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On This Day: July 8

1850 - James Jesse Strang Crowned King

On this date James Jesse Strang, leader of the estranged Mormon faction, the Strangites, was crowned king; the only man to achieve such a title in America. When founder Joseph Smith was assassinated, Strang forged a letter from Smith dictating he was to be the heir. The Mormon movement split into followers of Strang and followers of Brigham Young. As he gained more followers (but never nearly as many as Brigham Young), Strang became comparable to a Saint, and in 1850 was crowned King James in a ceremony in which he wore a discarded red robe of a Shakespearean actor, and a metal crown studded with a cluster of stars as his followers sang him hosannas. Soon after his crowning, he announced that Mormonism embraced and supported polygamy. (Young's faction was known to have practiced polygamy, but had not at this time announced it publicly.) A number of followers lived in Walworth County, including Strang at a home in Burlington. In 1856 Strang was himself assassinated, leaving five wives. Without Strang's leadership, his movement disintegrated. [Source: Wisconsin Saints and Sinners, by Fred L. Holmes, p. 106-121]

1865 - (Civil War) 31st Wisconsin Infantry musters out

The 31st Wisconsin Infantry mustered out after having moved through Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. It fought in the Atlanta Campaign, on Sherman's March to the Sea, and in the Battle of Bentonville. Companies "A" to "F" had mustered out June 20, 1865. Companies "G" to "K" mustered out July 8, 1865. The regiment lost 112 men during service. Twenty-three enlisted men were killed. Three officers and 86 enlisted men died from disease.

1881 - Ice Cream Sundae Invented

On this date druggist and soda fountain owner Ed Berners of Two Rivers, Wisconsin, was asked by a customer to top a dish of ice cream with chocolate sauce, an ingredient previously used only in ice cream sodas. The new tasty treat became very popular, though it was only served on Sundays. According to H.L. Mencken, the sundae got its official name after a little girl demanded a dish of ice cream 'with that stuff on top' on a different day. Numerous other locations claim to have created the first ice cream sundae, and it is unclear which community deserves the title to having invented this great American treat. [Source: Whats Cooking America]