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19th Amendment ratified thanks to one vote

June 10, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

A dramatic battle in the Tennessee House of Representatives ends with the state ratifying the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution on August 18, 1920. After decades of struggle and protest by suffragettes across the country, the decisive vote is cast by a 24-year-old representative who reputedly changed his vote after receiving a note from his mother.

READ MORE: The Mother Who Saved Suffrage: Passing the 19th Amendment

When Carrie Chapman Catt took over from Anthony as President of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1900, she prioritized the push for a constitutional amendment to give women the vote. At the outset of World War I, NAWSA urged women to prove their worth to the war effort while the National Women’s Party, led by Lucy Burns and Alice Paul, engaged in civil disobedience, directly targeting President Woodrow Wilson with protests outside the White House. Finally, facing growing pressure on multiple fronts, Wilson called a special session of congress in May of 1919 and personally appealed for women’s suffrage. Having voted down the amendment six times, Congress finally approved it, sending it to the states for ratification.

By March of 1920, just one more state needed to ratify the 19 Amendment in order for it to become law. The Tennessee General Assembly took up the question in August, and suffragists and anti-suffragist bore down on Nashville. The State Senate voted convincingly to ratify, but the House failed to do so twice, by two votes of 48 to 48. State Rep. Harry T. Burn, a 24-year-old from McMinn County, was one of the “nay” votes. Reportedly, he had intended to vote for ratification but had been persuaded not to by telegrams from his constituents and members of his party. Just as a third vote was set to begin, Burn received a letter from his mother, Febb Ensminger Burn, that read, in part, “Hurrah and vote for Suffrage and don’t keep them in doubt … I’ve been watching to see how you stood but have not seen anything yet … Don’t forget to be a good boy.” On the third vote, Burns changed his mind. Thanks to his single vote, the House approved the amendment, Tennessee ratified it, and the Constitution was changed to guarantee women the right to vote.

READ MORE: How Suffragists Raced to Secure Women’s Right to Vote Ahead of the 1920 Election

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Source: HISTORY

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Pierre Lallement, inventor of the bicycle, arrives in the U.S.

June 10, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

On July 20, 1865, a Frenchman named Pierre Lallement arrives in the United States, carrying the plans and components for the first modern bicycle. Lallement constructed and patented the first bicycle in the United States, but received no significant reward or recognition for introducing the nation to an invention that soon became ubiquitous.

Born near Nancy, France, Lallement trained as a mechanic. He was working as a carriage builder when he first saw a dandy horse—similar to a bike, but powered directly by the rider’s feet pushing it along the ground—and began drawing up plans for a similar machine. Lallement’s major innovation was adding a transmission and pedals, which allowed for a smoother, faster, and somewhat more dignified ride. Along with another carriage builder, Pierre Marchaux, Lallement is credited with building the first working prototype for a bicycle. Due to a dispute between himself, Marchaux and his son, and the Olivier brothers with whom Marchaux went into business, however, Lallement found himself shut out of the first mass-produced bicycle business in France.

Upon arriving in the United States, Lallement settled in Ansonia, Connecticut. He demonstrated his invention for the locals—one of whom reportedly fled in terror at the sight of a “devil on wheels”—and eventually found an investor, James Carroll, to support his efforts. In 1866, he applied for and was granted a patent for the nation’s first pedaled bicycle.

Despite being the first to patent the idea, Lallement was unable to capitalize on his invention. Failing to acquire enough funds to open a factory, he sold the rights to the patent in 1868and moved back to France, where Michaux’s bike had achieved enormous popularity and set off a “bike boom” that soon spread throughout Europe. Albert Pope, who came into possession of the patent in 1876, made a small fortune producing the Columbia bicycle and became one of the foremost proponents of the bike, forming the League of American Wheelmen in 1880. Lallement, however, died in obscurity in Boston in 1881. It would be over a century before cycling historians identified the important role he had played in the invention of the bicycle.

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Source: HISTORY

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Zong slave ship trial

June 10, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

Hearing arguments in the case of the Zong, a slave ship, the Chief Justice of the King’s Bench in London states that a massacre of African slaves “was the same as if Horses had been thrown over board” on June 22, 1783. The crew of the Zong had thrown at least 142 captive Africans into the sea, but the question before the court was not who had committed this atrocity but rather whether the lost “cargo” was covered by insurance. The trial laid bare the horror and inhumanity of the Atlantic slave trade and galvanized the nascent movement to abolish it.

The Zong left Accra in August of 1781, carrying 442 enslaved Africans and bound for the colonial plantations of Jamaica. As was common in the slave trade, the Zong was grossly overcrowded, carrying more than double the amount of people a ship its size could safely transport. Running low on water and having lengthened their journey due to a navigation error, the crew voted to jettison some of its human “cargo” in order to ensure the safe delivery of the rest, a loss for which the shipping company could be compensated under British law. Over the course of several days, the crew threw at least 122 Africans overboard. The Zong arrived in Black River, Jamaica with 208 enslaved people on board.

READ MORE: Details of Brutal First Slave Voyages Discovered

The trial commenced in March of 1873, and the court found that the insurance company was liable for the damages, as enslaved people were the same as any other cargo. Two months later, the Chief Justice overturned the decision due to new evidence, but his statement that the enslaved were equivalent to horses remained the opinion of Britain’s highest court.

Formerly enslaved man and abolitionist Olaudah Equiano told the abolitionist Granville Sharp of the Zong affair, leading Sharp to explore the possibility of having the crew tried for murder. Nothing approaching that level of justice would ever touch those responsible for the massacre, but Sharp and Equiano’s efforts to publicize the story did build momentum for the abolitionist movement. A few months after the Zong trial, the Society of Friends began to campaign against slavery, and the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was founded four years later. Thanks largely to their efforts, in which the story of the Zong featured prominently, Parliament outlawed the …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Construction on Global Seed Vault begins

June 10, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

On June 15, 2006, on the remote island of Spitsbergen halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole, the prime ministers of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland lay the ceremonial first stone of the Global Seed Vault. The vault, which now has the capacity to hold 2.25 billion seeds, is intended to “provide insurance against both incremental and catastrophic loss of crop diversity.”

Managed jointly by the Global Crop Diversity Trust (the Crop Trust), the Nordic Genetic Resource Center (NordGen), and the Norwegian government, the Seed Vault grew out of several different efforts to preserve specimens of the world’s plants. Its location, deep within a high mountain on an island covered by permafrost, is ideal for cold storage and will protect the seeds even in the event of a major rise in sea levels. The enormous vault, where seeds can be stored in such a way that they remain viable for decades or even centuries, opened in 2008.

According to the Crop Trust, the seed vault is meant to preserve crop diversity and contribute to the global struggle to end hunger. As rising temperatures and other aspects of climate change threaten the Earth’s plants, there is risk of not only losing species but also becoming overly reliant on those that remain, making humanity more vulnerable and increasing food insecurity. Scientists also strive to create newer, more resilient varieties of crops that already exist, and the seed bank functions as a reserve from which they can draw for experimental purposes.

READ MORE: Climate Change History

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Source: HISTORY

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Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova expedition begins

June 10, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

Robert Falcon Scott’s ship, the Terra Nova, sets sail from Cardiff, Wales on June 15, 1910, bound for Antarctica. Though it will succeed in reaching its objective, the expedition will end in tragedy as Scott and his companions give up their lives in order to become the second party to reach the South Pole.

Scott had previously led the Discovery expedition, one of the first major explorations of the Antarctic, from 1901 to 1904. He recruited 65 men to aid him on his quest “to reach the South Pole, and to secure for The British Empire the honour of this achievement.” Upon reaching Melbourne, Australia, Scott learned that a Norwegian expedition led by Roald Amundsen, who had claimed to be heading to the North Pole, was in fact racing South in an attempt to beat Scott. Upon arriving in the Antarctic, Scott’s team spent most of the next year preparing for the journey South, stocking depots to be used during the polar journey, and conducting scientific research as they waited for the Antarctic summer.

READ MORE: The Treacherous Race to the South Pole

Finally setting out in late September, Scott employed several teams, 28 men in total, as well as motorized sledges, ponies, and dogs in his push to the pole. As the expedition neared its target, Scott selected chief scientist Edward Wilson, Army captain Lawrence Oates, Royal Indian Marine Lieutenant Henry Bowers, and Discovery veteran Edgar Evans to join him in the final approach. On January 16, 1912, the party spotted Amundsen’s flag at the South Pole and were crushed to realize they had been beaten. The next day, having arrived and planted his own flag, Scott wrote, “Great God! This is an awful place and terrible enough for us to have laboured to it without the reward of priority.”

Dismayed, they began the return journey hoping to at least be the first to report that they had reached the pole, but they would never make it back to the Terra Nova. Evans died on February 17, suffering from multiple injuries after repeated falls. Severely frostbitten and convinced he was slowing his companions down, Oates walked out of his tent and into a blizzard in an apparent act of self-sacrifice on March 16. A few days later, just 11 miles shy of the nearest depot, the rest of the team was stopped by a storm and took …read more

Source: HISTORY