1855 Gun designer John Browning is born John Moses Browning, sometimes referred to as the “father of modern firearms,” is born in Ogden, Utah. Many of the guns manufactured by companies whose names evoke the history of the American West-Winchester, Colt, Remington, and Savage-were actually based on John Browning’s designs. The son of a talented gunsmith, John Browning began experimenting with his own gun designs as a young man. When he was 24 years old, he received his first patent, for a rifle that Winchester manufactured as its Single Shot Model 1885. Impressed by the young man’s inventiveness, Winchester asked Browning if he could design a lever-action-repeating shotgun. Browning could and did, but his efforts convinced him that a pump-action mechanism would work better, and he patented his first pump model shotgun in 1888. Fundamentally, all of Browning’s manually-operated repeating rifle and shotgun designs were aimed at improving one thing: the speed and reliability with which gun users could fire multiple rounds-whether shooting at game birds or other people. Lever and pump actions allowed the operator to fire a round, operate the lever or pump to quickly eject the spent shell, insert a new cartridge, and then fire again in seconds. By the late 1880s, Browning had perfected the manual repeating weapon; to make guns that fired any faster, he would somehow have to eliminate the need for slow human beings to actually work the mechanisms. But what force could replace that of the operator moving a lever or pump? Browning discovered the answer during a local shooting competition when he noticed that reeds between a man firing and his target were violently blown aside by gases escaping from the gun muzzle. He decided to try using the force of that escaping gas to automatically work the repeating mechanism. Browning began experimenting with his idea in 1889. Three years later, he received a patent for the first crude fully automatic weapon that captured the gases at the muzzle and used them to power a mechanism that automatically reloaded the next bullet. In subsequent years, Browning refined his automatic weapon design. When U.S. soldiers went to Europe during WWI, many of them carried Browning Automatic Rifles, as well as Browning’s deadly machine guns. During a career spanning more than five decades, Browning’s guns went from being the classic weapons of the American West to deadly tools of world war carnage. Amazingly, since Browning’s death in 1926, there have been no further fundamental changes in the modern firearm industry. 1924 Vladimir Ilyich Lenin dies In Moscow on the evening of January 21, 1924, shock and near-hysterical grief greets the news that Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, leader of the radical socialist Bolshevik movement that toppled the czarist regime in 1917 and head of the first government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.), had died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Influenced early on by Karl Marx s seminal text Das Kapital, Lenin was radicalized further by the execution of his older brother, Alexander, for conspiring to kill Czar Alexander III in 1887. The brooding, fiercely intellectual Lenin married the principles of Marxist thought to his own theory of organization and the reality of Russian demographics, envisioning a group of elite professional revolutionaries, or a “vanguard of the proletariat,” who would first lead the agrarian masses of Russia to victory over the tyrannical czarist regime and eventually incite a worldwide revolution. He laid out this theory in his most famous treatise, What Is To Be Done?, in 1902. Lenin s insistence on the necessity of this vanguard led to a split in Russia s Social Democratic Labor Party in 1903 between his supporters?a small majority that was thereafter known as the Bolsheviks?and his opponents, the Mensheviks. After the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Lenin?then living in Switzerland?urged his Bolshevik supporters in Russia to turn the “imperialist” conflict into a civil war that would liberate the working classes from the yoke of the bourgeoisie and monarchy. With the success of the February Revolution and the abdication of Czar Nicholas II in March 1917, Lenin managed, with German help, to travel back to Russia, where he worked with his deputy, LÉon Trotsky, to orchestrate the Bolshevik seizure of power from the unsteady provisional government that November. Lenin declared an immediate armistice with the Central Powers and acted quickly to consolidate the power of the new Soviet state under his newly named Communist Party; to that end, in a brutal civil war, his supporters, the “Reds,” had to combat “White” rebellions that sprung up all over Russia. In his six years in power, Lenin struggled with the difficulty of implementing his utopian vision within the borders of the Soviet state as well as the failure of his predicted international revolution to materialize. Together, Lenin and his circle of advisers, or Politburo?which included Trotsky, his faithful henchman during the civil war, and Joseph Stalin, the general secretary of the Communist Party?worked to ruthlessly and systematically destroy all opposition to Communist policies within the new U.S.S.R., proclaimed in 1922. Instruments in this repression included a newly created secret police, the Cheka, and the first of the gulags, or concentration camps, that Stalin would later put to even more deadly use. Lenin suffered a stroke in May 1922; a second one, more debilitating, came in March of the following year, leaving him mute and effectively ending his political career. At the time of his death, The New York Times reported that “it is the general opinion that Lenin’s death will unify and strengthen the Communist Party as nothing else could do. No one who knows them both doubts that Trotsky and Stalin will bury the hatchet over his grave.” This would not be the case: Stalin worked quickly to control the situation, encouraging the deification of Lenin?who before his death had called for Stalin s dismissal?while simultaneously working to discredit (and eventually destoy) Trotsky and the rest of his rivals in the Politburo. By 1930, Stalin stood alone at the head of the Soviet state, with all the terrifying machinery Lenin s revolution had created at his disposal. 1738 Ethan Allen is born On this day 1738, Ethan Allen, future Revolutionary War hero and key founder of the Republic of Vermont, is born in Litchfield, Connecticut. Allen’s father, Joseph, intended Ethan to attend Yale University, but his death in 1755 precluded that option. Instead, Ethan, the oldest of seven children, took over the family landholdings. Two years later, Ethan made his first visit to the New Hampshire Grants, land that is now within the state of Vermont, as part of the Litchfield County militia during the Seven Years’ War. Having acquired land in the area, in 1770 Ethan Allen became the colonel-commandant of the Green Mountain Boys, a militia founded in what is now Bennington, Vermont, to defend the New Hampshire Grants. In an inter-colonial fracas, both New Englanders, like Allen, and colonial New Yorkers claimed land in the Green Mountains. Although Allen’s vigilantes took no lives, they were willing to use lesser forms of physical intimidation to scare New Yorkers into leaving the area. Allen and his boys proposed political independence for their district between the Connecticut River and Lake Champlain before the American Revolutioncaused their attention to shift towards independence from Britain. In 1775, Allen and the Green Mountain Boys captured Fort Ticonderoga from the British in a joint effort with Colonel Benedict Arnold, who had been commissioned by Massachusetts and Connecticut to stage an attack to prevent British forces from marching on Boston. The same force took control of Crown Point, New York, the following day without facing any opposition. The two easy victories garnered for the Patriots much-needed cannon that they then used to drive the British from Boston. Later in the year, the British captured Allen during the botched Patriot attempt to seize Quebec. In 1777, Vermonters formally declared their independence from Britain and their fellow colonies when they created the Republic of Vermont. After the war concluded, the independent Vermont could not join the new republic as a state, because New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut all claimed the territory as their own. In response, frustrated Vermonters, including Allen, went so far as to negotiate with the Canadian governor, Frederick Haldimand, about possibly rejoining the British empire. Ethan Allen died on his farm along the Winooski River in the still independent Republic of Vermont on February 12, 1789. Two years later, Vermont finally managed to join the new republic as its 14th state.