Teenage Hoboes in the Great Depression. During the Great Depression over 250,000 young people left home and began riding freight trains or hitchhiking across America. Most of them were between 16 and 25 years of age. Many finally found work and shelter through the Civilian Conservation Corps, a government relief project that Franklin D. Roosevelt established in 1933 as part of the New Deal. From 1933 to 1942, CCC enrollees built new roads, strung telephone wires, erected fire towers, and planted approximately 3 billion trees. By 1935, the program was providing employment for more than 500,000 young men.
America's First Superstar. He was the highest paid actor in the world, beloved by fans so passionate about his performances that a riot (23 people killed, more than a hundred wounded) ensued when a rival dared to perform the role that had made him famous. He enjoyed all the trappings of a superstar's life: portraits taken by America's most famous photographer, a large mansion (now a historic landmark), and of course a scandalous divorce trial (he lost). He was also one of the most prominent book collectors in the country. Edwin Forrest was born 200 years ago.
Jefferson has his Monticello; Washington, Mount Vernon. Now, Benjamin Franklin's only surviving residence, Number 36 Craven Street, London, opened its doors to the public. More inside.
Beyond the Playing Field: Jackie Robinson, Civil Rights Advocate. (more inside)
The Reader of Gentlemen's Mail In the spring of 1919, when the father of American cryptography, Herbert O. Yardley, drew up a plan for a permanent State Department codebreaking organization — a "black chamber — he estimated that a modest $100,000 a year would buy a chief (Yardley) and fifty clerks and cryptanalysts. Yardley rented a three-story building in New York City: on East 38th Street just off Fifth Avenue, he put two dozen people to work under civilian cover—as the Code Compiling Company. His summary dismissal happened in 1929 at the hand of incoming Secretary of State Henry Stimson, who closed down the Cipher Bureau with the casual observation that "gentlemen do not read each other's mail". The son of a railroad telegrapher, a man with a lively Jazz Age interest in money, good-looking women, and drinks at five, Yardley not only taught his country how to read other people's mail but wrote two of the enduring American books—the memoir The American Black Chamber (1931), and The Education of a Poker Player (1957).
Sarah Roberts vs. Boston In 1848, five-year-old Sarah Roberts was barred from the local primary school because she was black. Her father sued the City (.pdf file). The lawsuit was part of an organized effort by the African-American community to end racially segregated schools. The book "Sarah's Long Walk: The Free Blacks of Boston and How Their Struggle for Equality Changed America" tells the story of the case of Roberts v. City of Boston, that remains a little-known landmark in the civil rights movement.
The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard M. Helms, former CIA director, is dead. "We're not in the Boy Scouts," Richard Helms was fond of saying when he ran the Central Intelligence Agency. He was involved in many suspicious covert operations -- in 1970's Chile for example -- and JFK consipracy nuts even linked him to the president's assasination. George Tenet now calls Helms "a great patriot". He was fired by President Nixon when he refused to block an FBI probe into the Watergate scandal. Want to know more about the man? Check out Thomas Powers excellent story in "The Atlantic" Oh, and his niece was the semi-official Taliban ambassador to the USA
Know-Nothings, Bible Riots and the Catholic Church Take a break from priest abuse news with this detailed history of anti-Catholic bias in the United States. In 1834, an angry Boston mob burned down a convent after Harriet Beecher Stowe's father preached that Catholic immigrants were a threat to democracy. In Philadelphia, the 1844 Bible Riots lasted for days, destroying Irish-Catholic churches and neighborhoods. In 1855, Louisville Know-Nothings went on a "Bloody Monday" rampage that left dozens of Catholics dead. Even telegraph inventor Samuel Morse got into the act with a series of anonymous anti-Catholic letters. Fascinating stuff, but oops, break's over. We now return to our regularly scheduled program.