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.

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.  

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 History of Thanksgiving For Kids

Imagine yourself sitting around a large bonfire.  The year is 1621 and you have spent the last year travelling from Europe to America on a boat. The journey was very hard.  When you finally arrived in the “new world” you faced a very hard winter. You and your family lived on the boat through the winter, together with other passengers.  It was extremely cold and there was not much to eat.  But all of that has changed.  As you sit waiting, you see that people are cooking up a huge feast. You smell the cooking meat and vegetables. it makes your mouth water. The cooks include people from Europe that you were on the boat with, and Native Americans who have come to celebrate with you.  It is the first Thanksgiving celebration in America, and you are ready to eat!

Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States and other countries. But how did this holiday begin?  Where did it start and why?

The story starts in 1620 when a small ship named the “Mayflower” left from England. On board were 102 passengers.  They were all people from different religions that were feeling unwelcome in Europe.  They wanted to leave to find a new home where they could practice their religion freely.  There were also people onboard who were excited about the idea of buying land, which they couldn’t afford in Europe. They hoped to find a new life and become wealthy in the New World.

The Mayflower made a long and difficult journey across the Atlantic Ocean that lasted 66 days! Eventually, they landed at Cape Cod.  This was much further north than where they were hoping to land, which was at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month later, the Mayflower travelled to Massachusetts Bay and the travellers disembarked, or arrived and came ashore.  They decided to settle, or make a home, in the area and they began building a village, which is now called Plymouth.

The people who started building the settlement were called “pilgrims”.  Pilgrim means a traveller or settler in a new land. The pilgrims in Plymouth did not have time to build houses to live in before the first winter came.  The winter was very cold and harsh, so most of the pilgrims remained on the Mayflower ship for the winter. They were hungry and cold living on the ship. Many people developed scurvy, which happens when you don’t eat enough fruits or vegetables.  Many also caught diseases that spread easily amongst the crowded living conditions. 

By the end of the winter, only half of the Mayflower’s 102 original passengers were still alive.That spring, in March 1621, the people who were still alive moved off the boat and onto shore to start building their homes. While they were settling on shore, an Abenaki Native American came and greeted them in English. Everyone was shocked to see that he was friendly and that he spoke English. 

A few days later, he returned with another Native American man named Squanto.  Years before Squanto had been kidnapped by Englishmen and brought to England.  But he later returned to America and could now speak English. Squanto became friends with the pilgrims and could see that they needed help.  The small group of 50 or so people were all weak and starving and many of them were ill.  Squanto felt bad for them so he taught the pilgrims how to grow corn, how to fish in the rivers and how to extract sap from maple trees. 

Squanto also helped the pilgrim settlers to form an alliance with a local Native tribe, the Wampanoag. An alliance is a bond or union between two groups that pledge to support each other. 

Later that year, in the fall of 1621, the pilgrims’s first corn harvest was successful.  They had an abundance of corn and were able to eat.  The Governor of the group, William Bradford, organized a feast to celebrate the harvest.  He invited all the pilgrims in the community and their Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. The feast lasted for three days.  While no one wrote down exactly what they ate, we do know that it was an amazing feast for the time, and likely included chicken, deer, corn, lobster, seal, shellfish, and possibly turkey. 

This fest is now remembered as America’s “first Thanksgiving”.  The pilgrim’s likely didn’t call it that, as they would not have known that this feast would turn into a holiday. They also played games and had fun during the three days with their guests.  They considered this celebration a way to give thanks to God and nature for the harvest and alliance with the Wampanoag people. 

The dishes that the pilgrims prepared were likely made using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. The pilgrims did not have an oven and the sugar supply on the Mayflower had run out by the fall of 1621, so the meal did not include pies, cakes or desserts. But the people were happy to have a harvest meal and party and were happy that their nutrition and health had improved compared to last year — and mostly that they were still alive. That is a lot to be thankful for!

The pilgrims held their second Thanksgiving celebration in the fall of 1623. In the two years between, there had been a long drought.  A drought is a long period of time in which it doesn’t rain so everything dries up or doesn’t grow.  Because of the drought, there had been no harvest in the fall of 1622 and people were very hungry.  In 1623, the farming had been good again and they all celebrated as they had before. The practice of fasting, or not eating for a period of time, followed by having a large thanksgiving celebration started to become common practice in other New England settlements outside of Plymouth as well. 

Later, during the American Revolution, the government designated a couple of days of thanksgiving a year.  In 1789, George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation.In his speech, he asked Americans to show that they are grateful for the happy ending to the war of independence that Americans had just won and the new constitution, or written framework for the country’s rules, structure and order.  Other presidents after George Washington also designated a couple of days of thanksgiving to remember these events. 

In 1817, New York became the first state to have an official Thanksgiving holiday. After that, other states started adopting their own Thanksgiving holiday, with each one being celebrated on a different day. However, the tradition hadn’t spread to the south, and most southern states hadn’t heard of Thanksgiving holiday for a long time. 

One woman decided that she wanted to change this.  She wanted to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. Her name was Sarah Josepha Hale.  She was a writer and wrote many articles and books and even wrote the song “Mary Had a Little Lamb”.   Sara started a campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday and she worked on this for 36 years!  A campaign is a planned effort to make something happen or change. She published articles in newspapers and sent letters to politicians.  Eventually her efforts paid off, when Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. He scheduled it to be celebrated on the final Thursday in November. Sara was then known ever after as the “Mother of Thanksgiving.”

Thanksgiving was celebrated annually, or once a year, on this day until 1939.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week in order to help stores make more money during the Great Depression. However, people didn’t like the change, and so he ultimately moved it back to the original date in 1941.

Although the original Thanksgiving celebrations were to celebrate the end of the American war of independence and the new constitution, modern American Thanksgiving is quite different.  Now the celebrations center on cooking a turkey and sharing a large meal with family and friends. 

While turkeys are the main dish at most American households for Thanksgiving, it may not have actually been on the menu for the pilgrims’ first thanksgiving feast in 1621. Today, more than 90% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving.  And there are many different ways that people prepare the bird. Most like to cook it in the oven. But some people deep-fry it or smoke it, or find a variety of other ways to make the turkey dish new and interesting.

Other traditional food that Americans eat at this holiday include stuffing or dressing, mashed potatoes, yams, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.  These are all foods that are “in season” at that time of year.  “In season” means that the fruits and vegetables used are ready to be harvested at that time. 

Another common tradition at Thanksgiving is volunteering.  Many Americans spend Thanksgiving Day doing volunteer activities in their communities.  These activities include holding food drives to collect food for the poor or hosting free dinners for people who are struggling. 

Parades have also become an important part of the Thanksgiving holiday in cities and towns throughout the United States.  One of the largest and most famous is the Macy’s department store parade in New York City.  This parade started in 1924 and was intended to give businesses a chance to celebrate the holiday and advertise their store at the same time.  Today, many Americans tune in on TV to watch the Macy’s parade at Thanksgiving.  The parade follows a 2 ½ mile route and features marching bands, performers, floats and giant balloons.

Starting in the 1950s, the president of the United States has a transition of “pardoning” one or two Thanksgiving turkeys each year.  This means that those 1 or 2 birds don’t get killed to be eaten, but instead get to go back to living on a farm for the rest of their lives.

Even though Thanksgiving is a modern American tradition, there are similar annual celebrations of harvest that take place all over the world and throughout history. In ancient times, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all held large feasts to say thank you to their gods after the fall harvest.  Thanksgiving also has a lot in common with the ancient Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot. And Native Americans have a long tradition of celebrating fall harvest with feasts and parties. These traditions are older than the American thanksgiving in 1621, so may have had an influence on the idea to hold a feast. 

Does your family celebrate Thanksgiving?  If so, what are some of your family’s traditions?  When you eat your holiday meal this year, think about the first American thanksgiving at Plymouth.  How do you think that would have been different?  What are some of the things that you are thankful for this year?  However you plan to celebrate, we at Bedtime History wish you a very happy Thanksgiving!  

Sitting Bull for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are in the middle of a battle in the American wilderness. All around you, American soldiers dressed in stiff blue jackets load their guns and fire at the enemy. Running at them are Native American warriors dressed in loin cloths and leather. They are yelling and charging the soldiers with weapons raised. They clash in battle and fight ferociously. Around you echo the sounds of metal clashing on metal, gunfire, and people crying out. Then as you turn around, your eye catches a peaceful sight.  There in the middle of the fight scene sits a Native man with his legs crossed.  He peacefully packs a pipe full of tobacco and lights in on fire.  He sits silently and smokes while men fight all around him.  This man is one of the famous American Indians, Sitting Bull. 

Sitting Bull was born around 1831. He was one of the Hunkpapa people, a Lakota Sioux tribe that lived in the Great Plains area in what is now known as North and South Dakota. When he was born his family called him “Jumping Badger”.  

Later, his parents changed his name.  He was quiet and deliberate and they didn’t think “Jumping Badger” fit him.  Deliberate means careful and cautious.  His parents gave him the nickname “Slow” instead and he was called this as a child. 

Slow’s father was the chief, which meant someday he would be the chief of his people. When he turned 10, “Slow” killed his first buffalo. Hunting buffalo was very dangerous, but the tribe depended on buffalo for their meat for survival. They ate their meat and used their skins for clothes and shelter. Slow’s family was proud of his first buffalo kill and celebrated to honor him. When he was 14, “Slow” and others from his tribe snuck into an enemy tribe’s village and stole food and other items. This is called a “raid” and was common for tribes in the Great Plains to fight and steal things from each other for survival. Because of “Slow’s” bravery during the raid, his father gave up his own name and gave it to his son.  From then on, “Slow” became known as Tatanka-Iyotanka, or “Sitting Bull.” 

Around this time, the government of the United States wanted settlers to move into the western states even though Sitting Bull’s people already lived there. To settle means to make a permanent home. This meant that Sioux Lakota tribes would have to leave and find a new place to live even though they had lived on these lands for man years.

But Sitting Bull and his family refused to leave and fought against the U.S. government and the people who tried to take over their land. The government sent the army to fight Sitting Bull and his people.  As a young man, Sitting Bull became famous for his fighting skills and people all over the United States heard about him and became afraid of the stories about him. 

In 1872 the Northern Pacific Railroad was trying to build a railroad across the United States. It ran through Sitting Bulls land, so he and the Sioux people were determined to block it. When they did, the U.S. Army was called in to try to remove them and the conflict quickly turned into a battle.  During the battle, Sitting Bull, who was now a middle-aged chief, walked out into the middle of the field where they were fighting and sat down in front of the U.S. soldiers. He invited several other tribesmen to join him.  Sitting Bull and his friends sat in the field and had a long, slow smoke from his tobacco pipe while watching people battling all around him. Legend says that after finishing his pipe, Sitting Bull carefully cleaned it and then walked off, without showing any fear. He was very brave!

During the 1860s, Sitting Bull continued to fight against settlers encroaching on Sioux land.  He and his tribesmen attacked white military outposts and stole livestock, or farm animals, or attacked the soldiers living there. Sitting Bull’s group of men was brave, but he knew that it wouldn’t be enough to keep back the U.S army. So he went and spoke to leaders of other tribes nearby and together, they worked as one group, the Lakota Sioux. They decided to just have one leader and in 1869, Sitting Bull became their new leader.  The group continued to grow and by the mid 1870s, the group also included warriors from the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. 

Even though Sitting Bull is mostly remembered as a warrier, he was also a type of holy man.  He was believed to have the gift of prophecy, or the ability to see the future. Sitting Bull once had a vision or dream that the Sioux people were soon going to have a great victory in battle.  Shortly after that, the prophecy came true. 

In 1876, a Lieutenant Colonel by the name of George A. Custer’s and his soldiers rode out against the Sioux to battle. They were known as the Seventh Cavalry. They attacked Sitting Bull and his warriors, but they were inspired by Sitting Bull’s vision and even though they were outnumbered by Custer’s army, the Sioux people won the battle against over 200 soldiers. This became known as the Battle of Little Bighorn. 

Sitting Bull’s nephew, White Bull, and another warrior named Crazy Horse fought bravely at the Battle of Little Bighorn and became famous for their victory against Custer and the Seventh Cavalry.

But of course, the U.S. Army was not happy about losing the battle. Instead of backing down, they sent an army of twice as many soldiers to fight Sitting Bull. They wanted to push the Native (or First Nations) people off of the land and force them onto reservations. Reservations were an area of land set aside for them to live on instead of the land the settlers wanted. 

Sitting Bull refused to leave his own land and move to the reservations.  Instead, in May 1877, he led a group of his people to Canada where he spent four years hiding out.  Sadly though, the buffalo in the area disappeared. Because buffalo are what his people needed to survive they almost starved.  Sitting Bull and his people left their camp in Canada and moved back to the United States.  A few years later their camp was attacked and Sitting Bull and his followers surrendered to the U.S. army in North Dakota. 

By this time, Sitting Bull was now an older man.  He spent two years in prison and later was sent to live on a reservation at Standing Rock. He lived on that reservation for the rest of his life. 

Sitting Bull was famous when he got out of prison.  Many people heard stories about his fighting skills and admired him for his bravery.  When they met him they were willing to pay $2 just for his autograph.  He got permission to leave the reservation to go on tour as his own exhibition, or entertainment show.

When Sitting Bull was at a stopover in Minnesota, he saw a show starring Annie Oakley, the famous sharp shooter. Sitting Bull was very impressed with her gun shooting skills. He introduced himself and he and Annie Oakley became friends.  He gave her the nickname “Little Sure Shot” and called her his daughter.  Rumour has it that Sitting Bull gave Annie Oakley the pair of moccasins he had worn during the Battle of the Little Bighorn as a gift.

In June 1885, the showman William “Buffalo Bill” Cody hired Sitting Bull to perform in his famous “Wild West” show. Sitting Bull was paid $50 a week to wear his full chief’s war attire and ride a horse during the show’s opening scene. Sitting Bull considered the job an easy way to earn money and help audiences learn about his people and how difficult their lives had become.  But some audience members didn’t like Sitting Bull because they knew he had killed white soldiers during battle. Sometimes, audiences cruelly boo-ed Sitting Bull and threw things at him. 

Sitting Bull soon got tired of traveling and some of the mean crowds.  And he missed his family.  So he left the tour for good after its final show in October.

Beginning in 1889, many Native American (or First Nations) people started talking about a religion called the “Ghost Dance”.  These people believed that a spirit was going to come to earth and remove white people from the area where they lived, allowing the Indians to return to their old ways. U.S. Authorities started to worry that Sitting Bull was going to use the Ghost Dance movement to lead a group of Indian people to war against the white people.  They always knew that Sitting Bull resisted, or refused to follow, white traditions.  So they believed he was likely to get involved and lead this movement against white people.  

On December 15, 1890, police were sent to arrest Sitting Bull and bring him in for questioning.  Sitting Bull, who was 59 at the time, refused to go with them.  So the policemen dragged him from his cabin.  The noise and commotion caused a large group of Sitting Bull’s followers to come to see what was going on.  One of them fired a shot at the policemen, setting off a brief gun battle. In the confusion that followed, more than a dozen people were killed including Sitting Bull.

Sitting Bull had many hard experiences in his life and there is a lot that we can learn from him.  He showed great bravery from a young age while hunting and in battle. He was also able to stay very calm under stress and pressure. Have you ever practiced trying to stay calm when you feel afraid or angry?  What works well for you?  I know it helps me to take deep breaths and try and clear my thoughts. Sometimes if I go outside or take a walk that helps, too. Reacting to stress that way is much better than yelling or calling names or other things we later regret. It’s completely normal to feel upset. I do all the time. The question is how we will deal with those feelings. Sitting Bull showed us that even in intense situations, we can be calm. 

Sitting Bull also fought for what he believed in and stayed close to his family and his tribe. Even when they were threatened and told to leave their lands, he refused. He put himself in great danger to try and save his people. Sticking up for yourself and your family is a very noble thing to do. Think of what you can do to take care of your family and the community in which you live. Like Sitting Bull, we can all be leaders in our communities and families if we stick up for what we believe and for our loved ones. 

The Stan Lee Story for Kids

Take our Stan Lee Quiz!

Have you ever seen the movies Spiderman, Fantastic Four or X-Men or read any of these comics?  Did you know that these were all written by the same man?  He was a very talented writer from New York named Stan Lee.  This is the story of his life and how he became the creator of many of the superheroes that we all know and love today. 

Stan Lee was born in New York City in 1922. His real name when he was born was Stanley Martin Lieber.  Stanley’s parents were Jewish immigrants from Romania.  Unfortunately when Stanley and his brother Larry were growing up, his family was quite poor.  He was a kid during the Great Depression, which was a time when many people in America did not have much money and there were not many jobs available.  Stanley’s family lived in an apartment that was so small that Stanley and Larry shared a room together and their parents slept on a fold out couch in the living room.  But they were a happy family and the Lieber brothers played together and loved reading books and watching movies about heroes.  

When he was a teenager, Stanley went to DeWitt Clinton High School where he loved writing and he dreamt that one day he would write a great novel.  He worked part-time during high school writing short articles for newspapers.

When Stanley was 15, he entered a high school writing competition called “The Biggest News of the Week Contest.” He won the prize for three straight weeks in a row! This made Stanley start to believe in himself as a writer and think that he might be able to be a professional writer one day. 

By the time Stanley graduated from high school, the Depression had finally ended but it was still very difficult for people to find a job. Stanley needed money, so he worked at a local movie theatre. He eventually heard that the publishing company that his uncle worked at was hiring, so he applied and got a job as an office assistant.  A publishing house is a company that makes newspapers, books, or comic books.  The company Stanley worked at was called “Timely Comics” and his job was to fetch things for the artists, proofread their writing and edit their drawings. In those days the artists dipped the pen in ink, so one of Stanley’s jobs was to make sure the inkwells were filled.  He also went out everyday to get the artists’ their lunches.  

When Stanley started working at Timely Comics, he didn’t realize he had started his lifelong career. At the time, comics were considered kind of silly and Stanley wanted to be a serious writer.  So he didn’t think that he would work in the comic book industry for very long.  However, he worked very hard in his job and as a result, Stanley was eventually promoted from office assistant to editor and writer.  An editor is a person that is in charge of deciding what the final content of a newspaper, book or comic will be. 

As an editor and writer, Stanley wrote his first comic-book for Timely Comics in 1941.  It was called “Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge. ” It was the third episode in the Captain America Comics series that the company was making. In this episode, Stanley invented Captain America’s ricocheting shield-toss, which later became Captain America’s signature move. 

Around this time, Stanley Lieber started using “Stan Lee” as a fake name for his writing. He still wanted to be a serious writer and was afraid that serious publishing companies would not want to publish his books if he had been writing comics.  So he used a fake name and after awhile, it stuck and he eventually changed this to be his legal name. 

Because Stan Lee’s comic writing was so good, he started writing comics more regularly for his company.  He was only in his 30s, but he showed a knack for business, so he kept getting promoted into higher level roles.  Promoted means progressing into better things. Stan Lee stayed with the company for nearly 30 years until 1972.

When World War II started, Stan Lee left Timely Comics for a time to join the Army.  He worked as a writer and illustrator for the Army along with a few other jobs. Stan Lee eventually moved to the Army’s Training Film Division, where he worked writing manuals, training films, slogans, and occasionally cartooning. His military classification was “playwright” which only nine men in the entire U.S. Army had.  A few other famous people had this same job, including the children’s book writer and illustrator Theodor Geisel, or “Dr. Seuss.”

After the war ended, Stan Lee moved back to New York and went back to his old job at Timely Comics.  In 1947, he got married to a woman from England named Joan.  Together they had two daughters, Joan Celia or “J.C.” Lee and Jan Lee, who unfortunately died when she was just a young baby.

In the mid-1950s, Timely Comics changed its name to Atlas Comics and later DC Comics and then later, in the 1960s, the company changed its name again to “Marvel”. Stan Lee wrote stories in a lot of different genres, or categories of writing, including romance, Westerns, humor, science fiction, medieval adventure, horror and suspense. 

In the late 1950s, superhero comics were starting to become popular.  Stan Lee was getting bored of the stories he was writing and so his wife suggested that he try writing a superhero comic. 

The first superheroes that Stan Lee were the Fantastic Four. The Fantastic Four was made up of four astronauts Reed Richards, Susan Storm, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm, who after being exposed to cosmic rays formed different superpowers. Reed became Mister Fantastic, who could stretch to incredible lengths, Susan Storm became the Invisible Woman, Johnny Storm became the human torch and Ben Grimm became Thing, who had a body of stone and could smash his enemies. 

Stan teamed up with an artist named Jack Kirby who helped create and draw the comic.  The Fantastic Four comic was immediately popular. This led Stan Lee to start making a bunch of other new comic series such as the Avengers made up of such heroes as Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America. Today we know these superheroes from their movies, but for a very long time they only existed in comic books. Each character had super powers with an interesting origin story, how they came to be a superhero, and dangerous enemies. They went on adventures and battled their enemies.

Stan worked with artist Jack Kirby many times over the years and together they created new superheroes and series such as X-Men. He also worked with a different artist, Bill Everett and created Daredevil, Doctor Strange, and his most successful character, Spider-Man. Spider-Man was a teenager named Peter Parker, who was bitten by a special spider that gave him super strength, webs that shot from his hand and the ability to climb up anything and jump very far. 

Kids and adults all over the United States and around the world loved the characters Stan Lee created.  

Marvel Comics became a highly popular franchise, and Stan Lee became editorial director and publisher of Marvel in 1972. In 1981, Stan Lee and his family moved to the West Coast of the United States so that he could help oversee the process of turning the Marvel’s comic characters into TV shows and movies. Stan Lee bought a beautiful house in West Hollywood.  Over the next 20 years, he helped make his characters into tv shows and movies. Most recently this became known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe or MCU and up until now includes 23 movies with 14 more on the way. It has made more money than any other film franchise, around $22 billion dollars. What’s also interesting is that Marvel Comics is now owned by Disney, who also owns the Star Wars franchise.

In 2018, Stan Lee worked on his last Marvel feature movie called Black Panther.  He was 95 years old at the time!  He died on November 12, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.

Stan Lee started his writing career as a poor but hard working teenager.  He worked his way to eventually becoming the leader of one of the most successful comic franchises in the world through Marvel Comics. 

Do you enjoy reading comics or watching movies about superheroes?  Have you ever tried designing your own characters?  What superpowers would your superhero have? What would his or her name be? What would their costume look like and what kind of adventures would do they go on? Now is a great time to start writing. Stan Lee started when he was just your age. And remember you can always start small with short stories or a daily journal. But little by little you can improve like Stan!

History of Albert Einstein for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine a short man with gray and white hair that sticks up off his head and grows in all directions. He has a big mustache and wears a coat that is rumpled, pants that are short, and socks that don’t match. But he has a kind smile on his face and deep, thoughtful eyes. This is what Albert Einstein looked like. And it might be easy to judge him by his funny appearance, but Einstein is one of the most famous scientists of all time. And many of his big ideas changed the world! But where did Albert Einstein come from? What was his childhood like? What was his life like? Listen closely, because it all starts in Ulm, Germany on March 14, 1879 when Albert was born.

Albert was quiet and very shy as a child. It took him longer to say his first words than most kids. His parents thought this meant there was something wrong with him. They took him to the doctor, but the doctor said everything was just fine. As a child, Albert liked to play by himself. He played with blocks and built towers of cards. He was very curious and often sat and just day-dreamed. His parents thought this meant he had some kind of problem, but really he just liked to sit and think and dream and make things on his own. 

Albert also liked the play the violin. Often he and his mother played together. Albert’s mind was always imagining and wondering about the world around him. He went to school, but wasn’t learning the things that interested him, so he started searching for answers on his own. He read and found many of his answers in books and by asking others. His parents began to see how curious and bright he was and appreciate his talents, even though he was quiet and shy. 

In high school, Albert struggled in school. Kids had to sit perfectly still, wear uniforms, and march in line. If they asked questions they were punished. His teachers told his parents he’d never do anything useful in life because he was so disobedient by asking questions and speaking out of turn. These years were very frustrating for Albert, because he was curious and wanted to learn. Math was one of his favorite subjects. His parents found a book about geometry, the study of shapes, and he taught it to himself. 

Eventually, Albert was told to leave his school, because he refused to stop asking questions and wouldn’t blindly obey his teachers. He moved with his family to Italy and there spent his time hiking in the mountains and learning on his own. He read about great scientists and astronomers like Copernicus and Galileo who had great ideas. But because their ideas were different than what was believed, they were treated poorly. Albert understood these scientists because he felt he was being treated the same way. In Italy, he wrote his first scientific paper, but it received very little attention because he was young and no one thought someone his age would have great ideas. In Italy, he decided to move to Zurich Switzerland to study physics.

There he loved the Swiss people and his new college. He was able to ask tough questions and talk about them with his classmates. There he met a woman named Mileva who was also a big thinker. They enjoyed their time together and were later married. 

In Switzerland, Albert started working at the patent office. When someone comes up with an idea for a new invention, they draw up the plans and get a patent — which means no one else can take their idea. Albert’s job was to read about all of the new inventions and approve them. He enjoyed this job and was able to work so fast that he could take off early and spend time hiking and thinking. These were some of Albert’s happiest years of his life. So many marvelous ideas came to him at this time. He started writing scientific papers about his ideas and published five of them. These included big ideas about space travel and electricity. Albert was known for wearing the same wrinkled clothes every day and didn’t comb his hair, so it stuck up all over the place. He liked to spend time deep in thought rather than taking care of himself. People began to know him for his big ideas and recognized him for his funny appearance.

As Albert became more popular, he finally got his dream job — teaching physics for the university. Now he was able to spend all of his time thinking and teaching his students. The students loved their quirky professor. He was able to take difficult ideas and explain them in a simple way.

One of his big ideas was called The Theory of Relativity. This idea was that all things move at different speeds except for light. Think about how as a car passes it’s moving at a different speed as it drives by. But if you’re inside the car it doesn’t appear to be moving at all. So speed is “relative” to where you are. Another example is that the Earth is flying around the sun and spinning at incredible speeds, but because you’re standing on the Earth it doesn’t appear to be moving at all.

 Another of Einstein’s big idea was that not only are the planets moving around the Sun, but the Sun is moving through the galaxy as well, it just doesn’t appear to move because our planet is moving around it.

Some funny things about Albert is that even though he was a scientific genius he was often absent-minded, which means he forgot simple things. For example, often when he went out he forgot his keys, lost his bags, and forgot to eat. He was so focused on what went on in his wonderful brain that he often didn’t consider what was going on around him. He found simpler ways to live his life, so he could focus all his energy on thinking. For example, he wore the same clothes every day and only buttoned his top button because it took less time and energy. He often wore socks that didn’t match, his clothes were rumpled and his hair stuck all over the place. But his fans loved it and people all over the world talked about this brilliant, quirky genius.

Albert’s next job took him back to Germany, but over the years he and his wife were growing apart. He was so busy being a professor and speaking around the world that he didn’t give Mileva and his children the time they needed. Mileva decided not to move him and they divorced. Albert admitted he was not always a good father and chose writing his papers and teaching over his family responsibilities. 

While Albert was living in Germany, World War I started. He was sad to see soldiers marching down the street because he knew what war did to people. He refused to support the war and the leaders of Germany were upset at him. He could have gone to jail, but he stood up for his beliefs anyway. When World War I ended Albert was very happy.

In Germany, Albert met a woman named Elsa. They grew close and she spent her time taking care of him, making sure he ate and shaved and didn’t lose his keys. They were married. Albert loved Elsa and she loved him. 

By this time, Albert was so popular it made his life difficult. You might think being popular is a great thing, but for people who are very famous, you can’t walk anywhere without people talking to you or wanting a picture or asking for your autograph. Albert loved being alone, so this was very hard for him. He was offered a lot of money to speak and do other things, but he refused. For him, his research and his ideas were more important than money or fame.

Sadly, new problems began in Germany. Albert Einstein was Jewish, which is a race and religion. Many Jews who lived in Germany wrote to Albert and asked him to defend them because they were being treated badly. Their shops were taken from them and they were often beaten up by non-Jews. The Nazis, who had taken control of Germany, falsely blamed all their problems on the Jewish people. They burned their books and many Jews started leaving Germany. Albert spoke out against the Nazis and refused to leave even though his life was at risk. Hitler, the powerful leader of the Nazis, said Albert was a spy and eventually Albert realized it was too dangerous for him to stay. He and Elsa moved to the United States and became a professor at Princeton University in New Jersey. 

Albert’s years at Princeton were hard. He was sad to see what was happening to Jews in Germany. Then sadly Elsa died. Albert often kept to himself and played his violin. He also didn’t have as many big ideas as when he was younger.

One of Albert’s most famous ideas was an equation, E = MC2. It basically said that all things are energy. Even the hard walls around you, your body, mass are energy, too, but just in a different form. He also had the idea that if an atom could be broken it would cause a HUGE explosion, called a nuclear explosion. He worried that the Nazis might create a nuclear bomb and use it against the United States and her Allies. Even though he hated the idea that such a weapon would ever be used, he wrote President Roosevelt and told him that the United States must create the bomb first. Eventually, the United States did create an atomic bomb and used it against its enemy Japan. For the rest of his life, Albert wondered whether he should have ever shared his ideas about a nuclear bomb. But he also thought the consequence of the Nazis making it first would be even worse. 

After World War II ended, Einstein spent many years speaking out against atomic bombs. The United States and Russia had made thousands of them and it made the world a very dangerous place. Fortunately, after World War II nuclear bombs were never used. 

Albert Einstein spent the last years of his life growing old while living in Princeton, New Jersey. His hair was now white and grew widely in all directions. He was still a quirky and funny sight to see with his rumpled, mismatched clothes. He continued to play his violin and go on walks around his home. He often stopped to help people in need or invite them into his home. He was a very gentle, kind person who had changed the world with his ideas but didn’t care about money or being famous. He just wanted the world to be a peaceful place. On April 17, 1955 Einstein passed away while thinking through a problem and writing equations on a piece of paper. To his last day, he was a thinker! 

Spend a moment thinking about what it was like to be Albert. When he was young he loved to go on walks and observe the world around him. He saw everything through the eyes of wonder and curiosity. The world to him was an exciting, mysterious place. He loved to understand how it worked and dream about how the parts he didn’t understand might work. His imagination led to some of his amazing ideas. You can wonder, too. Remember in the times when you might be bored, it’s ok to be bored. Say it out loud “it’s ok to bored!” When you’re bored, you can take a deep breath and look closely at the world around you. It’s the perfect chance to see things with new eyes. 

Even though Einstein became very famous, he didn’t care about having lots of money and expensive things. He wanted the world to be fair and peaceful. He also wasn’t perfect. No one really is. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Einstein wasn’t a very good father, but he ended up helping the world in many other ways. 

If you want to learn more about Albert Einstein we shared our favorite videos and books on our website, BedtimeHistoryStories.com. Be sure to check it out.