This Day in History, March 18th

By Jim Turner

In the World

back-to-africa1895 – On this date, two hundred former African slaves left Savannah, Georgia for their new homes in Liberia, Africa. Much of the aid for the trip came through the American Colonization Society (ACS). Founded in 1816 by Robert Finley, the Society consisted of philanthropists, clergy, and abolitionists, whose goal was to free African slaves and help them return to Africa. Slave owners, who feared free blacks, joined the effort. The first African American volunteers established a colony on the Pepper Coast in 1820. By 1867, the ACS had helped more than 13,000 African Americans in moving back to Africa. Free American black colonists in Liberia issued a declaration of independence and created a constitution in 1847.


In the United States

Alexander's_Ragtime_Band1911 – Irving Berlin published “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” the most popular song in the early 20th century. Although the phonograph came on the market in the 1880s, it didn’t become a common household item until the 1920s. The early music industry grew on sales of sheet music. Known for its syncopated beat, similar to jazz, ragtime was first introduced to the American masses at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Based on sheet music sales, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” topped 1.5 million copies in the first 18 months it was on the market. It helped turn American popular music into an international phenomenon. U.S. involvement in World War I added to that cultural shift, and suddenly American music, especially ragtime and jazz, spread throughout Europe.

Unlike Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer,” “Ragtime Band” was simple to play, even by an amateur, and since sheet music was purchased by amateurs, it sold more than more difficult songs.

In the West

Wells Fargo from LOC1852 – Henry Wells and William G. Fargo gathered investors in New York City to found their famous stage line. The California Gold Rush of 1849 caused a huge demand for cross-country shipping, and these men were there at the right time. They shipped their first load of goods to the mining camps in July, 1852. The company hired independent stagecoaches to provide the fastest possible transportation and gold delivery. Wells, Fargo, and Company also became a bank, buying gold dust, selling bank drafts, and providing loans.

Butterfield-OverlandKnown for their famous Concord coaches, they merged with the Butterfield Overland Stage Company in 1857. Wells, Fargo and Company also merged with several pony express and stagecoach lines in 1866 to become the largest transportation company in the West. They began to ship by rail when the first transcontinental railroad was complete three years later, and by 1910 its shipping network connected 6,000 locations.

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