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This Week in History: February 13-19

Valentine’s Day and a presidential assassination attempt.

By:  |  February 13, 2022  |    1032 Words
oregon trail

Oregon Trail, painting by Albert Bierstadt (Photo by: Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

“The history of mankind is the instant between two strides taken by a traveler.” ~ Franz Kafka

February 14: Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day. This is a holiday for romance, but not everything that happens on February 14 is to do with love. Here are a few events that took place on Valentine’s Day:

14 February, 1779: Battle of Kettle Creek

This battle during the Revolutionary War took place with revolutionaries on one side, and those Americans loyal to the British crown on the other.

The British had attempted a strategy to cut off the Southern colonies from the others, and so a camp of about 800 loyalists travelled from North and South Carolina to Georgia. They camped along Kettle Creek, but the revolutionaries launched a surprise attack and won, even though they were outnumbered by two to one.

14 February, 1859: Oregon Becomes a State

 (Photo by: Andia/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

When Lewis and Clark set off in 1804 to map the Northwest Passage and claim Oregon for the U.S., they were successful. Pioneers began travelling to the region via the Oregon Trail, but the British also began to settle the area.

A treaty was later set up, called the Convention of 1818. It settled the border between the U.S. and British territories in the west, along the 49th Parallel. America kept Oregon, while the lands to the north were given to the British – and now make up part of Canada. After years as a territory, Oregon was declared the 33rd U.S. state in 1859. Since it was so far from Washington, D.C., the message took four months to arrive in the new state by telegraph, stagecoach and steamship.

14 February, 1912: Arizona Becomes a State

It wasn’t until 1912 that Arizona finally became a state – the final one on the U.S. mainland. It was allowed to create a constitution in 1910, and the document was approved by Congress in Washington, D.C. – however President Taft didn’t care for one of the laws included. He vetoed the constitution because it allowed for judges to be recalled from their positions if they were deemed to be doing a bad job. Arizona removed that part of the document, and so, in 1912, it was allowed to become the 48th state.

Arizona didn’t take kindly to Taft’s interference, though, and quickly added that section back into its law with a constitutional amendment.

GettyImages-514867024 Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Getty Images)

February 15, 1933: Assassination Attempt on President FDR

It was the time of the Great Depression. Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) had been elected president but hadn’t been officially sworn into office yet. On February 15, 1933, he had just given a speech in Miami, Florida. Suddenly, Giuseppe Zangara, an Italian immigrant and unemployed bricklayer, shouted: “Too many people are starving!” and fired six rounds at FDR.

Miraculously, Roosevelt was not hit. Five others were injured, however, including the city of Chicago’s mayor, Anton Cermak, who suffered a fatal stomach wound. Several men in the crowd attacked Zangara, and likely would have killed him if FDR hadn’t intervened. He told the men to leave justice to the proper authorities.

Later, the would-be assassin told the FBI that he didn’t hate FDR: “I don’t hate Mr. Roosevelt personally. I hate all officials and anyone who is rich.” He also said his stomachache, perhaps from hunger, played a part in his reason to try and shoot the president-elect.

Other Notable Mentions

February 13, 1635: Boston Latin School became the first taxpayer-supported public school in America.

February 13, 1945: During World War II, British and American planes started bombing raids on Dresden, Germany. This lasted for four days, and the fires were visible for 200 miles. An estimated 135,000 German civilians were killed.

February 14, 1779: English explorer Captain James Cook was killed in Hawaii. Most famous for landing in Australia, sailing the Pacific, and charting parts of Canada and the U.S., Cook was the first European known to arrive in Hawaii. While his first visit was pleasant, his second one met with trouble. After one of the Europeans’ boats was stolen, Cook reacted by taking the native King Kalaniopuu hostage. The locals didn’t like this, and Cook was killed.

February 14, 1849: Photographer Mathew Brady took the first photograph of a U.S. president in office; James Polk.

February 15, 1898: The U.S. Battleship Maine was blown up while at anchor in Havana. The ship sank and 260 crew members were lost. This started a declaration of war against Spain on April 25, 1898, with people crying, “Remember the Maine!”

February 15, 1989: Soviet Russia finished withdrawing from Afghanistan. Over 15,000 Russian soldiers had been killed during the fighting.

February 17, 1909: Apache Chief Geronimo died while in captivity. The Chief was a native leader during the Apache Wars, but was taken prisoner by U.S. forces. After he had escaped once, the Army sent 5,000 men to recapture him.

February 19, 1942: Under Franklin Roosevelt’s executive order during World War II, the internment of Japanese Americans living on the Pacific Coast began. More than 110,000 people shut down their businesses, quit school, sold property, and moved inland.

Famous Birthdays

Galileo Galilei (February 13, 1564) was born in Italy. He was the first astronomer to use a telescope to support the theory that the sun, not the Earth, was the center of the solar system.

Grant Wood (February 13, 1891) was born in Iowa. He is best known for his painting of a farm couple called “American Gothic.”

Susan B. Anthony (February 15, 1820) was born in Massachusetts. She was a pioneer in women’s rights and was arrested for voting illegally. She was commemorated in 1979 with the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin, the first woman to have her image on a U.S. coin.

Sonny Bono (February 16, 1935) was born in Michigan. He was a popular singer alongside his then wife Cher, and he also became a Republican congressman.

Nicolaus Copernicus (February 19, 1473) was born in Poland. He is considered the founder of modern astronomy and said the sun was the center of the solar system.

“What is history? An echo of the past in the future; a reflex from the future on the past.” ~ Victor Hugo

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