Daily Almanac for Thursday, July 21, 2022

On this date in 1873, notorious outlaw Jesse James held up the Rock Island Express and escaped with $3,000. It was his first train robbery. This is Jesse James portrait from 1882. By Photographer unknown. Public Domain, https commons.wikimedia.org


Jesse Woodson James (September 5, 1847 – April 3, 1882) was an American outlaw, bank and train robberguerrilla, and leader of the James–Younger Gang. Raised in the “Little Dixie” area of western Missouri, James and his family maintained strong Southern sympathies. He and his brother Frank James joined pro-Confederate guerrillas known as “bushwhackers” operating in Missouri and Kansas during the American Civil War. As followers of William Quantrill and “Bloody Bill” Anderson, they were accused of committing atrocities against Union soldiers and civilian abolitionists, including the Centralia Massacre in 1864.

After the war, as members of various gangs of outlaws, Jesse and Frank robbed banks, stagecoaches, and trains across the Midwest, gaining national fame and often popular sympathy despite the brutality of their crimes. The James brothers were most active as members of their own gang from about 1866 until 1876, when as a result of their attempted robbery of a bank in Northfield, Minnesota, several members of the gang were captured or killed. They continued in crime for several years afterward, recruiting new members, but came under increasing pressure from law enforcement seeking to bring them to justice. On April 3, 1882, Jesse James was shot and killed by Robert Ford, a new recruit to the gang who hoped to collect a reward on James’s head and a promised amnesty for his previous crimes. Already a celebrity in life, James became a legendary figure of the Wild West after his death.

Despite popular portrayals of James as an embodiment of Robin Hood, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, this is a case of romantic revisionism since there is absolutely no evidence that he or his gang shared any loot from their robberies with anyone outside their network. Scholars and historians have characterized James as one of many criminals inspired by the regional insurgencies of ex-Confederates following the Civil War, rather than as a manifestation of alleged economic justice or of frontier lawlessness. James continues to be one of the most famous figures from the era, and his life has been dramatized and memorialized numerous times.


Question of the Day

Have you heard of anyone suing someone else because lightning struck his barn?

Strangely, we have. During a long drought in the mid-1880s, a minister in New York State called a prayer meeting so that all the residents could pray for rain. One farmer, Phineas Dodd, apparently thought prayer was unnecessary, so he did not show up for the meeting. Three hours after the meeting ended, thunderstorms rumbled through the area, bringing the much-needed rain. The thunderstorms also brought lightning, which struck Dodd’s barn and burned it to the ground. Dodd sued the minister, Duncan McLeod, whose lawyer pointed out that the minister and the people at the prayer meeting had prayed for rain, not a thunderstorm. Therefore, McLeod could not be held accountable for the lightning strike. Dodd’s case was thrown out of court.

Advice of the Day

Use lavender, fennel, or chamomile soaks for tired, swollen feet.

Home Hint of the Day

To clean baskets and prevent drying, remove all dust with a soft brush, then apply a mixture of equal parts boiled linseed oil and turpentine. Rub well into the reeds and remove any excess with a dry cloth.

Word of the Day


Pieces of old cable or old cordage, used for making gaskets, mats, swabs, etc., and when picked to pieces, forming oakum for filling the seams of ships.

Puzzle of the Day

(Blank) succeeds like (Blank).(What’s the saying? Fill in the blanks!)

1) Nothing 2) success


  • Robert Burns (poet) – 1796
  • Alan Shepard, Jr. (astronaut) – 1998
  • Robert Young (actor, television’s iconic dad of Father Knows Best) – 1998
  • Jerry Goldsmith (composer who created the memorable music for scores of classic movies and television shows ranging from Star Trek and Planet of the Apes to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Dr. Kildare) – 2004


  • George Frederick Dick (American pathologist) – 1881
  • Hart Crane (poet) – 1899
  • Ernest Hemingway (author) – 1899
  • Isaac Stern (violinist) – 1920
  • Don Knotts (actor) – 1924
  • Robin Williams (actor) – 1952
  • Brandi Chastain (soccer player) – 1968
  • Josh Hartnett (actor) – 1978
  • David Carr (football player) – 1979


  • Battle of Falkirk: England’s Edward Longshank defeated William Wallace’s Scottish rebels– 1298
  • Canada’s first public railway (Champlain and St. Lawrence) opened– 1836
  • The first major military engagement in the Civil War took place at Bull Run Creek, Virginia– 1861
  • Jesse James held up the Rock Island Express and escaped with $3,000. It was his first train robbery– 1873
  • John T. Scopes found guilty of teaching evolution in class and fined $100– 1925
  • The world’s first nuclear-powered merchant vessel, the Savannah, launched– 1959
  • Captain Gus Grissom, piloting the Mercury 4 capsule Liberty Bell 7, became the second American to go into space (sub-orbital flight)– 1961
  • In Jackson, Michigan, a factory robot crushed a worker against a safety bar in the first known robot-related death in the U.S.– 1984
  • Discovery of the subatomic particle tau-neutrino announced– 2000


  • The worst flooding in 20 years hit Mercer County, New Jersey, in 1975, when six inches of rain fell in ten hours. Railway service between New York City and Washington, D.C., was cut off for two days, and about 1,000 people were left homeless from the floods.– 1975
  • World-record cold temperature, -128.6 degrees F, recorded at Vostok Station, Antarctica (a new world record of -136 degrees F was set in 2010)– 1983
  • Macon, Georgia, had its 10th day above 100 degrees F– 1986
  • Columbia, South Carolina, had its 15th day above 100 degrees F– 1986
  • 301-foot-tall, 103-year-old Kinzua Viaduct (steel railroad bridge), McKean Co., Pennsylvania, destroyed by F1 tornado. When the structure was built in 1882, it was the highest railroad bridge in the world. It spanned 2,053 feet and weighed 3,105,000 pounds.– 2003

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