library of congress

Flashback Friday: USS Princeton Peacemaker Accident 1844

Posted on

USS Princeton Image One
USS Princeton 1843-1849
Image Credits: Lithograph by N. Currier, New York, 1844
U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command
history.navy.mil
wikipedia.org & wikimedia.org

Launched on September 5, 1843, the very first USS Princeton was a steam-driven propeller warship of the U.S. Navy, commanded by Captain Robert Stockton. It was the first screw-sloop in the fleet. During a cruise down the Potomac River with President John Tyler, federal officials, politicians, attorneys, a former First Lady and several hundred guests, there was a terrible long gun explosion, due, possibly to old forging technology.

The Accident

President Tyler hosted a public reception for Stockton in the White House on February 27, 1844. On February 28, [the] USS Princeton departed Alexandria, Virginia, on a demonstration cruise down the Potomac with Tyler, members of his cabinet, former First Lady Dolley Madison, Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri and about 400 guests. Captain Stockton decided to fire the larger of her two long guns, Peacemaker, to impress his guests. Peacemaker was fired three times on the trip downriver and was loaded to fire a salute to George Washington as the ship passed Mount Vernon on the return trip. The guests aboard viewed the first set of firings, [then] retired below decks for lunch and refreshments.

Peacemaker Explodes Image Two
Awful Explosion of the Peacemaker on board the
U.S. steam frigate Princeton on Wednesday, 28 Feb. 1844
Image Credits: Lithograph by N. Currier/Currier & Ives
Gale Research
Library of Congress
wikipedia.org & wikimedia.org

Secretary [of the Navy] [Thomas Walker] Gilmer urged those aboard to view a final shot with the Peacemaker. When Captain Stockton pulled the firing lanyard, the gun burst. Its left side had failed, spraying hot metal across the deck and shrapnel into the crowd. Instantly killed were Gilmer, Secretary of State [Abel P.] Upshur, Captain Beverley Kennon, who was Chief of the Bureau of Construction [Equipment] and Repairs, Virgil Maxcy (a Maryland attorney with decades of experience as a state and federal officeholder), David Gardiner (a New York lawyer and politician) and the President’s valet, a black slave named Armistead. Another 16 to 20 people were injured, including several members of the ship’s crew, Senator Benton and Captain Stockton. The president was below decks and not injured.

The disaster on board the Princeton killed more top U.S. government officials in a single day than any other tragedy in American history.

Additional Reading & Sources
The Aftermath
The Legacy
Fatal Cruise of the Princeton (Naval History/military.com/Wayback Machine)
USS Princeton (ibiblio.org)
Princeton I (Naval History and Heritage Command site)
Accident on a Steam Ship (Google Books)
Tyler Narrowly Escapes Death (The History Channel site)

How the USS Princeton explosion changed U.S. history.

Throwback Thursday: Burr-Hamilton Duel 1804

Posted on Updated on

Burr-Hamilton Duel Image One
Image Credit: wikipedia.org

Two-hundred, fifteen years ago, today, Vice President Aaron Burr shot former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton in a duel in Weehawken, New Jersey.

At dawn on the morning of July 11, […] political antagonists, and personal enemies, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr met on the heights of Weehawken […], to settle their longstanding differences with a duel. The participants fired their pistols in close succession. Burr’s shot met its target immediately, fatally wounding Hamilton and leading to his death the following day. Burr escaped unharmed. This tragically extreme incident reflected the depth of animosity aroused by the first emergence of the nation’s political party system. Both men were political leaders in New York: Burr, a prominent Republican, and Hamilton, leader of the opposing Federalist Party. Burr had found himself the brunt of Hamilton’s political maneuvering on several occasions, including the unusual presidential election of 1800, in which vice-presidential candidate Burr almost defeated his running mate, presidential candidate Thomas Jefferson. In 1804, Hamilton opposed Burr’s closely fought bid for governor of New York. On the heels of this narrow defeat, Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel on the grounds that Hamilton had publicly maligned his character.

[Source]

Burr-Hamilton Duel Image Two
Image Credit:
wikipedia.org & flickr.com

Alexander Hamilton, the chief architect of America’s political economy, was born on the Caribbean island of Nevis [and] came to the American colonies in 1773 as a poor immigrant. (There is some controversy as to the year of his birth, but it was either 1755 or 1757.) In 1776, he joined the Continental Army in the American Revolution and his […] remarkable intelligence brought him to the attention of General George Washington. Aaron Burr, born into a prestigious New Jersey family in 1756, was also intellectually gifted and [..] graduated from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton) at the age of 17. He joined the Continental Army in 1775 […]. In 1790, he defeated Alexander Hamilton’s father-in-law in a race for the U.S. Senate. Hamilton came to detest Burr, whom he regarded as a dangerous opportunist, and […] often spoke ill of him.

In the 1800 election, Jefferson and Burr became running mates […]. Under the electoral procedure then prevailing, president and vice president were voted for, separately. […] the candidate who received the most votes was elected president, and the second in line, vice president. What at first seemed but an electoral technicality […] developed into a major constitutional crisis when Federalists in the lame-duck Congress threw their support behind Burr. After a remarkable 35 tie votes, a small group of Federalists changed sides and voted in Jefferson’s favor. Alexander Hamilton, who had supported Jefferson as the lesser of two evils, was instrumental in breaking the deadlock.

[Source]

Burr-Hamilton Duel Image Three
Image Credit: loc.gov

The duel was fought at a time when the practice was being outlawed in the northern United States and it had immense political ramifications. Burr survived the duel and was indicted for murder in both New York and New Jersey, though these charges were later either dismissed or resulted in acquittal. The harsh criticism and animosity directed toward him following the duel brought an end to his political career. The Federalist Party was already weakened by the defeat of John Adams in the presidential election of 1800 and was further weakened by Hamilton’s death.

[Burr] spent [many] years in Europe. He finally returned to New York City in 1812, where he resumed his law practice and spent the remainder of his life in relative obscurity.

[Source]

Movie Monday: Cripple Creek Bar Room Scene 1899

Posted on Updated on

Cripple Creek Bar Image One
Black Maria Studio Still
Photo Credit: pinterest.com

One-hundred, twenty years ago, in May, Edison’s Black Maria Studio, considered to be the first movie studio in America, produced the short, non-actuality film Cripple Creek Bar-Room Scene.

An IMDB Summary:

A vignette of a bar-room/liquor-store in the West [with] no plot, per se. However, this short is usually regarded as the first “Western” in the sense that it depicts a western scene.

The film lasted one minute, had no action and the role of a barmaid was played by a man.

Summary From The Library of Congress:

Shows tap room of the “Miners Arms”, stout lady at the bar and three men playing stud horse. Old toper with a silk hat asleep by the stove. Rough miner enters, bar maid serves him with Red Eye Whiskey and he proceeds to clean out the place. Barmaid takes a hand with a siphon of vichy and, bounces the intruder with the help of the card players, who line up before the bar and take copious drinks on the house.

Cripple Creek Bar Image Two
An actual Cripple Creek, Colorado, bar.
Photo Credit: silentology.wordpress.com & pinterest.com

From Silentology:

So the film’s supposed to be set in one of the rough mining towns that were part of the Wild West. Also, it was definitely named “Cripple Creek” for a reason. Cripple Creek, Colorado, was a real-life ranch town that experienced a major gold rush in the late 19th century. In 1890, Robert Miller Womack struck gold and, six years later, the town had swelled from a mere 500 souls to well over 30,000 gold-fevered prospectors. All in all, something in the range of a half-billion dollars worth of gold would be extracted from the area.

The Black Maria was completed in early 1893 in West Orange, NJ and, when Edison built a new, rooftop movie studio in New York City, it ceased operation in January 1901. It was torn down in 1903.

Flashback Friday: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz 1900

Posted on Updated on

The Wizard of Oz Image One
Image Credit: wikipedia.org

One-hundred, nineteen years ago, today, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz children’s novel was published. It was written by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by W. W. Denslow and published by the George M. Hill company in Chicago, IL. The title was shortened to The Wizard of Oz for the Broadway Musical adaptation in 1902 and the Musical Film adaptation in 1939.

From Wikipedia:

The story chronicles the adventures of a young farm girl named Dorothy in the magical Land of Oz after she and her pet dog Toto are swept away from their Kansas home by a cyclone.

The book is one of the best-known stories in American literature and has been widely translated. The Library of Congress has declared it “America’s greatest and best-loved homegrown fairytale.” Its groundbreaking success and the success of the Broadway musical adapted from the novel led Baum to write thirteen additional Oz books that serve as official sequels to the first story.

Baum dedicated the book “to my good friend & comrade, My Wife,” Maud Gage Baum. In January 1901, George M. Hill Company completed printing the first edition, a total of 10,000 copies, which quickly sold out. It sold three million copies by the time it entered the public domain in 1956.

The Wizard of Oz Image Two
Image Credit: wikipedia.org

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is considered the first American fairy tale because of its references to clear American locations such as Kansas and Omaha. Baum agreed with authors such as Carroll that fantasy literature was important for children, along with numerous illustrations but, he also wanted to create a story that had recognizable American elements in it such as farming and industrialization. Baum did not offer any conclusive proof that he intended his novel to be a political allegory.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has become an established part of multiple cultures, spreading from its early young American readership to becoming known throughout the world. It has been translated or adapted into well over fifty languages, at times being modified in local variations. For instance, in some abridged Indian editions, the Tin Woodman was replaced with a horse. In Russia, a translation by Alexander Melentyevich Volkov produced six books, The Wizard of the Emerald City series, which became progressively distanced from the Baum version, as Ellie and her dog Totoshka travel throughout the Magic Land. More recently, the story has become an American stage production (The Wiz) with an all-black cast, set in the context of modern African-American culture.

Here in North Carolina, we have the Land of Oz at Beech Mountain. I went there in 1973 with my parents and, again, in 2017. ~Vic