September 18th 1837: Tiffany and Co. founded
On this day in 1837, the jewelry retailer Tiffany and Co. was founded by Charles Lewis Tiffany and Teddy Young in New York City. The first Tiffany store was marketed as a “stationery and fancy goods emporium”. In 1862 during the American Civil War, Tiffany supplied the Union army with swords, flags and surgical equipment. From then onwards Tiffany continued to make a name for itself as a high quality retailer, especially after winning accolades at the 1867 Paris World’s Fair. Due to its popularity the company received several notable commissions, including designing the New York Yankee’s ‘NY’ logo, revising the Seal of the United States in 1885 and the Navy’s Medal of Honor in 1919, and designing the White House china in 1968. Tiffany is today best known for its diamond jewelry and is based at 727 Fifth Avenue, New York City.
September 17th 1787: US Constitution signed
On this day in 1787, the United States Constitution was signed in Philadelphia. The document was thus adopted by the Constitutional Convention, which included George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin. It was later ratified by the states and came into effect on March 4th 1789. The Constitution sets out the rules and principles that govern America to this day, and defines the powers of the three branches of federal government and the states. The first 10 amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1791 and established basic rights of citizens, including freedom and speech and religion. The Constitution has since been amended 17 times, giving a total of 27 amendments. America’s is the oldest written constitution still used today.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America”
September 16th 1620: Mayflower sets sail
On this day in 1620, the Mayflower started her voyage from Great Britain to North America. She carried 102 passengers, many of whom were pilgrims who later settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts. By November they sighted land and landed at Cape Cod and proceeded the settle there, though around half died during the first harsh winter in the New World. The site where the Mayflower pilgrims landed at Plymouth is marked today by ‘Plymouth Rock’. The Mayflower left for England the next April. The journey of the Mayflower is considered a major and symbolic event in American history as the ship carried the some of the first European settlers to America’s shores.
September 15th 1254: Marco Polo born
On this day in 1254, Marco Polo was born in Venice, Italy to a wealthy merchant family. Polo’s father and uncle spent much of his childhood traveling around Asia, especially China where they found favour at the court of Mongol leader Kublai Khan. In 1271, when he was seventeen, Marco left with his father and uncle on their return trip to China. On this journey they visited the Middle East and crossed the Gobi Desert, eventually arriving at Khan’s court where they stayed for 17 years. In this time Marco became Khan’s special envoy, and was sent to areas never before explored by Europeans, including India, Burma and Tibet. Their eventual journey home was arduous, with many of their party perishing on the way. The family also faced hardship when they returned to Venice in 1295, for they struggled to re-enter Venetian society and culture. Marco Polo became involved in Venice’s war with Genoa, and was captured and imprisoned by the Genoese. While imprisoned he told the stories of his travels to his fellow prisoner Rustichello, who wrote them down and eventually published them in The Travels of Marco Polo. Polo’s stories became widely famous and popular, with the fantastic descriptions of foreign places like China and India astonishing contemporary Europeans, many of whom took Polo’s words to be fiction; Polo asserted until his death that it was all true. Marco Polo died in Venice in 1324 aged 69 but his legacy lived on as his unprecedentedly rich and detailed descriptions of foreign lands inspired later generations to explore the world, including Christopher Columbus who brought a copy of Polo’s book on his journey to America in 1492.
September 13th 1814: Defense of Fort McHenry
On this day in 1814, the United States army forces at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland successfully defended the city from the British during the War of 1812. British warships bombarded the fort for over 24 hours, but the American defense held fast and by the morning of September 14th the British were forced to retreat due to lack of ammunition. The event, particularly the sight of an American flag being raised over the fort at dawn in celebration of victory, inspired Francis Scott Key to write a poem called ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’. Key was a witness to the battle because he was aboard a British ship having been trying to negotiate the release of an American prisoner. The poem was eventually set to the tune of a well-known 18th century British song and the anthem soon became a popular patriotic American song, and was commonly used by the armed forces. On March 3rd 1931, at the urging of many patriotic organisations, a congressional resolution was signed by President Hoover which affirmed 'The Star-Spangled Banner' as America’s official national anthem.
200 years ago today
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