Letters from Readers – June 2011 American History

Defending Davy
I thoroughly enjoyed Stephen Harrigan’s article “The Last Days of David Crockett” (April 2011). The men in the Alamo were so outnumbered that it’s a wonder they were able to withstand the two-week assault. There has never been any doubt in my mind that Crockett was taken prisoner at the Alamo. But then, it must be understood that there is a difference between surrendering and being captured.
Don Powers
Kahuku, Hawaii

Pledging Allegiance
Sarah Barringer Gordon’s article “What We Owe Jehovah’s Witnesses” (April 2011) shows a 1940 photo of students saluting the flag with their hands over their hearts. A second photo, dated 1942, shows their right arms raised, and the caption notes that this gesture was banned because it resembled the Nazi salute. I started school in North Dakota in 1940. We began the pledge with hands over hearts, then at the words “to the flag,” we raised our arms. Soon after Pearl Harbor, in 1941, we were told to keep our hands over our hearts throughout the pledge.
David C. Stolinsky
Los Angeles, Calif.

The editors reply: The raised-arm salute dates back to the original Pledge of Allegiance, written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy. In 1942, seven months after the U.S. entered World War II, Congress for the first time codified the rules for displaying and saluting the flag, specifying that civilians should salute with right hand over heart and uniformed personnel should offer a military salute.

Counting Generals
The letter from Joe Roberts in the April 2011 issue comments that the United States has had “12 presidents who were generals.” I don’t want to quibble, but after George Washington, Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, Ulysses Grant and Dwight Eisenhower, I can’t find the others.
Robert B. Hall
Brookfield, Conn.

The editors reply: Maj. Gen. Zachary Taylor and Brig. Gen. Franklin Pierce served in the Mexican War. Maj. Gen. Rutherford Hayes, Maj. Gen. James Garfield and Brig. Gen. Benjamin Harrison fought in the Civil War. Brig. Gen. Andrew Johnson had a non-combat Civil War role as the military governor of Tennessee, and Brig. Gen. Chester Arthur was quartermaster for all New York state troops.

Wronging Wrights
The February 2011 installment of Gazette refers to Orville and Wilbur Wright as “native sons” of Ohio. Wilbur was born in Indiana in 1867. The Wright family moved to Dayton, Ohio, when he was 2, and Orville was born there in 1871.
Barbara Quigley
via e-mail

Connecting Misfits
While reading “The First Comic Strip Hero” (April 2011), I was struck by how much the Yellow Kid resembles Alfred E. Neuman, the iconic cartoon cover boy of MAD magazine. Both sport gap-tooth smiles and loving-cup ears along with a satirical, thumb-in-your-eye attitude toward “respectable” societal traditions. Have historians established any connection between these two figures?
Joe McElwee
Drexel Hill, Pa.

The editors reply: The MAD man’s exact origins are unclear, but he certainly shares comedic DNA with the Kid.


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