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Milestones: April 3, 2024

April 3, 2024 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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PONY EXPRESS DEBUTS — THE FIRST PONY EXPRESS TEAMS on April 3, 1860, set off simultaneously from St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California, heading toward each other. These horse-and-rider relay teams provided mail service more rapidly than the ships that had needed to circumnavigate North America. The westbound Pony Express rider arrived in Sacramento with his mail packet ten days later, on April 13, beating his eastbound counterpart by two days, and thus setting a standard for quicker mail delivery. The towns between St. Joseph and Sacramento benefited from the Pony Express route, both in terms of mail delivery and economy. However, the Pony Express proved to be short-lived in the long haul and wound up leading to the importance of building a transcontinental railroad.

The legendary frontiersman and later showman William “Buffalo Bill” Cody (1846-1917), reportedly was 14 years old when he joined the Pony Express.


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KIDNAPPER EXECUTED — LINDBERGH BABY KIDNAPPER Bruno Richard Hauptmann was executed by electrocution on April 3, 1936, following his 1935 jury conviction. Just over four years earlier, on March 1, 1932, the infant son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh was kidnapped from the nursery of his family’s home in Hopewell, New Jersey. The Lindberghs received a ransom note, but the amount was increased by $20,000 after the family contacted authorities. An intermediary named John F. Condon delivered the money about a month later, on April 2, 1932, but the child was never returned to his family. Instead, the baby’s badly decomposed body was found in the woods near the home, with an autopsy revealing a skull fracture dating back to around the time of the abduction.

It was an unusual form of currency, a $20 gold certificate that Hauptmann had given to a gas station attendant and that employee’s sharp eye which helped lead to the kidnapper’s arrest. The gas station attendant had written down Hauptmann’s car license number; police later made a match and arrested the alleged kidnapper.


THE MARSHALL PLAN  —  PRESIDENT HARRY S. TRUMAN ON APRIL 3, 1948, SIGNED THE ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE ACT, which authorized the creation of a program that would help the nations of Europe recover and rebuild after World War II. The new law was named for then-U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall who, 10 months earlier during a speech at Harvard, had urged for American assistance to Europe. This Marshall Plan’s goal was to stabilize Europe economically and politically so that European nations would not find communism alluring. The European states were to be given the autonomy of drawing up a program for economic recovery, which the United States would help underwrite. As part of the Marshall Plan, the Economic Cooperation Administration distributed $13 billion in grant and loan aid over three years (1948-51) for agricultural and industrial development. Seventeen nations in western and southern  Europe participated, including most of Scandinavia (but not Finland), Portugal, and both West Germany and Austria.

The Soviet Union declined to attend the meeting; and the Soviet-bloc nations of Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland excluded themselves.


ICONIC ACTOR’S PLANE SHOT DOWN — ACTOR LESLIE HOWARD, WHO WAS AN ICON of Hollywood’s Golden Age, was born on April 3, 1893. Best known for Ashley Wilkes in the 1939 classic film, “Gone With The Wind,” the British actor also played a quintessentially English professor of phonetics in Anthony Asquith’s 1938 film, “Pygmalion” based on playwright George Bernard Shaw’s eponymous work. Howard played ill-mannered and irascible Professor Henry Higgins, who delivered on his bet that he could transform a cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle into a princess (played by Dame Wendy Hiller in her movie debut).

Leslie Howard was en route back from a British government-sponsored tour of Spain, when German raiders shot down his plane, on June 1, 1943.


FIRST BLACK COMMERCE SECRETARY DIES — ANOTHER HORRIFIC PLANE CRASH, this one ruled accidental, killed U.S. Secretary of Commerce Ronald H. Brown on April 3, 1996. He died with 32 other Americans when their Air Force plane crashed into a mountain in Croatia. Brown was that delegation’s leader; they were meeting with business executives to help the former Yugoslavia recover from prolonged war. Brown, who was born in the nation’s capital but raised in Harlem, worked for the National Urban League, an advocacy group for the renewal of inner cities, served on the U.S. Supreme Court bar and as chief counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee, became the first African American to hold the top position in a major political party in the United States when he was elected chairman of the Democratic Party National Committee in 1989. He was a major player in President Bill Clinton’s successful bid for the nation’s highest office.

Upon taking office, Clinton appointed Brown to be the first African American secretary of commerce.

See previous milestones, here.

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