Monday, December 29, 2008

Links to History:

As educators and historians we can all appreciate a good timeline. Timelines are a great tool to use in the classroom to give the students perspective and an ability analyze dates and events in sequential order and it's a way that kids learn, without knowing they're learning. Try having thee kids make a timeline of important events in a chapter instead of answering questions at the end. I guarantee they'll be more engaged.

If you're lucky, you have a computer lab or a laptop cart where you can have the kids create timelines online, check off that technology quota and draw them in even more.
Here are several places to do that.

You can find a plethora of timelines and links to timelines on my US History website:

But here's the timeline creator of all timelines -

This is not your typical timeline. TimeRime takes time lines to the next level by adding a level of interactivity with images, a scrolling feature and so much more which can't possibly be described. You'll just have to see it for yourself.

Though making a timeline with TimeRime could take a considerable amount of time, the results can be fantastic. Imagine the ideas you can bring to the table with pictures, and words with perspective of what came first, second and so on.

Below, I've embedded a timeline of Barrack Obama from to give you a sense of some of the capabilities.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Brief History of the "Americanization" of Christmas

I think we can all agree that the modern day Christmas holiday is a far cry from the true meaning of celebration of the nativity. And though there are still many Americans who do celebrate the birth of Christ. Those that do break bread and un-wrap gifts with visions of wise man dancing in their heads, still have a lot owed to the minds behind the Americanization of Christmas.

Let's start with Santa Claus. The name Santa Claus is derived from St. Nicklaus. Nicholas lived sometime during the 3rd century in what is now the southern coast of Turkey. Nicholas was known for his generosity and his patronage to the poor, so the idea of Santa Claus is no stretch. And holidays celebrating St. Nicholas.

But what's the deal with the flying reindeer? And what's with the sneakiness through the chimney? These things, along with idea for Rudolph are pure 19th and 20th century American adaptations.

The image of the jolly old elf was developed from the 1823 poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas," better known now as "The Night Before Christmas." The poem's authorship has been disputed over the years, but what is truly remarkable is the imagination to turn St. Nick into a sleigh riding elf who used magical flying reindeer to descend onto the roofs of good girls and boys.

The 8 tiny reindeer were purely a product of the author's imagination. Regardless of whether the author is Clement C. Moore or Henry Livingston, millions of kids still check the weather reports and check the night sky to make sure Ol' St. Nick can get to their house safely.

Here's the vision of St. Nicholas from the poem.

"He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf. . ."

But these were just words, the true look of Santa came from the famous political cartoonist, Thomas Nast. In 1863 Nast was commissioned to draw a series of annual drawings of the Santa Claus in Harper's Weekly. His drawings, based on the descriptions from the poem and an earlier Dutch representation of the character. The drawings continued through 1886 and helped to shape the Santa Claus we know and love today.

For a more robust story of the history of St. Nicholas, click on the link below.

And then there's Rudolph. Believe it or not, Rudolph came to be as a marketing ploy to entice people to shop at Montgomery Ward. The departments store would release an annual coloring book as a gimmick to promote holiday shopping. In 1939, one of Montgomery Ward's copywriters, Robert L. May, came up with the idea for an ostracized reindeer with whom it would be easy to sympathize. The story was a hit, and thus a promotion to sell more toys has turned into an American holiday icon.

Even Snopes is on the great Rudolph caper:

Leave it to the great United States to everything bigger, better and brighter!

If you've got some time, here's a pretty informational video about the History of Christmas.

The history of Santa starts at 28:26 into the video, and Rudolph starts at 34.56

Further reading:

Santa Claus: A Biography

Nicholas: The Epic Journey from Saint to Santa Claus


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Boston Tea Party 235th Anniversary

The 235th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party is set for December 16. To commemorate the event the National Constitution Center will unveil The Robinson Tea Chest.

The Robinson Tea Chest? What the heck is the Robinson Tea Chest?

According to history, on December 16, 1773, exactly 342 tea chests were dumped into Boston Harbor in protest of the new tax on tea. The Robinson Tea Chest is one of the lucky surviving tea chests that can trace it's origin to that fateful night.

Along with the chest, the NCC will also display related newspaper articles from the Masachusetts Gazette and the Boston Weekly Newsletter, from December 9, 1773.

The display will also include letters and photographs that chronicle the chest’s history from the time it was recovered in Boston Harbor, December 17, 1773, to now.

If you haven't made a trek to Philadelphia to see the Constitution Center, let alone Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Thomas Jefferson's temporary housing, Ben Franklin's house, Betsy Ross's house, etc... then you're missing out. Come to Philadelphia, let me know, we'll meet for a beer.

On another note, the Old South Meeting House holds an annual event commemorating the Boston Tea Party. The old building is the place where more than 5,000 colonists gathered on December 16, 1773 in turn starting the Boston Tea Party.

For more information, or to plan a trip there next year, go to their website:


Links to History: Teaching Economics

Today's trying economic times is enough to make you rethink the direction of our education system and ponder the thought of what is most important in education?

Is it the ability to reduce algebraic equations? Is understanding the leadership qualities of Alexander the Great really that important? What about knowing all of the prepositions and understanding that you shouldn't end a sentence with one of them? Or better yet... how about the value of a dollar and how credit works?

Yep, that could undoubtedly help in times like these.

My first 2 years of teaching, I taught economics, in Atlanta, Georgia. It was a great class, and really engages the students because it is real life... and they knew that. I didn't take economics in high school. I don't even think it was offered. I teach now in Philadelphia, PA and I don't think economics is an option. But it should be.

It is a great thing to foster a young entrepreneur and let them hash out there ideas in a business plan. Young entrepreneurship is what is going to keep this company afloat. And with the advancement of technology, the next great entrepreneur could undoubtedly come from a 12th grade classroom.

Entrepreneurship is all around and the future of our country depends on it. Fortunately there are plenty of foundations out there that help to foster ideas by way of education, support and grants, and help any entrepreneur with taking an idea to fruition. One such place is the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. (

The Kauffman Foundation is dedicated to creating a society of economically sound individuals who can contribute positively to their community in the form of staring a business or understanding business from a broader perspective.

The Kauffman Foundation has plenty of free resources for teachers and students. Choose from newsletters, RSS feeds and fact sheets.. they're all free, so check 'em out here.

One of the current resources highlighted on the site discusses math, science and technology in the classroom and see how parents and students truly feel about the current curriculum being taught in school.

I know I'm upset that Pennsylvania doesn't teach Economics. I loved teaching the subject. I became certified in Business Technology which has some economics, just so I could teach when given the chance. But alas, apparently it's not important enough to include in the core curriculum. Entrepreneurship and simple economics should definitely be a priority in any district.

Young entrepreneurship is nothing to shy away from. If anybody knows of any other foundations, or grants out there to help bring economics into schools, please share them.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Using YouTube Videos in the Classroom; Even if the Site is Blocked!

So you've found some useful videos to use in your classroom on YouTube. You can view them fine at home, only to discover that your school district has decided to block YouTube forcing you to go to plan B.

If this happens to you, there are several things you can do.

First you can check out, which is the YouTube for teachers, but there aren't as many good videos to choose from. It's a great idea, but it needs more users to put up some better content. There are a few organizations who have taken to it, and posted some good historical content, but it might be a struggle to find exactly what you're looking for.

And finally you can use Zamzar ( Zamzar is a file conversion website that can convert almost any type of file to the format you desire. In this case, you can input the URL of the YouTube video you desire and convert it into a format that you can save to your computer or your zip disk/thumb drive and access directly from your computer. Sometimes the files are rather large so I don't recommend emailing it, but you can certainly email the URLs of the videos and convert them from your school's computer.

Zamzar is quite simple. Just have it sent to your school email address and save it there. Hopefully you have a network, because the files are quite large, and it would be easier to share with other teachers.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mary Had a Little Lamb... for Thanksgiving.

Sara Hale, author of the famous poem, Mary Had a Little Lamb and one the nation's first woman magazine editors played an instrumental part in making Thanksgiving a national holiday.

Ms. Hale worked tirelessly writing letters to the Presidents because she thought it was a good idea to have a holiday where all Americans could collectively give thanks. Her passionate letters and essays finally caught up with Abraham Lincoln. With a nation divided Lincoln thought the idea was a good one and thus declared the last Thursday in November, as Thanksgiving.

But FDR would later try to move this date up, in an effort to boost the economy and get an extra week for holiday shopping. For one year, 1940, this caused much confusion, so much that America actually had two Thanksgivings that year. Some states recognized FDR's decree, while others still followed Lincoln's last Thursday declaration. Congress eventually agreed to make it the 4th Thursday of the month instead of the last Thursday. You can read about the whole story here.

The first Thanksgiving, the one celebrated in 1621 by Plymouth (or Plimouth) colonists and Wampanoag Indians, didn't have lamb on the menu... but it may have had turkey.

There are only two items historians know for sure were on the menu; venison and wild fowl. These are mentioned in primary sources.

Below is one of the more detailed descriptions of the "First Thanksgiving". It comes from A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, in 1621, by Edward Winslow:
"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of
our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed upon our governor, and upon the captain, and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."
For a full list off what might have been on the menu, including eel and lobster, and what was definitely not on the menu... click the link below:

Did You Know That...
According to the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers' Association.The cranberry is one of only three fruits that are entirely native to North American soil.

Without cheating, take a guess at what the other two are...

Happy Holidays.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Failures of the Presidents: Book Review

Failures of the Presidents: From the Whiskey Rebellion and War of 1812 to the Bay of Pigs and War in Iraq

The book's interesting cover is enough to grab your attention. But the interest doesn't stop there. Failures of the Presidents is a quick witted, sarcastic, informative and entertaining look at some of the greatest Presidents' not so great moments.

Though many of the vignettes within the book are familiar only to those that study the subject, the authors do a great job of bringing the reader up to speed quickly so that the context of the chapter is not lost. The book is meant to be read by everyone.

The writing style is well suited for a quick, fun read. Filled with clever comparisons and sarcastic wit, Failures of the Presidents brings a sense of humor to what is usually a more serious subject. But don't let the cover or the clever writing fool you... there are some serious issues addressed.

In all, 20 presidents are highlighted... each a story of its own, making this a great book of short reads. But it is much, much more than one of those quick facts, "Did you know?" type of books many of us get suckered into browsing at the book store. This has some meat.
The images in the book make it great for the coffee table, not to mention the conversation piece the cover can become. It's not often that history books give you pictures to ponder while reading... but the coffee table style of this book is a very welcome deviation to the common history book.

If you've read this book, or anything like it, I'd love to hear your thoughts.... I'm currently reading Secret Lives of the US Presidents, which is another good read along the same lines, but with many more textbook like sidebars.

Both books are in my recommended section in the USHistorySite Online Store... click here to see all my recommended items.


Monday, November 17, 2008

"I'm Not a Crook" - Nixon and Watergate

It was on this day, November 18, 1973, before the entire nation, during a televised news conference in response to allegations regarding his involvement in the Watergate scandal that President Richard Nixon declared "I'm not a crook. I earned everything I got. "

This was his attempt at declaring innocence in the whole ordeal.

Nixon continued to deny his involvement in Watergate, even after audio tapes of conversations in the president’s office revealed otherwise. Nixon later resigned from his post as president on August 8, 1974. He resigned shortly after three articles of impeachment were passed. However, Gerald Ford, his successor pardoned him of any wrong doing.

I've always wondered if Nixon really thought he'd be able to talk his way out of it by denying any wrong doing. Did he know they had the tapes on him? And if he did, would he still have said this famous line? Does Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky fiasco fall into the same category? Would admission of guilt from the get-go changed our perception of either of these two ordeals.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thank You Readers!

Dear Readers,

I'd like to take the time to thank all of my loyal readers. I have now hit the milestone of 100 readers. What does this mean? This means 100 people have decided that they like my blog enough to have it fed to them every time I decide to spoon it out. Thanks guys!

Incidentally, the 100th reader came on the 100th post. This is post #101. And although the red button below may not indicate 100 - it was at that number - it just sometimes fluctuates.

If you're interested in getting USHistoryBlog in your RSS feed, click the red button below.

Or if you want to get USHistoryBlog in your email, you can do that too...
Click here to subscribe to the email

I try my best to create quality, insightful commentary that can be enjoyed by both the lay-man and the expert. I do cater towards teachers and education a bit, but why not... I'm a teacher.

What started as a way to give my students an alternative to the same old homework assignment has turned into a hobby, and it appears like people enjoy my hobby. And I appreciate that. has been around since October 29, 2006. Since that time, the blog has received over 42,000 site visits. 33,000 of those visits have come since January 1st of 2008. So the site is growing. So I'll keep doing what I do... and you can keep enjoy it.

What can you do?
For starters, you can spread the word... Tell people about the blog, send them a link, put a link on your website (I'll exchange with you if you'd like).

You can Friend USHistorySite/USHistoryBlog on Facebook, and become a fan of the site... This is a great way to connect and network with like-minded people. Click the image below to do that.

USHistoryBlog on Facebook

Comment more often. I love to get comments and hear the opinions of my readers. I'd love to hear from you about topic ideas and discussions. I do give prompts at the end of a lot of the entries, but just a few quick words will help out a lot.

And finally... you can simply keep doing what you've been doing. Read and enjoy the blog.

Thanks again.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day: A Brief History

Originally called Armistice Day, it was proclaimed by Woodrow Wilson to celebrate the first anniversary of the Armistice that was signed to end World War I.

We've all heard the phrase... the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when Germany signed the Armistice, ending The Great War.

It was made a legal holiday in 1938.

Several years later, in 1953, a shopkeeper from Kansas, named Al King had the idea to honor all American veterans on Armistice day and not just those from World War I. King had been very active in supporting all veterans, with the group American War Dads. A congressman from his home town, liked the idea and pushed the idea through Congress. And in 1954, President Eisenhower signed it into law, making the 11th of November officially Veterans Day. A day to honor all veterans of every war.

If there are any veterans you'd like to salute and honor, here is your forum. Please comment below and honor our soldiers.

I'll honor my Grandfather, Joe Vetter, who served in the Army during World War II as an Ordinance Supply Technician. We're fortunate he didn't see any combat action, but he did share a boat with General Patton and was given clean-up duty on Omaha Beach several days after D-Day, in the European theater. I know he's spending today calling all of his army buddies. Unfortunately, each year he makes fewer and fewer phone calls.

He's written a few heartfelt entries on this blog. Here is his take on D-Day, and here are his thoughts on the GI Bill.

Grandpop, I love you and salute you. Thank you.

And finally, for more stories go to, a site dedicated to telling the stories of real American heroes.

In honor of Veteran's Day, ShopPBS is offering 15% off War & Military Titles PLUS Buy More Save More starts today.



Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Congratulations Barrack Obama!

Momentarily, Barrack Obama has become the 44th President of the United States. Above that, he has become the first African-American President of the United States of America. A truly historic event in our nation's ever-unfolding history.

Congratulations to Barrack Obama and everything he represents.

I think the picture of Reverend Jesse Jackson crying is fitting. He has tears of joy, tears of relief, tears of excitement. Tears that reflect the hardships of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Booker T. Washington, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, The Little Rock Nine, Malcolm X, Crispus Attucks, Bill Cosby, Thurgood Marshall and so many others.

To sum up this long civil rights battle, I think Jay-Z said it best at a rally in Philadelphia yesterday...

"Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could walk. Martin Luther King walked so Obama could run. Obama's running so we all can fly."

Barrack Obama will be sworn into office during the first month of 2009.
2009 marks the 100th Anniversary of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).

Barrack Obama started his political career in Springfield, Illinois. Springfield, Illinois is the birthplace of the NAACP.

Tonight the United States took a giant step forward. It's one step towards change. Towards a friendlier, well respected United States. Get ready for America 2.0.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Election Day: November 4, 2008: Quotes & Votes

With today's election in the balance, I thought these quotes, from past presidents, to be appropriate. I don't care who you vote for... as long as you vote.

Happy Election Day!

"The future of this republic is in the hands of the American voter." - Dwight Eisenhower

"The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all."- JFK

"I hope that no American will waste his franchise and throw away his vote by voting either for me or against me solely on account of my religious affiliation. It is not relevant." - JFK

"Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost." - John Quincy Adams

"The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men." - Lyndon Johnson

"Voters quickly forget what a man says." - Richard Nixon

"When a fellow tells me he's bipartisan, I know he's going to vote against me." - Harry Truman


For more quotes from these presidents and others, please visit


Saturday, November 01, 2008

Election Day Lesson Plans

Still struggling with something to do for Monday before the election?

Check out some of these great resources:

The National Constitution Center
The National Constitution Center is proud to feature originally authored lesson plans by educators from across the country. (psst... I helped to edit/finalize one of them)

PBS - By the People
These lesson plans are organized by grade level and topic. All are designed to tie to state and national standards for civics, history, math, and language arts.

A Great Resource Page from PBS

Scholastic Election 2008 Lesson Plans

BrainPOP Election Activities
These are very informative, fun cartoons. Most of these are free, scroll to the bottom to see all the free short movies.

If you've found others (and I know there is plenty more...) Please share them. We may not be able to squeeze them in by Monday, but are still appropriate even after the election.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Great Debates: Kennedy v. Nixon

October 21, 1960 marked the date for the fourth and final debate between presidential hopefuls, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

The world's first televised presidential debate took place just over a month prior on September 26.

I think we're all familiar with the circumstances surrounding these oft discussed events. Besides being the first televised presidential debate, many credit these debates as the events that would change the way we looked at the president for years to come and helped put Kennedy over the top in his defeat of Nixon. The debate gave national exposure to Kennedy, who was a relatively unknown senator, and helped him to go on to win the election by a narrow margin.

Nixon who had been on the campaign trail that day appeared tired and un-shaven to the television audience. While Kennedy appeared to be polished and well rested. It's been said that those that listened to the debates on the radio declared Nixon the winner, while those that watched on television gave the victory to Kennedy.

It's a testament to the power of perception and image, and truly helped to shape the personae an American presidential candidate needs to address.

I've always said that because of this, a great candidate like Lincoln would not have made it as president in the television age. His awkward appearance and cracking voice would not translate well. And despite his great oratory abilities, it would be too difficult for the American people to overlook his appearance.

Here are two great resources to discuss these historical debates in class:


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Links to History: US History Teacher's Blog

I can't believe I didn't find this excellent resource earlier. Updated by 3 high school teachers, this blog (and it's two sister blogs for Government and World History) are full of useful links, material, great technology, games, online activities, lesson plans suggestions, videos etc... Perfect for any social studies teacher. Or for the curious amateur historian. I will definitely be referencing this site regularly.

In their own words, "this site is made by high school US history teachers and will have links to useful classroom sites, relevant articles, other useful blogs and more."

This isn't my typical "Links to History" where I share emails I've received from other sites and publishers and vendors... this is a blog I found this morning and had to share. Teachers, you have to go to this blog.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Christopher Columbus the Tyrant

Is Columbus Day something that should really be celebrated?

The following is an excerpt from Howard Zinn's, A People's History of the United States. It is a gruesome look at the real Christopher Columbus. Not the Christopher Columbus celebrated in 1st and 2nd grade classrooms across the United States, but the Christopher Columbus who allowed greed and power to get the best of him.

A People's History of the United States - Chapter 1:
"Arawak men and women, naked, tawny, and full of wonder, emerged from their villages onto the island's beaches and swam out to get a closer look at the strange big boat. When Columbus and his sailors came ashore, carrying swords, speaking oddly, the Arawaks ran to greet them, brought them food, water, gifts. He later wrote of this in his log:
"They... brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks' bells. They willingly traded everything they owned.... They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features.... They do not bear arms, and do not know them,
for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane.... They would make fine servants.... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want."

These Arawaks of the Bahama Islands were much like Indians on the mainland, who were remarkable (European observers were to say again and again) for their hospitality, their belief in sharing. These traits did not stand out in the Europe of the Renaissance, dominated as it was by the religion of popes, the government of kings, the frenzy for money that marked Western civilization and its first messenger to the Americas, Christopher Columbus.

Columbus wrote:
"As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts."

The information that Columbus wanted most was: Where is the gold?

The Indians, Columbus reported, "are so naive and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone...." He concluded his report by asking for a little help from their Majesties, and in return he would bring them from his next voyage "as much gold as they need . . . and as many slaves as they ask." He was full of religious talk: "Thus the eternal God, our Lord, gives victory to those who follow His way over apparent impossibilities."

Because of Columbus's exaggerated report and promises, his second expedition was given seventeen ships and more than twelve hundred men. The aim was clear: slaves and gold.

They went from island to island in the Caribbean, taking
Indians as captives. But as word spread of the Europeans' intent they found more and more empty villages. On Haiti, they found that the sailors left behind at Fort Navidad had been killed in a battle with the Indians, after they had roamed the island in gangs looking for gold, taking women and children as slaves for
sex and labor.

Now, from his base on Haiti, Columbus sent expedition after expedition into the interior. They found no gold fields, but had to fill up the ships returning to Spain with some kind of dividend.

In the year 1495, they went on a great slave raid, rounded up fifteen hundred Arawak men, women, and children, put them in pens guarded by Spaniards and dogs, then picked the five hundred best specimens to load onto ships. Of those five hundred, two hundred died en route. The rest arrived alive in Spain and were put up for sale by the archdeacon of the town, who reported that, although the slaves were "naked as the day they were born," they showed "no more embarrassment than animals." Columbus later wrote: "Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold."

But too many of the slaves died in captivity. And so Columbus, desperate to pay back dividends to those who had invested, had to make good his promise to fill the ships with gold. In the province of Cicao on Haiti, where he and his men imagined huge gold fields to exist, they ordered all persons fourteen years or older to collect a certain quantity of gold every three months. When they brought it, they were given copper tokens to hang around their necks. Indians found without a copper
token had their hands cut off and bled to death.

The Indians had been given an impossible task. The only gold around was bits of dust garnered from the streams. So they fled, were hunted down with dogs, and were killed.
Trying to put together an army of resistance, the Arawaks faced Spaniards who had armor, muskets, swords, horses. When the Spaniards took prisoners they hanged them or burned them to death. Among the Arawaks, mass suicides began, with cassava poison. Infants were killed to save them from the Spaniards. In two years, through murder, mutilation, or suicide, half of the 250,000 Indians on Haiti were dead.
When it became clear that there was no gold left, the Indians were taken as slave labor on huge estates, known later as encomiendas. They were worked at a ferocious pace, and died by the thousands. By the year 1515, there were perhaps fifty thousand Indians left. By 1550, there were five hundred. A report of the year 1650 shows none of the original Arawaks or their descendants left on the island."


Zinn's book is eye-opening to say the least. I was used the book as an alternate text in an accelerated history class, and it was well received by the students. They seem to love anything that is anti-authoritarian, or something that is different from traditional thinking.

You can see more reviews of Zinn's updated book... A People's History of the World here.

I had the learners read certain chapters from the book, write essays and comment on this blog. You can see their comments here:

I'm wondering if any other teachers have done anything similar?


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Washington Burning: The Creation of Our Nation's Capital

In 1791, in a quaint Philadelphia town house near Sixth and Market Streets, just a short walk from Chestnut Street where his congress would meet, President George Washington approved a plan to move the nation's capital to an undeveloped plain of undulating hills along the Potomac River. Coincidentally, this new plan would place the president's house and Congress over a mile apart. But with the hiring of Peter Charles L'Enfant, that mile and the rest of the 10-square mile plot would become one of the grandest cities this nation will ever see.

I had never thought much about Washington, D.C. I understand its importance. I've stood on Pennsylvania Avenue, in awe of the White House. I've seen the reflection pool and pictured Martin Luther King proudly shouting "I have a dream!". I've seen the Washington monument and thought of "the republic for which it stands". But I had never given thought to the blank canvas that existed on the banks of the Potomac River a little more than 200 years ago and the planning and work that had gone into creating it. Until now.

Washington Burning by Les Standiford, is a book that has made me appreciate our nation's capital more than ever.

What starts out as a story of the building of our capital city becomes an excellent account of history and the roller-coaster life of the cities original designer, P. Charles L'Enfant.

L'Enfant is a very curious character, one who in my opinion deserves way more recognition in American history than he's received. His visions of grandeur, as expensive as they may be, eventually do come to fruition under the tutelage of other designers. L'Enfant's life seems to parallel the ebb and flow of the making of the city, it's demise during the War of 1812 and it's eventual resurgence.

Standiford has a knack for helping the reader to visualize the correspondence between the rotating architects commissioned to finish the job L'Enfant started, and each of the founding fathers who had a say in the city's planning. His ability to describe war movements and the "what if's" in history compare to Michael Shaara's account of Gettysburg in The Killer Angels.

Each chapter is a small vignette of the history of the making of Washington D.C.. Standiford often goes into great detail, demonstrating his ability to research and describe only what is most important. Washington Burning brings out great stories of George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and James & Dolly Madison. The intimacy of these stories and those of some lesser known characters make Washington Burning a great read.

For more information about the author Les Standiford, you can visit his website at, or read his blog.

Here is a link to the book on if you're interested in purchasing it.


In doing some of my own research on the topic I came across this website, which is a well written account Washington's history by Bob Arnebeck:

And if you're super curious, like me, and you're wondering how Washington D.C. got it's name. Then you can check out this link by Arnebeck who describes the christening well:


Monday, October 06, 2008

The Presidential Election Lesson Plans & Presidential Word Clouds

For history, civics, and government teachers the Constitution Center is heaven.

It is an overwhelming array of multi-media sure to keep you interested for hours.

What makes the Constitution Center even better is its undying devotion to education and its continuous rotation of great exhibits. Fortunately for me, I can walk to the National Constitution Center (NCC) from my house. I'm close. I can experience everything it has to offer... And having said that, I'd like to share a little bit of what I have to look forward to during my next visit.

The NCC is on top of things. They prepare months, probably years in advance to bring the greatest ideas and technology to the forefront. The exhibit highlighted below is no exception.

It appears to be based on the US Presidential Speeches Tag Cloud where someone has taken the time to create a tag cloud of the words most often used in speeches for each president. It's fascinating.

Check out the link first, then read about what the National Constitution Center is doing (in their own words)

Hindsight is Always 20/20

"The Center celebrates the excitement of the election season with Headed to the White House and now, with an extraordinary exhibition that displays each president’s State of the Union addresses as you’ve never seen before.

Hindsight is Always 20/20 examines the history of the presidential State of the Union address through the metaphor of vision. Drawn from the annual addresses given by Presidents to Congress, ‘Hindsight’ consists of a single Snellen–style eye chart for each president who performed this Constitutional act. Instead of the typical eye–chart characters, the piece highlights words from their State of the Union speeches presenting the sixty–six most frequently used words from each presidential administration, starting with the most often used word on the top line. The result is an engaging snapshot of each presidency, containing a mix of keywords related to events of the day and rhetoric unique to each president and the time period in which they served.

Artist R. Luke DuBois is a composer, artist, and performer who explores the temporal, verbal, and visual structures of pop–culture ephemera. Past exhibitions of his work have been displayed at the Insitut Valencia d’Art Modern in Valencia, Spain; San Jose Museum of Art; Daelim Museum in Seoul, Korea; Sundance Film Festival; and Sydney Film Festival.

Hindsight is Always 20/20 is part of the Center’s long range goal to broaden our audiences and expand our offerings through compelling and diverse exhibitions."

Additionally, they offer free lesson plans and ideas to help incorporate civics into the classroom. The link below is a link to some some excellent resources about the upcoming


FYI - I'm teaching world history this year and am looking for creative ideas to incorporate the election into the curriculum. We're starting Greece on Friday and I see a natural link with Greece's democratic government with that of the United States' government, and an easy transition to the election.

If anybody else has any other ideas, please share them...


Friday, September 26, 2008

Founding Fathers Quote Friday - Liberty

Favorite Founding Father's Quote Day

This is the second installment of a weekly meme called FFQF, or, "Founding Father's Quote Friday" - to read more about what it is you can click here.

This month's theme is Liberty. And today's Founding Father is The Godfather of Founding Fathers, George Washington.

"Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth."

This quote from President Washington is taken from a letter he wrote to James Madison on March 2, 1788. The letter was written to Madison on the eve of the election of officials from Massachusetts, who were to vote on the ratification of the Constitution.

It was during this time in 1787 and 1788, that Madison, along with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay wrote the famed Federalist Papers. Most of the essays were published in between October 1787 and August 1788. So this letter falls right in the middle of it all.

In reading this quote and knowing it's context I get a sense that Washington was confident in the ratification of the Constitution. Almost reassuring Madison, who was the chief architect of the document, as it was based on his Constitution of Virginia, that his hard work would not go for naught.

By June 21, 1788, the Constitution had been ratified by nine states and it soon went into effect. The rest, as they say... is history.

The letter can be read in its entirety below.

Mount Vernon, March 2, 1788


The decision of Massachusetts, notwithstanding its concomitants, is a severe stroke to the opponents of the proposed Constitution in this State; and with the favorable determination of the States which have gone before, and such as are likely to follow after, will have a powerful operation on the Minds of Men who are not actuated more by disappointment, passion and resentment, than they are by moderation, prudence and candor. Of the first description however, it is to be lamented that there are so many; and among them, some who would hazard every thing rather than their opposition should fail, or have the sagacity of their prognostications impeached by an issue contrary to their predictions.

The determination you have come to, will give pleasure to your friends. From those in your County you will learn with more certainty than from me, the expediency of your attending the election in it. With some, to have differed in sentiment, is to have passed the Rubicon of their friendship, altho’ you should go no further. With others (for the honor of humanity) I hope there is more liberality; but the consciousness of having discharged that duty which we owe to our Country, is superior to all other considerations, will place small matters in a secondary point of view.

His Most Ch—n M—y speaks, and acts in a style not very pleasing to republican ears or to republican forms; nor do I think this language is altogether so to the temper of his own subjects at this day. Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth. The checks he endeavors to give it, however warrantable by ancient usage, will more than probably, kindle a flame, which may not be easily extinguished; tho’ for a while it may be smothered by the Armies at his command, and the Nobility in his interest. When the people are oppressed with Taxes, and have cause to suspect that there has been a is application of their money, the language of despotism is but illy brooked. This, and the mortification which the pride of the Nation has sustained in the affairs of Holland (if one may judge from appearances) may be productive of events which prudence will not mention.

To-morrow, the Elections for delegates to the Convention of this State commences; and as they will tread close upon the heels of each other this month becomes interesting and important. With the most friendly sentiments and affectionate regard &c.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Links to History: Eduator Appreciation Weekend @ Borders

I receive great information via email and love to share them with you... This one is from Borders Book stores...

25% Off Borders for all Educators:

"Ladies and Gentlemen:

Borders recognizes each teacher, homeschooler, professor, religious educator, and school librarian's efforts to share the love of books and knowledge with their students. We honor your hard and rewarding work with an "apple" of our own by welcoming current and retired teachers to take part in our Educator Appreciation Weekend, Friday, October 3 - Sunday, October 5.

You'll enjoy 25% off your personal and classroom purchases of list priced books, CDs, DVDs, cafe items, gifts & stationery and more* when you bring in your current Classroom or Educator Discount Card, educator ID or pay stub. For more information, please visit

Don't miss our Special Reception, Friday, October 3 from 4:00-8:00 PM at Borders stores nationwide.

If you need assistance with purchase orders, or collection development, quotes for classroom materials, would like a classroom visit, or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

We appreciate and recognize your efforts to support and encourage education. Our commitment to this effort is shown through our

Business & Educator Services Program, which provides up to 25% savings to schools, libraries, nonprofits and others year-round. For>more information, or to sign up for a free account, please visit

We look forward to welcoming you to our stores October 3 - October 5. To locate a store near you,, please click on "Store Locator" on, or call toll free 888.81BOOKS.

Thank you for the great work you do! Please share this event information with the educators in your life."


Friday, September 19, 2008

Founding Fathers Quote Friday

Favorite Founding Father's Quote Day

FFQF, or, "Founding Father's Quote Friday," is a meme created and hosted by Hercules Mulligan on his blog, Meet the Founding Fathers. The meme seeks to interest and educate the public in the history and principles of the American Founding Era (c. 1760-1805). And USHistoryBlog has been asked to be a contributor.

This month's theme is Liberty.

To start, I chose one of the fiercest fighters of liberty and one of my favorite Founding Fathers; John Adams.

"I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain."

Adams' sentiments demonstrate how important he believed his life's purpose was. His actions, would undoubtedly effect many generations after his..."our posterity" if you will, and it is comforting to know that he had the future in mind.

For more quotes by John Adams and other founding fathers, go to the Quotes page:

And here's one more John Adams quote, just because...

"Liberty, according to my metaphysics is a self-determining power in an intellectual agent. It implies thought and choice and power."


Friday, September 12, 2008

History According to Pearl Jam

Though more suited for world history, Pearl Jam's "Do the Evolution" music video certainly presents itself for some good discussion of human nature and how history repeats itself. Though not 100% classroom ready, it can be prefaced with some discussion and used as a tool to introduce history.

And though the lyrics suggest a satirical look at the religiously faithful, the video ponders much more than just religion. In college me and a friend analyzed this entire album and easily pulled biblical references from every song. This one is no exception. (Armageddon - "2010 watch it go to fire")

The video begins with evolution from cells to dinosaurs on to early man. It continues towards the Crusades showing a medieval knight preparing for battle. The video evolves to match the lyrics discussing the stock market crash. The KKK is shown doing some kind of ritual dance. It references Nazi troops and World War 1 trench warfare. There's a sequence of a slave master whipping a slave...There's a scene depicting what looks like the bombing of a Vietnamese village, by the "evil" United States. And it goes on towards a Pink Floyd-esque futuristic era, with the idea that computers are taking over and mankind is in the decline.

So who's to blame for mankind's de-evolution? Vedder and Pearl Jam seem to blame world leaders, religious leaders and large institutions in general.


I'm ahead, I'm a man
I'm the first mammal to wear pants, yeah
I'm at peace with my lust
I can kill 'cause in God I trust, yeah

It's evolution, baby

I'm at piece, I'm the man
Buying stocks on the day of the crash
On the loose, I'm a truck
All the rolling hills, I'll flatten 'em out, yeah

It's herd behavior, uh huh
It's evolution, baby

Admire me, admire my home
Admire my son, he's my clone
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

This land is mine, this land is free
I'll do what I want but irresponsibly
It's evolution, baby

I'm a thief, I'm a liar
There's my church, I sing in the choir: (hallelujah, hallelujah)

Admire me, admire my home
Admire my son, admire my clones'

Cause we know, appetite for a nightly feast
Those ignorant Indians got nothin' on me
Nothin', why? Because... it's evolution, baby!

I am ahead, I am advanced
I am the first mammal to make plans, yeah
I crawled the earth, but now I'm higher
2010, watch it go to fire
It's evolution, baby

Do the evolution
Come on, come on, come on

-- Eddie Vedder/Stone Gossard

PS - Korn's "Evolution" has a similar message... but with a lot less history and more things that make you go hmmmm...


Monday, September 01, 2008

The History of Labor Day

Most call it the unofficial end of summer. Many use it as their last hoo-rah before heading back to school... It's another American excuse to barbecue, hang out with friends, drink some beer and close up the beach house...but what exactly is Labor Day?

According to the Department of Labor - Labor Day is "dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers" and their contributions to the "strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country."

first labor day parade in New York City - September 5, 1882During the industrial revolution it was common for men, women and children to work 12 hour days, 6 and 7 days a week just to make a living. Without many labor laws in place the terrible working conditions forced many workers to band together forming unions.

On September 5, 1882, in an attempt to voice their demands for a better way of life, some 10,000 of over-worked laborers marched together through the streets of New York City, creating the first-ever Labor Day Parade.

There is debate as to who's idea Labor Day was... but I won't bore you with the specifics...(you can read more about it here). Starting in the 1890's there was increasing legislation movement for states to adopt and institute Labor Day to honor their hardworking citizens. Slowly more and more states adopted the idea.

By 1894, 29 states had adopted the holiday to honor their workers. On June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

So there you have it... kind of a boring history, but a history nonetheless.

Teachers, prepare your lesson plans. Students find your thinking caps. The school year is upon us. Good luck to all.

For more information about Labor Day visit the Department of Labor website:

Also - the history channel has a micro-site dedicated to Labor Day with images and videos:


Thursday, August 28, 2008

1968 Democratic National Convention: Vietnam War Protests

With this week's Democratic National Convention (DNC) it is only natural to highlight one of the low lights of the Democratic party's history... It happened on this day 40 years ago in Chicago at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

Much like today's political climate, the United States was involved in a confusing war that had been going on far too long, and there were differences on how to move forward (or backwards).

In this case, the DNC in Chicago endorsed President Lyndon Johnson's administration's platform on the war in Vietnam and chose VP Hubert Humphrey as the party's nominee for president. Humphrey had adopted Johnson's views of staying in the war awaiting the results of the Paris Peace Talks, where the leaders of both North and South Vietnam would meat in Paris to negotiate peace.

Johnson had opted not to seek re-election because he wanted to concentrate on peacemaking. It's very rare that a President does not run for a second term, but it has happened... see the notes at the bottom for other occurrences.

Many Democrats had hoped that Eugene McCarthy, who called for an immediate withdrawal from Vietnam, would be the nominee.

The decision to support Vice President Humphrey and in turn Johnson's platform on the Vietnam War resulted in a heated three-hour debate inside the convention hall.

Meanwhile, a full-scale riot erupted outside in the streets, where antiwar protesters fought with police and the National Guard. By the end of the convention, some 668 demonstrators had been arrested.

Eight of the protesters were charged with conspiracy in connection with the violence. They were known collectively as the "Chicago Eight". But one of the eight was tried separately after declaring a mistrial and they were renamed the "Chicago Seven".

Needless to say, America was shocked by the images of armed conflict in the streets broadcast on TV and in the papers. The Republican Party quickly reacted and vowed to restore law and order, earning Richard Nixon a lot of support and eventually the Presidency.

Other Presidents not seeking re-election:

Lyndon Johnson, opted to withdraw from the 1968 election to concentrate on peacemaking, though his Vietnam War policy did not support this.

James Polk -- retired after one term and did not seek re-election

And James Buchanan's party did not nominate him for re-election in 1860... he was a lame duck who didn't do much to stop the Civil War and is rated as one of the worst Presidents in history.

For more information about this year's Democratic National Convention visit their website:

Here's more about the riots from the Chicago History Museum:

and I can't believe people are encouraging another riot...


Friday, August 22, 2008

Links to History: Antiques Road Show Web Site

I receive great information via email and love to share them with you... this one comes from PBS. To keep the integrity of the message they'd like you to receive, I simply copied the email from them verbatim.

"As part of Antique Roadshow's 12th broadcast season on PBS, the popular series launched a newly re-designed Web site at with improved navigation, a first-of-its-kind searchable archive of appraisal videos from past seasons, a "you are there" video feature called "Your Stories," and a teachers' guide for using ROADSHOW in the classroom.

Additional information about the new features and organization of the site are included below.

The ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Archive currently offers streaming video, stills, transcripts, and more about appraisals featured in seasons 9 through 12—all presented in an easy-to-use format. Appraisals from earlier seasons will be added over the next eighteen months.
"Your Stories" recreates the excitement and anticipation of arriving at a ROADSHOW event, sharing family legends and antiquing sagas with other guests waiting on line. Now, ROADSHOW Online visitors are in on the conversation as cameras capture guests and their objects pre-appraisal.

The ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Teacher's Guide: ROADSHOW Online's first official foray into the realm of education, is designed to offer new ways to get students excited and engaged in history, geography, the arts and society, and a range of other topics, using the ROADSHOW Archive. Questions, activities, and other resources invite students to take a closer look at the objects people have used throughout history and to develop a sense of wonder about the people and events of the past, present, and even the future.

Visitors to the re-designed site find features, schedules, and information-packed articles organized into five sections:

The ROADSHOW Archive: This unique video archive allows collectors to search by item category (jewelry, furniture, glass, etc.), appraiser, assigned value, city where an item was filmed, or ROADSHOW season episode number. The record for each item includes a photo, the video of the object's appraisal, text transcript of the appraisal, lists of attributes for each object, and who appraised it in which show.

On Your TV: The TV schedule, links to cities visited on past tours, information about appraisers, host Mark L. Walberg, and our sponsors.

On the Road: The current appraisal tour schedule and links to apply for tickets, to tour city information pages, to the Summer Tour FAQ's and more.

Only Online: Hear more about extraordinary ROADSHOW finds in "Follow the Stories;" learn from our experts in "Tips of the Trade;" polish your antiquing lingo with our "Glossary," and watch the appraisal event action with "Your Stories."

Resources: Information about the experts and links to resources featured in ROADSHOW's "field trip" segments during visits to the six cities of the 2007 Summer Tour, recommended reading, and more.

And fans also can sign up to receive ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Fanfare, a monthly e-mail bulletin with timely updates about the television series and ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Online."


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dr. Benjamin Rush: An Underrated Signer

 George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Thomas Paine and Lewis and Clark. Each of these men owe a great deal of their success to a lesser known man named Benjamin Rush.

Each and every one of the aforementioned characters was aided in one way shape or form by Dr. Benjamin Rush.

In 1813, at the time of his death, Dr. Benjamin Rush was arguably one of America’s three most notable men, George Washington and Ben Franklin being the others. Rush was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, he served under 3 presidents, founded five colleges, and trained thousandas of medical students.

In June 1776, he was appointed to represent Philadelphia at the Continental Congress. He later became the physician-general of the Continental Army, where he campaigned for the removal of George Washington as the Army General, after a series of defeats. He later expressed regret for his actions. Washington and Rush were not the best of friends...

Read more about the conversations between George Washington and Benjamin Rush.

Rush is most famous, however, for helping to reconcile the friendship of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.

Dr. Rush did not align himself with either party. His ecumenical approach to politics allowed him to foster relationships with men from both parties, and kept him employed under three different Presidents of varying political beliefs. Thus, Rush was friendly with both Jefferson and Adams.

Rush's efforts would eventually help to reconcile differences between the two great minds. Our good friend Hercules Mulligan of the Foundation Forum puts it best on his blog entry: The Dream of Benjamin Rush. Why reinvent the wheel? Read his post, after finishing mine of course.

Rush also played an important role in the creation of one of America's most influential and inspiring documents, the pro-independence Common Sense. Rush consulted Thomas Paine on the writing of the document.

Thomas Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis to Philadelphia to meet with Dr. Rush with the hope of preparing them for their great exploration. Rush taught Lewis about many of the illnesses he would encounter in the frontier as well as a crash course on bloodletting. Rush provided the expedition crew with a medical kit which included laxatives that contained mercury. As it turns out, these laxatives came in very handy as the lack of clean water and the diet heavy in meat caused the corps to use the pills often.

Incidentally, the large traces of mercury in the crews' feces have allowed scientists and archaeologists to trace more closely the actual route blazed by Lewis and Clark.

All this said, I'm proud to be a founding teacher of a brand new high school in the Philadelphia School District named none other than: The Arts Academy @ Benjamin Rush.

I'm very fortunate to be a part of this once in a lifetime opportunity of building a high school from the ground up... from the mission statement to graduation. I can't wait to get started.

If anyone out there has any experience in a brand new school... and I mean brand new, first time opened... please share some pointers.

For more information about Benjamin Rush, visit:
Benjamin Rush: Patriot and Physician

You shouldn't have any trouble finding information about Rush. Rush wrote over 2,000 pages of published letters and essays, in addition to hundreds of unpublished papers. His works are scattered around the world and can be found in both public and private collections.
Here are just a few of his selected writings.


Friday, August 08, 2008

The Battle of Tripoli: America's First War Against Terrorism

"From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli."

Most of you know, this as the first line to the US Marine Hymn. And if you're like my father (who was not a Marine... he actually "failed" his physical, but that's a different story), you may even know the tune and most of the words. But what the heck does it mean?

The words were inspired by an unanticipated battle in 1805, where nearly 1000 soldiers, most of whom were not American, fought in the U.S. Marines' first battle on foreign land.

In the late 18th century it was common place for Muslim terrorists to carry out unprovoked attacks on American ships sailing in the seas of northern Africa. The terrorists were fulfilling their faithful duty. They were carrying out jihad against all Western powers. Because it is written in the Koran that all nations who do not acknowledge the Prophet Muhammad are sinners. Therefore it is the right and duty to those faithful to Muhammad to plunder and enslave those who do not believe. And that mussulman who dies serving his God would go to paradise? Does this sound familiar?

As early as 1786, Thomas Jefferson then the Ambassador to France - was trying to negotiate peace with the Tripoli's Ambassador to Britain and curb these unprovoked attacks. Eventually tribute payments were made to some of these countries, but the attacks by these "Barbary Pirates" continued.

In 1804 off the coast of Tripoli, a US Navy ship, the Philadelphia, ran aground and was quickly engulfed by the pirates. It resulted in 307 Americans being taken hostage. While Jefferson was trying to negotiate peace to rescue the prisoners, an American diplomat decided to take matters into his own hands.

Eaton appointed himself General of a make-shift army. Devastated by the idea of Americans being held hostage, Eaton, accompanied by 8 US Marines set out for Tripoli. Along the way he gathered nearly 1000 Greek, Arab and European mercenary soldiers.

Eaton's basic plan was to end the custom of paying bribe money, to protect American merchant ships from the pillage of Barbary pirates and overthrow Tripoli's leader.

With the support of another army at sea Eaton was successful in capturing the town of Derna. His victory would eventually lead to peace negotiations between the US and the Barbary states.

Many believe his triumph resulted in the American flag being flown over foreign soil for the first time.



Thursday, July 24, 2008

Links to History: Free Lesson Plans and Back to School Savings

This edition of Links to history has some great incentives for teachers... Free stuff...and some stuff that's closer to free than it was before...


Savings at PBS Online Store:

Here are the latest promotions for ShopPBS - remember, your purchases support PBS programming.

Save 25% on The War: A Ken Burns Film -- Only $74.99 at when you shop through this link. Offer ends August 31, 2008

20% off NOW on PBS Best Sellers at - Shop July 22 - August 4 2008


Free K-12 Lesson Plan Resource from American Heritage:

The American Heritage Education Foundation (AHEF) is pleased to make available at no cost to educators and interested citizens a history/civic K-12 lesson plan resource CD of $150.00 value, "America's Heritage: An Adventure in Liberty."

Endorsed by former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, and collaboratively developed by professional educators and community service organizations, "America's Heritage" assists teachers in educating young people about America's factual, philosophical heritage based on themes of freedom, unity, progress, and responsibility.

Available in CD and binder format, the resource includes Elementary, Elementary Spanish (ESL), Middle, and High School volumes. It correlates with NCSS and Core Knowledge national social studies standards.

Through independent testing, "America's Heritage" has proven to increase student performance in history objectives in schools compared with schools that did not use the resource. It has been made available successfully to Teaching American History schools/districts in support of American History education.

Topics include:

The Mayflower Compact
Colonial America & the American Revolution
History of Thanksgiving
Founding Fathers
Presidents The National Motto
U.S. Flag The Great Seal
Declaration of Independence
U.S. Constitution
Bill of Rights
Gettysburg Address
Federalist Papers
Statue of Liberty
The Pledge of Allegiance
The American's Creed
National Anthem
Religious Expression in Public Schools

To request a review copy, make a free bulk order, or get more information, go to AHEF at, email AHEF at

PS - I know I mentioned a teacher's guide to the Antiques Road show... i'll get to that next...


Sunday, July 20, 2008

The History of: "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"

baseball's most popular songIt's been said that it's the third most frequently sung song in America... I'm sure Happy Birthday and The Star-Spangled Banner win the gold and silver.

Every night, during the 7th inning stretch in every major and minor league baseball game, thousands upon thousands of people rise to their feet and sing the song as one.

We all know the chorus by heart... and we sing it loud and proud... it's almost un-American not to. It's as American as baseball... in fact it IS baseball. What would baseball be like without it?

"Take Me Out to the Ball Game" is celebrating it's 100th year as THE baseball song. The irony of the song is that the author had never been to a baseball game.

The story goes that Jack Norworth, a song writer and vaudeville performer, was inspired to write the song when he saw an sign promoting a game at the Polo Grounds, while riding a New York city subway. Norworth's inspiration began by writing a song about a girl named Katie Casey who's boyfriend called to see if she'd like to go to a show... but instead, Katie asked her boyfriend to "Take Me Out to the Ball Game". And in knowing the lyric you can imagine a girl asking her boyfriend to "buy her some peanuts and cracker-jack".

The song was a huge hit... (yep, pun intended, but that was an easy one...) The song was a top 10 hit for three artists in 1908. And it wasn't until the 1934 World Series, when the song was performed at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis.

For the next several decades, baseball fans would spontaneously sing the song during ball games. Often times between innings or during pitching changes when the organist would play the tune.

What made the song even more popular was its inclusion in the 7th inning stretch of Chicago Cubs games. But this didn't happen until much later and really wasn't planned.

(See a history of the 7th inning stretch here...) Thanks to the robust President Taft, we have a 7th inning stretch...which also was not planned.

The story goes that legendary Cubs play-by-play announcer Harry Caray would privately sing the song during commercial breaks. (Back then he was broadcasting for the other Chicago baseball team...) In 1976, White Sox owner Bill Veeck, known for his wacky promotions and stunts, tricked Caray into leading the White Sox faithful in singing the song at Comiskey Park, by hiding a microphone in the broadcast booth, and allowing all the fans to hear him and sing along. The tradition was started...

Caray carried the tradition to the other side of Chicago when he became the Cubs' announcer in 1982. And because the Cubs were broadcast on Cable television, the entire country got to hear Caray's rendition, and other teams began adopting the tradition. And the rest, as they say... is history. Even after Caray's transition to baseball heaven in 1998 the Cubs continue the tradition by having celebrities sing the song during the 7th inning stretch.

But of course each team would substitute the lyrics to customize the song for their favorite team... in my case it goes "root, root, root for the Phillies..."

For more history of the song, and many other baseball songs you can read Baseball's Greatest Hit: The Story of Take Me Out to the Ball Game . The book comes with a CD of rare and classic recordings of the song including Harry Caray.

The Baseball-Almanac, which is an excellent site for baseball enthusiasts, has the complete version of both lyrics, as well as several you can listen to..

To celebrate the song's 100th anniversary Major League Baseball and Baby Ruth teamed up to create a contest where the winner would sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" at this year's All-Star game... Here's the link: (Tab around this micro-site for more information about the song...)

Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1908 original version)
words by - Jack Norworth
music by - Albert VonTilzer

Katie Casey was baseball mad,
Had the fever and had it bad.
Just to root for the home town crew,
Ev'ry sou Katie blew.
On a Saturday her young beau
Called to see if she'd like to go
To see a show, but Miss Kate said
"No, I'll tell you what you can do:"

Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd;
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don't care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win, it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes,
you're out, At the old ball game.

Katie Casey saw all the games,
Knew the players by their first names.
Told the umpire he was wrong,
All along,Good and strong.
When the score was just two to two,
Katie Casey knew what to do,
Just to cheer up the boys she knew,
She made the gang sing this song:

Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd;
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don't care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win, it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game.