The Imaginary Realms of
Gilbert M. Stack

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Today in History: Mary Campbell Was Kidnapped

Posted by Gilbert Stack on May 21, 2019 at 5:00 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (May 21) in 1758, ten year old Mary Campbell was kidnapped by the Lenape during the French and Indian War. She was probably adopted by a Lenape family. Six years later the British forced the Lenape to return Mary to her family along with many other captive children (60 names are recorded). To the shock of both the British and the families of these children, about half of them tried to return to the Lenape. The forced return of these children was the subject of two fictional novels by Conrad Richter, The Light in the Forest and A Country of Strangers. I read both as a child—they are haunting novels of children kidnapped at a young age who assimilated with the Lenape and could not transition back to the civilizations they were born into.

Today in History: A King Murdered

Posted by Gilbert Stack on May 20, 2019 at 5:00 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (May 20) in 794, King Aethelberht of East Anglia was murdered. He was on a visit to his fiancé, Princess Aelfthryth of Mercia, at the Mercian court of Sutton Walls when he was taken captive by Aelfthryth’s father, King Offa, and beheaded. It’s not clear why he was murdered, but one theory is that he was trying to exert East Anglia’s independence from Mercia. The story quickly developed that his severed head fell off a cart and cured a blind man. He was eventually canonized.

Today in History: Plessy vs Fergusson

Posted by Gilbert Stack on May 18, 2019 at 5:45 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (May Eighteen) in 1896 the Supreme Court established the standard of "separate but equal" in the case Plessy vs Fergusson. (Homer Plessy had been arrested for taking a seat in a “white’s only” railroad car in Louisiana.) The ruling permitted the establishment of the Jim Crow era in the south which institutionalized segregation of the races at every level of society. It wasn't overturned until 1954 in Brown vs Topeka Board of Education.

Today in History: The Buttonwood Agreement

Posted by Gilbert Stack on May 17, 2019 at 4:55 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (May 17) in 1792, 24 stockbrokers met beneath a buttonwood tree on Wall Street in New York City and formed the New York Stock Exchange. They pledged only to deal with each other in sales and to fix their commissions on sales at 0.25%. The early New York Stock Exchange was all about limiting competition among brokers to preserve their income.

Today in History: Jamestown

Posted by Gilbert Stack on May 14, 2019 at 4:40 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (May 14) in 1607 Jamestown was founded. It was the first permanent English settlement in North America. It almost didn't make it. Only 60 out of 900 settlers survived the first three years.

Today in History: Robert Smalls

Posted by Gilbert Stack on May 13, 2019 at 4:40 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (May 13) in 1862 an African-American slave named Robert Smalls succeeded in taking over the steam ship CSS Planter and steering it through Confederate controlled waters to the U.S. blockade where he surrendered the vessel to the union. As a reward, he was made captain of the ship (now called USS Planter) when the vessel was put into U.S. service. He went on to become a Representative to Congress for South Carolina after the war despite massive efforts by whites in South Carolina to defeat him. Twice his “defeats” were contested to Congress. There was massive evidence of voter intimidation both times. The first time, Congress overturned his defeat and he became the official Representative. The second time, Congress declined to do so, even though the voter intimidation efforts were greater than the first.

Today in History: Mother's Day

Posted by Gilbert Stack on May 12, 2019 at 6:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Happy Mother’s Day everyone! We owe this holiday to the hard work of Ann Jarvis and her daughter, Anna Jarvis. Ann struggled to make an official holiday to celebrate mothers as part of her work to reunite families after the Civil War. There were several local observances of Mother’s Day in the decades that followed (usually attached to the temperance movement or some other cause) but she died in 1905 without succeeding in making it a national movement. Her daughter, Anna, picked up the struggle in her honor and the first official Mother’s Day was celebrated on the second Sunday in May in 1908.

Today in History: The Pullman Car Company Strike

Posted by Gilbert Stack on May 11, 2019 at 7:00 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (May 11) in 1894, 4000 workers of the Pullman Car Company went on strike to protest wage cuts. The workers lived in a company owned town with rents slightly higher than those in the surrounding communities. When Pullman reduced wages and began laying off workers in response to the Panic of 1893 he did not lower the rents of his workers, causing great hardship. (Pullman claimed he could not lower the rents because he opposed charity.) After efforts to negotiate a compromise failed (with several of the negotiators being fired) the workers voted to go on strike.


A month later, these workers would convince the entire American Railway Union (ARU) to go on strike, refusing to operate any train that carried a Pullman car. The workers figured that this would force the other railroads to decline to carry any of Pullman’s luxury coaches, but the other railroads worried that permitting the ARU to win a victory against Pullman would empower them in future negotiations against their railroads. So instead of refusing to carry Pullman cars, they added Pullman cars to all of their trains. The workers responded by shutting down rail traffic across the Midwest.


Newspapers like the New York Times called “King Debs” (the head of the ARU) the “enemy of the human race” for leading the strike. (Debs actually argued against the strike, but the union membership voted to strike anyway.) President Cleveland sent in the army to get the railroads running again and the strike turned violent with hundreds of railroad cars and bridges being destroyed.


The Sherman Antitrust Act, written to stop big businesses from monopolizing the market, was used against the union for “monopolizing labor”.


Today in History: George Washington Takes Command

Posted by Gilbert Stack on May 10, 2019 at 4:55 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (May 10) in 1775 George Washington was given command of the Continental Army. Washington didn't start out as a great strategist (he liked overly complicated maneuvers that were often beyond the training of his troops) but he was highly charismatic and he kept his army together over the seven years of the war, eventually adopting the Fabian tactics which wore down the British.

Today in History: A German Code Book

Posted by Gilbert Stack on May 9, 2019 at 5:05 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (May 9) in 1941, Britain captured the Nazi submarine U-110 and gained possession of her Short Signal Book and one of Germany’s Enigma Machines. This coup would eventually permit Britain to crack many German codes, greatly enhancing their ability to fight World War II.