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Buy the Texas Ranch Where LBJ Hid from the Press

January 17, 2018 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

(Image courtesy of Coldwell Banker)

Just one week after taking the oath of office in the wake of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson bought a secluded parcel of land in Blanco County, Texas, to use as a private retreat from the stresses of life in the White House.

Today, LBJ’s former ranch on the property—377 Shiloh Road in Johnson City—is on sale for $2.8 million, including a three-bedroom, two-bathroom dwelling built on the foundations of Johnson’s former home. Located on 142 acres of Johnson’s original 800-acre spread, the property boasts stunning panoramic views of Central Texas.

(Image courtesy of Coldwell Banker)

In the spacious main house, Johnson’s bedroom and bathroom have even been preserved, including a massive stone fireplace and wall-to-wall windows in the master bedroom and the president’s original tub in the stone-tiled bathroom. A smaller cottage on the property, which has one bedroom and one bathroom, housed the Secret Service during Johnson’s stays at the ranch.

After he announced he would not seek reelection in 1968, amid widespread protests over his administration’s Vietnam War policy, an exhausted Johnson left the White House and retreated to his happy place: Texas hill country. According to a 1973 report in the Atlantic, he gave strict orders to his staff to keep the press far away.


The Secret Service members had their own quarters on the property — a one-bedroom, one-bathroom cottage, which is still standing today. (Image courtesy of Coldwell Banker)

LBJ did not stay idle in retirement, however. He supervised the construction of the LBJ Presidential Library complex at the University of Texas, authored a book (The Vantage Point: Perspectives of the Presidency, 1963-1969) and, of course, worked the land on his beloved ranch.

This was not the secluded hilltop hideaway on sale today, but the nearby 330-acre property on the Pedernales River that Johnson purchased from his aunt in 1951, when he was still a U.S. senator. During his presidential administration, the LBJ Ranch (now part of the LBJ National Historical Park) became known as “the Texas White House,” as Johnson conducted so much business there, including receiving many world leaders.

After Johnson’s death in 1973, his wife, Lady Bird, continued to live at the ranch part time until her own death in 2007.

<img class="wp-image-201150 size-full" src="http://cdn.history.com/sites/2/2018/01/048_Le-Stelle-Studio-Building.jpg" alt="The property’s current owners are Italian artist Benini and his wife Lorraine, who purchased it in …read more

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This Huge Women’s March Drowned Out a Presidential Inauguration in 1913

January 17, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

The official program of the Woman Suffrage Procession on March 3, 1913, in Washington, DC. (Credit: VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images)

As Woodrow Wilson and his aides waited for the train to pull into the station, they braced themselves for crowds and chaos. The Democratic nominee had beaten both a sitting president—incumbent William Howard Taft—and a former one, Theodore Roosevelt, who ran as a third-party candidate. Now, he was on the verge of moving into the White House—and more convinced than ever that God had destined him to become President.

Expecting a hero’s welcome in Washington on the day before his inauguration as the 28th President of the United States, Wilson and his aides were surprised to be met not with a bang, but a whimper. A few college students greeted him with a song, but the train platform was strangely bare.

“Where are all the people?” an aide asked.

“Watching the parade,” someone replied.

The start of Wilson’s presidency had just been overshadowed by a historic event—a massive suffrage parade that relegated his inauguration to a mere historical footnote. More than a century before the Women’s March diverted attention from the inauguration of President Donald Trump and made headlines of its own, the unconventional parade captured the nation’s attention, galvanizing public support and setting the stage for Wilson’s turbulent relationship with the women’s movement.

The official program of the Woman Suffrage Procession on March 3, 1913, in Washington, DC. (Credit: VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images)

At the time, the concept of suffrage for women was still broadly unpopular in the United States. Though some states allowed women to vote, the idea rankled men and women who thought that women should stay home and let their husbands exercise political power. Though suffragists had long agitated for the vote, the movement felt stagnant and lacked national support, and the defeat of Teddy Roosevelt’s Progressive Party in the recent election felt like a further blow to the prospect of suffrage.

The national movement might have lacked energy, but Alice Paul didn’t. The 28-year-old had just returned to the United States from a kind of suffrage apprenticeship in England, where she had become friends with radical suffragists and learned more about their militant tactics. Paul was passionately committed to the cause, and she thought American suffragists could learn a thing or two from their English sisters.

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Rats Didn’t Spread the Black Death—It Was Humans

January 17, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

A flea infected with the plague. (Credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Rats have long been blamed for spreading the Black Death around Europe in the 14th century. Specifically, historians have speculated that the fleas on rats are responsible for the estimated 25 million plague deaths between 1347 and 1351.

However, a new study suggests that rats weren’t the main carriers of fleas and lice that spread the plague—it was humans.

In a study published in January 2017 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers simulated Black Death outbreaks in European cities to try and understand how the plague was spread. In their simulations, they looked at three possible models for infection: rats, airborne transmission, and fleas and ticks that humans carry around with them on their bodies and clothes.

A flea infected with the plague. (Credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

In most of the cities, the model that focused on fleas and ticks on humans was the most accurate model for explaining the spread of the disease.Though it may come as a surprise to most readers, previous studies have backed up these findings. The consensus seems to be that the plague spread too fast for rats to be the culprit carriers.  

“It would be unlikely to spread as fast as it did if it was transmitted by rats,” Nils Stenseth, a professor at the University of Oslo and co-author of Monday’s study, told BBC News. “It would have to go through this extra loop of the rats, rather than being spread from person to person.”

It’s not clear where the belief that rats spread the plague came from in the first place. After all, the researchers write that “there is little historical and archaeological support for such a claim.” For example, if rats really were a main cause of the plague, there would be more archaeological evidence of dead rats.

…read more

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The Improbable Prohibition Agents Who Outsmarted Speakeasy Owners

January 16, 2018 in History

By George Pendle

A peep hole in the door of a speakeasy during Prohibition. (Credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

Isadore Einstein, known as “Izzy” to his friends, was no one’s idea of a G-man. Short, fat with numerous chins and thinning hair, he was so rotund that the great crime writer, Herbert Asbury, described his belly as moving “majestically ahead like the breast of an overfed pouter pigeon.” With his thick round spectacles perched on his nose, Izzy had all the looks of your below-average Joe. But it was precisely this unprepossessing appearance that would make him, and his similarly schlubby friend, Moe Smith, the greatest federal agents of their age.

That age was Prohibition. It’s a period that nearly 100 years on still seems like a fantastical blip in America’s history. From 1919 to 1933, the Eighteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution declared it illegal to produce, transport or sell alcohol, the result of years of lobbying by the Anti-Saloon League and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. It had been thought the decree would instill a more peaceable character onto the nation. However those 14 years saw the United States at its loudest, most violent and perversely, most entertaining. It was Prohibition that made the era roar.

When Prohibition went into effect in January 1919, Izzy Einstein lived on New York’s Lower East Side, struggling to keep his wife and four sons fed on a postal clerk’s salary. Reading in the newspaper that the newly created Prohibition Unit was looking for agents, he went down to the local bureau and applied. As Izzy recounted in his wisecracking memoir, Prohibition Agent No. 1, the bureau chief looked him up and down and told him he “wasn’t the type.”

But Izzy was not easily dissuaded. He argued that looking like an everyman was exactly what was needed in this dry new world. Moreover, although he had no gumshoe experience, Izzy insisted he understood people. He had been a salesman and could mix with people and gain their confidence. The bureau chief bought the argument and Izzy was given a badge and thrust out onto the mean streets of New York to sop up the booze that poured through the city’s speakeasies.

A peep hole in the door of a speakeasy during Prohibition. (Credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

Izzy’s lack of detective training proved to be something of a boon on his first assignment. In order to get a search warrant agents needed proof that alcohol was being sold on the …read more

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What Caused the Aztec Empire to Fall? Scientists Uncover New Clues

January 16, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

Hernando Cortez, Spanish conquistador who conquered Mexico, making contact with native Mexicans. (Credit: Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

In 1545, an unknown disease struck the Aztec Empire. Those who came down with it might become feverish, start vomiting, and develop blotches on their skin. Most horrific of all, they’d bleed from their eyes, mouth, and nose, then die within a few days.

Over the next five years, the disease—then called “cocoliztli,” or “pestilence”—killed between seven and 17 million people. Scientists and historians have long wondered what the source of this mysterious epidemic was. Now, a group of researchers may have found the answer: salmonella.

On January 15, 2017, the scientific journal Nature Ecology & Evolution published a study of Salmonella enterica bacteria in the teeth of cocoliztli victims. Most Americans know salmonella as a foodborne illness that you can get if you eat, for example, raw eggs or chicken.

Though S. enterica was the only germ that researchers detected in the victims’ teeth, they do caution that other indetectable pathogens could have been involved, too.

“We cannot say with certainty that S. enterica was the cause of the cocoliztli epidemic,” Kirsten Bos, a molecular paleopathologist at the Max Planck Institute in Germany and co-author of the recent study, told The Guardian. “We do believe that it should be considered a strong candidate.”

Hernando Cortez, Spanish conquistador who conquered Mexico, making contact with native Mexicans. (Credit: Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

European invaders brought many new and devastating illnesses to the Americas in the 16th and 17th centuries. It’s possible that Spanish invaders brought salmonella to the Aztecs in modern-day Mexico through domesticated animals.

The study doesn’t pinpoint the source of the bacteria, leaving open the possibility that it originated in the Americas. Yet even if the Spanish didn’t bring the bacteria, they likely still played a role in how it affected the Aztec people.

“We know that Europeans very much changed the landscape once they entered the new world,” Bos told NPR. “They introduced new livestock, [and] there was lots of social disruption among the indigenous population which would have increased their susceptibility to infectious disease.”

…read more

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The Deadliest Volcanic Eruption in History

January 16, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

A view from the craters edge of Mount Tambora on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia. (Credit: Adam Majendie/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

In 1815, Mount Tambora erupted on Sumbawa, an island of modern-day Indonesia. Historians regard it as the volcano eruption with the deadliest known direct impact: roughly 100,000 people died in the immediate aftermath.

But far more died over the next several years, due to secondary effects that spread all over the globe, says Gillen D’Arcy Wood, author of Tambora: The Eruption That Changed the World.

“What happened after Tambora is that there was three years of climate change,” he says. “The world got colder, and the weather systems changed completely for three years. And so you had widespread crop failure and starvation all from Asia to the United States to Europe.”

Volcanoes near the equator can cause global weather changes if their eruptions are powerful enough to release gases into the stratosphere. This gas gets trapped since it is too high to be washed away by rain, then travels along the equator and spreads out toward the poles. This decreases the amount of heat that passes through the stratosphere from the sun.

This doesn’t just affect whether you should put on a sweater or not; it has profound effects on the ecosystem you live in. With Tambora’s eruption, cooling temperatures led to decreased rainfall, failed crops, and mass starvation in many parts of the world.

It’s difficult to know how many people died because of starvation conditions, but “the death toll is probably about a million people, at least, in the years afterwards,” Wood says. “If you want to include the fact that Tambora unleashed a global pandemic of cholera … then the death toll goes into tens of millions.”

A view from the craters edge of Mount Tambora on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia. (Credit: Adam Majendie/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Cholera already existed before the eruption, but the colder temperatures caused by Tambora’s eruption led to the development of a new strain in the Bay of Bengal. Fewer people had immunity to this new strain of cholera, which then spread throughout the world.

Could there have been volcanoes long ago that caused more deaths than Tambora? Perhaps, but because we have no way of knowing, historians generally agree that Tambora caused the most immediate deaths.

For example, the Krakatoa eruption in Indonesia in 1883 is more famous than Tambora because it was a “new media event” that spread around the world through telegrams and photography, Wood says. But this eruption was …read more

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I Went With Johnny Cash to Folsom Prison

January 12, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Country singer Johnny Cash posing outside the Folsom Prison before his performance. (Credit: Dan Poush/AP Photo)

The gates of Folsom State Prison closed behind Gene Beley. It was 1968, and it was the first time the 28-year-old had ever been to state prison.

“When you walk through there and they shut that door,” he says, “you realize that many men who have that happen never see their freedom again. It’s pretty daunting.”

Unlike the people he met inside, though, Beley wasn’t there to do time. The young reporter for the Ventura Star-Free Press was there to see country music star Johnny Cash perform for the prisoners.

It turned out to be a historic day. Cash’s January 13, 1968 performance at the California prison wasn’t just galvanizing—it revived Cash’s flagging career, produced a hit album, and has become the stuff of music legend. And Beley, who was one of just a handful of non-prisoners to witness the concert, still feels its reverberations today.

At the time, he says, Cash wasn’t exactly a beloved celebrity. “You know, John was really on the skids,” he remembers. Cash had made a string of bad headlines for doing everything from smuggling pills across the Mexico border to trespassing. He had struggled with drug use, conducted an open affair with June Carter (he ultimately divorced his first wife and remarried), and had even been targeted by hate groups. As a result, newspapers hated him—and he distrusted reporters.

Nevertheless, the Reverend Floyd Gressett, one of Cash’s closest friends, invited Beley and his colleague, photographer Dan Poush, to cover the concert. Only one other reporter, Robert Hilburn, attended.

Country singer Johnny Cash posing outside the Folsom Prison before his performance. (Credit: Dan Poush/AP Photo)

Beley recalls being surprised that Cash was close to a minister. “It seemed so incongruous,” he says.

In fact, Gressett was the reason Cash would perform at Folsom Prison in the first place. The minister also counseled state prisoners, and asked Cash if he’d be interested in meeting some of them. Cash, who had written “Folsom Prison Blues” in 1953, was intrigued by the thought of meeting inmates—and performing his song at the prison that inspired it. In November 1966, he put on a show at Folsom, and in 1968 he decided to return to record an album.

Before the concert, Beley went to Cash’s parents’ home. There, he met John …read more

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British Royals Hid Crown Jewels From Nazis in a Cracker Box

January 12, 2018 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Restored footage of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, featured in 'A Queen is Crowned'. (Credit: ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

During World War II, the British royal family’s most precious gems were buried underground at Windsor Castle to protect them from discovery by the Nazis, a new documentary reveals.

With Britain under air attack from the mighty German Luftwaffe, King George VI ordered palace staff to remove the most valuable of the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London and hide them in case of an invasion. They were stashed in an innocuous tin box that had previously contained biscuits.

According to the Times (U.K.), the removal and hiding of the jewels has long been rumored. The most likely hiding place was believed to be Windsor Castle, the royal residence in England’s Berkshire county, though others suggested the gems might have been spirited out of the country to Canada and kept in a vault, hidden in a cave in Wales or in a secret tunnel under a Devonshire prison.

But the details of the operation were kept so secret, it turns out, that not even Queen Elizabeth II—at the time a teenage princess—knew the whereabouts of the priceless gems. She learned the juicy details during the filming of an upcoming BBC documentary, when royal commentator Alistair Bruce spoke to her about a set of letters recently unearthed by Oliver Urquhart Irvine, the royal librarian and assistant keeper of the queen’s archives.

Restored footage of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, featured in ‘A Queen is Crowned’. (Credit: ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

In the letters, Sir Owen Morshead, then the royal librarian, described to Queen Mary (mother of King George VI) how he had removed the most precious jewels from the Imperial State Crown, the royal headgear worn by the sovereign while addressing the state opening of Parliament. Made for George VI’s coronation in 1937, the impressive crown is set with 2,868 diamonds and various colored stones, including 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and 269 pearls, according to the Royal Collection Trust.

Morshead pried the Black Prince’s Ruby (believed to have been given to Edward, Prince of Wales, by a Spanish king in 1367 and later worn by Henry V in his helmet during the Battle of Agincourt) and the St. Edward’s Sapphire (which goes back to Edward the Confessor, an 11th-century Anglo-Saxon king) from their clasps, and hid them in a tin box previously containing Bath Oliver biscuits. The hard, dry crackers, still popular among Britons, were created by a Regency-era physician …read more

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See a Gorgeously Updated Image of Martin Luther King, Jr. With His Family

January 12, 2018 in History

By Dan Jones and Marina Amaral

Martin Luther King, Jr. at home with his wife Coretta and first child Yolanda, 1956. (Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

In May 1956 the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. posed for a set of photographs at home with his young family in Montgomery, Alabama. It had been an eventful few months in the 27-year old pastor’s life.

The previous year King had finished his PhD at Boston University, and moved with his wife Coretta more than a thousand miles south to Montgomery. There they set up in a modest, white-panelled house, a perk of King’s new job as pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. The couple soon made it a family home, and on November 17th Coretta gave birth to their first child, Yolanda (pictured here as a baby).

Martin Luther King, Jr. at home with his wife Coretta and first child Yolanda, 1956. (Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

But ten weeks later, at 9.15 p.m. on January 30th 1956, the Kings’ house was bombed. King was out when the bomb went off, and neither Coretta nor Yolanda was hurt. Still, the message was clear. The bombing was retaliation for King’s role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, an organized refusal by black residents to ride the city’s buses, which had grown out of the seamstress Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat to a white commuter.

The Photograph

The portrait deliberately projects a moment of happy intimacy between three people joyful even under the threat of death. Who took this photograph is no longer known; it has been colorized with reference to later pictures of the family. The casually dressed Dr. King seems a world away from the careworn figure of the 1960s, when the Civil Rights movement reached a crescendo and he assumed an intense position of national importance.

King in 1956

From his pulpit King had begun to preach a doctrine of non-violent protest, civil disobedience and mass demonstration against discriminatory “Jim Crow” laws, which segregated whites and blacks everywhere from schools and shops to bus seats and water fountains.

There could be few more dangerous places to preach this doctrine than Montgomery, which had briefly been the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War and where, ninety years on, white supremacy and racist ideology still thrived.

When this photograph was taken, many of King’s greatest moments still lay before him: the Birmingham protests, the March on Washington, a Nobel peace prize, his tireless opposition to the Vietnam War. And, of course, his death. On April 4th 1968 …read more

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For Martin Luther King Jr., Nonviolent Protest Never Meant ‘Wait and See’

January 12, 2018 in History

By April Reign

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.leading marchers as they begin the Selma to Montgomery civil rights march from Brown's Chapel Church in Selma, Alabama. (Credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

History Reads is a weekly series featuring work from Team History, a group of experts and influencers, exploring history’s most fascinating questions.

On January 15, the United States celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 50 years on from his assassination in 1968. The intention behind the holiday is to commemorate this great man’s life, and recommit to his call to fight for justice everywhere. Many will spend Monday as a day of service to others, staying true to his words that “everybody can be great…because anybody can serve.”

The words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are well-known and often quoted. Most remember the speech he gave at the March on Washington in 1963, when he uttered those iconic words of American aspiration: “I have a dream…”. He is also remembered for his urge to use nonviolence as the most effective form of protest (even when violence was threatened against him and his family), and his strong desire to bring about equality and civil rights for African Americans during the civil-rights movement.

However, less attention is paid to the words he spoke in the latter part of his life. In the year he died, he had just launched the Poor People’s Campaign, which appealed to impoverished people of all races, and sought to address the issues of unemployment, housing shortages and the impact of poverty on the lives of millions of Americans, white and black. By then, King’s language had become stronger and more assertive, urging direct action to bring about change. For King had never meant nonviolent protest to mean “wait and see.” In fact, he made very clear that rebellions have their place in America. Just a few weeks before he died, in a packed high school gym just outside Detroit, constantly interrupted by a rowdy right-wing crowd picketing his appearance, King had these radical words to say:

“…it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to …read more

Source: HISTORY