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The 1927 U.S. Plan to Invade Canada

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Dan Lewis runs the wildly popular daily newsletter Now I Know (“Learn Something New Every Day, By Email”). To subscribe to his daily email, click here.

The United States and Canada, by and large, have been peaceful neighbors — especially since Canada became a de facto independent nation under the British North America Act in 1867. But while the two nations are friendly and, typically, allies, things can change. And in 1927, the United States planned for just such a scenario.

At the time, Canada was still mostly under British control, and even though the United States and the United Kingdom were friendly — they fought on the same side in the Great War — things could always change. The U.S. was concerned that the UK’s imperial desires might extend back to the U.S., and the U.S. was not going to be caught unprepared. The U.S. Army developed “War Plan Red,” a comprehensive strategy to foil any British expansion into its long-former colony.

War Plan Red assumed that, in the case of war, Britain had two significant advantages. First, the British navy was a formidable force, able to control the seaways and therefore the U.S. export economy. Second, the UK controlled Canada, and could have used it as a staging ground for an invasion of the United States. The American plan was to strike Canada first.

Specifically, U.S. forces would invade Nova Scotia, hoping to take Halifax, which (American strategists assumed) would be the focal point for the British Navy in North America. If this failed, the U.S. would try to take New Brunswick, isolating Nova Scotia from the mainland. After securing that region, American forces would target Quebec City, further separating east from west; Ontario, taking control of much of Canada’s manufacturing (at the time); Winnipeg, a railway transit hub; and Vancouver, as part of a belt-and-suspenders approach toward controlling the ports. War Plan Red only laid plans for military action in the Western Hemisphere — America never intended to attack the British Isles. Rather, the plan was to hold Canada hostage, so to speak, in hopes that Britain would agree to a peace treaty to free its largest New World territory.

In 1974, the United States declassified War Plan Red. which created a minor ripple in U.S./Canadian relations — but it quickly passed.

Bonus Fact

The U.S. was not the only North American country with intracontinental war plans. In 1921 — six years before War Plan Red was drafted — Canada developed its own plan, named Defence Scheme No. 1. The scheme outlined plans for a counter-attack on the U.S. in case of an invasion from its neighbors to the south. Like War Plan Red, the plan was never put into action. Unlike War Plan Red, Scheme No. 1 was short lived — it was terminated in 1928 in an effort to foster a stronger relationship between the U.S. and Britain.

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Art
5 Things You Might Not Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—who was born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs. But there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.

1. AN EARTHQUAKE LED TO HIS DISTINCTIVE NOSE.

Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.

2. HE ALMOST BECAME A PIANIST.

Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.

3. HE HELPED CREATE A NATIONAL PARK.

If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.

4. HE WELCOMED COMMERCIAL ASSIGNMENTS.

While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams's mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.

5. HE AND GEORGIA O'KEEFFE WERE FRIENDS.

Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

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presidents
George Washington’s Incredible Hair Routine

America's Founding Fathers had some truly defining locks, but we tend to think of those well-coiffed white curls—with their black ribbon hair ties and perfectly-managed frizz—as being wigs. Not so in the case of the main man himself, George Washington.

As Robert Krulwich reported at National Geographic, a 2010 biography on our first president—Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow—reveals that the man “never wore a wig.” In fact, his signature style was simply the result of an elaborately constructed coiffure that far surpasses most morning hair routines, and even some “fancy” hair routines.

The style Washington was sporting was actually a tough look for his day. In the late 18th century, such a hairdo would have been worn by military men.

While the hair itself was all real, the color was not. Washington’s true hue was a reddish brown color, which he powdered in a fashion that’s truly delightful to imagine. George would (likely) don a powdering robe, dip a puff made of silk strips into his powder of choice (there are a few options for what he might have used), bend his head over, and shake the puff out over his scalp in a big cloud.

To achieve the actual ‘do, Washington kept his hair long and would then pull it back into a tight braid or simply tie it at the back. This helped to showcase the forehead, which was very in vogue at the time. On occasion, he—or an attendant—would bunch the slack into a black silk bag at the nape of the neck, perhaps to help protect his clothing from the powder. Then he would fluff the hair on each side of his head to make “wings” and secure the look with pomade or good old natural oils.

To get a better sense of the play-by-play, check out the awesome illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton that accompany Krulwich’s post.

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