Elvis Presley is drafted On this day in 1957, while spending the Christmas holidays at Graceland, his newly purchased Tennessee mansion, rock-and-roll star Elvis Presley receives his draft notice for the United States Army. With a suggestive style–one writer called him “Elvis the Pelvis”–a hit movie, Love Me Tender, and a string of gold records including “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel,” Presley had become a national icon, and the world’s first bona fide rock-and-roll star, by the end of 1956. As the Beatles’ John Lennon once famously remarked: “Before Elvis, there was nothing.” The following year, at the peak of his career, Presley received his draft notice for a two-year stint in the army. Fans sent tens of thousands of letters to the army asking for him to be spared, but Elvis would have none of it. He received one deferment–during which he finished working on his movie King Creole–before being sworn in as an army private in Memphis on March 24, 1958. After six months of basic training–including an emergency leave to see his beloved mother, Gladys, before she died in August 1958–Presley sailed to Europe on the USS General Randall. For the next 18 months, he served in Company D, 32nd Tank Battalion, 3rd Armor Corps in Friedberg, Germany, where he attained the rank of sergeant. For the rest of his service, he shared an off-base residence with his father, grandmother and some Memphis friends. After working during the day, Presley returned home at night to host frequent parties and impromptu jam sessions. At one of these, an army buddy of Presley’s introduced him to 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu, whom Elvis would marry some years later. Meanwhile, Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, continued to release singles recorded before his departure, keeping the money rolling in and his most famous client fresh in the public’s mind. Widely praised for not seeking to avoid the draft or serve domestically, Presley was seen as a model for all young Americans. After he got his polio shot from an army doctor on national TV, vaccine rates among the American population shot from 2 percent to 85 percent by the time of his discharge on March 2, 1960. 1803 The French surrender Orleans to the U.S. Without a shot fired, the French hand over New Orleans and Lower Louisianato the United States. In April 1803, the United States purchased from France the 828,000 square miles that had formerly been French Louisiana. The area was divided into two territories: the northern half was Louisiana Territory, the largely unsettled (though home to many Indians) frontier section that was later explored by Lewis and Clark; and the southern Orleans Territory, which was populated by Europeans. Unlike the sprawling and largely unexplored northern territory (which eventually encompassed a dozen large states), Orleans Territory was a small, densely populated region that was like a little slice of France in the New World. With borders that roughly corresponded to the modern state of Louisiana, Orleans Territory was home to about 50,000 people, a primarily French population that had been living under the direction of a Spanish administration. These former citizens of France knew almost nothing about American laws and institutions, and the challenging task of bringing them into the American fold fell to the newly appointed governor of the region, twenty-eight-year-old William Claiborne. Historians have found no real evidence that the French of Orleans Territory resented their transfer to American control, though one witness claimed that when the French tri-color was replaced by the Stars and Stripes in New Orleans, the citizens wept. The French did resent that their new governor was appointed rather than elected, and they bridled when the American government tried to make English the official language and discouraged the use of French. It didn’t help matters that young Claiborne knew neither French nor Spanish. Claiborne soon found himself immersed in a complex sea of ethnic tensions and political unrest that he little understood, and in January he wrote to Thomas Jefferson that the population was “uninformed, indolent, luxurious-in a word, ill-fitted to be useful citizens for a Republic.” To his dismay, Claiborne found that most of his time was spent not governing, but dealing with an unrelenting procession of crises like riots, robberies, and runaway slaves. Despite his concerns, Claiborne knew that somehow these people had to be made into American citizens, and over time he gradually made progress in bringing the citizenry into the Union. In December 1804 he was happy to report to Jefferson that “they begin to view their connexion with the United States as permanent and to experience the benefits thereof.” Proof of this came eight years later, when the people of Orleans Territory drafted a constitution and successfully petitioned to become the eighteenth state in the Union. Despite Claiborne’s doubts about whether the French would ever truly fit into their new nation, the approval of that petition meant that the people of Louisiana were officially Americans.