Grateful American® Foundation

March 16
March 31
2024

History Matters

Showing our children that their past
is prelude to their future

On March 16, 1903, the storied Judge, Roy Bean, died from natural causes. Early on, he had lived as an outlaw until he inched over to the right side of justice. But even now, rumors still circulate; it is said, for example, that he charged a dead man for carrying a six gun, and–then–took $40 from his pocket.

History.com tells us that “for about 16 years, Bean lived a prosperous and relatively legitimate life as a San Antonio businessman. In 1882, he moved to southwest Texas, where he built his famous saloon, the Jersey Lily, and founded the hamlet of Langtry. Saloon and town alike were named for the famous English actress, Lillie Langtry. Bean had never met Langtry, but he had developed an abiding affection for the beautiful actress after seeing a drawing of her in an illustrated magazine. For the rest of his life, he avidly followed Langtry’s career in theatre magazines.”

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Judge Roy Bean Country by Jack Skiles.

Photograph of Phantly Roy Bean, Jr. (c. 1825 – March 16, 1903) was an eccentric U.S. saloon-keeper and Justice of the Peace in Val Verde County, Texas


Sixty-eight years ago, “Elvis the Pelvis,” The King of Rock and Roll, revved up his singing career, –and catapulted into a speedy sensation. Two years later–on March 24, 1958–he was inducted into the U.S. Army:

“There would be huge changes in Elvis’s life during his two years in the Army,” according to History.com. “He would meet a 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu while in Germany, and he would watch while a new crop of teen idols took over the limelight on the U.S. pop scene. In the spring of 1960, Elvis would return to his rightful throne, but his Army years mark a clear line of separation between the Old Elvis and the New. Behind Elvis Presley lay records like “That’s All Right (Mama)” and “Jailhouse Rock.” Ahead of lay songs like “Aloha Oe” and “Pocketful of Rainbows,” and films like Harum Scarum and Clambake.” He died of heart failure in 1977 at the age of 42.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Peter Guralnick’s Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley.

Presley in a publicity photograph for the 1957 film Jailhouse Rock


When he purchased Alaska from Russia on March 30, 1867, Secretary of State William H. Seward, paid two cents per acre–a transaction that was dismissed by Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune, as “Seward’s Folly” and President Andrew Johnson’s “polar bear garden.”

But at 663,267 square miles–and America’s largest state–it has produced billions of dollars in gold, oil, fish, furs, and timber.

History.com says that at the time “Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, led the opposition, writing, among other things, that most of Alaska was a ‘burden…not worth taking as a gift! Some senators were equally skeptical, with one joking to his colleagues that he would support taking possession of the land only if Seward ‘be compelled to live there.’ Yet that same senator failed in an attempt to delay the proceedings, and the treaty ended up being approved on April 9 [1867] by a 37-2 vote.”

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Alaska: A History by Claus M. Naske and Herman E. Slotnick.

The signing of the Alaska Treaty of Cessation on March 30, 1867. Left to right: Robert S. Chew, William H. Seward, William Hunter, Mr. Bodisco, Eduard de Stoeckl, Charles Sumner, and Frederick W. Seward.


History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.

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