Sunday, May 27, 2012

It's Fleet Week!!!

Who doesn't love Fleet Week? It is almost impossible not to feel the patriotism flow from your body every May as some of the worlds finest ships sail up the Hudson River. The problem is, does anyone know why Fleet Week is so important? Or understand the meaning of it?And did you know there are two Fleet Week celebrations?

New York City's Fleet Week has its official start date sometime in 1982. However, Fleet Week was first celebrated in 1898 in New York Harbor. Why 1898 you might be wondering? Well if you've ever read this great article called "How the Canyon of Heroes is Turning into a Canyon of Zeroes" you would know. But for those who haven't read that one, here is why 1898 is so important. On August 20, 1898 Admiral Dewey returned from Manila and was greeted with a heroes welcome. It was a two day parade and celebration down Broadway not just for Dewey but for the men returning home from war. This time could be seen as the first Fleet Week.

During this first Fleet Week or as it was known the Spanish-American War Victory Celebration New York Harbor was filled with warships and service men. There were some 30 ships in the harbor that week which carried well over 10,000 soldiers and sailors. Even though this wasn't the official first Fleet Week it can be seen as the ground breaking for the celebration. Most of the ships on hand during the celebration were based out of either the Brooklyn, Bayonne or Philadelphia Naval Yards and all had to accompany the Admiral back to New York. It wouldn't be until 1918 that there would be anything close to this kind of celebration until the of General Pershing and the American Expeditionary Forces. This celebration again mirrored that of 1898 as a military victory.

From 1918 until 1982 there was never an official Fleet Week. After WWII there was another Canyon of Heroes Parade which in turn caused a Fleet Week. The Brooklyn Naval Yard was home to many ships and held naval reviews yearly which could be considered Fleet Week but never was. But where and when was the first official Fleet Week? For that we must head to the west coast as San Diego gets the credit for hosting the first Fleet Week. In 1935 over 100 ships, 500 planes and  55,000 enlisteds were put on display to show the might of the American fighting forces. This was done as Americans were growing nervous of the military build ups around the world (i.e., Germany, Russia, Japan). The tradition of Fleet Week than moved up the coast and into San Francisco Bay. The first official use of the term Fleet Week comes from San Fransisco 1981 Columbus Day Weekend celebrations. In turn New York City then hosted her first Fleet Week Memorial Day Weekend in 1982. Each celebration draws well over one million visitors annually.

Fleet Week is deeply rooted in American History. It started with Admiral Dewey's victory during the Spanish American War and continues until today. It is a way as American's not to celebrate military might but to honor our service men and women. It is always a great site to see aircraft carriers and battleships sail in front of the New York Skyline or under the Golden Gate Bridge. To see the few surviving ships of wars of the past. But most importantly to see the men and women of our armed forces get the honor, respect and R&R they deserve. So enjoy Fleet Week in you're in the New York City area and just say a little thank you to our service people as it is the least we could do. And remember Fleet Week is not just to honor those today but those in the past as well.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day, Who Needs It...

Mother's Day, the one day a year when mother's across America get the day of rest they deserve. A day to relax, not do laundry, no slaving over a hot stove and most importantly a day when their children shower them with gifts and don't annoy the hell out of them. But what if there was a movement to rid the earth of Mother's Day and what if the person that was trying to was the woman who started it. For the last 104 years mothers across America have been given flowers, cards, gift cards to a spa, random home objects made of macaroni and etc. Today is the sign of gratitude for everything mothers do all year long. So what could make Anna Jarvis turn on Mother's Day?

Anna Jarvis is the founder of Mother's Day. It all started with her own mother, Ann Jarvis. Ann Jarvis founded the Mothers' Day Work Club which was created to improve health and sanitation conditions in American cities. She also went on to create "Mother's Friendship Day" which operated during the Civil War and aided both Union and Confederate states, they were pretty much the Red Cross of the mid 19th century. More importantly the main goal of MFD was to reunite families torn apart by the war. So how does this Civil War aid group fit into the creation of Mother's Day? Well two years after the passing of Ann Jarvis, her daughter Anna picked up were her mother left off and held a memorial for her late mother. The memorial was to honor the work her mother did and create basically an Ann Jarvis Day. It wouldn't be until 1914 when President Wilson heard of this cause that Mother's Day became the holiday we all know today.

For the next six years Mother's Day was spent honor our mothers and the work that they do. However, one little thing had changed. Instead of it being a solemn day of honor it had turned into, well the way we celebrate Mother's Day today.  People began buying gifts, cards and so on and so forth and this really pissed off Anna Jarvis. Like all holidays Mother's Day fell victim to mass commercialization and Anna Jarvis couldn't stand to see her mother's legacy ruined. From 1920 until the end of their lives Anna and her sister Elsinore campaigned against Mother's Day and called for it to be abolished. The Jarvis' pet peeve, well one of them, was printed greeting cards. Anna Jarvis once said,

"A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment."
-Anna Jarvis

Needless to say the Jarvis sister's war on Mother's Day was unsuccessful. Both sisters died penniless due to their efforts in ending the holiday and Anna actually died childless, perhaps another reason for her problem with the holiday. But is the holiday too commercialized? I highly doubt anyone thinks so. Sure they jack up the prices on flowers and candy but they do the same on Valentines Day. In the scope of commercialized holidays Mother's Day falls near the bottom of the list being crushed by Christmas, The 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Valentines Day and about 40 other holidays. The whole point of Mother's Day is putting one day aside that you can just spend with your mom. A day we can take out of our busy schedules and just hang out with the woman who gave you birth or as my mother tells me the woman who was "cut open and I was ripped out of." And so what if you want to buy her a card, flowers, candy or whatever it is she may want or need she deserves it. So Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there, may you day be stress free and may you be showered with gifts and praise for the next 24 hours.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Curse of the Lincoln Assassination

The assassination of President Lincoln is perhaps the most famous assassination in not only American, but World History. But a curse? How? Because of Lincoln's premonition of his own funeral? Not at all this curse actually gets its start after Lincoln died. Who could be affected by such a curse? The Booth Family? The Lincoln Family? America!? The answer is, well pretty much anyone involved with Lincoln the night he was killed.

So as I said, pretty much every person involved with Lincoln that April night in 1865 was affected by the curse. The closet related would be Lincoln's wife Mary, son Robert, their guest Henry and Clara Rathbone, a boarding house owner, two Senators, Booth's killer and the owner of Ford's Theater. Let's piece this puzzle together and figure how the curse would plague all those around the death of Abraham Lincoln.

 "Here she is, Miss America!' Ok, maybe not but Mrs. Lincoln was a close second. It is no secret that Mary Todd Lincoln was always a bit...well, off. But after seeing her husband killed she really went off the deep end. She wore nothing but black clothes for the rest of her life, mourning the loss of Abe as if she was an old Italian women. However, Mary still would purchase regular color clothes and would go on shopping sprees as if she had money to burn. The only odd thing about this is no one ever saw her dressed in these clothes or see her use the items she purchased. Her son Robert was constantly worried about his mother committing suicide, so he did what any good son would do and put her in a HOME! Ok, so she wasn't put in Shady Pines but she was put in a psychiatric hospital but would eventually be released to her sister, whose home she died in a few years later.

 On this list Mary Todd Lincoln is the only one who really gets off easy from the curse. The curse really started to get into full swing with Major Henry Rathbone and his wife Clara Harris who weren't even supposed to be with the Lincolns that April 14th night.The Rathbone's were not the first couple invited to watch My American Cousin with the Lincoln's in their VIP booth. During the assassination Henry was stabbed by Booth as he made his get away, and I am sure he and his family wishes that all they could say happened to them due to the curse. In 1883, Henry was U.S. Consul in Germany. He like Mary Todd, was beginning to lose it. A week before Christmas he would murder his wife and three children before attempting suicide. He would survive and spend the rest of his life in an asylum for the criminally insane where he would die.

After Lincoln was shot he was taken across the street to William Petersen's home. It was there that Lincoln would die. Peterson would die a few years later from an overdose of laudanum. It is still a mystery how he overdosed from this and some historians think that it may have not been an accident but done purposefully. The Petersen's loses were not over yet, as Mrs. Petersen would meet her husband in the great beyond four months later. As for other homeowners affected by the curse I must included Mary Surrat. Surratt owner the boarding house were Booth and his comrades planned originally to kidnap Lincoln but evolved into killing him. After the killing, Surratt was taken in with the other conspirators, tried and hung. She should have been set free due to lack of evidence, but was stopped by hold on to your hats, Senators Preston King and James H. Lane.

Senators Preston King (left) and James H. Lane (right) were members of the first Secret Service and in charge of guarding President Andrew Johnson from hearing pleas to free the Lincoln conspirators. Both men died...well killed themselves less than a year after the hanging of the conspirators Senator Lane ended his life with a gunshot to the head one year to the date of the hanging of the conspirators. Senator King ended his life in New York Harbor. While traveling on a ferry he tied a bag of lead bullets around his neck, jumped over board and sunk to the bottom of the Hudson. Both men just another notch marker on the curses belt, bringing the total to eight.

"Boston" Corbett or better known to history as the man who found and killed John Wilkes Booth. Corbett was a complete nut. The guy castrated himself so he wouldn't give into the temptation of sleeping with prostitutes. Now calling Corbett a religious fanatic but something like that is taking it to a whole new level. But most say he became crazy due to exposer to mercury when he worked as a hat marker. Later in life Corbett was working in the Kansas House of Representatives. While working one day he overheard some mocking the prayer said before a meeting so he threatened ti kill him. It wasn't too long before Corbett was locked away. He would escape and never be heard or seen of again. It is believed that he died during the Great Hinckley Fire of 1894 in Hinckley, Minnesota.

 This curse shows no mercy, not even Ford's theater was safe from its wrath. After the assassination, the U.S. Government purchased the theater from its owner John Ford. The government then turned it into a memorial for Lincoln. It forbade any and all forms of entertainment inside its walls. The building then served as a records warehouse and offices. However, in 1893 the curse struck. A wall collapsed and killed 22 clerks and injured a few others. Even the building had a blood lust that needed to be satisfied. But there is one man affected by the curse more than anyone else. Someone who wouldn't mysterious die, commit suicide or have something harmful happen to himself, but the curse would attack him by making him part of the death of two other Presidents.

 Honest Abe's son Robert was the most affected by this curse. He was lost his father, saw his mother's metal breakdown and saw the downfall of so many others. But the curse would strike him in an odd series of coincidences. He was Secretary of War in President James Garfield's cabinet. While awaiting the arrival of a train in Washington D.C. he saw the President gunned down. In 1901 he was invited to the Pan-American Expo in Buffalo by President William McKinley. It was at this expo that McKinley was also killed by an assassins bullet and Lincoln was right there as witness. After that Lincoln refused any invitation given by a President. The only time he would be near a President was at the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial, President Warren G. Harding was literally taking his life into his own hands by standing with Lincoln.

Is the curse real? I highly doubt it, this just seems to be a series of coincidences and odd similar happenings. Sure seeing a person assassinated in front of you will affect your mental health as in the case of Mary Todd Lincoln and perhaps even Henry Rathbone's actions. As for the rest of those attached to this curse there really is no explanations. The death of bordering house owners, a solider, two Senators and the fate of a theater house are all just linked due to their relation to Abraham Lincoln's assassination and that's about it. No curse, no mystery or no weird reach by Lincoln from the afterlife. In the end I think it is just one of those unique parts of history which shows just how interconnected events are. As Lincoln once said, "History is not history unless it is the truth."