This Week In History: Nov. 1-7

This week in history we explore key events in America. This illustration depicts the marriage of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd, as well as John Adams, the first president to move into the White House, and the opening of the World Trade Center. Illustration by Kaitlyn Tran/The Daily Campus

In the spirit of Election Day, we’re going all-American this week and looking at key events from the land of red, white and blue. However, as someone who was thoroughly exhausted by the never-ending election coverage of 2020, we’re keeping things light-hearted this year by recognizing the little moments that continue to impact American culture. For those looking for a deep dive into the history of Election Day, you can check out last year’s special edition, but for now, let’s dive in! 

On Nov. 1, 1800, 221 years ago, John Adams becomes the first U.S. President to move into the White House. 

Originally called the President’s House, the White House in the early 19th century was far from the national landmark it is today. In fact, the entire city of Washington, D.C. was a swamp before any mighty neoclassical buildings could define the landscape on the banks of the Potomac River. Washington was not even a thought when choosing a capital city for the new republic. At first, New York was chosen, then Philadelphia, before  government officials finally agreed upon constructing an entirely new city further south to satisfy the Virginia Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson. 

John Adams, the one-term presidential successor to George Washington, originally lived in Philadelphia, while his wife Abigail and children primarily stayed on their family farm in Quincy, Massachusetts. Builders hoped to have the structure completed by the President’s Nov. 1st arrival. However, work continued well into the Adams family’s visit. When Adams lost reelection to Jefferson in the same year, they packed up their belongings after spending just five months in Washington.  

Though Adams’ loss was a huge blow to the Federalist Party, Abigail couldn’t have been happier to leave D.C. and the South. Though she affectionately called the White House “a great castle,” Abigail left the house a month early because she missed New England, which I do not blame her for one bit. 

On Nov. 4, 1842, 179 years ago, Abraham Lincoln married Mary Todd in Springfield, Illinois. 

Long before he was president, Lincoln was a struggling lawyer who fell in love with the daughter of a wealthy, well-connected Kentucky family. 10 years her senior, Lincoln married Mary Todd despite her family’s objections that he would never amount to anything or make a career for himself in politics. Mary Todd, a staunch abolitionist herself, knew that her gangly yet charismatic Abe would be just what the country needed. 

Though their wedding was a happy affair, their marriage was darkened by several traumatic events that impacted the rest of their lives. Aside from being two people trying to hold together a country at war with itself, they were forced to deal with many family issues along the way. Mary Todd’s family denounced her as a traitor to her Southern roots, as her husband ordered Union troops to fight against her own relatives. Death threats were constantly being directed toward the White House. 

The couple’s 11-year-old son Willie died while Lincoln was in office, and Mary Todd suffered a severe head injury from a carriage accident that left her with daily migraines. Mary Todd sat next to her husband in Ford’s Theater the night of his assassination, and after her son Tad’s death in 1871, she was placed in a mental institution by her son Robert. Mary Todd was eventually released, living in her sister Elizabeth’s home in Springfield until her death, the same house where she wed her husband. 

The Lincolns, despite being one of the most important families in the course of American history, are widely believed to have suffered from severe depression during their lives, particularly while in office. 

The twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Lower Manhattan skyline as they appeared before the September 11, 2001, attacks. Photo courtesy of Encyclopædia Britannica

On Nov. 3, 2014, seven years ago, One World Trade Center officially opened in Lower Manhattan where the Twin Towers and their surrounding complex once stood. 

After Sept.11, 2001, the Financial District of the Big Apple lay in ruins, with New Yorkers unsure of what to do except clean up. A year later, with cleanup and recovery efforts complete, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation created a competition to find a chief architect for the new complex, which would include office space, park space, a museum and a memorial at Ground Zero to remember those lost. 

With so many people affected by the tragedies of Sept. 11 and the subsequent “War on Terror,” there was tremendous pressure to build a suitable replacement for the skyline staple that used sit in its spot. In the end, Daniel Libeskind, a Polish-American architect, was chosen as the master builder, whose design underwent tremendous changes over the course of the planning stage. 

Originally, the tower was supposed to stand asymmetrically and almost resemble the Statue of Liberty, with tons of patriotic references to U.S. history. Instead, a more traditional, symmetrical design was adopted to honor the fallen towers. The cornerstone was laid in 2004, yet construction did not begin until 2006. It was primarily complete in 2012 ,and a year later, the spire was added, bringing the structure to a total height of 1,776 ft. One World Trade Center now stands as not only the tallest building in New York, but also the tallest building in the entire Western Hemisphere. 

That’s all for this week, folks! I will end by wishing a Happy Election Day to all, and to all a good week! 

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