History Articles

Science of the Strawberry Moon

June 21, 2024 /
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full moon rising behind chasseral during sunset photo by giles laurentScience of the Strawberry Moon

Strawberries emerge in May and ripen in June, giving their name to June’s Full Moon. This Strawberry Moon, which often coincides with the Summer Solstice, will reach peak illumination in the United States on Friday, June 21, at 9:08 p.m., E.T.

It also goes by other names: Green Corn Moon, Hot Moon, and Berries Ripen Moon.

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Science of the Summer Solstice: Start of Summer

June 19, 2024 /
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Summer SolsticeSCIENCE OF THE SUMMER SOLSTICE

Solstice comes from the Latin word solstitium, meaning “Sun, standing still.” The Summer Solstice occurs on June 20 at 20:51 UTC, Coordinated Universal Time, Zulu Time, or roughly Greenwich Mean Time. Greenwich, England, is the prime meridian — the zero point for longitude lines.

Why is UTC the abbreviation for Coordinated Universal Time?

The acronym came about as a compromise between English and French speakers: Coordinated Universal Time would normally be abbreviated as CUT, and the French name Temps Universel Coordonné would be TUC.

 

Summer Time and the Summer Solstice

This is also known as the Northern Solstice because the Sun is positioned directly above the Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere.

  • This time of year is known as Midsummer, though the official Midsummer Day is actually celebrated on June 24, thanks to differences between the Julian and Gregorian calendars.

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History of Juneteenth: and the Emancipation Proclamation

June 18, 2024 /
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Juneteenth

Juneteenth Stamp

HISTORY OF JUNETEENTH: and the Emancipation Proclamation

June Nineteenth, or Juneteenth, historically marked the celebration of the emancipation of African-American slaves in Texas in 1865. While the annual celebration started in Texas the following year in 1866 – and became an official Texas state holiday there in 1980 – this formerly obscure holiday is now observed across the United States and around the world.

In 2021, Congress and the President made Juneteenth the 12th official federal holiday. It is celebrated with church-centered celebrations, parades, fairs, backyard parties, games, contests, and cookouts.

Now it goes by many names and has often been celebrated on the third Saturday in June. It is also known as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Juneteenth National Independence Day, and Black Independence Day.

Britannica.com calls it a “holiday commemorating the end of slavery,” and the History Channel says that it “commemorates an effective end of slavery in the United States.”

But was it? What is the origin of this holiday that is almost 160 years old?

 

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History of Father’s Day: the Beginning

June 14, 2024 /
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Fathers DayHISTORY OF FATHER’S DAY: the Beginning

[NOTE: I wrote a more extended and serious version of this article for CBS.com several years ago. It has been published on their network of sites for major cities nationwide. You can find that article here.]

 

Origin of Father’s Day

The celebration of Father’s Day goes back to the beginning, actually to the Garden of Eden when Abel gave his father Adam a razor while his brother Cain gave his father a snake-skin tie. This was the beginning of Cain’s downward slide.

 

Contrasts

Scholars have debated for ages why Mother’s Day seems to be more honored than Father’s Day. This phenomenon has been compared to the difference in popularity between the Irish patron saint and the Italian patron saint.

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History of Flag Day

June 13, 2024 /
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Flag DayHISTORY OF FLAG DAY

June 14 is Flag Day in the United States. While it may not be as widely celebrated as other American holidays, it is one of the oldest.

It was resolved by the Second Continental Congress in 1777, even before the conclusion of the American War of Independence, the Revolutionary War.

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History of Shavuot: The Feast of Weeks

June 11, 2024 /
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Shavuot poster, late 1940sHISTORY OF SHAVUOT

Tonight at sunset, June 11, begins the Jewish holiday Shavuot, also known as the Feast of Weeks, and continues until sundown on June 13. The holiday, also known in Greek as Pentecost, is on the sixth day of the Hebrew lunarsolar calendar month of Sivan, which means that in the Gregorian solar calendar, it may occur between May 15 and June 14.

Shavuot, or Shavuos, is called the “Feast of Weeks” because it occurs seven weeks (7 × 7 days) or 50 days (inclusive) after the first day of the Jewish Passover. It is distinguished from the Christian Passover in that the date of this is tied to Easter, due to decisions made at the Christian ecumenical Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325.

Shavuot is one of the three pilgrimage festivals, holidays when work was forbidden, and Jews were to bring their sacrifices to the Temple in Jerusalem.

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History of D-Day: 80 Years Ago

June 4, 2024 /
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D-Day

HISTORY OF D-DAY

Why has D-Day captured the imagination of American consciousness for over three-quarters of a century?

 

Eighty years ago, on June 6, 1944, the Allies launched an offensive on the Normandy coast of France to liberate continental Europe from the Nazi German occupation. On Twitter/X, the hashtag is #DDay80

D-Day was the largest invasion by sea and air in history, literally turning the tide. It was the beginning of the end of the War. General Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, sent the troops out that day:

“You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle.”

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History of the Summer of Love – 1967: Part 4, Rock & Roll

June 2, 2024 /
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sgt pepperHISTORY OF THE SUMMER OF LOVE – 1967: PART 4, ROCK & ROLL

 

It was twenty years ago today
Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play
They’ve been going in and out of style
But they’re guaranteed to raise a smile

 

Rock & Roll in the late ’60s was exemplified when The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in the U.S. on June 2, 1967. It was released in the U.K. the day before. No other rock & roll album defined the soundtrack of the Summer of Love better than Sgt. Pepper. It captured the fantasy, psychedelics, love, and drugs of 1967. Especially with the last song, “A Day In The Life,” which urged:

I’d love to turn you on.”

In 1967, I was on a school field trip to San Francisco. Directly across the street from Ghirardelli Square was a record store where I bought my copy of Sgt. Pepper. It felt almost scandalous to bring it home to my small town because “everyone knows it’s all about drugs,” or so people thought. I did not know it then, but that was not entirely incorrect, as we’ll see.

In 2017, Giles Martin, the son of the original Beatles’ producer, Sir George Martin, released the six-disc boxed set 50th Anniversary (Remix) Edition of Sgt. Pepper.

In this final article in the series on the 55th anniversary of the Summer of Love, I’ll discuss the significance of Sgt. Pepper as it kicked off that iconic summer of sex, drugs, and rock & roll.

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History of June

May 31, 2024 /
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junona, ny carlsberg glyptotek, copenhagen

Juno

HISTORY OF JUNE

June represents the year’s halfway point, the sixth of the twelve months of the Gregorian calendar, which we currently use in the West, and the earlier Julian calendar, named for Julius Caesar, the namesake of July. Where do we get the name for June?

 

What’s In A Name?

Ovid, author of the bi-millennial best-selling magnum opus Metamorphoses — where he takes the Greek myths and gives them Roman names — suggests two possible etymologies.

  • The first and more likely origin is the Roman goddess Juno, wife of Jupiter, who was referred to as Hera by the Greeks. She is the patroness of marriages, and most marriages happen during June. It was considered good luck to get married during June, though the good weather and school vacation could have something to do with it now.
  • Ovid also submitted that the month was named for Iuniores, Latin for “young people,” in the same way that May is named for “elders” or Maiores. And as we all recall from the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” there was no J in Latin in the 1st century.

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History of the Golden Gate Bridge: 87 Years Old

May 27, 2024 /
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Golden Gate BridgeHISTORY OF THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE

This week, we celebrate the 87th anniversary of the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge. On May 27, 1937, the bridge opened to traffic after taking over five years to build. I remember asking my father when I was young:

“Why isn’t the Golden Gate Bridge golden?”

He didn’t have an answer apart from his observation that it was expensive to paint.

 

Color of Golden Gate Bridge

He didn’t know that the steel for the bridge, which came from Bethlehem Steel foundries in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, originally came coated with a red lead primer. Color studies by consulting architect Irving Morrow arrived upon what’s now become known as Golden Gate Bridge International Orange, a unique “red terra cotta” version of the International Orange standard. But there were other competitors, as pictured above. “Warm Grey” was a distant second choice. If you like the color, you can obtain it from Sherwin Williams, the supplier of “Firewood” (color code SW 6328).

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History of Memorial Day: Where did it Begin?

May 27, 2024 /
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BoalsburgHISTORY OF MEMORIAL DAY: BOALSBURG, PA

The city of Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, an American village on the National Historic Register, claims to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, as do at least 24 other towns in America. I first visited this hamlet near State College, home of Penn State University, decades ago. Boalsburg’s claim goes back to a practice at the end of the Civil War. The town has a local museum and a history stretching over two centuries. The 19th-century feel of the village persists. A Memorial Day Festival is held there every year.

They have their own Facebook page and website.

 

Memorial Day Custom

Its claim is stated on a large sign near the center of town:

An American village on the National Register

BIRTHPLACE OF MEMORIAL DAY

The custom of decorating soldiers’ graves was begun here in October 1864, by Emma Hunter, Sophie Keller, and Elizabeth Myers.

Named for David Boal who settled here in 1798. Village laid out in 1808. Boalsburg Tavern built in 1819. Post Office established 1820. First church erected 1827. Home community of three United States ambassadors.

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History of Towel Day: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

May 25, 2024 /
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Towel DayHISTORY OF TOWEL DAY

May 25 celebrates Towel Day to honor Douglas Adams, the author of the five (or six) book trilogy Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Created in May 2001 to mark the passing of English science fiction humor author Douglas Adams, the day is set aside for fans of his writings to carry a towel throughout the day in honor of the author.

 

Why a towel? Stay tuned

Although it occurs on the same day as the anniversary of the premier of the first Star Wars movie – and the original radio version of tHGttG came out the year after Star Wars – Star Wars did not inspire The  Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

I met Douglas Adams about thirty years ago when he spoke at a special Sun Microsystems company event. I recall noting that he talked at 19,200 baud (fast Internet speed in those days), meaning he spoke English more quickly than any other person I had heard before.

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