Most people have studied American history in school and college and know about the War of Independence, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights movement. But did you know about these incidents in US histories that have fallen out of the public eye? We have made a list of the 10 moments in US history you may not know about.
Moments Of US History You Might Not Know About
1. The current US Flag
The current flag of the United States with fifty stars was a school project of them 17-year-old, Robert Heft. Surprisingly, he received a B- grade for this project, but his teacher said the grade will be reconsidered if the flag was accepted by the US Congress. When presented before the Congress, this design of the flag was accepted, making it a landmark in US history and Heft’s grade was changed to an A.
2. George Washington – the liquor aficionado
Even before he became the first President of the United States, George Washington was a very successful businessman and had one of the largest distilleries in the United States at the time. Washington owned large farms and in 1797 his farm manager James Anderson convinced Washington that if he could distil whiskey from the corn and rye grown on the farms, it would lead to immense profits. Within two years, a distillery had been erected and a total of 11,000 gallons of whiskey was being produced from this establishment. Today, the distillery has been reconstructed and seasonally produces alcohol.
3. Party Symbols
The symbols of the two largest political parties in the United States, the Democratic and Republican Party were born not out of careful consideration but out of jest and satire. The Democratic Party’s donkey symbol was adopted in 1828 when opponents of the Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Jackson called him a jackass during the election campaign. Similarly, the elephant symbol of the Republican Party was adopted in 1874 when the cartoonist Thomas Nast drew a satirical cartoon depicting the Republican votes as an elephant. These symbols have not been changed till today.
4. Agent Orange
This dangerous chemical was developed and used by the United States military in the Vietnam War. Since battles usually took place in heavily forested areas, the air support teams could not accurately see the ground teams or hidden opposing guerrilla forces. The military used Agent Orange, a very strong herbicide to get rid of this foliage. There are reports showing that the areas where Agent Orange was sprayed are unproductive and barren till today and the people who fought in the wars have also been adversely affected by it. Both these claims are denied by the US government. The Vietnam War remains one of the most questionable decisions in US history.
Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1f/US-Huey-helicopter-spraying-Agent-Orange-in-Vietnam.jpg
5. Invasion of Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony in Central America but in the 19th century, during the Spanish-American War, the US Navy attacked the capital of the island, San Juan and established a naval blockade. The Spanish Navy was unable to break this barrier but a land battle ensued. Though this battle was inconclusive, the Spanish government ceded this territory to the United States as part of the Treaty of Paris in 1898. Since then it has been a territory of the US but the citizens do not receive full rights of US citizens, and so cannot vote in or stand for elections.
Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d8/General_Nelson_Miles_and_other_soldiers_on_horseback_Puerto_Rico..JPG
6. Balloon Bombs
Towards the end of World War II before the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese government in the last ditch effort to salvage the war devised flying bombs. These were bombs tied to large hydrogen balloons and according to Japanese calculations, would reach the United States over the Pacific Ocean in 30 to 60 hours depending on the wind currents. It is estimated that over 9,000 such bombs were deployed of which 342 reached the United States and a few of them exploded. One explosion killed a family in Oregon. If all of these bombs had landed on target, US history could have been very different.
Image Source: https://media.defense.gov/2010/Nov/16/2000306963/888/591/0/101115-F-1234S-016.JPG
7. Project MKUltra
One of the largest projects undertaken by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States, this project lasted from the 1950s to 1974 and consisted of experiments on human subjects to come up with ways to force confessions using altered states of mind, sensory deprivation and psychological abuse. It is estimated that more than 150 institutions like universities, pharmaceutical companies, private research organizations, hospitals, and prisons knowingly or unknowingly took part in these experiments. The subjects involved were the US and Canadian citizens and were exposed to various doses of drugs, especially LSD, and other interrogation techniques. This project was later termed as a violation of human rights and international protocols and terminated. It remains an important part of CIA techniques used today and has shaped the course of US history.
Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/dc/Flag_of_the_U.S._Central_Intelligence_Agency.svg/2000px-Flag_of_the_U.S._Central_Intelligence_Agency.svg.png
8. Tulsa Race Riots
The Greenwood District in Tulsa Oklahoma was the wealthiest district of African-American people in the United States in the early 20th century and was nicknamed ‘Black Wall Street’. On May 31 and June 1, 1921, large groups of white rioters attacked the homes and businesses of these African American people resulting in around 300 deaths and the arrest of over 6,000 black residents. This was one of the worst incidents of race rioting in US history but was not discussed in schools for a long time. The official number of deaths recorded was 39, but the Red Cross estimates that this number was at least ten times higher. This district has not been able to recover since.
Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cb/TulsaRaceRiot-1921.png
9. Extraordinary Rendition
After World War II, most countries in the world came up with and signed various international treaties and agreements to promote human rights, give basic rights to prisoners and prevent torture or other cruel and inhuman punishment. The United States is a party to most of these agreements but has devised a way around them. In order to be able to detain, interrogate and torture alleged terror suspects, the US forces transport these individuals to countries that are not a party to such conventions or where torture is regularly practiced. Either with the direct participation of US agencies or with their knowledge, the prisoners are then tortured and the information extracted shared with US authorities. This practice is technically illegal according to international law, but no action has been taken against violators, making it one of the more shameful events in US history.
Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/67/CIA_Secret_Prisons.jpg
10. Ludlow Massacre
This less known event took place in the coal mines of Ludlow, Colorado in 1914 and was a part of the Colorado Coal Strike organized by the United Coal Workers of America against coal mining companies. The strike was for an increase in wages, but in Ludlow, the owner of the coal mine John Rockefeller ordered the Colorado National Guard and the guards of Colorado Oil and Fuel Company to fire upon the workers and their families. Between 19 and 26 people died including 11 children and 2 women. Though Rockefeller was widely criticized after this incident, no arrests were made.
Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c9/Ruins_of_Ludlow_restored.jpg/1280px-Ruins_of_Ludlow_restored.jpg
Given the long and turbulent history of the oldest democracy in the world, it is no surprise that US history hides some dark secrets. Some of these facts have been made public despite efforts from the US government to the contrary while some have been largely ignored due to the overtones of race and economic class. How many of these events in US history did you know about?