Thursday, April 30, 2009

This Day in U.S. History, April 30th.

On April 30, 1803, France sold Louisiana and the adjoining lands to the United States for $15 million dollars (78 million francs).

The Louisiana Purchase was a pivotal point in U.S. history for several reasons. First, it drastically increased the size of the young country…nearly doubling the territory the United States controlled. Second, it set an important precedent for the Federal government to expand the country.

The asking price was no great obstacle. The total price was partially covered by the cancelling of $3,250,000 worth of French debt held by the U.S., and after a $3 million down payment in gold, only about $9 million needed to be raised. With U.S. credit still recovering from the Revolutionary War it was, ironically, an English financial firm that backed the U.S. bonds used to raise the money.

It was this second reason that lead to the most opposition to the purchase. The Constitution made no mention of acquiring territory, and any power that was not expressly granted to the federal government was supposed to belong to the states. At a time when most state governments tended to think of themselves as almost separate countries, this was no trifling point. President Jefferson, president at the time, had been the greatest champion of state rights but pragmatism quickly overruled his philosophical leanings…hypocritical or not it was simply too good of a deal to pass up.

The territory acquired would eventually make up parts of 14 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces. The Louisiana Purchase accounts for 23% of the present-day United States. The modern day states of Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming, were acquired at least partially in the purchase (as were small pieces of modern day Canadian Provinces Alberta and Saskatchewan).


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

President Barack Obama's First 100 Days

The following entry comes directly from a correspondence with the National Constitution Center.

The National Constitution Center has a variety of resources to help your students discover the origins of the 100 day administration marker, engage in a conversation on the president's job performance and get them thinking about the next steps they want the president to take.

Since Franklin Delano Roosevelt guided fifteen pieces of legislation through Congress in the first three months of his administration, expectations have risen for the first 100 days of every presidential administration. This milestone presents an excellent opportunity for your students to reflect on current events, the role and function of government and the president's performance—all of which will enable your students to build the habits of active citizenship.

The Center's Education Team has created a helpful activity during which your students complete a Progress Report for the president. This resource will get your students in the conversation about the president's performance and encourage them to critically think about his actions well after the first 100 days. Download the Presidential Progress Report here.

The Center also provides your students with the ability to contact the president directly, so they can send the president his progress report or give their opinions on the issues they feel are most important.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Your Favorite Quote from American History

Do you have a favorite quote? Was it said by a famous American?

Washington? FDR? Sandy Koufax?

Is it inspirational? funny? or the epitome of liberty?

We're interested to learn more about our audience by having them interact.
Share your favorite US History Quote below and tell us why you love it so much.

We'll choose our favorites and highlight them in a future post.

Thanks. for sharing.


On This Day: April 17, 1790 - Ben Franklin Dies

On this day in 1790, the first American super-star died. Benjamin Franklin was the most accomplished American of his age, and perhaps any age. Franklin was successful in many areas, he was an accomplished author, printer, scientist, inventor, politician, and diplomat. In his spare time, he was a civic activist who founded one of the most influential libraries in the (then) colonies, reformed the U.S. postal system and laid the groundwork for the modern system, and created one of the first volunteer fire fighting companies.

His career covered an amazing breadth of subjects, but he is perhaps best known for his work discovering electricity (the famous kite experiment), and also for his efforts to bring France into the War for Independence. Popular with many influential French thinkers, Franklin was dispatched to gain support for the cause. In many ways, it was Franklin's efforts to secure French loans that kept the Continental Army in the field. Franklin, along with John Adams and John Jay, would go on to negotiate the Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War.

To future generations, Franklin is an icon of the Revolutionary period. During his lifetime, however, he was far more popular with the crowns of Europe than he was with the leadership of the Colonies. John Adams, whom he had collaborated with on the Declaration of Independence and later in France, absolutely loathed the man. He would complain that his own role in the Revolution will be forgotten in favor of Franklin, he would write: "The essence of the whole will be that Dr. Franklin's electrical rod smote the earth and out sprang General Washington. That Franklin electrified him with his rod - and thenceforward these two conducted all the policies, negotiations, legislatures, and war."

Though not quite accurate, Adams was correct that the average American would always cherish the memory of Franklin. His funeral was attended by 20,000 people who crowded around the church to say goodbye. To this day, thousands of people visit his simple grave in Philadelphia, and toss pennies onto the tombstone of the man who advised a young nation that "a penny saved is a penny earned".

this post by Tom Haynes


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

On This Day: April 15, 1861 - Civil War Begins

The following post was submitted by USHistoryBlog contributor Tom Haynes.

On this day, the Civil War officially began. In response to southern forces firing on Fort Sumter three days prior, President Abraham Lincoln declares a state of insurrection and calls out Union troops.

In the resolution issued this day, Lincoln called 75,000 militia troops from the various states still loyal. At this point, seven states had announced their intention to secede from that Union. South Carolina had been first, followed by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. The militia's first duty, according to Lincoln's statement, would be to secure federal property seized by those states.

At the same time, Lincoln called both houses of Congress into session, scheduled for the 4th of July 1861. This period would be something of a lull in hostilities, but several more states (most notably Virginia) would quickly respond to Lincoln's call for troops by joining the secession movement.

Whereas the laws of the United States have been for some time past, and now are opposed, and the execution thereof obstructed, in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the Marshals by law.

Now therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, in virtue of the
power in me vested by the Constitution, and the laws, have thought fit to call forth, and hereby do call forth, the militia of the several States of the Union, to the aggregate number of seventy-five thousand, in order to suppress said combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed. The details, for this object, will be immediately communicated to the State authorities through the War Department.

I appeal to all loyal citizens to favor, facilitate and aid this effort to maintain the honor, the integrity, and the existence of our National Union, and the perpetuity of popular government; and to redress wrongs already long enough endured.

I deem it proper to say that the first service assigned to the forces hereby called forth will probably be to re-possess the forts, places, and property which have been seized from the Union; and in every event, the utmost care will be observed, consistently with the objects aforesaid, to avoid any devastation, any destruction of, or interference with, property, or any disturbance of peaceful citizens in any part of the country.

And I hereby command the persons composing the combinations aforesaid to disperse, and retire peaceably to their respective abodes within twenty days
from this date. Deeming that the present condition of public affairs presents an extraordinary occasion, I do hereby, in virtue of the power in me vested by the Constitution, convene both Houses of Congress. Senators and Representatives are therefore summoned to assemble at their respective chambers, at 12 o'clock, noon, on Thursday, the fourth day of July, next, then and there to consider and determine, such measures, as, in their wisdom, the public safety, and interest may seem to demand.

In Witness Whereof I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington this fifteenth day of April in the year of our Lord One thousand, Eight hundred and Sixtyone, and of the Independence the United States the Eightyfifth.


By the President:
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center & Smith Education Center Official Opening

If you're in the area and have the day off, head on over... otherwise, enjoy the resources.

On April 15, two days after the 266th anniversary of Thomas Jefferson’s birth and after nearly a decade of planning, the $43 million Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center & Smith Education Center will officially open with an opening ceremony.

The new Center will give visitors of all ages distinctive opportunities to become engaged in Jefferson’s life and legacies at their own pace and on their own terms. Emphasizing the power of place and the strength of ideas, these all-new features will highlight Jefferson’s accomplishments, his beliefs about liberty and their global relevance today, the wider community of people – both enslaved and free – who lived on the plantation, and the remarkable house and landscapes of Monticello.


Opening Ceremony for Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center

West Lawn at Monticello event celebrating Jefferson’s lasting legacies with:

· 2008 National Book Award winner Annette Gordon-Reed

· Presidential historian Michael Beschloss

· Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher

The new Center will serve as a 21st-century gateway to Jefferson’s timeless Monticello in Charlottesville, Va. The center’s multiple components will transform the visitor experience by preparing guests for their trips to the historic mountaintop through dynamic content presenting fresh perspectives on Monticello and the enduring significance of Jefferson’s life and ideas.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009, 11:00 AM EST **

Music by Williamsburg Field Musick fife and drum corps, Union Run Baptist Church Choir, and the Charlottesville Municipal Band

**Members of the media should plan to arrive no later than 10:30 and will be escorted to press parking and seating.


Monticello, Charlottesville, Va. -- please visit for directions.

A media kit, which contains key background information on the Center, is accessible at The "Overview of the Visitor Center" document is a comprehensive resource.

Reporters and bloggers are encouraged to RSVP to make their arrival seamless.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

USHistoryBlog Contributors

The USHistoryBlog is looking to expand and is taking steps to do shortly. Keep an eye out for several contributors from different walks of life and different areas of expertise. Currently we've gotten interest from people who will be writing about the following

- Presidents

- This Day in American History

- Views from a Literature/History student

- General history from fellow bloggers

If anybody else would like to contribute please contact me for more information.


Thursday, April 09, 2009

Links to History: Lincoln Assassination PBS Special

Received this information via email - thought some of my readers would enjoy it.

"Harold Holzer, co-chairman of the U.S. Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, appears with acclaimed actor Sam Waterston in a special performance edition of BILL MOYERS JOURNAL at 9 pm on Friday, April 10 -- which is also Good Friday, the tragic day of Lincoln’s assassination.

Lincoln’s Legacy and Legend is a deeply moving and intimate performance of poetry and prose written by Walt Whitman, Frederick Douglass, Allen Ginsburg, Langston Hughes, Harriet Beecher Stowe and many other American writers who have struggled to find words to describe perhaps the greatest of American heroes.

This special edition of BILL MOYERS JOURNAL is based on a private performance that Holzer and Waterston did in February at New York’s Century Club. “That was magnificent,” said Moyers, who was in attendance that evening. “This should be on television, and I intend to put it on.” And now he is doing exactly that.

More information and a press review preview clip are available in a web toolkit at this link:

The toolkit includes web banners and buttons as well as embeddable video clips of Sam Waterston’s performance that can be added to blogs, websites, facebook pages, etc. A program press release is attached to this email as a Word document for ease of use. The public can be referred to a preview here:

After the premiere of Lincoln’s Legacy and Legend on PBS on April 10th, the program can be viewed online in its entirety at The website will also include a robust collection of additional visual and educational material."


Friday, April 03, 2009

Links to History: A Historic Garden in DC

Got this email this morning. I thought it was appropriate on two levels... Spring (spring break for some of you!), and American History. Enjoy the links.

The Washington D.C. cherry blossoms are in full bloom and National Geographic is a great resource about the historic landmark. National Geographic’s website has the full history of the blossoms from the first commemoration of the donation to the maintenance of the trees today at Also, has a photo gallery of the famous blossoms.

Did you know that the trees were a gift to the United States from Japan in 1912 to symbolize the friendship between the two countries? The article also depicts the ceremonious planting of the trees by First Lady Helen Taft and the wife of the Japanese ambassador on the bank of the Tidal Basin.

Follow the link below to learn more about the historic garden. And click on the photo to view the National Geographic Cherry Blossom photo gallery.


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Links to History:

Looking for a way to share your powerpoints with your students? A way for them to view them from home... is your answer.

Slideshare allows you to easily upload your powerpoint to their website, for easy viewing by the public. Simply send the kids the URL, or input their slideshare widget on your blog or website, and your good to go.