John’s Believe It Or Not… April 3rd

Photo of John Fioravanti standing beside the blackboard in his classroom.

It’s Marvellous Monday! Did you know…

* 1946 – Canada acquires the Canadian section of the Alaska Highway from the US Army after WW II. (The attack on Pearl Harbor and the beginning of the Pacific Theater in World War II, coupled with Japanese threats to the west coast of North America and the Aleutian Islands, changed the priorities for both nations. On February 6, 1942, the construction of the Alaska Highway was approved by the United States Army and the project received the authorization from the U.S. Congress and Roosevelt to proceed five days later. Canada agreed to allow construction as long as the United States bore the full cost, and that the road and other facilities in Canada be turned over to Canadian authority after the war ended.)

Map showing the Alaskan Highway

* 1860 Pony Express debuts. (On this day in 1860, the first Pony Express mail, travelling by horse and rider relay teams, simultaneously leaves St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. Ten days later, on April 13, the westbound rider and mail packet completed the approximately 1,800-mile journey and arrived in Sacramento, beating the eastbound packet’s arrival in St. Joseph by two days and setting a new standard for speedy mail delivery. Although ultimately short-lived and unprofitable, the Pony Express captivated America’s imagination and helped win federal aid for a more economical overland postal system. It also contributed to the economy of the towns on its route and served the mail-service needs of the American West in the days before the telegraph or an efficient transcontinental railroad. The Pony Express debuted at a time before radios and telephones, when California, which achieved statehood in 1850, was still largely cut off from the eastern part of the country. Letters sent from New York to the West Coast travelled by ship, which typically took at least a month, or by stagecoach on the recently established Butterfield Express overland route, which could take from three weeks to many months to arrive. Compared to the snail’s pace of the existing delivery methods, the Pony Express’ average delivery time of 10 days seemed like lightning speed.)

Map showing the Pony Express route.

* 1882 Jesse James is murdered. (One of America’s most famous criminals, Jesse James, is shot to death by fellow gang member Bob Ford, who betrayed James for reward money. For 16 years, Jesse and his brother, Frank, committed robberies and murders throughout the Midwest. Detective magazines and pulp novels glamorised the James gang, turning them into mythical Robin Hoods who were driven to crime by unethical landowners and bankers. In reality, Jesse James was a ruthless killer who stole only for himself. The teenage James brothers joined up with southern guerrilla leaders when the Civil War broke out. Both participated in massacres of settlers and troops affiliated with the North. After the war was over, the quiet farming life of the James brothers’ youth no longer seemed enticing, and the two turned to crime. Jesse’s first bank robbery occurred on February 13, 1866, in Liberty, Missouri.)

* 1996 Unabomber arrested. (At his small wilderness cabin near Lincoln, Montana, Theodore John Kaczynski is arrested by FBI agents and accused of being the Unabomber, the elusive terrorist blamed for 16 mail bombs that killed three people and injured 23 during an 18-year period. Kaczynski, born in Chicago in 1942, won a scholarship to study mathematics at Harvard University at age 16. After receiving his PhD from the University of Michigan, he became a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Although celebrated as a brilliant mathematician, he suffered from persistent social and emotional problems, and in 1969 abruptly ended his promising career at Berkeley. Disillusioned with the world around him, he tried to buy land in the Canadian wilderness but in 1971 settled for a 1.4-acre plot near his brother’s home in Montana.)

Picture showing FBI agents escorting the unabomber.

* 1948 President Harry Truman signs Marshall Plan. (On this day in 1948, President Harry S. Truman signs the Economic Assistance Act, which authorised the creation of a program that would help the nations of Europe recover and rebuild after the devastation wrought by World War II. Commonly known as the Marshall Plan, it aimed to stabilise Europe economically and politically so that European nations would not be tempted by the appeal of communist parties. Rebuilding post-war Europe was just one of many serious foreign-policy challenges faced by President Truman, who became president in April 1945 after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II. Just months after he took office, he made the decision to drop atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the so-called Truman Doctrine, he asked Congress to provide economic and military aid to Turkey and Greece after the two countries came under Soviet and communist pressure in 1947. Truman was also responsible for the massive airlift that supplied West Berlin in 1948 and the negotiation of a military alliance that became the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949. During his second term, Truman sent U.S. military forces to defend against a communist invasion of Korea but struggled to keep the war limited, rather than come into direct conflict with China or even Russia. In 1952, Truman declined to run for another term in office; he retired to his home state of Missouri and lived there until his death in 1972, at the age of 88.

Photo of Truman signing the bill into law.

Look who was born on this date!

Portrait of Charles Wilkes* Charles Wilkes in 1798. (American Naval Officer and Explorer: Wilkes led the United States Exploring Expedition (1838-42) to the Pacific Ocean and Antarctica. Wilkes was also a Union naval commander during the American Civil War. In 1861, he commanded the USS San Jacinto when it attacked a Royal Mail Ship carrying two Confederate diplomats which almost caused a war between the US and the UK. For this he was court-martialed for a second time, the first stemmed from the massacre of almost 80 Fijians on Malolo in 1840.)

Head shot of Boss Tweed.* Boss Tweed in 1823. (American Politician:  Most notable for being the “boss” of Tammany Hall, the Democratic Party political machine that played a major role in the politics of 19th century New York City and State. At one point, he was the third-largest landowner in New York City, a director of the Erie Railroad, the Tenth National Bank, and the New-York Printing Company, as well as proprietor of the Metropolitan Hotel.)

Head shot of Doris Day.* Doris Day in 1924. (American Singer and Actress:  Doris Day is a hugely popular singer and actress, dominating the 50s and 60s. Day began as a singer (Sentimenal Journey, 1945) before going on to appear in such films as “Calamity Jane” (1953), “The Man Who Knew too Much” (1956) and “Pillow Talk” (1959). Day later broadened her career from her more usual musical comedies to more dramatic roles and in 1968 had her own TV show “The Doris Day Show” Day is the recipient of many awards including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (2008) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Day is also a well-known animal activist, devoting herself to the cause since her retirement.)



Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (, to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

5 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… April 3rd”

  1. So much good content! The Pony Express always fascinated me (I’ve read numerous books on the American West). I’ve haven’t read much on Jesse James but I’ve caught a few movies and several documentaries about his life. Finally, I love Doris Day! Calamity Jane is a movie I can watch over and over.

    Happy Marvelous Monday, John!

    Liked by 1 person

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