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This Day In Founders History – 11 & 12 August

In August of 1779 (exact date unknown), John Adams proposed founding the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the oldest honorary societies in the U.S. John Hancock and James Bowdoin collaborated with Adams and the Academy was established by the Massachusetts legislature the following year. Adams went on to serve as its first president from 1791 to 1814.

August 12, 1776, General George Washington wrote to Major General Charles Lee of the Continental Army’s deteriorated condition due to a smallpox outbreak and problems with desertion. Washington was fearful that the British navy would blockade New York and cut off communication with the other states. Washington’s fear was soon proven true when British General William Howe’s troops landed on Long Island some ten days later.

One notable birthday for August 11, in 1807, that of David R. Atchison, U.S. Senator from Missouri. It is claimed that Atchison served as President of the United States for one day on March 4, 1849, as James Polk’s term ended at noon on March 4, a Sunday, and both Zachary Taylor and his VP Millard Fillmore refused to be sworn into office on a Sunday. Atchison was the President pro tempore of the U.S. Senate and presidential succession law of the time would make him acting VP, if not for his term as Senate President also expiring at noon that day. Even Atchison himself admitted he slept most of that day and didn’t consider himself to have served in any such capacity. Atchison was never sworn in and never truly served as President of the United States, not even for a day, although his grave marker claims otherwise.

Another birthday, on August 12 in 1781, that of architect Robert Mills. Mills designed buildings in several states, including the First Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Georgia, where President Woodrow Wilson’s father would later pastor, a prison in New Jersey, the nation’s first Washington Monument built in Baltimore in 1815, the campus of University of South Carolina, the Department of Treasury and U.S. Patent Office buildings in Washington, D.C., and many more. Mills is perhaps best known for winning the design competition of the Washington Monument in D.C. He was also an early advocate of designing buildings to include fireproof materials, proving his ideas worked when the records of the County Records Office in Charleston, South Carolina were spared when a fire destroyed a good portion of the building, giving it the nickname Fireproof Building.

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