July 2015

This Day in History… July 25, 1866

‘General of the Army’ Rank Created for Ulysses S. Grant 

U.S. #281

Ulysses S. Grant became a household name and was considered a hero following his leadership during the Civil War. In recognition of this, Congress created an entirely new rank for him on July 25, 1866 – the four-star General of the Army of the United States.

Nothing in Grant’s early life predicted his eventual success. Grant’s father arranged a West Point appointment for his son, who did not want to be a soldier. But when the call for volunteers came at the start of the Civil War, Grant answered.

Grant impressed early on, capturing Fort Donelson and taking control of the Mississippi River during the Vicksburg Campaign. Further successes earned Grant command of the entire Union Army in 1863. In that role he worked closely with President Lincoln in developing a strategy to win the war. Continue reading

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This Day in History… July 24, 1847

Brigham Young Establishes Mormon Homeland in Salt Lake City, Utah 

U.S. #950

After 17 months of travel searching for a new home for his persecuted people, Brigham Young found Utah’s Great Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847 and proclaimed, “This is the place” (as pictured on this stamp).

The Church of Christ (later known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) was founded in 1830 when Joseph Smith published his Book of Mormon. The religion grew fast in his New York community and spread to Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. However, it included controversial practices, including polygamy, that made its followers targets of mob violence. Continue reading

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This Day in History… July 23, 1904

Ice Cream Cone is Popularized at St. Louis World’s Fair 

U.S. #3720

The St. Louis World’s Fair (also known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition) ran for seven months in 1904 and saw the introduction of a number of foods we still eat today. These included hamburgers, hot dogs, peanut butter, cotton candy, and ice cream cones.

Several people in attendance at the fair claim to have been the first to create edible containers for ice cream, but Charles Menches is often considered the inventor. According to Menches, while at the fair on July 23, he watched little girls put their ice cream into the holes of small cakes. Inspired, he ran to the nearest confectioner’s booth and bought a round cake (some accounts say a waffle), rolled it around his finger and then filled it with ice cream. Continue reading

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This Day in History… July 22, 1933

Wiley Post Completes First Solo Trip Around the Globe 

U.S. #C95-96

Having already broken the record for flying around the planet, Wiley Post set out to do it again, this time without the aid of a navigator. Not only did he succeed, but he completed the flight in less time, while also experimenting with new technologies.

Post had dreamt of a life in the clouds since the first time he saw an airplane at a county fair when he was 15. He got his start as a skydiver and quickly moved up to pilot. In 1931, he and his navigator, Harold Gatty, broke the record for traveling around the world previously set by the Graf Zeppelin.

In spite of this great accomplishment, Post often heard suggestions that Gatty had directed the effort, and earned more acclaim. Post set out immediately to prove his critics wrong. Equipping his plane with new technology – an early form of autopilot and a radio direction finder – he left Floyd Bennett Field in New York on July 15, 1933. Continue reading

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This Day in History… July 21, 1865

“Wild Bill” Hickok Wins the First Western Showdown 

U.S. #2869o

Standing in the dusty town square of Springfield, Missouri, on July 21, 1865, Wild Bill Hickok fired a single shot, killing Davis Tutt in what’s considered America’s first Western showdown.

Despite their repeated use in films and books, shootouts weren’t as common in the Old West as one may think. Most confrontations came in the form of drunk bar brawls, and sneaky ambushes were more common than planned showdowns.

But in July 1865, Union Army veteran Hickok was in a heated feud with his former friend, Tutt. The two had a falling-out over a woman and Tutt repeatedly harassed Hickok in the saloon. Tutt then took Hickok’s prized pocket watch as collateral for a supposed debt. When they couldn’t settle the matter, Hickok threatened that Tutt “shouldn’t come across that square unless dead men can walk.” Continue reading

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This Day in History… July 20, 1969

Neil Armstrong Becomes First Man to Walk on the Moon 

U.S. #C76

“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong uttered this now famous phrase as he took man’s first step on the Moon. It was a defining moment in American and world history, and set us on the path for decades of space exploration.

The culmination of the Space Race with the Soviet Union, the Apollo 11 mission launched from Florida on July 16. Four days later, Armstrong set his foot on the Moon at 10:56 p.m. E.D.T, as the world watched through a live television feed. Continue reading

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