April 17, 2014

Thursday Open Line

April is a significant month for the American printed word. In 1800, the Library of Congress was founded, and earlier this week, in 1828, Noah Webster published the first dictionary of American English. This is also the fifth day of National Library Week, celebrating libraries, those who staff them and the billions of materials they […]

Wednesday Open Line

Children have worked throughout history, especially on family farms and in trades. But their employment in industrialized settings raised many popular objections. On this date in 1836, Massachusetts became the first state to prohibit children under 15 from working in factories. Massachusetts acted again six years later, limiting children’s work to 10 hours per day. […]

Tuesday Open Line

To borrow from some recent advertising slogans, although many Americans couldn’t imagine leaving home without them, and they’re everywhere they want to be, there was a time when credit cards were rare; issued only by individual merchants. But that proprietary limitation ended on this date in 1952, when the Franklin National Bank in New York […]

Monday Open Line

The distribution of political representation under the Constitution was authorized on this date in 1792. Based on the results of the 1790 Census, the House of Representatives was to be apportioned according to population, coming as near to equal populations in the districts as could be determined. That first census counted a resident population of […]

Friday / Weekend Open Lines

This week in 1955, a small hamburger restaurant opened in Des Plaines, Illinois-the first of what would become one of the world’s best-recognized brand names — McDonald’s. The franchise shop belonged Ray Kroc, whose main interest at the time was selling the machines that mixed milkshakes. The name came from two McDonald brothers who operated […]

Thursday Open Line

The need to pay a $15 debt sparked one of the most useful of inventions, patented on this date in 1849. Walter Hunt, a mechanic in New York, owed the debt. While he thought about how to raise the money, he fiddled with a small piece of wire. Finally, he bent the wire with a […]

Wednesday Open Line

For much of history, a cooked meal was followed by the drudgery of scrubbing the pans used to prepare it. But something was discovered this week in 1938 that changed all that, a solidified refrigerant gas that we now know as Teflon. Developed by Roy Plunkett of the DuPont Company, slippery Teflon revolutionized cooking utensils […]

Tuesday Open Line

On this date 101 years ago, the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified establishing direct popular election of senators. Previously, members of the Senate were elected by each state’s legislature. As the voting franchise expanded after the Civil War and into the Progressive Era, growing sentiment held that senators ought to be popularly […]

Monday Open Line

The years of Prohibition, from 1920 to 1933, were considered a noble experiment that failed as the subsequent crime associated with bootlegging caused problems worse than the lone problem of drunkenness. The crumbling of the unpopular Volstead Act accelerated on this date in 1933 when Congress amended the act to permit beer of 3.2 percent […]

Friday / Weekend Open Line

Perhaps most people are now familiar with the data processing expression “garbage in — garbage out.” In these days of intensive search for alternative ways to generate power, the words have become “garbage in — energy out,” as a number of power plants burn garbage instead of fossil fuels. The first power plant in the […]

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