Today in History

Today in History: December 10

Walter Johnson Dies

Walter Johnson
Walter Johnson, 1909-11.
Baseball Cards, 1887-1914

He's got a gun concealed about his person. You can't tell me he throws them balls with his arm.

Ring Lardner on Walter Johnson

On December 10, 1946, baseball great Walter Johnson died at the age of fifty-nine. Nicknamed "The Big Train," Johnson pitched his way to fame during twenty-one seasons with the Washington Senators. His fastball is considered to be among the best in baseball history.

Johnson joined the Senators in 1907. After a tentative first season, the former high school star found his ground eventually scoring more shutout victories (110) than any other major league pitcher. Johnson's 1913 record for pitching fifty-six consecutive scoreless innings stood for over fifty years until Don Drysdale bested it in 1968. His strikeout record (3,508) held until 1983. In all-time wins, Johnson is second only to Cy Young.

Honored in 1913 and in 1924 as the American League's Most Valuable Player, Johnson retired from play after the 1927 season after breaking his leg--being struck by a line drive during spring training. Two years later, he took over as manager of the Senators, a position that he held until 1932.

In 1936, Johnson was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame (external link), along with Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner. These men were the "Five Immortals"--the first players chosen for this honor.

Coolidge Presents Walter Johnson with 1924 American League Diploma
Coolidge Presents Walter Johnson with 1924 American League Diploma, 6/18/25,
Prints & Photographs Online Catalog

The Library of Congress is rich in resources on sports and recreation.

Wyoming Day

Three suffragists at a voting box
Three Suffragists Casting Votes in New York City (?),
ca. 1917.
By Popular Demand: "Votes for Women" Suffrage Pictures, 1850-1920

On December 10, 1869, John Campbell, governor of the Wyoming Territory, approved the first law in U.S. history explicitly granting women the right to vote. Commemorated in later years as Wyoming Day, the event was one of many firsts for women achieved in the Equality State.

On November 5, 1889, Wyoming voters approved the first constitution in the world granting full voting rights to women. Wyoming voters again made history in 1924 when they elected Nellie Tayloe Ross the first woman governor in the United States.

The events leading to the introduction and passage of the 1869 suffrage law remain unclear. One story, long embedded in the history of suffrage in Wyoming, credits Esther Hobart Morris who had arrived in South Pass, Wyoming, shortly before the 1869 elections. The story alleges that Mrs. Morris decided to have a tea party in order to present her support of woman suffrage to candidates for the legislature. Although many historians have not found contemporary records to document this event, the story is recounted in many volumes including Carrie Chapman Catt’s Women Suffrage and Politics; the inner story of the suffrage movement:

At this point, twenty of the most influential men in the community, including all the candidates of both parties, were invited to dinner at the 'shack of Mrs. Esther Morris'…To her guests she now presented the woman's case with such clarity and persuasion that each candidate gave her his solemn pledge that if elected he would introduce and support a woman suffrage bill.

Woman Suffrage and Politics, the Inner Story of the Movement
Carrie Lane Chapman Catt and Nettie Rogers Schuler, 75, 1923.
Votes for Women: Selections from the National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection, 1848-1921

One indisputable fact is Esther Hobart Morris’ appointment as the first woman to serve as a justice of the peace. She served for eight one-half months and heard 27 cases.

 Democrat William H. Bright, who supposedly had been present as a dinner guest at Morris' home,  won a seat in the legislature and introduced a bill granting women the right to vote. Although the legislators are said to have treated the legislation as a joke, they approved it nonetheless. To their surprise, Governor Campbell signed it into law. The summoning, three months later, of the first women jurors to duty in Laramie, attracted international attention.

Panoramic view of the Teton Range
Teton Range, Wyo., 1902.
Taking the Long View:Panoramic Photographs, 1851-1991