Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 wrap-up

I started this blog 3 years ago as a New Years resolution for myself. I resolved that I would regularly post about something I loved (history) in order to really learn about blogging. The ultimate goal was to have a record of something as I went on my future job hunts, but this blog became something more to me: it became a place where I could find something interesting, research it, and add to my knowledge base.

And since starting this blog so many years ago, things have changed: I graduated from college, and ultimately found a job. A job takes a lot of time out of my day, and things slowly fell threw the cracks, this blog being one of them. I had some great topics I wanted to post on this year, that I just missed pure and simple. And as I look back on 2013, I see the 7 (yes, only 7 ... this makes 8) posts and realize that this blog is something I miss. So one of my resolutions for 2014 is to pick blogging back up. Maybe not every week like I intended initially, but at least twice a month.

2014 promises to be a good year, and also a historic one. We will be celebrating 100 years since the start of WW1, a monumental landmark in how it changed Europe, and ultimately laid the foundations for the start of WWII. I have a lot of things I want to say about 1914, so I’m looking forward to what is yet to come.

But before I sign off, I want to do my 2013 wrap-up. I missed this last year, and it may be one of my favorite posts of the year. So, here are some historic moments from 2013 that I think will go down in history.

- 2/10/13 Pope Benedict XVI resigns, the first to do so since Gregory XII in 1415
- 3/13/13 Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio is elected as the 266 pope, and takes the name Francis
- 4/8/13 Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, dies.
- 4/16/13 Boston Marathon explosion shakes the city (and the country)
- 7/22/13 Prince Charles is born
- 8/21/13 Reports that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad gasses neighborhoods surrounding Damascus.
- 11/7/13 Super Typhoon Haiyan devastates the Phillippines leaving over 6,000 dead.
- 12/4/13 Nelson Mandela, former South African president, dies.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Market Garden

My favorite posts are the ones that have me digging to find my old college notes. No joke; I will literally get out the huge box that hosts my college supplies and look for the right spiral that hosts my notes from that particular class. It’s always fun visiting memory lane, and remembering those little things I choose to jot down during class (and even more fun when I have to pull from my memory to fill in what I didn’t write down!).

Today across my twitter feed I saw that it was the anniversary of the launch of Market Garden during WWII. So off I went to dig down and find these notes.

Market Garden was a strategy masterminded by General Montgomery. The advance consisted of two different advances. Market would consist of several airborne divisions being launched behind lines to secure the bridges. Operation Garden was then for ground support to charge north and cross the Rhine River, giving the Allies easy access east to Berlin.

However well thought out this plan was, there were many issues with it. First, the air troops were expected to hold the bridges for 48 hours after they were dropped. Second, the ground support was going to charging north on a two-lane highway, surrounded by low-lands that were impassible otherwise.

I decided to study the Battle of the Bulge on my own time, and I learned that during this time in 1944 Hitler was already planning on his operation. He pulled some of his most lethal and effective troops and retired them to one of the least volatile areas: Holland. So the US and British troops were up against some of the best German SS Soldiers. That coupled with the logistical problems, lack of support, a stretched supply line, and a really weird plan led to an unfulfilled operation.

While not an outstanding victory for the Allies, 1944 was a good year that saw good movement and serious strides forward against the Germans.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

“I Have a Dream”

50 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. and many, many other Americans assembled in Washington DC. It was on this day that King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” Speech, and Americans became inspired.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”

In 50 years what have we achieved? What groups are still waiting for their rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”? I hope we all reflect on these words, and continue making strides forward for the next 50 years.

Read the entire speech here.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Battle of Gettysburg... 150 years and 15 days in the making

It was last year I decided that this year was the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, and so I should be there to celebrate the occasion. And about the time I decided that my cousin announced the date of her wedding would be two weeks before. So I had a true dilemma on my hands, because I couldn’t do both right. So, I chose family and Seattle (shudder) and went out west this summer, missing my awesome history trip entirely.

“Regardless,” I told myself, “I can still blog and then in some way celebrate this amazing moment!” And then I came back from my first vacation and nearly died from my workload at work. So when the day actually came, I simply tweeted a few things and attempted to survive another day at the office.

So here I find myself almost two weeks after the fact actually having time to sit down and blog about this event. Because it was truly important; not only was it the deadliest battle fought in the war, it is often described as the turning point of the war.

Up until the Battle of Gettysburg, the tides of war were undeniably with the Confederacy. They had the stronger general, they had the momentum, they had the ability to know the landscape, and they had the motivation to fight. They were fighting to preserve their way of life.

But at this decisive battle, the Union was able to finally turn around and defeat the Confederate troops. Lead by General Meade, the Union soldiers were able to stand up to Lee and thwart his advances further north. They were also able to hold their lines against numerous attempts to break, ultimately sending the Confederate Army back into Virginia.

Many would argue that you can still see the affects of the Civil War today, and I would agree with those arguments. The South was almost completely destroyed, and it is pretty evident they are still recovering from the Civil War and decisions made after today. My personal goal is to eventually visit these battle sites on the anniversaries. It definitely wasn’t this year, but perhaps I can be there for the 200 year anniversary.

Happy History!

Friday, June 28, 2013


A few years ago I rented The Young Victoria and was interested to learn about the early part of Queen Victoria’s life. The longest reigning monarch of England, and the queen during the time of the American Civil War and the colonization movement, Victoria is one queen I have to confess I know very little about.

And while the movie probably got some things wrong, the fact of the matter is that I fell in love with Victoria a little that day. Whether that was because of Emily Blunt’s acting, the knowledge I gained about the Queen’s early life, or a mixture of the both is still elusive to me.

So today, when I saw that today marks the anniversary of Queen Victoria’s coronation, I couldn’t help but wan to do something I’ve always sought to do on this day: blog about it.

Victoria reigned during a time when the royal family’s influence had little direct political power, however she strove to influence government policy. Publicly, she became a national icon and was identified with strict standards of personal morality.

She lived until 1901, and her nine children married across Europe. She was known as the Grandmother of Europe (in fact, such family relations had a direct impact on the start of WWI actually).

Happy History!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is one of those holidays I have always wondered why we celebrate. I see pictures of people dressing their kids up in sombreros, and I’m even sipping a margarita made specifically because it has been engrained in me that this day is a day to celebrate Mexican culture. But what is its history and why is it important?

“This day commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War.” The Franco-Mexican war lasted until 1867, so why was this battle so important? Why did this war even start? I may be regretting not taking the Mexican history class my friend suggested in college for the first time, ever.

The spark was President Benito Juarez’s suspension of interested payments to foreign countries starting July 17, 1861. France was the primary instigator, backed initially by Spain and Great Britain, and justified military intervention by claiming broad foreign policy of commitment to free trade. However, Napoleon III of France had an ulterior motive, and hoped to seize the entire country to ensure French control in the Latin American countries. When Spain and Great Britain realized this, they withdrew support.

So commenced a five-year war over Mexican independence. The initial defeat of the French army is the above stated Battle of Puebla. But the war continued for another 5 years, ending with ultimate French defeat.

I’m not going to summarize the entire war, but I think the larger point to this is that this “holiday” (it’s barely observed in Mexico) has a richer history than simply sipping margaritas. Maybe there is one other person out there who will search Google for the full story of what Cinco de Mayo really means.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hindenburg Disaster Revealed

We all know the story: the Hindenburg zeppelin is filled with passengers traveling from Germany to the United States. And As the blimp approaches the end of its route, it tragically, and suddenly explodes.

But for 76 years the reason WHY the blimp exploded remained a mystery. Until recently that is.

I couldn't help myself when I saw an article jump across the Internet today. I had to ready it. And when I learned the answer to the secret, I had to share.

Turns out it was static electricity. The blimp happened to travel through a thunder storm, causing the charge in the sky-born vestal to build. A broken wire or pipe caused hydrogen to spill into the space. Then, when someone grabbed a rope they grounded the charge, igniting the blimp on fire.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

This is an image of Denver after the blizzard of 1913 (photo credit to the Denver Post)

Today it snowed. And sometimes when it snows in Colorado it snows hard! But it got me thinking about some of the historic blizzards Colorado has seen. A quick search shows that the blizzard that hit December 1-5, 1913 was the heaviest. A close second is the storm that hit March 17-19, 2003 (yes, I remember this one… I got a two week spring break thanks to it!)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Inauguration Parade of President Obama

Today, on January 21, President Obama was sworn in again. Since I have the day off, I was able to watch it this morning. And now in the afternoon the parade is going on.

And I just happened to hear something that sparked my interest. A brief history of how this tradition came to be.

“The tradition of an Inaugural parade dates back to the very first Inauguration, when George Washington took the oath of office on April 30, 1789, in New York City. As he began his journey from Mount Vernon to New York City, local militias joined his procession as it passed through towns along the way. Once he arrived in New York City, members of the Continental Army, government officials, members of Congress and prominent citizens escorted Washington to Federal Hall for his swearing-in ceremony.”

This morning the reporters made sure to state which state militia was behind them. Even today states send military to help protect the president.

While not as historic as four years ago, and definitely not as well attended, it is always amazing to witness this event. Think about it; what other country peacefully passes leadership like the United States? We were really the first country to do so.

Enjoy my low quality screen shot of the President walking the parade. It may not be the best image you’ll see, however it is historic in its own right.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Funny thing about time is you never seem to have enough of it in your day, or week. It is also ironic, since I often research blogs, and write them WAY before I post them. Like with every blog I wrote in 2012.

Regardless, cotton is one topic I added to my list, because it is a commodity that has a very interesting past. If you think about it, cotton was one major factor of the Civil War – but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Cotton remains have been found in the Americas from Arizona to Peru, ranging from 4500 BCE to 3600 BCE. There is also literary evidence from Herodotus that Alexander the Great found cotton when he invaded India. This fact is interesting to me – rarely has one commodity stretched across both the Americas and the Euro-Asian continents. Sure, once the areas were colonized it was a free for all – potatoes and tobacco are just two examples.

It was during the Middle Ages that cotton rose to dominance. Later in 1664 the East India Company was importing a quarter of a million pieces into Britain. As the citizens demanded lightweight easily cleaned garments, cotton began to be introduced in 1690. Cotton was much more versatile than other materials; it could be imprinted more easier than wool, it was easily combined with linen to make velvet and it was cheaper than velvet.

With the introduction of the industrial revolution, cotton only increased its prominence. This was coupled with the colonies production of cotton, and the introduction of the spinning jenny and cotton gin in the late 1700’s, which helped solidify the dominance of the fabric.

Enter the Civil War. The South was the perfect area to grow large cash crops: sugar, tobacco and cotton were the three largest. Cotton was huge for the Southern economy, and England was where the crop was exported at the highest rate. When the South seceded, they expected that relationship to continue. A less well-known fact was that England had understood they were reliant on the South, and had begun to experiment with growing the crop in other areas of their empire, mainly Egypt and India. Already the amount of cotton England needed had decreased significantly. Unfortunately, the South could not survive on cotton alone.

Today, cotton remains a highly profitable commodity and cotton accounts for 40% of the worlds fiber production. So, you see cotton has a rich history itself. Cheap, durable, this fabric remains hugely important through today.