Friday, May 14, 2010

The Man Who Gave Us Memorial Day

You've probably never heard of John A. Logan, but he was well known in his day. He's mentioned in the Illinois state song along with Lincoln and Grant, and he's one of only 32 people ever to have lain in state in the U.S. Capitol. A successful general in the Union Army during the Civil War, he became part of the "Radical Republicans" in Congress, where he personally managed the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. In 1884, the Republicans made him their vice-presidential candidate on an unsuccessful ticket with James G. Blaine. He is best remembered today as the man who led the call for the establishment of Memorial Day as a national holiday. He is himself memorialized by a bronze equestrian statue, dedicated in 1901 by President William McKinley, in the middle of Washington, D.C.'s Logan Circle Park.

The Ballad of Casey Jones

One hundred and ten years ago this month, railroad engineer and hero Casey Jones was laid to rest in Calvary Cemetery his hometown of Jackson, Tennessee. Several days before, he had headed out from the Poplar Street Station in Memphis on a run down to Mississippi that ended in tragedy. Encountering another train sticking out from a siding, Jones stayed at the brakes until the very end, saving the lives of everyone on board except himself. A popular ballad of his exploits made his name famous worldwide. Today, the Casey Jones Village in Jackson lets visitors tour Jones's home, now part of a railroad museum that includes an authenic steam engine, passenger car, and caboose from back in Casey's day.

Photographic Memories

That sinister-looking image on the left is actually the earliest known photographic negative. It was taken in 1835 at England's Lacock Abbey, and you can stand and look at that same window today. Or you can click here to see what may be the earliest existing photograph of the game of baseball. And if you're ever in Orange Park, New Jersey, be sure to visit the Edison National Historic Site (NOT Menlo Park), Edison's last home and place of death. On this very spot, Edison perfected motion pictures and filmed the world's first commercial movies in the world's first movie studio. This is also where he invented the alkaline battery and manufactured the world's first phonographs.

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