On this date in 1898, the American battleship USS Maine exploded in Havana Harbor, killing 260 Americans and setting off the Spanish-American War two months later.
The decisive, main battle of the three-month long war was the Battle of San Juan Hill, during which the “Rough Riders” stormed the heights, on foot, actually, shouting the battle cry, “Remember the Maine!” Theodore Roosevelt, however, was the lone equestrian astride his steed, its mane flying in the wind. For his bravery the 28th President received the Medal of Honor posthumously in 2001.
Interestingly, today also represents the “birth” of the “Teddy Bear,” named after Roosevelt. Why? Mainly, because a few years later in 1902 when he was hunting in Mississippi, he found an old, injured black bear tied to a tree. Folklore has it that Roosevelt shot the bear to put it out of its misery, while some historians and others say he set it free. Since many of the political cartoons of the day portrayed the animal as a cub, it gave the impression that, underneath his outdoorsy, macho persona, Roosevelt was really a softie; hence, was born the concept of a “Teddy bear.”