There’s a lot of encore material here — I think about this in the middle of the summer, and July 24 is a good day to commemorate arrivals: It’s Arrival Day. It’s Touchdown Day.
July 24 – almost the end of the month, but not quite.
- July 24, 1847: A larger contingent of Mormons, refugees from a literal religious war in Illinois and Missouri, entered into the Salt Lake Valley under the leadership of Brigham Young, who famously said from his wagon sick-bed, “This is the place; drive on!”
In Utah, July 24 is a state holiday, to celebrate the date in 1847 that the Mormon refugees arrived in Salt Lake Valley and began to set up their agriculture and schools. In Salt Lake City, bands from across the state and floats from many entities form the Days of ’47 Parade. When I marched with the Pleasant Grove High School Viking Band, the route was 5 miles. We had only one band uniform, for winter — I lost nearly 10 pounds carrying a Sousaphone.
When the Mormons got to Salt Lake, after a couple of months’ trekking across the plains (then known as “The Great American Desert,” the Great Basin and the Mojave being little known), and after being on the run for well over a year, they got right down to priorities. Summer was nearly gone, and crops had to be planted quick. Within a couple of weeks, the Mormons dammed local streams to create irrigation systems to grow what they could before fall (this is, popularly, the first major crop irrigation set up in America); they’d started to lay out plans for settlements, with straight streets based on Cartesian-plane grids: The first serious community planning? And they began construction of schools, knowing education to be one of the most important attributes in the foundation of free societies, a position Mormons have reneged on recently in Utah. Water, communities, schools.
Heck, that’s a good campaign platform today. It’s with sadness I note few people run on such a platform, instead begging voters to be afraid of others who are different in some fashion. Fear quenches no thirst, makes no place for families, nor educates any curious child. Utah’s Mormon pioneers were on the right track. We’ve run out of the ruts, and we are not there yet.
Utahns will be flying their U.S. flags today. (Remember, President Obama proclaimed this a period of mourning, through July 25; flags should fly half-staff where possible.)
Maybe spending a few weeks struggling across a prairie and risking your life focuses you on the important stuff. How would it improve America if we put more people on a bus to Omaha, put them out there, and said, “Hike to Salt Lake City from here.”
They’d focus. Can we start with Paul Ryan, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell? Ted Cruz couldn’t make the journey. Donald Trump would die of sunburn. Wisconsin Gov. Ahab Walker would find no one to swindle, and talking down teachers and community builders wouldn’t be popular among fellow trekkers.
Ah, the good old days!
July 24 features a number 0f other arrivals, too.
From various “Today in History” features, AP, New York Times, and others, not in chronological order:
Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon, July 20, 1969 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Would there be a Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and organ, had the Mormons settled somewhere other than Utah? Wikipedia photo
- July 24, 1866: Tennessee became the first of the Confederate States, the former “state in rebellion,” to be readmitted fully to the Union, following the end of the American Civil War. (Does Tennessee celebrate this anniversary in any way?)
- July 24, 1911: On July 24, 1911, American archeologist Hiram Bingham arrived at Machu Picchu in Peru. We still don’t know all the reaons the Incas built that city on the top of very high mountains. Cell service was not a factor.
- July 24, 2005: Lance Armstrong won his seventh consecutive Tour de France bicycle race. Little did we know then, the journey wasn’t over. (Lance Armstrong is no relation to Neil Armstrong. Did I need to point that out?)
Nixon advance man William Safire claimed later than he’d set up the famous “debate” between Eisenhower’s Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Communist Party Premier Nikita Khrushchev, at the American National Exhibition in Moscow, 1959. Nixon argued that the technology on display made better the lives of average Americans, not just the wealthiest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
- July 24, 1959: Visiting Moscow, USSR, to support an exhibit of U.S. technology and know-how, Vice President Richard Nixon engaged Soviet Communist Party Secretary and Premier Nikita Khrushchev in a volley of points about which nation was doing better, at a display of the “typical” American kitchen, featuring an electric stove, a refrigerator, and a dishwasher. Khrushchev said the Soviet Union produced similar products; Nixon barbed back that even Communist Party leaders didn’t have such things in their homes, typically, but such appliances were within the reach of every American family. It was the “Kitchen Debate.”Try explaining this to high school U.S. history students. The textbooks tend to avoid this story, because it stops the class. That’s a sign it should be used more, I think. Does the Common Core even touch it?Nixon’s arrival as a major political force in the Cold War grew clear from this event. The pragmatic stakes of the Cold War were drawn in stark contrast, too. It’s interesting to ponder that microwave ovens were not part of the exhibit.
Cover of Time Magazine, July 22, 1974, explaining the showdown between President Richard Nixon and the Special Prosecutor, playing out in the U.S. Supreme Court. Image copyright by Time Magazine.
- July 24, 1974: In U.S. vs. Nixon, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that President Richard Nixon had to turn over previously-secret recordings made of conversations in the White House between Nixon and his aides, to the special prosecutor appointed to investigate the Watergate affair and cover-up. Nixon would resign the presidency within two weeks, the only president to leave office by resignation.
- July 24, 1975: An Apollo spacecraft splashed down after a mission that included the first link-up of American and Soviet spacecraft. (The Apollo mission was not officially numbered, but is sometimes called “Apollo 18″ — after Apollo 17, the last trip to the Moon.)
Library of Congress image caption: Mormon Temple Grounds, Salt Lake City, Utah, L. Hollard, photographer, 1912. Taking the Long View: Panoramic Photographs, 1851-1991 [The building on the far right? That’s the old Hotel Utah, where Kathryn and I had a great wedding reception with plenty of champagne considering our many Mormon family and friends — some of whom may have sampled a little to see what they usually missed. It was such a great reception that the owners of the hotel, the LDS Church, stopped holding wedding receptions there and shortly closed it as a hotel; now it’s an office building with a fantastic lobby that makes any sensible person wistful for what used to be.]
Hoping not to arrive painfully on touchdown:
Bareback rider Jerad Schlegel of Burns, Colorado, clings to his horse as it falls to the dirt during a re-ride at the Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo Friday, July 19, 2013. Photo by Brian Nicholson (go see his blog)