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.

Wishbone, Dog TV Star

Wishbone, played by a Jack Russell terrier named Soccer (1988-Wishbone read2001), was the star of his own PBS Children’s Show that aired from 1995-2001.

The idea for the show came from producer Rick Duffield, who explained to Entertainment Tonight in 1995, that like many pet owners, he often said things for his pet. He wondered if there was a place for a talking dog on television. As he mulled it over, he eventually extended the idea to involve a talking dog who tells great stories from literature. Continue reading

Smoky War Dog
Smoky, a four-pound Yorkshire terrier, went to war by happenstance. She was found in New Guinea near an American military base in 1944. No one was going to send home a lost dog, no matter how tiny.  She soon embedded with a unit of… Continue reading »

Jefferson Davis dog
Confederate President Jefferson Davis (1808-1889) acquired his dog, Traveler, during his retirement years. Immediately after the war, Jefferson Davis was on the run from Union soldiers. He was captured and imprisoned for about two years and then freed. At that point, Davis wanted to leave the country, so he and… Continue reading »

retiring a service dog
The bond between a person and his/her service dog is strong and special. They are a unit. They are a team. They are an almost inseparable pair. But a sad fact is that a dog’s working life is generally only about ten years. The dog may tire more easily, and… Continue reading »

JohnT0215
When chemistry students at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, California, enter their classroom with big smiles, one might presume their faces represent their enthusiasm for learning chemistry. Their professor, Dr. John Terhorst, knows otherwise. He is well aware that the huge smiles, and certainly the hand-waves, are actually for his service… Continue reading »

Bogart and Bacall and dogs
Both Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall loved dogs. She was partial to cocker spaniels and had two of them–one named Droopy and another, Puddle.  Bogart owned several breeds during his lifetime including a Newfoundland terrier, a couple of Scottish terriers, and… Continue reading »

With John Wiesniewski
“Slate saved my life,” is the way John Wiesniewski describes having a service dog like Slate by his side every day. SSD Slate, a black Labrador, is trained as a psychiatric support service dog by Susquehanna Service Dogs (SSD), located in Grantville, Pennsylvania. These dogs are often placed… Continue reading »

Grover Cleveland's dogs
Grover Cleveland holds a unique place in American history. He is the only person elected for two non-consecutive terms of the presidency (1885-1889 and 1893-1897). In addition, he was the first Democrat elected after the Civil War. Personally, Cleveland also went through… Continue reading »

Confederate dog
Loyal dogs populated both armies in the Civil War. For every Union dog, there was a Confederate dog taking part in the battles. Like wars before it, the Civil War had no organized canine corps. (The first canine corps for the U.S.… Continue reading »

Buster Brown Shoes
“I’m Buster Brown, and I live in a shoe. That’s my dog, Tige, and he lives there, too,” went the jingle for Buster Brown shoes. The Brown Shoe Company began in 1878 as a partnership among three St. Louis businessmen: George Brown, Alvin L. Bryan, and Jerome Desnoyers. George Warren Brown… Continue reading »

Pancho Barnes
Pancho Barnes (1901-1975) was a fearless pilot and aviation pioneer, flying at a time when flight was in its infancy. She went on to work as a Hollywood stunt pilot, among many other things. Pancho pursued just about anything that interested her, including partying. (The parties were generally at her… Continue reading »

wheelchair
Wheelchairs today offer a very high level of independence and mobility to people who cannot walk because of injury or disability. When and how did they come about? While not in common use until the last century, the earliest known wheeled conveyance dates to the Greeks who put wheels on a bed… Continue reading »

Lionel Barrymore, wheelchair
Lionel Barrymore ((1878-1954) had a long and successful acting career, primarily playing character roles in films from the silent era through the early 1950s. Barrymore didn’t limit himself to acting; he was a successful director and composer and continued to… Continue reading »

Getty Images
In today’s game of baseball, the catcher’s mask is a fundamental piece of equipment. The player positioned behind home plate is in a vital but dangerous position. From his vantage point, the catcher can see the whole field, letting him observe and respond to the ongoing game in… Continue reading »

Mar-a-Lago
Mar-a-Lago, now owned by presidential candidate Donald Trump, was built by Marjorie Merriweather Post (1887-1973) in the 1920s. The cereal heiress wanted a winter retreat for herself and her second husband, Edward F. Hutton. She was said to have climbed through the jungle-like undergrowth with… Continue reading »

escaped slave
Arthur Crumpler escaped slavery and overcame the fact that slaves were prevented from learning to read or write; he attended night school when he was in his sixties. The article in The Boston Daily Globe in 1898… Continue reading »

started first animal shelter
The first animal shelter in America came about due to the efforts of Caroline Earle White (1833-1916) of Philadelphia. White was also the power behind several other animal protection organizations. She was among the first to launch the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,… Continue reading »

Dorothy Arzner
Dorothy Arzner (1897-1979) was a Hollywood film director.  A woman director was a rarity in the early days of filmmaking. She directed films from 1926-1943 and amassed a considerable body of work. Arzner was also the first woman to become a member of the Directors Guild of America. How… Continue reading »

Grace Wisher flag
Grace Wisher, age 13, was an indentured servant in the home of flag maker Mary Pickersgill of Baltimore. Pickersgill, who had taken over the business her mother started, was well known and highly regarded. The Pickersgill shop was responsible for making one of America’s most famous… Continue reading »

Triple Nickle
The Triple Nickles, as the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion was known, were a remarkable, highly-disciplined company of African American paratroopers who paved the way for integration in the military. They also overcame military skepticism by proving that African Americans could excel at jobs that required intricate training…. Continue reading »

Ophelia DeVore
Ophelia DeVore (1921-2014) began her modeling career in 1938 when she was only 16. This gave her an early understanding of how difficult it was for non-whites to be selected for fashion photography or for advertising commissions. This led DeVore to start a modeling agency to represent… Continue reading »

Bessie Blount
Bessie Blount (1914-2009) was a physical therapist who found herself working with injured soldiers during World War II. She recognized their need and desire to do more on their own, and she invented an assistive device that permitted people who had lost limbs to feed themselves. … Continue reading »

black jockey Isaac Murphy
Isaac Burns Murphy (1861-1896) is considered one of the all-time great jockeys in Thoroughbred racing.  He was the first black jockey to be inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame. Among his many credits were three wins at the Kentucky Derby… Continue reading »

Kenny Washington
Kenny Washington (1918-1971) was the first African American to sign with an NFL team after a 13-year unspoken pact among owners to bar black football players from teams. Kenny Washington signed with the Los Angeles Rams in 1946, pre-dating baseball legend Jackie Robinson’s 1947 signing with the Brooklyn… Continue reading »

Septima Clark
Septima Clark (1898-1987) was an educator and civil rights activist. She established Citizenship Schools that transformed the South by increasing the number of African Americans who could vote. Her acclaim came from many: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called Septima Clark the “mother of the… Continue reading »

Martin Luther King
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. left us with many inspirational thoughts, so it is never easy to pick just one. However, recently, I came upon part of a sermon he gave at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, on or near July 4 of 1965. In it,… Continue reading »

Fuller Brush man
The Fuller Brush man is an iconic part of America’s past.  He became part of popular culture via movies and cartoon characters, and during his peak years of popularity, he was often featured in off-color jokes. Though today’s working families coupled with our current safety consciousness make… Continue reading »

Harry Whittier Frees
Harry Whittier Frees (1879-1953) became an animal photographer solely by accident. When Harry was a teen, the Frees family gathered for a birthday celebration. Someone brought a paper hat to the dining table, and family members passed it along, each person testing how they… Continue reading »

Scrabble
The Scrabble Brand Crossword Game began as the idea of Alfred Mosher Butts (1899-1993), an architect who found himself unemployed during the Great Depression. Butts, who lived with his wife in Jackson Heights, New York, was not one to feel sorrow for himself when he… Continue reading »

Borden
The Borden Dairy company is an extraordinarily old American company. It was started by Gail Borden, Jr. (1801-1874) in the decade before the Civil War. The first product Borden tried to sell was a dehydrated meat biscuit, and his experience with it led him to patenting and marketing… Continue reading »

Borden
Elsie the Cow is one of the most famous marketing mascots ever created. She has been more popular than the Pillsbury Doughboy, better than the Campbell twins, and more accessible than Tony the Tiger. During her heyday (1940s-1960s), Elsie led the Rose Bowl parade, raised $1.6 million… Continue reading »

Elmer's Glue
Elmer’s Glue was first introduced by the Borden Company in 1947. A dairy company going into the adhesive business may at first seem surprising, but it makes good sense when you learn that one of the prime ingredients in this early form of the glue was casein,… Continue reading »

Mexican-American Hero
Mexican-born Silvestre S. Herrera (1916-2007) wasn’t even a U.S. 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… 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 »

Lassie
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 »

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 »

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
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 »

Tirebiter
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 »

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 »

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 »

Crayola
Binney & Smith was an outgrowth of a company begun in Peekskill, New York, in 1864 by Joseph W. Binney, the father of the man who would become part of Binney & Smith. The first product sold by Binney’s company, Peekskill Chemical Works, was known as lampblack. It… 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 September 1, 1836, Narcissa Whitman arrived in Walla Walla, Washington, and became one of the first Anglo women to settle west of the Rocky Mountains. She and her husband, Marcus, were missionaries who hoped to convert the “heathens” to Christianity.  They established a mission for the Cayuse Indians and lived in peace for a time, but in 1847, a measles epidemic wiped out most of the Indians. The white people seemed to have immunity. This angered the remaining Indians. They attacked the mission and killed all the white people there, including Narcissa.

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.