Around the World: Honor an American hero on Independence Day!
July 4 is the perfect date to honor and celebrate some of the Americans heroes who played a historic role in making our nation great, and the best way to pay homage to them is to learn more about their contributions by visiting the places where they lived and worked.
The trip need not be extensive or expensive — the homes of American heroes are scattered across the nation. So, just confer with family and/or friends and name your favorite American heroes – those you most admire, and whose names and deeds peak your curiosity. Then do a bit of research to find out where they lived and whether their homes and/or workplaces are open to visitors.
Think of civilians – women and men -- who had workaday jobs that, perhaps only because of circumstances, put them in the position to step up and make a difference for the betterment of the lives of their fellow citizens and, in doing so, changed the course of American history. Statesmen, for sure – but don’t forget the poets and teachers and scientists and preachers and people who stepped up fromall walks of life to make the nation great. When you begin your research into their lives and careers, you’ll most often find that their personalities and life stories are fascinating.
Here, listed in alphabetical order by the state in which you’ll find them, are ten American heroes whose homes and workplaces have been preserved and are open to the public. Selected because their profiles and achievements are so divergent and because they lived in different eras and in separate corners of America, they all will remind us of America’s core values – and that’s what the celebration of Independence Day is all about. Here’s they are:
GEORGIA: Martin Luther King, Jr. is memorialized at Atlanta's Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, which includes the great civil libertarian's birthplace at 501 Auburn Ave. and Ebenezer Baptist Church, where both he and his father preached. Dr. King's minister's robe, Bible and Nobel Peace Prize are displayed at Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, and Dr. King is buried in a crypt outside the center. More info: Atlanta Visitor and Convention Bureau, (404) 521-6600, www.atlanta.net.
ILLINOIS: Abraham Lincoln's Springfield, Ill. home is now a National Historic Site displaying Lincoln artifacts. Nearby are Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices, Old State Capital, where Lincoln's body lay in state, and Oak Ridge Cemetery, where the "Great Emancipator" was buried. A signed copy of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation is exhibited at Illinois State Historical Library. More info: Illinois Tourism, (800) 226-6632, www.enjoyillinois.com.
KANSAS: Wyatt Earp brought law and order to a town referred to as ‘Hell on the Plains’ during the 1870s. That town, aka Dodge City, Kansas, honors its hero and his era at Famous Gunfighters Wax Museum, Boot Hill Museum, Long Branch Saloon, Boot Hill Cemetery and nearby Fort Dodge, where Cody, George Custer, "Wild Bill" Hickok and Phil Sheridan bunked. More info: Dodge City Tourism, (800) 653-9378, www.visitdodgecity.org.
MARYLAND: Clara Barton, America's "battlefield angel," nursed wounded Civil War soldiers regardless of whether they wore blue or gray. She's memorialized at Clara Barton National Historic Site in Glen Echo, Md., near Washington, D.C. What is now a fine museum with historically restored offices and meaningful memorabilia (including Barton's own small, backless chair) was originally a supplies depot for the Red Cross, the American branch of which was founded by Barton. More info: Maryland Office of Tourism, (800) 543-1036, www.mdisfun.org.
MASSACHUSETTS: Herman Melville wrote "Moby Dick" while gazing out of the window of his home, Arrowhead, at scenic ‘humpbacked’ Mount Greylock, near Pittsfield, Mass. Arrowhead's kitchen chimney, which "ate cords of wood," is the subject of Melville's story "I and My Chimney." Melville is recognized worldwide as one of America’s greatest authors. More info: Berkshire Visitors Bureau, (413) 499-1600, www.berkshires.org.
NEVADA: Mark Twain Museum of Memories in Virginia City, Nev., displays the famous author's likeness and much Twain memorabilia. From 1862 to 1864, the famous author and social commentator wrote for Territorial Enterprise, a local newspaper. At the lavishly appointed Piper's Opera House, now fully restored, Twain lectured on subjects sensible and nonsensical. More info: Nevada Tourism, (800) 237-0774, www.travelnevada.com.
NORTH DAKOTA: Sacagawea, the Shoshone woman who guided and translated for Lewis and Clark, is honored with a statue at Bismarck, N.D. In 1805, she joined the famous explorers near what is now Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, where Shoshone and other tribal lifestyles are demonstrated. Nearby, Washburn is a reconstruction of Fort Mandan, where Lewis and Clark wintered in 1804 to 1805. More info: North Dakota Tourism, (800) 435-5663, www.ndtourism.com.
OKLAHOMA: Will Rogers was born in a log cabin in Oologah, Okla., a Tulsa suburb, in 1879. In nearby Claremore, Will Rogers Memorial displays the beloved entertainer and cowboy philosopher's manuscripts, saddles and other artifacts. Rogers' grave is in Oologah. More info: Oklahoma Travel Information Center, (800) 652-6552, www.travelok.com.
PENNSYLVANIA: Benjamin Franklin, the great statesman and inventor, founded the Philadelphia-based American Philosophical Society, which now displays his will and other historical documents. In Independence Hall – a natural draw in Independence Day -- Franklin and other Founding Fathers secretly wrote the U.S. Constitution in 1787. Franklin and his wife are buried in Christ Church Burial Ground. More info: Philadelphia Visitors Bureau, (215) 636-3300, www.discoverphl.com.
WYOMING: "Buffalo Bill" Cody, who rode the Pony Express to fame and brought fame to the American West with his Wild West Show, is celebrated at Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo. Buffalo Bill's six-shooters are displayed. The Paul Stock Center is a replica of Cody's ranch, the Irma Hotel was named for his daughter and his statue stands proud on Sheridan Avenue. More info: Wyoming Tourism, (800) 225-5996, www.wyomingtourism.org.
These are but a few. If your circumstances prevent you from traveling afar on July 4, you choose a hero whose home base is fairly near wherever you happen to be for the holiday. Call the local tourist board and inquire about the region’s most famous residents. There’s bound to be a hero among them.