1834 Stephen Austin imprisoned by Mexicans Escalating the tensions that would lead to rebellion and war, the Mexican government imprisons the Texas colonizer Stephen Austin in Mexico City. Stephen Fuller Austin was a reluctant revolutionary. His father, Moses Austin, won permission from the Mexican government in 1821 to settle 300 Anglo-American families in Texas. When Moses died before realizing his plans, Stephen took over and established the fledgling Texas community on the lower reaches of the Colorado and Brazos Rivers. Periodic upheavals in the government of the young Mexican Republic forced Austin to constantly return to Mexico City where he argued for the rights of the American colonists in Texas, representing their interests as a colonial founder. Yet, Austin remained confident that an Anglo-American state could succeed within the boundaries of the Mexican nation. Mexican authorities were less certain. Alarmed by the growing numbers of former Americans migrating to Texas (8,000 in Austin’s colonies alone by 1832) and rumors the U.S. intended to annex the region, the Mexican government began to limit immigration in 1830. Though Austin found loopholes allowing him to circumvent the policy, the Mexican policy angered many Anglo-American colonists who already had a long list of grievances against their distant government. In 1833, a group of colonial leaders met to draft a constitution that would create a new Anglo-dominated Mexican state of Texas by splitting away from the Mexican-dominated Coahuila region it had previously been tied to. The colonists hoped that by decreasing the influence of native Mexicans, whose culture and loyalties were more closely wedded to Mexico City, they could argue more effectively for American-style reforms. Once they had hammered out a new constitution, the colonial leaders directed Austin to travel to Mexico City to present it to the government along with a list of other demands. Austin conceded to the will of the people, but President Santa Ana refused to grant Texas separate status from Coahuila and threw Austin in prison on suspicion of inciting insurrection. When he was finally released eight months later in August 1835, Austin found that the Anglo-American colonists were on the brink of rebellion. They were now demanding a Republic of Texas that would break entirely from the Mexican nation. Reluctantly, Austin abandoned his hope that the Anglo Texans could somehow remain a part of Mexico, and he began to prepare for war. The following year Austin helped lead the Texan rebels to victory over the Mexicans and assisted in the creation of the independent Republic of Texas. Defeated by Sam Houston in a bid for the presidency of the new nation, Austin instead took the position of secretary of state. He died in office later that year. 1938 Franklin Roosevelt founds March of Dimes Franklin Delano Roosevelt, an adult victim of polio, founds the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, which he later renamed the March of Dimes Foundation, on this day in 1938. A predominantly childhood disease in the early 20th century, polio wreaked havoc among American children every summer. The virus, which affects the central nervous system, flourished in contaminated food and water and was easily transmitted. Those who survived the disease usually suffered from debilitating paralysis into their adult lives. In 1921, at the relatively advanced age of 39, Roosevelt contracted polio and lost the use of his legs. With the help of the media, his Secret Service and careful event planning, Roosevelt managed to keep his disease out of the public eye, yet his personal experience inspired in him an empathy with the handicapped and prompted him to the found the March of Dimes. In 1926, Roosevelt started the non-profit Georgia Warm Springs Foundation on the site of the springs he visited to partake of the waters’ therapeutic effects. Twelve years later, he reinvented the charity as the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP). The NFIP was a non-partisan association of health scientists and volunteers that helped fund research for a polio vaccine and assisted victims on the long path through physical rehabilitation. Funded originally through the generosity of wealthy celebrities at yearly President’s Birthday Balls, the foundation could not raise money fast enough to keep pace with polio’s continued toll on America’s children and, during the Depression, the polio epidemic worsened. In 1938, Roosevelt decided to appeal to the general public for help. At one fundraiser, celebrity singer Eddie Cantor jokingly urged the public to send dimes to the president, coining the term March of Dimes. The public took his appeal seriously, flooding the White House with 2,680,000 dimes and thousands of dollars in donations. In subsequent years, the March of Dimes continued to lead lucrative fundraising campaigns that set the model for other health-related foundations. In 1941, the foundation provided funding for the development of an improved iron lung, which helped polio patients to breathe when muscle control of the lungs was lost. The March of Dimes appointed Dr. Jonas Salk to lead research for a polio vaccine in 1949. Roosevelt, who died in 1945, did not live to see Salk develop and test the first successful polio vaccine in 1955. 1959 Alaska admitted into Union On January 3, 1959, President Eisenhower signs a special proclamation admitting the territory of Alaska into the Union as the 49th and largest state. The European discovery of Alaska came in 1741, when a Russian expedition led by Danish navigator Vitus Bering sighted the Alaskan mainland. Russian hunters were soon making incursions into Alaska, and the native Aleut population suffered greatly after being exposed to foreign diseases. In 1784, Grigory Shelikhov established the first permanent Russian colony in Alaska on Kodiak Island. In the early 19th century, Russian settlements spread down the west coast of North America, with the southernmost fort located near Bodega Bay in California. Russian activity in the New World declined in the 1820s, and the British and Americans were granted trading rights in Alaska after a few minor diplomatic conflicts. In the 1860s, a nearly bankrupt Russia decided to offer Alaska for sale to the United States, which earlier had expressed interest in such a purchase. On March 30, 1867, Secretary of State William H. Seward signed a treaty with Russia for the purchase of Alaska for $7.2 million. Despite the bargain price of roughly two cents an acre, the Alaskan purchase was ridiculed in Congress and in the press as “Seward’s folly,” “Seward’s icebox,” and President Andrew Johnson’s “polar bear garden.” Nevertheless, the Senate ratified purchase of the tremendous landmass, one-fifth the size of the rest of the United States. Despite a slow start in settlement by Americans from the continental United States, the discovery of gold in 1898 brought a rapid influx of people to the territory. Alaska, rich in natural resources, has been contributing to American prosperity ever since.