El Tratado de La Mesilla

… was signed in Mexico City on this date in 1853. The treaty settled the dispute over the exact location of the international border west of Texas and gave the U.S. approximately 29,000 square miles of land — in brief, Arizona and New Mexico south of the Gila River — for the price of $10 million. In the U.S. it’s known as the Gadsden Purchase Treaty.


The Mexican Republic agrees to designate the following as her true limits with the United States for the future: retaining the same dividing line between the two Californias as already defined and established, according to the 5th article of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the limits between the two republics shall be as follows: Beginning in the Gulf of Mexico, three leagues from land, opposite the mouth of the Rio Grande, as provided in the 5th article of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo; thence, as defined in the said article, up the middle of that river to the point where the parallel of 31° 47′ north latitude crosses the same; thence due west one hundred miles; thence south to the parallel of 31° 20′ north latitude; thence along the said parallel of 31° 20′ to the 111th meridian of longitude west of Greenwich; thence in a straight line to a point on the Colorado River twenty English miles below the junction of the Gila and Colorado rivers; thence up the middle of the said river Colorado until it intersects the present line between the United States and Mexico.

Read the entire Gadsden Purchase Treaty.

Colonial National Historical Park (Virginia)

… was established as Colonial National Monument on this date in 1930. It became a national historical park in 1936.


On May 13, 1607, Jamestown was established as the first permanent English settlement in North America. Three cultures came together – European, Virginia Indian and African–to create a new society that would eventually seek independence from Great Britain. On October 19, 1781, American and French troops defeated the British at Yorktown in the last major battle of the American Revolutionary War.

Walk in the steps of Captain John Smith and Pocahontas where a successful English colonization of North America began. Despite early struggles to survive, the 1607 settlement evolved into a prosperous colony. As the colony expanded, the Virginia Indians were pushed out of their homeland. In 1619, the arrival of Africans was recorded, marking the origin of slavery in English North America.

Discover what it took for the United States to be independent as you explore the site of the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. Here at Yorktown, in the fall of 1781, General George Washington, with allied American and French forces, besieged General Charles Lord Cornwallis’s British army. On October 19, Cornwallis surrendered, effectively ending the war and ensuring independence.

The Colonial Parkway is a twenty-three mile scenic roadway stretching from the York River at Yorktown to the James River at Jamestown. It connects Virginia’s historic triangle: Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. Several million travelers a year use this route to enjoy the natural and cultural beauty of Virginia.

Colonial National Historical Park

The Penultimate Day of 2015

. . . is the birthday

… of Russ Tamblyn. Riff, “a Jet to his dying day,” is 81.

… of Sandy Koufax. The most dominant pitcher in the game in the early 1960s — the man who threw four no-hitters including a perfect game — is 80.

… of Noel Paul Stookey. Paul of Peter, Paul & Mary is 78.

… of James Burrows. The director of “Taxi,” “Cheers” and “Will and Grace” is 75.

… of Fred Ward. The actor (Gus Grissom in The Right Stuff and Earl Bassett in the greatest movie ever, Tremors) is 73.

… of Monkees Michael Nesmith (73) and Davy Jones, who died in 2012; he would have been 70 today.

… of Patti Smith. Punk rock’s poet laureate is 69.

… of Jeff Lynne. Electric Light Orchestra, Traveling Wilburys, The Move, and The Idle Race — 68 today.

… of Meredith Vieira, 62 today, and Matt Lauer, 58 today.

… of Tracey Ullman. She’s 56.

… of Eldrick Woods. Tiger is 40.

… of LeBron James. He’s 31 today.

The Genius Among Geniuses, Alfred Einstein, was born on December 30, 1880.

And a genius of another kind, Bo Diddley was born on this date in 1928. (He died in 2008.)

Music historian Robert Palmer has described Bo Diddley as “one of the most original and fertile rhythmic intelligences of our time.” He will forever be known as the creator of the “Bo Diddley beat,” one of the cornerstone rhythms of rock and roll. He employed it in his namesake song, “Bo Diddley,” as well as other primal rockers like “Mona.” This distinctive African-based rhythm pattern (which goes bomp bomp bomp bomp-bomp) was picked up from Diddley by other artists and has been a distinctive and recurring element in rock and roll through the decades.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Yay, Mom

“Her father hadn’t wanted her to be a writer; he thought that in order to make it as a successful Latina, she should aim to be a television news weather girl. But her mom encouraged her to read and write, took her to the library, didn’t make her learn how to cook, and didn’t interrupt her studying or reading to make her do chores.”

The Writer’s Almanac in 2009 describing Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street, more than two million copies sold. Cisneros is also the author of Caramelo and is 61 today. She was the only daughter among seven children.


The French colors were lowered and the American flag raised in New Orleans on this date in 1803, signifying the transfer of sovereignty of Louisiana from France to the United States. Arguably the transfer was one of the two or three most defining moments in American history.

As ultimately defined, Louisiana Territory included most of the U.S. west of the Mississippi River, east of the Rocky Mountains, except for Texas and New Mexico; that is, parts or all of Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana.


The Winter Solstice, the moment when the Earth’s axial tilt is fully 23.5º away from the Sun, is tomorrow, Monday, December 21st, at 9:49 PM MST in the northern hemisphere.

It is, of course, the Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, tilted toward the sun.

The Earth’s orbit is elliptical not circular. The earliest sunset (in the northern hemisphere) was around two weeks ago. The latest sunrise is in about two weeks.

But Monday is the shortest time between the two, the least daylight of the year in the northern hemisphere.

Solstice comes from the Latin solstitium, meaning “Sun stands still.” The Sun has been setting farther south each day (to our perspective). Tomorrow it stops — stands still — and begins moving north again until the June Solstice.