January 19, 1945 – Soviet Army Liberated Lodz Ghetto in Poland

On November 7, 1939, Lodz was incorporated into the Third Reich and the Nazi’s changed its name to Litzmannstadt (“Litzmann’s city”) – named after a German general who died while attempting to conquer Lodz in World War I.

The Nazis wanted Jews concentrated in one area to facilitate their transfer and/or elimination. A couple of ghettos had already been established in other parts of Poland, but with much smaller Jewish populations. Lodz had a Jewish population estimated at 230,000, living throughout the city.

On February 8, 1940, the order to establish the Lodz ghetto was announced. An area of only 4.3 square kilometers was designated and Jews from throughout the city were ordered to move into the sectioned off area. The Jews were packed tightly within the confines of the ghetto with an average of 3.5 people per room. In April a fence went up surrounding the ghetto and on May 1, 1940, only eight months after the German invasion, the Lodz ghetto was officially sealed.

A German postcard showing the entrance to the Lodz ghetto. The sign reads "Jewish residential area—entry forbidden." Lodz, Poland, 1940-1941. — US Holocaust Memorial Museum

A German postcard showing the entrance to the Lodz ghetto. The sign reads “Jewish residential area—entry forbidden.” Lodz, Poland, 1940-1941.
— US Holocaust Memorial Museum

The Nazis decided to have the Jews to pay for their own food, security, sewage removal, and all other expenses incurred by their continuing incarceration. They also appointed one Jew responsible for the ghetto administration. The Nazis chose 62-year-old Mordekchai Chaim Rumkowski.

Chaim Rumkowski in Lodz Ghetto

Chaim Rumkowski in Lodz Ghetto

With 230,000 people confined to a very small area that had no farmland, food quickly became a problem. Rumkowski believed that if the ghetto became an extremely useful workforce, then the Jews would be needed by the Nazis and thus, the Nazis would make sure that the ghetto received food.

On April 5, 1940, Rumkowski petitioned the Nazi authorities requesting permission for his work plan. The Nazis eventually agreed that they would deliver raw materials, Jews would make the final products, and the Nazis would pay in food, but in an amount and on a schedule they determined.

Rumkowski immediately began setting up factories and all those able and willing to work were found jobs. The food entered the ghetto in bulk and distributed by Rumkowski’s officials. This consolidated Rumkowski’s power in the ghetto, since everyone’s survival was now dependent on his dispersal of food, of which there was very little.

Jewish children working in the Lodz Ghetto

Jewish children working in the Lodz Ghetto

As ghetto residents continued to starve, they became increasingly suspicious of Rumkowski and his officials, who appeared well nourished and healthy in spite of the rampant disease and hunger throughout the ghetto. When dissenters of the Rumkowski rule voiced their opinions, Rumkowski made speeches labeling them traitors to the cause. Rumkowski believed that these people were a direct threat to his work ethic and punished them further. When the Nazis later gave Rumkowski the job of naming residents for deportations, dissidents were the first to go.

Children in the Lodz Ghetto 1941

Children in the Lodz Ghetto 1941

Adding to the tensions were the daily arrivals of additional people. In the fall of 1941, 20,000 Jews from other areas of the Reich and 5,000 Roma were transferred to the Lodz ghetto.

Deportations to death camps began in January, 1942. Rumkowksi and his officials had been ordered in December to compile lists of those slated to go, beginning with 10,000 names. Approximately one thousand people per day left on the trains. These people were taken to the Chelmno death camp and gassed by carbon monoxide in trucks. By January 19, 1942, 10,003 people had been deported. By April 2, another 34,073 had been sent to Chelmno. In September 1942, everyone unable to work was to be deported, including the sick, the elderly, and children.

A destitute girl sits on the curb of a street of the Lodz ghetto sm

On June 10, 1944, Heinrich Himmler ordered the final liquidation of the ghetto. Since the Nazis had decided to close the Chelmno death camp because Soviet troops were getting close, the remaining transports went to Auschwitz.

On August 4, 1944, a last transport of 74,000 Jews from Lodz was sent out from the ghetto on its way to the gas chambers at Auschwitz. A few remaining workers were retained by the Nazis to finish confiscating materials and valuables out of the ghetto, but everyone else had to go, including Rumkowski and his family.

On January 19, 1945, the Soviet Army liberated the ghetto. Only 877 Jews remained from the more than 245,000 who were interned in the ghetto since its opening in 1939.

Food pails and dishes left behind by ghetto residents who had been deported to death camps. 1944. Henryk Ross/Art Gallery of Ontario


January 15, 1929 – Birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. – Resources Online

Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, to the Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King. His legal name at birth was Michael King, and his father was also born Michael King, but the elder King changed his and his son’s names to honor the German reformer Martin Luther following a 1934 trip to Germany to attend the Fifth Baptist World Alliance Congress in Berlin.

King became an American Baptist minister and activist best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using the tactics of nonviolence and civil disobedience inspired by the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi.

The Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection has a list of electronic links to information on Martin Luther King, Jr.

As the King Center observes:

During the less than 13 years of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership of the modern American Civil Rights Movement, from December, 1955 until April 4, 1968, African Americans achieved more genuine progress toward racial equality in America than the previous 350 years had produced. Dr. King is widely regarded as America’s pre-eminent advocate of nonviolence and one of the greatest nonviolent leaders in world history.”

Some of the stand-out links include:

The Civil Rights Digital Library (CRDL) (University of Georgia)

The CRDL includes a digital video archive delivering 30 hours of historical news film allowing learners to be nearly eyewitnesses to key events of the Civil Rights Movement, a civil rights portal providing a seamless virtual library on the Movement by aggregating metadata from more than 75 libraries and allied organizations from across the nation, and instructional materials to facilitate the use of the video content in the learning process.

The King Center

Official, living memorial dedicated to the preservation and advancement of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Supports research, education, and training in nonviolent methods for justice, equality and peace. Includes biographical outline, chronology, and selected bibliography of King.

The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute (Stanford University)

Supports research and education programs to assemble and disseminate to the public historical information about King’s life and understand of the movements inspired by him. King Papers Project includes a list of publications, online encyclopedia on King related topics, bibliography, and extensive chronologies of King’s life and the Civil Rights era. An inventory of the major papers and recordings of Dr. King that allows for in depth searching and browsing by date. Some previously published items are available for view in full text format.

Take Stock

Photographs of civil rights movement, sorted into subject portfolios. Includes images of King, the March on Washington, Selma, Freedom Summer, and other subjects. [Stanford: Additional Resources Links]

Alabama, 1960

Alabama, 1960

January 12, 1910 – Death of Bass Reeves – 1st Black Deputy Marshal West of the Mississippi River

Bass Reeves was born into slavery in the summer of 1838 in Crawford County, Arkansas. Like most slaves, he was given the surname of his owners, the Reeves family. During the Civil War, Reeves fled north to what is now Oklahoma, and lived with the Cherokee, Seminole, and Creek Indians, learning their languages, until he was freed in 1865 by the Thirteenth Amendment which abolished slavery.


Reeves and his family farmed until 1875, when a couple of fortuitous appointments changed his fate. Isaac Parker was picked as federal judge for the Indian Territory, and he named James F. Fagan as U.S. marshal, directing him to hire 200 deputy U.S. marshals. Fagan had heard about Reeves, who knew the Indian Territory and could speak several Indian languages. He recruited him as a deputy; Reeves was the first black deputy to serve west of the Mississippi River. Reeves was initially assigned to be a deputy U.S. marshal for the Western District of Arkansas, which had responsibility also for the Indian Territory. He served there until 1893. Then he was transferred to the Eastern District of Texas in Paris, Texas, for a short while. In 1897, he was transferred again, serving at the Muskogee Federal Court back in Indian Territory.

Reeves worked for thirty-two years as a deputy, and was reputed to be one of the bravest of any deputies. During his long career, he was credited with arresting more than 3,000 felons. He shot and killed 14 outlaws in self-defense. He was never even wounded, despite having his hat and belt shot off on separate occasions.

Reeves overcame the worst sort of adversity with his exceptional mind and extraordinary gumption. For example, as a slave, Bass was never allowed to learn to read, but when he became a deputy, he managed to capture outlaws by his ingenuity and courage. He would have arrest warrants read to him by someone else, and in the process he would memorize the shapes of the letters for each name, along with the charges against that person. Then he’d go out hunting for outlaws.

He not only arrested the criminals (he once brought in seventeen prisoners at once!) but at night, he’d talk to them about the Bible and about repentance.

His bravery was legendary; he actually stopped a lynching in action once, as the angry mob “just watched in awe as he rode off.”

And his integrity was unquestioned as well. He even arrested his own son for murder, after none of his colleagues would do it out of respect for Bass.

When Oklahoma became a state in 1907, Bass Reeves, then 68, became an officer of the Muskogee Police Department. He served for two years before he became ill and had to retire.

He died at age 72 in 1910 of a kidney disease. Hundreds of people – blacks, whites, and Indians, attended his funeral.

January 11, 1919 – First Meeting of the Post-WWI Supreme Council of Supply and Relief of the Allies to Aid the Germans

On Armistice Day (November 11) marking the end of World War I in 1918, President Woodrow Wilson went before Congress and announced the need to get food to the starving Germans and Belgians. He spoke of “disinterested justice” and “humane temper.” To this end, he dispatched Herbert Hoover to Europe to oversee the operations. (The future President Hoover was then a wealthy mining engineer and consultant with a knack for management. He had made a worldwide reputation heading the effort to feed captive Belgium during the War itself.) But Hoover ran into a number of roadblocks.

Thomas Fleming, in his fascinating history, The Illusion of Victory: America in World War I, reports that the Europeans were not really over their anger towards the Germans. Winston Churchill, for example, favored letting the Belgians starve and blaming the Germans. The British government was opposed to lifting their blockade of European harbors “until the Germans learn a few things.” In London’s newspapers, stories about German hunger were headed ‘Feeding the Beast’ and ‘Germany Whines.’”


Hoover’s own research revealed that Germany was a nation on the brink of mass starvation. He arranged for large shipments of food to set out from America, in spite of the Allied blockaid of Europe that had actually been extended on the day the armistice was signed! But he got a “coldly negative” reaction from the Allies: “With almost incredible meanness, they accused Hoover of shipping food from the United States because American cold-storage warehouses were overcrowded with a surplus of pork and dairy products.” The Allies also “announced plans to ‘investigate’ how much food Germany needed – and how much reparations it could pay, a chilling linkage.”

Herbert Hoover

Herbert Hoover

When Hoover lamented to Clemenceau of France that “The wolf is at the door of the world!” Clemenceau’s reply was “There are twenty million Germans too many.”

Eventually, the Allies dropped their objection to shipping food to neutral nations, but forbade any sale of forthcoming American food to Germany from them. Hoover shipped the food anyway, stored it, and worried.

American food relief in Belgium after WWI

American food relief in Belgium after WWI

Fleming recounts what happened next:

“After more wrangling, Hoover became head of a compromise organization, the Supreme Council of Supply and Relief, with representatives from all the Allied governments. At their first meeting on January 11, 1919, the delegates informed Hoover that not a pat of butter or a peck of wheat would go to Germany until it surrendered its merchant fleet. They claimed this was necessary to alleviate a world shipping shortage, caused by the depredations of the U-boats. In fact, there was no shortage. By this time, shipbuilding efforts by the British and Americans had replaced 90 percent of the tonnage the U-boats had sent to Davy Jones’s locker. What the Allies wanted was the German merchant fleet, which had been omitted from the armistice accords.”

. . . For the next two months, this impasse continued, while tens of thousands of men, women and children succumbed to malnutrition and starvation in Germany and Austria. … This was a long way from the ‘humane peace’ that Woodrow Wilson had promised Congress he would deliver in his mission to Europe.”

This book will also help you understand why the “peace” of 1918 was no peace at all.

January 9, 1788 – Connecticut Joins the Union as the Fifth State

The area that became the U.S. state of Connecticut began as three distinct settlements of Puritans from Massachusetts and England; they combined under a single royal charter in 1663. The word “Connecticut” is a French corruption of the Native American word quinetucket, which means “beside the long, tidal river.”

Unfortunately for the Pequot Indian tribe, they were in the way of colonial development. As summarized on the website of The Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Connecticut:

In 1633 the English Puritan settlements at Plimoth [sic] and Massachusetts Bay Colonies had begun expanding into the rich Connecticut River Valley to accommodate the steady stream of new emigrants from England. Other than the hardship of the journey and the difficulty of building homes in what the Puritans consider a wilderness, only one major obstacle threatened the security of the expanding settlements: the Pequots.”

Tribal territories of Southern New England tribes about 1600

Tribal territories of Southern New England tribes about 1600

The Pequot tribe had already been weakened by smallpox brought by the English settlers, and by internecine conflict between those who were pro-English and those who were pro-Dutch. Matters were made much worse when the Pequots killed a dishonest trader, John Oldham, in July of 1636. The settlers demanded retribution. Massachusetts raised a military force under the command of John Endicott. This troop landed on Block Island, killed 14 natives and burned the village and crops. They then moved on to Saybrook and burned that village as well. But they were not done yet.

On May 1, 1637, leaders of Connecticut Colony’s river towns each sent delegates to the first General Court held at the meeting house in Hartford. They pooled their militia under the command of John Mason of Windsor, and declared war on the Pequots.

On May 26, 1637, a military force under Puritans John Mason and John Underhill attacked the Pequot settlement near New Haven, Connecticut, destroying the village, consisting mostly of women, children, and the elderly, and killing over 500. The only Pequot survivors were warriors who had been with their leader Sassacus in a raiding party outside the village. Sassacus and many of his followers were surrounded in a swamp near a Mattabesic village called Sasqua and nearly 180 warriors were killed. Sassacus was eventually killed by the Mohawk, who sent his scalp to the English as a symbol of friendship. Surviving captives were sold in the West Indies as slaves. The few Pequots who were able to escape the English fled to surrounding Indian tribes, were assimilated, or were sold into slavery to the West Indies. The Pequot nation was destroyed. (Survivors did remain, however, and in the late 20th Century their descendants gained federal recognition as a tribe and were granted reserves of land along the Thames and Mystic rivers in southeastern Connecticut.)

A 19th-century engraving depicting the Pequot War

A 19th-century engraving depicting the Pequot War

Captain Mason later wrote that they wouldn’t have killed so many Pequots if they [the Pequots] could have served as “servants” but “they could not endure that Yoke.” Thus did the Lord, Mason writes, “scatter his Enemies with his strong Arm!:

Let the whole Earth be filled with his Glory! Thus the LORD was pleased to smite our Enemies in the hinder Parts, and to give us their Land for an Inheritance.”

(You can read the entire text of Mason’s joyous account of the Pequot massacres here.)

In 1639, the first constitution was adopted, called “”Fundamental Orders of Connecticut,” establishing representative government.

In 1662, the Connecticut Colony succeeded in gaining a Royal Charter that embodied and confirmed the self-government that they had created with the Fundamental Orders. This charter granted it all the land to the “South Sea” (i.e. the Pacific Ocean). Needless to say, territorial disputes followed, involving litigation, actual bloodshed, and land sales. It ended up being the nation’s third-smallest state.

Connecticut is home to the first successful copper mining by Europeans in what is now the United States. A copper deposit was discovered in the present town of East Granby, Connecticut in 1705, and German metallurgists from Hanover were imported to reduce the ore to copper metal. The mine was shut down in 1725.

Historian Holger Hoock relates in his history of the Revolutionary War, Scars of Independence: America’s Violent Birth, that one of the worst places to be punished for Loyalist leanings was in Connecticut. The former copper mine became “Newgate Prison” from 1773 to 1897. The accused were put in “this hell on earth” (or in earth, as it was 60-80 feet underground), which was dark, damp, squalid, with limited air circulation, and exceedingly unsanitary. Prisoners could not stand upright, and the political prisoners were mixed in with dangerous felons. Many of them went mad. As Hoock observes: “Psychological torment and physical violence played a far greater role in suppressing dissent during America’s first civil war than is commonly acknowledged.”

Connecticut's notorious Newgate Prison

Connecticut’s notorious Newgate Prison

Starting in the 1830s, and accelerating when Connecticut abolished slavery entirely in 1848, African Americans began relocating to urban centers for employment and opportunity, forming new neighborhoods such as Bridgeport’s Little Liberia. In 1832, Quaker schoolteacher Prudence Crandall created the first integrated schoolhouse in the United States by admitting Sarah Harris, the daughter of a free African American farmer in the local community, to her boarding school in Canterbury. Many prominent townspeople objected and pressured to have Harris dismissed from the school, but Crandall refused. Families of the current students removed their daughters. Consequently, Crandall ceased teaching white girls altogether and opened up her school strictly to African American girls. In 1995, the Connecticut General Assembly designated Prudence Crandall as the state’s official heroine.

Portrait of Prudence Crandall

Much later, Connecticut factories in Bridgeport, New Haven, Waterbury and Hartford attracted European immigrants, bringing mostly Catholic unskilled laborers to this traditionally Protestant state. By 1910, Connecticut’s population was almost 30% foreign-born. Nativists in the 1920s opposed the new immigrants as a threat to the state’s traditional social and political values. The Ku Klux Klan had a small anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant following in Connecticut in the 1920s, reaching about 15,000 members before its collapse nationwide in 1926 following scandals involving top leaders. Today, Connecticut is over 80% white, and 35.93% of the population identify as Catholic.

Connecticut is known for having the the oldest newspaper in continuous publication (The Hartford Current), the first law school, and the first state house, inter alia.

In 1919, Connecticut and Rhode Island were the only two states that didn’t ratify the Constitution’s 18th amendment, which banned “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors … within the United States” and launched Prohibition. A Durham, CT newspaper reported of that time:

The Connecticut state senate had defeated ratification of the 18th Amendment by a vote of 20-14, prompting the New Haven Journal Courier to say: ‘Connecticut is alone entitled to raise the flag of freedom in her hands and wave it aloft.’ The Hartford Courant called the 18th Amendment a ‘highly dangerous invasion of the rights of individual states.’”

Connecticut is the American home of Pez. The candy was invented in Austria, but in 1952, PEZ began to be imported to the United States. In 1973, PEZ built the first American candy manufacturing facility in Orange, CT. In 2011, PEZ opened the PEZ Visitor Center!

You may want to know that PEZ started adding three-dimensional character heads to dispensers in 1957, with the first being a Halloween witch. The following year, Popeye was the first licensed character used.

Connecticut is also home to the American Clock & Watch Museum, which holds one of the largest displays of American clocks and watches in the world, over 5,500! As visitors travel through the museum’s eight galleries, these timekeeping devices chime and strike upon the hour.

Perhaps in a tribute to its religious origins, the praying mantis officially became the State Insect on October 1, 1977. This insect isn’t even native to North America, but can be found throughout the state from early May or June until the cold weather sets in, when they die rapidly.

Praying mantis with wings spread as she allows them to dry.

According to one 2016 study, Connecticut has the second-largest number of millionaires per capita in the U.S., with 7.4 percent of all households in Connecticut qualifying as millionaire households.  But a 2015 report from the Economic Analysis and Research Network found that Connecticut also has the largest income gap between the top one percent of taxpayers and the state’s bottom 99 percent. 

January 6, 1912 – New Mexico Joins the Union as the 47th State

The New Mexico area has a long history of colonization, and not just by people. In fact, more than 500 footprints of 100-million-year-old dinosaurs have been identified and preserved at Clayton Lake State Park in northeastern New Mexico.

In the 16th Century, Spanish explorers entered New Mexico looking for gold. One of them, Juan de Oñate y Salazar (1550–1626), petitioned Spain to lead an expedition to “pacify” the provinces of New Mexico and was selected to do so, as well as to spread Catholicism by establishing new missions there.

On the Catholic calendar day of Ascension, April 30, 1598, Oñate and an exploration party assembled on the south bank of the Rio Grande and claimed all of the territory across the river for the Spanish Empire. All summer, Oñate’s expedition party followed the middle Rio Grande Valley north to present day northern New Mexico.

Today, Oñate is primarily known for the events surrounding the 1599 Ácoma Massacre. Before Oñate’s arrival, relations between the Spanish and the Ácoma people had been mostly peaceful. In 1598, Oñate sent his nephew, Captain Juan de Zaldívar, to the pueblo. When Zaldivar arrived, he demanded food, and after being denied, the Spaniards allegedly attacked some Ácoma women. A fight ensued, leaving Zaldivar and eleven of his men dead.

Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico. According to the 2010 United States Census, 4,989 people identified as Acoma.[5] The Acoma have continuously occupied the area for more than 800 years.

When Oñate learned of the incident, he ordered Juan de Zaldivar’s brother, Vicente de Zaldívar, to lead an expedition to punish the Ácoma and set an example for other pueblos. Taking about seventy men, Vincente de Zaldivar arrived at Ácoma Pueblo on January 21, 1599.

The Pueblo was destroyed, and around 800-1000 Ácoma were killed. Of the 500 or so survivors, Oñate sentenced most to twenty years of forced “personal servitude” and additionally mandated that all men over the age of twenty-five have a foot cut off. Two Hopis caught at Ácoma were to lose their right hands and “be set free in order that they may convey to their land the news of this punishment.”

Even now, Oñate remains a controversial figure in New Mexican history: in 1998 the right foot was cut off a statue of the conquistador that stands in Alcalde, New Mexico in protest of the massacre, and significant controversy arose when a large equestrian statue of Oñate was erected in El Paso, Texas in 2006.

The foot of Oñate. Credit Adria Malcolm for The New York Times

Back at the turn of the 17th Century, Franciscans were brought to the area to instruct the natives in their language and the Christian faith. Between 1601 and 1607, estimates of the number of baptized Indians in New Mexico ranged from five dozen to more than six hundred. As the National Park Service reports:

The decision to convert it from proprietary to royal colony rested not on economic potential, but on Christian obligation. A pious monarch, Philip III could not in conscience turn his back on thousands of baptized Indians.”

But becoming Christian didn’t make the natives “equal” by any means. For the next 200 years, according to the New Mexico History Museum, missionaries, aristocrats and settlers competed among themselves for land and power:

Soldiers and settlers exploited Native American labor, imposed taxes and claimed vast tracts of land. Missionaries sought Christian converts, suppressing Native customs and religion. Spanish and Native life ways mixed and clashed. Exchange and interaction changed both cultures.”

Various revolts by natives over the years were only briefly successful, if at all.

Uprisings in Mexico affected the fate of the area as well. In 1821, the people of Mexico threw off the rule of the Spanish king and created the Republic of Mexico, which included present-day New Mexico. That same year, a Missouri trader named William Becknell reached Santa Fe. His path came to be called the Santa Fe Trail, which became an early major transportation route through central North America and a vital commercial highway until the introduction of the railroad to Santa Fe in 1880.

Santa Fe Trail

Fur traders and mountain men—Mexican, American and French—traveled the Santa Fe Trail to New Mexico. Many remained to become farmers, ranchers, miners or distillers and began to open New Mexico to American influence.

In 1845 the U.S. annexed the independent Republic of Texas, still considered by Mexico as part of its territory. Newly elected U.S. President James K. Polk made a proposition to the Mexican government to purchase the disputed lands between the Nueces River (the southernmost major river in Texas northeast of the Rio Grande), as well as the Rio Grande river further south. When that offer was rejected, Polk moved U.S. troops commanded by Major General Zachary Taylor into the disputed territory, beginning the Mexican-American War.

U.S. forces quickly occupied the capital town of Santa Fe de Nuevo México along the upper Rio Grande and the Pacific coast territory province of Alta California (Upper California). They then invaded to the south into parts of central Mexico (modern-day northeastern Mexico and northwest Mexico).

The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, forced onto the remnant Mexican government, ended the war and codified the Mexican Cession of the northern territories of Alta California and most of modern day New Mexico to the United States.

In 1850, President Millard Fillmore signed into law the Organic Act, admitting New Mexico into the Union as a territory and allowing for the formation of a territorial government.

In addition, in 1853, the American minister to Mexico, James Gadsden, negotiated the treaty that bears his name, providing for the purchase of a large tract of desert land in southern New Mexico. The area offered an advantageous route for a transcontinental railway entirely on American soil, and its acquisition concluded the final adjustment of our border with Mexico.

Not everyone was happy with the acquisition of New Mexico. General William T. Sherman, who heartily disliked the arid country and the people of the Southwest, was quoted as saying that “the United States ought to declare war on Mexico and make it take back New Mexico.”

By the 1880s, the railroad began to transform New Mexico. Trains brought in machinery, workers and manufactured goods—and left with ore, cattle, lumber and agricultural products. As railroads crisscrossed the state, ranching, mining, the timber industry and tourism grew up around them.

Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Passenger Train in New Mexico circa 1885

Still, statehood was resisted by the U.S. Government. Descendants of the colonial Spanish constituted a majority of New Mexico’s people. At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, many in the East, as the governor later said, “were dubious about our loyalty we having such a large Mexican population.” But both Hispanics and Anglos in the territory responded to the call for volunteers so heavily that afterward Theodore Roosevelt would claim that half the officers and men of his famous Rough Riders Regiment came from New Mexico.

In 1910 Congress passed the Enabling Act, signed by President William Howard Taft. It provided for the calling of a constitutional convention in New Mexico. The state constitution was ratified by voters early the following year, and on January 6, 1912, New Mexico became the forty-seventh state in the Union.

In World War II, New Mexicans again responded vigorously to the call to arms. Some 60,000 New Mexicans enlisted in armed forces for WWII. In the early years of the war, New Mexico suffered the highest casualty rate of any state.

The U.S. government chose Los Alamos, New Mexico for “the Manhattan Project,” assembling the greatest concentration of scientific resources and brainpower in history to develop the atom bomb. The world’s first Atomic Bomb was detonated on July 16, 1945 on the White Sands Testing Range near Alamogordo.

Today, there are 19 Pueblo groups in New Mexico, speaking four distinct languages.  The Pueblo people of the Southwest have lived in the same location longer than any other culture in the Nation.

New Mexico is also home to many Navajo, the nation’s largest Native American group, with 78,000 members in New Mexico, and a reservation that covers 14 million acres.

The cuisine in New Mexico displays a wonderful blend of Native American, Spanish, and Anglo influences. Many dishes feature green chiles, since Hatch, New Mexico is known as the “Green Chile capital of the world”. There is even a “Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail” in the state; you can see a map here. What to drink with your cheeseburger? There is also a wine trail and a craft beer trail.

Chiles roasting at the annual Hatch Chile Festival

And of course, Roswell, New Mexico is allegedly the site of the crash of one or more alien spacecraft, from which the military supposedly recovered its extraterrestrial occupants. Roswell now calls itself the UFO Capital of the World, and every summer has a festival to which it “invites UFO enthusiasts and skeptics alike to join in the celebration of one of the most debated incidents in history.”

January 4, 1896 – Utah Joins the Union as the 45th State

Utah is the 13th-largest by area, 31st-most-populous, and 10th-least-densely populated of the 50 United States.

Approximately 62% of Utahns are reported to be members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or LDS (Mormons), which greatly influences Utahn culture and daily life. The LDS Church’s world headquarters is located in Salt Lake City. Utah is the only state with a majority population belonging to a single church.

Brigham Young, who became the head of the church upon Joseph Smith’s death in 1844, arrived with the first band of Mormon pioneers in 1847. Mental Floss reports that in that year, seagulls helped save the lives of pioneers by consuming swarms of crickets that threatened to wipe out their crops. The event was called the “Miracle of the Gulls” and in 1913 a monument depicting two bronze seagulls perched atop a granite column was erected in Salt Lake City’s Temple Square to commemorate the event. The California Gull has since been adopted as Utah’s official state bird.

Seagull Monument

Utah was Mexican territory when the first pioneers arrived in 1847. It was ceded to the U.S. as part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ending the Mexican-American War in 1948. Upon learning that California and New Mexico were applying for statehood, the settlers of the Utah area (originally having planned to petition for territorial status) applied for statehood as the State of Deseret.

It was as the Territory of Utah, however, that the area became part of the United States in September 9, 1850. The territory was organized by an Organic Act of Congress in 1850, on the same day that the State of California was admitted to the Union and the New Mexico Territory was added for the southern portion of the former Mexican land. The creation of the territory was part of the Compromise of 1850 that sought to preserve the balance of power between slave and free states.

Following the organization of the territory, Brigham Young was inaugurated as the first governor on February 3, 1851. In the first session of the territorial legislature in September, the legislature adopted all the laws and ordinances previously enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Deseret.

Mormon governance in the territory was regarded as controversial because of the Mormon practice of polygamy. Also, the western area of the territory began to attract many non-Mormon settlers, especially after the discovery of silver at the Comstock Lode in 1858. In 1861, partly as a result of this, the Nevada Territory was created out of the western part of the territory.

Meanwhile, non-Mormons also entered the easternmost part of the territory during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush that led to the discovery of gold at Breckenridge in Utah Territory in 1859. In 1861 a large portion of the eastern area of the territory was reorganized as part of the newly created Colorado Territory.

Disputes between the Mormon inhabitants and the U.S. government intensified over the issue of polygamy. During the 1870s and 1880s federal laws were passed to punish polygamy, specifically in response to the situation in Utah.

The Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act (37th United States Congress, Sess. 2., ch. 126, 12 Stat. 501) was a federal statute signed into law on July 8, 1862 by President Abraham Lincoln. The act banned bigamy in federal territories such as Utah and limited church and non-profit ownership in any territory of the United States to $50,000.

The Edmunds Act, also known as the Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act of 1882, was a federal statute signed into law on March 23, 1882 by president Chester A. Arthur, declaring polygamy a felony. The Edmunds Act also prohibited “bigamous” or “unlawful cohabitation” (a misdemeanor), thus removing the need to prove that actual marriages had occurred. The act also made it illegal for polygamists or cohabitants to vote, hold public office, or serve on juries.

The Latter-day Saints maintained that plural marriage was a religious principle protected under the U.S. Constitution, and mounted a legal challenge to the laws. However, in Reynolds v. United States (98 U.S. 145,1878), the Supreme Court ruled against the Latter-day Saints. As Oyez notes:

The Court held that while Congress could not outlaw a belief in the correctness of polygamy, it could outlaw the practice thereof. The majority reasoned that while marriage is a ‘sacred obligation,’ it is nevertheless ‘usually regulated by law’ in ‘most civilized nations.’ Finally, the Court held that people cannot avoid a law due to their religion.”


In the 1890 Manifesto, the LDS Church banned polygamy. When Utah applied for statehood again, it was accepted, with the proviso that a ban on polygamy be written into the state constitution. This was a condition required of other western states that were admitted into the Union later. Statehood was officially granted to Utah on January 4, 1896.

Utah has many national parks of outstanding beauty, including Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, and Monument Valley. Bryce Canyon is known for its sprawling forests of Hoodoos, or thin pillars of rock shaped by years of erosion. Arches National Park is known for containing more than 2000 natural sandstone arches.

The Alta Ski Area, located just outside of Salt Lake City, is annually covered by 500+ inches of snow. It was established in 1939 and the subsequent development of several ski resorts in the state’s mountains followed. The dry, powdery snow of the Wasatch Range is considered some of the best skiing in the world. Salt Lake City won the bid for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, and this served as a great boost to the economy.

Alta Ski Resort

Utah is known not only for snow but for salt. The Bonneville Salt Flats is made up of 30,000 acres of densely packed salt pan. The spot’s terrain makes it a popular destination for speed-seeking land racers. And most people are familiar with the Great Salt Lake, which contains between 4.5 and 4.9 billion tons of dissolved salt. The parts of the lake with the highest salt content are nearly nine times saltier than the ocean.

You may wonder: which is saltier, the Great Salt Lake in Utah or the Dead Sea in Israel? According to Quora, the Great Salt Lake varies anywhere from 5% to 27% salinity, depending on where you measure; the Dead Sea, on the other hand, is roughly 33% salt.

Mental Floss points out that Utah is the home of one of the heaviest organisms on earth: The Trembling Giant, or Pando, in the Fishlake National Forest. It is made up of 47,000 genetically identical trees that share a single root system. It is also among the oldest organisms on earth—it has been dated back to more than 80,000 years.

Pando, The Trembling Giant

Mormons advise against the consumption of alcohol for its members, and therefore the alcohol laws of Utah are some of the strictest in the United States. Newer restaurants in Utah used to be required to erect an opaque barrier or “Zion Curtain” around their bars to keep children from seeing alcoholic drinks as they’re being prepared. But in 2017, alcohol reform legislation passed the Utah State Legislature, and the “Zion Curtain” fell at last.

The Salt Lake Tribune file photo – A frosted glass curtain hides a portion of the bar at Brio Tuscan

Nevertheless, restaurants must first be inspected and approved before the barriers can come down, or risk fines or loss of a liquor license. Moreover, minors must be kept at least ten feet from anywhere alcohol is poured.

The location of the first-ever KFC was not in Kentucky but in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Deseret News reports that on Aug. 3, 1952, Colonel Harland Sanders of Corbin, Kentucky, arrived in Utah to visit Pete Harman and his wife, Arline. Sanders convinced Harman to put the chicken on his menu at the Harman cafe. When Sanders returned to Utah a few weeks later he saw customers lined up down the street waiting to get his special fried chicken. His success at the Utah location inspired him to continue licensing his chicken recipe to restaurants across the country.

Statues of Colonel Sanders and Pete Harman outside the “World’s First KFC” in Salt Lake City. Lee Benson, Deseret News