21 February 1848

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels publish The Communist Manifesto.

On February 21, 1848, The Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx with the assistance of Friedrich Engels, is published in London by a group of German-born revolutionary socialists known as the Communist League. The political pamphlet–arguably the most influential in history–proclaimed that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” and that the inevitable victory of the proletariat, or working class, would put an end to class society forever. Originally published in German as Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei, the work had little immediate impact. Its ideas, however, reverberated with increasing force into the 20th century, and by 1950 nearly half the world’s population lived under Marxist governments.

Karl Marx was born in Trier, Prussia, in 1818–the son of a Jewish lawyer who converted to Lutheranism. He studied law and philosophy at the universities of Berlin and Jena and initially was a follower of G.W.F. Hegel, the 19th-century German philosopher who sought a dialectical and all-embracing system of philosophy. In 1842, Marx became editor of the Rheinische Zeitung, a liberal democratic newspaper in Cologne. The newspaper grew considerably under his guidance, but in 1843 the Prussian authorities shut it down for being too outspoken. That year, Marx moved to Paris to co-edit a new political review.

Paris was at the time a center for socialist thought, and Marx adopted the more extreme form of socialism known as communism, which called for a revolution by the working class that would tear down the capitalist world. In Paris, Marx befriended Friedrich Engels, a fellow Prussian who shared his views and was to become a lifelong collaborator. In 1845, Marx was expelled from France and settled in Brussels, where he renounced his Prussian nationality and was joined by Engels.

During the next two years, Marx and Engels developed their philosophy of communism and became the intellectual leaders of the working-class movement. In 1847, the League of the Just, a secret society made up of revolutionary German workers living in London, asked Marx to join their organization. Marx obliged and with Engels renamed the group the Communist League and planned to unite it with other German worker committees across Europe. The pair were commissioned to draw up a manifesto summarizing the doctrines of the League.

Back in Brussels, Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto in January 1848, using as a model a tract Engels wrote for the League in 1847. In early February, Marx sent the work to London, and the League immediately adopted it as their manifesto. Many of the ideas in The Communist Manifesto were not new, but Marx had achieved a powerful synthesis of disparate ideas through his materialistic conception of history. The Manifesto opens with the dramatic words, “A spectre is haunting Europe–the spectre of communism,” and ends by declaring: “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of the world, unite!”

In The Communist Manifesto, Marx predicted imminent revolution in Europe. The pamphlet had hardly cooled after coming off the presses in London when revolution broke out in France on February 22 over the banning of political meetings held by socialists and other opposition groups. Isolated riots led to popular revolt, and on February 24 King Louis-Philippe was forced to abdicate. The revolution spread like brushfire across continental Europe. Marx was in Paris on the invitation of the provincial government when the Belgian government, fearful that the revolutionary tide would soon engulf Belgium, banished him. Later that year, he went to the Rhineland, where he agitated for armed revolt.

The bourgeoisie of Europe soon crushed the Revolution of 1848, and Marx would have to wait longer for his revolution. He went to London to live and continued to write with Engels as they further organized the international communist movement. In 1864, Marx helped found the International Workingmen’s Association–known as the First International–and in 1867 published the first volume of his monumental Das Kapital–the foundation work of communist theory. By his death in 1884, communism had become a movement to be reckoned with in Europe. Twenty-three years later, in 1917, Vladimir Lenin, a Marxist, led the world’s first successful communist revolution in Russia.

21 February 1885

The Washington Monument is dedicated.

The Washington Monument dedicated on 21 February 1885. On this frigid day in 1885, some 800 people attended a dedication ceremony for the Washington Monument, an obelisk situated roughly due west of the U.S. Capitol and due south of the White House. After construction had been suspended in 1876 due to lack of funds, Congress passed a concurrent resolution, appropriating $2 million to complete the monument to the American Revolutionary War leader and the nation’s first president.

Sen. John Sherman, chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee for the Monument, noted that the edifice was “simple in form, admirable in proportions, composed of enduring marble and granite, resting upon foundations broad and deep.”

Following more speeches on the monument grounds, President Chester A. Arthur said: “I do now … in behalf of the people, receive this monument … and declare it dedicated from this time forth to the immortal name and memory of George Washington.”

After the dedication ceremony, Lt. Gen. Philip Sheridan, a Civil War hero and, at the time, commanding general of the U.S. Army, led a parade past the Executive Mansion and then down Pennsylvania Avenue to the east main entrance of the Capitol, where Arthur reviewed the passing troops. Artillery pieces fired salutes simultaneously from the monument, the U.S. Navy Yard in southwest Washington, and Fort Myer in Northern Virginia.

Afterward, in the House chamber, at a joint session of Congress, the president, his Cabinet, diplomats and others heard Rep. John Davis Long read a speech written a few months earlier by Rep. Robert C. Winthrop, the House speaker when the monument’s cornerstone had been laid 37 years earlier, but who was then too ill to deliver his own speech. Winthrop wrote: “Those of us …who have followed the slow ascent of the stupendous pile, sometimes with hope and sometimes with despair, its successful completion is … an unspeakable relief, as well as a heartfelt delight and joy.”
Fireworks that evening concluded the festivities.

21 February 1918

The last surviving Carolina parakeet dies in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo.

The Carolina Parakeet was the only parrot species native to the eastern United States. It was found from southern New York and Wisconsin to the Gulf of Mexico, and lived in old forests along rivers. It is the only species classified in the genus Conuropsis. It was called head of yellow or pot pot chee by the Seminole and kelinky in Chickasaw.

The last known wild specimen was killed in Okeechobee County, Florida, in 1904, and the last captive bird died at the Cincinnati Zoo on February 21, 1918. This was the male specimen, called “Incas”, who died within a year of his mate, “Lady Jane”. Coincidentally, Incas died in the same aviary cage in which the last Passenger Pigeon, “Martha”, had died nearly four years earlier. It was not until 1939, however, that it was determined that the Carolina Parakeet had become extinct. Some theorists at this time, though, believed a few may have been smuggled out of the country in mid 20th century and may have repopulated elsewhere, although the odds of this are extremely low.

At some date between 1937 and 1955, three parakeets resembling this species were sighted and filmed in the Okefenokee Swamp of Georgia. However, the American Ornithologists’ Union analyzed the film and concluded that they had probably filmed feral parakeets. Additional reports of the bird were made in Okeechobee County, Florida, until the late 1920s, but these are not supported by specimens.

The Carolina Parakeet is believed to have died out because of a number of different threats. To make space for more agricultural land, large areas of forest were cut down, taking away its habitat. The bird’s colorful feathers were in demand as decorations in ladies’ hats. The birds were also kept as pets and could be bred easily in captivity. However, little was done by owners to increase the population of tamed birds. Finally, they were killed in large numbers because farmers considered them a pest, although many farmers valued them for controlling invasive cockleburs. It has also been hypothesized that the introduced honeybee helped contribute to its extinction by taking many of the bird’s nesting sites.