December 2015

This Day in History… December 19, 1777

U.S. #1689 pictures The March to Valley Forge by William Trego.

Washington Winters at Valley Forge

From December 19, 1777, to June 18, 1778, the Continental Army, under the command of General George Washington, camped at Valley Forge.

Following the crushing defeats at Philadelphia and Germantown in late 1777, General George Washington led his men to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania on December 19.  In addition to the recent losses that had dampened the men’s spirits, there was little food and inadequate clothing for the harsh winter conditions ahead.  Crude huts were hastily constructed to provide some type of shelter.  It was only when the last of 10,000 men had moved into sturdier structures that Washington abandoned his own tent in favor of the relative comfort of a hut.

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This Day in History… December 18, 1892

U.S. #4360-63 – Nutcrackers became popular in America after WWII soldiers sent them home from Germany as gifts.

Premiere of The Nutcracker Ballet

On December 18, 1892, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker premiered in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Germans coined the phrase, “Gott gibt die Nüsse, aber wir müssen sie knacken selbst.” (God gives the nuts, but we have to crack them ourselves). This verse is recited to teach German children that life is often difficult, but if you persevere the rewards are plentiful. This life lesson may have contributed to the popularity of nutcrackers, as it helped children to enjoy the benefits of hard work.

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This Day in History… December 17, 1903

U.S. #649 – The brothers flipped a coin to decide who would fly the plane first.

Wright Brothers’ Famed First Flight

On December 17, 1903, brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright made the first successful heavier-than-air flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

Sons of a minister in the United Brethren Church, Wilbur Wright (1867-1912) and Orville Wright (1871-1948) grew up to become aviation pioneers. The brothers had always been interested in science and technology, but when their father gave them a flying toy in 1878, they set their sights on developing a heavier-than-air flying machine capable of carrying a man.

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This Day in History… December 16, 1773

U.S. #1480-83 – Wealthy colonists offered to pay for the lost tea, but the British refused.

Colonists Revolt with Boston Tea Party

On December 16, 1773, a group of Massachusetts colonists known as the Sons of Liberty staged a dramatic protest against British taxes – the famed Boston Tea Party.

The French and Indian War left Britain in debt. So taxes were levied on the New World colonies, which enraged colonists. The slogan, “No taxation without representation,” became popular in Massachusetts and protests were staged. In 1770, British soldiers fired on a group of angry patriots, killing five of them. The Boston Massacre, as it came to be known, sparked public sentiment against the British.

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This Day in History… December 15, 1791

U.S. #1312 – Commemorates the 175th anniversary of the Bill of Rights.

Bill of Rights Becomes Law

On December 15, 1791, Virginia became the 11th state to ratify the Bill of Rights, earning the three-fourths majority needed to add the first 10 amendments to the Constitution.

Following the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, which led to the creation of the new nation’s Constitution, each state had to ratify it individually. The first nine states approved the Constitution by June 1788. Although all that was needed to approve the Constitution was nine states, four others argued it provided too much power to the central government, which could easily abuse individual rights. They believed there should be a bill of rights to prevent such abuses.

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This Day in History… December 14, 1896

Item #20027– Commemorative cover cancelled on Doolittle’s 90th birthday.

Birth of Aviator Jimmy Doolittle

James “Jimmy” Doolittle was born on December 14, 1896 in Alameda, California.

Doolittle was an early aviation pioneer who devoted 42 years of his life to service in the U.S. Air Force. While he had equals in terms of daring and bravery, Doolittle was one of the first aeronautical engineers. He was a flight leader and gunnery instructor during World War I.

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