Monday, July 23, 2007

The Postal System:

On July 26, 1775 the Second Continental Congress established the postal system. Yes, this is the same Continental Congress who deliberated and debated about independence from Britain.

With the revolutionary war in full swing communication was vital to the success of the United States. Congress needed to find a way to expediently relay information to and from the army.

The delegates to decided to put Ben Franklin in charge of the postal system.

The delivery of the mail at this time was not an easy task. Cities and towns were few and far between and were often separated by dense forests. The mail was rarely delivered successfully and was often times returned.

Franklin's efforts however, did bring the nation together and it worked well enough that the United States decided to keep it, even after the war. It has been running ever since...

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night...stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Ohio Gang and "the little green house"

A few weeks ago I received a comment on my US History Site Web site that reads:

I am editing a french version of _Propaganda_ , a 1928 book by Edward L. Bernays. At some point, he writes: «In some instances the power of invisible wirepullers is flagrant. The power of the invisible cabinet which deliberated at the poker table in a certain little green house in Washington has become a national legend.»

I am unable to find out what are this house, this Poker table and what he is referring to ( presumably most persons knew about this legend in 1928) Do you
have an idea?

At first I had no idea what he was talking about, but I wanted to help him out. So I did some research and... voila... I found exactly what he was looking for. Below is what I sent him, and like a good scholar, I even showed my sources.

Hi Normand,

Thanks for inquiring... I'm always up for some quick research and the sharing of knowledge...

The "Green House" in Washington seems to be kind of a meeting place where illegal activity would go on. In other words, mobsters, criminals, organized crime leaders etc, would meet certain congressmen in this house on K Street and bribe and negotiate for shorter sentences or for favorable legislation.

Warren G. Harding, a well known corrupt President of the US from 1921-1923, brought with him to washington grifters, blackmailers, and crooks, known as the "Ohio Gang"

... Some members of this "Ohio Gang" rented...
"what came to be known as "the Little Green House" at i6ï5 K Street, and it soon was a center of revelry almost twenty-four hours a day. For the right people, good liquor was available in unlimited amounts; much of it had been confiscated by the government, and sometimes it was delivered in official vehicles by armed guards in uniform. The Ohio Gang eagerly solicited bribes from bootleggers seeking immunity, men in jail who wanted to be released, men under indictment who wanted the proceedings dropped, and German owners of property sequestered during the war. Nobody knows what the take amounted to in the thirty months or so that the Ohio Gang was in the saddle, but it has been estimated that, in graft and waste, this group cost the country about two billion dollars."

to this day, K Street is a well known as being Washington's lobbyist corridor...

Here's more information...

luck with your editing. And if you end up using my name as a reference, I would love a copy of the book. Thanks.

Kevin Katz

As it turns out, Normand is going to put in a good word for me to see if my name might appear in the book. Granted, it is going to be a book written in French, but that's just the same.

Edward L. Bernays pioneered the scientific technique of manipulating public opinion, only he called it "engineering of consent." Basically he was a very influential and persuasive writer. Here is a link to his book, Propaganda.


Friday, July 06, 2007

I've Been Tagged

The date was July 4th. I was sitting in my office on an otherwise peaceful weekday morning. Leaning back and looking out my window I can see the wonderful buildings that make up the beautiful landscape of the most historical city in the United States, the fabulous Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

I'm disappointed we didn't do something more patriotic than walk to my Aunt Bobby's house to watch fireworks and listen to the concert at the Art Museum. Incidentally it was Philly's own Patti Labelle and Hall and Oates. But we're busy. My wife and I just moved into our new home on June 4th, and my dad and I spent the day putting a wooden deck floor on our previously fiberglass patio.

That said, my day was brightened when I found myself in the middle of a virtual game of tag. Hercules Mulligan of the Foundation Forum Blog, tug me. Which means I'm it, and I must do the following...

1. Let others know who tagged you.
2. Players start with 8 random facts about themselves.
3. Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts.
4. Players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.

Without further ado, here are my 8 random facts.

1. I am related to Moses. Yes, THE Moses. My father is Jewish. Our last, Katz, is a name of the Kohen or Cohen. In the Jewish faith this means that we are royalty and our lineage can be traced back to Aaron, the brother of Moses. (here's some validity from a reputable source)

2. I used to collect Pez dispensers and I have nearly 700 of them. Of these 700 I have 21 different Donald Ducks from the 1950s through the early 21st century. To the naked eye many of these look the same, however any Pez dispenser would soon notice that the countries of origin on their stems would make each of them unique.

3. I played college baseball and was hit by 19 pitches in 28 games as a junior. My coach was convinced that I led the nation in that category but it was not a stat that was quantified for rankings. I'm also proud to say that I batted .301 and led our team in runs scored. Unfortunately, my senior year was a bust and I lost my starting job about halfway through the year. I'm a little embarrassed by my senior year statistics, so I live vicariously through the stats of my junior year.

4. I can recite all 50 states in alphabetical order. This is not that interesting, but in the aforementioned rules, it is a random fact. This skill sometimes comes in handy during trivia.

5. I once met Yogi Berra at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. Yogi and a few of his friends were at the MOMA for an exhibit on baseball cards. He was leaving and was trying to sneak out of the museum through the Egyptian room. I approached his friend and asked if it was Yogi, even though I was 100% sure it was. I was just being polite. Yogi stopped to pose for a picture with me, and my girlfriend of the time snapped a great picture of me and Yogi with our arms around each other. The picture was later sent to Yogi and signed. It's a great shot.

6. My little sister, who is 9 months my former learned to ride a bike before me. My competitiveness kicked in and she only learned 1 day before me. I'll never forgive her.

7. I once participated in a parade as a juggling clown. That's all I have to say about that. And yes, I can juggle.
8. I am a karaoke king. I once had girls dancing on tables to my rendition of Garth Brooks' "Aint Goin' Down 'til the Sun Comes Up". Seriously.

So there you have it... 8 random facts about yours truly. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, please feel free to comment.

I humbly tag the following:

A. Lincoln Blog - A site I reference periodically for anything and everything about Abraham Lincoln. The blog producer is an author and a professor.

American Presidents Blog - incite into our great, and not so great Chiefs of Staff.

HistoryMike - sometimes history, sometimes current events, sometimes irreverence, always amusing.

History is Elementary - a super blog, by a super teacher. I was a high school history teacher, and any teacher deserves to wear a badge of honor. This really is an enlightening site.

Civil War Bookshelf - if its news about the Civil War.. it's on this blog.

I'll tag 3 more at a later date...


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

July 4, 1826: Goodbye to Adams and Jefferson

I'm a few days late with this one...but I was busy... with a new house and some handy work to be done, we can't always be on time for something we're not paid to do....

Without further ado, I bring you some interesting fodder about the 4th of July and a few of our founding fathers.


How cool is it that Thomas Jefferson, the author of so much of what we call "America", in word and spirit, died on the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July in 1826.

And how about the fact that John Adams died on that exact same day!
A coincidence like that certainly leads you to believe that perhaps both of them loved this country so much that they held on to life to pass on the anniversary of the greatest day in American history.

Both members of the all important the Continental Congress of 1776, Adams and Jefferson both adamantly promoted and defended the Declaration of Independence and the echoing words "all men are created equal."

From this, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson grew very close and developed a mutual respect and affinity for each other. However, the Declaration of Independence may have been the only political agenda on which they agreed.

Adams became president after the Great George Washington stepped down. Incidentally, Thomas Jefferson became Adams' Vice President. During the fledgling years of the United Stats, the Vice President was the presidential nomination receiving the second highest vote total. During this administration, Adams and Jefferson disagreed on almost everything.

In the election of 1800, Jefferson defeated Adams to take the presidency, and despite their mutual respect for each other's views and their teamwork in declaring independence from Britain, Adams and Jefferson became bitter rivalries. Additionally, the fact that political parties started to form around each of their views only widened the gap between their ideologies.

Fortunately, their respect for each other trumped their political ties and upon retirement they became the best of friends.

Many believe that on his death bed, John Adams uttered the words. "Thomas Jefferson survives." Little did he know that Jefferson had actually passed away a few hours before him.

Here is a great site describing and validating Adams' last words via first hand accounts from the woman who was with him during his passing and from a diary from his son John Quincy Adams.

It is also rumored that upon Adam's death a messenger dispatched to carry the terrible news to Jefferson's Virginia home passed a messenger dispatched from Jefferson's home bring the same terrible news to John Adams. Though is it even possible to have knowledge of such an event, considering both messenger were probably lone riders on horseback traveling the countryside. This story might be more believable had Jefferson and Adams died in the same town, so I highly doubt this rumor.
So there you have it... two of the greatest men our country will ever know, fittingly passed on the anniversary of the greatest day in American history. A day that would not have been possible without them. Thank you gentleman, for your determination, fervor, sacrifice and most importantly, your courage.


PS: On July 4th, in 1831 James Monroe, our 5th President, also died on this fitting day.
In 1850 our 12th President, Zachary Taylor participated in July 4th activities at the Washington monument. It was a cold and blistery day and the president became ill. He died five days later on July 9th.

One more Presidential fact about the Fourth of July. Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President, was born in Vermont on July 4th, 1872.