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On September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key pens a poem which is later set to music and in 1931 becomes America’s national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The poem, originally titled “The Defence of Fort McHenry,” was written after Key witnessed the Maryland fort being bombarded by the British during the War of 1812. Key was inspired by the sight of a lone U.S. flag still flying over Fort McHenry at daybreak, as reflected in the now-famous words of the “Star-Spangled Banner”: “And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”

Francis Scott Key was born on August 1, 1779, at Terra Rubra, his family’s estate in Frederick County (now Carroll County), Maryland. He became a successful lawyer in Maryland and Washington, D.C., and was later appointed U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.

On June 18, 1812, America declared war on Great Britain after a series of trade disagreements. In August 1814, British troops invaded Washington, D.C., and burned the White House, Capitol Building and Library of Congress. Their next target was Baltimore.

After one of Key’s friends, Dr. William Beanes, was taken prisoner by the British, Key went to Baltimore, located the ship where Beanes was being held and negotiated his release. However, Key and Beanes weren’t allowed to leave until after the British bombardment of Fort McHenry. Key watched the bombing campaign unfold from aboard a ship located about eight miles away. After a day, the British were unable to destroy the fort and gave up. Key was relieved to see the American flag still flying over Fort McHenry and quickly penned a few lines in tribute to what he had witnessed.

The poem was printed in newspapers and eventually set to the music of a popular English drinking tune called “To Anacreon in Heaven” by composer John Stafford Smith. People began referring to the song as “The Star-Spangled Banner” and in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson announced that it should be played at all official events. It was adopted as the national anthem on March 3, 1931.

Francis Scott Key died of pleurisy on January 11, 1843.

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On September 14, 1812, one week after winning a bloody victory over the Russian army at the Battle of Borodino, Napoleon Bonaparte’s Grande Armée enters the city of Moscow, only to find the population evacuated and the Russian army retreated again. Moscow was the goal of the invasion, but the deserted city held no czarist officials to sue for peace and no great stores of food or supplies to reward the French soldiers for their long march. Then, just after midnight, fires broke out across the city, apparently set by Russian patriots, leaving Napoleon’s massive army with no means to survive the coming Russian winter.

In 1812, French Emperor Napoleon I was still at the height of his fortunes. The Peninsular War against Britain was a thorn in the side of his great European empire, but he was confident that his generals would soon triumph in Spain. All that remained to complete his “Continental System”–a unilateral European blockade designed to economically isolate Britain and force its subjugation–was the cooperation of Russia. After earlier conflict, Napoleon and Alexander I kept a tenuous peace, but the Russian czar was unwilling to submit to the Continental System, which was ruinous to the Russian economy. To intimidate Alexander, Napoleon massed his forces in Poland in the spring of 1812, but still the czar resisted.

On June 24, Napoleon ordered his Grande Armée, the largest European military force ever assembled to that date, into Russia. The enormous army featured more than 500,000 soldiers and staff and included contingents from Prussia, Austria, and other countries under the sway of the French empire. Napoleon’s military successes lay in his ability to move his armies rapidly and strike quickly, but in the opening months of his Russian invasion he was forced to be content with a Russian army in perpetual retreat. The fleeing Russian forces adopted a “scorched earth” strategy, seizing or burning any supplies that the French might pillage from the countryside. Meanwhile, Napoleon’s supply lines became overextended as he advanced deeper and deeper into the Russian expanse.

Many in the czarist government were critical of the Russian army’s refusal to engage Napoleon in a direct confrontation. Under public pressure, Alexander named General Mikhail Kutuzov supreme commander in August, but the veteran of earlier defeats against Napoleon continued the retreat. Finally, Kutuzov agreed to halt at the town of Borodino, about 70 miles west of Moscow, and engage the French. The Russians built fortifications, and on September 7 the Grande Armée attacked. Napoleon was uncharacteristically cautious that day; he didn’t try to outflank the Russians, and he declined to send much-needed reinforcements into the fray. The result was a bloody and narrow victory and another retreat by the Russian army.

Although disturbed by the progress of the campaign, Napoleon was sure that once Moscow was taken Alexander would be forced to capitulate. On September 14, the French entered a deserted Moscow. All but a few thousand of the city’s 275,000 people were gone. Napoleon retired to a house on the outskirts of the city for the night, but two hours after midnight he was informed that a fire had broken out in the city. He went to the Kremlin, where he watched the flames continue to grow. Strange reports began to come in telling of Russians starting the fires and stoking the flames. Suddenly a fire broke out within the Kremlin, apparently set by a Russian military policeman who was immediately executed. With the firestorm spreading, Napoleon and his entourage were forced to flee down burning streets to Moscow’s outskirts and narrowly avoided being asphyxiated. When the flames died down three days later, more than two-thirds of the city was destroyed.

In the aftermath of the calamity, Napoleon still hoped Alexander would ask for peace. In a letter to the czar he wrote: “My lord Brother. Beautiful, magical Moscow exists no more. How could you consign to destruction the loveliest city in the world, a city that has taken hundreds of years to build?” The fire was allegedly set on the orders of Moscow Governor-General Feodor Rostopchin; though Rostopchin later denied the charge. Alexander said the burning of Moscow “illuminated his soul,” and he refused to negotiate with Napoleon.

After waiting a month for a surrender that never came, Napoleon was forced to lead his starving army out of the ruined city. Suddenly, Kutuzov’s army appeared and gave battle on October 19 at Maloyaroslavets. The disintegrating Grande Armée was forced to abandon the fertile, southern route by which it hoped to retreat and proceed back along the ravaged path over which it had originally advanced. During the disastrous retreat, Napoleon’s army suffered continual harassment from the merciless Russian army. Stalked by hunger, subzero temperatures, and the deadly lances of the Cossacks, the decimated army reached the Berezina River late in November, near the border with French-occupied Lithuania. However, the river was unexpectedly thawed, and the Russians had destroyed the bridges at Borisov.

Napoleon’s engineers managed to construct two makeshift bridges at Studienka, and on November 26 the bulk of his army began to cross the river. On November 29, the Russians pressed from the east, and the French were forced to burn the bridges, leaving some 10,000 stragglers on the other side. The Russians largely abandoned their pursuit after that point, but thousands of French troops continued to succumb to hunger, exhaustion, and the cold. In December, Napoleon abandoned what remained of his army and raced back to Paris, where people were saying he had died and a general had led an unsuccessful coup. He traveled incognito across Europe with a few cohorts and reached the capital of his empire on December 18. Six days later, the Grande Armée finally escaped Russia, having suffered a loss of more than 400,000 men during the disastrous invasion.

With Europe emboldened by his catastrophic failure in Russia, an allied force rose up to defeat Napoleon in 1814. Exiled to the island of Elba, he escaped to France in early 1815 and raised a new army that enjoyed fleeting success before its crushing defeat at Waterloo in June 1815. Napoleon was then exiled to the remote island of Saint Helena, where he died six years later.

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September 14th in music.

1814 - Francis Scott Key completes "The Star Spangled Banner" in the early morning hours during the British attack of Fort McHenry and the courageous defense made by American forces.

1974 - Eric Clapton scored a US No. 1 with his version of the Bob Marley song 'I Shot The Sheriff' which was first released in 1973 on The Wailers' album Burnin'. Clapton's version was included on his 1974 album 461 Ocean Boulevard.

Birthdays:

1949 - Steve Gaines. American musician, guitarist with Lynyrd Skynyrd who had the 1974 US No. 8 single 'Sweet Home Alabama' and the 1982 UK No. 21 single 'Freebird'. Born in Seneca, Missouri. Gaines was killed in a plane crash on 20th October 1977. The crash also killed Ronnie Van Zant and Steve's sister Cassie Gaines from the band.

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On September 15, 1940, the Battle of Britain reaches its climax when the Royal Air Force (RAF) downs 56 invading German aircraft in two dogfights lasting less than an hour. The costly raid convinced the German high command that the Luftwaffe could not achieve air supremacy over Britain, and the next day daylight attacks were replaced with nighttime sorties as a concession of defeat. On September 19, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler postponed indefinitely “Operation Sea Lion”, the amphibious invasion of Britain. Although heavy German aid raids on London and other British cities would continue through spring 1941, the Battle of Britain was effectively won.

In May and June 1940, Holland, Belgium, Norway and France fell one by one to the German Wehrmacht, leaving Great Britain alone in its resistance against Hitler’s plans for Nazi world domination. The British Expeditionary Force escaped the continent with an impromptu evacuation from Dunkirk, but they left behind the tanks and artillery needed to defend their homeland against invasion. With British air and land forces outnumbered by their German counterparts, and U.S. aid not yet begun, it seemed certain that Britain would soon follow the fate of France. However, Winston Churchill, the new British prime minister, promised his nation and the world that Britain would “never surrender,” and the British people mobilized behind their defiant leader.

On June 5, the Luftwaffe began attacks on English Channel ports and convoys, and on June 30 Germany seized control of the undefended Channel Islands. On July 10, the first day of the Battle of Britain according to the RAF, the Luftwaffe intensified its bombing of British ports. Six days later, Hitler ordered the German army and navy to prepare for Operation Sea Lion. On July 19, the German leader made a speech in Berlin in which he offered a conditional peace to the British government: Britain would keep its empire and be spared from invasion if its leaders accepted the German domination of the European continent. A simple radio message from Lord Halifax swept the proposal away.

Germany needed to master the skies over Britain if it was to safely transport its superior land forces across the 21-mile English Channel. On August 8, the Luftwaffe intensified its raids against the ports in an attempt to draw the British air fleet out into the open. Simultaneously, the Germans began bombing Britain’s sophisticated radar defense system and RAF fighter airfields. During August, as many as 1,500 German aircraft crossed the Channel daily, often blotting out the sun as they flew against their British targets. Despite the odds against them, the outnumbered RAF flyers successfully resisted the massive German air invasion, relying on radar technology, more maneuverable aircraft, and exceptional bravery. For every British plane shot down, two Luftwaffe warplanes were destroyed.

At the end of August, the RAF launched a retaliatory air raid against Berlin. Hitler was enraged and ordered the Luftwaffe to shift its attacks from RAF installations to London and other British cities. On September 7, the Blitz against London began, and after a week of almost ceaseless attacks several areas of London were in flames and the royal palace, churches, and hospitals had all been hit. However, the concentration on London allowed the RAF to recuperate elsewhere, and on September 15 the RAF launched a vigorous counterattack.

Prime Minister Churchill was at the underground headquarters of the RAF at Uxbridge that day and watched as the English radar picked up swarms of German aircraft crossing over British soil. The British Spitfires and Hurricanes were sent up to intercept the German warplanes and met them in a crescendo of daring and death. When it appeared that the RAF’s resources were exhausted, Churchill turned to Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park and asked, “What other reserves have we?” Park replied, “There are none,” but then, fortunately, the German planes turned and went home.

Fifty-six German planes were shot down that day, though the number was inflated to 185 in British newspapers. Britain had lost 40 planes but denied the Luftwaffe air supremacy. There would be no German invasion of Britain. The Battle of Britain, however, continued. In October, Hitler ordered a massive bombing campaign against London and other cities to crush British morale and force an armistice. Despite significant loss of life and tremendous material damage to Britain’s cities, the country’s resolve remained unbroken. In May 1941, the air raids essentially ceased as German forces massed near the border of the USSR.

By denying the Germans a quick victory, depriving them of forces to be used in their invasion of the USSR, and proving to America that increased arms support for Britain was not in vain, the outcome of the Battle of Britain greatly changed the course of World War II. As Churchill said of the RAF fliers during the Battle of Britain, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

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On September 15, 1950, during the Korean War, U.S. Marines land at Inchon on the west coast of Korea, 100 miles south of the 38th parallel and just 25 miles from Seoul. The location had been criticized as too risky, but U.N. Supreme Commander Douglas MacArthur insisted on carrying out the landing. By the early evening, the Marines had overcome moderate resistance and secured Inchon. The brilliant landing cut the North Korean forces in two, and the U.S.-led U.N. force pushed inland to recapture Seoul, the South Korean capital that had fallen to the communists in June. Allied forces then converged from the north and the south, devastating the North Korean army and taking 125,000 enemy troops prisoner.

The Korean War began on June 25, 1950, when 90,000 North Korean troops stormed across the 38th parallel, catching the Republic of Korea’s forces completely off guard and throwing them into a hasty southern retreat. Two days later, U.S. President Harry Truman announced that the United States would intervene in the conflict, and on June 28 the United Nations approved the use of force against communist North Korea. On June 30, Truman agreed to send U.S. ground forces to Korea, and on July 7 the Security Council recommended that all U.N. forces sent to Korea be put under U.S. command. The next day, General Douglas MacArthur was named commander of all U.N. forces in Korea.

In the opening months of the war, the U.S.-led U.N. forces rapidly advanced against the North Koreans, but Chinese communist troops entered the fray in October, throwing the Allies into a hasty retreat. In April 1951, Truman relieved MacArthur of his command after he publicly threatened to bomb China in defiance of Truman’s stated war policy. Truman feared that an escalation of fighting with China would draw the Soviet Union into the Korean War.

By May 1951, the communists were pushed back to the 38th parallel, and the battle line remained in that vicinity for the remainder of the war. On July 27, 1953, after two years of negotiation, an armistice was signed, ending the war and reestablishing the 1945 division of Korea that still exists today. Approximately 150,000 troops from South Korea, the United States, and participating U.N. nations were killed in the Korean War, and as many as one million South Korean civilians perished. An estimated 800,000 communist soldiers were killed, and more than 200,000 North Korean civilians died.

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On September 15, 1935, German Jews are stripped of their citizenship, reducing them to mere “subjects” of the state.

After Hitler’s accession to the offices of president and chancellor of Germany, he set about the task of remaking his adopted country (Hitler had to pull some strings even to be eligible for office, as he was Austrian by birth) into the dream state he imagined. But his dream was soon to become a nightmare for many. Early on in his reign, the lives of non-Jewish German citizens were barely disrupted. But not so for Hitler’s “enemies.” Hitler’s racist ideology, which elevated those of “pure-blooded” German stock to the level of “masters” of the earth, began working itself out in vicious ways.

Within the first year of Hitler’s rule, German Jews were excluded from a host of high-profile vocations, from public office to journalism, radio, theater, film, and teaching, and even farming. The professions of law and medicine were also withdrawn slowly as opportunities. “Jews Not Welcome” signs could be seen on shop and hotel windows, beer gardens, and other public arenas. With the Nuremberg Laws, these discriminatory acts became embedded in the culture by fiat, making them even more far-reaching. Jews were forbidden to marry “Aryans” or engage in extramarital relations with them. Jews could not employ female Aryan servants if they were less than 35 years of age. Jews found it difficult even to buy food, as groceries, bakeries, and dairies would not admit Jewish customers. Even pharmacies refused to sell them medicines or drugs.

What was the outside world’s reaction? Because unemployment had dropped precipitously under Hitler’s early commandeering of the economy, the face of Germany seemed brighter. While some foreign visitors, even some political opponents within Germany itself, decried these racist laws and practices, most were beguiled into thinking it was merely a phase, and that Hitler, in the words of former British Prime Minister Lloyd George, was “a great man.”

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On September 15, 1916, during the Battle of the Somme, the British launch a major offensive against the Germans, employing tanks for the first time in history. At Flers Courcelette, some of the 40 or so primitive tanks advanced over a mile into enemy lines but were too slow to hold their positions during the German counterattack and subject to mechanical breakdown. However, General Douglas Haig, commander of Allied forces at the Somme, saw the promise of this new instrument of war and ordered the war department to produce hundreds more.

On July 1, the British launched a massive offensive against German forces in the Somme River region of France. During the preceding week, 250,000 Allied shells had pounded German positions near the Somme, and 100,000 British soldiers poured out of their trenches and into no-man’s-land on July 1, expecting to find the way cleared for them. However, scores of heavy German machine guns had survived the artillery onslaught, and the infantry were massacred. By the end of the day, 20,000 British soldiers were dead and 40,000 wounded. It was the single heaviest day of casualties in British military history.

After the initial disaster, Haig resigned himself to smaller but equally ineffectual advances, and more than 1,000 Allied lives were extinguished for every 100 yards gained on the Germans. Even Britain’s September 15 introduction of tanks into warfare for the first time in history failed to break the deadlock in the Battle of the Somme. In October, heavy rains turned the battlefield into a sea of mud, and on November 18 Haig called off the Somme offensive after more than four months of mass slaughter.

Except for its effect of diverting German troops from the Battle of Verdun, the offensive was a miserable disaster. It amounted to a total advance of just five miles for the Allies, with more than 600,000 British and French soldiers killed, wounded, or missing in action. German casualties were more than 650,000. Although Haig was severely criticized for the costly battle, his willingness to commit massive amounts of men and resources to the stalemate along the western front did eventually contribute to the collapse of an exhausted Germany in 1918.

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September 15th in music.

1956 - Elvis Presley started a five-week run at No. 1 on the US charts with 'Don't Be Cruel'. The track went on to become Presley's biggest selling single, with sales over six million by 1961. This “double-sided hit” which had 'Hound Dog' on the B side, became the most successful on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. One side reached No. 1 on the chart, the other No. 2. The two titles spent a combined 55 weeks in the Top 100 in 1956-1957.

1962 - The Four Seasons started a five week run at No. 1 on the US singles chart with 'Sherry'. They became the first American group to have three No. 1's in succession.

1965 - The Ford Motor Company became the first automaker to offer an 8-track tape player as an option for their entire line of vehicles on sale in the US. Tapes were initially only available at auto parts stores, as home 8-track equipment was still a year away.

1975 - Pink Floyd released their ninth studio album Wish You Were Here in the UK. The album which explores themes of absence, the music business, and former band-mate Syd Barrett's mental decline, peaked at No. 1 on both sides of the Atlantic and went on to spend a total of 84 weeks on the chart.

1979 - Led Zeppelin scored their sixth US No. 1 album when In Through The Out Door started a seven-week run at the top of the charts. The eighth studio album by Zeppelin, was their final album of entirely new material.

1983 - Huey Lewis and the News release the album Sports, which sells over 7 million copies. The album features the singles "I Want a New Drug," "The Heart of Rock 'n Roll" and "If This Is It."

2010 - In Toronto, Roger Waters begins his The Wall Live tour, a new production of the show he made famous with Pink Floyd in 1980.

Birthdays:

1941 - Signe Toly Anderson. American singer who was one of the founding members of the American rock band Jefferson Airplane. She sang on the first Jefferson Airplane album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, most notably on the song 'Chauffeur Blues'. Born in Seattle, Washington. She died on 28 January 2016.

1945 - Lee Dorman. Bass guitarist for Iron Butterfly. Born in St. Louis, Missouri.

1946 - Ola Brunkert. Drummer with the Swedish group ABBA. Was a member of the Slim Blues Gang, Science Poption and jazz-rock combo Opus III before joining ABBA. He played on every ABBA album and toured with the group. Born in Orebro, Sweden. He was found dead with his throat cut at his home in Majorca, Spain on March 17th 2008 after he hit his head against a glass door in the dining room at his home.

1960 - Michel Dorge. Drummer/percussionist with Canadian rock band Crash Test Dummies best known internationally for their 1993 single 'Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm'. Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

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On September 16, 1620, the Mayflower sails from Plymouth, England, bound for the New World with 102 passengers. The ship was headed for Virginia, where the colonists, half religious dissenters and half entrepreneurs, had been authorized to settle by the British crown. However, stormy weather and navigational errors forced the Mayflower off course, and on November 21 the “Pilgrims” reached Massachusetts, where they founded the first permanent European settlement in New England in late December.

Thirty-five of the Pilgrims were members of the radical English Separatist Church, who traveled to America to escape the jurisdiction of the Church of England, which they found corrupt. Ten years earlier, English persecution had led a group of Separatists to flee to Holland in search of religious freedom. However, many were dissatisfied with economic opportunities in the Netherlands, and under the direction of William Bradford they decided to immigrate to Virginia, where an English colony had been founded at Jamestown in 1607.

The Separatists won financial backing from a group of investors called the London Adventurers, who were promised a sizable share of the colony’s profits. Three dozen church members made their way back to England, where they were joined by about 70 entrepreneurs, enlisted by the London stock company to ensure the success of the enterprise. In August 1620, the Mayflower left Southampton with a smaller vessel, the Speedwell, but the latter proved unseaworthy and twice was forced to return to port. On September 16, the Mayflower left for America alone from Plymouth.

In a difficult Atlantic crossing, the 90-foot Mayflower encountered rough seas and storms and was blown more than 500 miles off course. Along the way, the settlers formulated and signed the Mayflower Compact, an agreement that bound the signatories into a “civil body politic.” Because it established constitutional law and the rule of the majority, the compact is regarded as an important precursor to American democracy. After a 66-day voyage, the ship landed on November 21 on the tip of Cape Cod at what is now Provincetown, Massachusetts.

After coming to anchor in Provincetown harbor, a party of armed men under the command of Captain Myles Standish was sent out to explore the area and find a location suitable for settlement. While they were gone, Susanna White gave birth to a son, Peregrine, aboard the Mayflower. He was the first English child born in New England. In mid-December, the explorers went ashore at a location across Cape Cod Bay where they found cleared fields and plentiful running water and named the site Plymouth.

The expedition returned to Provincetown, and on December 21 the Mayflower came to anchor in Plymouth harbor. Just after Christmas, the pilgrims began work on dwellings that would shelter them through their difficult first winter in America.

In the first year of settlement, half the colonists died of disease. In 1621, the health and economic condition of the colonists improved, and that autumn Governor William Bradford invited neighboring Indians to Plymouth to celebrate the bounty of that year’s harvest season. Plymouth soon secured treaties with most local Indian tribes, and the economy steadily grew, and more colonists were attracted to the settlement. By the mid 1640s, Plymouth’s population numbered 3,000 people, but by then the settlement had been overshadowed by the larger Massachusetts Bay Colony to the north, settled by Puritans in 1629.

The term “Pilgrim” was not used to describe the Plymouth colonists until the early 19th century and was derived from a manuscript in which Governor Bradford spoke of the “saints” who left Holland as “pilgrimes.” The orator Daniel Webster spoke of “Pilgrim Fathers” at a bicentennial celebration of Plymouth’s founding in 1820, and thereafter the term entered common usage.

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On September 16, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest, launches the Mexican War of Independence with the issuing of his Grito de Dolores, or “Cry of Dolores.” The revolutionary tract, so-named because it was publicly read by Hidalgo in the town of Dolores, called for the end of 300 years of Spanish rule in Mexico, redistribution of land and racial equality. Thousands of Indians and mestizos flocked to Hidalgo’s banner of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and soon the peasant army was on the march to Mexico City.

In the early 19th century, Napoleon’s occupation of Spain led to the outbreak of revolts all across Spanish America. Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, “the father of Mexican independence”, launched the Mexican rebellion with his “Cry of Dolores,” and his populist army came close to capturing the Mexican capital. Defeated at Calderón in January 1811, he fled north but was captured and executed. He was followed by other peasant leaders, however, such as José María Morelos y Pavón, Mariano Matamoros, and Vicente Guerrero, who all led armies of native and racially mixed revolutionaries against the Spanish and the Royalists.

Ironically, it was the Royalists, made up of Mexicans of Spanish descent and other conservatives, who ultimately brought about independence. In 1820, liberals took power in Spain, and the new government promised reforms to appease the Mexican revolutionaries. In response, Mexican conservatives called for independence as a means of maintaining their privileged position in Mexican society.

In early 1821, Agustín de Iturbide, the leader of the Royalist forces, negotiated the Plan of Iguala with Vicente Guerrero. Under the plan, Mexico would be established as an independent constitutional monarchy, the privileged position of the Catholic Church would be maintained, and Mexicans of Spanish descent would be regarded as equal to pure Spaniards. Mexicans of mixed or pure Indian blood would have lesser rights.

Iturbide defeated the Royalist forces still opposed to independence, and the new Spanish viceroy, lacking money, provisions, and troops, was forced to accept Mexican independence. On August 24, 1821, Spanish Viceroy Juan de O’Donojú signed the Treaty of Córdoba, which approves a plan to make Mexico an independent constitutional monarchy. In 1822, as no Bourbon monarch to rule Mexico had been found, Iturbide was proclaimed the emperor of Mexico. However, his empire was short-lived, and in 1823 republican leaders Santa Anna and Guadalupe Victoria deposed Iturbide and set up a republic, with Guadalupe Victoria as its first president.

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On September 16, 1908, Buick Motor Company head William Crapo Durant spends $2,000 to incorporate General Motors in New Jersey. Durant, a high-school dropout, had made his fortune building horse-drawn carriages, and in fact he hated cars, he thought they were noisy, smelly, and dangerous. Nevertheless, the giant company he built would dominate the American auto industry for decades.

In the first years of the 20th century, however, that industry was a mess. There were about 45 different car companies in the United States, most of which sold only a handful of cars each year (and many of which had an unpleasant tendency to take customers’ down payments and then go out of business before delivering a completed automobile). Industrialist Benjamin Briscoe called this way of doing business “manufacturing gambling,” and he proposed a better idea. To build consumer confidence and drive the weakest car companies out of business, he wanted to consolidate the largest and most reliable manufacturers (Ford, REO, his own Maxwell-Briscoe, and Durant’s Buick) into one big company. This idea appealed to Durant (though not to Henry Ford or REO’s Ransom E. Olds), who had made his millions in the carriage business just that way: Instead of selling one kind of vehicle to one kind of customer, Durant’s company had sold carriages and carts of all kinds, from the utilitarian to the luxurious.

But Briscoe wanted to merge all the companies completely into one, while Durant wanted to build a holding company that would leave its individual parts more or less alone. (“Durant is for states’ rights,” Briscoe said. “I am for a union.”) Durant got his way, and the new GM was the opposite of Ford: Instead of just making one car, like the Model T, it produced a wide variety of cars for a wide variety of buyers. In its first two years, GM cobbled together 30 companies, including 11 automakers like Oldsmobile, Cadillac, and Oakland (which later became Pontiac), some supplier firms, and even an electric company.

Buying all these companies was too expensive for the fledgling GM, and in 1911 the corporation’s board forced the spendthrift Durant to quit. He started a new car company with the Chevrolet brothers and was able to buy enough GM stock to regain control of the corporation in 1916, but his profligate ways got the better of him and he was forced out again in 1920. During the Depression, Durant went bankrupt, and he spent his last years managing a bowling alley in Flint.

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On September 16, 1893, the largest land run in history begins with more than 100,000 people pouring into the Cherokee Strip of Oklahoma to claim valuable land that had once belonged to Native Americans. With a single shot from a pistol the mad dash began, and land-hungry pioneers on horseback and in carriages raced forward to stake their claims to the best acres.

Ironically, not many years before that same land had once been considered worthless desert. Early explorers of Oklahoma believed that the territory was too arid and treeless for white settlement, but several suggested it might be the perfect place to resettle Indians, whose rich and fertile lands in the southeast were increasingly coveted by Americans. The U.S. government later took this advice and began removing eastern Indian tribes like the Cherokee and Choctaw to Oklahoma Territory in 1817. No more eager than the whites to leave their green and well-watered lands for the arid plains, some Indians resisted and had to be removed by force, most tragically, the 4,000 Cherokee who died during the brutal overland march known appropriately as the “Trail of Tears.”

By 1885, a diverse mixture of Native American tribes had been pushed onto reservations in eastern Oklahoma and promised that the land would be theirs “as long as the grass grows and the water runs.” Yet even this seemingly marginal land did not long escape the attention of land-hungry Americans. By the late nineteenth century, farmers had developed new methods that suddenly made the formerly reviled Plains hugely valuable. Pressure steadily increased to open the Indian lands to settlement, and in 1889, President Benjamin Harrison succumbed and threw open large areas of unoccupied Indian lands to white settlement. The giant Cherokee Strip rush was only the largest of a series of massive “land runs” that began in the 1890s, with thousands of immigrants stampeding into Oklahoma Territory and establishing towns like Norman and Oklahoma City almost overnight.

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On September 16, 1845, Phineas Wilcox is stabbed to death by fellow Mormons in Nauvoo, Illinois, because he is believed to be a Christian spy. The murder of Wilcox reflected the serious and often violent conflict between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the surrounding communities. Joseph Smith, who founded the Mormon Church in 1830, had been living with his followers in Missouri, where they had various conflicts with locals, including an armed skirmish with the state militia. 

In 1838, Governor Lilburn Boggs signed a military order directing that the Mormons be expelled or exterminated: “The Mormons must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the state, if necessary, for the public good.”

Smith and the Mormons fled across the Mississippi to Nauvoo, Illinois, which quickly became the second most populous town in the state. But there were conflicts and tensions in Nauvoo as well. When a local newspaper printed editorials claiming that the religious leader was a fraud, Smith sent a group of followers to destroy the newspaper office. He was then arrested and sent to jail, where a lynch mob tracked him down and killed him.

Brigham Young, who quickly took command of the church and its followers, tried to stifle any dissent and banish his rivals. The killing of Phineas Wilcox was part of his consolidation of power. Tensions with other communities continued to escalate, and, a year later, over 2,000 armed anti-Mormons marched on Nauvoo. Young decided that it no longer was wise to stay in the area. He led his flock west and settled in the Salt Lake Valley, where he and his followers would become instrumental in founding the state of Utah.

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On September 16, 1940, The Burke-Wadsworth Act is passed by Congress by wide margins in both houses, and the first peacetime draft in the history of the United States is imposed. Selective Service was born.

The registration of men between the ages of 21 and 36 began exactly one month later, as Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, who had been a key player in moving the Roosevelt administration away from a foreign policy of strict neutrality, began drawing draft numbers out of a glass bowl. The numbers were handed to the president, who read them aloud for public announcement. There were some 20 million eligible young men, 50 percent were rejected the very first year, either for health reasons or illiteracy (20 percent of those who registered were illiterate).

In November 1942, with the United States now a participant in the war, and not merely a neutral bystander, the draft ages expanded; men 18 to 37 were now eligible.

“Conscientious objector” status was granted to those who could demonstrate “sincerity of belief in religious teachings combined with a profound moral aversion to war.” Quakers made up most of the COs, but 75 percent of those Quakers who were drafted fought. COs had to perform alternate service in Civilian Public Service Camps, which entailed long hours of hazardous work for no compensation. About 5,000 to 6,000 men were imprisoned for failing to register or serve the nation in any form; these numbers were comprised mostly of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

By war’s end, approximately 34 million men had registered, and 10 million served with the military.

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September 16th in music.
 
1967 - Jimi Hendrix's debut LP, Are You Experienced? entered the Billboard Hot 200 album chart, where it stayed for 106 weeks, including 77 weeks in the Top 40. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it No. 15 on their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and two years later it was selected for permanent preservation in the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress in the United States.
1972 - Three Dog Night's "Black And White" hits No. 1, where it will stay for one week.
1978 - Boston's second album, Don't Look Back, hits No. 1 in America.
Birthdays:
1941 - Joe Butler. Drummer/vocalist for The Lovin Spoonful, 1966 US No. 1 single 'Summer In The City'. Born in Long Island, New York.
1942 - Bernie Calvert. Bassist with British pop/rock group The Hollies (from 1966 until 1981), who have scored over 30 top 40 hits, including 'Just One Look', 'Bus Stop', 'Carrie Anne', and later 'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother' and 'The Air That I Breathe'. Born in Brierfield, Lancashire, England.
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On September 17, 1787, the Constitution of the United States of America is signed by 38 of 41 delegates present at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Supporters of the document waged a hard-won battle to win ratification by the necessary nine out of 13 U.S. states.

The Articles of Confederation, ratified several months before the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781, provided for a loose confederation of U.S. states, which were sovereign in most of their affairs. On paper, Congress, the central authority, had the power to govern foreign affairs, conduct war, and regulate currency, but in practice these powers were sharply limited because Congress was given no authority to enforce its requests to the states for money or troops. By 1786, it was apparent that the Union would soon break up if the Articles of Confederation were not amended or replaced. Five states met in Annapolis, Maryland, to discuss the issue, and all the states were invited to send delegates to a new constitutional convention to be held in Philadelphia.

On May 25, 1787, delegates representing every state except Rhode Island convened at Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania State House for the Constitutional Convention. The building, which is now known as Independence Hall, had earlier seen the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and the signing of the Articles of Confederation. The assembly immediately discarded the idea of amending the Articles of Confederation and set about drawing up a new scheme of government. Revolutionary War hero George Washington, a delegate from Virginia, was elected convention president.

During an intensive debate, the delegates devised a brilliant federal organization characterized by an intricate system of checks and balances. The convention was divided over the issue of state representation in Congress, as more-populated states sought proportional legislation, and smaller states wanted equal representation. The problem was resolved by the Connecticut Compromise, which proposed a bicameral legislature with proportional representation in the lower house (House of Representatives) and equal representation of the states in the upper house (Senate).

On September 17, 1787, the Constitution was signed. As dictated by Article VII, the document would not become binding until it was ratified by nine of the 13 states. Beginning on December 7, five states, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut, ratified it in quick succession. However, other states, especially Massachusetts, opposed the document, as it failed to reserve undelegated powers to the states and lacked constitutional protection of basic political rights, such as freedom of speech, religion, and the press. In February 1788, a compromise was reached under which Massachusetts and other states would agree to ratify the document with the assurance that amendments would be immediately proposed. The Constitution was thus narrowly ratified in Massachusetts, followed by Maryland and South Carolina. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the document, and it was subsequently agreed that government under the U.S. Constitution would begin on March 4, 1789. In June, Virginia ratified the Constitution, followed by New York in July.

On September 25, 1789, the first Congress of the United States adopted 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and sent them to the states for ratification. Ten of these amendments were ratified in 1791. In November 1789, North Carolina became the 12th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Rhode Island, which opposed federal control of currency and was critical of compromise on the issue of slavery, resisted ratifying the Constitution until the U.S. government threatened to sever commercial relations with the state. On May 29, 1790, Rhode Island voted by two votes to ratify the document, and the last of the original 13 colonies joined the United States. Today, the U.S. Constitution is the oldest written constitution in operation in the world.

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On September 17, 1862, beginning early in the morning, Confederate and Union troops in the Civil War clash near Maryland’s Antietam Creek in the bloodiest single day in American military history.

The Battle of Antietam marked the culmination of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the Northern states. Guiding his Army of Northern Virginia across the Potomac River in early September 1862, the great general daringly divided his men, sending half of them, under the command of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, to capture the Union garrison at Harper’s Ferry.

President Abraham Lincoln put Major General George B. McClellan in charge of the Union troops responsible for defending Washington, D.C., against Lee’s invasion. Over the course of September 15 and 16, the Confederate and Union armies gathered on opposite sides of Antietam Creek.

Fighting began in the foggy dawn hours of September 17. As savage and bloody combat continued for eight hours across the region, the Confederates were pushed back but not beaten, despite sustaining some 15,000 casualties.

By the time the sun went down, both armies still held their ground, despite staggering combined casualties, nearly 23,000 of the 100,000 soldiers engaged, including more than 3,600 dead. McClellan’s center never moved forward, leaving a large number of Union troops that did not participate in the battle.

On the morning of September 18, both sides gathered their wounded and buried their dead. That night, Lee turned his forces back to Virginia.

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On September 17, 1868, early in the morning, a large band of Cheyenne and Sioux stage a surprise attack on Major George A. Forsyth and a volunteer force of 50 frontiersmen in Colorado.

Retreating to a small sandbar in the Arikaree River that thereafter became known as Beecher’s Island, Forsyth and his men succeeded in repulsing three massed Indian charges. Thanks to the rapid fire capability of their seven-shot Spencer rifles, Forsyth’s volunteers were able to kill or wound many of the Indian attackers, including the war chief Roman Nose. But as evening came and the fighting temporarily halted, Forsyth found he had 22 men either dead or wounded, and he estimated the survivors were surrounded by a force of 600 Indians. The whites faced certain annihilation unless they could somehow bring help. Two men, Jack Stilwell and Pierre Trudeau, volunteered to attempt a daring escape through the Indian lines and silently melted into the night.

The battle raged for five more days. Forsyth’s effective fighting force was reduced to ten men before the Indians finally withdrew, perhaps reasoning that they had inflicted enough damage. Miles from help and lacking wagons and horses, Forsyth knew that many of his wounded would soon be dead if they didn’t get help. Fortunately, on September 25, the 10th Cavalry, one of the Army’s two African-American units nicknamed the “Buffalo Soldiers”, came riding to their rescue with a field ambulance and medical supplies. Miraculously, Stilwell and Trudeau had managed to make it through the Sioux and Cheyenne and bring help. Thanks to their bravery and the timely arrival of the Buffalo Soldiers, the lives of many men were saved.

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On September 17, 1976, NASA publicly unveils its first space shuttle, the Enterprise, during a ceremony in Palmdale, California. Development of the aircraft-like spacecraft cost almost $10 billion and took nearly a decade. In 1977, the Enterprise became the first space shuttle to fly freely when it was lifted to a height of 25,000 feet by a Boeing 747 airplane and then released, gliding back to Edwards Air Force Base on its own accord.

Regular flights of the space shuttle began on April 12, 1981, with the launching of Columbia from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Launched by two solid-rocket boosters and an external tank, only the aircraft-like shuttle entered into orbit around Earth. When the two-day mission was completed, the shuttle fired engines to reduce speed and, after descending through the atmosphere, landed like a glider at California’s Edwards Air Force Base.

Early shuttles took satellite equipment into space and carried out various scientific experiments. On January 28, 1986, NASA and the space shuttle program suffered a major setback when the Challenger exploded 74 seconds after takeoff and all seven people aboard were killed.

In September 1988, space shuttle flights resumed with the successful launching of the Discovery. Since then, the space shuttle has carried out numerous important missions, such as the repair and maintenance of the Hubble Space Telescope and the construction and manning of the International Space Station. A tragedy in space again rocked the nation on February 1, 2003, when Columbia, on its 28th mission, disintegrated during re-entry of the earth’s atmosphere. All seven astronauts aboard were killed. In the aftermath, the space-shuttle program was grounded until Discovery returned to space in July 2005, amid concerns that the problems that had downed Columbia had not yet been fully solved.

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On September 17, 1394, King Charles VI of France orders the expulsion of all Jews from his kingdom. The culmination of a series of anti-Semitic orders from the monarchs of France, the order outlived the monarchy and remains one of the major contributing factors to the tiny percentage of the French population that identifies as Jewish.

As with most European nations, France had been home to Jews since antiquity. Also as in the rest of Europe, the Jews of France faced frequent discrimination and persecution. French Jews had already suffered through burnings of their religious texts, discriminatory taxes and other fiscal policies targeted at Jews, being scapegoated for the Black Plague, and multiple prior attempts to expel them from France. Various cities in France independently expelled their Jews throughout the 13th and 14th centuries. They were formally expelled from the country 1306 and had their lands confiscated by the government, only to be recalled in 1315 and made to pay for the privilege of returning. Under the rules set in 1315, Jews were ordered not to discuss their religion publicly, made to wear a badge identifying themselves, and cautioned against committing usury, an accusation often leveled at Jews based on racist stereotypes.

For a time, the Crown was happier to have Jews in its lands paying taxes, but in 1394 Charles VI suddenly demanded they leave once again. France's Jews were given a bit of time to sell to their possessions before being escorted out of French lands. There was not a major Jewish population in France again until the 1700s, when Jews fleeing violence and discrimination further East arrived in Alsace and Lorraine. By the eve of the revolution, there were roughly 40,000 Jews in France. Over the course of the turbulent years that followed 1789, the newly “enlightened” governments gradually restored Jews’ rights to live in France, but they continued to face discrimination and their numbers were further decimated during the Nazi occupation of France. Today, roughly one percent of France is Jewish.

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On September 17, 1939, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov declares that the Polish government has ceased to exist, as the U.S.S.R. exercises the “fine print” of the Hitler-Stalin Non-aggression pact, the invasion and occupation of eastern Poland.

Hitler’s troops were already wreaking havoc in Poland, having invaded on the first of the month. The Polish army began retreating and regrouping east, near Lvov, in eastern Galicia, attempting to escape relentless German land and air offensives. But Polish troops had jumped from the frying pan into the fire, as Soviet troops began occupying eastern Poland. The Ribbentrop-Molotov Non-aggression Pact, signed in August, had eliminated any hope Poland had of a Russian ally in a war against Germany. Little did Poles know that a secret clause of that pact, the details of which would not become public until 1990, gave the U.S.S.R. the right to mark off for itself a chunk of Poland’s eastern region. The “reason” given was that Russia had to come to the aid of its “blood brothers,” the Ukrainians and Byelorussians, who were trapped in territory that had been illegally annexed by Poland. Now Poland was squeezed from West and East, trapped between two behemoths. Its forces overwhelmed by the mechanized modern German army, Poland had nothing left with which to fight the Soviets.

As Soviet troops broke into Poland, they unexpectedly met up with German troops who had fought their way that far east in a little more than two weeks. The Germans receded when confronted by the Soviets, handing over their Polish prisoners of war. Thousands of Polish troops were taken into captivity; some Poles simply surrendered to the Soviets to avoid being captured by the Germans.

The Soviet Union would wind up with about three-fifths of Poland and 13 million of its people as a result of the invasion.

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On September 17, 1978, at the White House in Washington, D.C., Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin sign the Camp David Accords, laying the groundwork for a permanent peace agreement between Egypt and Israel after three decades of hostilities. The accords were negotiated during 12 days of intensive talks at President Jimmy Carter’s Camp David retreat in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland. The final peace agreement, the first between Israel and one of its Arab neighbors, was signed in March 1979. Sadat and Begin were jointly awarded the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.

A state of war had existed between Egypt and the State of Israel since the establishment of Israel in 1948. In the first three Arab-Israeli wars, Israel decisively defeated Egypt. As a result of the 1967 war, Israel occupied Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the 23,500-square-mile peninsula that links Africa with Asia. When Anwar el-Sadat became Egyptian president in 1970, he found himself leader of an economically troubled nation that could ill afford to continue its endless crusade against Israel. He wanted to make peace and thereby achieve stability and recovery of the Sinai, but after Israel’s stunning victory in the 1967 war it was unlikely that Israel’s peace terms would be favorable to Egypt. So Sadat conceived of a daring plan to attack Israel again, which, even if unsuccessful, might convince the Israelis that peace with Egypt was necessary.

In 1972, Sadat expelled 20,000 Soviet advisers from Egypt and opened new diplomatic channels with Washington, which, as Israel’s key ally, would be an essential mediator in any future peace talks. Then, on October 6, 1973, Egyptian and Syrian forces launched a joint attack against Israel. It was Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for Jews, and Israeli forces were taken entirely by surprise. It took more than a week for Israel to beat back the impressive Arab advances. A U.S. airlift of arms aided Israel’s cause, but President Richard Nixon delayed the emergency military aid for seven days as a tacit signal of U.S. sympathy for Egypt. In November, an Egyptian-Israeli cease-fire was secured by the United States.

Although Egypt had again suffered military defeat against its Jewish neighbor, the initial Egyptian successes greatly enhanced Sadat’s prestige in the Middle East and provided him with an opportunity to seek peace. In 1974, the first of two Egyptian-Israeli disengagement agreements providing for the return of portions of the Sinai to Egypt were signed, and in 1975 Sadat traveled to the United States to discuss his peace efforts and seek American aid and investment.

When talks with Israel stalled, Sadat made a dramatic journey to Jerusalem in November 1977 and spoke before the Israeli Knesset (Parliament). In September 1978, President Jimmy Carter invited Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Begin to the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland, where dual peace accords were hammered out under the direction of Carter. Signed on September 17, the historic agreements provided for complete Israeli evacuation from the Sinai, laid the groundwork for the signing of a final peace agreement, and outlined a broader framework for achieving peace in the Middle East.

Sadat and Begin received the Nobel Peace Prize, and on March 29, 1979, a permanent peace agreement was signed that closely resembled the Camp David Accords. The treaty ended the state of war between the two countries and provided for the establishment of full diplomatic and commercial relations.

Although Sadat was greatly praised in the West, he was widely condemned in the Arab world. In 1979, Egypt was expelled from the Arab League, and internal opposition to his policies led to domestic crises. On October 6, 1981, Sadat was assassinated by Muslim extremists in Cairo while viewing a military parade commemorating the Yom Kippur War. Despite Sadat’s death, the peace process continued under Egypt’s new president, Hosni Mubarak. In 1982, Israel fulfilled the 1979 peace treaty by returning the last segment of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt.

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September 17th in music.

1931 - The first “LP” (long-playing) record, a 33 1/3 rpm recording, was demonstrated at the Savoy Plaza Hotel in New York by RCA-Victor. The venture was doomed to fail however due to the high price of the record players, which started around $95 (about $1140 in today's dollars) and lead to the new format to lying dormant for years until Columbia revives it in 1948.

1967 - The Doors were banned from The Ed Sullivan Show after Jim Morrison broke his agreement with the show’s producers. Morrison said before the performance that he wouldn’t sing the words, ‘Girl, we couldn’t get much higher,’ from 'Light My Fire' but did anyway. The Doors also performed their new single 'People Are Strange.

1982 - Pink Floyd's seminal double album The Wall makes it to the big screen as a feature-length musical. Few expected the sprawling concept album to be turned into a feature film, but the band's celluloid collaboration with director Alan Parker and animator Gerald Scarfe becomes a surprise box office hit and a cult classic.

Birthdays:

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On September 18, 1793, George Washington lays the cornerstone to the United States Capitol building, the home of the legislative branch of American government. The building would take nearly a century to complete, as architects came and went, the British set fire to it and it was called into use during the Civil War. Today, the Capitol building, with its famous cast-iron dome and important collection of American art, is part of the Capitol Complex, which includes six Congressional office buildings and three Library of Congress buildings, all developed in the 19th and 20th centuries.

As a young nation, the United States had no permanent capital, and Congress met in eight different cities, including Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia, before 1791. In 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act, which gave President Washington the power to select a permanent home for the federal government. The following year, he chose what would become the District of Columbia from land provided by Maryland. Washington picked three commissioners to oversee the capital city’s development and they in turn chose French engineer Pierre Charles L’Enfant to come up with the design. However, L’Enfant clashed with the commissioners and was fired in 1792. A design competition was then held, with a Scotsman named William Thornton submitting the winning entry for the Capitol building. In September 1793, Washington laid the Capitol’s cornerstone and the lengthy construction process, which would involve a line of project managers and architects, got under way.

In 1800, Congress moved into the Capitol’s north wing. In 1807, the House of Representatives moved into the building’s south wing, which was finished in 1811. During the War of 1812, the British invaded Washington, D.C., and set fire to the Capitol on August 24, 1814. A rainstorm saved the building from total destruction. Congress met in nearby temporary quarters from 1815 to 1819. In the early 1850s, work began to expand the Capitol to accommodate the growing number of Congressmen. In 1861, construction was temporarily halted while the Capitol was used by Union troops as a hospital and barracks. Following the war, expansions and modern upgrades to the building continued into the next century.

Today, the Capitol, which is visited by 3 million to 5 million people each year, has 540 rooms and covers a ground area of about four acres.

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