1865 KKK founded In Pulaski, Tennessee, a group of Confederate veterans convenes to form a secret society that they christen the “Ku Klux Klan.” The KKK rapidly grew from a secret social fraternity to a paramilitary force bent on reversing the federal government’s progressive Reconstruction Era-activities in the South, especially policies that elevated the rights of the local African American population. The name of the Ku Klux Klan was derived from the Greek word kyklos,meaning “circle,” and the Scottish-Gaelic word “clan,” which was probably chosen for the sake of alliteration. Under a platform of philosophized white racial superiority, the group employed violence as a means of pushing back Reconstruction and its enfranchisement of African Americans. Former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest was the KKK’s first grand wizard; in 1869, he unsuccessfully tried to disband it after he grew critical of the Klan’s excessive violence. Most prominent in counties where the races were relatively balanced, the KKK engaged in terrorist raids against African Americans and white Republicans at night, employing intimidation, destruction of property, assault, and murder to achieve its aims and influence upcoming elections. In a few Southern states, Republicans organized militia units to break up the Klan. In 1871, the Ku Klux Act passed Congress, authorizing President Ulysses S. Grant to use military force to suppress the KKK. The Ku Klux Act resulted in nine South Carolinacounties being placed under martial law and thousands of arrests. In 1882, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Ku Klux Act unconstitutional, but by that time Reconstruction had ended and the KKK had faded away. The 20th century witnessed two revivals of the KKK: one in response to immigration in the 1910s and ’20s, and another in response to the African American civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s. 1923 Coolidge lights first national Christmas tree On this day in 1923, President Calvin Coolidge touches a button and lights up the first national Christmas tree to grace the White House grounds. Not only was this the first White House “community” Christmas tree, but it was the first to be decorated with electric lights–a strand of 2,500 red, white and green bulbs. The balsam fir came from Coolidge’s home state of Vermont and stood 48 feet tall. Several musical groups performed at the tree-lighting ceremony, including the Epiphany Church choir and the U.S. Marine Band. Later that evening, President Coolidge and first lady Grace were treated to carols sung by members of Washington D.C.’s First Congregational Church. According to the White House Historical Association, President Benjamin Harrison was the first president to set up an indoor Christmas tree for his family and visitors to enjoy in 1889. It was decorated with ornaments and candles. In 1929, first lady Lou Henry Hoover oversaw what would become an annual tradition of decorating the indoor White House tree. Since then, each first lady’s duties have included the trimming of the official White House tree. Coolidge’s “inauguration” of the first outdoor national Christmas tree initiated a tradition that has been repeated with every administration. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan began another custom by authorizing the first official White House ornament, copies of which were made available for purchase. 1809 Kit Carson born in Kentucky Christopher Houston “Kit” Carson, one of the most celebrated heroes of the American West, is born in Richmond, Kentucky. Shortly after Kit Carson was born, his family moved west to Howard County, Missouri, an ideal spot for a future frontiersman to learn his trade. By the early 1820s, nearby Franklin, Missouri, had become the starting point for the newly opened Santa Fe Trail. As an apprentice to a Franklin saddle maker, Carson spent three years watching the covered wagons head westward for Santa Fe. Finally, the yearning to follow overwhelmed young Carson, and he ran away from home to join a trading caravan. Intelligent and resourceful, Carson made a new life for himself once he reached Santa Fe. He learned enough Spanish to serve as a translator, and soaked up information about frontier knowledge and skills from the many mountain men who came to town. When Carson was 22 years old, he met the famous Irish mountain man Thomas Fitzpatrick, who offered to take Carson on a trapping expedition in the northern Rockies. Carson jumped at the chance, and soon became a skilled trapper and a cunning tracker. In January 1833, when a band of Crow Indians stole his party’s horses, Carson trailed the Indians for 40 miles and his party was able to recover the stolen steeds. Possessed of an uncanny ability to remember geography and topography, the illiterate Carson gained international fame after he served as a guide for John C. Fremont’s 1842 western mapping expedition along the Oregon Trail. Fremont was so impressed with Carson’s frontier and guiding skills that he rehired him to guide his 1843 exploration of the Great Salt Lake and the Sierra Nevada. When Fremont published his reports on the two expeditions, he wrote glowingly of the young scout, and Carson had his first taste of national fame. After serving with Fremont in the Mexican War, Carson gained even greater renown as an Indian fighter in New Mexico, and the authors of popular dime novels began featuring him in their western tales. Literally a legend in his own time, Carson had the bizarre experience of colliding with his own mythic self. Late in 1849, Carson led the pursuit of a band of Jicarilla Apache who had kidnapped Mrs. J.M. White and her child from an emigrant caravan. Carson and a company of Taos soldiers tracked down and defeated the Apache, but they were too late to save Mrs. White, who was found with an arrow through her heart. Carson discovered a dime novel lying near White’s body-the novel featured Carson as the hero of a story where he single-handedly fought off eight Indians. Although he spent much of his life fighting Indians, Carson apparently had great sympathy and respect for them–in 1867 he became the Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Colorado Territory. Despite his failing health, Carson made a strenuous trip to Washington with delegates from the Ute tribe to argue on the Indians’ behalf in treaty negotiations. Shortly after he returned to his home in Boggsville, Colorado, he died at the age of 58, but his legend continues to grow, thanks to countless novels and movies celebrating his life and adventures.