Meet Ezra Meeker, the 76-year old who saved the Oregon Trail from disappearing

Meeker PortraitThe date was November 29, 1907. Ezra Meeker, a slight, elderly fellow whose unkempt beard was full of dust from the road, was waiting in the cabinet room of the White House for President Theodore Roosevelt. Just one month shy of his 77th birthday, Meeker had arrived in Washington DC by ox-drawn covered wagon all the way from Washington State. A man on a mission, he had already come a very long way. And he had even further yet to go.

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How Did They Levy Tolls on the Erie Canal?

As you drive across America’s Interstate Highway System you may notice certain special off-ramps that only large cargo trailers take. These weigh-stations are used by the states to check permits, as well as determine whether a truck is within weight limits based on how heavy it is. The truck simply drives onto a large platform with a scale under it, sometimes stopping, sometimes not.  The scale measures the truck’s weight and if all is well the truck goes on its way.  It’s all very quick and easy. But it has roots in an earlier transportation system: America’s canals.
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How Do You Support a 5-ton Elephant?

Meet Henry.  He’s a male African bush elephant who first graced the rotunda of the National Museum of Natural History in 1959.  Constructed of metal lathe, wood, plaster, and a lot of clay Henry weighs in at over 10,000 pounds.

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Henry the elephant greets visitors to the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

While it might not occur to visitors to the Museum, supporting that kind of weight (to say nothing of Henry’s setting, the nearby information booth, or all of the people walking through) isn’t easy.  So how does the Museum do it?  Steel beams in the floor would seem logical and would get the job done, but the real answer is something much less mundane.  Henry is actually standing on tiles. Continue reading “How Do You Support a 5-ton Elephant?”

Two Friends, a River Hotel, and the Legend of “Unconditional Surrender” Grant – The Battle of Fort Donelson

Nestled on a quiet stretch of the Cumberland River, in a small, quiet town just south of the Tennessee/Kentucky border sits an unassuming two-story building, with a long porch on the south side and a balcony overtop.  While it may not look flashy or magnificent, it was here at the Dover Hotel that the Battle of Fort Donelson would end and the legend of Ulysses S. “Unconditional Surrender” Grant would begin.  While small in scope when compared to Gettysburg or Shiloh, Fort Donelson was a significant battle that set the tone of the War in the Western Theater for the next two years.  Today, Fort Donelson National Battlefield stands as not only an exquisite example of original Civil War earthworks, but also a tribute to those who struggled in an important and often overlooked event in the history of the United States.

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Fort Donelson’s lower battery, overlooking the Cumberland River

Continue reading “Two Friends, a River Hotel, and the Legend of “Unconditional Surrender” Grant – The Battle of Fort Donelson”