Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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August 25th
The Tom Thumb Races a Horse
August 25, 1830, brought one of the oddest races in American history – between a steam engine and a horse. The race took place on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, one of the nation’s first railroads, which ran thirteen miles from Baltimore west to Ellicott’s Mills, Maryland. The engine was the Tom Thumb, the first American-built steam locomotive. The horse, “a gallant gray of great beauty and power” belonging to the Stockton & Stokes stagecoach line, pulled a car on a parallel track. The stagecoach company, worried about competition, wanted to demonstrate that clumsy steam engines were no match for its horses. John Latrobe, a lawyer for the B&O, described the scene.

The start being even, away went horse and engine, the snort of the one and the puff of the other keeping time and tune. At first the gray had the best of it . . . [but] the engine gained on the horse . . . the race was neck and neck, nose and nose – then the engine passed the horse, and a great hurrah hailed the victory. But it was not repeated; for just at this time, when the gray’s master was about giving up, the band which drove the pulley, which drove the blower, slipped from the drum, the safety valve ceased to scream, and the engine for want of breath began to wheeze and pant. . . . The horse gained on the machine, and passed
it; and although the band was presently replaced, and steam again did its best, the horse was too far ahead to be overtaken, and came in the winner of the race.
It was a short-lived victory for a mode of transportation doomed by the iron horse. Within a mere ten years, American railroads had laid more than 3,000 miles of track.

American History Parade
1718
French colonists found New Orleans, named for Philippe II, duke of Orleans.

1830
The Tom Thumb of the B&O Railroad loses a race to a horse.

1840
The first practical seeding machine is patented by Joseph Gibbons of Michigan.

1944
The Allies liberate Paris after four years of Nazi occupation.

1981
Photos sent by the Voyager 2 spacecraft reveal the complex structure of the rings surrounding Saturn.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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