December 16 to December 31
Showing our children that their past is prelude to their future
by John Grimaldi and David Bruce Smith
A powerful potpourri of European countries—Spain, Netherlands, and France—boosted America’s resolve to free itself of Great Britain during the Revolutionary War. The French supplied arms, ammunition, troops, and maritime reinforcement. And, while victory was not declared until 1783, they recognized America’s independence on December 17, 1777, and divulged the alliance two months later.
According to History.com, “Franklin had quickly mustered French support upon his arrival in December 1776. France’s humiliating loss of North America to the British in the Seven Years’ War made the French eager to see an American victory. However, the French king was reluctant to back the rebels openly. Instead, in May 1776, Louis XVI sent unofficial aid to the Continental forces and the playwright Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais helped Franklin organize private assistance for the American cause.”
For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends America’s First Ally: France in the Revolutionary War by Norman Desmarais.
On December 21, 1891, Coach James Naismith invented basketball in Springfield, MA– the only major sport conceived in America. The inspiration came to him–during the winter– at the International Young Men’s Christian Association Training School– when the students were restless and needed an indoor activity.
In 1939 Naismith was interviewed on New York’s WOR-AM radio and explained that he “called the boys to the gym, divided them up into teams of nine and gave them a little soccer ball. I showed them two peach baskets I’d nailed up at each end of the gym, and I told them the idea was to throw the ball into the opposing team’s peach basket. I blew the whistle, and the first game of basketball began … The invention of basketball was not an accident. It was developed to meet a need.”
Basketball is America’s second favorite sport–after football. Thirty-six percent of the population are fans of the National Basketball Association [NBA].
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld.
Early on, Thomas Edison’s successes would have seemed unlikely. He wrestled with attention deficit disorder; scarlet fever; and a sequence of hearing infections that stripped away much of his hearing. Even so, he once said, “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 perspiration.”
He dreamed up the motion picture camera; improved Samuel Morse’s telegraph, enhanced Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, and—according to History.com—re-worked the first light bulb “to be long-lasting enough to be practical for widespread use…the first incandescent lamp had been produced 40 years earlier, [but] no inventor had been able to come up with a practical design until Edison embraced the challenge in the late 1870s. After countless tests, he developed a high-resistance carbon-thread filament that burned steadily for hours and an electric generator sophisticated enough to power a large lighting system.”
On New Year’s Eve, 1879, the re-worked version was displayed in Menlo Park, NJ; more than 3,000 persons showed for the demonstration.
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Thomas Edison: The Inspirational Life Story of Thomas Edison by Helen Boone.
History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.