History matters — Jan. 16 to Jan. 31

Presidential term of office

On March 4, 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was sworn into the presidency. Four years later, his inauguration date was shifted to Jan. 20 because of a provision in the 20th “Lame Duck” Amendment that now applied to all future chief executives. It was politically advantageous to shrink the period of inactivity between the defeated candidate and his successor.=

Roosevelt began each of his three successive terms on that date in 1937, 1941 and 1945.

And, in a historically tumultuous 12-year span, he toiled through the domestically debilitating Depression and a World War that sapped almost every country.

Then, on April 12, 1945, FDR suddenly died — three months into his fourth term — just before a U.S.-led coalition vanquished the Nazis and President Truman dropped two bombs on Japan that ended the war.

In 1947, Congress voted to endorse the 22nd Amendment, which curtailed presidential service to two, four-year terms.

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends “Franklin Delano Roosevelt+ by Alan Brinkley.


In the early days of America’s independence, there was significant maneuvering to prohibit drinking. The first law, ratified in Tennessee on January 26, 1838, made it a misdemeanor to sell “spirituous liquors.”

Other states moved along with the momentum and fashioned their own mandates. Soon, any person caught with alcohol was fined, and the proceeds were used to buttress the public schools, according to History.com

In December 1917, Congress voted in favor of the 18th [Prohibition] Amendment, which banned drinking in January of 1919.

By then, any distribution of was considered a crime, and although local and federal law enforcement agencies tried to tamp down the country’s hankering for “hooch,” the opportunities for organized crime to make money from it were too plentiful to fence in.

Prohibition was repealed in 1933.

For more information, The Grateful American Book Prize recommends, “Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition” by Karen Blumenthal.


Major League Baseball is the oldest major professional sports league in the world; established in 1876, it was the domain of the National League for approximately three decades — until 1901 — when the American League was founded — and — officially sanctioned.

According to History.com, “Other leagues, such as the American Association (enacted in 1881), the Union Association (1884) and the Players League (1890), struggled to compete with the NL.”

But it was the National League’s commissioner, Bancroft Johnson, who fought to provide a measure of competitive excitement for the game when he “renamed the Western League, a minor league, the American League in 1899.”

The National League fought for the monopoly it had held for a quarter of a century. As Johnson put it in a 1901 interview with the Chicago Tribune, “The National League is forcing this war on us. All we ask is a chance for good, healthy rivalry and competition, but if the National League insists on fighting, we shall be able to take care of ourselves.”

On Jan. 28, 1901, Johnson had his hoped-for victory when the owners of 20 baseball teams signed a 10-year organization agreement” and formed the American League.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends “Baseball: The Early Years” by Harold Seymour.