Today in History – August 25

Allan Pinkerton (1819-84), founder of Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on August 25, 1819. Pinkerton emigrated to the United States in 1842 and eventually established a barrel-making shop in a small town outside of Chicago. He was an ardent abolitionist, and his shop functioned as a “station” for escaped slaves traveling the Underground Railroad to freedom in the North.

The Late Allan Pinkerton. Illustration from Harper’s Weekly, July 12, 1884. p.452. Prints & Photographs Division

Pinkerton’s career as a detective began by chance when he discovered a gang of counterfeiters operating in an area where he was gathering wood. His assistance—first in arresting these men and then another counterfeiter, led to his appointment as deputy sheriff of Kane County, Illinois, and, later, as Chicago’s first full-time detective.

Secret Service by Wm Gillette. “It Looks Like a Plot on Our Telegraph Lines!” New York: Strobridge & Co. Lith, c1896. Posters: Performing Arts Posters. Prints & Photographs Division

Pinkerton left his job with the Chicago police force to start his own detective agency. One of the first of its kind, this predecessor to Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency provided an array of private detective services—specializing in the capture of train robbers and counterfeiters and in providing private security services for a variety of industries. By the 1870s, Pinkerton’s growing agency had accumulated an extensive collection of criminal dossiers and mug shots that became a model for other police forces.

In 1861, while investigating a railway case, Pinkerton uncovered an apparent assassination plot against Abraham Lincoln. It was believed that conspirators intended to kill Lincoln in Baltimore during a stop along the way to his inauguration. Pinkerton warned Lincoln of the threat, and the president-elect’s itinerary was changed so that he passed through the city secretly at night.

Union General George McClellan later hired Pinkerton to organize a “secret service” to obtain military information in the Southern states during the Civil War. Pinkerton sent agents into Kentucky and West Virginia, and, traveling under the pseudonym “Major E. J. Allen,” performed his own investigative work in Tennessee, Georgia, and Mississippi.

After McClellan was replaced as the commander of the Army of the Potomac in 1862, Pinkerton resumed the management of his detective agency. The agency expanded after the Civil War, opening offices in New York City (1865) and Philadelphia (1866). As his business grew, Pinkerton drew public attention to its work by producing a series of popular “true crime” stories.

Antietam, Md. Allan Pinkerton (“E. J. Allen”) of the Secret Service on Horseback. Alexander Gardner, photographer, September 1862. Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints. Prints & Photographs Division
Antietam, Md. Allan Pinkerton, President Lincoln, and Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand; another view. Alexander Gardner, photographer, October 3, 1862. Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints. Prints & Photographs Division

In time, because Pinkerton’s Agency was often hired by industrialists to provide intelligence information on union-organizing efforts, Pinkerton guards and agents gained notoriety as strikebreakers. Notable confrontations between Pinkerton agents and laborers include the 1886 Haymarket Riot and the 1892 Homestead Strike, both of which occurred after Pinkerton’s death in 1884.

Illinois-The Anarchist-Labor Troubles in Chicago, from a sketch by C. Bunnell. Illus. in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, May 15, 1886. Prints & Photographs Division


The Labor Troubles at Homestead, Pa.- Attack of the Strikers and Their Sympathizers… Drawn by Miss G. A. Davis from a sketch by C. Upham; illus. in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly, July 14, 1892. Prints & Photographs Division


Principal Michelle Kefford Named a National Principal of the Year Finalist

August 24, 2020 

Principal Michelle Kefford Congratulations to Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Principal Michelle Kefford for being named a finalist for the 2021 National Principal of the Year award by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). The National Principal of the Year program recognizes outstanding middle and high school principals who have succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for students as well as demonstrating exemplary contributions to the profession. 

As Florida’s Principal of the Year, Kefford was named a contender for the National Principal of the Year award. An educator for more than 20 years with BCPS, Kefford started her teaching career as a biology teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. She later became principal at Charles W. Flanagan High School in 2011. During her tenure at Charles W. Flanagan High, the school earned its first-ever “A” state letter grade and received an “A” for six out of her seven years at the helm. In 2019, Kefford returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High as its leader. As a passionate educator, Kefford has also held various positions on District committees, volunteers on numerous city and county committees, and works continuously to build school pride and staff morale. 

“We are proud of Principal Kefford for the amazing contributions she continues to make to her students, school and community,” said BCPS Superintendent Robert W. Runcie. “She has made a profound and deliberate impact on her students, teachers and administrators by creating an environment responsive to her school and community’s needs, while also allowing for innovation and creativity to nurture academic success.” 

The NASSP National Principal of the Year program honors State Principals of the Year from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Department of State Office of Overseas Schools, and the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity. Out of these exceptional school leaders, three are selected as finalists and one is ultimately selected for the National Principal of the Year award. The 2021 National Principal of the Year will be virtually announced on October 21, 2020, during National Principals Month. 





“Committed to educating all students to reach their highest potential.”  

Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) is the sixth-largest school district in the nation and the second-largest in the state of Florida. BCPS is Florida’s first fully accredited school system since 1962. BCPS has more than 271,500 students and approximately 175,000 adult students in 234 schools, centers and technical colleges, and 92 charter schools. BCPS serves a diverse student population, with students representing 170 different countries and 147 different languages. Connect with BCPS: visit the website at, follow BCPS on Twitter @browardschools and Facebook at, and download the free BCPS mobile app. 


Florida judge: Reopening public schools ‘disregards safety’

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida judge temporarily blocked Gov. Ron DeSantis and top education officials from forcing public schools to reopen brick-and-mortar classrooms amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, ruling that the state’s order “arbitrarily disregards safety.”

But the temporary injunction issued Monday by Leon County Judge Charles Dodson was immediately put on hold when the state appealed the ruling.

In his ruling, Dodson said the mandate to reopen schools usurped local control from school districts in deciding for themselves whether it was safe for students, teachers and staffers to return.

“The districts have no meaningful alternative,” the judge wrote in his opinion.

“If an individual school district chooses safety, that is, delaying the start of schools until it individually determines it is safe to do so for its county, it risks losing state funding, even though every student is being taught,” he ruled.

The Florida Education Association had sued the state after Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued an order earlier this summer mandating that schools reopen classrooms by Aug. 31 or risk losing funding.

“Local communities should have the freedom to make the best decisions for reopening or keeping open local schools. Our districts should not be ruled by reckless edicts from on high. Safety must come before politics,” FEA President Fedrick Ingram said.

Corcoran said he was confident that an appellate court would affirm the state’s decision to reopen classrooms for in-person instruction.

“This fight has been, and will continue to be, about giving every parent, every teacher and every student a choice, regardless of what educational option they choose,” Corcoran said in a statement noting that 1.6 million students of the state’s 2.9 million public school students had already returned.

Most of the state’s schools have already reopened, but Monday’s ruling — should it be upheld by a state appellate court — will give local school boards more authority to control whether campuses stay open or closed.

The ruling came as Florida’s coronavirus spread appeared to be waning, although it still outpaces the ability of contact tracers to contain outbreaks. With several key metrics on the decline, the Miami Dolphins and the University of Miami Hurricanes were readying to welcome fans back to Hard Rock Stadium under social distancing conditions.

State-provided statistics showed 4,655 people being treated for COVID-19 in Florida hospitals on Monday, less than half of the peaks above 9,500 a month ago.

A total of 72 new deaths were reported, bringing the seven day average down to 123, the lowest rate in a month. Average daily increases in cases over the past week have declined to a level not seen since late June.

DeSantis told a news conference Monday that emergency-room visits for COVID-19-like illnesses have declined about 75% since a statewide peak on July 7.

The situation has improved so much, DeSantis said, that the Miami Dolphins football team can now have up to 13,000 socially distancing fans attend their home opener against Buffalo on Sept. 20.

“We have to have society function,” the governor said. “You can take the basic steps to make sure that’s done safely. But to just say, ‘No, we’re not going to do anything,’ I don’t think that’s a viable pathway for the state going forward.”

The University of Miami will follow the same coronavirus mitigation plan for its home opener against UAB at the Dolphins’ stadium on Sept. 10, officials said.

“We’re heading to a more normal kind of life,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Crowd size will be about 20% of the stadium’s 65,326-seat capacity, with each group of spectators spaced 6 feet (two meters) apart. And guests will be required to wear masks. Dolphins authorities say guest services, stadium personnel and law enforcement will enforce the mask rule.

“If that is your idea that you can’t be made to wear a mask, this is not the place for you. We view wearing a masks in public places as a contribution to the community, to our collective safety,” Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver G. Gilbert III.

U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, who served as the secretary of health and human services during the Clinton administration, expressed concern about bringing fans back into Hard Rock Stadium.

“So the kinds of precautions that need to be taken are extraordinary, and I think it’s going to be very difficult to do as long as we have community spread,” Shalala said during a Monday morning press call organized by the Democratic Party of Florida.

“We’ve seen evidence that if you put everybody in a bubble, as the NBA has, they at least could prevent a lot of infections. But it is risky — there is no question — that it’s risky when you have community spread,” Shalala said.


Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at and


Tamara Lush reported from St. Petersburg. AP reporters Steve Wine in Miami and Mike Schneider in Orlando contributed to this story.

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Today in History – August 24

The major financial catalyst for the panic of 1857 was the August 24, 1857, failure of the New York branch of the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company. It was soon reported that the entire capital of the Trust’s home office had been embezzled. What followed was one of the most severe economic crises in U.S. history.

The history of the panic is clearly divisible into…two periods: the former, when the banks took the initiative…and the latter, in which the depositors seized it…

The Banks of New York, Their Dealers, the Clearing-House, and the Panic of 1857 External, by J. S. Gibbons. New York: Published by D. Appleton & Co., 1858. p. 361 Making of America: BooksExternal

The War of Wealth. Cin’ti; N.Y.: Strobridge & Co Lith, c1895. Posters: Performing Arts Posters. Prints & Photographs Division
This poster for the stage production The War of Wealth depicts what might have been any number of nineteenth century-financial crises. During that time, the U.S. experienced panics in the years 1819, 1837, 1857, 1873, and 1893.

Almost immediately, New York bankers put severe restrictions on even the most routine transactions. In turn, many people interpreted these restrictions as a sign of impending financial collapse and panicked. Individual holders of stock and of commercial paper rushed to their brokers and eagerly made deals that “a week before they would have shunned as a ruinous sacrifice.” As the September 12, 1857, Harper’s Weekly described the scene on the New York Stock Exchange, “…prominent stocks fell eight or ten per cent in a day, and fortunes were made and lost between ten o’clock in the morning and four of the afternoon.”

The Report of the Clearinghouse Committee, produced in the years following the panic of 1857, found that “A financial panic has been likened to a malignant epidemic, which kills more by terror than by real disease.” Yet behind the reaction of New York’s bankers to the closing of a trust company lay a confluence of national and international events that heightened concern:

  • the British withdrew capital from U.S. banks
  • grain prices fell
  • Russia undersold U.S. cotton on the open market
  • manufactured goods lay in surplus
  • railroads overbuilt and some defaulted on debts
  • land schemes and projects dependent on new rail routes failed

To compound the problem, the SS Central America, a wooden-hulled steamship transporting millions of dollars in gold from the new San Francisco Mint to create a reserve for eastern banks, was caught in a hurricane and sunk in mid-September. (The vessel had aboard 581 persons—many carrying great personal wealth—and more than $1 million in commercial gold. She also bore a secret shipment of 15 tons of federal gold, valued at $20 per ounce, intended for the eastern banks.)

As banking institutions of the day dealt in specie (gold and silver coins instead of paper money) the loss of some thirty thousand pounds of gold reverberated through the financial community. Howell Cobb, secretary of the treasury, encouraged not only the placement of vast amounts of such government gold on the market, but also redemption of government bonds at a premium. At his suggestion, President James Buchanan proposed to Congress that the Treasury be authorized to sell revenue bonds for the first time since the Mexican American War.

The Central America Engulfed in the Ocean…. Illus. in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, October 3, 1857. Prints & Photographs Division

Although bankers showed the first signs of concern, depositors soon followed. On October 3 there was a marked increase of withdrawals in New York, and over the next two weeks withdrawals nearly quadrupled. Reports of financial instability, perhaps exaggerated, were quickly carried between cities by the new telecommunications medium, the telegraph.

Wall Street on Suspension Day, October 14, 1857.

As the public’s faith in soundness of financial institutions continued to plummet, the nation’s banks began to collapse. Although the East Coast was hardest hit—with bank closures in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and elsewhere, bank failures also reached across the Missouri River to cities such as Omaha. The climax came on October 14—Suspension Day, when banking was suspended in New York and throughout New England.

The term panic refers to the worst moments of a financial crisis. What follows is frequently a recession (a period of reduced economic activity) or a depression (a more serious and prolonged period of low economic activity, marked especially by rising unemployment). The contraction of the economy that followed the panic of 1857 was profound and had parallels in Europe, South America, South Africa, and the Far East causing it to be held as the first worldwide economic crisis. In the U.S., the setback caused significant job loss; a major slowdown in capital investment, commerce, land development, and the formation of unions, as well as in the rate of immigration. The effects of the “revulsion,” as it was referred to at the time, lasted a full eighteen months and reverberated until the onset of the Civil War.

Harper’s Weekly for September 12, 1857, took a dim view of dealings on the New York Stock Exchange. They claimed that the greed of speculators underlay the panic and gave examples that included the following:

…Jones believes that we are going to have a “crisis,” a “revulsion,” and “panic.” Or Jones is treasurer of the New Gauge Railway, and having access to the books, knows that it is insolvent. In both these cases Jones directs his broker to sell for his account so many shares of the New Gauge Railway…retaining the right of delivering the stock on any day he pleases prior to the conclusion of the contract. Of course, Jones doesn’t own the stock he sells; he intends to buy it at a reduced price at the time he delivers. Now, if Jones has been right in his prognostications — if the panic and crisis do come, or if the New Gauge Company does turn out to be insolvent, of course the stock goes down, and Jones buys in for delivery at the reduced price, realizing the difference between that price and the one at which he sold. But if Jones has been wrong — if the crisis don’t come, or is unduly postponed — such things have been known to occur — if the New Gauge concern should prove profitable, and not insolvent, why then the stock might go up, and at the end of the contract Jones might be forced to buy for, say $50, that which he sold at $45 — netting a loss of $5 per share.

In the late 1980s the wreck of the SS Central America was located about 8,000 feet under water. One ton of extraordinary riches surfaced including the world’s largest bar of gold ingot, weighing more than eighty pounds, and thousands of 1857-S Liberty Double Eagle twenty-dollar gold pieces, each of which contained nearly a full ounce of gold.


Today in History – August 23

On August 23, 1864, the Union navy captured Fort Morgan, Alabama, breaking the Confederate dominance of the ports of the Gulf of Mexico. As the Union fleet of four ironclad and fourteen wooden ships sailed into the channel on August 5, one of the lead ships, the Tecumseh, hit a mine, at the time known as a “torpedo.”

Portrait of Rear Admiral David G. Farragut, officer of the Federal Navy. Brady National Photographic Portrait Galleries, between 1860 and 1865. Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints. Prints & Photographs Division
Farragut’s Flagship Hartford. c1905. Detroit Publishing Company. Prints & Photographs Division

In reply to the warning, “Torpedoes ahead!” given by the forward ships, commander Admiral David Farragut called out, “Damn the torpedoes!” and, taking the lead with his flagship the Hartford, sailed over the double row of mines and into Mobile Bay.

H. H. Lloyd & Co’s. Campaign Military Charts Showing the Principal Strategic Places of Interest. Egbert L.Viele and Charles Haskins, military and civil engineers; New York: H. H. Lloyd & Co., c1861. Military Battles and Campaigns. Geography & Map Division

The Union army used this chart, which includes sixteen maps of strategic areas of the United States. Use the zoom feature for a closer view of the section showing the Mobile Bay area and its forts.

Although the bottom of the ship scraped the mines, none exploded, and the rest of the fleet followed Farragut’s flagship to victory in the engagement with the Confederate flotilla. During the next weeks, the Union Navy consolidated its hold on the bay by dispersing and capturing Southern ships and tightening the blockade. With the surrender of Fort Morgan, the Union was able to cut the South off from its overseas supply routes.

A Southerner who lived through the Civil War remembered the effects of the Union’s coastline blockade:

…we had to get our cotton to Brownsville during the war and send it through Mexico to the markets in Europe…. One could see, the long wagon trains of cotton…as they slowly mended their way to the Mexican border…the Texas ports were blockaded and all the time enemies were on the watch to confiscate produce of any kind, and especially cotton…

[Mr. Edwin Punchard]. Miss Effie Cowan, interviewer; Riesel, Texas, ca 1936-40. American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940. Manuscript Division

Others recounted tales of the privations caused by the blockade and the makeshifts necessitated by them:

We scraped the salt from the floor of the old smoke houses that were used in the days before the war when all those things were so plentiful.

[Sarah Ann Poss Pringle]. Miss Effie Cowan, interviewer; Marlin, Texas, ca 1936-40. American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940. Manuscript Division

Mrs. Ida Baker explained:

Everybody had to use parched wheat, parched okra seed or parched raw sweet potato chips for coffee. Not even tea came in. We used sassafras and other native herb teas both daily and at parties when the herb teas were in season. Some were good, but the substitute coffee was not.

[At Christmas Times]. Mrs. Ida Baker, interviewee; Caldwell Sims, interviewer; Spartanburg, South Carolina, Jan. 12, 1938. American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940. Manuscript Division

On the blockade was one Admiral Farragut,
Who was noted for being a very brave man;
Who never was known to be scarified, ne’er a bit,
And his vessels in all kinds of ructions he ran.
He gave a large party one day to his squadron,
Officers and men he invited them all;
And if you’ll pay attention, I’ll just try to mention,
The row and the ructions at Farragut’s ball.

“Farragut’s Ball, a Parody on Lanigan’s Ball.” By J.E.V., U.S. Steamer Richmond; R. H. Singleton, Bookseller; Nashville, Tenn. America Singing: Nineteenth-Century Song Sheets. Rare Book & Special Collections Division


Today in History – August 22

On August 22, 1966, the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC), later renamed the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), was formed. The UFWOC was established when two smaller organizations, the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) and the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), both in the middle of strikes against certain California grape growers, merged and moved under the umbrella of the AFL-CIO. Under the founding leadership of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, the UFW won many labor or civil rights concessions for disenfranchised Mexican-American farmworkers, an important aspect of the Chicano movement. The Chicano movement has been an often-ignored part of the civil rights struggles in the 1960s; it was, nonetheless, a landmark period for the second-largest ethnic minority in the U.S.

(Yes We Can!)

Slogan used by Cesar Chavez, First president of the United Farm Workers

Boycott Lettuce and Grapes. Chicago: [Women’s Graphics Collective, 1978]. Posters: Artists Posters. Prints & Photographs Division

Before the rise of the UFW, working conditions were harsh for most agricultural workers. On average, farmworkers made about ninety cents per hour plus ten cents for each basket of produce they picked. Many workers in the field were not provided even the most basic necessities such as clean drinking water or portable toilets. Unfair hiring practices, such as favoritism and kickbacks, were rampant. Seldom were their living quarters equipped with indoor plumbing or cooking facilities.

Migratory Mexican Field Worker’s Home on the Edge of a Frozen Pea Field, Imperial Valley, California. Dorothea Lange, photographer, March 1937. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives. Prints & Photographs Division

Through a series of demonstrations, strikes, and protests, the UFW brought these issues to the public’s attention. In 1965, one of the first major actions taken by the UFW was to call for a boycott of table grapes, which became a nationwide boycott by 1968. Several other boycotts against lettuce and strawberry growers were organized in following years. On February 14, 1968, UFW President Cesar Chavez began the first of many fasts in protest of the treatment of farmworkers. During this first fast he received a strong letter of support from Martin Luther King Jr. On March 10, he broke the fast with Robert Kennedy at his side.

In 1973, the UFW organized a march through the Coachella and Imperial valleys in Central California to the United States-Mexico border to protest growers’ use of illegal immigrants as strikebreakers. The thousands of marchers were joined by the Reverend Ralph Abernathy and U.S. Senator Walter Mondale. In 1970, Chavez was jailed for defying a court injunction against boycotting. While imprisoned, he was visited by Coretta Scott King and Ethel Kennedy.

Through these dramatic moves the UFW won many important benefits for agricultural workers. It brought comprehensive health benefits for farmworkers and their families, rest periods, clean drinking water, sanitary facilities, and even profit sharing and parental leave. The UFW also has pioneered the fight to protect farmworkers against harmful pesticides.

Migrant Mexican Children in Contractor’s Camp at Time of Early Pea Harvest, Nipomo, California. Dorothea Lange, photographer, Jan. 1935. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives. Prints & Photographs Division
Mexican Girl, Carrot Worker, Edinburg, Texas. Russell Lee, photographer, Feb. 1939. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives . Prints & Photographs Division
Filipino Crew of Fifty-five Boys Cutting and Loading Lettuce, Imperial Valley, California. Dorothea Lange, photographer, Feb. 1937. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives. Prints & Photographs Division

Learn more about farmworkers and labor unions in the Library’s Digital Collections.

Viva Chavez, Viva la Causa, Viva la Huelga. Paul Davis, artist; New York, Darien House, 1968. Posters: Artists Posters. Prints & Photographs Division.

This poster was used to promote a 1968 benefit performance, at Carnegie Hall, for the California Grape Workers and the National Farm Workers Service Center.


Today in History – August 21

On August 21, 1912 Arthur R. Eldred of Oceanside, New York, achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the Boy Scouts of America. He was the first person to earn the award. He did not receive the actual badge until September 2 (Labor Day), as the badge had not yet been made.

On my honor I will do my best
to do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
to help other people at all times;
to keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

The Boy Scout Oath External

United Nations Fight for Freedom: colored, white and Chinese Boy Scouts in front of Capitol. They help out by delivering poster to help the war effort. John Rous, photographer, [1943]. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Color Photographs. Prints & Photographs Division

The Boy Scout movement began with the 1908 publication of British Lieutenant General Robert S. S. Baden-Powell‘s handbook, Scouting for Boys. In 1902, nature writer Ernest Thompson Seton advocated organizing a boys’ club called “Woodcraft Indians.” Seton helped inspire Baden-Powell’s efforts to marshal existing boys’ groups into scout patrols. Baden-Powell’s book describes the games and activities that he developed to train cavalry troops during Britain’s South African War and suggests an organizational framework for scouting. The appeal of Scouting for Boys reflected the popular fascination throughout the English-speaking world with nature-based recreation as a means of character development. Other popular books about nature and wilderness as recreational resources published from 1850 to 1920 are included with the digital collection, The Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920.

The Boy Scouts of America External was founded in 1910 with President William Howard Taft as honorary president. Seton wrote the first Scout manual for American boy scouts. By 1912, every state could claim a boy scout troop. In the same year, the organization inaugurated its program of national civic Good Turns: promotion of a “Safe and Sane Fourth of July” was the earliest of these campaigns. Congress granted the Boy Scouts a federal charter in 1916, authorizing a Scout uniform similar to a U.S. armed services uniform.

President with Boy Scouts. Harris & Ewing, photographer, [1937]. Harris & Ewing Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

In the 1930s, Vito Cacciola, an Italian immigrant living in New England, extolled the virtues of scouting to Merton R. Lovett in an interview for the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration. According to the conventions of the day, Lovett attempted to capture Cacciola’s pronunciation by transcribing his words in dialect:

I thinka de Boy Scouts is good for boys… [D]e Italian boys maka good Boy Scouts… It maka de boys strong. It maka them acquainted with nature. Some Italian boys does not know de flowers and de trees. The wilds animals and birds they does not recogniza. Yes, it is better than playa on de street. And I thinka they learna some good lessons, what?

[Interview with Vito Cacciola]. Merton R. Lovett,interviewer; Connecticut, 1936-40. American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940. Manuscript Division

Girl Scouts. Troop #1. Mrs. Juliette Low, Founder, right; Elenore Putsske, center; Evaline Glance, 2nd from right. Harris & Ewing, photographer, 1917. Harris & Ewing Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

In 1912, Juliette Gordon Low started the Girl Scouts External in Savannah, Georgia. At a time when women in the United States couldn’t yet vote, Mrs. Low, 51 years old and nearly deaf, started a worldwide movement encouraging girls with activities to build strength and intellect. Her efforts to bring fresh-air and community-service activities to girls proved popular. In 1915, the Girl Scouts established its first national headquarters in Washington, D.C. Low’s birthplace and family home, the Wayne-Gordon House, in Savannah is now a museum to girl scouting. Girl Scout cookie sales started in 1917 and quickly became an important fundraiser for the organization. Initially selling homemade cookies, by the mid-1930s, Girl Scouts peddled precursors of the commercially-baked treats that we know today.

Girl Scouts. [between 1920 and 1921]. National Photo Company Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

Seven United States first ladies have been girl scouts, from Edith Wilson to Michelle Obama. Royal former girl scouts include Queen Elizabeth II and her daughter Princess Anne, and Princess Margaret. Girl scouts are still active indoors and outdoors, serving their communities, and developing leadership skills.

March of the Girl Scouts. Lewis J. Williams, composer; Marguerite Van Fleet, lyricist; Toledo Ohio: Frances M. Burk, publisher, 1918. World War I Sheet Music. Music Division.


Today in History – August 20

On August 20, 1866, the newly organized National Labor Union called on Congress to mandate an eight-hour workday. A coalition of skilled and unskilled workers, farmers, and reformers, the National Labor Union was created to pressure Congress to enact labor reforms. It dissolved in 1873 following a disappointing venture into third-party politics in the 1872 presidential election.

I’ve worked in the mill in my day, until nine o’clock at night, from seven in the mornin’…I wouldn’t want to go back to it, and I don’t think anyone else would. An eight hour day is long enough.

[Mother White]. Matthew White, interviewee. Connecticut, 1938-1939. American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940. Manuscript Division

Occupational Portrait of Three Railroad Workers Standing on Crank Handcar. [between 1850 and 1860]. Daguerreotypes. Prints & Photographs Division

Although the National Labor Union failed to persuade Congress to shorten the workday, its efforts heightened public awareness of labor issues and increased public support for labor reform in the 1870s and 1880s.

The Knights of Labor, a powerful advocate for the eight-hour day in the 1870s and early 1880s, proved more effective. Organized in 1869, by 1886 the Knights of Labor counted 700,000 laborers, shopkeepers, and farmers among its members. Under the leadership of Terrence V. Powderly, the union discouraged the use of strikes and advocated restructuring society along cooperative lines.

Leaders of the Knights of Labor. Chicago: Kurz & Allison, c1886. Popular Graphic Arts. Prints & Photographs Division

In 1886, a series of violent strikes waged by railway workers tarnished the union’s reputation. In May, police were called in when fighting broke out between striking workers and strikebreakers at the McCormick Reaper Works of the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company in the Haymarket area of Chicago, Illinois.

Attention Workingmen! Great Mass Meeting To-night, at 7:30 o’clock, at the Haymarket… Chicago, 1886. Printed Ephemera: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera. Rare Book & Special Collections Division

The police shot two union men; later, an explosion killed seven policemen. Although the person who set off the bomb was never identified, four alleged anarchist labor leaders were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and hanged. Three more men remained imprisoned until they were pardoned by Illinois governor John Peter Altgeld in 1893. The Haymarket Riot branded as “radical” the eight-hour-day movement and diminished popular support for organized labor.

The decline of the Knights of Labor contributed to the rise of the American Federation of Labor, established under the leadership of Samuel Gompers in 1886. Whereas the Knights of Labor aimed at legislative reforms including the eight-hour day and child labor laws, the American Federation of Labor focused on protecting the autonomy and established privileges of individual craft unions.

Coal Breaker Boys. [between 1890 and 1910]. Detroit Publishing Company. Prints & Photographs Division

Progress toward an eight-hour day was minimal until June 1933 when Congress enacted the National Industrial Recovery Act, an emergency measure taken by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in response to the economic devastation of the Great Depression. The Act provided for the establishment of maximum hours, minimum wages, and the right to collective bargaining. Struck down by the Supreme Court in May 1935, the Recovery Act was soon replaced by the Wagner Act, which assured workers the right to unionize.

Depression-era workers continued, however, to bemoan their long, hard day. On May 16, 1939, Henry Truvillion sang the steelworkers’ blues for John and Ruby Lomax, who recorded him during their trip through Louisiana. Listen to recordings of work songs such as Henry Truvillion’s in the collection Southern Mosaic: The John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip.

Steel-Driving Song,” Performed by Henry Truvillion, May 16, 1939, between Newton and Burkeville, Texas. Southern Mosaic: The John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip. American Folklife Center

Girls Taking Time Checks, Westinghouse Works. G. W. “Billy” Bitzer, cameraman; American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, 1904. Inside an American Factory: Films of the Westinghouse Works, 1904. Motion Picture, Broadcasting & Recorded Sound Division


People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is founded

Month Day
August 21

On August 21, 1980, animal rights advocates Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco found People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Rising from humble beginnings, PETA will soon become the world’s foremost and most controversial animal rights organization.

Newkirk’s interest in protecting animals began 11 years prior, when she found some abandoned kittens and was appalled by the conditions that awaited them at a New York City animal shelter. She set aside her plans to become a stockbroker and instead focused on animals, eventually becoming the first female poundmaster in the history of the District of Columbia. In 1980 she began dating Pacheco, a graduate student and activist who had sailed aboard a whale-protection ship, and the two co-founded PETA a short time later. 

PETA’s first major campaign came the following year, when Pacheco got a job at a research facility in Silver Spring, Maryland in order to expose the experiments being conducted on monkeys there. PETA distributed photos of the monkeys being kept in horrific conditions, leading to a police raid and, eventually, the first-ever conviction of a researcher on animal-cruelty charges.

Having made a national name for itself, PETA continued to shine a spotlight on animal cruelty. PETA continued to conduct undercover operations and file lawsuits on behalf of animals, but is is perhaps best known for its marketing campaigns and stunts. An early-’90s ad campaign depicted bloody scenes from slaughterhouses with captions like “Do you want fries with that?” while another ad series featured a number of naked celebrities in protest of the fur industry. PETA activists have been known to wear elaborate costumes, body paint, or nothing at all to draw attention to their causes, and to throw red paint symbolizing blood on people wearing fur. 

PETA has been criticized from all sides—many believe them to be extremists and find their methods distasteful, while other activists criticize PETA’s willingness to work with corporations in industries like fast food or fashion to make incremental improvements to animal welfare. Still others within the animal rights movement argue that PETA plays an outsized role, focusing attention on media controversies instead of concrete changes.

Nonetheless, PETA has achieved a litany of animal-rights reforms: convincing some of the world’s largest fashion brands not to use fur, animal-testing bans by more than 4,6000 personal-care companies, ending the use of animals in automobile crash tests, closing the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s Circus and exposing thousands of instances of animal cruelty across the world are just a few of the organization’s accomplishments.

READ MORE: 5 Animals That Helped Change History 


Today in History – August 19

On August 19, 1814, during the War of 1812, British troops under the command of Major General Robert Ross and Rear Admiral George Cockburn landed at Benedict, Maryland, on the shores of the Patuxent River. The British fleet, under the command of Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane, had chased U.S. Commodore Joshua Barney’s flotilla into the Patuxent River, but the true goal was the capture of the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. — only a few days march away. At the same time, Vice Admiral Cochrane ordered Captain James Gordon to sail other British warships up the Potomac River towards Washington which was defended only by Fort Warburton (later renamed Fort Washington) on the east bank of the river, twelve miles south of the nation’s capital. News of this British onslaught caused panic in Washington and many of its residents fled.

Capture and Burning of Washington by the British, in 1814. Illus. in: Our first century:…by Richard Miller Devens. Springfield, Mass.: C.A. Nichols & Co., 1876, p247. Prints & Photographs Division

Commodore Joshua Barney commanded an assortment of small, quick gunboats, galleys, and barges that for weeks prior had outmaneuvered the larger British ships in the shallow Chesapeake waters. However, after being forced up the Patuxent, Barney and his men abandoned and destroyed their flotilla, linked up with a contingent of marines, and marched to Washington. Unsure of where the British would attack, American volunteers and militiamen from Maryland, Virginia, and Washington also scrambled to the capital and its outskirts. When word reached them that the British were marching towards Bladensburg, the American forces moved there to take up defensive positions.

The Taking of the City of Washington in America. West Smithfield,[London]: G. Thompson, publisher, Oct. 14, 1814. Popular Graphic Arts. Prints & Photographs Division

Although the Americans outnumbered the British at Bladensburg, they were poorly trained compared to the well-disciplined professional soldiers under the command of Major General Ross. On August 24, after thousands of American militiamen had retreated, only a small contingent of the flotilla—men and marines under Barney’s command—managed a valiant but futile counterattack. The British troops then continued on to Washington.

Mrs. James Madison, (Dolley Payne)… Engraving from original picture by Gilbert Stuart, artist. [between 1804 and 1855]. Prints & Photographs Division

Before leaving the city, First Lady Dolley Madison ordered that White House possessions be packed and removed from the city — silverware, books, clocks, curtains, and most importantly, Gilbert Stuart’s full-length portrait of George Washington. President James Madison escaped only hours before the British entered the city. In order to prevent the British from capturing it, the Americans set fire to the Washington Navy Yard. Upon entering the city, the British set fire to the White House, the Capitol, and many of the other public buildings. The Patent Office, however, was saved from destruction by the Superintendent of Patents, Dr. William Thornton, who convinced the British of the importance of its preservation. The burning of the Capitol destroyed the small library of Congress that was housed in the building. In order to reestablish a library of and for Congress, Thomas Jefferson, offered to sell his private book collection to the government.

A View of the Capitol after the Conflagration of the 24th August 1814. William Strickland, engraver, George Munger, artist, [1814]. Popular Graphic Arts. Prints & Photographs Division

The Battle of Bladensburg and the burning of Washington were humiliating defeats for the United States. Within a few days, however, citizens were able to return to the decimated city. The British left Washington as swiftly as they had entered, moving on to capture the city of Alexandria and lay siege to Baltimore.