August 2015

This Day in History… August 13, 1961

Work Begins on the Berlin Wall 

U.S. #3211 – During the Berlin Airlift, the U.S. and our Allies delivered food and supplies to blockaded West Berlin.

Shortly after midnight on August 13, 1961, East German soldiers laid barbed wire and bricks on the border to West Germany, creating the Berlin Wall.

After the Nazis were defeated in World War II, Germany was divided into two countries. The German Democratic Republic in the east was part of the communist Soviet Bloc, while the Federal Republic of Germany was aligned with Western Europe. The capital city of Berlin was technically part of the Soviet zone, but was split as well. The Soviets attempted to blockade the Allied-supported western half of the city, but the Berlin airlift foiled those plans. Continue reading

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This Day in History… August 12, 1990

Largest and Most Complete T-Rex Skeleton Discovered 

U.S. #2422

While searching for fossils in South Dakota, paleontologist Sue Hendrickson made a colossal discovery on August 12, 1990.

Working with the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, Hendrickson and a team of workers had spent the summer exploring the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. After discovering Edmontosaurus bones, they prepared to leave, but got a flat tire. While the rest of the group went to a nearby town to fix the truck, Hendrickson decided to explore some nearby cliffs that they hadn’t visited. Near the base of a cliff, she found small pieces of bone, then looked up to see much larger bones sticking out of the cliff wall. She immediately reported this to institute’s president who determined the bones were that of a Tyrannosaurus rex. Hendrickson and a small group remained at the site to excavate the bones, and were excited to find how much had been preserved. Continue reading

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This Day in History… August 11, 1929

Babe Ruth Becomes First Player to Hit 500 Home Runs 

U.S. #2046

Hitting the first pitch he saw, Babe Ruth made history on August 11, 1929, becoming the first player in Major League Baseball history to hit 500 home runs.

Babe Ruth was a man of huge achievements. He began his baseball career as a left-handed pitcher, and later moved to the outfield. Babe did not achieve legendary status because of his talents in the field, though. He won America’s heart by swatting dramatic home runs and with his larger-than-life style.

By August 1929, he had racked up an unprecedented 499 home runs. Prior to his game at Cleveland’s League Park, Babe approached the field’s police chief. He told the chief he would hit his 500th home run that day and wanted to keep the ball. Continue reading

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This Day in History… August 10, 1846

Birth of the Smithsonian Institution 

U.S. #943

After a decade of debates, the Smithsonian Institution was established on August 10, 1846.

The story of the Smithsonian begins with British scientist James Smithson, who died in 1829. His will stated that if his nephew died without heirs, his estate should go to the U.S. to create “the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.”

The U.S. government was notified of this bequest following the death of his nephew in 1835. Senators debated whether they had the authority to create such an institution, but eventually ruled in favor. Representatives traveled to England to appear before the British court and returned to America in 1838 with about $500,000 for the Smithsonian. Continue reading

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This Day in History… August 9, 1944

Smokey Bear Created to Join the War Effort 

U.S. #2096

On August 9, 1944, the U.S. Forest Service created Smokey Bear to encourage people to prevent forest fires.

Though forest fires had long been an issue, America’s involvement in World War II made fighting these fires more difficult. Most able-bodied men were fighting overseas, so there weren’t enough young men to fight fires. In 1942 the Forest Service used Disney characters from the film Bambi on colorful posters to raise awareness on how to prevent forest fires. But those characters could only be used for a year, so the forest service needed their own mascot.

In 1944 they created Smokey Bear, named after New York City firefighter “Smokey” Joe Martin. The first poster was designed by Albert Staehle and pictured Smokey pouring a bucket of water on a campfire with the message “Smokey says – Care will prevent 9 out of 10 forest fires!” Smokey quickly became a household name, with toy companies producing teddy bears and a variety of posters hanging across the country. Continue reading

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This Day in History… August 8, 1929

Graf Zeppelin Begins Round-the-World Journey from New Jersey 

U.S. #C13

On August 8, 1929, the Graf Zeppelin departed the airfield in Lakehurst, New Jersey, to return 12 days later.

The first attempt to fly the zeppelin around the globe began on May 14 of that year. Engine troubles forced the Graf to land in France, after which it was returned to Germany. Mail that was carried aboard this initial flight received a note stating “Beförderung verzögert wegen Abbruchs der 1. Ameriksfaht.” (“Delivery delayed due to cancellation of the 1st America trip”).  This is sometimes called the “Interrupted America Flight.” Continue reading

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