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.

Mexican-American Hero: Congressional Medal of Honor, 1945

Mexican-born Silvestre S. Herrera (1916-2007) wasn’t even a U.S.Mexican-American Hero citizen when he signed up to fight for the United States in World War II. As Herrera himself said after obtaining citizenship: “I am a Mexican-American and we have a tradition. We’re supposed to be men, not sissies.”

Early Life for a Mexican-American Hero

Silvestre Herrera and his wife, Ramona, settled in Phoenix, Arizona in 1928. By the time World War II was underway, they had three children; husbands with families were initially exempt from the draft. Continue reading

lighthouse keepers
The first Hispanic-American in the Coast Guard was Juan Andreu, who was appointed the first official lighthouse keeper of the St. Augustine Lighthouse in 1824, three years after Florida became a U.S. Territory. Juan was born in Florida to parents… Continue reading »

Route 66 Race
The First International Transcontinental Foot Race was held in the United States in 1928. The event was organized through the combined efforts of the Route 66 Association and sports promoter, Charles C. Pyle. The purpose was to build interest in the newly opened Route 66—a road… Continue reading »

shopping cart
The shopping cart was invented in the mid-1930s by Sylvan N. Goldman (1898-1984). Goldman ran a grocery store chain called Humpty Dumpty, and he observed that shoppers struggled with the “hand carry” shopping baskets. “They had a tendency to stop shopping when the baskets became too full or… Continue reading »

dog hero
Rags, who became a World War I dog hero, was originally just a stray pup picked up by a couple of American soldiers in July of 1918. James Donovan and George Hickman, part… Continue reading »

Newfoundland and Grant
Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) and his wife Julia moved into the White House with four children for what was to become a two-term stay (1869-1877). The eldest son was off at college by 1869 when Grant’s first term… Continue reading »

Rescue dogs
What do you do if you run a dog rescue operation near Los Angeles and want to move to Maine—with the dogs? Maybe you do what David Rosenfelt and his wife, Debbie Myers, did. After spending months puzzling through the challenge of transferring their… Continue reading »

Lassie became a movie star despite starting life as a spirited, unwanted pup. In 1940 Rudd Weatherwax and his brother, Frank, had just started their own Studio Dog Training School, opting to run their own business rather than continue to work for others.  A man who was having difficulty… Continue reading »

gold rush dog
Nero was a big St. Bernard who became an important figure during the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1890s. Nero is described as a goofy, lovable and big St. Bernard who attached himself to Belinda Mulrooney (1872-1967),… Continue reading »

stability dog
Geronimo is an elegant greyhound, weighing 80 pounds and standing hip-high to individuals of average height. He came to live with Linda and Mike Bates about five years ago when he was in need of a home.  They loved him on sight, but as they learned of… Continue reading »

teacup dog
Tea cup-sized dogs (or “sleeve” dogs, as they were called in the mid-nineteenth century) were a gift from Japan to then-President Franklin Pierce (1804-1869). The teacup dogs were brought to President Pierce by Commodore Matthew Perry (1794-1858) in 1854. Perry, accompanied by gun boats,… Continue reading »

Heather attentive
Heather is a hearing dog that has changed the world for owner Jeanne Glass of Long Beach, California.  With Heather by her side at all times, Glass, who is severely hearing impaired, never has to worry about missing a door knock,… Continue reading »

Strongheart was the first dog “movie star” to appear in dramatic roles. The handsome German shepherd was fast and strong; smart and capable and always managed to save the day, thereby setting the stage for Rin-Tin-Tin and all those that followed. The dogs that had preceded Strongheart… Continue reading »

Dogs Make News
Dogs made the news regularly in times past. Two stories that took place within a couple of years of each other caught my attention: “Dog Falls 800 Feet, Lives” ran the headline in The New York Times portrait of a purebred fox terrier sitting on… Continue reading »

George Tirebiter, a scraggly mutt, had the good sense to wander onto the campus of the University of Southern California in the early 1940s. He stayed around long enough that the students decided to make him mascot—a role he played with gusto for about seven years. When Tirebiter arrived,… Continue reading »

Taco Bell Dog
The Taco Bell dog, Gidget, was a 12-pound Chihuahua that was in the right place at the right time to become a big star. Taco Bell Dog Discovered Sue Chipperton, an animal trainer with Studio Animal Services, a company that provides all types of animals for the entertainment… Continue reading »

ice cream cone
The ice cream cone is said to have originated at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1904. But that leaves out an important part of history: the story of the cone inventor. The patent for cone-making was awarded to Italo… Continue reading »

Jefferson's dog
Dogs were initially held in poor esteem by Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) when he was a young man.  In an era when most landowners kept livestock that were important in commerce, dogs were kept for hunting or herding and were probably fed erratically. Communities often… Continue reading »

Bummer and Lazarus
Bummer and Lazarus were stray dogs who wandered the streets of San Francisco in the 1860s, begging for handouts and patrolling the area for rats to kill. They were also good pals who were unified in all they did. Bummer was said to do the biting;… Continue reading »

War Dogs
At the start of World War II, the United States military had no canine corps so it fell to civilians, primarily led by poodle breeder Alene Erlanger, to organize… Continue reading »

Fatty Arbuckle and Luke
Fatty Arbuckle’s dog, Luke, was one of the most talented stars of silent films.  In a day when camera tricks were technologically not possible, Luke is seen jumping from one wall on a building rooftop to another narrow wall across the way. He climbs from… Continue reading »

bear cubs
Two bear cubs were the most unusual animals to be in residence at the White House during Thomas Jefferson’s presidency (1801-1809). Throughout his lifetime, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) pursued scientific knowledge by studying all that came his… Continue reading »

4th of july 1st pic
Today we know that much of the land that constitutes the United States of America was obtained by ill-gotten means.  Those who preceded us disregarded the native people who were there first. While slight effort has been made by the government at different forms… Continue reading »

White Castle
White Castle holds the title of being the first fast-food restaurant inthe world. Their original hamburger eatery opened in Wichita, Kansas in 1921. The restaurant was the start of what has become a multi-billion dollar fast food industry. (White Castle predated… Continue reading »

Harlem Hellfighter
Henry Lincoln Johnson (1897-1929), who served valiantly as part of the 369th regiment (known as the Harlem Hellfighters) received the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously in a ceremony at the White House on June 2, 2015, almost one hundred years after his return from war. At the… Continue reading »

Delacorte monkeys
The Delacorte Clock in Central Park has been delighting families with its carousel of animals dancing to musical chimes since it was first created in 1965. The musical clock built above the arcade between the main part of the Central Park Zoo and the Children’s Zoo, was… Continue reading »

Robert Ripley
Robert Ripley (1890-1949) achieved worldwide fame through his “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” column, a wildly popular newspaper panel series and radio program during the 1930s and ’40s. The phrase, “Believe It or Not” became a well-known saying of the day. At a… Continue reading »

bubble gum
Bubble gum.  Few adults chew it, but all of us surely chewed the delightful pink stuff while growing up:  the sweet smell when unwrapping the paper, the powdery sugar that came off on one’s fingers, the fun  of reading the funnies wrapped inside, and the thrill of… 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 October 10, 1845, the United States Naval Academy opened in Annapolis, Maryland, with 50 students and seven professors. It was known as the Naval School until 1850 when it became the U.S. Naval Academy. At that point, the Academy began to require four years of academic study in combination with at-sea training on a U.S. Navy ship each summer.

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