Friday, February 28, 2014



Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) President John Tyler, cruising on the Potomac aboard the USS Princeton, was fortunate to escape death 170 years ago today, February 28, 1844,  when a 12 inch, 27,000 pound cannon, known as The Peacemaker, exploded sending shrapnel in all directions.

Explosion on the USS Princeton
February 28, 1844

The President, who was half way up a ladder leading to the upper deck when the explosion occurred, was unhurt.

There were about 400 people on board at the time of the accident including former 1st Lady Dolley Madison.

The cannon had been fired twice, previous to the blast, without incident.

The explosion killed several persons including members of the President's cabinet and the father of his fiancee.

President John Tyler's 1st wife, Latitia, had died and he was courting 23 year old, Julia Gardiner.  

They would be married on June 26, 1844.

Julia Gardiner Tyler


New York City (JFK+50) Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., former Special Assistant to President John F. Kennedy, died seven years ago today, February 28, 2007, of natural causes at the age of 89 here in New York City.

Mr. Schlesinger joined JFK's presidential campaign in 1960 as a speech writer.

Born on October 15, 1917 in Columbus, Ohio, Schlesinger graduated from Harvard University, where he would later serve as a professor, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1945 for his book The Age of Jackson.

He won another Pulitzer for his memoir of the Kennedy White House entitled: A Thousand Days.*

JFK speech writer, Theodore Sorenson, wrote this tribute to Schlesinger in 2007:

"Arthur played many roles in the Kennedy White House:  a counselor who advised, in vain, against the Bay of Pigs, a bridge to the American intellectual & academic community....& to the rising young leaders in the 3rd world & Europe." 

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. wrote in his introduction to A Thousand Days:

"(President Kennedy) offered young people the faith that individuals can make a difference to history.  The Kennedy generation brought new ideas, hopes, vision, generosity & vitality to the national life."

JFK loved history and had a special affection for Mr. Schlesinger who wrote:

"If we are to survive, we must have ideas, vision & courage.  These things are rarely produced by committees.  Everything that matters in our intellectual and moral life begins with an individual confronting his own mind and conscience in a room by himself."*

*Personal note:

I was honored to attend a speech given by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. 

Special Assistant Arthur Schlesinger
Courtesy of the JFK Library, Boston