Pop Quiz: Which two Presidents not named Roosevelt were born in New York?

Answer: Millard Fillmore and Martin Van Buren

Martin Van Buren- 8th President of the United States (Photo Courtesy of Library of Congress)

Martin Van Buren- 8th President of the United States (Photo Courtesy of Library of Congress)

Van Buren was born on December  5, 1782 in Kinderhook, New York. His later home, Lindenwald, is a National Historic site. That makes the eighth president the first born an American citizen, even though Dutch was his first language.

Fillmore, the 13th President,was born in Summerhiill, New York on January 7, 1800. His later home is also a national historic site in East Aurora, New York.

Unlike the two Roosevelts, Theodore and Franklin, , Van Buren and Fillmore do not make anyone’s “Greatest Presidents list” –including mine.

Read more about both men in Don’t Know Much About the American Presidents.

DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT® THE AMERICAN PRESIDENTS (HYPERION PAPERBACK APRIL 15, 2014)

DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT® THE AMERICAN PRESIDENTS (HYPERION PAPERBACK APRIL 15, 2014)

“In Depth” on Book TV with Kenneth C. Davis

On November 4, 2012, New York Times Bestselling author Kenneth C. Davis sat down for a comprehensive three-hour interview with C-Span’s Book TV.

The interview, which included questions from callers and via e-mail, covered Davis’ career as a writer spanning more than 20 years. In the interview, he discussed his approach to writing history in such books as Don’t Know Much About® History. He also described his background, growing up in Mt. Vernon, New York, how he became a writer, and his early work, including his first book, Two-Bit Culture: The Paperbacking of America, which discussed the rise of the paperback publishing industry and the impact of books on American society.

Davis also described the success of his “Don’t Know Much About®” series, with its emphasis on making history both accessible and entertaining while connecting the past to the present.

Watch the video here.

Pop Quiz: Which Constitutional Amendment repealed another?

United States Constitution (Image Courtesy of the National Archives)

United States Constitution (Image Courtesy of the National Archives)

Answer: The 21st Amendment, ratified on December 5, 1933, repealed the 18th Amendment and with it the federal Prohibition of alcohol. (The Amendment gave the states extensive authority to regulate alcoholic beverages.)

Amendment XXI

Section 1.

The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Section 2.

The transportation or importation into any state, territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

Section 3.

This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several states, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the states by the Congress.

Source: Legal Information Institute: Cornell University Law School

The 21st Amendment is unique among amendments because it was the only one that overturned an existing Amendment and the only one ratified by state ratifying conventions rather than state legislatures. These  statewide conventions were  specially elected for that purpose, according to Linda Monk in The Words We Live By. Adds Monk:

Approximately seventy-three percent of the twenty-one million citizens who voted in those elections supported the Twenty-first Amendment.” (The Words We Live By, page 248)

The 18th Amendment (Text) had taken effect on January 17, 1920  and the prohibition of alcohol was widely blamed for creating widespread corruption and organized crime, ultimately leading to its repeal.

An excellent history of the Prohibition period is Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition  by Daniel Okrent.

You can also read more about the Prohibition era in Don’t Know Much About History.

 

Don't Know Much About® History: Anniversary Edition (Harper Perennial and Random House Audio)

Don’t Know Much About® History: Anniversary Edition (Harper Perennial and Random House Audio)

Lincoln, Thanksgiving and the Civil War

As the Civil War raged on 150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln issued his second annual Thanksgiving Proclamation.

That piece of Thanksgiving history is the subject of my post How the Civil War Created Thanksgiving  in the New York Times  Disunion  blog series.

Abraham Lincoln (November 1863) Photo by Alexander Gardner

Abraham Lincoln (November 1863) Photo by Alexander Gardner

 

 

The partial text of Lincoln’s Proclamation can be found in this Who Said It?  post 

Read more about Lincoln and the Civil War in Don’t Know Much About History, Don’t Know Much About the Civil War and Don’t Know Much About the American Presidents.

Don't Know Much About the Civil War (HarperPerennial Paperback/Random House Audio)

Don’t Know Much About the Civil War (HarperPerennial Paperback/Random House Audio)

Don't Know Much About® the American Presidents (Hyperion Paperback-April 15, 2014)

Don’t Know Much About® the American Presidents (Hyperion Paperback/Random House Audio)

 

Don't Know Much About® History: Anniversary Edition (Harper Perennial and Random House Audio)

Don’t Know Much About® History: Anniversary Edition (Harper Perennial and Random House Audio)

Thanksgiving Pop Quiz- A Videoblog

(Original video created and directed by Colin Davis)

With Thanksgiving around the corner, cutouts of Pilgrims in black clothes and clunky shoes are sprouting all over the place. You may know that the Pilgrims sailed aboard the Mayflower and arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. But did you know their first Thanksgiving celebration lasted three whole days? What else do you know about these early settlers of America? Don’t be a turkey. Try this True-False quiz.

True or False? (Answers below)
1. Pilgrims always wore stiff black clothes and shoes with silver buckles.
2. The Pilgrims came to America in search of religious freedom.
3. Everyone on the Mayflower was a Pilgrim.
4. The Pilgrims were saved from starvation by a native American friend named Squanto.
5. The Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving in America.

The site of Plimouth Plantation is definitely worth a visit.

 

Answers
1. False. Pilgrims wore blue, green, purple and brownish clothing for everyday. Those who had good black clothes saved them for the Sabbath. No Pilgrims had buckles– artists made that up later!
2. True. The Pilgrims were a group of radical Puritans who had broken away from the Church of England. After 11 years of “exile” in Holland, they decided to come to America.
3. False. Only about half of the 102 people on the Mayflower were what William Bradford later called “Pilgrims.” The others, called “Strangers” just wanted to come to the New World.
4. True. Squanto, or Tisquantum, helped teach the Pilgrims to hunt, farm and fish. He learned English after being taken as a slave aboard an English ship.
5. False. The Indians had been having similar harvest feasts for years. So did the English settlers in Virginia and Spanish settlers in the southwest before the Pilgrims even got to America. And the Mayflower Pilgrims weren’t even America’s “first Pilgrims.” That honor goes to French Huguenots who settled in Florida more than 50 years before the Mayflower sailed.

 

Read about America’s real “first Pilgrims”–French Huguenots who landed in Florida more than fifty years before the Mayflower sailed– in this New York Times  Op-Ed, “A French Connection” and in my book America’s Hidden History

America's Hidden History, includes tales of "Forgotten Founders"

America’s Hidden History, includes tales of “First Pilgrims” and “Forgotten Founders”

 

 

Don't Know Much About History (Revised, Expanded and Updated Edition)

Don’t Know Much About History (Revised, Expanded and Updated Edition)

Pop Quiz: On November 26, 1942, FDR ordered the rationing of what basic item?

Answer: Gasoline

Roosevelt’s order was to go into effect on December 1 and its real reason was to help conserve rubber needed for the war  effort.

fdr83

“President Roosevelt served notice tonight that, Congressional upheavals and sectional objections notwithstanding, the government must and would begin the nationwide rationing of gasoline to conserve rubber on Dec. 1, as scheduled.”

Source: The New York Times report on the controversial order.

Read more about Roosevelt and World War II in Don’t Know Much About® History  and Don’t Know Much About® the American Presidents.

Don't Know Much About® the American Presidents (Hyperion Paperback-April 15, 2014)

Don’t Know Much About® the American Presidents (Hyperion Paperback-April 15, 2014)

Don't Know Much About® History: Anniversary Edition (Harper Perennial and Random House Audio)

Don’t Know Much About® History: Anniversary Edition (Harper Perennial and Random House Audio)

Who Said It (11/24/2014)

Abraham Lincoln, Proclamation 118-Thanskgiving Day, 1864

Abraham Lincoln (November 1863) Photo by Alexander Gardner

Abraham Lincoln (November 1863) Photo by Alexander Gardner

 

“And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust ….”

 

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe. And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the Great Disposer of Events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased Him to assign as a dwelling place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.

Source: Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=69998.

This was Lincoln’s second annual Thanksgiving Day proclamation (dated October 20, 1864).

Don’t Know Much About® the Gettysburg Address-Resources

On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln was one of the speakers who dedicated the new cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. That is the answer to this week’s Who Said It Quiz

Abraham Lincoln (November 1863) Photo by Alexander Gardner

Abraham Lincoln (November 1863) Photo by Alexander Gardner

Plum Run- Gettysburg (Photo Courtesy of Gettysburg National Historic Site NPS

Plum Run- Gettysburg (Photo Courtesy of Gettysburg National Historic Site NPS

There are still many myths about this speech. Here are some resources:

•The New York Times report of the dedication ceremony with text and applause noted four times.

“Myths and Mysteries about the Gettysburg Address” from the National Constitution Center.

•”Learn the Address,” a program devoted to having Americans learn and recite the Address.

•The U.S. National Park Service Gettysburg National Military Park site

You can read more about the Gettysburg, Address and the Civil War in:

Don't Know Much About the Civil War (Harper paperback, Random House Audio)

Don’t Know Much About the Civil War (Harper paperback, Random House Audio)

Who Said It? (11/17/2014)

 

Plum Run- Gettysburg (Photo Courtesy of Gettysburg National Historic Site NPS

Plum Run- Gettysburg (Photo Courtesy of Gettysburg National Historic Site NPS

“The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract”

Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address (November 19, 1863)

 

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Source: The Avalon Project-Yale law School

Visit the Gettysburg National Historic Park (National Park Service site)

Pop Quiz: What was the name of the real whale that inspired “Moby-Dick”?

Answer: Mocha Dick was the name of an actual sperm whale that was purportedly the model for Melville

Moby-Dick, or, The Whale was published in the United States on November 14, 1851. (It had appeared earlier in London.)

Etching of Joseph O. Eaton's portrait of Herman Melville (Source: Library of Congress; Public Domain)

Etching of Joseph O. Eaton’s portrait of Herman Melville (Source: Library of Congress; Public Domain)

 

Melville’s home Arrowhead is located in the Berkshire region of Massachusetts.

Melville's Writing Desk (Photo courtesy of Arrowhead-Berkshire Historical Society) http://berkshirehistory.org/herman-melville/herman-melville-and-arrowhead/

Melville’s Writing Desk (Photo courtesy of Arrowhead-Berkshire Historical Society)

Read more about whales and whaling in Eric Jay Dolin’s Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America.8

And read more about Melville and his work in Don’t Know Much About Literature: What You Need to Know But Never Learned About Great Books and Authors.

Don't Know Much About® Literature (Harper and Random House Audio)

Don’t Know Much About® Literature (Harper and Random House Audio)