The Fourth of July is the preeminent American holiday for obvious reasons. It’s also the date of a number of other important occurrences for the country, such as presidential deaths (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe), notable births (author Nathaniel Hawthorne, future president Calvin Coolidge, musician Stephen Foster, and playwright Neil Simon, among others), and big events (Theodore Roosevelt sent the first Pacific cable, President Eisenhower issued the proclamation of Hawaii as the 50th state, etc.). But with all of the pageantry surrounding the fourth day of this month, one wonders, what about the fifth? Has anything ever happened on the Fifth of July? Of course. Here are five big ones.
1810: P.T. Barnum Is Born
Phineas Taylor Barnum (who looked nothing like Hugh Jackman) made the scene on July 5, 1810. The famous showman tried his hand at several businesses before purchasing Scudder’s American Museum (which he soon renamed after himself) in 1841; the museum hosted a variety of attractions and entertainers. Barnum promoted the 1850-1851 tour of Swedish singer Jenny Lind, which brought him great success over the course of 93 concerts. He invested in a number of other ventures in the intervening years, including founding America’s first aquarium, before he went into the circus business in 1870. His eventual partner, James Bailey, perhaps ironically, was born on the Fourth of July (1847). The show, which came to be called the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, ran until 2017.
Many people don’t know that Barnum performed in the biggest circus of them all: politics. He was elected to the Connecticut legislature multiple times. In the late 1870s, he was mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and was the first president of Bridgeport Hospital, which he helped launch. Barnum died of a stroke in 1891.
1865: The Secret Service Is Established
With a foundation year of 1865, you might think that the Secret Service came in direct response to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. In fact, the bureau was created to fight counterfeiting, which was rampant in the wake of the Civil War. However, the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901 did spur the government to assign full-time protection of the president to the Secret Service. The group’s domestic intelligence and counterintelligence directives were shifted to the FBI when that branch was established in 1908. Today, the Service maintains two missions: presidential protection and a continued involvement in investigating financial and electronic crime.
1935: Congress Passes the National Labor Relations Act
Also known as the Wagner Act (as it was introduced by Senator Robert F. Wagner of New York), the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 codified the rights of private-sector employees to form trade unions; the act also allows for the establishment of collective bargaining and legalizes “collection action,” like strikes and picketing. The act aimed to level the field between workers and bosses, narrowing the gap in bargaining power. The provisions of the act are enforced by the National Labor Relations Board, which was created in the text of the act. The act also prohibited “unfair practices,” like discriminating against employees who file legitimate complaints.
1945: General Douglas MacArthur Declares the Philippines Liberated
Though World War II’s European chapter had concluded in May, the War in the Pacific raged on. The Philippines campaign had been in full effect since October 1944. The Japanese held the large group of islands, and the Allies pushed forward, staging attacks on both Japan and Japanese bases in the Pacific. The Field Marshal of the Philippine Army was American General Douglas MacArthur, while the naval forces were commanded by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas. More than 1.2 million American soldiers, sailors, and Marines were committed to the force, along with Australian and Mexican units and over 250,000 Filipino troops in support. The initial Japanese press of 1942 had forced MacArthur to withdrawal from the islands. For the next two years, he and Nimitz oversaw support to guerillas fighting in the occupied islands. With Germany and Italy defeated in 1945, the push to retake the Philippines was won.
In October 1944, the Allies engaged in the massive Battle of Leyte Gulf, which may be the largest naval battle in history. Japanese losses in the four-day battle were staggering: more than 12,000 men, 28 ships, and 300 planes. The conflict paved the way for the Allies to take the island of Leyte itself, a two-month campaign that claimed the lives of another 49,000 Japanese troops. The Allies moved to Mindoro and Luzon in December. The Battle of Luzon would take months; in fact, it wouldn’t be declared finished until August 1945. However, by July 5, the outcome was clear and inevitable, and MacArthur declared the islands liberated. Japan surrendered barely over a month later after the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
1991: Baseball Goes to Denver and Miami
It seemed like a sure thing for Major League Baseball. The National League was two teams short of the American League, so the notion of adding two teams to the NL just seemed like simple math. However, sports are much, much more complicated than that. The road to new teams began in 1985 when players signed their new collective bargaining agreement, which called for the addition of the balancing teams. When the CBA was renewed in 1990, the logistical planning began. Selected from an initial field of 10 cities, Denver and Miami got the chance to be home to new teams by the 1993 season. The owners had to vote their approval, and they did on July 5, 1991. The positive result brought the Colorado Rockies to Denver and the Florida (now Miami) Marlins to the Sunshine State. Two towns that got passed over in the 1991 selection (Phoenix and Tampa Bay) would be awarded their own teams by 1998.
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