Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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May 1st
America Builds to the Skies
Skyscrapers are an American invention – emblems of our country’s determination to reach ever higher.

Until the late 1800s, building heights were limited by the number of bricks that could be stacked on top of one another before the walls became too heavy to stand, and by the number of stairs people were willing to climb. In 1857 the installation of the first passenger elevator in a New York City department store made it possible to construct buildings more than a few floors high. Engineers began experimenting with steel frames that could support the weight of several stories.

On May 1, 1884, construction began on the Home Insurance Building in Chicago, considered the father of the skyscraper. Designed by Major William Le Baron Jenney, it was the first tall building to use a steel skeleton for support. Chicagoans were so worried that it would fall down, city officials halted construction until they could investigate the structure’s safety. When the building was finished in the fall of 1885, people stood at its base and gaped at its soaring 10 stories.

On May 1, 1931, President Herbert Hoover dedicated the 102-story Empire State Building in Manhattan by pushing a button in the White House that turned on the skyscraper’s lights. Measuring 1,250 feet from sidewalk to roof, it was the tallest building in the world when completed and held that record for four decades until construction of the World Trade Center towers in Manhattan. It remains one of the world’s most famous buildings and one of the grandest monuments of the twentieth century.

American History Parade
1884
Construction begins on the Home Insurance Building in Chicago.

1898
A squadron of U.S. ships defeats a Spanish squadron in Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War.

1931
The 102-story Empire State Building is dedicated.

1941
Orson Welles’s film Citizen Kane debuts at the RKO Palace in New York City.

1963
Jim Whittaker becomes the first American to climb Mount Everest.

1970
The U.S. population tops 200 million, reaching 203,302,031 in the nineteenth census.
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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