This Day In History January 1

Historical Events & Manuscripts on January 1

Primary Sources: Meaning, Reliability & Where To Find Them
January 1, 1775

Primary sources are vital to historical research. Researchers, both professional and amateur, use them to reconstruct the past.

January 1, 1792

This was a low point, even for Napoleon. The trauma of the defeat at Acre was exacerbated by ego in a confrontation that started at Toulon. Napoleon’s pride and spat with Smith magnified the cruelty of which Napoleon was capable.

January 1, 1798

It’s widely acknowledged that Napoleon was the first modern leader to make substantial and systemic use of propaganda that is recognizable to a modern audience. The massive portraits depicting Napoleon as emperor, ancient warrior, and Christ-like healer remain timeless testaments to Napoleon’s authorship of his own image. It comes as no surprise that Napoleon also controlled the press and censored the performing arts and literary publications in order to maintain the narrative that he wished his citizens-subjects to retain. Of all of Napoleon’s disinformation campaigns, the most brazen continues to dazzle today: his Egyptian campaign.

January 1, 1799

Napoleon’s attempt to take the Holy Land, and the later Egyptian occupation of Palestine (1831-1840), also opened up the floodgates for modern diplomacy and travel to the Holy Land.

January 1, 1819

It wasn’t until he visited the Holy Land and wrote the longest poem in American literature about it, though, that he  gave up the idea of ever publishing again. He was finished: Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land did him in.

January 1, 1829

Arthur surprised everyone. In an America torn by Garfield’s assassination and party politics, he immediately set to work proving he was above partisan squabbles.

January 1, 1850

COMPELLING QUESTION: What were Abraham Lincoln’s attitudes toward religious minorities such as Jews and Catholics and how did it differ from others at the time?

Description: Students will work in groups to plan a temporary exhibit intended for visitors to a historic site or museum related to Abraham Lincoln. The exhibit will concern Abraham Lincoln’s attitude toward religious minorities. Students will analyze primary sources and select three they would like to include in their exhibit. From analyzing their sources, students will develop a “thesis” or argument that the exhibit will convey to their audience.

January 1, 1852

American colonists followed preacher George J. Adams from New England to Ottoman-ruled Palestine on a messianic mission to prepare the Holy Land for the return of the Jews. “We are going to become practical benefactors of the land and the people,” Adams stated, “to take the lead in developing its great resources.” A year after arriving, some of these impoverished colonists wanted a ticket home. It was at that moment that author Mark Twain came to town while on a five-month pleasure trip through Europe and the Middle East.

 josephine sarah marcus earp
January 1, 1861

Yet the connecting thread between Earp and the two men from whom he later parted ways has not been discussed much in scholarship on Earp: a Jewish woman from New York named Josephine Marcus. Like Wyatt Earp, fact and fiction are difficult to separate when it comes to understanding the life of the woman who would become his wife. On both counts, this largely is due to Josephine’s attempts to guard the Earps’ legacy. What follows is a brief sketch of her life based on verifiable facts.

January 1, 1865

COMPELLING QUESTION: What does it mean to live a life of service? Why is Kennedy’s emphasis on service to the greater community and world important today?

Description: Students will work in groups to better understand the reasoning behind President John F. Kennedy’s emphasis on service in creating government programs such as the Peace Corps. Students will research different kinds of service in the world today: service in their community, government service, military service, etc. and create a short “Ask Not” video making the case for the value of a particular kind of service. 

January 1, 1865

COMPELLING QUESTIONS: How were Americans able to visit the “Holy Land” in increasing numbers in the 1865-1900 period? What reasons did they have for going?

Description: Students take on the role of running a travel business in the United States in the 1880s. Their business will advertise travel itineraries to the “Holy Land,” (then called Ottoman Palestine, present-day Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territory). Using primary sources and secondary sources as their “guide” students will develop a reason for traveling, the route and transportation, and where they will visit. Students will work in groups to create a brochure or other advertisement complete with travel posters, tickets, and maps that will communicate the travelers’ motivation for taking the trip (alternatively, teachers may have students create a digital brochure or advertisement or a tour using Google Earth).

Mark Twain, 1907. A.F. Bradley. Library of Congress.
January 1, 1887

It’s noble to teach oneself, Mark Twain once remarked, but still nobler to teach others – and less trouble.

January 1, 1894

The French Impressionists were a tight-knit group of artists centered in Paris in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Though there were other factors which contributed to their parting of ways, the Dreyfus Affair seemed to signal a point of no return for this once-intimate group of painters.

January 1, 1911

COMPELLING QUESTION: What qualities did Teddy Roosevelt possess that made his third party campaign appealing to voters

Description: It’s October of 1912 and Theodore Roosevelt is in the hospital after being shot while giving a campaign speech. Students will play the role of campaign advisors and work in groups to better understand Roosevelt and the election by analyzing primary sources. Then each group will create a campaign poster promoting Roosevelt’s candidacy. Students will consider what the key issues are in the election and how their poster will attract voters to Roosevelt’s campaign.

January 1, 1920

With the Help of New Women Voters, Harding Wins in a Landslide – But Still Sees the Presidency as a Prison Term

January 1, 2022

Jewish Soldiers in the Civil War: The Union Army by Adam D. Mendelsohn (NYU Press—November 15th, 2022) asks, what was it like to be a Jew in Lincoln’s armies? The Union army was as diverse as the embattled nation it sought to preserve, a unique mixture of ethnicities, religions, and identities. Almost one Union soldier in four was born abroad, and natives and newcomers fought side-by-side, sometimes uneasily. Yet though scholars have parsed the trials and triumphs of Irish, Germans, African Americans, and others in the Union ranks, they have remained largely silent on the everyday experiences of the largest non-Christian minority to have served.

January 1, 2022

Visiting Jewish cemeteries is a fruitful, and more adventurous way the research team can identify new Jewish soldiers to add to the Shapell Roster. Many military men have their service proudly displayed on their tombstones, making new additions a walk in the park for our researchers. But even markers without such obvious information can yield new discoveries.



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