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On this day in history, Dec. 5, 1848, President Polk ignites California Gold Rush with address to Congress

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President James K. Polk, at the end of a year of fantastical rumors of riches in the Sierra Nevada, ignited the California Gold Rush with his State of the Union address on this day in history, Dec. 5, 1848. 

“The accounts of abundance of gold are of such an extraordinary character as would scarcely command belief were they not corroborated by the authentic reports of officers in the public service,” Polk told both houses of Congress

“The explorations already made warrant the belief that the supply is very large and that gold is found at various places in an extensive district of [the] country.”

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Gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill, between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe in northern California, on Jan. 24, 1848.

The vast expanse of the continent, California’s disputed status during the Mexican-American War, and the lack of direct means of communication left an air of disbelief around incredible tales of wealth in the hills.

James K. Polk (1795-1849), 11th president of the U.S., 1845-49, half-length portrait, oil on canvas painting, George Peter Alexander Healy, 1846.

James K. Polk (1795-1849), 11th president of the U.S., 1845-49, half-length portrait, oil on canvas painting, George Peter Alexander Healy, 1846.
(Circa Images/GHI/Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Enthusiastic corroboration from Washington, D.C., touched off an explosion of investment and human migration that reshaped American history. 

The officer commanding U.S. forces in California counted in July “about 4,000 persons engaged in collecting gold,” the president said in his address. 

The number “so employed,” he surmised, “has since been augmented.”

“Accounts of abundance of gold are of such an extraordinary character as would scarcely command belief.” — President Polk

The “number so employed” exploded in the wake of Polk’s exuberant report.

“This official confirmation of the news triggered a mass exodus to California. The ‘Forty Niners’ were on their way,” the Library of Congress notes. 

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“In the next year, close to 100,000 people went to California from the United States, Europe and every other corner of the globe. Gold-seekers from Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and China continued to sail across the Pacific along well-established trade routes.”

Illustration depicting Sutter's Mill, where New Jersey prospector James Marshall discovered gold in 1848, sparking the California Gold Rush. Painting by Nahl.

Illustration depicting Sutter’s Mill, where New Jersey prospector James Marshall discovered gold in 1848, sparking the California Gold Rush. Painting by Nahl.
(Getty Images)

It was often easier for people from Pacific Rim nations to get to the port of Yerba Buena, now San Francisco, by sea than it was for Americans, who still lived largely on the East Coast, to make the arduous journey by foot across the continent or by sea around landmass barriers. 

“A voyage from the East Coast to California around Cape Horn was 17,000 miles long and could easily take five months,” writes the Library of Congress. 

The non-native population of California grew from about 1,000 to 100,000 in 1849.

“There was a shorter alternative: sailing to Panama, crossing the isthmus by foot or horseback, and sailing to California from Central America’s Pacific Coast.”

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Despite the challenges posed by vast distances, about 40,000 people sailed into Yerba Buena in 1849, more than 100 people per day — “and the tiny town boomed,” the Library of Congress notes. 

The non-native population of California grew from about 1,000 to 100,000 in 1849, while about $2 billion worth of gold was mined from the area by 1852, according to History.com. 

The San Francisco 49ers' name and gold helmets are a tribute to the California Gold Rush of 1849.

The San Francisco 49ers’ name and gold helmets are a tribute to the California Gold Rush of 1849.
(Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The legacy of these precious metal pioneers lives on prominently today in the name and in the sparkling gold helmets of northern California’s National Football League franchise, the San Francisco 49ers.

The Golden Gate, the strait connecting San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean, now spanned by the famous landmark bridge, had actually earned its name two years before the discovery of gold. 

It was dubbed the Golden Gate by explorer and U.S. Army officer John C. Fremont. 

The Gold Rush proved the climax of a dramatic period in California’s political history. 

The California Gold Rush transformed the speed and trajectory of America’s “Manifest Destiny” — a phrase popularized in Polk’s presidency just three years earlier in 1845. 

“Manifest Destiny … is the idea that the United States is destined — by God, its advocates believed — to expand its dominion and spread democracy and capitalism across the entire North American continent,” writes History.com. 

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California’s sudden influx of new residents gave rise to major industrial achievements to connect the two coasts and unite the nation across vast distances unimagined before in human history. 

Among them: completion of the transcontinental telegraph in 1861 and the transcontinental railroad in 1869. 

The Golden Gate Bridge is awash in warm light from the setting sun in San Francisco, California, on Feb. 13, 2015.

The Golden Gate Bridge is awash in warm light from the setting sun in San Francisco, California, on Feb. 13, 2015.
(John Gress/Corbis via Getty Images)

The Gold Rush proved the climax of a dramatic period in California’s political history — a dizzying two-and-a-half-year span in which the vast region went from Mexican territory to the center of global speculative boom to the 31st state in the Union. 

The population boom of 1849 led to immediate calls for American statehood. 

“After heated debate in the U.S. Congress arising out of the slavery issue, California entered the Union [on Sept. 9, 1850] as a free, non-slavery state by the Compromise of 1850,” writes the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

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“The Golden State’s rich history has since been shaped by people of every ethnic background who traveled here seeking economic, social and educational opportunity, and a life of quality and breathtaking beauty.”

Source: https://www.foxnews.com/lifestyle/this-day-history-dec-5-1848-president-polk-ignites-california-gold-rush-congress

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On this day in history, Feb. 2, 1913, Grand Central Terminal opens in NYC, world’s largest train station

A reimagined and masterful Grand Central Terminal brought jaw-dropping opulence to the heart of New York City after 10 years of reconstruction when it opened on this day in history, Feb. 2, 1913. 

Its stately Beaux Art design, soaring celestial ceiling, shopping and dining concourses, scores of rail and subway lines, mysterious “whispering walls” and central location in the heart of America’s biggest city make Grand Central a tourist attraction — as well as a vital transportation hub.

“There are a lot of great train stations in the world. There is nothing, nothing like Grand Central,” Greg Young, co-host and producer of “The Bowery Boys” podcast, a popular chronicle of New York City history, told Fox News Digital. 

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“It took everyone’s breath away when it opened.”

It still does. An estimated 150,000 gawkers walked through Grand Central for its opening in 1913 — a mere fraction of the nearly 400,000 people, about the population of New Orleans, who now use the terminal each day. 

Excavation for Grand Central Terminal, New York City, USA, Detroit Publishing Company, 1908. 

Excavation for Grand Central Terminal, New York City, USA, Detroit Publishing Company, 1908. 
(Photo by: GHI/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Grand Central is, among many other claims to fame befitting its boisterous name, the largest train station in the world by area (49 acres) and by train services (40 platforms, 67 tracks), according to numerous sources. 

The terminal handles 768 commuter train arrivals and departures each day, while subway trains make 2,400 stops at Grand Central each day, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). 

“Grand Central took everyone’s breath away when it opened.” — Greg Young, “The Bowery Boys” podcast

And yet it continues to grow to serve the city, and by proxy serve the nation. 

Grand Central Madison, a massive expansion that was 16 years in the making, opened on January 25. It adds 16 acres and eight lines of the Long Island Railroad to the Grand Central complex, deep underneath the existing network of rail tracks — about 140 feet below street level. 

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The new concourse will handle an additional 296 daily arrivals and departures at full service. 

“The Grand Central Terminal is not only a station, it is a monument, a civic center, or, if one will, a city,” The New York Times declared on Feb. 3, 1913, the day after it opened.

Grand Central Madison opened at Grand Central Terminal in New York City on Jan. 25, 2023, greatly expanding access to Long Island for the world's largest train station. 

Grand Central Madison opened at Grand Central Terminal in New York City on Jan. 25, 2023, greatly expanding access to Long Island for the world’s largest train station. 
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

“Without exception, it is not only the greatest station in the United States, but the greatest station, of any type, in the world.”

The media outlet had dubbed the previous Grand Central “a cruel disgrace” in 1899, as momentum grew to give a city bursting at its seams a new world-class transportation hub.

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The original Grand Central Depot was built in 1871 by railroad titan Cornelius Vanderbilt. It was replaced in 1899 by a much larger but widely panned Grand Central Terminal.

Construction began in 1903 on the current landmark. 

A spectacular new city skyline rose around the new Grand Central after it opened in 1913. 

A spectacular new skyline sprouted up around Grand Central Terminal after it opened in 1913, including the Chrysler Building next door in 1930. It was the tallest building in the world at the time.

A spectacular new skyline sprouted up around Grand Central Terminal after it opened in 1913, including the Chrysler Building next door in 1930. It was the tallest building in the world at the time.
(Kerry J. Byrne/Fox News Digital)

The Chrysler Building was the tallest structure in the world when it opened to the immediate east of Grand Central in 1930.

New skyscraper One Vanderbilt, which opened in 2020, towers over the terminal’s west entrance. 

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At 1,401 feet tall, One Vanderbilt is the fourth tallest building in New York City, soaring 150 feet higher than the world-famous Empire State Building. 

Its four-story observatory, a popular new tourist attraction, is accessible through Grand Central.

The majestic terminal also paved the way, quite literally, for one of America’s most lavish thoroughfares. 

Park Avenue sits above what were once open-air tracks that formed “a disgusting little gash” polluted by steam engines in the middle of Manhattan, said Young of “The Bowery Boys” podcast. 

Grand Central Terminal in midtown Manhattan opened in 1913 just 30 years after railroads pioneered the creation of time zones.

Grand Central Terminal in midtown Manhattan opened in 1913 just 30 years after railroads pioneered the creation of time zones.
(Kerry J. Byrne/Fox News Digital)

The advent of electric trains in the late 1800s made it possible to close the gash and put the entire infrastructure of Grand Central underground. 

Park Avenue and its stately high rises for New York City’s nouveau riche covered up the eyesore. 

The terminal occupies a trophy location on the east side of Midtown Manhattan between 42nd and 45th Streets. Park Avenue is actually elevated between those cross streets to wrap around the east and west sides of the terminal. 

“Jackie Kennedy Onassis led an effort to gain landmark status for the terminal in the 1970s – taking the fight all the way to the Supreme Court.”

Grand Central had fallen into filth and disrepair again in the 1970s when a developer proposed knocking down the main concourse and replacing it with a skyscraper. 

Jackie Kennedy Onassis led an effort to gain landmark status for the terminal – taking the fight all the way to the Supreme Court.

Sunlight in Grand Central, 1937. 

Sunlight in Grand Central, 1937. 
(Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

The high court ruled in favor of New York City in 1978, allowing it to restrict development in the name of historical preservation. 

“Grand Central Terminal stands as a universal symbol between New York City’s past and present,” Onassis is often quoted saying.

It is properly known as Grand Central Terminal — not station, as it is commonly called.

Visitors also marvel at the whispering walls beneath the main concourse where visitors can chat with each quietly over great distances, as sound travels up the vaulted ceiling. 

Commuter train routes to upstate New York, Long Island and Connecticut begin and terminate at Grand Central. None pass through.

Grand Central does serve as a station, however, for five New York City subway lines that pass deep beneath it — making for an extraordinary network of tracks on multiple levels, which only grew more complex with the opening last week of Grand Central Madison.  

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One of those subway lines, the S (shuttle) train, stops only at Times Square about four blocks west; then it makes the return trip two minutes away to Grand Central. The shuttle runs back and forth between the two Midtown hubs 18 hours a day.

Details of the facade of Grand Central Terminal on June 15, 2012, in New York City. 

Details of the facade of Grand Central Terminal on June 15, 2012, in New York City. 
(Victor Fraile/Corbis via Getty Images)

Grand Central’s decorative highlights include its elaborate celestial ceiling of with more than 2,500 stars, with astrological constellations such as Aquarius and Cancer, set in gold against a turquoise backdrop. 

Visitors also marvel at the whispering walls beneath the main concourse where visitors can chat with each quietly over great distances as sound travels up the vaulted ceiling; and at Grand Central’s signature 14-foot central Tiffany clock. 

It was the world’s largest Tiffany clock in 1914 when it was installed.  

“Grand Central Terminal is a story of great engineering, survival and rebirth,” says the Grand Central Terminal website, operated by Metro-North Railroad, which serves New York and Connecticut. 

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Adds “Bowery Boys” co-host Young, “Grand Central symbolized New York City coming out of the Gilded Age as this global supercity of incredible wealth, and the capital city in many ways of the United States.”

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World’s largest, rarest ocean stingrays spotted and tagged in Mozambique

For the first time in scientific history, the wild smalleye stingray has been located and tagged by researchers.

The smalleye species is known for being the world’s largest and rarest marine stingray — and was finally spotted in Mozambique.

National Geographic explorer and ray expert Andrea Marshall set out off the coast of the Bazaruto Archipelago in search of the rare stingray.

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After weeks of looking, Marshall spotted a smalleye in some shallow water, National Geographic (NatGeo) reported.

She was able to dive in after it and touched it with a six-foot-long pole to extract a small skin sample from its underside.

Shown above, a smalleye stingray visits a cleaning station on a coral reef, where fish and other invertebrates clean bigger animals of parasites.

Shown above, a smalleye stingray visits a cleaning station on a coral reef, where fish and other invertebrates clean bigger animals of parasites.
(Andrea Marshall)

The stingray stayed calm, which was good news for Marshall.

Smalleyes have a lethal stinging spine the length of a human forearm.

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One wrong move “would put us in mortal danger,” Marshall told NatGeo.

Marshall is also the founder of the Mozambique-based Marine Megafauna Foundation.

The fish, native to the Pacific Ocean, can grow up to 10 feet long and eight feet wide.

Smalleye stingrays, also known as Megatrygon microps, can measure 10 feet in length and over 8 feet in width, according to NatGeo.

Smalleye stingrays, also known as Megatrygon microps, can measure 10 feet in length and over 8 feet in width, according to NatGeo.
(Ben Scott/National Geographic)

The species earned the name “smalleyes” for their little raisin-sized eyes, said NatGeo.

Since they’re so rarely spotted, smalleyes are likely a critically endangered species, that publication also said.

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Marshall and her colleagues spent the following months diving at dawn for other smalleyes along the Mozambican coast.

The team tagged 11 smalleyes using both acoustic and satellite tags, in order to track long-distance travel and fine-scale movements.

Smalleye stingers can reach the size of a human forearm, said NatGeo.

Smalleye stingers can reach the size of a human forearm, said NatGeo.
(Andrea Marshall)

Although the mission was a success, Marshall shared with NatGeo that she and her team encountered a few close calls.

This includes learning how the massive stingray can raise its stinger over its back and swing it around, much like a scorpion.

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Preliminary data shows that the stingray can dive more than 650 feet deep and swim hundreds of miles in a day, according to Marshall.

Researchers hope that tagging these stingrays will provide an answer to why they travel as far as they do.

Smalleye stingrays may look intimidating, but they're not aggressive and will only sting if provoked, Marshall said, as NatGeo reported.

Smalleye stingrays may look intimidating, but they’re not aggressive and will only sting if provoked, Marshall said, as NatGeo reported.
(Andrea Marshall)

The stingray’s diving depth could explain its extremely small eyes, since vision isn’t as crucial down in the darkness, Marshall said.

The tags reportedly revealed that the stingrays hang out near the reefs at night, which could mean they feed at dawn and dusk.

Many questions remain regarding the behavior of smalleye stingrays; the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the species as “data deficient.”

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Marshall’s goal is to gather enough information to lead to better protections for smalleyes, NatGeo notes.

Anyone wanting more detail can visit nationalgeographic.com.

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