Today in History: May 8
Victory at Palo Alto
Mathew B. Brady, photographer, 1849.
By Popular Demand: Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies, 1789-Present
On May 8, 1846, General Zachary Taylor defeated a detachment of the Mexican army in a two-day battle at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma. This victory forced Mexican troops across the Rio Grande River to Matamoros, protecting the newly annexed state of Texas from invasion. Five days later, the United States declared war against Mexico. At the direction of President James K. Polk, General Taylor led American forces on to brilliant victories at Monterrey and Buena Vista.
After a childhood on the Kentucky frontier, Taylor spent most of his adult life in the army. Widely admired for his military prowess, he was elected president on the 1848 Whig ticket. Taylor's administration was marred by improprieties on the part of cabinet members and controversies surrounding territory acquired by settlement of the Mexican-American War. He died before the Compromise of 1850 resolved these issues, having served just sixteen months in office.
- To see more pictures of the military hero who became the nation's twelfth president, search on Zachary Taylor in Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies, 1789-Present as well as in "I Do Solemnly Swear…" Presidential Inaugurations.
- Search the Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress for correspondence relating to Zachary Taylor.
- Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music ca. 1820-1860 contains forty items relating to Zachary Taylor from marches celebrating military victories to music (funeral dirges, songs, and marches) composed on the occasion of his death.
- The South Texas Border, 1900-1920: Photographs from the Robert Runyon Collection, a collection of over 8,000 items, is a unique visual resource documenting the Lower Rio Grande Valley during the early 1900s. A special presentation The Mexican Revolution: Conflict in Matamoros revisits Matamoros nearly seventy years after U.S. and Mexican troops skirmished there during the Mexican-American War.
- See the Huexotzinco Codex one of the Top Treasures in the Library of Congress' American Treasures exhibition. This codex is on amatl, a pre-European paper made in Mesoamerica. It was part of the testimony in a legal case made by Cortes and the Huexotzinco people against representatives of Spain's colonial government in Mexico and dates to 1531.
- The Nineteenth Century in Print: Periodicals links to articles on the Mexican War including several from the American Whig Review and specifically The Taylor Anecdote Book.
We Ought To Serve A Little Something.
Any Coca-Cola 'Round Here?
Dr. John S. Pemberton, a pharmacist and inventor of patent medicines, sold the first Coca-Cola on May 8, 1886, at Jacob's Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia. Pemberton's bookkeeper, Frank Robinson, coined the name and it is his handwriting we recognize as the Coca-Cola trademark. Originally marketed as a tonic, the drink contained extracts of coca leaf, which includes cocaine, as well as the caffeine-rich kola nut.
By the late 1890s, Coca-Cola was one of America's most popular fountain drinks. With another Atlanta pharmacist, Asa Griggs Candler, at the helm, The Coca-Cola Company's servings of the beverage increased from one million to one hundred million between 1890 and 1900. Advertising was an important factor in Pemberton and Candler's success, and by the turn of the century, the drink was sold across the United States and Canada. Around the same time, the company began selling syrup to independent bottling companies licensed to sell the drink. Even today, the U.S. soft-drink industry is organized on this principle.
Until the 1960s, both small town and big city dwellers enjoyed carbonated beverages at the local soda fountain or ice cream parlor. Often housed in the drug store, the soda fountain counter served as a meeting place for people of all ages. Often combined with lunch counters, the soda fountain declined in popularity as commercial ice cream, bottled soft drinks, and fast food restaurants came to the fore.
Soda Fountain (detail), circa 1900.
The South Texas Border, 1900-1920: Photographs from the Robert Runyon Collection
Click on the picture for a better view of the Coca-Cola advertising sign on the left.
Store or Cafe with Soft Drink Signs (detail),
Marion Post Wolcott, photographer, Natchez, Mississippi, August 1940.
America from the Great Depression to World War II: Color Photographs from the FSA-OWI, 1939-1945
- View Fifty Years of Coca-Cola Television Advertisements from the Motion Picture Archives at the Library of Congress.
- Reminders to drink Coca-Cola dot the landscape as seen in photos of outdoor advertising found in the collection The Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850-1920.
- Ice cream sodas or floats are one way to enjoy Coca-Cola and another American favorite, ice cream. Read the Today in History feature on the ice cream cone, a treat that vaulted to popularity after being sold at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.
- Use Thomas Jefferson's Recipe for Vanilla Ice Cream available via the exhibit American Treasures of the Library of Congress. Explore additional resources about ice cream compiled by the Library’s Science Reference Services.
- Prefer something a little stronger with your soda? Learn to sing and play Charles E. Pratt's arrangement of the 1871 homage "Soda and B," part of the collection Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, 1870-1885.