April 1 to April 15, 2021
Showing our children that their past is prelude to their future
by John Grimaldi and David Bruce Smith
Intrinsically, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a conservationist, who once said, “the forests are the lungs of our land [which] purify our air and give fresh strength to our people.”
On April 5, 1933–a year after he was elected President– FDR formed the Civilian Conservation Corps [CCC]; he believed it would put thousands of citizens back to work during “the Great Depression” and ensure the health of America’s woodlands.
Those who enlisted in “Roosevelt’s Tree Army” got $30 per month—approximately $600 in 2021 currency–and access to vocational education to facilitate their re-entry into the job market. Enlistment was intended to be only six months, but many of the recruits stayed longer.
According to History.com, “CCC employees fought forest fires, planted trees, cleared and maintained access roads, re-seeded grazing lands and implemented soil-erosion controls. They built wildlife refuges, fish-rearing facilities, water storage basins and animal shelters. To encourage citizens to get out and enjoy America’s natural resources, FDR authorized the CCC to build bridges and campground facilities. From 1933 to 1942, the CCC employed over 3 million men.”
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Hitch by Jeanette Ingold.
America’s space age began April 9, 1959 when seven test pilots with “The Right Stuff” were formally presented to the nation as its inaugural astronauts. The “Mercury Project”, as they were known, was composed of Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper Jr., John H. Glenn Jr., Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Walter Schirra Jr., Alan Shepard Jr. and Donald Slayton.
Their goal was to launch a sequence of successfully manned missions to space.
Two years earlier, the Soviet Union had astonished the world, when it put the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, into orbit, but America, resolved to eclipse them, was stunned a second time, when their cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, piloted the planet’s first manned space flight in April 1961–less than a month before Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard, went up in his spacecraft, the Freedom 7.
By then, the hustle for celestial superiority was ramped up with a zing, but the U.S. continued to lag–until 1969–when NASA’s Apollo astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins took “one giant leap for mankind”—and landed on the moon.
For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Project Mercury: America in Space Series by Eugen Reichl.
Henry Bergh was a wealthy man who learned a great lesson when he was given a diplomatic post at the U.S. Embassy in Russia by President Abraham Lincoln. As one account put it, “While in St. Petersburgh he is reputed to have seen a droshkie or Russian peasant beating his fallen cart horse. Bergh dismounted from his own carriage and intervened, saving the horse from a further beating that day. Upon his return to America in 1865, he stopped in England and met with the president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). Once back in New York, Bergh quickly took action to affect the formation of a similar society in the United States.”
On April 10, 1866, he founded American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA); it became a model for the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
His passion and his accounts of the cruelties suffered by animals enabled him to convince the New York State Legislature to give him a charter to organize the first ASPCA, and to enact the first anti-cruelty law in the United States.
The ASPCA also got the power to investigate complaints of animal cruelty, and to make arrests. History.com notes that, “As the pioneer and innovator of the humane movement, the ASPCA quickly became the model for more than 25 other humane organizations in the United States and Canada.”
By the time Bergh died in 1888, 37 of the 38 states in the Union [at that time] had passed anti-cruelty laws.
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends A Traitor to His Species: Henry Bergh and the Birth of the Animal Rights Movement 1st Edition by Ernest Freeberg.
History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize