On This Day: The Pennsylvania Evening Post

The Pennsylvania Evening Post was established in Philadelphia in May 1783 and became the first daily newspaper in America. Founded by Benjamin Towne, a prominent printer, the newspaper aimed to provide the burgeoning nation with a reliable source of news and opinion. Its initial focus centered around the local Philadelphia community, but it quickly gained a national reputation for its incisive reporting and insightful commentary.

During its early years, the Pennsylvania Evening Post became known for its steadfast support of the principles of liberty and independence. As the fledgling United States grappled with the challenges of nation-building, the newspaper played a pivotal role in disseminating ideas and encouraging civic engagement. It championed the values of individual rights and democratic governance.

Over the years, the Pennsylvania Evening Post bore witness to significant historical events that shaped the course of American history. It reported on the ratification of the Constitution and the election of George Washington. It published the first newspaper printing of the Declaration of Independence (1). The publication held a reputation for editorial integrity and thought-provoking content. Its op-eds, letters to the editor, and in-depth investigative reporting stimulated public discourse and influenced public opinion. Though the newspaper’s publication window was short, it showed the incredible influence a nation’s free press can have on its citizens.

  1. https://www.amrevmuseum.org/collection/first-newspaper-printing-of-the-declaration-of-independence

May History Hits: The Golden Gate

In terms of architectural brilliance and engineering prowess, few structures rival the marvel of the Golden Gate Bridge. Spanning the Golden Gate Strait in San Francisco, this suspension bridge has captured the imagination of millions since its opening in May 1937.

The Golden Gate Bridge was designed and developed by the determination and vision of several remarkable individuals. Chief among them was Joseph Strauss the engineer who spearheaded the project. Strauss assembled a team of experts, including architect Irving Morrow and engineer Charles Ellis, who were instrumental in shaping the bridge’s design and ensuring its structural integrity.

Building a structure of such magnitude presented challenges, such as treacherous waters with strong currents and turbulent winds. However, the engineers persevered, employing innovative techniques and advancing bridge-building technology. The project took over four years to complete and employed over 10,000 workers.

On May 27, 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge was unveiled in a grand celebration. An estimated 200,000 spectators gathered to witness its inauguration, each of them walking across the newly completed structure. While Californians marveled at their new landmark, the original article from the New York Times announcing its opening wasn’t as impressed. The writer remarks that the Golden Gate’s design was surely derived from that of the George Washington Bridge, which connects New Jersey and Manhattan. They go on to say, “it would be wrong to say that the Golden Gate is a better suspension bridge than the George Washington” (1). Apparently, no matter the time period, the rivalry between New York and California is strong.

Despite its dismissal by some on the East Coast, the completion of the Golden Gate Bridge marked a milestone in American engineering history. Its imposing red-orange towers, suspension cables, and Art Deco design have been featured in movies, books, and art alike, ensuring its place as a beloved landmark and symbol of San Francisco.

  1. https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1937/05/30/101009420.html?pageNumber=40

On This Day: Shaping Literary and Feminist History

On May 22, 1810, Margaret Fuller was born in Cambridgeport, Massachusetts. She emerged as a groundbreaking journalist during a time when women’s voices were marginalized and opportunities limited. She dedicated herself to promoting social justice, profound literary achievements, and pioneering the feminist movement.

Margaret Fuller was raised in a family that valued education. From a young age, Fuller exhibited an insatiable curiosity and passion for learning. Her literary journey began when she started working as a contributor to The Dial, a transcendentalist journal, at the behest of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1). Her contributions showcased her formidable intellect and critical thinking skills, covering a wide range of subjects, including literature, philosophy, and social issues.

It was Fuller’s groundbreaking book, Women in the Nineteenth Century, published in 1845, that propelled her to the forefront of the feminist movement. The book explored the theme of gender equality, challenging societal norms and advocating for women’s intellectual and social freedom. Women in the Nineteenth Century was referenced as inspiration for both Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (2).   

As a journalist, Fuller exhibited exceptional talent, and her work often pushed the boundaries of conventional reporting. She became the first female book reviewer for the New York Tribune and later served as its first female foreign correspondent, reporting from Europe. Fuller’s most notable journalistic work was Summer on the Lakes, a collection of essays based on her journey through the Great Lakes region in 1843. The book not only chronicled her experiences but also provided keen insights into the culture, landscape, and social issues of the region.

Margaret Fuller’s legacy continues to inspire generations of journalists, feminists, and writers. Her life and career exemplify the power of perseverance, intellectual acumen, and unwavering dedication to social progress.

  1. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/fuller-margaret/
  2. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/21/books/review/margaret-fuller-by-megan-marshall.html
  3. https://www.literaryladiesguide.com/trailblazing-journalists/margaret-fuller-trailblazing-journalist-and-reformer/
  4. https://www.loc.gov/item/2002712183/

On This Day: A Literary Trailblazer

On May 19, 1930, Lorraine Hansberry was born in Chicago, Illinois. Her parents, Carl and Nannie Hansberry, were prominent civil rights activists. The family’s experiences with these issues would later shape Lorraine’s artistic sensibilities and become central themes in her work.

Hansberry made history when her play, “A Raisin in the Sun,” debuted on Broadway in 1959. At just 29 years old, she became the first African American woman to have a play produced on Broadway. The play explores the aspirations and struggles of a black working-class family living in Chicago’s South Side. Its themes resonated with audiences of all backgrounds, making it an instant success and earning Hansberry critical acclaim.

“A Raisin in the Sun” marked a turning point in American theater, challenging the racial stereotypes and narratives prevalent at the time. It defied the notion that black stories were unmarketable or unworthy of attention. Her play not only paved the way for other African American playwrights but also provided a platform for marginalized voices to be heard.

Hansberry’s life was cut tragically short by pancreatic cancer at the age of 34, but her impact on American literature and the civil rights movement cannot be overstated. Her work continues to be celebrated and studies in schools and theaters worldwide. Her powerful storytelling and unflinching examination of societal issues have inspired subsequent generations of playwrights, artists, and activists to use their art as a tool for social change.

Learn more about Lorraine Hansberry here:



May History Hits: The Smallpox Vaccine

Smallpox was a highly contagious disease that affected millions of people throughout history, causing severe scarring, blindness, and even death. For centuries, there was no effective treatment for smallpox, and outbreaks turned quickly into devastating epidemics. On May 14, 1796, the smallpox vaccine was finally developed.

In the late 18th century, a British physician named Edward Jenner observed that milkmaids who had contracted a mild disease called cowpox seemed to be immune to smallpox (1). He hypothesized that exposing people to cowpox could protect them from smallpox and set out to test his theory.

Jenner conducted a series of experiments on volunteers, including his own son. He collected pus from cowpox lesions on the hands of milkmaids and used it to inoculate healthy individuals. He found that the inoculated individuals developed a mild form of cowpox but did not contract smallpox when exposed to the disease.

Jenner named his discovery “vaccination,” derived from the Latin word for cow, “vacca.” His method of vaccination became widely accepted and was instrumental in eradicating smallpox from the world.

The development of the vaccine was a significant scientific breakthrough that paved the way for the development of modern immunization techniques. Vaccines work by introducing a weakened or inactivated form of a disease-causing pathogen into the body, triggering the immune system to produce antibodies that can fight off the disease. This process creates immunity without causing the disease itself (2).

In 1980, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that smallpox had been eradicated from the world thanks to the global vaccination campaign. This was the first time in history that a human disease had been eradicated (3).

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/smallpox/history/history.html#:~:text=The%20basis%20for%20vaccination%20began,used%20to%20protect%20against%20smallpox.
  2. https://historyofvaccines.org/vaccines-101
  3. https://asm.org/Articles/2020/March/Disease-Eradication-What-Does-It-Take-to-Wipe-out

On This Day: The Lady with the Lamp

Florence Nightingale, born May 12, 1820, is remembered for her groundbreaking work as a nurse during the Crimean War and her tireless efforts to reform healthcare in Victorian England. Her legacy has had a lasting impact on nursing and public health around the world.

In 1854, Britain and France went to war with Russia over the Ottoman Empire. The British army sent a group of nurses to the front lines to care for wounded soldiers, and Florence Nightingale was among them. When she arrived in Turkey, she was shocked by the conditions in the hospital. It was overcrowded and unsanitary, and there was a lack of basic medical supplies. Nightingale immediately set to work organizing the hospital and introducing basic sanitation measures, such as washing and disinfecting equipment. She also insisted on better clothing and food for the patients.

Nightingale was known for her tireless work ethic and her ability to inspire her fellow nurses. She often worked long hours, walking around the hospital at night with a lamp, comforting patients and checking on their condition. This led to her being called “the lady with the lamp.”

After the war, Nightingale returned to England a hero. Her work had saved countless lives, and she had become a symbol of hope and compassion. She received numerous honors, including the Royal Red Cross, however, she was not content to stop there. She witnessed the suffering and disease plaguing Victorian England and determined to do something about it, becoming an advocate for public health and healthcare reform.

Nightingale pushed for improvements in sanitation and housing, frequently speaking at conferences and meetings on the topic. Greatly interested in statistical modeling, she championed the use of such to illustrate the efficacity of her methods. She also established the Nightingale Training School for Nurses at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London. This was the first professional nursing school, and it set the standard for nursing education.

Nightingale’s work revolutionized the field of nursing and set the stage for modern public health. At the time of her death, the New York Times wrote that “not even the death of a royal personage could have called forth more universal expressions of regret and tributes of love and affection than appear in the English papers” (2).

To learn more, start here:

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/04/health/florence-nightingales-wisdom.html
  2. https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0512.html

On This Day: John Brown

Today, May 9, marks the birthday of a famous figure in American history: John Brown. John Brown’s rebellion, also known as the Harper’s Ferry raid, took place on October 16-18, 1859 when John Brown, an abolitionist, sought to end slavery by force.

Brown was born in Connecticut to an abolitionist family and was heavily influenced by his father, who thought slavery was a sin. In 1837, Brown moved to Kansas to join the fight against pro-slavery forces. He and his sons participated in several violent confrontations, including the Pottawatomie massacre.

Brown became convinced that a violent uprising was necessary to end slavery, and in 1859, he began planning an attack on the federal armory at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Brown believed that by seizing the armory, he could arm slaves and start a rebellion that would spread across the South.

On October 16, 1859, Brown and a group of 21 men arrived in Harper’s Ferry. They quickly took control of the armory, but their plan soon began to unravel. Brown had hoped that slaves would flock to his side, but few did. The local militia arrived, and after a two-day standoff, U.S. Marines, led by Robert E. Lee, stormed the armory. Ten of Brown’s men were killed, including two of his sons, and Brown himself was captured.

John Brown was tried for treason, murder, and inciting a slave insurrection. He was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to death. Brown’s trial and execution became a cause célèbre in the North, where he was hailed as a martyr for the cause of abolition.

The raid also intensified the debate over slavery in the United States. Many Northerners saw Brown’s actions as heroic, and his execution only increased their determination to end slavery. Southerners, on the other hand, saw the raid as evidence of a Northern conspiracy to incite a slave rebellion, which only heightened their fears of abolition.

John Brown’s Rebellion brought the issue of slavery to the forefront of national consciousness and helped push the country closer to the brink of civil war. John Brown is remembered as a controversial figure, but one whose actions helped set in motion the events that led to the abolition of slavery in the U.S..

May History Hits: May Day

May Day, also known as International Worker’s Day, is celebrated on May 1 every year. This holiday has a long and storied history, dating back over a century, and it continues to be an important day for workers and labor activists around the world.

May Day has its roots in the labor movement of the late 19th century, when workers in the United States and Europe began fighting for better working conditions, higher wages, and the right to organize. In the U.S., May 1st was chosen as the date for a nationwide strike in support of the eight-hour workday. This strike, which took place in 1886, was marred by violence, with police and striking workers clashing in the streets of several major cities. In the aftermath, several labor leaders were arrested and executed, and May 1 became a symbol of workers’ struggle for justice.

Today, May Day is celebrated in many different ways around the world. In some countries, it is a national holiday, with workers taking the day off to participate in rallies and other activities. In other countries, it is a day of protest and agitation.

In recent years, May Day has taken on new significance in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exposed the deep inequalities of the global economic system. In many parts of the world, workers on the front lines of the pandemic, including healthcare workers, grocery store employees, and delivery drivers, have faced tremendous risks and challenges, often with little support or recognition from their employers or governments. On May Day 2021, workers around the world used the occasion to demand greater protections and support for those on the front line—often workers struggling to make ends meet.

Read more about May Day throughout history here:



April History Hits: The Birth of the American Presidency

On April 30, 1789, George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States of America. This historic event marked the beginning of a new era for the fledgling nation, as it transitioned from a loose confederation of states to a more centralized federal government.

Washington’s election was not surprising; he was a respected military and social leader in the colonies. The inauguration took place on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City, which served as the nation’s capital at the time. In his inaugural address, Washington emphasized the importance of unity as the only way for Americans to build a strong and prosperous nation. He went on to describe his vision for the nation as such:

. . . the foundation of our nation policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens and command the respect of the world.  I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my country can inspire, since there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained; and since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people (1).

As president, Washington faced a number of challenges, including establishing a framework for the new federal government and creating a place for the United States in the international community. Most importantly, Washington’s presidency set a precedent for future leaders of the United States. He set the standard for the role of president as both a leader and symbol of national unity.

Learn more about the inauguration here:

  1. https://www.archives.gov/milestone-documents/president-george-washingtons-first-inaugural-speech
  2. https://www.mountvernon.org/george-washington/the-first-president/inauguration/timeline/

On This Day: The Father of Wireless Communication

Guglielmo Marconi was an Italian inventor and engineer who is credited with pioneering wireless communication. He was born April 25, 1874 in Bologna to a wealthy Italian family. Marconi’s curiosity and passion for science and technology led him to make groundbreaking advancements that revolutionized the way people communicate.

Marconi’s interest in science and technology developed at an early age. He was inspired by the work of scientists such as James Clerk Maxwell and Heinrich Hertz, who had made discoveries in the field of electromagnetism and electromagnetic waves. Marconi was largely self-taught and pursued his passion by experimenting with wireless telegraphy.

Marconi’s most significant invention was the practical implementation of wireless telegraphy, which enables the transmission of messages without the need for physical wires. In 1897, Marconi achieved his first breakthrough by transmitting a wireless signal over a distance of 1.5 miles across Salisbury Plain in England. In 1901, Marconi made history by successfully sending the first transatlantic wireless telegraphy signal from England to Newfoundland, Canada. This revolutionized long-distance communication and opened up new possibilities for global communication, trade, and diplomacy. Marconi’s invention paved the way for the development of radio, television broadcasting, mobile phones, and satellite communication, which have transformed the world into a connected global village.

Upon his death the New York Times wrote: “From radio broadcasting systems came acknowledgements of the hundreds of the social debt of listening millions to whom Marconi’s belief that messages could be sent without wires brought a fuller life of entertainment and enlightenment through the dials” (1). The social debt owed Marconi has only increased as, it could be argued, our modern society is entirely supported by the backbone of wireless communication.

  1. https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1937/07/21/94403121.pdf?pdf_redirect=true&ip=0