HISTORY PORN: Today in History … June 25 … Battle of Little Bighorn

The following event occurred on this day in history … June 25.  Today is the 176th day of the year (177th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 189 days remaining until the end of the year.

"…to succeed in the future; we must learn from the past."

The old school history porn can be found here.

Battle of Little Bighorn

On this day in 1876, Native American forces led by Chiefs Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull defeat the U.S. Army troops of Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer in a bloody battle near southern Montana's Little Bighorn River.

Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, leaders of the Sioux tribe on the Great Plains, strongly resisted the mid-19th-century efforts of the U.S. government to confine their people to reservations. In 1875, after gold was discovered in South Dakota's Black Hills, the U.S. Army ignored previous treaty agreements and invaded the region. This betrayal led many Sioux and Cheyenne tribesmen to leave their reservations and join Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse in Montana. By the late spring of 1876, more than 10,000 Native Americans had gathered in a camp along the Little Bighorn River—which they called the Greasy Grass—in defiance of a U.S. War Department order to return to their reservations or risk being attacked.

In mid-June, three columns of U.S. soldiers lined up against the camp and prepared to march. A force of 1,200 Native Americans turned back the first column on June 17. Five days later, General Alfred Terry ordered Custer’s 7th Cavalry to scout ahead for enemy troops. On the morning of June 25, Custer drew near the camp and decided to press on ahead rather than wait for reinforcements.

At mid-day, Custer’s 600 men entered the Little Bighorn Valley. Among the Native Americans, word quickly spread of the impending attack. The older Sitting Bull rallied the warriors and saw to the safety of the women and children, while Crazy Horse set off with a large force to meet the attackers head on. Despite Custer’s desperate attempts to regroup his men, they were quickly overwhelmed. Custer and some 200 men in his battalion were attacked by as many as 3,000 Native Americans; within an hour, Custer and every last one of his soldier were dead.

The Battle of Little Bighorn—also called Custer’s Last Stand—marked the most decisive Native American victory and the worst U.S. Army defeat in the long Plains Indian War. The gruesome fate of Custer and his men outraged many white Americans and confirmed their image of the Indians as wild and bloodthirsty. Meanwhile, the U.S. government increased its efforts to subdue the tribes. Within five years, almost all of the Sioux and Cheyenne would be confined to reservations.

HISTORY PORN: Today in History … June 23 … Batman released

The following event occurred on this day in history … June 23.  Today is the 174th day of the year (175th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 191 days remaining until the end of the year.

"…to succeed in the future; we must learn from the past."

The old school history porn can be found here.

Batman released

On this day in 1989, Tim Burton’s noir spin on the well-known story of the DC Comics hero Batman is released in theaters.

Michael Keaton starred in the film as the multimillionaire Bruce Wayne, who has transformed himself into the crime-fighting Batman after witnessing his parents’ brutal murder as a child. As the film’s action begins, mob henchman Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson) is gruesomely disfigured after Batman inadvertently drops him in a vat of acid during a stand-off in a chemical factory. After killing his boss (Jack Palance), Napier—now known as the Joker—goes on the loose in Gotham City, wreaking havoc and trying to turn its people against the caped crusader. When Batman’s affection for a beautiful newspaper reporter, Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger), is revealed, the Joker uses her to draw his rival out into the open, with dramatic results.

Controversy had surrounded the casting of Keaton (best known for comedies like 1983’s Mr. Mom) as Batman. An entire roster of prominent leading men—reportedly including Mel Gibson, Dennis Quaid, Harrison Ford and Kevin Costner—were considered for the role, and Burton reportedly wanted to cast an unknown actor (a la Christopher Reeve in Superman). Having worked previously with Keaton in Beetlejuice(1988), Burton liked the idea of collaborating with him again, and the producers agreed, after screening Keaton’s 1988 film Clean and Sober, that Keaton had talent as a “serious” actor as well.

In a new marketing strategy that would become a trend for movies featuring super heroes, Warner Brothers hyped Batman as a major summer “event” long before its release. The results were stunning, as the film grossed some $100 million in its first ten days of release, including $82.8 million at the domestic box office alone. Reviews for the film were mixed, though most critics praised Nicholson’s scene-stealing performance as the Joker. For his creation of the movie’s impressive Batmobile and the dark, cavernous Gotham City, Batman’s production designer, Anton Furst, won an Oscar for Best Art Direction - Set Decoration.

Burton’s second Batman film, Batman Returns (1989), also starred Keatonas the caped crusader. Most critics considered the sequel, also a box-office hit, to be a better movie than its predecessor. Warner Brothers, seeking even greater commercial success for the franchise, hired Joel Schumacher to direct the next installment, Batman Forever (1995), which starred Val Kilmer as Batman; Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey were the villains in that film, while Nicole Kidman was the love interest and Chris O’Donnell came on as Robin, Batman’s sidekick.

Kilmer, like Keaton before him, left the franchise before the making of the next planned film because he felt Batman was getting less attention than his enemies; George Clooney took his place for Schumacher’s Batman & Robin (1997), which was roundly panned by critics.

A few years later, the director Christopher Nolan reoriented the series, going back to Bruce Wayne’s childhood for Batman Begins (2005), starring Christian Bale in the title role. That film earned the best reviews of all the Batman films to date, and was a huge box-office success.

Nolan and Bale returned for a 2008 sequel, The Dark Knight, which featured a stunning turn by Heath Ledger (who was found dead of an accidental prescription drug overdose soon after filming was completed) as the Joker. In its opening weekend, the film raked in some $158 million, surpassing the previous record-holder, 2007’s Spider-Man 3, to score the highest-grossing opening weekend of any movie in history.

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scorpiondagger:

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HISTORY PORN: Today in History … June 21 … U.S. Constitution ratified

The following event occurred on this day in history … June 21.  Today is the 172nd day of the year (173rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 193 days remaining until the end of the year.

On non-leap years, this day marks the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere and the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere, and is the day of the year with the most hours of daylight in the northern hemisphere and the least hours of daylight in the southern hemisphere.

"…to succeed in the future; we must learn from the past."

The old school history porn can be found here.

U.S. Constitution ratified

New Hampshire becomes the ninth and last necessary state to ratify the Constitution of the United States, thereby making the document the law of the land.

By 1786, defects in the post-Revolutionary War Articles of Confederation were apparent, such as the lack of central authority over foreign and domestic commerce. Congress endorsed a plan to draft a new constitution, and on May 25, 1787, the Constitutional Convention convened at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. On September 17, 1787, after three months of debate moderated by convention president George Washington, the new U.S. constitution, which created a strong federal government with an intricate system of checks and balances, was signed by 38 of the 41 delegates present at the conclusion of the convention. As dictated by Article VII, the document would not become binding until it was ratified by nine of the 13 states.

Beginning on December 7, five states—DelawarePennsylvaniaNew JerseyGeorgia, and Connecticut—ratified it in quick succession. However, other states, especiallyMassachusetts, opposed the document, as it failed to reserve undelegated powers to the states and lacked constitutional protection of basic political rights, such as freedom of speech, religion, and the press. In February 1788, a compromise was reached under which Massachusetts and other states would agree to ratify the document with the assurance that amendments would be immediately proposed. The Constitution was thus narrowly ratified in Massachusetts, followed by Maryland and South Carolina. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the document, and it was subsequently agreed that government under the U.S. Constitution would begin on March 4, 1789. In June, Virginia ratified the Constitution, followed by New York in July.

On September 25, 1789, the first Congress of the United States adopted 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution—the Bill of Rights—and sent them to the states for ratification. Ten of these amendments were ratified in 1791.

In November 1789, North Carolina became the 12th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Rhode Island, which opposed federal control of currency and was critical of compromise on the issue of slavery, resisted ratifying the Constitution until the U.S. government threatened to sever commercial relations with the state. On May 29, 1790, Rhode Island voted by two votes to ratify the document, and the last of the original 13 colonies joined the United States. Today the U.S. Constitution is the oldest written constitution in operation in the world.

HISTORY PORN: Today in History … June 20 … Jaws released

The following event occurred on this day in history … June 20.  Today is the 171st day of the year (172nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 194 days remaining until the end of the year.

"…to succeed in the future; we must learn from the past."

The old school history porn can be found here.

Jaws released

On this day in 1975, Jaws, a film directed by Steven Spielberg that made countless viewers afraid to go into the water, opens in theaters. The story of a great white shark that terrorizes a New England resort town became an instant blockbuster and the highest-grossing film in movie history until it was bested by 1977’s Star WarsJaws was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Picture category and took home three Oscars, for Best Film Editing, Best Original Score and Best Sound. The film, a breakthrough for director Spielberg, then 27 years old, spawned three sequels.

The film starred Roy Scheider as principled police chief Martin Brody, Richard Dreyfuss as a marine biologist named Matt Hooper and Robert Shaw as a grizzled fisherman called Quint. It was set in the fictional beach town of Amity, and based on a best-selling novel, released in 1973, by Peter Benchley. Subsequent water-themed Benchley bestsellers also made it to the big screen, including The Deep (1977).

With a budget of $12 million, Jaws was produced by the team of Richard Zanuck and David Brown, whose later credits include The Verdict (1982), Cocoon (1985) and Driving Miss Daisy (1989). Filming, which took place on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, was plagued by delays and technical difficulties, including malfunctioning mechanical sharks.

Jaws put now-famed director Steven Spielberg on the Hollywood map. Spielberg, largely self-taught in filmmaking, made his feature-length directorial debut with The Sugarland Express in 1974. The film was critically well-received but a box-office flop. Following the success of Jaws, Spielberg went on to become one of the most influential, iconic people in the film world, with such epics as Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), ET: the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Jurassic Park (1993), Schindler’s List (1993) and Saving Private Ryan (1998).

HISTORY PORN: Today in History … June 18 … Napoleon defeated at Waterloo

The following event occurred on this day in history … June 18.  Today is the 169th day of the year (170th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 196 days remaining until the end of the year.

"…to succeed in the future; we must learn from the past."

The old school history porn can be found here.

Napoleon defeated at Waterloo

On this date, in 1815, at Waterloo in Belgium, Napoleon Bonaparte suffers defeat at the hands of the Duke of Wellington, bringing an end to the Napoleonic era of European history.

The Corsica-born Napoleon, one of the greatest military strategists in history, rapidly rose in the ranks of the French Revolutionary Army during the late 1790s. By 1799, France was at war with most of Europe, and Napoleon returned home from his Egyptian campaign to take over the reigns of the French government and save his nation from collapse. After becoming first consul in February 1800, he reorganized his armies and defeated Austria. In 1802, he established the Napoleonic Code, a new system of French law, and in 1804 was crowned emperor of France in Notre Dame Cathedral.

By 1807, Napoleon controlled an empire that stretched from the River Elbe in the north, down through Italy in the south, and from the Pyrenees to the Dalmatian coast.

Beginning in 1812, Napoleon began to encounter the first significant defeats of his military career, suffering through a disastrous invasion of Russia, losing Spain to the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsula War, and enduring total defeat against an allied force by 1814. Exiled to the island of Elba in the Mediterranean, he escaped to France in early 1815 and set up a new regime. As allied troops mustered on the French frontiers, he raised a new Grand Army and marched into Belgium. He intended to defeat the allied armies one by one before they could launch a united attack.

On June 16, 1815, he defeated the Prussians under Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher at Ligny, and sent 33,000 men, or about one-third of his total force, in pursuit of the retreating Prussians. On June 18, Napoleon led his remaining 72,000 troops against the Duke of Wellington’s 68,000-man allied army, which had taken up a strong position 12 miles south of Brussels near the village of Waterloo. In a fatal blunder, Napoleon waited until mid-day to give the command to attack in order to let the ground dry. The delay in fighting gave Blucher’s troops, who had eluded their pursuers, time to march to Waterloo and join the battle by the late afternoon.

In repeated attacks, Napoleon failed to break the center of the allied center. Meanwhile, the Prussians gradually arrived and put pressure on Napoleon’s eastern flank. At 6 p.m., the French under Marshal Michel Ney managed to capture a farmhouse in the allied center and began decimating Wellington’s troops with artillery. Napoleon, however, was preoccupied with the 30,000 Prussians attacking his flank and did not release troops to aid Ney’s attack until after 7 p.m. By that time, Wellington had reorganized his defenses, and the French attack was repulsed. Fifteen minutes later, the allied army launched a general advance, and the Prussians attacked in the east, throwing the French troops into panic and then a disorganized retreat. The Prussians pursued the remnants of the French army, and Napoleon left the field. French casualties in the Battle of Waterloo were 25,000 men killed and wounded and 9,000 captured, while the allies lost about 23,000.

Napoleon returned to Paris and on June 22 abdicated in favor of his son. He decided to leave France before counterrevolutionary forces could rally against him, and on July 15 he surrendered to British protection at the port of Rochefort. He hoped to travel to the United States, but the British instead sent him to Saint Helena, a remote island in the Atlantic off the coast of Africa. Napoleon protested but had no choice but to accept the exile.

With a group of followers, he lived quietly on St. Helena for six years. In May 1821, he died, most likely of stomach cancer. He was only 51 years old. In 1840, his body was returned to Paris, and a magnificent funeral was held. Napoleon’s body was conveyed through the Arc de Triomphe and entombed under the dome of the Invalides.

HISTORY PORN: Today in History … June 17 … The Battle of Bunker Hill

The following event occurred on this day in history … June 17.  Today is the 168th day of the year (169th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 197 days remaining until the end of the year.

"…to succeed in the future; we must learn from the past."

The old school history porn can be found here.

Battle of Bunker Hill

British General William Howe lands his troops on the Charlestown Peninsula overlooking Boston, Massachusetts, and leads them against Breed’s Hill, a fortified American position just below Bunker Hill, on this day in 1775.

As the British advanced in columns against the Americans, American General William Prescott reportedly told his men, “Don’t one of you fire until you see the whites of their eyes!” When the Redcoats were within 40 yards, the Americans let loose with a lethal barrage of musket fire, throwing the British into retreat. After reforming his lines, Howe attacked again, with much the same result. Prescott’s men were now low on ammunition, though, and when Howe led his men up the hill for a third time, they reached the redoubts and engaged the Americans in hand-to-hand combat.

The outnumbered Americans were forced to retreat. However, by the end of the engagement, the Patriots’ gunfire had cut down nearly 1,000 enemy troops, including 92 officers. Of the 370 Patriots who fell, most were struck while in retreat.

The British had won the so-called Battle of Bunker Hill, and Breed’s Hill and the Charlestown Peninsula fell firmly under British control. Despite losing their strategic positions, the battle was a morale-builder for the Americans, convincing them that patriotic dedication could overcome superior British military might.

The British entered the Battle of Bunker Hill overconfident. Had they merely guarded Charlestown Neck, they could have isolated the Patriots with little loss of life. Instead, Howe had chosen to try to wipe out the Yankees by marching 2,400 men into a frontal assault on the Patriots’ well-defended position on top of the hill. The British would never make the same mistake again.

HISTORY PORN: Today in History … June 16 … First roller coaster in America opens

The following event occurred on this day in history … June 16.  Today is the 167th day of the year (168th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 198 days remaining until the end of the year.

"…to succeed in the future; we must learn from the past."

The old school history porn can be found here.

First roller coaster in America opens

On this day in 1884, the first roller coaster in America opens at Coney Island, in Brooklyn, New York. Known as a switchback railway, it was the brainchild of LaMarcus Thompson, traveled approximately six miles per hour and cost a nickel to ride. The new entertainment was an instant success and by the turn of the century there were hundreds of roller coasters around the country.

Coney Island, a name believed to have come from the Dutch Konijn Eilandt, or Rabbit Island, is a tract of land along the Atlantic Ocean discovered by explorer Henry Hudson in 1609. The first hotel opened at Coney Island in 1829 and by the post-Civil War years, the area was an established resort with theaters, restaurants and a race track. Between 1897 and 1904, three amusement parks sprang up at Coney Island—Dreamland, Luna Park and Steeplechase.

By the 1920s, Coney Island was reachable by subway and summer crowds of a million people a day flocked there for rides, games, sideshows, the beach and the two-and-a-half-mile boardwalk, completed in 1923.

The hot dog is said to have been invented at Coney Island in 1867 by Charles Feltman. In 1916, a nickel hot dog stand called Nathan’s was opened by a former Feltman employee and went on to become a Coney Island institution and international franchise. Today, Nathan’s is famous not only for its hot dogs but its hot dog-eating contest, held each Fourth of July in Coney Island. In 2006, Takeru Kobayashi set a new record when he ate 53.75 hot dogs with buns in 12 minutes.

Roller coasters and amusement parks experienced a decline during the Great Depression and World War II, when Americans had less cash to spend on entertainment.

Finally, in 1955, the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, California, signaled the advent of the modern theme park and a rebirth of the roller coaster. Disneyland’s success sparked a wave of new parks and coasters. By the 1970s, parks were competing to create the most thrilling rides. In 2005, Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey, introduced the Kingda Ka roller coaster, the world’s tallest (at 456 feet) and fastest (at 128 mph).

By the mid-1960s, the major amusement parks at Coney Island had shut down and the area acquired a seedy image. Nevertheless, Coney Island remains a tourist attraction and home to the Cyclone, a wooden coaster that made its debut there in 1927.

Capable of speeds of 60 mph and with an 85-foot drop, the Cyclone is one of the country’s oldest coasters in operation today. Though a real-estate developer recently announced the building of a new $1.5 billion year-round resort at Coney Island that will include a 4,000-foot-long roller coaster, an indoor water park and a multi-level carousel, the Cyclone’s owners have said they plan to keep the historic coaster open for business.

HISTORY PORN: Today in History … June 15 … Magna Carta sealed

The following event occurred on this day in history … June 15.  Today is the 166th day of the year (167th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 199 days remaining until the end of the year.

"…to succeed in the future; we must learn from the past."

The old school history porn can be found here.

Magna Carta sealed

Following a revolt by the English nobility against his rule, King John puts his royal seal on the Magna Carta, or “Great Charter.” The document, essentially a peace treaty between John and his barons, guaranteed that the king would respect feudal rights and privileges, uphold the freedom of the church, and maintain the nation’s laws. Although more a reactionary than a progressive document in its day, the Magna Carta was seen as a cornerstone in the development of democratic England by later generations.

John was enthroned as king of England following the death of his brother, King Richard the Lion-Hearted, in 1199. King John’s reign was characterized by failure. He lost the duchy of Normandy to the French king and taxed the English nobility heavily to pay for his foreign misadventures. He quarreled with Pope Innocent III and sold church offices to build up the depleted royal coffers. Following the defeat of a campaign to regain Normandy in 1214, Stephen Langton, the archbishop of Canterbury, called on the disgruntled barons to demand a charter of liberties from the king.

In 1215, the barons rose up in rebellion against the king’s abuse of feudal law and custom. John, faced with a superior force, had no choice but to give in to their demands. Earlier kings of England had granted concessions to their feudal barons, but these charters were vaguely worded and issued voluntarily. The document drawn up for John in June 1215, however, forced the king to make specific guarantees of the rights and privileges of his barons and the freedom of the church. On June 15, 1215, John met the barons at Runnymede on the Thames and set his seal to the Articles of the Barons, which after minor revision was formally issued as the Magna Carta.

The charter consisted of a preamble and 63 clauses and dealt mainly with feudal concerns that had little impact outside 13th century England. However, the document was remarkable in that it implied there were laws the king was bound to observe, thus precluding any future claim to absolutism by the English monarch. Of greatest interest to later generations was clause 39, which stated that “no free man shall be arrested or imprisoned or disseised [dispossessed] or outlawed or exiled or in any way victimised…except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.” This clause has been celebrated as an early guarantee of trial by jury and of habeas corpus and inspired England’s Petition of Right (1628) and the Habeas Corpus Act (1679).

In immediate terms, the Magna Carta was a failure—civil war broke out the same year, and John ignored his obligations under the charter. Upon his death in 1216, however, the Magna Carta was reissued with some changes by his son, King Henry III, and then reissued again in 1217. That year, the rebellious barons were defeated by the king’s forces. In 1225, Henry III voluntarily reissued the Magna Carta a third time, and it formally entered English statute law.

The Magna Carta has been subject to a great deal of historical exaggeration; it did not establish Parliament, as some have claimed, nor more than vaguely allude to the liberal democratic ideals of later centuries. However, as a symbol of the sovereignty of the rule of law, it was of fundamental importance to the constitutional development of England. Four original copies of the Magna Carta of 1215 exist today: one in Lincoln Cathedral, one in Salisbury Cathedral, and two in the British Museum.

Eugene Chaperon (French, 1857-1957) | The showers at the regiment. Oil on canvas, 113 x 161,3 cm. (via http://www.daninokc.blogspot.com/)

Eugene Chaperon (French, 1857-1957) | The showers at the regiment. Oil on canvas, 113 x 161,3 cm. (via http://www.daninokc.blogspot.com/)

HISTORY PORN: Today in History … June 13 … Alexander the Great dies

The following event occurred on this day in history … June 13.  Today is the 164th day of the year (165th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 201 days remaining until the end of the year.

"…to succeed in the future; we must learn from the past."

The old school history porn can be found here.

Alexander the Great dies

Alexander the Great, the young Macedonian military genius who forged an empire stretching from the eastern Mediterranean to India, dies in Babylon, in present-day Iraq, at the age of 33.

Born in Macedonia to King Phillip II and Queen Olympias, Alexander received a classical education from famed philosopher Aristotle and a military education from his father. At the age of 16, Alexander led his first troops into combat and two years later commanded a large part of his father’s army that won the Battle of Chaeronea and brought Greece under Macedonian rule. In 336 B.C., Phillip II was assassinated, and Alexander ascended to the throne.

Two years later, the young king led a large army into Asia Minor to carry out his father’s plans for conquering Persia. Consistently outnumbered in his battles against superior Persian forces, Alexander displayed an unprecedented understanding of strategic military planning and tactical maneuvers.

He never lost a single battle, and by 330 B.C. all of Persia and Asia Minor was under his sway. Within his empire, he founded great and lasting cities, such as Alexandria in Egypt, and brought about sweeping political and economic changes based on the advanced Greek models taught to him in his youth.

Although Alexander controlled the largest empire in the history of the world, he launched a new eastern campaign soon after his return from Persia. By 327 B.C., he had conquered Afghanistan, Central Asia, and northern India. In the next year, his army, exhausted after eight years of fighting, refused to go farther, and Alexander led them on a difficult journey home through the inhospitable Makran Desert.

Finally reaching Babylon, Alexander began constructing a large fleet to take his army back to Egypt. However, in June 323 B.C., just as the work on his ships was reaching its conclusion, Alexander fell sick after a prolonged banquet and drinking bout and died. Perhaps earnestly believing himself to be a god (as many of his subjects did), he had not selected a successor, and within a year of his death his army and his empire broke into a multitude of warring factions. His body was later returned to Alexandria, where it was laid to rest in a golden coffin.

HISTORY PORN: Today in History … June 12 … Reagan challenges Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall

The following event occurred on this day in history … June 12.  Today is the 163rd day of the year (164th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 202 days remaining until the end of the year.

"…to succeed in the future; we must learn from the past."

The old school history porn can be found here.

Reagan challenges Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall

In one of his most famous Cold War speeches, President Ronald Reagan challenges Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. Two years later, deliriously happy East and West Germans did break down the infamous barrier between East and West Berlin.

Reagan’s challenge came during a visit to West Berlin. With the Berlin Wall as a backdrop, Reagan declared, “There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.” He then called upon his Soviet counterpart: “Secretary General Gorbachev, if you seek peace—if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe—if you seek liberalization: come here, to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Addressing the West Berlin crowd, Reagan observed, “Standing before the Brandenburg Gate, every man is a German, separated from his fellow men. Every man is a Berliner, forced to look upon a scar.” Reagan then went on to ask Gorbachev to undertake serious arms reduction talks with the United States.

Most listeners at the time viewed Reagan’s speech as a dramatic appeal to Gorbachev to renew negotiations on nuclear arms reductions. It was also a reminder that despite the Soviet leader’s public statements about a new relationship with the West, the United States wanted to see action taken to improve the Cold War tensions. Just eight months before, a summit between Reagan and Gorbachev had ended unsatisfactorily, with both sides charging the other with bad faith in talks aimed at reducing nuclear arsenals. Reagan, who had formed a personal closeness to Gorbachev during their previous meetings, obviously wanted to move those negotiations forward. In December 1987, the two met once again and signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which eliminated an entire class of nuclear missiles from Europe.

HISTORY PORN: Today in History … June 11 … John Wayne dies

The following event occurred on this day in history … June 11.  Today is the 162nd day of the year (163rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 203 days remaining until the end of the year.

"…to succeed in the future; we must learn from the past."

The old school history porn can be found here.

John Wayne dies

On this day in 1979, John Wayne, an iconic American film actor famous for starring in countless westerns, dies at age 72 after battling cancer for more than a decade.

The actor was born Marion Morrison on May 26, 1907, in Winterset, Iowa, and moved as a child to Glendale, California. A football star at Glendale High School, he attended the University of Southern California on a scholarship and became a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity.

After finding work as a movie studio laborer, Wayne befriended director John Ford, then a rising talent. His first acting jobs were bit parts in which he was credited as Duke Morrison, a childhood nickname derived from the name of his beloved pet dog.

Wayne’s first starring role came in 1930 with The Big Trail, a film directed by his college buddy Raoul Walsh. It was during this time that Marion Morrison became “John Wayne,” when director Walsh didn’t think Marion was a good name for an actor playing a tough western hero. Despite the lead actor’s new name, however, the movie flopped. Throughout the 1930s, Wayne made dozens of mediocre westerns, sometimes churning out two movies a week. In them, he played various rough-and-tumble characters and occasionally appeared as “Singing Sandy,” a musical cowpoke a la Roy Rogers.

In 1939, Wayne finally had his breakthrough when his old friend John Ford cast him as Ringo Kid in the Oscar-winning Stagecoach. Wayne went on to play larger-than-life heroes in dozens of movies and came to symbolize a type of rugged, strong, straight-shooting American man. John Ford directed Wayne in some of his best-known films, including Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), Rio Grande (1950),The Quiet Man (1952) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (1962).

Off-screen, Wayne came to be known for his conservative political views. He produced, directed and starred in The Alamo (1960) and The Green Berets (1968), both of which reflected his patriotic, conservative leanings. In 1969, he won an Oscar for his role as a drunken, one-eyed federal marshal named Rooster Cogburn in True Grit.

Wayne’s last film was The Shootist (1976), in which he played a legendary gunslinger dying of cancer. The role had particular meaning, as the actor was fighting the disease in real life.

During four decades of acting, Wayne, with his trademark drawl and good looks, appeared in over 250 films. He was married three times and had seven children.

HISTORY PORN: Today in History … June 10 … Franklin flies kite during thunderstorm

The following event occurred on this day in history … June 10.  Today is the 161st day of the year (162nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 204 days remaining until the end of the year.

"…to succeed in the future; we must learn from the past."

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Franklin flies kite during thunderstorm

On this day in 1752, Benjamin Franklin flies a kite during a thunderstorm and collects a charge in a Leyden jar when the kite is struck by lightning, enabling him to demonstrate the electrical nature of lightning. Franklin became interested in electricity in the mid-1740s, a time when much was still unknown on the topic, and spent almost a decade conducting electrical experiments. He coined a number of terms used today, including battery, conductor and electrician. He also invented the lightning rod, used to protect buildings and ships.

Franklin was born on January 17, 1706, in Boston, to a candle and soap maker named Josiah Franklin, who fathered 17 children, and his wife Abiah Folger. Franklin’s formal education ended at age 10 and he went to work as an apprentice to his brother James, a printer. In 1723, following a dispute with his brother, Franklin left Boston and ended up in Philadelphia, where he found work as a printer. Following a brief stint as a printer in London, Franklin returned to Philadelphia and became a successful businessman, whose publishing ventures included the Pennsylvania Gazette and Poor Richard’s Almanack, a collection of homespun proverbs advocating hard work and honesty in order to get ahead. The almanac, which Franklin first published in 1733 under the pen name Richard Saunders, included such wisdom as: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Whether or not Franklin followed this advice in his own life, he came to represent the classic American overachiever. In addition to his accomplishments in business and science, he is noted for his numerous civic contributions. Among other things, he developed a library, insurance company, city hospital and academy in Philadelphia that would later become the University of Pennsylvania.

Most significantly, Franklin was one of the founding fathers of the United States and had a career as a statesman that spanned four decades. He served as a legislator in Pennsylvania as well as a diplomat in England and France. He is the only politician to have signed all four documents fundamental to the creation of the U.S.: the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Treaty of Alliance with France (1778), the Treaty of Paris (1783), which established peace with Great Britain, and the U.S. Constitution (1787).

Franklin died at age 84 on April 17, 1790, in Philadelphia. He remains one of the leading figures in U.S. history.

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