Fascinating Facts

  • Happy Birthday to Rosa Parks: February 4, 1913

    Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (February 4, 1913 – October 24, 2005) was an American civil rights activist, whom the United States Congress called “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement.”

    Here’s why: On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks refused to obey bus driver James F. Blake’s order to give up her seat in the colored section to a white passenger, after the white section was filled. Parks was not the first person to resist bus segregation.

    Celebrate Freedom!  Her birthday, February 4, and the day she was arrested, December 1, have both become Rosa Parks Day, commemorated in California and Missouri (February 4), and Ohio and Oregon (December 1).


    Learn More

  • Happy Birthday Gertrude Stein: “There is no there there”

    Gertrude Stein (February 3, 1874 – July 27, 1946) was an American novelist, poet, playwright, and art collector. Born in the Allegheny West neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and raised in Oakland, California, Stein moved to Paris in 1903, and made France her home for the remainder of her life. She hosted a Paris salon, where the leading figures of modernism in literature and art, such as Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Ezra Pound, and Henri Matisse would meet. (more…)

    Learn More

  • Woodrow Wilson Dies Today: February 3, 1924

    Thomas Woodrow Wilson (December 28, 1856 – February 3, 1924) was an American politician and academic who served as the 28th President of the United States from 1913 to 1921. Born in Staunton, Virginia, he spent his early years in Augusta, Georgia and Columbia, South Carolina.

    He was the first Southerner elected as president since Zachary Taylor in 1848, and a leading force in the Progressive Movement, bolstered by his Democratic Party’s winning control of both the White House and Congress in 1912. (more…)

    Learn More

  • Happy Birthday Oprah Winfrey, born today in 1954

    Oprah Gail Winfrey (born January 29, 1954) is an American media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist. She is best known for her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show, which was the highest-rated television program of its kind in history and was nationally syndicated from 1986 to 2011.

    Dubbed the “Queen of All Media,” she has been ranked the richest African-American, the greatest black philanthropist in American history,[ and is currently North America’s first and only multi-billionaire black person. (more…)

    Learn More

  • Winston Churchill Dies Today in 1965

    January 24, 1965 — Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (November 30, 1874 – January 24, 1965) was a British statesman who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. Churchill was also an officer in the British Army, a non-academic historian, and a writer (as Winston S. Churchill). He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953 for his overall, lifetime body of work. In 1963, he was the first of only eight people to be made an honorary citizen of the United States. (more…)

    Learn More

  • Happy Birthday Benjamin Franklin: January 17, 1706

    Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706 – April 17, 1790) is one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A renowned polymath, he was a leading author in his day, as well as a printer, political theorist, politician, freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. As an inventor, he is known for the lightning rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove, among other inventions. He facilitated many civic organizations, including Philadelphia’s fire department and The University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League institution. (more…)

    Learn More

  • Happy Birthday MLK: January 15, 1929

    Martin Luther King Jr. (born Michael King Jr., January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American Baptist minister and activist who was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs.

    In the final years of his life, King expanded his focus to include opposition towards poverty and the Vietnam War, alienating many of his liberal allies with a 1967 speech titled “Beyond Vietnam.” (more…)

    Learn More

  • President Theodore Roosevelt Dies Today: January 6, 1919

    Theodore Roosevelt Jr. (October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919) was an American statesman, author, explorer, soldier, naturalist, and reformer who served as the 26th President of the United States from 1901 to 1909. As a leader of the Republican Party during this time, he became a driving force for the Progressive Era in the United States in the early 20th century. (more…)

    Learn More

  • Happy Birthday American politician Barry Goldwater: January 2, 1909

    Barry Morris Goldwater (January 2, 1909 – May 29, 1998) was an American politician and businessman who was a five-term United States Senator from Arizona (1953–65, 1969–87) and the Republican Party’s nominee for President of the United States in the 1964 election. Despite losing the election by a landslide, Goldwater is the politician most often credited for sparking the resurgence of the American conservative political movement in the 1960s. He also had a substantial impact on the libertarian movement. (more…)

    Learn More

  • History Challenge: Take This Fun, Five-Question Quiz about Charles Willson Peale

    Look for hints in our video about Revolutionary era painter Charles Willson Peale for clues to the answers!

    Architectural view of the James W. and Frances G. McGlothlin Wing - Twilight northeast, September 20131. What does “VMFA” stand for?

    A) Vermont Military and Farming Association

    B) Vegetarian Moms for Agriculture

    C) Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

    D) Victorian Models and Fashion Affiliation (more…)

    Learn More

  • Charles Willson Peale helped discover and put together the remnant of which ancient animal?


    A) Saber-Toothed Tiger

    B) Mastodon Elephant

    C) Tyrannosaurus Rex

    D) Megalodon Shark

    The answer is: B) a Mastodon Elephant.

    Here’s the story: In 1801, a mastodon specimen was discovered near Newburgh, N.Y., and Charles Willson Peale, was called in to assist. He brought his son, Rembrandt, to assist, and together they excavated an almost complete skeleton, which Rembrandt illustrated in 1801 (pictured at right).

    feetAfter lugging the bones back to Philadelphia, the Peales mounted the specimen for display, and soon chimed in on the debate regarding the nature of mastodons, arguing that the beasts were mighty carnivores. To the Peales’ and their friend Thomas Jefferson, the mastodon was far more than an exciting exhibit — it was a natural hymn for their new nation.

    Learn More

  • Which three Revolutionary Era presidents died on July 4?

    July 4, 1826 — Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died today on the 50th anniversary of signing the Declaration of Independence.

    Their views on government diverged over the years when they ran against each other in the presidential elections of 1796 and 1800. Adams won the election of 1796 on the platform of building a strong government; Jefferson won the election of 1800, favoring a more limited government.

    The political powerhouses rekindled their friendship in the winter of 1812 and remained friends until today when Adams, 90, lay on his deathbed while the country celebrated Independence Day. His last words were “Thomas Jefferson still survives.” Unbeknownst to him, Jefferson had died five hours earlier at Monticello at the age of 83.

    Then, five years later — on July 4, 1831 — the nation’s fifth president, James Monroe, died at his son-in-law’s home in New York City. Monroe, 73, had been ill for some time.

    Learn More