This Week in History – The Battle of Bunker Hill

On June 17, 1775, American troops took up positions on Bunker Hill as British soldiers advanced. The battle that followed was a technical loss for the Americans, but resulted in so many casualties on the British side that it boosted American hope that with strategy and patriotic fervor they could succeed, in the end, against an enemy with a larger and better outfitted military.

This clipping gives an account of the battle, as shared by spectator Capt. Elijah Hide:
Battle of Bunker HillBattle of Bunker Hill Mon, Jun 26, 1775 – Page 3 · The Pennsylvania Packet (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) ·

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Beale’s Ciphers

In the 1820s, a man named Thomas Jefferson Beale left a box with an innkeeper in Lynchburg, VA. The box contained three ciphers that would lead to the location of a great treasure: one would describe the treasure, one would explain the treasure’s location, and one would name the owners of the treasure.

Alas, Beale mysteriously disappeared before he could provide the keys to crack the code. The cipher that detailed the contents of the treasure was solved with the help of the Declaration of Independence, but the keys for the other two, like the treasure itself, have never been found. Beale’s treasure is just out there, somewhere, waiting for the right person to stumble on the key and solve the puzzle. 

At least, so the story goes.

The Beale TreasureThe Beale Treasure Wed, Nov 11, 1987 – 21 · The News Leader (Staunton, Virginia) ·

The ciphersThe ciphers Sat, Aug 24, 1996 – Page 8 · Indiana Gazette (Indiana, Pennsylvania) ·

There’s a pretty hefty debate about the legitimacy of the whole thing, or whether Beale was even a real person. Most tend to fall on the side of disbelief, but some avid treasure-hunters have worked tirelessly on cracking the code. In many cases, attempts to read the cipher have been for nothing more than good fun and the satisfaction of figuring out if it says anything, even if the treasure doesn’t exist.

The Pot at the End of the CipherThe Pot at the End of the Cipher Tue, Dec 30, 1986 – 19 · The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) ·

With so many questions, suspicious clues, and dead ends, it seems the wisest course of action for those curious about the ciphers and their hidden treasure would be to listen to the words of the mysterious pamphlet author who brought this whole thing to light back in the 1880s:

Author's Warning: Beale CiphersAuthor’s Warning: Beale Ciphers Thu, Sep 2, 1999 – 39 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) ·

There’s so much more about this story than can be wrangled into one short post—search for more on Thomas Beale, the ciphers, the clues and the context of the whole bizarre business. Lots of really interesting stuff!

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This Week in History – Coney Island’s Coaster

On June 16, 1884, a thrill like none other opens to the public at Coney Island. Back then it was called a switchback railway, but we know it today as the first successful American roller coaster.

First Roller CoasterFirst Roller Coaster Thu, Nov 6, 1919 – 7 · The Mullinville News (Mullinville, Kansas) ·

The roller coaster was the concept of inventor and businessman LaMarcus Thompson, and earned him the nickname “Father of the American Roller Coaster.”

LaMarcus Thompson's ideaLaMarcus Thompson’s idea Sat, Jun 23, 1984 – Page 43 · Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York) ·

The coaster never went more than 6 mph—a good thing, since the invention of wheels that actually connected to the track was still a few years away—and drops were minimal. But the roller coaster was such a novelty that it found massive success with the crowds that regularly flocked to Coney Island.

They FreakedThey Freaked Sun, Jun 17, 1984 – 8 · Daily News (New York, New York) ·

It may not seem like much to us now, but it was only the beginning. We have the gentle ups and downs of that original “switchback railway” to thank for the the twisting, turning, stomach-churning rides we know and love—or hate—today.

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This Week in History – D-Day

This week marks the anniversary of 1944’s famous D-Day. In the early hours of June 6th, thousands of Allied troops came from sky and sea to invade the beaches of Normandy, France, in hopes of finally regaining control of mainland Europe.

Allies Invade Nazi EuropeAllies Invade Nazi Europe Tue, Jun 6, 1944 – Page 9 · Kingsport News (Kingsport, Tennessee) ·

As with most plans in life and in war, it did not go exactly as hoped; the invasion of Omaha Beach was especially brutal and only narrowly avoided failure, and some supplies never made it to shore. But on the whole the operation was considered a definite success, a pivotal turning point in the war that would lead to the liberation of France from Axis control and pave the way for Allied victory the following year.

France InvadedFrance Invaded Tue, Jun 6, 1944 – Page 1 · The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) ·

Yank ParatroopersYank Paratroopers Wed, Jun 7, 1944 – 18 · Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut) ·

D-Day Puts War in FranceD-Day Puts War in France Tue, Jun 6, 1944 – Page 5 · Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota) ·

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Smoky the 4 Pound Military Dog

In an adorably unexpected moment of WWII, a tiny Yorkshire Terrier was found in a foxhole in New Guinea by an American soldier. Already fully grown to her total of 4 lbs this tiny little pup found herself in the company of Corporal William A. Wynne, with whom she stayed through the end of the war and for years afterward.

SmokySmoky Sun, Jul 14, 1996 – 24 · News-Journal (Mansfield, Ohio) ·

The dog was named Smoky, and over the last two years of the war she accompanied Wynne on 12 combat missions and dozens of air raids, and entertained troops and the hospitalized wounded with tricks she learned during downtime. Those tricks served her well after the war too, used to entertain the world on tours and TV shows. Millions of people knew and loved Smoky the War Dog.

Mon, Apr 29, 1996 – Page 130 · St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) ·

About 50 years after Smoky’s death, a monument was made with a life-size sculpture of the photo that made her famous—Smoky sitting in an upturned steel helmet. It was placed over the spot where Smoky was buried, and stands in honor of Smoky and all dogs who have served in wars across the decades.

Smoky MemorialSmoky Memorial Fri, Nov 11, 2005 – 1 · News-Journal (Mansfield, Ohio) ·

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This Week in History – Everest Conquered

On May 29, 1953, British expedition duo Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary accomplish a feat that had never been done before: they reach the summit of Mount Everest.

Tenzing and HillaryTenzing and Hillary Sun, Jul 12, 1953 – Page 29 · The Post-Standard (Syracuse, New York) ·

Hillary was a New Zealander, recruited for the expedition as part of the British Commonwealth. Tenzing was a Nepali Sherpa, chosen for his expertise in mountaineering. With the help of insulated clothing and oxygen systems, the two reached the peak shortly before noon, and the news quickly spread across the land.

The Final Assault on Mt EverestThe Final Assault on Mt Everest Mon, Jul 20, 1953 – Page 33 · St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) ·

Tenzing and EverestTenzing and Everest Wed, Jul 22, 1953 – Page 39 · St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) ·

Hillary's reactionHillary’s reaction Tue, Jul 21, 1953 – Page 33 · St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) ·

There’s a lot to find about this moment in history–both Tenzing and Hillary wrote first hand accounts that were included in the papers as the story of their success spread. Find more on Hillary and Tenzing’s successful trip up the mountain (and of the many successes and failures that happened before and since) with a search on

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