By Seth Connell & Samantha Rozzell
July 8, 1776: Liberty Bell Rings to Announce Declaration of Independence
On this day in 1776, the 2,000 pound, copper and tin bell rang from Independence Hall summoning the citizens of Philadelphia for the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. The document was drafted 4 days earlier by Congress, but the bell did not ring until it was back from printing on July 8. During the war, the bell was removed from Independence Hall to prevent the British troops from capturing it and melting it to make cannons. After the war, the bell was restored to its place in Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The name “Liberty Bell” was first coined by an 1839 poem in an abolitionist pamphlet. The bell it housed in a pavilion about 100 yards from Independence Hall and is visited by over 1 million people every year.
July 9, 1850: President Zachary Taylor Dies
Just 16 months after being sworn into the presidency, Zachary Taylor died of a brief, unexpected illness. The actual cause of death is disputed among historians. Theories vary from typhoid to gastroenteritis from the combination of acidic cherries and iced milk he had consumed on the Fourth of July. Outbreaks of cholera, typhoid and other diseases were common in the summer months in the 1800s, when sewer systems were extremely primitive, if existent at all. President Taylor was succeeded by his Vice President Millard Fillmore, who was sworn in the next day.
July 10, 1790: Washington D.C. Declared as Nation’s New Capital
On this day in 1790, Congress declared that the swampy region between Maryland and Virginia will be the nation’s permanent capital. The federal District of Columbia would be named after American Revolutionary hero and first president, George Washington. He asked French architect Pierre L’Enfant to design the capital, and in 1793, the cornerstones of the presidential mansion were laid. Washington was only in office one year when the new capital was determined, and would not reside there, as it was not habitable until 1800. John Adams would be the first president to officially live in the new capital, and to live in the newly built President’s Mansion, later changed to the White House.
July 11, 1656: First Quaker Colonists Arrive in Massachusetts Bay Colony
Ann Austin and Mary Fisher, two Englishwomen from a mission in Barbados, became the first Quakers to immigrate to America when they stepped into Massachusetts Bay colony in 1656. Shortly after their arrival, both were jailed due to their liberal teachings which outraged the Puritan leadership of the colony. They spent five years in prison before being deported back to Barbados. In October, 1656, the Massachusetts colonial government issued a ban on Quakers, and in 1658, banished all Quakers from the colony under penalty of death. Many Quakers moved to what would be called Rhode Island. These anti-Quaker laws were later repealed.
July 12, 1862: Medal of Honor Created
President Lincoln signed into law creating an Army Medal of Honor. He stated, “To such noncommissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other solider-like qualities during the present insurrection.” In 1863 this medal was changed so that any serving member of the military could receive it. Since then, more than 3,000 medals have been given to outstanding servicemen. Only one woman has received this medal. During the Civil War, Mary Edwards Walker was a surgeon during the first battle of Bull Run.
July 13, 1960: Democratic Party nominates John F. Kennedy for presidency
JFK beat Lyndon B. Johnson in the Democratic race. Later Kennedy went on to win the presidency but was assassinated before he could finish his first term. His Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson became acting president after his death.
July 14, 1987: Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North Concludes Six Days of Congressional Testimony
Oliver North came into the spotlight when weapons were being sold to Iran. The result of this hearing was convicted of three felonies. He received a suspended jail sentence, paid $150,000 in fines, and sentenced to do 1,200 hours of community service. Over the years there has been controversy over this time in history. Many believe North simply took the fall for other people in the Reagan administration. Today he has become an iconic figure with his military experience.
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