- Thomas Jefferson and John Adams -- died on this same date fifty years later, in 1826.

In 1855 on this day Walt Whitman published the first edition of his Leaves of Grass at his own expense.

In 1863 on this day, Union General U.S. Grant's army won the Battle of Vicksburg, one of only two battles from the American Civil War cited for their military brilliance in a list of the top 20 battles of all time. Twelve of the battles on that list were by Napoleon.

In 1934 on this day boxer Joe Louis won his first fight. He went on to become heavyweight champion, defending that title for more than ten years straight. Nicknamed "The Brown Bomber," Louis became a national hero with an impact that went far beyond the punches he threw in the ring.

On this day in 1939 baseball legend Lou Gehrig, afflicted with a fatal illness, bid a tearful farewell at Yankee Stadium in New York. "Fans," he said, "for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." Nicknamed "The Iron Horse" for his longevity and durability, he was also a remarkable ballplayer with a career batting average of .340, and an amazing on-base percentage of .447. Up until A-Rod broke his record, he'd hit more grand slams than any baseball player in history.

On this day in 1957 the four-cent Flag stamp was issued by the U.S. Postal Service.

On this day in 1960 the 50-star U.S. flag made its debut in Philadelphia.

Barnett Newman (no relation) died on this day in 1970, the year I graduated high school. Newman was a modern era painter famous (among other things) for his Newmanesque zips.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. And if you're playing with fireworks tonight, be careful. There are more house fires on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year.

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