Summing up all of American history in one book is nearly impossible — that’s why author Carl M. Cannon ingeniously takes it one day at a time.
His “On This Date” (Twelve Books) highlights some of our country’s most important but less celebrated moments, from the arrival of the Mayflower through the 2016 presidential election, as calendar entries. The result is one of the oddest but most fun history books in recent memory.
The Post enlisted Cannon, the Washington bureau chief at RealClearPolitics.com, to pull together some of his favorite entries from each month. This list, adapted from his book, is by no means exhaustive; you won’t find references to 9/11, Pearl Harbor or the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, for example. But it represents a random assortment of the individual stories that helped shape, as Cannon puts it, “the constantly changing marvel” that is our American identity.
Jan. 1, 1915: NYC’s first female cabbie gets behind the wheel
On the very first day of 1915, a new taxi pulled up to a cabstand at Broadway and 50th Street — and immediately attracted attention on account to of the driver’s headgear: “a huge hat of leopard skin, and around her neck and over her shoulders the yellow and black spotted pelt of the same animal.”
While passers-by stopped and stared, driver Wilma K. Russey — who worked as an auto mechanic in Manhattan — approached an NYPD patrolman, Philip Wagner, who was directing traffic. She showed her chauffeur’s license to the police officer, who informed Russey there was no reason she shouldn’t take her place in the cabstand. The male cabbies debated “the feminine invasion of their business” but ultimately came to a quick consensus: They walked over to Russey’s car to congratulate her and offer words of encouragement.
Feb. 15, 1903: The teddy bear debuts
In November 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt decided he needed a break from the White House. For the Rough Rider, a vacation meant hunting, so he traveled to Mississippi during bear-hunting season. On the second day of the trip, the hounds picked up a scent — and an aging 235-pound black bear was promptly clubbed and tied to a tree, awaiting the commander in chief’s lethal shot. Roosevelt, however, refused the unsportsmanlike opportunity. Although the bear was eventually euthanized, reporters’ stories still made the president seem merciful — and Washington Post cartoonist Clifford Berryman…