San Francisco And Aug. 2

Yesterday was Tony Bennett’s 84th birthday. In honor of the occasion let’s toast the city where he left his heart—San Francisco, the City by the Bay.

On Aug. 2, 1873, the first San Francisco cable car began operating, on Clay Street between Kearny and Jones. San Fran was the first and the last city in the world to operate cable cars. More than 100 other cities have tried them, but all the others have fallen by the wayside.

Fifty years later to the day, on Aug. 2, 1923, a United States President literally left his heart in San Francisco, when Warren G. Harding died of an embolism in the Palace Hotel. This was six days after he had suffered a heat stroke in Fairbanks, Alaska (it was 94 degrees in Alaska that day).

Later that night (11:43 p.m. in the West, 2:43 a.m. the next day in the East), Calvin Coolidge was sworn in by his father, a notary public, in Plymouth, Vt. When the stock market opened later in the morning, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped just a single point. One point on the death of a President!

Aug. 2 is significant to Californians for at least one other reason. On Aug. 2, 1769, the city of Los Angeles was founded as “Nuestra Senora la Rena de Los Angeles de Porciuncula.” (“Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of … Pork?” I like the shorter version better.)

—Chip Wood

Treasuries, Steinbrenner, Pelosi And Ceding Arizona

*What “flight to safety?” Investors around the globe snatched up every single note the United States Treasury offered in its last auction—at record low interest rates. Thirty-eight billion dollars in two-year notes were auctioned at a yield of 0.665 percent. That’s less than 70 cents for every $100 you loan ‘em, folks. And that’s for an entire year. When inflation is taken into account, those nervous Nellies are earning a negative 0.57 percent a year. Plus, they’re guaranteed that the dollars they do receive in two years will be worth less than they are today. That’s safety?

*George Steinbrenner saves his family a bundle. One of baseball’s most colorful characters passed away two weeks ago. You’ve heard a lot of stories about Yankee owner George Steinbrenner. But did you know that by dying this year—and not in 2009 or 2011—George saved his family about $335 million in death taxes? I suspect he’d enjoy a good chuckle over that.

*Nancy Pelosi gives aid and comfort to our enemies. Pity Colombia. It’s trying to do everything right—fighting its communist terrorists, the FARC, to a standstill; promoting freedom and free enterprise at home; and working hard to be a friend to the United States. So why does the Speaker of the House block approval of a Colombia-U.S. free trade agreement? And even more despicable, why does she welcome FARC’s most notorious ally in Colombia’s Senate to her congressional chambers? My guess is it’s because Madame Speaker likes our enemies better than our friends. What’s yours?

*Obama cedes a chunk of Arizona. This is amazing. While President Obama claims that only the Federal government can be allowed to “solve” the immigration crisis in Arizona, his government has ceded control of more than 3,500 acres of the state to drug smugglers and other criminals. In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has posted signs reading, “Danger—Public Warning. Travel Not Recommended” at the entrances to the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. “Good air” indeed; what we’re getting instead is a lot of bad baloney.

—Chip Wood

Don’t Believe This Liberal Lie

Well, that resolution didn’t last long.

Last week I wrote in this space that it was a waste of time to argue with liberals and I wasn’t going to do it anymore. But three comments from readers have forced me to reevaluate that position.

The first came from a reader who chastised me for giving up on anyone.

“Remember Saul of Tarsus,” he told me. “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”

The Lord sets an awfully high bar here, doesn’t He? I confess; I’m more likely to curse an enemy than pray for him. But it’s good to be reminded of the higher road.

The second constructive criticism came from an old friend who didn’t like my use of the word “liberal” to describe our opponents on the left. “We are the true liberals,” he told me, referring to the traditional meaning of the word. “We shouldn’t let them steal this noble concept from us. Please join me in taking it back.”

That’s easy to say, but not so easy to do. If you want to be clearly understood, it’s probably better to use words as they are understood today, not what they meant a century or two ago. N’est-ce pas? (Yes, I agree; using foreign words or phrases is another phony affectation of pretentious intellectuals. I won’t do it again.)

Where was I? Oh yes, readers who disagree with me. If you scroll down to the end of my columns and read the comments section below, you’ll see some doozies. Don’t do it right away; wait until the middle of the following week, when they’ve had a chance to respond to each other. As you’ll soon see, some of them really enjoy hurling a good insult at an opponent… and are mighty good at it.

It wasn’t an insult that got me riled up this week, however, but a blatant falsehood delivered as though it were a carved-in-stone truth.

“This is why there is a separation of church and state in the constitution,” someone calling himself J. M. proclaimed. “To keep religion out of politics.” Then he added, “Some folks just don’t get it. Next thing you know, the Republicans will bring back the Inquisition.”

I confess that I cleaned up his spelling, punctuation and grammar a bit. I didn’t want you to be distracted by his lack of literacy. Instead, I wanted to focus on the Big Lie of his original comment.

There is absolutely nothing in the United States Constitution that requires—or even justifies—the so-called separation of church and state.

I’ll go even further. Our Founding Fathers never wanted to see any such thing. And they would be appalled to see how the courts in this country have deliberately twisted, distorted and abused the wonderful document they created to strip all vestiges of religious belief from our public life.

Allowing the left to get away with this is one of the greatest tragedies that’s taken place in my lifetime. In case any of you reading this have also swallowed the liberal lie about “separation of church and state,” bear with me for a few moments while we cover some very important (but often suppressed) history.

What The Constitution Actually Says
What is the most important sentence in the U.S. Constitution?

I would submit that it’s the very first one. Do you remember how this marvelous document starts? Our Founding Fathers set the tone for everything they believed, and everything that would follow, in Article I, Section 1, sentence one. It reads, “All legislative powers herein granted are vested in Congress….”

A friend of mine who has lectured widely on the Constitution likes to stop at this point and ask: “Are there any math students present? Okay, maybe you can help me out. If ‘all’ lawmaking power resides in Congress, how much is in the Supreme Court? Right, none! How about the Executive Branch? Right, none again. Thanks for your help.”

There’s a very important principle here—one that has been deliberately obfuscated over the past 50 years. A Supreme Court decision isn’t supposed to be “the law of the land.” The Court has no Constitutional right to make law. All it is supposed to do is to decide “the law of the case.” Its decision should be binding on the plaintiff and the defendant and no one else.

Instead, for most of my lifetime, layer upon layer of additional government has been sanctioned and even initiated by the black-robed justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. The men and women who took an oath swearing to uphold the Constitution—like every member of Congress—regularly and repeatedly violate that pledge. They knowingly and deliberately, with malice aforethought, ignore the very first sentence of the document they promised to uphold.

And let me digress for a moment to note that the very same principle applies to the Executive Branch. What lawmaking powers does the Constitution bestow on the President and all of the cabinets, agencies and commissions he oversees? Again, the answer is none. Yet we get Executive Orders, Presidential decrees and all sorts of new rules and regulations, all having the force of law. This is another serious violation of the Constitution’s first sentence.

With that as background, let’s turn to the First Amendment (the one used to justify all of the arguments for “the separation of church and state”) and see what it actually says. Here is how it begins:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

That seems pretty clear, doesn’t it? “Congress shall make no law,” either promoting a religion or prohibiting one.

According to the Constitution, what are the states allowed to do when it comes to religion (or just about anything else)? The answer is, pretty much whatever they want.

Could a state require that the Ten Commandments be posted in every courthouse? Sure it could.

Could a city or county government install a crèche on its lawn every Christmas? Absolutely.

Could a governor encourage the citizens of his state to call on the Almighty to alleviate drought or do other good works? Without a doubt.

The framers of our Constitution expected the citizens of each state to decide for themselves how state and local affairs would be conducted. Would every state decide the same thing? Absolutely not. Our Founding Fathers expected differences to emerge between states. Some would be minor, some major. If one state passed laws you felt were onerous, you could vote to change them—or move to another state.

The idea that every law and every rule in every state should be exactly the same as the ones in every other state would strike our Founding Fathers as the height of absurdity. They believed that differences were good; that competition would reward good policy and punish bad.

The system worked pretty well for more than 150 years. It could work even better today, thanks to the vastly improved flow of information and transportation. If we choose we can learn a lot about policies and procedures in other states. And if we like what we learn we can get there a lot easier than our forefathers did. Or, like the flood of affluent folks who have been fleeing California, head for a state that doesn’t try to tax you to death.

What will it take to restore Constitutional government to this country? The short answer is, electing members of the House and Senate who will settle for nothing less. That presupposes, of course, getting candidates who actually understand what constitutional government is all about. Does yours?

We can’t expect total victory in one election or, frankly, even one decade. It took a cabal of socialist schemers more than 150 years to bring us to this point. I hope it won’t take that long win back all of our freedoms. But victory won’t come quickly. Or easily.

You’ve heard the expression; the longest journey begins with a single step. Let’s make sure that this November we take one step closer to the sort of system we used to have. The one that made us the envy of the world—when we were the freest, most productive and most prosperous nation on earth. I still believe we can do it.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

—Chip Wood

World War I And The World Stock Exchanges

The outbreak of World War I 96 years ago this month had a devastating effect on the world’s stock markets. Early in the morning of Friday, July 31, 1914, the London Stock Exchange announced that it would suspend trading until further notice—the first time the venerable center had done so in its century-long history. Stock exchanges in Vienna, Rome and Berlin were already closed.

There was panic on U.S. markets, where blue chip stocks had fallen some 20 percent the day before on record volume. Before the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) opened on the morning of July 31, there were so many orders to “sell at any price” that the board’s governors decided not to ring the opening bell.

This marked only the second time in U.S. history that the NYSE failed to open on time. It did not reopen until almost a year later, in April, 1915. U.S. banks decided to remain open and a rush by depositors to exchange currency for gold (something that was allowed back then) wiped out many of them. Between July 27 and Aug. 7, 1914, some $73 million worth of gold was withdrawn from New York City banks alone.

Today, of course, exchanging dollars for gold is a bit more complicated. But it’s still a good idea.

—Chip Wood

A Name, A Penalty, Well-Paid Police And GLD

*What’s that guy’s name again? Here’s another interesting tidbit from the political scene in Nevada. Seems some guy named Rory is running for governor on the Democratic ticket. His campaign site has lots of feel-good information about his wife, his children, where he went to college, what he’s done since. The only thing that isn’t prominently displayed is his last name. Rory, you see, is Rory Reid, son of Nevada’s senior senator, Harry Reid. Guess Rory doesn’t think dad’s coattails will stretch very far this year.

*Putting that Goldman Sachs penalty in perspective. Goldman Sachs has agreed to cough up $550 million to Uncle Sam to settle all charges regarding the way they misled investors about certain derivatives. That might be a fortune to thee and me, but it’s a pittance to the Kings of Wall Street. Consider: It represents just 3.4 percent of Goldman’s employee bonus pool for 2009. That came to a whopping $16.2 billion. Can Goldman afford the fine? Don’t make me laugh.

*Can any city afford this? It’s not just the state of California that’s facing overwhelming budget problems. Many of the municipalities in the Golden State are, too. Here’s one reason why: In the city of Oakland, 1,149 people work for the police department. Of that number, more than half earn more than $100,000 a year. Last year, the top four wage-earners in the department were regular policemen. Each made more than $225,000 for the year—including $100,000 in overtime. Maybe crime doesn’t pay; but fighting it sure can.

*Will it soon be No. 1? Don’t know if you noticed, but last week the SPDR Gold Shares ETF, which trades under the symbol GLD, passed a remarkable figure. Investors have traded more than 50 billion Federal Reserve notes for shares of the fund. With one share of GLD representing one-tenth of an ounce of gold, this means the fund now holds more than 43 million ounces of the Midas metal for its shareholders. Do you have some?

—Chip Wood

Let's Throw This Rascal Out

If there were any liberal Democrats in the crowd that filled Bally’s Convention Center two weeks ago, they kept a very low profile. Because from the opening bell, the 2,000-plus people attending this year’s FreedomFest crowd made it clear what they wanted: less government, less spending, lower taxes, fewer bureaucrats and no deficits.
 
And they also want every incumbent running for office defeated this year… with the possible exception of Ron Paul.

In short, this group wants change. And they were ready to applaud like mad for anyone who promised it. Even the mildest of anti-Obama jokes had them laughing and cheering.

“President Obama says if he weren’t president, he’d be buying stocks,” I reminded them. “To which I say; if you weren’t president, I’d be buying stocks, too, Mr. President.” The crowd roared.

For the seventh consecutive year I served as Master of Ceremonies for “the world’s largest gathering of free minds,” which means I got to introduce our keynote speakers, numerous panelists and the opponents in several heated debates.

Things got off to a lively start the very first morning. I told the audience that, “When I sat on Santa Claus’s lap last December, I told him there were only two things I wanted this year. First, could you please demote Nancy Pelosi? I want a new majority leader in the House of Representatives!” The crowd stomped and cheered.

“For my second gift, Santa, would you please retire Harry Reid from the U.S. Senate?” More loud cheers and applause.

Then I said, “Ladies and gentlemen, permit me to introduce the feisty young grandmother who is going to make my second wish come true. Please join me in welcoming Harry Reid’s opponent in this November’s election for the U.S. Senate in Nevada, Mrs. Sharron Angle.”

I don’t think Sarah Palin would have gotten a bigger welcome had the hall been hosting a Tea Party convention. The crowd was loudly and enthusiastically ready for change in Nevada’s Senate seat. And they made it clear they hoped Sharron Angle would be it.

I’m proud to say that even before she left the stage I made the very first contribution to the “Angle for Senate” campaign that day. But I was far from alone. Her campaign manager told me later that they received more than $60,000 in contributions while she was there.

Frankly, they’re going to need every penny of it—and a whole lot more. Reid has boasted that he already has more than $10 million in his campaign coffers… and he expects to raise at least $15 million more. If there’s one seat the Democrats are determined not to lose this year it is Reid’s in Nevada. (If you’d like to help retire the Silver State’s senior senator, go to www.SharronAngle.com and send her a contribution yourself.)

The very next day, the White House announced that President Obama was flying to Las Vegas for a special campaign appearance on behalf of his beleaguered Senate majority leader. Those of us at FreedomFest probably wouldn’t have known anything about it, except for one thing: Because of security considerations, the Las Vegas airport and all the airspace in a 20-mile radius was closed for most of the afternoon to all traffic except Air Force One.

Obama couldn’t have known (and probably wouldn’t have cared if he did) that as a result, our final speaker of the day was not allowed to land. We had invited Greg Mortenson, author of the runaway best-seller Three Cups of Tea, to tell us about his experiences building schools for impoverished children, mostly young girls, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. His plane circled the area for nearly two hours before it was allowed to land 90 miles away.

We quickly shuffled the schedule so he would be the first speaker the next morning. The hall was packed when he strode to the podium at 8:00 am. And 2,000 people listened with breathless fascination as he showed photographs and told stories of the work he had done, the friends he had made, the lives he had changed, and the threats he had faced.

Let me pause for a moment to insert a promotion here for Greg Mortenson’s talk and books. Three Cups of Tea has been on the best-seller lists for the past three years, so it’s easy to find at any bookstore or Amazon.com. While you’re there, also order his new one, Stones into Schools. You’ll be deeply moved by both. For a DVD of his talk at FreedomFest, as well as CDs or MP3s of the 162 other speakers who appeared this year, go to www.freedomfest.com.

I don’t know how many other people were affected by the closure of McCarran Airport for several hours that day. But as it turned out, we got the last laugh from it. At our closing banquet on Saturday I was able to tell the crowd that yes, they could finally go home: “President Obama has left the city and the airport is open again.” That got some mild applause and laughter.

Then I added, “By the way, the latest polls have just come out. They confirm that President Obama’s appearance here cost Harry Reid 14,500 votes!” Then I concluded, “So please come back and campaign some more, Mr. President. But please wait until we’ve left town.” The crowd hooted and howled. As I said before, this was a group ready for change.

Speaking of change, check out the first item in my Chip Shots column at the bottom of today’s Personal Liberty Alerts™. Another politician in Nevada who is trying to distance himself from Harry Reid seems to be his own son.

By the way, I had an epiphany of sorts during this year’s FreedomFest. I realized that I’ve been wasting a lot of time over the past 50 years trying to educate liberals. It finally dawned on me that is almost always a waste of time.

For all sorts of reasons—liberal guilt, indoctrination in school, a vested interest in government largess, whatever; there are a whole lot of people out there who aren’t going to change their minds, no matter how many facts we put in front of them.

No, let’s forget about persuading the left that we’re right. It isn’t going to happen.

Instead, let’s look for people of principle who have not been politically active before—and let’s them energized and activated to throw the rascals out.

Sound difficult? It’s not. Select a friend or neighbor whom you know is a person of good character. Share your concern about what’s happening to the country you love. Ask if they are also alarmed by runaway spending, exploding deficits, rising taxes, and other aspect of growing government.

If they agree with you—and I’m betting the majority of them will—ask them to work with you to help make a difference. Find people running for office you think you can trust. Give them the support they need to get elected.

And once they win, keep your eye on them. Make sure they vote the way they promised. Support them when they’re right. Argue with them when they’re wrong.

And if you get too little of the former and too much of the latter, go to work to replace them. Remember, every election matters. Victory isn’t going to come from the White House down; it’s going to come from local communities up. That’s how we won our freedom in the first place; it’s how we’re going to restore it now.

Resolve that this year you’re going to help make a difference. Then, find a few people who agree with you. Repeat this often enough, in enough places, and it will happen. Believe it.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

—Chip Wood

Ford's Model A

A revolution in transportation began on July 23, 1903, when Henry Ford sold his first automobile. The two-cylinder Model A, which cost all of $750, was delivered to Dr. Ernst Pfenning of Chicago.

Unlike later versions of his famous assembly-line vehicles, which came in “any color you want, as long as it’s black,” the first Model A was a bright shiny red. The car weighed 1,240 pounds and could reach a top speed of 45 miles per hour. Options included a rear tonneau with two seats and a rear door for $100, a rubber roof for $30, or a leather roof for $50. In his first year of production Ford sold 1,750 versions of the Model A.

The Ford Motor Company had spent virtually all of its original investment funds when Dr. Pfenning picked up his car. The company had only $223.65 left in the bank at the time. But the rest, as they say, is history.

—Chip Wood

Danger Of A Lame Duck Congress, Obamacare And A Best President Poll

*If the right wins big this November. There are some interesting stories floating out of Washington about what could happen after this November’s elections. If the Republicans win control of the House—something many pundits are predicting—expect the Democrats to demand a lame-duck session of Congress, where they will try to get enough defeated congressman to approve several programs that look hopeless today. Would a bunch of losers actually agree to pass Cap-and-Trade, a union “card check,” and other liberal favorites? Only if they want to see a real revolt by voters afterwards.

*ObamaCare’s disastrous results. Last month an 83-page document surfaced in Washington with more bad news about the healthcare legislation Obama rammed through Congress. According to the study, more than half of all employer-provided health insurance plans will be effectively eliminated between now and 2014. The effects among small businesses will be even worse, with estimates that 66 percent or more of America’s small businesses will abandon their healthcare insurance plans. It’s no rightwing think-tank making such dire predictions, by the way. The gloomy predictions come straight from the Obama White House.

*The best president ever? A new poll of 238 “presidential scholars” at U.S. colleges and universities confirms what many of us have suspected for years: The people teaching our sons and daughters (and now our grandsons and granddaughters) are a very liberal bunch. The scholars were asked to rate the nation’s 43 chief executives on 20 attributes, ranging from legislative accomplishments to integrity and imagination. Franklin Delano Roosevelt won the top spot, as he has every year since the poll was first conducted in 1982. Barack Obama shot up to the 15th slot, three ahead of Ronald Reagan. Meanwhile, George Bush came in at No. 42—second only to Warren G. Harding as the very worst president of all time. No bias here, of course.

—Chip Wood

Farewell To The Penny Angel

Last week I used this space to say farewell to the king of pork. If you missed my piece about West Virginia’s rapacious senator, Robert Byrd, and the billions of taxpayer dollars he wrested for his state, click here to read it.

This week we’re going to lower the scale a bit. Well, actually, quite a bit. Instead of billions, I want to talk about the lowliest coin of them all—the penny. And let me start with a question: When you see one lying on the ground, do you pick it up? I certainly hope so. Bear with me as I tell one of my mother’s favorite tales; about the “Penny Angel” who showered so many rich blessings on her.

I don’t agree with much I read in The New York Times and an article about my favorite coin was no exception. The very first sentence had me shaking my head in disagreement. It read, “It is strewn around the sidewalks and gutters of America, amid the bottle caps and cigarette butts, not even worth bending over to fetch.”

Not worth bending over to fetch? I go out of my way to pick one up. And I consider myself lucky every time I find one. How about you?

In case you’re wondering, I’m talking about the lowly penny. In an essay in The New York Times, David Margolick wrote, “It languishes by cash registers in cheap plastic troughs or cardboard trays, yours to take or leave or ignore. Or it rattles around in beggars’ cups, making lots of noise but too puny, even by the handful, to swing a muffin or a hot cup of coffee.”

The main point of Margolick’s essay is that it’s time to do away with the poor, passé penny. The coin costs more to mint than its face value. It is a burden to business and an annoyance to consumers. It is, in short, more trouble than it’s worth.

But is it? My mother, who was a child of the Depression, hoarded pennies all her life. She taught me that there was a Penny Angel who went around scattering the tiny bits of copper for lucky people to discover. She believed that every coin she found was a blessing. And that if you ever ignored or rejected the Penny Angel’s gift, your good luck would soon come to an end.

A foolish fairy tale? Perhaps. But the lessons you learn as a child stay with you all of your life. I still consider myself fortunate whenever I see a penny lying in the street, just waiting for me to pick it up. It happened just a few hours ago and I was delighted to see that the Penny Angel was still leaving pennies for me to find. My wife, who finds my habit more amusing than irritating, has joined in the game. If I happen to overlook a coin in my path, she will point it out—and wait patiently while I pick it up.

How different it is for today’s sons and daughters. Even before they reach their teens, they have come to take for granted that their parents will purchase whatever Xbox, iPod, or other expensive electronic gizmo they want. They spend more on their clothes (or, more accurately, their parents do) than many families spend annually on food. Their parents surfeit them with every imaginable luxury. And the saddest thing of all is they do not look around with wonder and gratitude at the abundance they enjoy.

This is not going to become a jeremiad against the younger generation, bewailing the fact that “You don’t know how good you’ve got it!” It’s not their fault that they were born at a time and in a country with the greatest material prosperity the world has ever known.

And I’m not even going to launch a diatribe against their parents, many of whom are all too eager to shower their offspring with largesse. Even the ones who wonder if they should be stricter are often too cowardly to resist their children’s blandishments.

Instead, I’m just going to issue a small sigh of regret that something as quaint and as simple as picking up a penny—and being grateful for the gift—may soon disappear.

When it does, I’ll be the first to say, “So long, Penny Angel. But thank you for all the times you made me feel like one of the lucky ones, simply by placing a penny in my path.”

More About The Poor Penny
Maybe the Lincoln penny will soon be extinct. I doubt it. But even if it goes the way of the dodo bird or a gold-backed dollar, what a history it had. Here’s how David Margolick described its debut in the article I mentioned above:

“When it first appeared four score and 18 years ago, it was a matter of almost unimaginable curiosity, excitement, and veneration. People—mostly street urchins searching for a quick profit—lined up for blocks to buy them; in New York, mounted policemen were called in to control the roiling mobs. Editorialists praised it as the perfect tribute to a martyr, or denounced it as a trinket unworthy of him. Immigrants had a special reverence for it; to blacks, it was ‘emancipation money.’ But even to whites, there was something sacred about it. A New York man who’d committed suicide a few days after it first appeared clutched one in the palm of his hand, thinking, apparently, that it would bring him good luck in the hereafter.”

President Theodore Roosevelt ordered the U.S. Mint to design and produce the new Lincoln penny. He thought all U.S. coinage could use some sprucing up. Teddy decreed its release date to be Aug. 2, 1909, the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. The Boston Globe was almost giddy with excitement: “The new Lincoln cents, it seems, will be distributed the first week of August. It is so hard to wait.”

Penny fever produced some unusual entrepreneurship. As Margolick reported, people lined up around the block to exchange their old coins for bright new pennies.

“Some people near the front of the lines sold their spots for a dollar. The more impatient and ingenious hired women, who in a still chivalrous era were not made to wait. Many in what the Tribune called ‘the penny-mad crowd’ were poor children…. The resale rate hovered around three new pennies for a nickel, though it shot up whenever supplies ran low. ‘You couldn’t walk half a dozen feet,’ the Sun reported, ‘without having a grimy hand thrust out in front of you with a pile of glittering pennies in the outstretched palm.'”

By the end of 1909 the Mint had produced more than 100 million of the new coins. More than 100 years later, the Lincoln penny is the most popular coin in history. The Mint had produced 444,039,035,418 by the end of last year. (Don’t you love the exactness of the bean counters, oops, I mean the penny counters, at the Mint? No rounding off these numbers.)

With nearly half a trillion pennies in circulation over the years, it’s no wonder my Penny Angel never ran out of treats.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

The Dawn Of The Atomic Age

The atomic age began on July 16, 1945, when scientists near Alamogordo, N.M., detonated the world’s first atomic bomb. One of the most massive (and most secret) programs of World War II had borne deadly fruit.

President Harry S Truman was attending a summit conference in Potsdam, East Germany at the time. He was sent a coded telegram that, when deciphered read: “Baby boy born Sunday. Eyes bright. Can hear him (from 50 miles) and see him (200 miles away).”

A few weeks later Truman made the deadly decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. Japan immediately offered its unconditional surrender, thus ending World War II. The Cold War began soon after, with such absurdities as American schoolchildren being taught to cower under their desks in the event of nuclear war with Russia.

—Chip Wood