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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
The Family Tree - April/May 2005
Tartan Day - The Beginning - April 6, 1320

By Ralph L. Stevenson, Jr., KTJ

   In the past several years a newly recognized cultural day has been making inroads.  This particular day's beginning is not current, as its roots are from an event in Scotland on April 6, 1320.  The event was the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath, a precursor to our Declaration of Independence, and, of course, demanding freedom from England.  (The movie "Braveheart" bases its story around this time).

   Now in modern times, the craving for independence has not stopped.  In July 1999, Scotland after 300 years under British rule finally got back its own Parliament.  But, in this case it was not an overnight happening.  It took much work and decades of political maneuverings.  One point that was to be brought to light was the enormous amount of individuals of Scottish decent that had made positive contributions.  With North American support, Canadian government recognized the Scottish influence in their country in 1991.  In March 1998, the United States Senate with the support of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott passed unanimously Senate Resolution 155 (S.Res.155).   This can be viewed at < >.    

S. Res. 155
Whereas April 6 has a special significance for all Americans, and especially those Americans of Scottish descent, because the Declaration of Arbroath, the Scottish Declaration of Independence, was signed on April 6, 1320 and the American Declaration of Independence was modeled on that inspirational document;
Whereas this resolution honors the major role that Scottish Americans played in the founding of this Nation, such as the fact that almost half of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were of Scottish descent, the Governors in 9 of the original 13 States were of Scottish ancestry, Scottish Americans successfully helped shape this country in its formative years and guide this Nation through its most troubled times;
Whereas this resolution recognizes the monumental achievements and invaluable contributions made by Scottish Americans that have led to America's preeminence in the fields of science, technology, medicine, government, politics, economics, architecture, literature, media, and visual and performing arts;
Whereas this resolution commends the more than 200 organizations throughout the United States that honor Scottish heritage, tradition, and culture, representing the hundreds of thousands of Americans of Scottish descent, residing in every State, who already have made the observance of Tartan Day on April 6 a success;
Whereas these numerous individuals, clans, societies, clubs, and fraternal organizations do not let the great contributions of the Scottish people go unnoticed:
Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the Senate designates
April 6 of each year as "National Tartan Day."  


   Celebrating Tartan Day is not really to over indulge on scotch and watch Sean Connery movies, but to each their own.  The one essential connection that would help in celebrating would be to wear a tartan item of clothing on April 6th, as in wearing green on St. Patrick's Day.   Another would be to look around and view some of the conveniences that surround you.  Outlined below are some of the Scots and Scottish Americans you can credit

Sir James Dewar (1842-1923) born in Kincardine, Scotland; his interest was low-temperature phenomena; first to produce hydrogen in a liquid form; best known for his "Dewar's Flask" or as we know it - the Thermos (so, that explains why many thermoses have a tartan pattern on the outside!!).  He also collaborated with Sir Frederick Abel to invent Cordite, smokeless gunpowder.
John Kenneth Galbraith (1908- ) one of the world's most celebrated economists wrote over four dozen books, the most famous, "The Affluent Society" and "The New Industrial State"; his book, "Scotch" is not about economics, but of his childhood and growing up in a Scottish community Iona Station, Ontario. 

Brig. Gen. "Billy" Mitchell (1879-1939) founder of American military air power; was court-martialed for not compromising with higher staff that the United States should take steps to protect the borders with aircraft not mail runs; Dec. 7, 1941 proved him right; the Mitchell Bomber is named after him;

David Douglas (1898-1934) born in Scone, Scotland; traveled the American Pacific coastline; discovered over 150 varieties of plants and trees; his name is given to the Douglas Fir and the Douglas Squirrel of northern California.

Allan Pinkerton (1819-1884) born in Glasgow, Scotland; established the first US detective agency in 1850; helped establish the federal secret service.

John Paul Jones (1747-1792) Kirkcudbright, Scotland; considered the Father of the American Navy; one of his most famous sea battles was the defeat of the British Man-o-War, Serapis; he is entombed in the US Naval Academy Chapel.

David Dunbar Buick of Arbroath, Scotland; his first invention was to develop the process to enamel cast iron - sinks, bathtubs and such; his business partner bought him out for $100,000.  Buick took his money and started designing and building automobiles which he sold for another hundred thousand dollars to what is now General Motors.

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) of Dunfermine, Scotland; as a youth worked for $1.20 a week; invested in the Pullman Railroad Car; later in the steel business accelerated production with the Bessemer process; in 1901 sold his Carnegie Steel for $250 million; help contributed to building a library in most states in the US and towns in Scotland and much, much more. 

James Douglas Muir "Jay" Leno; Late night TV host (Scottish mom, Italian dad!)

Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) Edinburgh, Scotland; his work with what we know as the telephone, started with him and his father's work with deaf persons; after "Watson, come here, I want you" he later invented the Photophone - transmitting speech with light rays, Audiometer - to measure acuity in hearing, Induction Balance - to locate metal in human bodies, Wax Recording Cylinder - the basis of the modern phonograph; with Glenn Hammond Curtiss, they developed the Aileron and the Tricycle Landing Gear for aircraft.
There are many more. John Ross, Chief of the Cherokees; John Dunlop, inventor, pneumatic tire; Elvis Presley, entertainer; John Muir, nature conservationist; .your grandparents!?

-   Ralph L. Stevenson, Jr., historian, photographer and author, has worked with local and national officials, as well as, Scottish Parliament staff to promote Tartan Day with community and educational venues.  He has designed the State of New Mexico Tartan, produced jazz bagpiper, Rufus Harley's CD, "Brotherly Love" and has re-created four Scottish influenced military uniforms from different eras.

Seeking Tartan Day materials? Visit: Bally Dun Celtic Treasures at 4717-B  Menaul, Albuquerque, NM  87110    1-505-881-2232

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