Welcome to America Comes Alive!, a site I created to share little-known stories of America’s past. These stories are about Americans—people just like you—who have made a difference and changed the course of history. Look around the site and find what inspires you.

The Presidential Turkey Pardon

turkey pardon
President Obama and Sasha with Popcorn, 2013
Getty Images, Alex Wong

While we think of the pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey as a long-standing tradition, it has actually been a relatively short and an erratic one.

Acquiring the official turkey, however, follows a much longer and steadier tradition.

The Source of the Official Turkey

In 1873, Harold Vose, a Rhode Island farmer, decided to send President Grant “the noblest gobbler in all that little state,” according to a 2011 article on the website, www.White House.gov.  While Vose may have taken on the responsibility for promotional reasons or out of patriotism, his commitment to providing the official White House turkey did not flag.  Vose’s farm is cited as the source of the official White House turkey until 1912, probably continuing on after Harold Vose was no longer living, though his date of death is not retrievable at this time. Continue reading

Jay Silverheels (1912-1980) is best-remembered for his role as Tonto in The Lone Ranger, an ABC television program that ran for 221 episodes (1949-1957). Silverheels was a full-blooded Mohawk Indian born on the Six Nations Indian Reservation in Ontario, Canada. His birth name was Harold Smith, and he was… Continue reading »

Kilroy was here
The words, “Kilroy was here,” alongside a drawing of a long-nosed, bald fellow peering over a fence still pop up occasionally on walls and buildings today.  But the original legend of Kilroy dates to World War II and a man named James J. Kilroy (1902-1962), who… Continue reading »

cigar store Indian
In the 19th century many people could not read, so store owners placed carvings of various symbols in front of their shops so passersby knew what was sold inside. A carving of a wooden Indian indicated a tobacco store; a red, white and blue striped pole… Continue reading »

Mary Lincoln
Mary Lincoln’s shopping habits and most other aspects of her life made news once Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) won the presidential election of 1860. Though Lincoln would not take office until March of 1861, Mary Todd Lincoln (1818-1882) found herself under constant scrutiny for where she went, what she… Continue reading »

cute baby in diaper
Inventions are the ultimate result of successful problem-solving. But how on earth did people come up with the first ideas for luxuries (and now necessities) as disposable diapers, the dishwasher, the cell phone, and blue jeans? Recently I have been asked to speak on this topic to… Continue reading »

Hispanic leader
America Comes Alive has profiled several Latino leaders during the past few weeks as part of Hispanic Heritage Month. Today I would like to point out a few of the impressive people we’ve highlighted: Adelina Otero-Warren (1881-1965) was active in the suffrage movement in New Mexico. She became… Continue reading »

Rosenwald Schools
The Rosenwald Schools  were built in the early 20th century as a solution to the scarcity of schools for African-Americans in the rural South at that time.  The school-building program was the idea of educator Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) who approached Julius Rosenwald, (1862-1932), the president of… Continue reading »

Ellen Ochoa
Ellen Ochoa (1958-   ) is a veteran astronaut who was chosen for four space flights and has almost one thousand flight hours to her credit.  She was the first Latina to be chosen as an astronaut, and she is now director… Continue reading »

Carlos Finlay
The cause of yellow fever was identified by Dr. Carlos Finlay (1833-1915), a Cuban physician who was instrumental in reducing the incidence of yellow fever in tropical climates throughout the world. In the United States, this was important in the southern states where the weather was often… Continue reading »

Art school dropout who became Frank Lloyd Wright’s exclusive photographer Pedro Guerrero was born in Casa Grande, Arizona on September 5, 1917. His family had been in Arizona for several generations before the territory achieved statehood. His great-grandfather had settled in a little town known as Florence in… Continue reading »

One of first female government officials in New Mexico First New Mexican woman and the first Latina to run for national office Suffragist Born into a well-to-do family that traced its heritage to eleventh-century Spain, Adelina “Nina” Maria Isabel Emilia Otero was born in 1881 in Las Lunas, New Mexico. Otero-Warren was… Continue reading »

We often read stories of families traveling west by wagon train. However, recently I was introduced to a reminiscence of a woman’s childhood journey to California from Ohio via the Isthmus of Panama.  The family opted for the route that took the least time, traveling from Ohio to… Continue reading »

George Washington
George Washington’s teeth were bad, and he lost many of them while still young. This fact about our first president is generally well-known as much has been written about his dentures. The story of his teeth reveals a great deal about the state of dentistry during his lifetime,… Continue reading »

The lie detector—or polygraph machine–was first created by John Augustus Larson (1892-1965), a part-time employee of the Berkley Police Department who was earning his Ph.D. in physiology at the University of California at Berkeley. In studying interrogations taking place in the police department, Larson came up with the concept… Continue reading »

Part of the inspiration for this site comes from a remark made by Nobel Peace Prize winner Jane Addams (1860-1935):

"People do not want to hear about simple things. They want to hear about great things—simply told."

This Day in History

On November 28, 1895, the first motor-car race in the United States was held along a 54-mile lakeshore loop from Chicago to Waukegan. The race was held despite a big snowstorm, and the cars slipped into snowdrifts and stalled frequently. The winner was Frank Duryea who made the trip in 10 hours and 23 minutes, driving an average of 5 ¼ miles per hour.  Frank then returned to his shop in Massachusetts where he and his brother proceeded to turn out 13 handmade cars, making them the biggest car manufacturer in the U.S. at that time.

site by: Deyo Designs
Copyright © 2011-2014 Kate Kelly, America Comes Alive | Site Map
Follow Kate >
Get every new post on America Comes Alive! delivered to your inbox.