I stand astride America’s Transcontinental Railway, looking east, then west.
Initiated by Lincoln, overseen by Johnson, and completed under Grant, the undertaking called for the Union Pacific Railroad to work westward from Omaha and the Central Pacific, eastward from Sacramento. They met, as most schoolchildren learned in my day (do they study this anymore?), at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory, in 1869, where a laurel tie was laid and ceremonial golden spike was driven to link the two coasts. With that linking, a cross-country journey abruptly dropped from six weeks to five days. Moving people and freight and the telegraphy that paralleled the tracks changed America forever. The immensity of the undertaking (the equivalent of a 19th century NASA moon shot) captured Continue reading “Promontory Summit & the Golden Spike”
Time and situation award only a few in each generation with an opportunity to take a place in history. How much smaller is the number who are twice-touched by fate. Today’s post is about one such man. It starts with the differences between North and South and ends with the thin line that separates fair and foul.
The Civil War was a mold for heroes and villains. Out of its tragedies and triumphs Continue reading “A Captain and the Majors”
Born 200 years ago, February 12, 1809: Charles Darwin, who changed the way we think about a human’s place in the bios, and Abraham Lincoln, who changed the way we think about a human’s place in society.
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But perhaps these two Great Men were not born on the same day. Darwin’s birth was in a time zone five hours later than Lincoln’s. If “date of birth” is defined by calendar, then the two men were born on the same calendar day. But if Baby Abe was born later than 7 p.m. in that little log cabin near what is now Hodgenville, Kentucky, then it was already February 13 where Baby Darwin lay in Shrewsbury, England. Similarly, if Infant Charles took Breath One earlier than 5 a.m., then it was still February 11 in Kentucky. Accordingly, to be safe, I am posting this a day early.
These days Americans accept and expect famous faces on our coins: Washington quarters (first minted in 1932), Jefferson nickels (1938), Roosevelt dimes (1946), Franklin (1948) and Kennedy (1964) half-dollars, Eisenhower (1971), Susan B. Anthony (1979), and Sacagawea (2000) dollars. But from first United States coinage in 1793 until 1909, no coin had the image of a real person on it. In 1909, however, Pres. Theodore Roosevelt wished to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth by putting Honest Abe’s face on a coin.
In spite of Lincoln’s popularity, however, not all were in favor of his image on a coin. In addition to setting a “monarchical” precedent (originally kiboshed by George Washington), some were opposed for less worthy reasons:
Continue reading “Lincoln Head Cents: 1909-2009 and Beyond…”
Born 199 years ago, February 12, 1809: Charles Darwin, who changed the way we think about a human’s place in the bios, and Abraham Lincoln, who changed the way we think about a human’s place in society.