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By Lily La B
contributing writer 

Notable events during the dog days of summer

History's Garden


August 5, 2023


People, places and events that make this month memorable

According to the Farmers Almanac, the Dog Days of Summer start on July 3 and go through Aug. 11. Historically these days were the period following the early morning rise of the star Sirius, aka the Dog Star (#2 below), in the constellation Canis Major (see below).

The Romans believed that as Sirius traveled the daytime sky, its light combined with the heat of the sun and that's what caused the extra hot weather in July and August. They called this time dies caniculares meaning dog days.

Over time the term Dog Days of Summer came to be the 20 days before and 20 days after the perfect alignment of Sirius with the sun, which happens on July 23 every year.

Today, the Dog Days are the hottest, most uncomfortable part of summer, aka July and August. They are the perfect time to hibernate somewhere cool with an iced drink in hand. While I was sipping away, I got to wondering what things of historical interest happened during the sultry days of August. Here are some that captured my imagination.

Aug. 9, 1173, construction began on the Tower of Pisa. The town of Pisa got its name in 600 BC from a Greek word meaning marshy land. Given the soft ground, the eight-story tower was doomed from the start. But that didn't stop the Italians. As the first story of the tower was completed, the south side began to sink. The builders tried to fix it by adding an extra inch to the columns and arches on the south side. That worked okay until they got to the fourth story and then they had to add two inches. Over the two centuries that it took to complete the Tower, the builders just kept adding more height on the sinking south side. In 1990, a massive stabilization project began and in May 2008, the Tower was declared stable. It currently lists about 4 degrees off the vertical.

Aug. 3, 1492, Christopher Columbus set sail on his first voyage to India. He ended up in the Caribbean around Cuba. He never did make landfall on the North American continent, but his explorations opened the way for later European colonization.

Aug. 4, 1693, champagne was invented by Benedictine monk Dom Perignon. He also introduced corks (instead of wood), which were fastened to bottles with hemp string soaked in oil. The first vintage of Dom Perignon was in 1921, and it was not released for sale until 1936. You can buy an empty bottle for around $500.

Aug. 7, 1782, President George Washington created the Badge of Military Merit, a heart-shaped purple cloth badge.

The first recipient was Sergeant Elija Churchill who was recognized for his leadership in two commando-style raids during the Revolutionary War under Washington's command. On Feb. 22, 1932, the badge was formally renamed the Purple Heart and was redesigned to be a pinned-on decoration.

Notable recipients include President John Kennedy, actor James Garner ("The Rockford Files" and "Space Cowboys") and First Lieutenant Annie G. Fox. Fox, was the chief nurse in the Army Nurse Corps during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and is the first female recipient of the medal.

Two animals have received the Purple Heart. Sergeant Stubby, a Boston terrier mutt, served in France during World War I. Early in his career, Stubby was injured by mustard gas. After he recovered, he wore a specially designed gas mask to protect him. The experience enabled him to warn his unit of mustard gas attacks.

Sergeant Reckless a Mongolian racehorse served during the Korean War. She hauled the six-foot-long 75mm rifle, carried supplies and ammunition and helped evacuate the wounded. After learning a supply route, she often delivered supplies on her own without a handler.

Aug. 24, National Waffle Day. Hard to imagine but the ancient Greeks started the whole waffle mania with a device consisting of two iron plates with long wooden handles that was held over an open fire. The resulting cake, made of only flour and water, was called an obleios (aka wafer) and was topped with honey and sesame seeds. Communion wafer irons emerged in the 9th century and the plates pressed scenes of Jesus or the Crucifixion onto the wafers. The Dutch are credited with developing the modern waffle grid in the 15th century. And we can thank them for bringing waffles to America where they were first paired with maple syrup. Until the mid-1860s waffles were cooked over an open fire and the trick was to do so without burning yourself or the waffle. On August 24, 1869, Cornelius Swarthout put an end to all that with his patent for a stove top waffle iron.

Aug. 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as part of the March on Washington for jobs and freedom.

King's speech references several iconic historical American documents including the Declaration of Independence. Here's an excerpt from the speech, "...So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."


Badge of Military Merit.

In the wake of his speech, King was named Time Magazine Man of the Year for 1963, and in 1964, he became the youngest man awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Article Sources:,iron%20plates%20with%20wooden%20handles.


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