THIS WEEK IN HISTORY: MAY 20, 1873

Levi Strauss & Jacob Davis Patent Copper Riveted Pants

Acting at the behest of a Reno, Nevada, tailor who had invented the idea, Levi Strauss secures the necessary patents for canvas pants with copper rivets to reinforce the stress points.

Born in Buttenheim, Bavaria, in 1829, the young Levi Strauss emigrated to the United States in 1847. Strauss initially went into business selling dry goods along the East Coast, but in 1852, his brother-in-law encouraged him to relocate to the booming city of San Francisco. He arrived in San Francisco in 1853 with a load of merchandise that he hoped to sell in the California mining camps. Unable to sell a large supply of canvas, Strauss hit on the idea of using the durable material to make work pants for miners. Strauss’ canvas pants were an immediate success among hardworking miners who had long complained that conventional pants wore out too quickly.

In 1872, Strauss received a letter from Jacob Davis, a customer and tailor who worked in the mining town of Reno, Nevada. Davis reported that he had discovered canvas pants could be improved if the pocket seams and other weak points that tended to tear were strengthened by copper rivets. Davis’ riveted pants had proven popular in Reno, but he needed a patent to protect his invention. Intrigued by the copper-riveted pants, Strauss and his partners agreed to undertake the necessary legal work for the patent and begin large-scale production of the pants. Davis’ invention was patented on this day in 1873. In exchange for his idea, Strauss made the Reno tailor his production manager. Eventually, Strauss switched from using canvas to heavyweight blue denim, and the modern “blue jeans” were born.

Since then, Levi Strauss & Company has sold more than 200 million pairs of copper-riveted jeans. By the turn of the century, people outside of the mining and ranching communities had discovered that “Levi’s” were both comfortable and durable. Eventually, the jeans lost most of their association with the West and came to be simply a standard element of the casual American wardrobe.

“Levi Strauss patents copper-riveted pants” History Channel http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/levi-strauss-patents-copper-riveted-jeans


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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY: APRIL 26, 1822

Birth of Fredrick Law Olmsted

Frederick Law Olmsted was America’s foremost landscape architect in the late nineteenth century. Olmsted was famous for co-designing many well-known urban parks including Central Park in New York City, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and Elm Park in Worcester, Massachusetts, considered by many to be the first municipal park in America.

More than any other American of his generation Olmsted represented a belief in the power of landscape to provide a refuge to urban residents and succeeded in planting the romantic ideal in the heart of some of the nation’s largest cities. At a time when most urban land was in the hands of private speculators, he symbolized a belief in the civic good and the necessity of urban planning.

Olmsted was born in Hartford, Connecticut, on April 26, 1822. When he was fourteen years old a severe case of sumac poisoning partially blinded him, and for several years thereafter he had poor eyesight. Doctors recommended that he do little reading, so he postponed entering college and traveled in the northeastern United States and Canada with his father, a wealthy merchant. He then worked for a New York importer (1840) and traveled to China (1843). Upon his return to the United States he briefly studied scientific farming at Yale University and did some publishing and editorial work. Between 1852 and 1854 he traveled through the South and wrote extensively on the region, submitting stories to the New York Daily Tribune. The stories were compiled and published as The Cotton Kingdom in 1861. Olmsted received an appointment as general secretary of the U.S. Sanitary Commission during part of the Civil War (1861–1863), then went to California as administrator of the forty-four-thousand-acre Mariposa Estate (1863–1865).

Olmsted was an early American observer of British and of continental parks; he admired the eighteenth-century English garden and skillfully used open areas and natural watersheds in his designs. He developed his style of landscape design in response to urban needs; he was the first to call himself a landscape architect rather than a landscape gardener. With his partner, Calvert Vaux, he designed New York’s 840-acre Central Park (1858–1861) and landscaped New York City north of 155th Street. Olmsted’s style in turn inspired many city and national parks that followed. He also planned the Emerald Necklace (Boston), Prospect Park (Brooklyn), South Park (Chicago), Belle Isle Park (Detroit), Mount Royal Park (Montreal), the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, and the Boston and Buffalo park systems. His other projects included the Stanford University campus (1886) and the Biltmore Estate outside Asheville, North Carolina (1888). One of his last major projects was as chief landscape planner for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Olmsted died on August 28, 1903.

Olmsted, Frederick Law (1822–1903). (1997). In American Eras (Vol. 8, p. 417). Detroit: Gale.


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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY: APRIL 18, 1942

Doolittle Leads Air Raid on Tokyo

In early 1942 the United States, still tormented by the shock of Pearl Harbor and the continuing succession of Japanese victories, needed some type of victory to raise morale. To effect this, a scheme was concocted to have army B-25 bombers take off from the navy aircraft carrier Hornet and attack the Japanese mainland. Arnold, now commanding general of the Army Air Forces, chose Doolittle to lead the air strike. Colonel Doolittle set about to supervise the training of his volunteer crews and the modification of their B-25s to obtain maximum range. His crews, who had never taken off from a carrier deck, knew nothing about the mission until they were far out to sea. On the morning of April 18, 1942, the Japanese observed the carriers Hornet and Enterprise, compelling Doolittle to schedule the raid a day earlier and at a greater range from their targets. All 16 B-25s dropped their bombs, but as a consequence of the 150-mile extended flight path all but one aircraft, which landed in the Soviet Union, ran out of fuel and went down in Japanese-occupied China. Of the 80 crewmen, 71 survived, one died and eight were captured. The Japanese executed four of the captured American airmen as war criminals; the others survived cruel treatment and were freed at the war’s end. Most of the pilots, including Doolittle, maneuvered their way to friendly lines. Unfortunately, the Japanese subsequently executed many of the Chinese peasants who had assisted Doolittle’s raiders. While the actual damage of the Doolittle raid was slight, the psychological effect on the Japanese was significant: their army and navy had failed to protect their homeland. In June, Japanese strategists decided to attack Midway Island, where they lost four large carriers and one cruiser. One of the decisive battles in human history had taken place because of Doolittle’s action. Doolittle was made a brigadier general following the raid and received the Congressional Medal of Honor. Promotion to major general soon followed.

Doolittle, James Harold. (2001). In K. T. Jackson, K. Markoe, & A. Markoe (Eds.), The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives (Vol. 3, pp. 148-151). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.


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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY: MARCH 30, 1868

United States Purchases Alaska

In 1866, the Russian government offered to sell the territory of Alaska to the United States. Secretary of State William H. Seward, enthusiastic about the prospect of American expansion, negotiated the deal for the Americans. Edouard de Stoeckl, Russian minister to the United States, negotiated for the Russians. On March 30, 1867, the two parties agreed that the United States would pay Russia $7.2 million for the territory of Alaska.

For less than 2 cents an acre, the United States acquired nearly 600,000 square miles. Opponents of the Alaska Purchase persisted in calling it “Seward’s Folly” or “Seward’s Icebox” until 1896, when the great Klondike Gold Strike convinced even the harshest critics that Alaska was a valuable addition to American territory.

In 1993, when Russian nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky announce that Russia should take Alaska back, he inspired Jim Borgman of The Cincinnati Enquirer to produce an editorial cartoon with then President Clinton calling the National Archives saying, “Hello, National Archives? We’ve got to find that receipt.”

The Archives not only has the receipt, they have the cancelled check.

Bredhoff, Stacey. (2001.). American originals. Washington, D.C. : National Archives Trust Fund Board in association with The University of Washington Press.


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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY: MARCH 22, 1960

Laser Patented

Lasers are an important family of light sources, best known for emitting a highly directional beam of a single color. Since the first laser was demonstrated in 1960, many different types have been developed, ranging from tiny semiconductor chips to machine tools the size of a car. Lasers emit light in the visible, infrared, and ultraviolet parts of the spectrum, with the wavelength depending on the material emitting the light. Lasers are important in scientific research and measurement, and have played important roles in over a dozen Nobel Prizes. Important laser applications include long-distance communication through optical fibers, eye surgery, optical disks for data storage and entertainment, holography, machining, fabrication of electronic chips, reading bar codes in stores, laser radar for measurement of distances and velocities, and studying nuclear fusion.

The American physicists Charles H. Townes (1915–) and James Gordon (1928–2013) demonstrated the first amplification of stimulated emission in 1954 in a microwave device they called the maser, for Microwave Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. They separated excited molecules of ammonia from molecules with lower energy to create a population inversion. When some excited ammonia molecules emitted microwaves at 24 gigahertz, the radio waves stimulated other excited ammonia to emit identical microwave photons. To increase the amplification, they put the ammonia molecules in a cavity resonant at 24 gigahertz, so the microwaves bounced back and forth and were amplified by stimulated emission from more molecules.

In 1957 Townes sought to extend the maser principle to light waves, which have a frequency tens of thousands of times higher than microwaves. This was not a straightforward problem because it required finding suitable light-emitting materials, producing population inversions for light-emitting states, and devising a resonator in which to amplify the light. The following year, Townes and American physicist Arthur Schawlow (1921–1999), proposed producing stimulated emission in a long, thin cylinder with mirrors on both ends, one of which would transmit part of the stimulated emission. Another American physicist, Gordon Gould (1920–2005), whom Townes had asked about suitable materials, independently came up with the same design and coined the word laser to describe it.

The first to make a laser was the American physicist Theodore Maiman (1927–2007) at Hughes Research Laboratories in California, who used a photographic flashlamp to excite chromium atoms in a ruby rod to emit pulses of red light lasting about a millisecond. Announced July 7, 1960, at a press conference, the world’s first laser was small enough to hold in the palm of your hand, although it required a larger pulsed driver to power the flashlamp.

Hecht, J. (2015). Lasers. In J. Trefil (Ed.), Discoveries in Modern Science: Exploration, Invention, Technology (Vol. 2, pp. 587-592). Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference USA.


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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY: MARCH 13, 1942

K-9 Corps Established

In 1942, the Quartermaster Corps (QMC) of the United States Army begins training dogs for the newly established War Dog Program, or “K-9 Corps.”

Well over a million dogs served on both sides during World War I, carrying messages along the complex network of trenches and providing some measure of psychological comfort to the soldiers. The most famous dog to emerge from the war was Rin Tin Tin, an abandoned puppy of German war dogs found in France in 1918 and taken to the United States, where he made his film debut in the 1922 silent film The Man from Hell’s River. As the first bona fide animal movie star, Rin Tin Tin made the little-known German Shepherd breed famous across the country.

In the United States, the practice of training dogs for military purposes was largely abandoned after World War I. When the country entered World War II in December 1941, the American Kennel Association and a group called Dogs for Defense began a movement to mobilize dog owners to donate healthy and capable animals to the Quartermaster Corps of the U.S. Army. Training began in March 1942, and that fall the QMC was given the task of training dogs for the U.S. Navy, Marines and Coast Guard as well.

The K-9 Corps initially accepted over 30 breeds of dogs, but the list was soon narrowed to seven: German Shepherds, Belgian sheep dogs, Doberman Pinschers, collies, Siberian Huskies, Malumutes and Eskimo dogs. Members of the K-9 Corps were trained for a total of 8 to 12 weeks. After basic obedience training, they were sent through one of four specialized programs to prepare them for work as sentry dogs, scout or patrol dogs, messenger dogs or mine-detection dogs. In active combat duty, scout dogs proved especially essential by alerting patrols to the approach of the enemy and preventing surprise attacks.

The top canine hero of World War II was Chips, a German Shepherd who served with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. Trained as a sentry dog, Chips broke away from his handlers and attacked an enemy machine gun nest in Italy, forcing the entire crew to surrender. The wounded Chips was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star and the Purple Heart–all of which were later revoked due to an Army policy preventing official commendation of animals.

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-s-army-launches-k-9-corps


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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY: MARCH 7, 1899

Bayer Patents Aspirin

Aspirin is the commercial name of a drug developed by Bayer in the nineteenth century, using an extract of the bark of the willow tree. Its active ingredient is acetylsalicylic acid. There is evidence in the archaeological record showing that willow tree bark has been used for medicinal purposes as far back as 2000 BC. Typically the drug is used to treat pain, inflammation, and swelling. In the latter half of the twentieth century, not long after its biochemical mechanisms were at last understood, researchers observed that aspirin also inhibits the clotting of blood. This knowledge led to additional research into whether or not aspirin should be used to prevent heart attacks by thinning the blood and reducing the frequency of arterial blockages. While the exact scope of its benefits in this regard is still subject to debate, there is general agreement that aspirin does help reduce the risk of heart attacks.

Medical texts that date back to the ancient civilization of Sumer contain the oldest references to the beneficial effects of tea made from willow bark. The Egyptians were also aware of its beneficial properties, and the Greek and Roman civilizations were likewise familiar with it. During Europe’s Middle Ages, physicians and folk healers remained aware of willow bark’s uses. Finally, in the eighteenth century, scientific research was begun to determine the substance and the mechanism responsible for willow bark’s effects. Several researchers were able to isolate the active ingredient and identify it as salicin by the early nineteenth century, and Charles Frederic Gerhardt synthesized a more stomach friendly “buffered” compound, acetylsalicylic acid, in 1853.

In 1899, drug manufacturer Bayer began selling its product, named Aspirin, for the treatment of fever and for pain relief. The drug quickly grew in popularity around the world, helped in part by the Spanish flu epidemic after World War I, which provided a venue for the drug to showcase its potency. Aspirin generated huge profits for drug companies all over the world, most of them producing the drug independently, without the authorization of Bayer. The trademarked name Aspirin soon came into the lexicon as the generic “aspirin,” which is commonly listed as an ingredient in non-Bayer products.

Zimmer, S. M. (2015). Aspirin. Salem Press Encyclopedia Of Health


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