11 Surprising Locations That Played a Key Role in the Revolution

From the Boston Massacre to the Boston Tea Party, the Massachusetts capital’s effect on the American Revolutionary War is widely documented. But, while Boston was a hotspot of revolutionary activity, it far from single-handedly won the war. Here are 11 locations that are often overlooked by the history books, but nevertheless significantly impacted the war effort.

1. Weare, New Hampshire

One of the first open acts of rebellion against the British crown happened in the small town of Weare, New Hampshire, on April 14, 1772, when a group of colonists took a stand against Britain’s oppressive pine tree laws. Beginning in the 17th century, England reserved all New Hampshire’s white pine trees larger than one foot in diameter for the Crown—a repressive rule since the thick, tall trees were used for ships’ masts. Luckily for colonists, these laws were rarely enforced until John Wentworth was appointed governor of New Hampshire in 1766.

In 1772, Wentworth and his deputy charged six mill owners in Goffstown and Weare with breaking the law (by cutting down the trees for their own purposes). The Goffstown mill owners readily paid their fines, but the Weare mill owner refused. On April 13, Sheriff Benjamin Whiting issued a warrant for the arrest of the leader of the Weare mill owner, Ebenezer Mudgett. At dawn the next morning, Mudgett and a group of townspeople burst into Whiting’s room at the Pine Tree Tavern and drove him from the town.

2. Rhode Island

On May 4, 1776—a full two months before the signing of the Declaration of Independence—Rhode Island became the first colony to sever ties with England and renounce allegiance to King George. Rhode Island, home to the significant ports of Providence and Newport, suffered under the new trade restrictions and tariffs set forth by the Sugar Act and decided to take an early stand.

3. Louisiana

Louisiana wasn’t one of the 13 original colonies or even part of the British empire, but thanks to its Spanish governor, Bernardo de Galvez, the territory made a major impact on the American Revolution. Galvez sent supplies to the colonial armies and, upon Spain’s entry into the war in 1779, captured the British-held forts at Baton Rouge in Natchez. In 1781, Galvez would secure Mobile, Alabama, for the American cause and lead a heroic attack on the British in Pensacola, Florida that drove the British out of Western Florida. Thanks to Galvez, Louisiana provided some much-needed relief to General George Washington’s troops just as the British were turning their attention towards the Southern colonies.

4. Virginia

Virginia’s involvement in the Revolutionary War isn’t exactly surprising—the colony was the site of many major battles throughout the war, including the Battle of Yorktown, where the British ultimately surrendered. However, Virginia’s early support of Boston and the Northern colonies is often lost in the shuffle. In 1774, while the Intolerable Acts (called the Coercive Acts by the British) kept Boston Harbor closed, Virginia sent supplies and men to the besieged city and pledged to back Massachusetts in its revolutionary effort.

5. New York Harbor

On September 7, 1776, New York Harbor became the site of the world’s first use of a submarine in warfare, as the American submersible Turtle attempted to attach a time bomb to the British flagship Eagle. Unfortunately, due to the submarine pilot’s lack of skill in operating the vessel, which was entirely hand-powered, the bomb failed to attach to the Eagle and exploded nearby as the Turtle made its retreat. No harm came to either ship. However, George Washington would later give the bomb’s inventor, David Bushnell, a commission as an Army engineer, which led to Bushnell perfecting drifting mines that sank a number of British ships.

6. Charleston, South Carolina

Thirteen days before Boston’s famous Tea Party, the people of Charleston had one of their own. On December 3, 1773, a ship carrying East Indian tea docked in Charleston Harbor. The Charlestonians refused the purchase the tea, and insisted it be returned to England. When the ship’s captain refused, the colonists seized the tea and locked it in the Old Exchange Building. Over time, the South Carolinians would seize hundreds of tea chests from the British; these were sold in 1776, with the proceeds going to the Revolutionary cause.

7. Barbados

One of the most devastating naval losses for the Continental forces happened off the east coast of Barbados on March 7, 1778. The frigate USS Randolph, helmed by Captain Nicholas Biddle, was escorting a fleet of American ships to the West Indies when it was attacked by the HMS Yarmouth. A superior ship, the Yarmouth made quick work of sinking the Randolph and killing 301 men on board (all but four of the Randolph’s crew). While the Battle off Barbados would become one of the deadliest battles of the Revolutionary War (and America’s most costly naval defeat until the sinking of the USS Arizona in 1941), Captain Biddle would go down in history as a war hero.

8. Connecticut

While no Revolutionary War battles took place on Connecticut soil, the tiny colony was instrumental in outfitting the Continental troops. George Washington dubbed Connecticut the Provisions State for its generosity to the war effort—while Connecticut was the third-smallest colony, it provided more food and cannons for Washington’s army than any other.

9. Bennington, Vermont

While Vermont declared itself an independent state in 1777, it was not officially one of the 13 original colonies (its land was disputed by New York and New Hampshire, and Vermont would go on to become the 14th state)—but that didn’t prevent it from leaving its mark on the American Revolution. During the summer of 1777, British troops made their way down the Lake Champlain-Hudson River corridor toward Albany, planning to isolate New England from the rest of the colonies. But by August, they were in great need of supplies, so the British General John Burgoyne sent his men into the small town of Burlington, Vermont, to capture provisions from the colonists.

But the Patriots would not give up their goods without a fight—and indeed, won the Battle of Bennington on August 16. While itself a minor victory, the Battle of Bennington weakened General Burgoyne’s troops, thus allowing for an American victory at the Battle of Saratoga (a major turning point in the war, as it convinced France to lend its support to the colonies) just a few months later.

10. Baltimore, Maryland

For its second session (from December 1776 to February 1777), the Second Continental Congress moved from Philadelphia to Baltimore, as the advancing British troops made Philadelphia too dangerous for a Congressional meeting. This means that, during this brief period, Baltimore was considered America’s capital.

11. Annapolis, Maryland

Not to be outdone by its fellow Maryland city, Annapolis became the United States’ first peacetime capital in 1783. The Treaty of Paris, which formally ended the war, was ratified by the Continental Congress—temporarily located in Annapolis—on January 14, 1784.

8 Surprising Uses for Potatoes

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Potatoes are one of the world’s most common, and most beloved, vegetables—and they can be used for much more than just sustenance. In honor of National Potato Day, here are a few other ways to use a potato.

1. WEAR THEM

Potatoes come from a nightshade plant called Solanum tuberosum, which blooms with white, pink, red, blue, or purple flowers. In the late 1700s, in an effort to inspire their starving subjects to plant the newly introduced vegetable—which the Spanish had brought to Europe from the New World—Marie Antoinette wore potato flowers in her hair, and her husband King Louis XVI wore them in his buttonholes. This inspired potato flowers to be a favorite of the French nobility for a time, but the ploy didn't work: The lower classes spurned the upper class's efforts to get them to farm the crop. 

2. MAKE ELECTRICITY

If you’re in a lurch, or perhaps a doomsday prepper, start stocking up on potatoes now. With just a few household items—wires, some copper, and a zinc-coated nail—and one of the tubers, you can power a clock, a light bulb, and many other small electronics.

3. GARDEN IN SPACE

In 1995, the potato became the first vegetable grown on the space shuttle. Raymond Bula of the University of Wisconsin spearheaded a project in which five Norland variety potato leaves were propagated in space. Bula’s research group monitored this project from Wisconsin, staying in constant contact with NASA, who stayed in contact with the crew on the space shuttle. When the shuttle arrived home, everyone was pleased to find that the potato plants not only survived the ordeal, but actually grew potatoes.

4. GROW ROSES

Gardeners can insert rose cuttings into a potato, and then plant the entire potato as if it were a seed or bulb. The nutrient-rich potato helps provide moisture and sustenance to the growing plant, giving the cutting a better chance to survive.

5. MAKE PLASTIC

Bio-plastics, as they’re called, can be made from corn, wheat, and—you guessed it—potatoes. The concentration of starches and cellulose in a potato can be used to make plastic, and the plastic made out of potatoes can be burned and composted with much less impact on the environment.

6. MEASURE TIME

Peru’s Incas used the potato for all sorts of things at the height of their civilization. Known for creative, forward-thinking agricultural practices, the Incas also studied time—and started using the time it takes to cook a potato to measure time.

7. REMOVE RUST

Have a knife with some rust spots? If you insert the knife into the potato and let it sit for awhile, you'll go a long way in removing the rust. Potatoes naturally contain oxalic acid, which is used in many household cleaning products (in much greater quantities, of course). Oxalic acid also dissolves rust. To attack larger rusted surfaces with a potato, cut it in half, sprinkle baking powder on it or dip it in dish soap, and get to scrubbing.

8. MAIL THEM

Thanks to Mail A Spud, for only $9.99 everyone’s dream of mailing a potato to their closest friends and family can be a reality. The site advertises that it can send potatoes anywhere in the U.S., and that your choice of mailed gift will be sure to delight recipients. And, if not delight, at least confuse ... in a good way.

Additional Sources: Potato: A History of the Propitious Esculent

This article originally ran in 2016.

15 Uplifting Facts About the Wright Brothers

Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Before they built the world’s first powered, heavier-than-air, and controllable aircraft, Wilbur and Orville Wright were two ordinary brothers from the Midwest who possessed nothing more than natural talent, ambition, and imagination. In honor of National Aviation Day, here are 15 uplifting facts about the siblings who made human flight possible.

1. A TOY PIQUED THEIR PASSION.

From an early age, Wilbur and Orville Wright were fascinated by flight. They attribute their interest in aviation to a small helicopter toy their father brought back from his travels in France. Fashioned from a stick, two propellers, and rubber bands, the toy was crudely made. Nevertheless, it galvanized their quest to someday make their very own flying machine.

2. THEIR GENIUS WAS GENETIC.

While they were inspired by their father’s toy, the Wright brothers inherited their mechanical savvy from their mother, Susan Koerner Wright. She could reportedly make anything, be it a sled or another toy, by hand.

3. THEY WERE PROUD MIDWESTERNERS.

The Wright brothers spent their formative years in Dayton, Ohio. Later in life, Wilbur said his advice for those seeking success would be to “pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.”

4. THEY NEVER GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL.

While the Wright brothers were undoubtedly bright, neither of them ever earned his high school diploma. Wilbur became reclusive after suffering a bad hockey injury, and Orville dropped out of school.

5. THEY ONCE PUBLISHED A NEWSPAPER.

Before they were inventors, the Wright brothers were newspaper publishers. When he was 15 years old, Orville launched his own print shop from behind his house and he and Wilber began publishing The West Side News, a small-town neighborhood paper. It eventually became profitable, and Orville moved the fledgling publication to a rented space downtown. In due time, Orville and Wilbur ceased producing The West Side News—which they’d renamed The Evening Item—to focus on other projects.

6. THEY MADE A FORAY INTO THE BICYCLE BUSINESS.

One of these projects was a bike store called the Wright Cycle Company, where Wilbur and Orville fixed clients’ bicycles and sold their own designs. The fledgling business grew into a profitable enterprise, which eventually helped the Wright brothers fund their flight designs.

7. THEY WERE AUTODIDACTS.

The Wright brothers’ lifelong interest in flight peaked after they witnessed a successive series of aeronautical milestones: the gliding flights of German aviator Otto Lilienthal, the flying of an unmanned steam-powered fixed-wing model aircraft by Smithsonian Institution Secretary Samuel Langley, and the glider test flights of Chicago engineer Octave Chanute. By 1899, Wilbur sat down and wrote to the Smithsonian, asking them to send him literature on aeronatics. He was convinced, he wrote, “that human flight is possible and practical.” Once he received the books, he and Orville began studying the science of flight.

8. THEY CHOSE TO FLY IN KITTY HAWK BECAUSE IT PROVIDED WIND, SOFT SAND, AND PRIVACY.

The Wright brothers began building prototypes and eventually traveled to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1902 to test a full-size, two-winged glider with a moveable rudder. They chose this location thanks in part to their correspondence with Octave Chanute, who advised them in a letter to select a windy place with soft grounds. It was also private, which allowed them to launch their aircrafts with little public interference.

9. THEY ACHIEVED FOUR SUCCESSFUL FLIGHTS WITH THEIR FIRST AIRPLANE DESIGN.

The Wright brothers started testing various wing designs and spent the next few years perfecting their evolving vision for a heavier-than-air flying machine. In the winter of 1903, they returned to Kitty Hawk with their final model, the 1903 Wright Flyer. On December 17, they finally achieved a milestone: four brief flights, one of which lasted for 59 seconds and reached 852 feet.

10. THE 1903 WRIGHT FLYER NEVER TOOK TO THE SKIES AGAIN…

Before the brothers could embark on their final flight, a heavy wind caused the plane to flip several times. Because of the resulting damage, it never flew again. It eventually found a permanent home in the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum—even though Orville originally refused to donate it to the institution because it claimed that Smithsonian Secretary Samuel P. Langley’s own aircraft experiment was the first machine capable of sustained free flight.

11. …BUT A PIECE OF IT DID GO TO THE MOON.

An astronaut paid homage to the Wright brothers by carrying both a swatch of fabric from the 1903 Flyer’s left wing and a piece of its wooden propeller inside his spacesuit.

12. THE PRESS INITIALLY IGNORED THE KITTY HAWK FLIGHTS.

Despite their monumental achievement, the Dayton Journal didn’t think the Wright brothers’ short flights were important enough to cover. The Virginia Pilot ended up catching wind of the story, however, and they printed an error-ridden account that was picked up by several other papers. Eventually, the Dayton Journal wrote up an official—and accurate—story.

13. THE BROTHERS SHARED A CLOSE BOND...

Although the Wright brothers weren’t twins, they certainly lived like they were. They worked side by side six days a week, and shared the same residence, meals, and bank account. They also enjoyed mutual interests, like music and cooking. Neither brother ever married, either. Orville said it was Wilbur’s job, as the older sibling, to get hitched first. Meanwhile, Wilbur said he “had no time for a wife.” In any case, the two became successful businessmen, scoring aviation contracts both domestically and abroad.

14. …BUT WERE OPPOSITES IN MANY WAYS.

Although they were much alike, each Wright brother was his own person. As the older brother, Wilbur was more serious and taciturn. He possessed a phenomenal memory, and was generally consumed by his thoughts. Meanwhile, Orville was positive, upbeat, and talkative, although very bashful in public. While Wilbur spearheaded the brothers’ business endeavors, they wouldn’t have been possible without Orville’s mechanical—and entrepreneurial—savvy.

15. OHIO AND NORTH CAROLINA FIGHT OVER THEIR LEGACY.

Since the Wright brothers split their experiments between Ohio and North Carolina, both states claim their accomplishments as their own. Ohio calls itself the "Birthplace of Aviation,” although the nickname also stems from the fact that two famed astronauts hail from there as well. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s license plates are emblazoned with the words “First In Flight.”

This article originally ran in 2015.

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