Friday / Weekend Open Lines

Friday, April 29th. Health insurance and its affordability has been a topic of political contention mostly in the past two decades, but the social need was recognized much earlier. On this date in 1942, Rhode Island became the first state to set up a health or temporary disability insurance program for its working citizens unemployed because of sickness. The covered workers — not the employers — funded the program with a 1 percent tax on wages of less than $3,000 a year. Most Americans are without disability insurance, although Social Security provides some coverage to qualified workers. But health insurance is another matter. In 2014, over 208 million private policies were in force, with 170 million based on employment. Over 36 million Americans remained uninsured. You can find more facts about America from the U.S. Census Bureau online at <>.

Saturday, April 30th. This is the anniversary of perhaps the greatest real estate deal in American history — one that doubled the size of the U.S. and put the nation in position to become a world power. The year was 1803, and the deal was the Louisiana Purchase. The young U.S. under President Thomas Jefferson bought nearly 830,000 square miles from France at the cost of four cents an acre. The land stretched from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border. The sale encompassed all or parts of 14 of today’s states. After the treaty was ratified, the U.S. took possession at the end of 1803. Appropriately enough, Louisiana became a state on this date in 1812. At the time, just 77,000 people lived there. Now, Louisiana is home to well over 4.6 million. Profile America is completing  its19th year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.

Sunday, May 1st. Construction began on this date in 1884 in Chicago for a radical new building design — destined to be America’s first skyscraper. It was the Home Insurance Company headquarters, designed by engineer William Jenney. For many centuries, thick outer walls supported multistory buildings, limiting the height that could be safely or usefully attained. Jenney’s building used a metal frame for support, like a skeleton. The exterior walls were attached to the frame, and so these so-called curtain walls weren’t load bearing. Soon, skyscrapers using Jenney’s method thrust up across the country and today dominate city skylines around the world. Lately, the construction industry in the U.S. has erected some $400 billion worth of private nonresidential buildings annually. You can find more facts about America from the U.S. Census Bureau online at <>.