Bill of Rights Day is December 15. Have your students rank their rights. This tool gets students thinking about what rights are most important to them and which amendment protects that right.
Legend has it that on the night of December 2, 1777, Philadelphia housewife and nurse Lydia Darragh single-handedly saves the lives of General George Washington and his Continental Army when she overhears the British planning a surprise attack on Washington’s army for the following day.
During the occupation of Philadelphia, British General William Howe stationed his headquarters across the street from the Darragh home, and when Howe’s headquarters proved too small to hold meetings, he commandeered a large upstairs room in the Darraghs’ house. Although uncorroborated, family legend holds that Mrs. Darragh would eavesdrop and take notes on the British meetings from an adjoining room and would conceal the notes by sewing them into her coat before passing them onto American troops stationed outside the city.
On the evening of December 2, 1777, Darragh overheard the British commanders planning a surprise attack on Washington’s army at Whitemarsh, Pennsylvania, for December 4 and 5. Using a cover story that she needed to buy flour from a nearby mill just outside the British line, Darragh passed the information to American Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Craig the following day.
The British marched towards Whitemarsh on the evening of December 4, 1777, and were surprised to find General Washington and the Continental Army waiting for them. After three inconclusive days of skirmishing, General Howe chose to return his troops to Philadelphia.
It is said that members of the Central Intelligence Agency still tell the story of Lydia Darragh, one of the first spies in American history.
Reposted from History.com.
The presidential pardon of the Thanksgiving turkey has become an annual event, but the peace pact between the fowl and the White House is a relatively new thing. And in fact, a few presidents actually ate their guests!
The first president to unofficially pardon a turkey was Abraham Lincoln, who instructed the White House to save a bird given to the president. Lincoln’s son had grown fond of the bird (and the president was a big animal lover).
But Lincoln didn’t start a tradition, and neither did President Harry S. Truman, who is often credited as the father of the presidential turkey pardon.
Since Lincoln’s time, there had been a steady parade of turkeys heading to the White House as the entree for the President’s holiday dinner. Horace Vose of Rhode Island provided many of the birds, starting with President Grant and ending with President Wilson.
Photos from Truman’s administration show the president happily receiving a turkey as a gift from the Poultry and Egg National Board at a public event. President Dwight Eisenhower also was photographed receiving his bird from the turkey lobby.
An article that later appeared in The Washington Post revealed the real reason the men were smiling: They served up their guests on Thanksgiving Day as the main course! In one image from Time magazine, Eisenhower is grinning widely as he’s carving a very large turkey.
John F. Kennedy then started a trend by publicly sparing a turkey given to the White House. He decided after receiving a bird on November 19, 1963, that it shouldn’t stay as dinner. The turkey was wearing a sign that said, “Good Eatin’ Mr. President.” JFK spared the bird just three days before he was assassinated in Dallas.
Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan were all photographed at turkey press conferences with their guests of honor. It’s not 100 percent known if any of the birds survived their White House tour–without being stuffed, dressed, and served on a platter.
Reagan joked about pardoning a turkey during the days of the Iran-Contra affair, but the bird was already scheduled to live out its life at a zoo.
It was President George H.W. Bush who made the turkey pardon official when he took office in 1989.
Since then, turkeys across the United States have rejoiced, at least one day a year, as the leaders have spared a lucky bird from the Thanksgiving table.
But the turkeys, who are bred to be eaten, have a very short life span. The National Turkey Federation, which raises birds for the presidential pardon ceremony , says a pardoned bird will be lucky to live two years after it’s saved by the president.
Part of the confusion over the origin of the turkey pardon came from statements made by President Bill Clinton, who said the pardon as a tradition started with Lincoln and Truman.
It’s true Lincoln did a one-time turkey pardon, but Truman aficionados say there’s little evidence the president spared his birds.
The White House is the best-known residence in the nation, and a few of its famous residents are rumored to be long-term tenants.
Ghost stories have been part of the executive mansion’s heritage for over a century, and as we approach Halloween, let’s take a look at the top stories passed down from people who claimed to have bumped into some departed presidents and others.
1. Lincoln’s ghost
There may have been more sightings of Abraham Lincoln’s spirit than presidents who inhabited the White House, and some reports seem to be in jest.
But there are a lot of reports from workers at the White House and even Winston Churchill that they bumped into Lincoln wandering the building years after his death.
Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theater in 1865 and died at a nearby boarding house. But it is his spirit that is reportedly stuck at the White House, where he planned the Civil War and had started planning reconciliation when he was killed just days after Robert E. Lee’s surrender.
The most famous Lincoln story is from Churchill, who was staying at the residence after World War II, the British leader had just emerged from a bath, wearing nothing and smoking a cigar. He reportedly met the late president.
“Good evening, Mr. President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage,” Churchill allegedly said. He also refused to stay in the room after the encounter.
2. Jackson’s ghost
Another famous president who still could be seeking a longer term in the White House is Andrew Jackson.
The reported encounters with Old Hickory are not sightings but hearings. And what people reportedly hear from Jackson is a lot cursing from the 19th-century president.
One person who believed Jackson’s spirit remained in the White House was Mary Todd Lincoln, who held regular séances there after her son, Willie, died.
There was also a reported Jackson encounter during the administration of President Dwight Eisenhower.
3. Abigail Adams
John Adams’ wife only stayed at the White House for a few months as its first occupant, along with her husband. Thomas Jefferson was the first president to spend a full term at the residence.
But some people believe Abigail Adams returns for an occasional visit to supervise the laundry.
Mrs. Adams used the East Room to hang out her laundry in 1800. A sighting of her was reported there during the Taft administration about 112 years later, when an apparition was seen carrying clothes in its arms.
4. Dolley Madison
The irrepressible Dolley Madison is best known today for rescuing the Gilbert Stuart painting of George Washington from the White House before the British burned it down during the War of 1812.
But in ghost lore, she’s best known for reportedly encountering two gardeners during the Wilson administration a century later.
First Lady Edith Wilson asked the two to move the fabled Rose Garden, which Madison had created and nurtured.
The gardeners were reportedly met by an angry Dolley.
Today, the Rose Garden remains where Dolley Madison wanted it.
5. The British fire starter
The most traumatic incident in White House history was its destruction by British troops in 1814. A royal soldier apparently died in the attack after he helped set fire to the White House, and there are reports he occasionally returns to finish the job.
One incident was reported a few years after the Truman-era restoration, where the spirit was seen trying to set a bed on fire.
Also, there was a major fire in the West Wing during the Hoover administration on Christmas Eve in 1929.
Officially, it was a clogged fireplace flue that stared the blaze.
Even today, recent White House staffers reported hearing strange noises late at night in the White House. But there’s one president who probably hasn’t come back for a guest appearance.
James Buchanan openly tired of being president as the Civil War grew near.
“If you are as happy in entering the White House as I shall feel on returning to Wheatland, you are a happy man indeed,” Buchanan said just before leaving office in 1861.