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the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) once closed for almost 4 months?

Marcos Hernandez Wilson by A. Scott Berg

It happened after World War 1 was incited in June 1914 by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. This event triggered a cascade of alliances to be called into effect which brought most European coutnries to war. One month after the assassination, amidst escalating conflict, the New York Stock Exchange shut it’s doors out of fear foreign investors would sell their assets to fund the war effort overseas.

At the time, foreigners owned billions of dollars in U.S. railroad stock. If they sold their assets and accquired gold they could ship the metal overseas and use the currency to fund the war. The United States, who didn’t want to abandon the gold standard, decided to suspend all trading in order to keep whatever gold they had within it’s borders.

The war caused the European countries to abandon or suspend the gold standard. This led to a weakening of their currencies but the exchange rate stayed relatively stable, meaning American goods costed less than their European counterparts. As a result the value of American exports tripled, it’s trade surplus exceeded one billion dollars for the first time, and America changed from a net debtor to a net creditor country.

The shutdown of the NYSE lasted until November 28, 1914.

the massacre of striking coal miners led to the development of the 8-hour work day?

Marcos Hernandez Wilson by A. Scott Berg

The Ludlow Massacre of 1914 occurred when the Colorado National Guard and forces from the coal mining companies fired into a group of striking coal miners. The striking miners had erected a tent colony in Ludlow, Colorado, land leased by the miner’s union close to a mine whose chief owner was John D. Rockefeller Jr.

Shooting began when the striking miners tried to flank a machine gun erected by the mining companies near the camp. The gunfight continued all day long and by day’s end nineteen people had lost their lives and the tent colony had been destroyed.

The following day “a telephone linesman going through the ruins of the Ludlow tent colony … found the charred, twisted bodies of eleven children and two women.” They had taken cover in a pit below a tent and suffocated when the tent above them had caught fire, trapping them beneath.

This initial massacre sparked ten days of fighting that only ended after President Wilson sent in federal troops to disarm both sides. A report on the massacre led to both the 8-hour work day and the development of child labor laws.

the prosecutor of the Scopes Monkey Trial had run for President of the United States and lost three times?

Marcos Hernandez Wilson by A. Scott Berg

The Scopes Monkey Trial was the trial which brought the issue of whether or not it was appropriate to teach evolution in public schools to the forefront of the national consciousness. On one side of the argument stood those believing in the literal interpretation of the bible and on the other side were those who believed in the importance of teaching students modern science.

The groundwork for the showdown began with the passing of Tennessee’s Butler Act which made it illegal to teach evolution in public schools. John Scopes, a substitute teacher, allowed himself to be accused of violating this act in order to bring the issue to the courts. William Jennings Bryan, the three-time Democratic presidential nominee and former Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson, agreed to represent the state of Tennessee and, by extension, the literal interpretation of the bible. Over the course of the trial Bryan was called to the stand and forced to defend his own personal beliefs on whether or not the bible was indeed factual.

Scopes’s lawyer declined to make his closing speech which, under rules of the court, prevented Bryan from presenting his closing speech. Bryan distributed his closing statement to reporters but never presented it in court. His speech appealed to the jury to allow God’s word to be the driving force to change civilization for the better. Scopes was found guilty but after the appeal process the verdict was set aside on a technicality.

Bryan died in his sleep a mere five days after the conclusion of the initial trial, ending his long and storied career in the public spotlight.

the first recorded example of forensic science being used to solve a murder occurred in China in the year 1235?

Marcos Hernandez I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

The incident is detailed in a book called The Washing Away of Wrongs by Song Ci. The investigator determined that a villager was murdered by a sickle. They also knew that blow flies are attracted to human tissue and blood. With these two pieces of knowledge the investigator asked the members of the village to lay their sickles down in the village square. Blow flies soon began to gather on one sickle, the sickle that was covered in the blood of the murdered villager. The owner of the sickle soon broke down and confessed to the murder.

Not only was this the first example of forensic science being used to solve the murder, it was also the first recorded use of insects to solve a crime. It brings to mind the movie The Silence of the Lambs. Buffalo Bill raised a very specific type of moth, the Death Head’s Moth, and he would stuff the pupa down his victim’s throat. In the movie, this fact was instrumental in the investigation and the roots of this type of evidence collection can be traced hundreds of years back to China.

a California mansion was continuously built from 1884-1922 because of a belief in spirits?

Marcos Hernandez Empire of Guns by Priya Satia

The mansion was built by Sarah Winchester in the Santa Clara Valley of California after she was left the sole remaining heir to the company which made Winchester rifles. Her husband, the son of the founder of the company, and infant daughter had died leaving Sarah in sole possession of a sizable fortune. The distraught woman went to a medium after the death of her family and was told to continuously build a home to house the spirits of all those killed by Winchester rifles. She followed the medium’s advice and in 1884 construction began in California and continued for 38 years until her death in 1922.

The Winchester House reached a height of seven stories before an earthquake in 1906 left the building  four-stories tall. It has become a tourist attraction due to it’s randomly constructed rooms made without a master building plan.

a rebellion in Massachusetts set the stage for the Second Amendment to be written?

Marcos Hernandez Empire of Guns by Priya Satia

During 1786 and 1787, Daniel Shay led thousands of farmers in a rebellion against the Massachusetts State Government called Shay’s Rebellion. The participants were all fed up with the economic conditions after the Revolutionary War that saw them lose their land and possessions when they couldn’t pay their taxes. During this time, the federal government was unable to fund a national army so the responsibilty fell to the states and private citizens to defend themselves with their own men.

The rebellion’s first priority was to overtake the Armory in Springfield. This invasion was stopped by a recently-formed Massachusetts state militia. When the rebels left to regroup their forces a privately-formed militia comprised of three thousand men marched on Springfield and put an end to the rebellion with few casualties.

When General George Washington heard about the uprising of his fellow citizens he came out of retirement to head the Constitional Convention. With Washington as it’s leader the convention ratified the US Constitution, giving the central government much more power than before.

The Second Amendment says “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” In the atmosphere immediately following Shay’s Rebellion it didn’t seem economically feasible to keep a standing army capable of suppressing future rebellions. What the writers had in mind, instead of an indivdual having the right to bear arms, was that the state had the right to bear arms. It was the right of each state to keep a militia capable of controlling their population. The founding fathers assumed there would be future uprisings and wanted to make sure the states rights to take action was guaranteed. Thomas Jefferson, when he heard about Shay’s Rebellion, best articulated the founding fathers’s attitude towards the uprising: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

the first African-American to head a civilian hospital was also the first African-American to assist a president in office?

Marcos Hernandez Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard

President James Garfield was shot twice in the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station by Charles Guiteau. One of the physicians who visited him in the station, before he was transported back to the White House, was Charles Burleigh Purvis. Purvis was one of the founders of the Howard University Medical School, a historically black university.

Another attending doctor, a white man named Dr. Bliss, couldn’t locate the bullet in the President’s back. Without administering anesthesia Bliss used an unsterilized probe, then an unsterilized finger, in order to search for the bullet in Garfield’s back. Candice Miller, in her book The Destiny of the Republic, discusses the event at length. “With a boldness then extraordinary in a black doctor when addressing a white one,” she says, Purvis asked Dr. Bliss to end his brutal examination. Miller asserts that it was the infection introduced during this and future examinations which ultimately claimed the President’s life. Purvis never saw Garfield once they removed the President from the station.

Purvis would go on to be nominated by then-President Chester Arthur to be surgeon-in-charge at the Freedmens hospital, the first African-American to head a civilian hospital.

a presidential assassin believed his efforts helped James Garfield win the election?

Marcos Hernandez Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard

When Charles Guiteau wrote a speech in support of Grant for the 1880 presidential campaign the prevailing belief was that Ulysses S. Grant would be the Republican Party’s nominee for president. When the nomination went to James Garfield instead, Guiteau changed the name throughout his speech from Grant to Garfield and left the rest of the speech unchanged. Printed copies of the speech were handed out but never gained traction and he later became convinced this speech was the reason for Garfield’s victory.

Once Garfield took office Guiteau went to Washington to request a diplomatic position as compensation for his contribution to the victory. He lived in boarding houses with promises of future payment as soon as his position was recevied. Rejected by the government one too many times, Guiteau came to believe the best course of action would be to assassinate Garfield in order to remove him from the presidential seat and pave the way for decisions more in line with the Republican Party’s beliefs.

Guiteau was able to procure a handgun and got close enough to shoot the president at the Baltimore-Potomac Railroad station. His two shots didn’t kill Garfield immediately; the president was able to cling to life for eleven weeks until he passed away from numerous infections. This was before sterile medical care was practiced and doctors would use unwashed hands to inspect wounds. In the trial Guiteau claimed that it wasn’t his bullets which killed Garfield but instead medical malpractice was to blame. Guiteau was found guilty and hung for the assasssination.

in evolutionary terms, it makes sense to lay down one’s life for two brothers or eight cousins?

Marcos Hernandez Behave by Robert Sapolsky

Kin selection is the principle that genetic material could best be passed down by helping one’s relatives even if it meant the individual’s reproductive success might suffer. Bees are a prime example of this behavior. A large majority of a hive is sterile and the worker bees leave all reproductive duties to the queen.

J.B.S. Haldane, one of two men who described the evolutionary strategy in mathematical terms, wrote “I would lay down my life for two brothers or eight cousins.” This stems from the fact that, on average, siblings share 50% genetic material and cousins share 12.5% genetic material. The way the numbers work out, as long as these saved individuals passed on their genetic material, it makes sense to forfeit reproduction (read: lay down one’s life) for groups of relatives these minimum sizes.

the last invasion of Britain caused the government to suspend the exchange of national banknotes?

Marcos Hernandez Empire of Guns by Priya Satia

Tate’s Invasion occurred in 1797. The French force, led by Colonel William Tate, was the last time a foreign force landed on British soil. The French force ultimately surrendered to British forces but the invasion led to the suspended conversion of banknotes issued by the Bank of England into gold.

In order to issue some sort of value for the notes the bank commissioned a prominent gun manufacturer, Matthew Boulton, to produce copper pennies. He received the contract because his facility was the only one able to produce to coinage in the amounts the bank needed. To gain the public’s trust in the new coins the government issued them as payment to members of the army and navy. This served to bind the England’s economy to their ongoing war efforts.