Fascinating Facts

  • 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…)

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  • 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…)

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  • 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…)

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  • 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…)

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  • 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…)

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

    skeleton

    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.
    (more…)

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  • 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.

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