March 12


Coca-Cola was sold in glass bottles for the first time by Joseph A. Biedenharn, owner of a candy store in Vicksburg, Mississippi. While only a fountain drink at the time, Biedenharn correctly determined that bottles could boost sales of Coke and he put the drink into reusable Hutchinson bottles. Asa Griggs Candler, owner of the brand rights to Coke, never believed bottling would be lucrative so he sold the bottling rights for $1. In 1915, the bottlers put out a call for a new design, one so distinctive that one could recognize it if it were in pieces on the ground or by feeling it in the dark. The winning design, produced by the Root Glass Company of Terre Haute, Indiana, gave the world the iconic contoured bottle we know today.


Eight days after his inauguration, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his first national radio address—or “fireside chat”—broadcast directly from the White House. At the time, the U.S. was at the lowest point of the Great Depression, with between 25 and 33 percent of the workforce unemployed. The nation was worried, and Roosevelt’s address was designed to ease fears and to inspire confidence in his leadership. Roosevelt went on to deliver 30 more of these broadcasts between March 1933 and June 1944. They reached an astonishing number of American households, 90 percent of which owned a radio at the time.


In a dramatic speech to a joint session of Congress, President Harry S. Truman asked for U.S. assistance for Greece and Turkey to forestall communist domination of the two nations. Historians have often cited Truman’s address, which came to be known as the Truman Doctrine, as the official declaration of the Cold War. Truman’s address outlined the broad parameters of U.S. Cold War foreign policy: the Soviet Union was the center of all communist activity and movements throughout the world; communism could attack through outside invasion or internal subversion; and the United States needed to provide military and economic assistance to protect nations from communist aggression.

March 13


The United States Army began training dogs for the newly established War Dog Program, or “K-9 Corps.” When the country entered World War II in December 1941, the American Kennel Association and a group called Dogs for Defense began a movement to mobilize dog owners to donate healthy and capable animals to the Quartermaster Corps of the U.S. Army. The top canine hero of World War II was Chips, a German Shepherd who served with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. Trained as a sentry dog, Chips broke away from his handlers and attacked an enemy machine gun nest in Italy, forcing the entire crew to surrender.


A federal magistrate arraigned James R. Hoffa, then a 44-year-old Teamsters vice president, on charges that he tried to bribe John Cheasty, a lawyer for a Senate committee chaired by John McClellan (D-Ark.) that was investigating labor racketeering. The government accused Hoffa of trying to get Cheasty to feed him information from the committee’s files. Hoffa said he would “fight this case until I am cleared.” He was acquitted of the charges later that year, but eventually convicted of trying to bribe a grand jury member along fraud and conspiracy in the handling of a union benefits fund in 1964. His 13 year sentence was commuted by President Nixon in 1971. Before gaining control of his union, he mysteriously disappeared in 1975.


President John F. Kennedy proposed a 10-year, multibillion-dollar aid program for Latin America. The program came to be known as the Alliance for Progress and was designed to improve U.S. relations with Latin America, which had been severely damaged in recent years. The Latin American republics were disappointed with U.S. economic assistance after World War II. More troubling to American officials was the threat of communism in Latin America. During the next 10 years, billions were spent on the Alliance, but its success was marginal. The Alliance certainly failed in its effort to bring democracy to Latin America: by the time the program faded away in the early-1970s, 13 governments in Latin America had been replaced by military rule.

March 14


Alexander Hamilton received his commission as captain of a New York artillery company. Throughout the rest of 1776, Captain Hamilton established himself as a great military leader as he directed his artillery company in several battles in and around New York City. In March 1777, Hamilton’s performance came to the attention of General George Washington and he was commissioned lieutenant colonel and personal aide to General Washington in the Continental Army.


Warren Harding became the first president to file a full-year income tax return. He paid $17,000 on his 1922 presidential salary of $75,000 — about $1,080,000 in today’s money. As president-elect, Harding spoke out on Feb. 15, 1921, against a proposed bill that would make presidents permanently immune from income taxes, effectively killing it.


The Federal Bureau of Investigation instituted the “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” list in an effort to publicize particularly dangerous fugitives. The creation of the program arose out of a wire service news story in 1949 about the “toughest guys” the FBI wanted to capture. The story drew so much public attention that the “Ten Most Wanted” list was given the okay by J. Edgar Hoover the following year. The criterion for selection is simple, the criminal must have a lengthy record and current pending charges that make him or her particularly dangerous and the FBI must believe that the publicity attendant to placement on the list will assist in the apprehension of the fugitive.

March 15


As part of the Missouri Compromise between the North and the South, Maine was admitted into the Union as the 23rd state. Administered as a province of Massachusetts since 1647, the entrance of Maine as a free state was agreed to by Southern senators in exchange for the entrance of Missouri as a slave state. With 90 percent of Maine still covered by forests, Maine is known as the “Pine Tree State” and is the most sparsely populated state east of the Mississippi River.


President Lyndon B. Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress to urge the passage of legislation guaranteeing voting rights for all. Using the phrase “we shall overcome,” borrowed from African American leaders struggling for equal rights, Johnson declared that “every American citizen must have an equal right to vote.” Johnson reminded the nation that the Fifteenth Amendment, which was passed after the Civil War, gave all citizens the right to vote regardless of race or color. But states had defied the Constitution and erected barriers. Discrimination had taken the form of literacy, knowledge or character tests administered solely to African Americans to keep them from registering to vote.


The Godfather—a three-hour epic chronicling the lives of the Corleones, an Italian-American crime family led by the powerful Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando)—was released in theaters. Brando turned in a phenomenal, intuitive performance as the Godfather, winning an Academy Award for Best Actor. Coppola’s meticulous direction and memorable performances by the rest of the film’s cast, including Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall and Diane Keaton, propelled the film to record-breaking box-office success as well as two more Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. The Godfather has remained a perennial choice on critics’ lists of the all-time best films in history.

March 16


The United States Military Academy—the first military school in the United States and often simply referred to as West Point—was founded by Congress for the purpose of educating and training young men in the theory and practice of military science. Located at West Point, New York on the high west bank of New York’s Hudson River, West Point was the site of a Revolutionary-era fort built to protect the Hudson River Valley from British attack. The academy is now under the general direction and supervision of the department of the U.S. Army and has an enrollment of more than 4,000 students.


Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story of adultery and betrayal in colonial America, The Scarlet Letter, was published. Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1804. Although the infamous Salem witch trials had taken place more than 100 years earlier, the events still hung over the town and made a lasting impression on the young Hawthorne. Witchcraft figured in several of his works, including Young Goodman Brown (1835) and The House of the Seven Gables (1851), in which a house is cursed by a wizard condemned by the witch trials.



In Beirut, Lebanon, Islamic militants kidnapped American journalist Terry Anderson and took him to the southern suburbs of the war-torn city, where other Western hostages are being held in scattered dungeons under ruined buildings. Before his abduction, Anderson covered the Lebanese Civil War for The Associated Press (AP) and also served as the AP’s Beirut bureau chief. On December 4, 1991, Anderson’s Hezbollah captors finally released him after 2,455 days. He was the last and longest-held American hostage in Lebanon. Anderson spent his entire captivity blindfolded and was released when the 16-year civil war came to an end.

March 17


British forces were forced to evacuate Boston following General George Washington’s successful placement of fortifications and cannons on Dorchester Heights, which overlooked the city from the south. Starting March 4, Major General John Thomas, under orders from Washington, secretly led a force of 800 soldiers and 1,200 workers to fortify the area. Realizing their position was now indefensible, British troops and Loyalists departed Boston, sailing to the safety of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The bloodless liberation of Boston brought an end to a hated eight-year British occupation of the city and was the first major strategic and political victory for the Continental Army led by General George Washington.


John Phillip Holland, Irish-American inventor known as the father of the modern submarine, successfully launched his privately built submarine off the coast of Staten Island, NY. 53 feet in length and powered by a gasoline engine and electric batteries, it could reach a speed of 6 knots submerged. After some alterations, the U.S. Navy bought this ship (its first submarine) and named it the U.S.S. Holland in 1900. The Navy commissioned several more ships like it from Holland’s firm, the Electric Boat Company (now the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation), which has continued to build most U.S. Navy submarines to this day.



Julia Roberts became the first actress ever to command $20 million per movie with the release of Erin Brockovich. By this time, $20 million had become the standard paycheck for Hollywood’s A-list male movie stars while no other woman had been offered near this amount before. In Erin Brockovich, Roberts proved worthy of her enormous paycheck, leading the film to more than $125 million at the U.S. box office and five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Roberts took home the statuette for Best Actress at the 73rd annual Academy Awards.

March 18


In New York City, Henry Wells and William G. Fargo joined with several other investors to launch their namesake business. The discovery of gold in California created a demand for cross-country shipping. Wells and Fargo contracted with independent stagecoach companies to provide the fastest possible transportation and delivery of gold dust, important documents and other valuable freight. It also served as a bank—buying gold dust, selling paper bank drafts and providing loans to help fuel California’s growing economy. After nationalization of shipping routes during WW1, Wells Fargo dropped the transportation and shipping side of the company. After multiple mergers, Wells Fargo remains one of the largest baking institutions in the US to this day.


Barnum and Bailey’s Greatest Show on Earth opened at Madison Square Garden. In the 1870’s Barnum added his name to a traveling show called "P.T. Barnum's Great Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, and Hippodrome." Later he joined forces with James Bailey, who also had a circus. They called their newly formed show: “Barnum and Bailey’s Greatest Show on Earth.” After Barnum died, Bailey purchased Barnum’s Circus from Barnum’s widow and carried on with the show. After Bailey died, the Ringling Brothers, competitors to Bailey, purchased Barnum and Bailey’s Circus and eventually combined it with their own.



The U.S. Postal Service was paralyzed by the first ever postal strike. The strike, beginning in New York City, was the result of anger over low wages and poor working conditions. 210,000 postal workers eventually joined the strike that lasted approximately eight days. President Richard Nixon called out the United States armed forces and the National Guard in an attempt to distribute the mail and break the strike. The strike influenced the contents of the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, which dissolved the United States Post Office Department, replaced it with the more corporate United States Postal Service, and guaranteed collective bargaining rights for postal workers (though not the right to strike).

Ann Colón