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This Day In Founding Fathers History – 23 May

In 1788 on this day, South Carolina ratified the U.S. Constitution, becoming the eighth state to join the Union. 1

In 1774, in defiance of British Parliament’s closing of the port of Boston, the citizens of Chestertown, Maryland convened a meeting and constructed a resolution which forbade importing, selling, or consuming tea in Chestertown. Legend has it that the citizens gathered in the town’s center, marched down the street to the Geddes, which was anchored in the Chester River, and proceeded to toss the cargo of tea overboard. The Chestertown Tea Party is reenacted every year at the Chestertown Tea Party Festival. 2

On this day in 1785, Benjamin Franklin announces his invention of bifocal glasses. He wrote a letter to George Whatley describing his “double glasses” as a solution to needing two different pairs of glasses for nearsightedness and farsightedness. He wrote, “I had the glasses cut and half of each kind associated on the same circle…I have only to move my eyes up and down as I want to see far or near, the proper glasses always being ready.” Although Franklin may not have been the first to invent bifocal glasses, he is known today for the achievement, and of course known for wearing them. 3

One notable birthday on this day in 1779, that of Paul Moody. Moody was a textile machine inventor. He worked with Francis Cabot Lowell to develop the first functioning power loom in America, which speedily turned cotton threads into fabric. Moody and Lowell came up with the idea to connect hundreds of power looms together using water-powered line shafts and leather belts. Moody himself devised a leather belt and pulley system, which allowed for “a smoother and more efficient transfer of power with fewer breakdown periods.” The leather belt and drive pulleys became an industry standard throughout the US. 4

1 “Ratification of the Constitution by the State of South Carolina; May 23, 1788,” The Avalon Project, Yale Law School,

2 “About the Festival,” Chestertown Tea Party Festival,”
3 “Bifocal spectacles,” Today In Science,
4 “Paul Moody,” Residents, Whistler House Museum of Art,

South Carolina state flagChestertown Tea PartyBen Franklin bifocalsPaul Moody


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