California Gold Rush For Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are standing up to your knees in a cold river. The water is rushing around you. You see a fish swim by. Your feet crunch in the rocks as you walk around. Above you the sky is clear and blue. You are holding a metal panel. You dip it down into the water and scrape it along the bottom, picking up rocks and small gravel. After lifting it out of the water, you sift out the larger rocks and swirl it around, looking very closely at the minerals in the water. You swirl it again and then you see it, a glint of something shiny. You reach down in the water and pick it up. Sure enough, it’s a gold nugget! You hold it up in the air and shout “I found one, I found one.” Your friends nearby see it and congratulate you. You’ve found gold! 

In 1848 in California in the United States a man named John Sutter was building a sawmill. Sutter had hired several workers to help him build the sawmill along the American River in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. One of the workers, James Marshall, was looking into the water when suddenly he saw something shiny. He got down into the water to look closer and noticed a small gold rock. He showed it to the other workers. Could it be real gold or was it just fools gold, also known as pyrite? James and the others spent the rest of the day testing the rock to see if it was real gold. To their surprise, the rock he found was actual gold! 

Gold is special for many reasons. First, it’s not like most metals, which are gray. It’s a shiny, beautiful color that is perfect for making jewelry. It is also soft, but doesn’t break apart when shaped by tools. Gold also lasts a very long time and does not rust in water. 

When John Sutter realized it was real gold he was worried for a couple reasons. One was that he didn’t own the land he was building the sawmill on, so he needed to find a way to buy it quickly so he could own the gold on it, too. The second reason was that once others found out gold was near his land, everyone would rush there to try and mine it, too.

Sutter made deals with the local Native Americans until he owned the land, but the way he went about it wasn’t fair. And even though he tried to keep it a secret, his workers started telling their friends. Before long word spread about gold in California. A newspaper headline in San Francisco read: “Gold Mine Found.” At this time not very many people lived in California, but with news spreading about gold that would change very quickly. This is called a gold rush. This wasn’t the first time a gold rush happened in the United States or other places in the world. In North Carolina in 1799 a young boy found a 17-pound gold nugget near his home. This led to a gold rush there. Later there was a gold rush in the Appalachian Mountains and after the Caifornia gold rush there would be one in Alaska.

As word about gold in California spread across the United States, people started travelling from all around eager to become rich. Someone searching for gold is called a “prospector.” Prospectors travelled to California by land and by sea. Going by land was the cheapest way to go, but was also the longest trip, taking 7 months. Prospectors joined groups of wagons called wagon trains and used the Oregon, California and Santa Fe Trails to get there. Going by land was very dangerous. They often ran out of water, got diseases, or ran into trouble with Native Americans who didn’t want them on their land. 

The more expensive, but faster way to travel to California, was by sea. Prospectors usually left from New York or Boston and either went all the way around the tip of South America at Cape Horn, which took five or six months, or they took a ship to the Isthmus of Panama. From there they crossed the land at the isthmus (a narrow neck of land) in a wagon, then they boarded a second ship and took it north to California. This was the fastest way to go, but was also dangerous. Prospectors travelling through the jungles of Panama often caught malaria or Yellow Fever along the way.

Once prospectors reached San Francisco, California they usually bought mining supplies and all of the other gear they needed to mine gold. These tools included a knife, a pick to break rocks, a shovel, a round tin pan for panning for gold, a rocker, a tent, and food needed to survive. As more miners came through San Francisco, the town began to grow. More people build stores there to sell tools and other supplies. They also built hotels and places for entertainment to accommodate the prospectors passing through. 

From San Francisco, prospectors travelled another 140 miles into California before they started searching for gold. They usually looked in streams first, using pans to dig up the loose rock and sift through it for flakes of gold. This is called panning for gold. Once the prospector found a spot worth mining they would “stake their claim,” which means reserve it for themselves. Panning for gold was very hard work. Their beards grew long, they became very dirty doing the work, and often the food didn’t give them good nutrition. Many prospectors who travelled all the way to California, and spent all of their money to get there, never found any gold.

The other name for prospectors in California was a “49er,” because the year was 1849. You may have also heard of the team the San Francisco 49ers, which comes from the prospectors who brought fame and more people to California. 

The 49ers who did discover gold took it to cities like Stockton or Sacramento or all the way back to San Francisco to have their gold weighed and sold to the bank. These towns began to grow because prospectors wanted a comfortable place to stay, good food to eat, and entertainment after living out in the wild for so long. In 1849 San Francisco went from having 150 people living there to 6,000! Five years later 50,000 people lived there! It also became known as the Golden Gate, which the Golden Gate Bridge is named after.

Towns nearby the gold became known as “boomtowns.” They were wild, rowdy places where prospectors went for entertainment and to spend the money they earned from mining gold. 

Many miners were unlucky and never became rich during the gold rush, but some did. One of those was John Bidwell. He eventually found $2.5 million dollars worth of gold in today’s money and 600 miners worked there in what became known as Bidwell’s Bar. Brothers John and Daniel Murthy also became very wealthy along with John Fremont. Most people never found large amounts of gold, but instead just small amounts in rivers. But some people became very wealthy not by mining gold, but by building stores and hotels and other businesses to support all of the prospectors coming into San Francisco.

If you’ve ever worn jeans, they became very popular in San Francisco at this time. In 1850 a German businessman named Levi Strauss moved there to start selling his pants. They were made of denim and had pockets and lasted longer than cotton pants. They later became known as Levis and are still a popular jean company today.

Ghihardelli Chocolate Company also started in San Francisco during the gold rush and has been in business for more than 160 years. Our family loves their chocolate chips and if you ever visit San Francisco today be sure to get ice cream with their chocolate topping there.

Once most of the gold nuggets and flakes in rivers had been discovered, miners had to start digging down into the earth to get it. These are called gold deposits. Miners had to tunnel down to get the ore, which is the hard rock with veins of gold inside it. Tunnels were dug and dynamite was used to break up the rock. Mining was very dangerous. Workers went deep into the ground using elevators, which often broke. The air was poor underground and sometimes there were cave-ins. The mining was also bad for the land and water in many of these places. A chemical called mercury was used to separate gold from rock dust. The mercury was poisonous to the miners and much of it got washed into the rivers and killed fish and other animals. Farmland was also destroyed as miners chipped away at the earth. Laws had to be passed to protect the land. The gold rush also caused people to leave other work such as farming and shipping. The other problem was more people moved into California and Native Americans who had lived there for generations were forced off their land onto reservations. 

Over time it became harder to find gold, so prospectors left California for other places. Silver had been discovered in Nevada, so many of them moved there or just decided to do something else with their life. With this, many of the boomtowns turned into what became known as “ghost towns.” This just means that people no longer needed the town, so the buildings were left unmaintained and grew old and fell apart. 

But even though the gold rush was over, the United States would forever be changed. San Franscico became a big city with over 50,000 people living there. While the United States had mostly been populated in the East, it now reached from East to West, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Today almost a million people live in San Francisco and since the advent of the Internet it has seen its success in software as people move to the Bay Area and Silicon Valley to work for large tech companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook.

Sir Ernest Shackleton For Kids

Have you ever wondered what is at the top of the highest peaks and at the bottom of the deepest oceans? What is on the other side of the world or at the north and soul poles? Well, that is what young Ernest Shackleton used to dream about as he sat in his classroom and thought about all the adventures he could be going on, instead of sitting at a desk and studying his books. Instead, he wanted to be off visiting these places and experiencing them for himself! Earnest was born on February 15, 1874, in Ireland. Ernest Shackleton had always been very curious and an adventurer at heart. But instead of learning from other people’s experiences in books, he wanted to find about the things that made him curious, all by himself.

And that is why at 16 he left school and boarded a  sailing ship, Hogton Tower. He spent four years travelling on the ship and learned about three things that would help him during his future travels; trading, making friends and living under the same roof with all kinds of people.

As time passed Ernest grew smarter.He boarded different ships and learned something new each time. Then in 1901, he boarded the ship Discovery  to go on an expedition under the leadership of  Capt. Robert Falcon Scott, 1. An expedition is a trip to discover a  new place or do research. Earnest joined as a third lieutenant and took part in the sledge journey over the Ross Ice Shelf. A sledge journey also known as manhauling is pulling a small vehicle over the ice with the help of humans, machines or animals. Did you know that the Ross Ice shelf is the latest ice-shelf of Antarctica which is hundreds of meters thick? . However, he became sick  and had to be sent home in 1903.

When Ernest returned home, he was very sad and let down that he had to leave the expedition early  But, back home people heard about his name and he became famous as an explorer . But his fame couldn’t pay his bills and it was time to look for a permanent job. He applied for a job in the Royal Navy. Even though he had the support and sponsorship of Markham and William Huggins, the president of the Royal Society, he failed to get the job.

Shakleton was sad and found a few different jobs, but couldn’t focus and wanted more than anything to be on an adventure . It was during that time that he was met a man named Beardmore who enjoyed the company of explorers and adventurers. This wealthy man was amused by Ernest’s heartfelt wish to head back to Antarctica. So, Beardmore decided to pay for Shackleton’s second voyage. The goal of this expedition was to reach  both the geographical South Pole and the South Magnetic Pole. South Pole is one of the two points of the earth where the Earth’s two axis meet. It is opposite to the North Pole.

On the first of January 1908, the sailing ship Nimrod set off from Lyttelton Harbour, New Zealand. But, before he left, Robert Scott made Shackleton promise that he wouldn’t make his discoveries in the McMurdo area as it was his own point of research and exploration. Since, he had made a promise to an old friend and a companion, Shackleton directed his ship towards the eastern sector of the Great Ice Barrier. They finally arrived on their destination on January 21st 1908. 

When Shackleton arrived, he discovered that the Barrier Inlet had extended and had turned into a large bay, where hundreds of whales swam peacefully in the open waters. Ernest Shackleton was so inspired that he came up with the idea of calling the area the  “Bay of Whales”. 

During this time, the weather conditions were harsh and the ice was unstable, which means it might crack and that would be very dangerous. And a safe camp had to be made there. But things began to worsen and the only option was to break the promise he had made with his friend and head for the McMurdo Sound. He made this decision to save the lives of all of his companions. 

But even when the weather was harsh and the ship threatened to topple over, the spirits of the men remained high. It was mostly due to Shackleton’s gift to communicate with each and every crew member, keeping them happy and focused on their ambitions. This made him a very good leader. He gave them hope when the journey was dangerous and frightening.

On October 29, 1908, the “Great Southern Journey”, under the leadership of Ernest Shackleton and three of his companions  a man named Wild, Eric Marshall and Jameson Adams began. Three months later they reached the farthest south point that was 112 miles away from the pole. On their way, they passed by a glacier which was the biggest one that they had ever seen!. A glacier is a huge piece of ice floating in the water. Remembering the help  Beardmore gave  him, Shackleton name it the “Beardmore Glacier”, after his friend. With this, Shackleton and three of his friends became the first ones to see and travel to the south polar plateau.

Another accomplishment of their journey was the first to ever climb Mount Erebus and the location of the South Magnetic Pole. This amazing feat was done by Edgeworth David, Douglas Mawson, and Alistair Mackay, three of the crew members of the ship Nimrod.

Soon afterwards, the they all returned home due to the lack of food and to avoid  starvation and death. When Shackleton returned home from his voyage to the South Pole f, he was received by everyone in  England as a hero. King Edward VII, was so proud of him  that he made him a knight, granting him the title of “Sir”. 

Ernest spent his time at home, busy writing about his time on the seas as he travelled to the edge of the world. He published his book Heart of the Antarctic soon after that. He was happy with his travels but was also sad because he still didn’t  reach his goal. 

The third time Sir Ernest Shackleton left England for Antarctica was in the year 1914 on the British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Being the leader of his crew, he instructed his crewmates to cross Antarctica from a base on the Weddell Sea to McMurdo Sound, via the South Pole. But things didn’t turn out so great for him even from the start. His ship Endurance, got trapped in ice and floated aimlessly for 10 months before getting into an accident with more ice.

The crew barely survived the crash and had to take shelter on ice floes for five more months before reaching the Elephant Island. Since, there were no animals in sight, all they had to eat was seal meat, penguins and sadly their dogs. 

Next Shackleton and five of his friends got on a whale boat and made a 16 day long journey across the harsh waters, finally reaching  southern Georgia. They crossed the islands and looked for  help. Shackleton made four attempts spanning over 4 months and finally was able to rescue his crewmates. It was a miracle that all of Shackleton’s crew mates survived !.

Even though he was sick, Shackleton’s love for adventure and exploration didn’t end. He made his fourth attempt for the sea voyage under the name of Shackleton-Rowett Antarctic Expedition, on the a ship called  Quest in 1921. But he became sick again and  and died during the journey. 

Earnest Shackleton’s will to keep going even when he was sick was amazing! He kept trying and trying even when his path was very difficult. He worked very hard to keep his crewmates happy and did everything he could to save them and keep them safe. His hunger for adventure and desire to explore the world have become legendary! His life inspires so many people around the world to set out on such adventures and discover something new every day. Next time you are curious about something, remember Earnest Shackleton and then do something about it! 

Harry Houdini For Kids

Have you ever seen or heard something that you couldn’t believe, as if it was magic? Maybe you’ve tried to learn some card tricks or other illusions to impress your family and friends. With enough practice and a convincing performance, anything is possible! 

According to the subject of this podcast, “What the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes.”

Our story begin is 1874 in Budapest Hungary, when Harry Houdini was born. He had six brothers and sisters. His real name was Erik Weisz. 

Erik’s family moved to the United States in 1878, and eventually settled in Wisconsin. The Houdinis were Jewish and their father was the rabbi for the local congregation. When his father lost his job, the family moved to Milwaukee, and eventually ended up in New York City. As a child, Erik took several jobs to help his family, and first showed off his skills as a trapeze artist when he was only nine years old. A trapeze artist hangs from a rope and does tricks in the air. His performing name was ‘Erik, the Prince of the Air.’

Erik was coached by the magician Joseph Rinn while he was a teenager. When he first started out, he did not have much success. He first performed in dime museums and sideshows, sometimes also performing as ‘The Wild Man’ at the circus. In the beginning he focused his show on card tricks, and he even called himself ‘The King of Cards’ for a short time. However, other professional magicians noted that Houdini lacked the grace and finesse – or style – to be a magician who was excellent at card tricks. Because of this, Houdini would start to experiment on escape acts. An example of an escape act, is when Houdini would put handcuffs on himself and then escape them before a timer ran out.

When Erik became a professional magician he started calling himself Harry Houdini, naming himself after the French magician jean-Eugene Robert-Houdin. Although he claimed he took the name Harry as a tribute to another magician, the American magician Harry Kellar, it is widely believed that it came from the nickname ‘Eri,’ which is what Erik’s family called him.

In 1894, Houdini was performing with his brother Theodore (also known as ‘Dash’) at Coney Island. Their act was called ‘The Brothers Houdini.’ While there, Erik met and courted a fellow performer named Wilhemina Beatrice ‘Bess’ Rahner. Eventually they would marry, and Bess replaced Theodore in the act, which changed its name to ‘The Houdinis.’ Bess became Houdini’s stage assistant for the rest of his life. 

Five years later, Houdini met a stage manager named Martin Beck in Minnesota. Beck was impressed by Houdini’s handcuffs act, and encouraged him to keep concentrating on his escape acts. Beck also asked Houdini to perform on the Orpheum Vaudeville circuit, which was a chain of movies and theaters where performers could take the stage with their act and perform in front of large audiences. Houdini’s act fit right in with the other types of vaudeville performers: musicians, dancers, comedians, trained animals, ventriloquists, and strongmen. After a few months on the circuit, Houdini was performing at top vaudeville houses all over the country.

The following year, Beck was able to send Houdini and his act on a tour of Europe. Although it took a few tries for Houdini to convince any stage managers to allow him to perform in their theaters, eventually he was able to interview with the manager of the Alhambra Theater. After a demonstration of his escape act from handcuffs at Scotland Yard, Houdini was booked at the Alhambra for six months. 

For the next twenty years Houdini would go on to perform all over Great Britain. He performed his escape acts, as well as card tricks, illusions, and outdoor stunts. At the time he was one of the world’s highest paid entertainers. He earned the nickname ‘The Handcuff King’ by traveling to places like the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Russia, and challenging the local police to lock him in their jails. In Russia, Houdini even escaped from a prison transport van.

Houdini also spent a lot of time performing in the United States. Many times he would perform for street audiences, and he escaped from jails, handcuffs, chains, ropes, and straitjackets. Around 1908, Houdini switched from escaping from handcuffs to escaping from other, more exciting traps, such as a locked, water-filled milk can. He even went so far as to challenge his audiences to come up with contraptions to try and hold him. Some examples are: nailed packing crates (both in and out of water), riveted boilers, wet sheets, mailbags, and even the belly of a whale that had washed ashore in Boston!

When Houdini was in Berlin, Germany in 1912, he introduced the Chinese Water Torture Cell into his act. During the performance, he was suspended upside-down in a locked glass and steel cabinet that was filled with water, requiring Houdini to hold his breath for over three minutes. This act was performed by Houdini for the rest of his life.

Houdini wrote a book for the magic brotherhood (his fellow performers and magicians) explaining some of his tricks. The book was called Handcuff Secrets, and he revealed how many locks and handcuffs could be opened with applied force or shoestrings. Houdini also discussed how he sometimes carried concealed lockpicks and keys. When he was tied down in ropes and straitjackets, he would gain room for his body by expanding his shoulders and chest and holding his arms slightly away from his body. 

Over the years, some of Houdini’s tricks would change as he discovered ways to make them more exciting. The straitjacket escape was first performed with Houdini behind a curtain, popping out when he was finally free. When he figured out that the audiences were more impressed when they could watch him struggle, Houdini eliminated the curtains. He would also sometimes attempt his straitjacket escapes while dangling upside-down from the roof of a building in the city. 

While Harry was known for his escape act and performances, he also performed other tricks. One of his most famous non-escape stage illusions was performed in New York, when he vanished a full-grown elephant from the stage. 

Houdini was very invested in supporting the work of both professional and amateur magicians. He served as the president of the Society of American Magicians for nine years. Houdini’s goal was to create a large unified network of magicians across the country. While on his vaudeville tours, Houdini would meet with the local magicians, give speeches, and throw banquets to convince them to join his Society. He was successful in places like Buffalo, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and even London. If a local club of magicians did not exist, Houdini would gather the local magicians, introduce them to each other, and encourage them to form a club. Houdini created the richest and longest-surviving organization of magicians in the world. At this time it is made up of almost six thousand members and nearly three hundred assemblies around the world. 

Houdini would film his outdoor escapes, which led him to acting and a film career. While he started a film production company, it was not successful. Some of the titles of the films that Houdini acted in are: The Grim Game, The Master Mystery, Terror Island, and The Man From Beyond.

Harry Houdini died from a ruptured appendix. It is believed that while he was suffering from appendicitis, a punch he received to his stomach made the illness worse. Houdini continued performing until his pain and the poor condition of his health forced him to be hospitalized. He passed away in 1926 in Detroit, Michigan. 

Harry started from very simple begins, but with lots of imagination, practice and determination he became a world-class entertainer. He spent many hours perfecting his skills and strengthening his body so he could perform the task. Like Harry, you can find something you want to improve at and stick with it until you become better at it. Physical exercise is also very good for your body.

Have you ever seen a magician or a magic trick before? Learning how to entertain others with magic can be fun. Recently, my daughter became interested in card tricks. We found a deck of cards and watched a few videos about how to do some basic tricks. When you find the time, you should try it to. It’s a fun skill to develop and is lots of fun to entertain your friends and family!

Marquis de Lafayette For Kids

Our story begins on September 6, 1757 when a young boy was born to the Lafayette Family in Chavaniac (Shevinyik), France. His parents named him Marie-Joseph-Paul-Roch-Gilbert du Motier! Can you imagine having a name that long! Not only did he start off with a big name, but also a very big fortune. He was born into a long line of French nobles, which means the people who ruled France and were very wealthy. He even inherited a castle at birth! The Lafayette Family had lived in France for many years and had distinguished themselves as brave soldiers. One of his ancestors fought alongside the brave woman soldier, Joan of Arc. Another ancestor traveled East and fought during the Crusades. His grandfather was a famed Musketeer and one of King Louis XV’s bodyguards. Also, when Lafayette was very young, he lost his father in a battle. So not only did he inherit much wealth and property, but also a famous name to live up to.

Although he had a long name he later became known as Lafayette, so we’ll use this name for the rest of our story. After losing his father, Lafayette’s mother moved to Paris and left him to be raised by his grandmother. Later, when he was 11, he moved to Paris with his mother to attend school. There he decided to be a soldier like his father and the many generations of Lafayette’s before him. He attended a school to learn to be a Musketeer, one of the king’s famous bodyguards. He graduated and did this for a time while still in school. 

When Lafayette was 14, his family introduced him to a young woman named Adrienne Marie Francois. She was only 12, but they spent time with each other and eventually fell in love. Later, they were married when Lafayette was 16 and she was 14. They ended up being a good match and stayed together for the rest of their lives.

By 1775, Lafayette was a Luitenant in the French Army and watched with interest what was going on across the ocean in the American Colonies. There, the British ruled the colonies but many of the Americans wanted to break free and become their own country. This struggle and war later became known as the American Revolution. Lafayette was French and the French didn’t get along with the British. They had fought against each other in many wars, include the Seven Years War or French and Indian War in America. Lafayette began to think about how he might help the American’s fight for liberty and get back at his enemies, the British. His father had also died in a battle against the British. 

In 1776 the French decided to help the Americans fight the British by sending soldiers and weapons. Lafayette volunteered to go with them. He was only 18 at the time, but his heart was set on going. When the British heard the French decided to help, they threatened to declare war against France, too. This caused France to change its position, but Lafayette had already made up his mind to go. His father-in-law, who was also his commanding officer, threatened to arrest him if he tried to leave to America. Lafayette hid from him and decided to find a way to escape to America, anyway. He was determined to join their cause and nothing would stop him. 

Lafayette’s first problem was America was across the ocean and he didn’t have a ship. He decided to use his great wealth to buy one. Then, he and the his friends boarded his ship and sailed for 2 months to America.

In Philadephia, Lafayette met General George Washington of America’s Continental Army. They ate dinner together and became good friends right away. Lafayette joined George Washington’s staff and in many ways became the father he never had. 

In September 1777, Lafayette fought in his first battle, The Battle of Brandywine. While rallying the troops to attack, he was hit in the leg and wounded, but continued to rally the soldiers to hold off the British advances.

Later that year after he recovered, he fought in another battle and defeated the British in Gloucester. During that same winter, he stayed with George Washington at Valley Forge. At Valley Forge they waited out a very harsh winter. Many soldiers suffered and were lost, but Washington and Lafayette and others were able to encourage the troops and keep them from leaving to continue the fight against the British.

Lafayette next fought in battles at Barren Hill, Monmouth, and Rhode Island, and was successful in his attacks and given a sword for his bravery and skill in battle. By this time, the French government now planned to help the Americans and Lafayette sailed a ship back to France to help get more soldiers and weapons to help.

In France, Lafayette was praised as a hero for fighting in America. He was also happy to see his wife and children again. While he was there she gave birth to a boy. They named him George Washington Lafayette! There, Lafayette also met Benjamin Franklin and worked with him and the French army to find enough soldiers and weapons to take back to America. Then, he sailed back to America to continue the fight.

In America, he found George Washington and the Continental Army struggling. They had lost battles and were worried they wouldn’t win the war. Washington was happy to see Lafayette and gave him command over troops as they continued the fight. Battles were won and lost and Lafayette continued to write letters to France urging them to send more soldiers and weapons. 

The Battle of Yorktown was one of the major battles in the American war for Independence. There, Lafayette and Alexander Hamilton and their troops faced off against the British general Cornwallis. Ships and soldiers from France also joined the battle. Muskets and cannons were fired from both sides. Smoke and gunfire filled the air. The battle was very intense and many soldiers were lost. In the final moments of the battle, Lafayette and Hamilton charged the British defenses and fought with swords in hand-to-hand combat until the Americans won the battle and General Cornwallis surrendered. The war wasn’t completely over yet, but the final major land battle had been won and America was on its way to freedom as a nation. 

After the war, the Marquis de Lafayette returned to France and was welcomed as a hero for his bravery. There, he joined the abolitionists in their struggle against slavery. He believed all people should be treated equal, regardless of the color of their skin. Lafayette even wrote a letter to George Washington, encouraging him to liberate his slaves.

Lafeyette spent the rest of his life in France dealing with its own revolution, but being an noble, he worked to find ways that the common people and the monarchy, the king, could work toward a better country. He lived through the French Revolution and later the rule of the general and dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte. He spent the later part of his life running his farm, far away from city and government life, much like his hero and father figure, George Washington. 

When Lafeyette was 67, he made his final visit to the United States. There he visited the grave of George Washington and spent time with Thomas Jefferson who was now 81, near the end of his life. His spoke to congress and once again toured the states where he was welcome as a hero. While at Bunker Hill, one of the battle sites of the War of Independence, he asked his son to gather up a scoop of dirt. 

After returning to France, in 1834, Lafayette passed away and was buried using some of the dirt he had collected at Bunker Hill.

Spend some time thinking about what it might have been like to be Lafayette. He was born with much wealth and privilege. He could have just stayed in France and enjoyed is money, but during the War for Independence, he went against the wishes of his family and government and used his own money to travel to the colonies and help in their fight for freedom. Think about what it means to be brave? Can you think of a time when you had to be brave? It’s not always easy. But often when we take the leap and do something that’s not easy, we grow and become stronger. That’s one of the only ways to become stronger, to do hard things that require bravery. I believe you can do hard things! I believe that you can be brave!

History of Christmas Carols For Kids

“We wish you a Merry Christmas, We wish you a Merry Christmas, We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!”

Have you heard this song before?  It’s an example of a Christmas carol that we often hear on the radio and in homes around America and the world this time of year. Christmas carols are familiar tunes that bring joy and Christmas spirit during the winter.  But did you know that many famous Christmas carols have very un-Christmassy beginnings?

Carols were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago, but at the time they were not Christmas Carols.  They were songs that were sung to celebrate the Winter Solstice celebrations.  The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year and usually falls on Dec 22nd in the Northern Hemisphere.  The Winter Solstice was commonly celebrated in Europe hundreds of years ago before Christianity spread throughout Europe. These people held religious beliefs that centered on nature and the natural world. They celebrated the Winter Solstice with songs that celebrated the turning of the season and the longer, brighter days ahead. 

When Christianity spread throughout Europe, these carols began to change and became a mix of old songs with new Christian themes. Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus around the same timing as the Winter Solstice, so over time the winter celebrations in Europe came to celebrate both. Eventually old pagan carols were combined with new song lyrics celebrating the birth of Jesus. 

The tradition of singing songs to celebrate this time of year eventually became part of the winter church services celebrated by Christians.  In the year 129, a Roman Bishop said that a song called “Angel’s Hymn” should be sung at a Christmas service in Rome.  Another famous early Christmas song written for the Greek Orthodox Church in 760 was also sung at a Christmas service.  Soon after, many composers all over Europe started to write “Christmas Carols.”

At first, these new Christmas songs were not very popular, as they were all written and sung in Latin.  Latin was the language of the Romans and was used in church services, but it was a language that most regular people throughout Europe could not understand. During the Middle Ages, in the 1200s, Romans had been pushed back from their  positions of power throughout Europe and common people became less interested in Roman traditions.  Common European people stopped celebrating Christmas in church altogether and the tradition of singing songs to celebrate Christmas started to die out. 

This changed in 1223, when St. Francis of Assisi, a famous Italian Catholic preacher, started something new in Italy called a “Nativity Play”.  The play was performed in church at Christmas time and the people in the play sang songs or “canticles” that told the story of the birth of Jesus. The choruses of these new carols were sung in Latin, but St. Francis thought that the songs should be sung in the language that the people watching the play could understand and join in, so the songs’ versus were translated into a variety of European languages.  The new carols became popular and spread to France, Spain, Germany and other European countries. 

The earliest carol like this was written in 1410.  It was about Mary and Jesus meeting different people in Bethlehem.  Unfortunately, only a small part of the song still exists.  Traveling singers during the Middle Ages, or “Minstrels”, sang these carols as they traveled from town to town for money.  This helped the songs to become common and popular all throughout Europe.

Churches eventually started to hire official carol singers called “Waits” that worked for the church and spread Christian messages by singing these songs in public.  “Waits” were bands of singers led by important local political leaders.  They would go throughout town singing the songs around Christmas time and collecting money for the church.  The groups were called “Waits” because they only sang on Christmas Eve, which was sometimes known as “watchnight” or “waitnight” back then.  The name reflected that the shepherds in the story of Jesus were watching their sheep at night when angels appeared to them.  Watchnight or Waitnight was considered to be when Christmas celebrations would begin in Europe.  

In England, the popularity of Christianity grew from the Middle Ages in the 1200s to the Victorian period in the 1800s.  For over 600 years, English people participated in church services and set up orchestras and choirs.  People enjoyed the music of church services and particularly liked singing Christmas songs, so carols grew in popularity throughout this time.  New carol services were created in Church and became popular at Christmas. So did the custom of singing carols in the streets to spread the message of Christmas and collect money for the church.  

Some of the carols that were written during this time period were songs that were made out of traditional English folk songs with Christmas lyrics added to them.  

In 1880, Edward White Benson, who was a Bishop in the town of Truro in England, noticed that people were not coming to church as much as he felt they should.  In particular, at Christmas, people in Truro liked to celebrate on Christmas eve, but they didn’t come to church.  Instead they would gather in pubs and drink alcohol and dance and sing.  Bishop Benson, decided to try to lure everyone out of the pub and into church for a new Christmas service.  

Truro didn’t have a cathedral, but instead they just held church services in a large shed. Bishop Benson had to really think about how he could make a church service held there interesting enough to get the townspeople to attend.  Bishop Benson and his wife and children all liked to write.  In fact, Bishop Benson is thought to have written the longest diary that was ever written at the time!

Because of his desire to draw people into church and his love of writing, Bishop Benson and his family decided to write some of their own songs celebrating Christmas.  One of the reasons that people loved going to the pubs was because they would sing together there.  They would sing folk songs, or traditional songs passed down from one generation to the next.  And they would also do folk dances.  In fact, this is what the world “carol” meant at the time.  It meant “to dance in a circle. 

Bishop Benson and his family wrote some Christmas songs to be performed in church.  Because some of the songs are combinations of old folk tunes and Christmas traditions or religious images, some Christmas carols can seem kind of strange. For example, have you ever heard the song, “I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing”? The song doesn’t make a lot of sense when you think of the Christmas story.  Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, is a landlocked area.  This means there is no sea there on which ships could sail.  Some versions of the song involve Jesus on Christmas day in the morning.  But other versions involve three pretty girls on New Year’s Day.  It is likely that this song was originally a folk tune sung at pubs in England.  

The new version of Christmas church services became very popular.  People loved to come into church to be part of the singing and celebrating.  And the tradition of singing Christmas carols in church began to spread throughout the country. And Bishop Benson eventually became the Archbishop of Canterbury, which is the highest church position in the Church of England.

Let’s take a look at some specific Christmas carols and their history. 

The first is “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”

In the 18th and 19th centuries, other people started to collect these folk songs and turn them into new songs. Over time the songs were edited and changed until they became some of the traditional Christmas songs we all know and love today.  For example, the co-founder of Methodism, Charles Wesley, wrote a carol that began:  Hark how all the welkin rings, Glory to the King of Kings, Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.”  He put these lyrics to a Mendelsson tune and that is how the carol was sung for over 20 year.  Until another preacher changed the first line to Hark, the herald angels sing, Glory to the new-born King! This is the version most people know today.  The original song was not religious, but it slowly became a song celebrating the Christian story of Jesus’s birth.

Another famous Christmas carol is “Good King Wenceslas.”

While the song sings about a real person, his name was not actually Wenceslas but Vaclav and he was the Duke of Bohemia in the 10th Century.  Vaclav had a difficult childhood.  His dad died when he was young and he was brought up by his mom and a grandma. But the two women fought about what his religion should be. When he grew to be an adult, Vaclav chose to be Christian.  He started doing good for others and in particular, he would give to the poor.  But he would do this secretly at night by leaving things they needed on their doorsteps. He was particularly interested in giving to widows, orphans and people with disabilities. After Vaclav died, he was declared a saint and king by Otto the Great. The song followed 500 years later when an Englishman named John Mason Neale heard a tune he liked and put together the lyrics to the song we now know today.

“Jingle Bells,” is another Christmas carol that did not have a Christmassy start. Jingle Bells, which was written in America, was actually originally written about Thanksgiving.

In modern times, Christmas carols are popular throughout the world.  There are various forms of Christmas songs, including rock tunes and dance songs.  And almost every famous musician puts out an album of Christmas songs, putting their own flare on traditional tunes that everyone knows. 

People in England and other countries still enjoy the tradition of carolling.  In modern times, this tradition sees groups of people go door to door to sing for neighbours and spread Christmas cheer.  Some carolers also collect money for the poor.  

And the tradition of a carol service or nativity play in church is still quite popular.  Many churches around the world hold a special Christmas service in which the story of Jesus’s birth is re-enacted and the church-goers sing Christmas carols together.  If you have never been to one of these services, it is something to try one day.  Singing together in a group can be very fun and you will be part of history watching the service and knowing it’s traditional roots.

What are some of your favourite Christmas carols?  Have you ever thought about where these songs came from?  With an adult’s help, you can research online about the origins of your favourite songs.  Perhaps the song you look at had a different beginning than you realized.  Some Christmas songs are tunes that are written by very famous composers with new lyrics to go with them.  

We hope you enjoy getting into the holiday spirit this December with good music, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or a different holiday depending on where you live and your background.  

The History of Minecraft

Have you heard of Minecraft? If so, have you ever wondered how it came to be? How is a video game made and how does it grow from its first player to millions of players all over the world? Listen closely, because today you’re going to find out.

The story of Minecraft goes back to the year 1979 in Stockholm, Sweden when a boy named Markus Persson was born. Growing up, Markus’s father had one of the early personal computers called a Commodore 128. Markus first learned how to program the computer when he was just seven years old! Programming is when you type instructions into a computer to make it do something. Markus created his first basic video game when he was eight years old. When he got older, he worked for a company programming video games for the Internet. This company was called King. In the evenings, Markus enjoyed creating his own games. Over time he shared them with friends and other people online. After playing games like Infiminer, Dwarf Fortress and Dungeon Keeper he had the idea to create a game with a blocky visual style and RPG elements. RPG means role playing game and usually means you can find loot in the game and build up your character over time. He programmed this new game in a language called Java and decided to call it Minecraft. 

In May 2009 Markus released the first version of Minecraft and shared a video of it on YouTube. He made it available online and people played it and gave him ideas about how to make it better. This is called collaboration and a great way to improve anything you create. In Minecraft players explored a 3D blocky world, mined ore and other elements and used the materials they mined to craft tools and build buildings or earthworks. One reason Minecraft was different from other games, is it allowed players to use their imagination and be creative. Similar to a toy like Lego, using Minecraft players could use the blocks to bring their imaginations to life.

A year later Markus released the next version of Minecraft. This version had new items, new blocks, new mobs (or non-player characters, or NPCs for short) and a new survival mode. At the time he was still working for someone else’s company, but eventually he left that job so he could focus all of his time and effort on making Minecraft better. He started his own video game company, hired other programmers and business-people to help their company grow, and named it Mojang. By this time millions of people had bought Minecraft and were playing it on their own and with friends. Players loved the freedom Minecraft gave them to explore the interesting and diverse worlds and use the elements within it to express themselves and be creative. In Survival Mode players crafted items and built shelters during the day, so they could protect themselves from zombie attacks at night.  

Over the next few years Markus and Mojang continued to make Minecraft better. They fixed bugs in the software (a bug is a problem in the software) and added new items and new elements that made Minecraft more fun and interesting. 

By the year 2014 Mojang had sold over 17 million copies of Minecraft and it had become one of the best selling computer games of all time. The same year Microsoft bought Minecraft and Mojang for 2.5 billion dollars! This gave Microsoft not only the game, but ownership over the intellectual property — which means they could sell or make anything using the Minecraft name. 

Microsoft continued to improve on Minecraft and also made versions for the Xbox and Playstation and a Pocket Edition for mobile devices like Android and iPhones and tablets such as the iPad.

Another reason Minecraft has become popular, is that it allows its players to modify or “mod” the game. This means if you have the idea for a new weapon or skin for your character, or a new type of block or element in the game — if you take the time to learn the coding skills, you can create whatever you want in the game. This has led to thousands and thousands of unique “mods” that players create and make available to other players. Minecraft is the way many people first learned how to write code. They were interested in “modding” Minecraft, so they read books or online articles and figured out how to do it by writing computer code. For any kids who are interested, there are many great websites out there that teach kids how to code or “mod” Minecraft.

Over the years, the Minecraft community has spread across the world. To date there are around 126 million users. Some players have become famous sharing their gameplay on YouTube and to date, Minecraft is the most watched video game on YouTube. A few of the most popular YouTubers are Stampy, PrestonPlayz, TheAtlanticCraft and Popular MMOs. But don’t be deceived that this job is an easy one. YouTubers who have gone far have spent countless hours perfecting their craft and presentation. Preparing videos to share with their fans takes many hours of focus and dedication. 

With such a huge community, Minecrafters now meet once a year for a Minecraft Convention called MineCon. At Minecon they meet at a huge convention center in different cities around the world and come together to play Minecraft, meet YouTubers, make costumes, and learn more about their favorite creative video game. The first Minecon was held in November 2011 at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas. More recently, Minecon Live is streamed online so players all over the world can tune in to join in the fune, too. 

Often Minecrafters join together and work on huge worlds and creations. Looking on the Internet we found cities with hundreds of buildings, a gigantic Space Shuttle, castles from Lord of the Rings, and a Spanish Galleon. The planning and dedication to create these structures is pretty amazing if you think about it.

With its popularity, Minecraft has become more than just a video game. Now it has movies, several book series, toys, t-shirts, action figures and all types of collectibles to give its fans plenty of other mediums to experience and enjoy their favorite game world. 

Minecraft is considered one of the most important games of the last 20 years and in 2010 it was inducted into the video game hall of fame.

It’s pretty interesting to learn how things come to be, right? Often we see them or play them in the case of Minecraft and just take them for granted. But the original creator and thousands of programmers and designers and fans have put countless hours into making games like Minecraft into what they are now. Have you ever had the idea for a video game or other creation you’ve dreamed up in your imagination? If so, take the next step and use a pencil and paper to write down your ideas. Create a story and draw a few pictures of what it might look like. If you’re interested in coding there are plenty of great tools out there for kids like Scratch, CodeAcademy, Code.org and CodaKid is one of our favorites. Also, ask if your library uses Prenda Code Club. You can learn more about it at PrendaCodeClub.com. It’s actually a website I helped create, so I recommend checking it out. 

Clara Barton For Kids

When was the last time you helped someone? Did it feel like it was very important? How did you feel at the time? Most people go through their lives performing acts of service at one time or another. Clara Barton was a special person who devoted her entire life to helping others, and tried to be of service in whatever she did – in her family, in her work, even on the battlefield of the American Civil War!

Clarissa Barton was born Christmas Day in 1821.

She started going to school when she was just three years old, and she was very good at reading and spelling. Clara only had one friend because she was so shy and timid.

At the age of ten, her brother David fell from the roof of a barn and hurt his head very badly. Clara wanted to help take care of him, so she learned how to give him his medicine, and how to place leeches on his body – which was a typical medical practice at the time. Even after the doctors gave up on treating her brother, Clara continued to help care for him, and he eventually got better. 

While Clara was growing up, her family moved in order to help a family member take care of their house and farm. Clara was happy and persistent in offering her help, which included repairing and repainting the house that Clara’s family lived in. Clara loved to play with her cousins, and loved activities such as horseback riding. 

As a teenager, Clara’s parents encouraged her to become a schoolteacher as a way to help her overcome her shyness. Clara obtained her teaching certificate and was a very successful teacher, able to handle even the most rambunctious and energetic children. Clara was asked to open a free public school in New Jersey. The school became very successful, and Clara would teach classes to over 600 people. 

Clara later moved to Washington, D.C. and worked in the U.S. Patent Office as a clerk, helping to file and keep track of patents. Clara was the first woman to receive a clerkship in the federal government, and her salary was the same as the male clerks in the Patent Office. 

While she worked at the Patent Office, the American Civil War began. In The Civil War the Northern States and the Southern States fought over whether the nation should be divided or stay together. During the war many soldiers were hurt in battle. Clara went to the railroad station in Washington D.C. to help nurse the wounded men who had been transported there. She brought them the clothing, food, and supplies they needed to recover from their injuries. As she worked with the men, Clara learned how to store and distribute medical supplies. She worked hard to help the soldiers feel cared for; she often read books to them, helped them write letters to their families, and talked to them to help keep them in good spirits. Clara believed this is what she was meant to do in life, andbegan to look for ways  to help the soldiers fighting in the war. In 1862 in Virginia she saw the awful fighting first hand and helped to care for wounded soldiers near several other battles, including Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. In order to gather supplies, Clara even placed an ad in the newspaper, and people in the area helped to donate supplies to take care of the wounded soldiers. Even when supplies weren’t available, Clara still did everything she could to help. For example,at one battle where they didn’t have any bandages, the wounded were treated using corn-husks instead. The soldiers nicknamed Clara ‘the Angel of the Battlefield’ for the help that she gave them. 

Clara was known for helping all soldiers who needed aid, even if they fought for the other side, which in this case was the South. She said ‘I may be compelled to face danger, but never fear it, and while out soldiers can stand and fight, I can stand and feed and nurse them.’ Clara was brave and helped soldiers even while battles were taking place around her; while she was tending one soldier a bullet from the fighting tore through the sleeve of her dress!

After the war ended, Clara discovered that the relatives of soldiers who had died in the war were sending letters to the War Department trying to find their loved ones. These letters were going unanswered because the soldiers had been buried in unmarked graves, which meant that no one knew what had happened to them or where they were buried. Clara wrote to Abraham Lincoln asking for permission to start responding to the families and trying to locate their missing loved ones. President Lincoln said yes, and she began running the Office of Missing Soldiers. Clara Barton and her assistants wrote over forty thousand replies to letters, helping to locate more than twenty-two thousand missing men! During the summer of 1865, Clara helped to find, identify and properly bury thirteen thousand individuals who had died in a Confederate prisoner of war camp. She would continue to work with the Office of Missing Soldiers for four more years, helping to identify and bury twenty thousand more Union soldiers and ensuring that their graves were marked. 

Clara gave lectures around the United States about her experiences during the war, and drew large crowds when she spoke. After her speaking tour, a doctor suggested that she travel, to rest and remove herself from the physically and mentally demanding work she had done. She decided to travel to Europe.

While in Europe, Clara Barton worked with the organization known as the International Red Cross. Clara helped to prepare military hospitals and gave aid to the Red Cross Society during the Franco-Prussian War. She helped poor people in Strasbourg find work after the Siege of Paris, and was put in charge of distributing supplies to the people of Paris. Because of her work, Clara was given the Golden Cross of Baden and the Prussian Iron Cross. 

She was so inspired that she began to petition for an American branch of the International Red Cross to be created. Clara argued  that not only could the American Red Cross be helpful in war, but it could also give relief and aid during natural disasters like earthquakes, forest fires, and hurricanes. It was founded in 1881, with its first local branch in New York, and Clara served as the first president of the American branch. They built their headquarters in Washington, D.C. near the White House. She was able to help with  such disasters as the Johnstown Flood in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1889 (at the time one of the worst disasters in American history) and the Galveston Flood in 1900. 

Clara continued to help the Red Cross across the world  as well. In 1897 she sailed to Constantinople and helped to open the first American International Red Cross headquarters in Turkey. She would also take several trips to Armenia to provide relief and aid, and she worked in hospitals in Cuba.

After Clara resigned as the president of the American Red Cross, she founded the National First Aid Society, an organization meant to start local first aid programs.

To this day The American National Red Cross continues to be an important part of our country. They provide emergency assistance, disaster relief, and disaster preparedness education throughout the United States. 

Clara continued to give speeches and lectures about her work after she left the Red Cross organization. She published a book about her life called The Story of My Childhood in 1907. She would pass away five years later after contracting pneumonia. 

The work that Clara Barton did to help others and the example she set of continuous service continues to be an inspiration. In 1948, a postage stamp with a portrait of Clara and an image of the American Red Cross symbol was created. Clara Barton was inducted in the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1973. 

The next time you see someone who needs help, remember Clara Barton and her example of service. There are always opportunities to help others, large and small, and our acts of service can help others see the importance of giving aid and being helpful however possible.

The Red Baron For Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you’re sitting in the cockpit of an airplane. Its a World War 1-era biplane with an open cockpit and a propeller spinning in front of you, pulling you high above the clouds. You wear a pilot’s helmet and goggles and look left and right to the see your friend’s planes flying nearby you. Below the countryside is green and lush. Above you the sun is shining brightly. You’ve been flying for a while now, searching the area of enemy planes. You check your fuel and altitude, make a small adjustment and then decide to look up. You sun blocks you view and see something dark coming toward you. It’s an enemy plane! You wave you hand and motion to the other pilots. Then you hear the engines of the planes as they shoot down toward you. You bank to the left as a plane races by, nearly hitting you. You watch as it dives down and then curves up, turning toward you. The plane is bright red with black crosses on it. Instantly, you recognize it as the plane of the famous German fighting ace, The Red Baron!

The Red Baron’s real name was Manfred, and he was born May 2nd 1892 in Breslau, Prussia which is now known as the country of Poland. His full name was Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen! Quite the name, right? The “Freiherr” part of his name means “Free Lord,” which means his family was wealthy and had power in their community, also called aristocrats. Because his family was wealthy, which is another word for “rich”, he had lots of time to do his favorite things like explore the woods around his home, play sports, ride horses, and hunt. He and his brothers learned how to use and take care of guns from a young age. Hunting quickly became one of Manfred’s favorite pastimes. In the woods around their home he and his younger brothers hunted wild boar, elk, birds and deer and Manfred became very good at it. 

He was taught at home until he was 11, when he moved away to a military school in Berlin, Germany, which was common for children his age born into wealthy families. There he became a cadet. At the age of 18, he became a very good horseman and joined a cavalry unit, which is made up of soldiers who ride horses. 

At this time World War I was waging in Europe. This war was fought primarily between Germany and Great Britain and France. But Austria-Hungary, Russia, the United States, Italy, Japan and Austria-Hungary had also taken sides. The battles in France were fought mostly in trenches, which were long holes dug into the ground where each side fired at each other from a distance. It was one of the first major wars in which machines were used such as machine guns, tanks, and airplanes. It was a very tragic war and many lives were lost on both sides.

Manfred was in the army, but because most of the fighting was in trenches his horseman skills weren’t needed, so he spent most of his time running errands. Daily, he watched airplanes taking off and fighting in aerial battles. Only 11 years before World War I, two brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright, invented one of the first airplanes that could fly for a longer distance. Their first flight took place in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The Wright Brothers and others took what they learned and soon were creating airplanes that could fly very fast and very high. These were the airplanes Mandred saw. He was amazed by them and wanted to be a pilot himself.

Like any new skill, flying took time for Manfred to learn. He first flew with a more experienced pilot and then as an observer, someone who watches out for enemy planes. Over time he learned how to fly on his own. The airplanes during World War I look very different from the planes you are used to seeing today. They used a propeller to give them thrust and had two (or three) sets of wings, above and below each other, to give the planes lift. The pilot’s head stuck out of the top and in battle a machine gun was mounted in front of the pilot.

By 1915, Manfred or Baron Manfred von Richthofen (his full name), was a certified fighter pilot. Through 1916 he flew air missions against his country’s enemy, which was Great Britain, France, and the United States at the time. He joined a group of skilled fighter pilots called the Fighter Squadron. Manfred won his first battle against an enemy fighter plane on September 17, 1916. This is called a “dogfight” and ends when one pilot shoots down another. 

Before long, Manfred was one of the best fighter pilots for Germany, also known as an “ace.” He received many awards for his skill and bravery. His brother Lothar also became a fighter pilot. Lother was known for being more risky and aggressive, but Manfred’s style was to be more careful and direct. One of his best strategies was to fly between his opponent and the sun, so the sun would block their view and they wouldn’t be able to see him coming.

In 1917 Manfred von Richthofen started painting his plane red, so it would be recognized by enemy pilots. His enemies started calling him “The Red Baron.” Baron is the name given to someone in Prussia who is nobility or an aristocrat. The other fighter pilots in The Red Baron’s fellow pilots (including his younger brother) started painting their planes different, bright colors. For this reason others started calling them “The Flying Circus.” During the war, Manfred shot down more than 80 other airplanes, more than any other pilot on both sides during the war. 

During an air battle in July 1917 he was hit and for a few minutes was unable to see. His plane started to spiral downward, but once he regained his vision, he levelled it out and was able to land safely. He was quickly taken to the hospital and had surgery. He returned to flying a few months later, but continued to have headaches and feel sick from the wounds he received. 

Manfred became a fighter pilot because it looked thrilling and exciting. Growing up in military school he had been taught that fighting battles was a good thing and would bring his family honor. He was very good at what he did and believed it was a good thing. But people who knew Manfred also saw that war caused him pain. Whether this was because he lost friends or from harming others we don’t know exactly. But during war he saw and did terrible things and some believe deep down he wasn’t proud of it. 

Manfred often described his experiences as a pilot and once wrote: 

“I am in wretched spirits after every aerial combat. I believe that [the war] is not as the people at home imagine it, with a hurrah and a roar; it is very serious, very grim.”

He also saw that the war was going nowhere and realized that his side was going to lose. It made him wonder if being a fighter pilot was the right thing. But Germany used The Red Baron’s fame and wrote books and articles about him and often said many things that were untrue to keep their people excited about the war. This often happens with both sides during a war and is called propaganda.

On April 21, 1918 The Red Baron was chasing a British plane over the Somme River in France, when the plane of his cousin came under attack. Manfred pulled away to try and help his cousin. When he did this he and his plane were shot and he went down during a battle. He was only 25 at the time and didn’t survive. The news about The Red Baron travelled around the world and he’d go down in history as the most skilled fighter pilot of World War I and one of the most famous aces of all time. Many books and movies have since been made about The Red Baron and his prowess as a fighter pilot.

From this story we learn that war is a common but tragic part of history that takes place when countries don’t find ways to work through their problems but turn to violence instead. The better way is for countries to meet together and come to agreements about how problems can be settled rather than going to war. In some cases, arguments can be made for war, particularly when countries are defending themselves or trying to help another country, but it’s always better if conflicts can be worked out other, more peaceful ways. War at first often seems exciting for the young soldiers and pilots involved, but the things they experience can result in painful feelings, such as the ones The Red Baron felt when he lost close friends in battle.