August 2015

This Day in History… August 19, 1812

USS Constitution Earns Much-Needed American Victory at Sea 

U.S. #951

On August 19, 1812, the USS Constitution dueled with the British HMS Guerriere and reigned victorious.

Made from sturdy oak trees, the Constitution first launched in U.S. waters in 1797. Not yet 20 years old when the War of 1812 began, the tiny U.S. Navy was clearly inferior to the mighty Royal Navy. Once the conflict began, its ships were ordered out to sea so the British couldn’t block them into port. Continue reading

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This Day in History… August 18, 1587

Birth of First English Child in America  

U.S. #796

U.S. #796

On August 18, 1587, Virginia Dare was born at Roanoke Island (present-day North Carolina). However, little of her life after that is know due to the mysterious disappearance of the entire colony.

In the late 1500s, Europeans eagerly sought to establish colonies in the New World (North and South America). British colonists sent by Sir Walter Raleigh made their first attempt in 1586, but returned to England due to lack of food and fights with the Native Americans.

The British made a second attempt the following year, setting sail from England on April 26, 1587. This group differed from the last in that it included women and children. The 150-plus colonists reached Roanoke Island on July 22, and immediately began building their homes. Continue reading

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This Day in History… August 17, 1807

“Fulton’s Folly” Makes First Commercially Successful Steamboat Voyage 

U.S. #372 – At the time of its launch, the boat was known as the North River Steamboat. The name Clermont likely came from Robert Livingston’s estate where the ship stopped on its maiden voyage.

At the behest of his critics, Robert Fulton launched his steamboat from New York harbor on August 17, 1807.

Robert Fulton had begun his career as an artist. While studying in Europe, he realized his ambitions might not be fruitful and began exploring another passion – engineering. He then designed an experimental submarine that impressed American ambassador Robert Livingston, who encouraged Fulton to start designing steamboats.

In the early 1800s, steamboats were often considered dangerous and nothing more than a novelty. But Fulton believed it could prove to be a successful business venture, and built a 150-foot-long ship that would make him famous. Critics dubbed the boat “Fulton’s Folly,” believing it wouldn’t make the trip. Continue reading

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This Day in History… August 16, 1777

American Victory at the Battle of Bennington 

U.S. #643 – This Vermont sesquicentennial stamp pays tribute to the Green Mountain Boys that participated in the Battle of Bennington, though it wasn’t actually fought in that state.

On August 16, 1777, American troops won the Battle of Bennington – though the battle didn’t actually take place in Vermont.

In 1777, British General John Burgoyne’s Saratoga Campaign pushed through New York to Fort Edward, with the goal of capturing Albany and then New York City. However, the farther south he traveled, the longer and less secure his supply lines were. Burgoyne was told that American storehouses in Bennington, Vermont, were poorly defended and sent Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum to capture them.

However, Burgoyne had been misinformed. John Stark and his 1,500 New Hampshire troops, as well as Seth Warner and a small Vermont militia, were stationed in Bennington. Following a brief encounter with an American scouting party, Baum set up camp on a hill five miles from Bennington waiting for an American attack. Continue reading

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This Day in History… August 15, 1914

Opening of the Panama Canal 

U.S. #856 pictures President Theodore Roosevelt, who was one of the major proponent’s of creating the canal, as well as George Washington Goethals, the project’s chief engineer.

After a decade of construction, the Panama Canal opened to traffic on August 15, 1914.

For centuries, explorers, kings, and capitalists sought a way to cut their shipping times by cutting through the isthmus of Panama. In 1903, the United States helped Panama declare its independence from Colombia. President Theodore Roosevelt saw the creation of a canal across Panama as vital to America’s role as a global power. The following year began construction on the Eighth Wonder of the World – the Panama Canal. Roosevelt was so vested in the project that he visited the work site – making him the first sitting president to leave the continental U.S. during his term. Continue reading

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This Day in History… August 14, 1945

President Truman Announces Japan’s Surrender 

#570434 – V-J Day postcard

After nearly six years of a world at war, the Japanese surrendered on August 14, 1945, effectively ending World War II.

By the summer of 1945, Germany had surrendered, ending the war in Europe. However, Japan refused to surrender and continued to fight. The Allies felt they had little choice but to launch a major attack. The U.S. had been secretly working on an atomic bomb, dubbed the “Manhattan Project,” which was ready to be deployed that August. Continue reading

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