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What Happened to Amelia Earhart?

June 30, 2020 in History

By Editors

The trailblazing aviator’s disappearance remains a source of fascination—and controversy.

On the morning of July 2, 1937, Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, took off from Lae, New Guinea, on one of the last legs in their historic attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Their next destination was Howland Island in the central Pacific Ocean, some 2,500 miles away. A U.S. Coast Guard cutter, the Itasca, waited there to guide the world-famous aviator in for a landing on the tiny, uninhabited coral atoll.

But Earhart never arrived on Howland Island. Battling overcast skies, faulty radio transmissions and a rapidly diminishing fuel supply in her twin-engine Lockheed Electra plane, she and Noonan lost contact with the Itasca somewhere over the Pacific. Despite a search-and-rescue mission of unprecedented scale, including ships and planes from the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard scouring some 250,000 square miles of ocean, they were never found.

In its official report at the time, the Navy concluded that Earhart and Noonan had run out of fuel, crashed into the Pacific and drowned. A court order declared Earhart legally dead in January 1939, 18 months after she disappeared. From the beginning, however, debate has raged over what actually happened on July 2, 1937 and afterward. Several alternate theories have surfaced, and many millions of dollars have been spent searching for evidence that would reveal the truth of Earhart’s fate.

The Castaway Theory

In her last radio transmission, made at 8:43 am local time on the morning she disappeared, Earhart reported flying “on the line 157 337…running north and south,” a set of directional coordinates that describe a line running through Howland Island.

In 1989, an organization called the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) launched its first expedition to Nikumaroro, a remote Pacific atoll that is part of the Republic of Kiribati. TIGHAR and its director, Richard Gillespie, believe that when Earhart and Noonan couldn’t find Howland Island, they continued south along the 157/337 line some 350 nautical miles and made an emergency landing on Nikumaroro (then called Gardner Island). According to this theory, they lived for a period of time as castaways on the tiny, uninhabited island, and eventually died there.

U.S. Navy planes flew over Gardner Island on July 9, 1937, a week after Earhart’s disappearance, and saw no sign of Earhart, Noonan or the plane. But they did report seeing signs …read more


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How Alexander Hamilton's Widow, Eliza, Carried on His Legacy

June 30, 2020 in History

By Patrick J. Kiger

Eliza Hamilton poured her energy into founding a free school and an orphanage in New York to help children in need.

After Vice President explains.

“Eliza Hamilton wanted to find a way to honor Hamilton’s memory, in the place where their last home had been together,” says Mazzeo.

Eliza was also driven by her faith. As biographer Ron Chernow has written, the deeply religious widow also “believed passionately that all children should be literate in order to study the Bible.”

Hamilton Free School Established in Northern Manhattan

According to documents unearthed in the early 1900s by the New-York Historical Society, Eliza started out by finding a small house near Fort Washington, the Revolutionary War fort that was located at the intersection of present-day Fort Washington Avenue and W. 183rd Street, to be repurposed as a schoolhouse. But the number of students quickly grew, that improvised setup wasn’t adequate.

The widow couldn’t afford a bigger place, but a group of wealthier women in the area decided to help. In March 1818, the group petitioned the New York State Legislature to incorporate a free school, and asked for $400 to build a new school building. Legislators approved the application and the school received some annual city funding.

Eliza Hamilton and her benefactors moved quickly, and by the end of May, they’d already built a one-room, 1,050-square-foot schoolhouse with a slanted roof—big enough for 40 to 60 students—around what is now Broadway between W. 187th and W. 189th streets.

On the Hamilton Free School’s shoestring budget, it could afford just one teacher, who also doubled as the school’s janitor, according to the reminiscences of William Herbert Flitner, who attended the school in the 1840s. “All of the scholars came from the locality between High Bridge and Kingsbridge,” he recalled many years later.

Flitner recalled that the school provided students with textbooks, and that they studied arithmetic by doing calculations on slates. Spelling was taught from Webster’s Elementary Spelling Book, a popular text of the time.

It’s unlikely that Eliza was involved on a day-to-day basis, according to Mazzeo. However, “We know that Mrs. Hamilton did regularly visit the school and give out awards on prize days, so she remained involved with the school’s central mission and with celebrating its achievements.”

Eliza was giving much of her time to her other big project—helping to found the city’s first private orphanage …read more