By August 1782, the American Revolution was over, John Adams was in Paris toiling over a peace agreement, and George Washington was taking a respite from his duties as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. After contemplating the six years of valor, bravery, and privations he had gotten from his troops, the General decided to create the Badge of Military Merit.
According to the Military Order of the Purple Heart: “In its shape and color, the Badge anticipated and inspired the modern Purple Heart. In the exceptional level of courage required to be considered for the Badge, however, it was the forerunner of the Medal of Honor.”
But it fell out of use, even after it was presented to three known recipients of the original Badge: Elijah Churchill, William Brown and Daniel Bissell, Jr. In 1931, Generals Charles Summerall and Douglas MacArthur lobbied Congress to reauthorize a newly named “Order of the Purple Heart” in time for Washington’s 200th birthday celebration on February 22, 1932.
For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Military Medals of the United States by Frank Foster and Lawrence Borts.
Often, museums are named after their artifacts or collections; for example, it is easy to know what one will find in the Museum of Natural History. But, what about the Smithsonian Institution? In August 1846, James Smithson, a British benefactor, who had never been to America, bequeathed his $500,000 estate—$16,740,065 in today’s dollars—to “the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.”
Since then, it has morphed into 18 museums, including the National Zoo. Learn more about it in The Smithsonian Experience: Science, History, the Arts … the Treasures of the Nation by the Smithsonian Institution.
Music festivals are an American tradition, but the grandest was the fabled Woodstock; it opened August 15, 1969 on a 600-acre patch of farmland near the village of Bethel, NY. Its young promoters, John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfield, and Michael Lang were relatively inexperienced, but they were optimistic about attracting a sizeable audience–enough to help them finance a rock-and-roll recording studio.
Early estimates indicated 50,000 music enthusiasts would show for the three-day event, but nearly 500,000 came, because of the enticing lineup of performers, which included Jefferson Airplane, the Who, the Grateful Dead; Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix; Creedence Clearwater Revival, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Melanie; Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, and Joe Cocker.
America’s love of music started during Colonial times. The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Music: INVESTIGATE THE EVOLUTION OF AMERICAN SOUND by Donna Latham.
History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.