The Time New England Colonized Kansas

istock
istock

In 1854, one ill-advised bill turned the Great Plains into a war zone.

To understand why, we’ll need to wind back the clock. Thirty-four years earlier, America’s government  had decided that—with the exception of what’s now Missouri—slavery wouldn’t be allowed in the Louisiana Territory above the 36° 30’ latitude line. But everything changed when Congress voted in favor of the divisive Kansas-Nebraska Act, which enabled territories to decide for themselves if they’d legalize slavery upon entering the Union as states. This meant that slave states might soon outnumber free ones. So, in order to tip the scales, citizens of all stripes started getting mobilized—and fast.

On the pro-slavery front, activists called “Border Ruffians” crossed into Kansas by the hundreds. This group’s voting presence would theoretically ensure that America’s peculiar institution carried the day there. “If Kansas is not made a slave state,” declared a sympathetic magazine, “it requires no sage to foretell that there will never be another slave state.”

Meanwhile, their opponents were also busily moving in. Enter Eli Thayer of Massachusetts. A politician/businessman, Thayer had vocally opposed slavery while serving in Congress.  Naturally, the idea of a Kansas overrun by its practitioners appalled him. But Thayer lived and worked over 1600 miles away. What could he possibly do? 

Recruit.

Thayer soon convinced the Bay State’s House of Representatives to grant a special charter for the creation of what eventually became known as the New England Emigrant Aid Company. Headquartered in Boston, this organization offered financial aid to help anti-slavery northeasterners pack up and begin new lives in Kansas. Those who purchased tickets from the NEEAC would see a 15 to 25 percent reduction in travel costs. Upon arriving, newly-built hotels and sawmills would be waiting for them.

Effective advertising was among the initiative’s strongest assets. Skip ahead to 1:45 in this video, and you’ll hear the winner of an 1855 NEEAC poem-writing contest—“A Call to Kansas” by Lucy Larcom: 

On June 29, 1854—less than a month after the Kansas-Nebraska act passed—the first wave of transplants arrived in Kansas City, Missouri. After entering Kansas proper, they established the picturesque city of Lawrence, named in honor of NEEAC treasurer Amos A. Lawrence. New Kansans relocated by the company would also help found Topeka, Manhattan, and Osawatomie. Come July 1855, more than 1500 ex-New Englanders had taken residence there. 

As you might expect, Border Ruffians didn’t take kindly to these Yankees. Lawrence was famously besieged by pro-slavery forces in 1856, a raid that destroyed two printing establishments and an NEEAC-operated hotel.  So-called “Bleeding Kansas” grew so thoroughly divided that both sides wound up establishing their own, competing governments—the abolitionists operated from Topeka whilst their rivals set up shop in Pawnee.

After many dark years marred by confusion, sectionalism, and guerilla warfare, Kansas was finally admitted to the Union on January 29, 1861. Thanks in no small part to Thayer and the NEEAC, she came in as a free state.  

7 Historic European Castles Virtually Rebuilt Before Your Very Eyes

A reconstruction of Spiš Castle in eastern Slovakia.
A reconstruction of Spiš Castle in eastern Slovakia.
Budget Direct

While some centuries-old castles are still standing tall, others haven’t withstood the ravages of time, war, or natural disaster quite as well. To give you an idea of what once was, Australia-based insurance company Budget Direct has digitally reconstructed seven of them for its blog, Simply Savvy.

Watch below as ruins across Europe transform back into the formidable forts and turreted castles they used to be, courtesy of a little modern-day magic we call GIF technology.

1. Samobor Castle // Samobor, Croatia

samobor castle
Samobor Castle in Samobor, Croatia
Budget Direct

The only remaining piece of the 13th-century castle built by Bohemia’s King Ottokar II is the base of the guard tower—the rest of the ruins are from an expansion that happened about 300 years later. It’s just a 10-minute walk from the Croatian city of Samobor, which bought the property in 1902.

2. Château Gaillard // Les Andelys, France

Château Gaillard in Les Andelys, France
Château Gaillard in Les Andelys, France
Budget Direct

King Richard I of England built Château Gaillard in just two years during the late 12th century as a fortress to protect the Duchy of Normandy, which belonged to England at the time, from French invasion. It didn’t last very long—France’s King Philip II captured it six years later.

3. Dunnottar Castle // Stonehaven, Scotland

Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven, Scotland
Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven, Scotland
Budget Direct

Dunnottar Castle overlooks the North Sea and is perhaps best known as the fortress that William Wallace (portrayed by Mel Gibson in 1995’s Braveheart) and Scottish forces won back from English occupation in 1297. Later, it became the place where the Scottish monarchy stored their crown jewels, which were smuggled to safety when Oliver Cromwell invaded during the 17th century.

4. Menlo Castle // Galway City, Ireland

Menlo Castle in Galway City, Ireland
Menlo Castle in Galway City, Ireland
Budget Direct

This ivy-covered Irish castle was built during the 16th century and all but destroyed in a fire in 1910. For those few centuries, it was home to the Blake family, English nobles who owned property all over the region.

5. Olsztyn Castle // Olsztyn, Poland

Olsztyn Castle in Olsztyn, Poland
Olsztyn Castle in Olsztyn, Poland
Budget Direct

The earliest known mention of Olsztyn Castle was in 1306, so we know it was constructed some time before then and expanded later that century by King Casimir III of Poland. It was severely damaged during wars with Sweden in the 17th and 18th centuries, but its highest tower—once a prison—still stands.

6. Spiš Castle // Spišské Podhradie, Slovakia

Spiš Castle in Spišské Podhradie, Slovakia
Spiš Castle in Spišské Podhradie, Slovakia
Budget Direct

Slovakia’s massive Spiš Castle was built in the 12th century to mark the boundary of the Hungarian kingdom and fell to ruin after a fire in 1780. However, 20th-century restoration efforts helped fortify the remaining rooms, and it was even used as a filming location for parts of 1996’s DragonHeart.

7. Poenari Castle // Valachia, Romania

Poenari Castle in Valachia, Romania
Poenari Castle in Valachia, Romania
Budget Direct

This 13th-century Romanian castle boasts one previous resident of some celebrity: Vlad the Impaler, or Vlad Dracula, who may have been an early influence for Bram Stoker’s vampire, Dracula. It also boasts a staggering 1480 stone steps, which you can still climb today.

[h/t Simply Savvy]

On This Day in 1953, Jonas Salk Announced His Polio Vaccine

Getty Images
Getty Images

On March 26, 1953, Dr. Jonas Salk went on CBS radio to announce his vaccine for poliomyelitis. He had worked for three years to develop the polio vaccine, attacking a disease that killed 3000 Americans in 1952 alone, along with 58,000 newly reported cases. Polio was a scourge, and had been infecting humans around the world for millennia. Salk's vaccine was the first practical way to fight it, and it worked—polio was officially eliminated in the U.S. in 1979.

Salk's method was to kill various strains of the polio virus, then inject them into a patient. The patient's own immune system would then develop antibodies to the dead virus, preventing future infection by live viruses. Salk's first test subjects were patients who had already had polio ... and then himself and his family. His research was funded by grants, which prompted him to give away the vaccine after it was fully tested.

Clinical trials of Salk's vaccine began in 1954. By 1955 the trials proved it was both safe and effective, and mass vaccinations of American schoolchildren followed. The result was an immediate reduction in new cases. Salk became a celebrity because his vaccine saved so many lives so quickly.

Salk's vaccine required a shot. In 1962, Dr. Albert Sabin unveiled an oral vaccine using attenuated (weakened but not killed) polio virus. Sabin's vaccine was hard to test in America in the late 1950s, because so many people had been inoculated using the Salk vaccine. (Sabin did much of his testing in the Soviet Union.) Oral polio vaccine, whether with attenuated or dead virus, is still the preferred method of vaccination today. Polio isn't entirely eradicated around the world, though we're very close.

Here's a vintage newsreel from the mid 1950s telling the story:

For more information on Dr. Jonas Salk and his work, click here.

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