This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“While I take inspiration from the past, like most Americans, I live for the future.”
– Ronald Reagan
Week of November 28-December 4, 2016
1895 – America’s first auto race is organized by the “Chicago Times-Herald” Chicago to Evanston, Illinois, and back. Six cars travel a distance 55 miles, with the winner averaging 7 MPH.
1907 – Scrap-metal dealer Louis B. Mayer of Haverhill, Massachusetts, opens his first movie theater, formerly a burlesque theater called the “Garlic Box.” In 1918 the Russian-born Mayer moves to Los Angeles to form the Louis B. Mayer Pictures Company. He later merges his company to form Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).
1919 – U.S.-born Lady Nancy Astor is elected and serves as the first female member of British Parliament. Astor sits in the House of Commons until her retirement in 1945.
1925 – The Grand Ole Opry premieres as WSM Barn Dance on WSM radio in Nashville, Tennessee. The Ryman Auditorium is the venue for the Opry until 1974. Since 1974, the show has been broadcast from the Grand Ole Opry House east of downtown Nashville.
1929 – Ernie Nevers of the St. Louis Cardinals becomes the first professional football player to score six touchdowns in a single game.
1948 – “Hopalong Cassidy” premieres on TV. The new TV series airs from 1952-1954. William Boyd stars as “Hopalong Cassidy” in over 50 western movies before appearing in the TV show. Boyd died in 1972 at the age of 77. Watch an episode:
1961 – Ernest Davis is first black football player to win the Heisman Trophy. Davis is diagnosed with leukemia shortly after winning the award and died in 1963 at age 23. The trophy is named for John Heisman, the late director of the Downtown Athletic Club. Watch a documentary about sports and Ernie Davis:
1963 – President Johnson announces that Cape Canaveral would be renamed Cape Kennedy in honor of his assassinated predecessor. The name was changed back to Cape Canaveral in 1973 by a vote of residents.
1975 – “As the World Turns” and “The Edge of Night,” the final two American soap operas that resisted going to pre-taped broadcasts, air their last live episodes.
1981 – Bear Bryant wins his 315th game to become college football’s winningest coach.
1984 – William Penn and his wife Hannah Callowhill Penn are made Honorary Citizens of the United States over 250 years after their deaths.
1994 – Convicted serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer is clubbed to death by an inmate in the Columbia Correctional Institution gymnasium in Portage, Wisconsin.
1995 – Congress passes the National Highway Designation Act, which officially removes all federal speed limit controls.
1877 – Thomas Edison demonstrates his hand-cranked phonograph.
1890 – The first Army-Navy football game is played. Final score: Navy 24, Army 0. The game is played at West Point.
1915 – Fire destroys most of the buildings in Avalon on Santa Catalina Island, California. Chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. purchases the resort in 1919. Wrigley’s Santa Catalina Island Company builds the iconic Avalon Casino in 1928-29 and becomes the setting for many movies.
1929 – U.S. Navy Lt. Comdr. Richard E. Byrd makes the first airplane flight over the South Pole.
1948 – “Kukla, Fran, & Ollie” debuts on NBC-TV and airs until in 1957. Kukla is a puppet, Ollie is a sock-puppet dragon, and Fran is Fran Allison, the only human on the show. Watch an episode at:
1963 – President LBJ sets up the Warren Commission to investigate assassination of President JFK.
1964 – The Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. replaces Latin with English in mass.
1975 – Bill Gates adopts the name Microsoft for the company he and Paul Allen formed to write the BASIC computer language for the Altair.
1981 – Actress Natalie Wood drowns in a boating accident off Santa Catalina Island, California, at the age 43. Watch a report on the reopening of the case: Natalie Wood drowning
1988 – The Supreme Court rules that the rights of criminal defendants are not violated when police unintentionally fail to preserve potentially vital evidence.
1995 – President Bill Clinton lifts ban on exports of oil from the Alaskan North Slope that was imposed after the oil embargo by Arab oil producers in 1973.
2004 – Godzilla receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
1753 – Benjamin Franklin receives the Godfrey Copley medal from the Royal Society of London “on account of his curious Experiments and Observations on Electricity.”
1782 – The U.S. and Britain sign the preliminary peace articles in Paris, ending the Revolutionary War.
1804 – Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase goes on trial accused of political bias and is later acquitted by the Senate.
1866 – Work begins on the first U.S. underwater highway tunnel in Chicago. The Winston Tunnel is built by hand and takes twenty-three years and $500,000 for workers to complete the 1,500-foot tunnel beneath the Chicago River. It is abandoned in 1972.
1924 – The first photo facsimile (fax) is transmitted across the Atlantic by radio from London to New York City.
1940 – Lucille Ball and Cuban musician Desi Arnaz get married.
1956 – CBS replays the program “Douglas Edward and the News” three hours after it is received on the West Coast. It is the world’s first broadcast via videotape.
1967 – Julie Nixon and David Eisenhower announce their engagement. Julie is the daughter of the president and David is the grandson of the former president. They are married on December 22, 1968. Watch their wedding (no sound):
1988 – Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Co. buys RJR Nabisco for $25 billion.
1993 – President Bill Clinton signs the Brady Gun Control bill.
2004 – Longtime “Jeopardy!” champion Ken Jennings of Salt Lake City, Utah, finally loses. He leaves the show with $2,520,700, television’s all-time biggest game show winnings. Watch Jennings’ surprise loss:
2007 – Leeland Eisenberg enters the presidential campaign office of Hillary Clinton in Rochester, New Hampshire, with a device suspected of being a bomb. He holds three people hostage for five hours. Eisenberg spends about 2 years in jail for the incident. He had a long criminal and mental health history.
1878 – The first White House telephone is installed during the Rutherford B. Hayes administration.
1891 – James Naismith of Springfield, Massachusetts, creates the game of basketball as a way to motivate and inspire young men that “should be of a recreative nature, something that would appeal to their play instincts.” Two peach baskets are nailed to each end of the lower balcony of the gymnasium at Springfield College and Naismith writes the 13 original rules for the game.
1903 – “The Great Train Robbery”, the first Western film, is released. Watch the silent film:
1913 – Henry Ford introduces the continuous moving assembly line, producing a car every 2 hours and 38 minutes.
1913 – The first drive-up gasoline station opens in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.
1917 – Boys Town is founded by Father Edward Flanagan near Omaha, Nebraska. The first five boys to live there are homeless and are sent by the courts on December 12th.
1919 – Virginia-born Lady Nancy Astor is sworn-in as the first female member of British Parliament.
1922 – The first skywriting flight over the U.S. is flown by Captain Cyril Turner of the RAF and says “Hello USA.”
1929 – Toymaker Edwin S. Lowe invents the game of Bingo when he is 18 years old. Lowe also creates the game Yahtzee. Lowe died in 1986 at age 75.
1936 – John D. Sweeney, Jr., age 23 of New Rochelle, New York, is issued the first Social Security card.
1941 – The U.S. Civil Air Patrol (CAP) organizes. After the Pearl Harbor attack the following week, thousands of CAP civilian volunteers log more than 500,000 hours performing critical wartime missions.
1943 – President FDR, Winston Churchill, and Josef Stalin agree to Operation Overlord (D-Day).
1955 – Rosa Parks is arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to move to the back of the bus.
1957 – Buddy Holly and the Crickets debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. Buddy Holly died in a plane crash in 1959 at age 22. Watch their performance:
1969 – The U.S. government holds its first draft lottery since WW II. The first number drawn is 258 (matching the birth date of September 14) so all men born between 1944 and 1950 who share that birth date are called to serve at once.
1973 – Jack Nicklaus becomes the first golfer to earn $2 million in a year.
1978 – President Jimmy Carter more than doubles the size of the national park system when he signs the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.
1981 – The AIDS virus (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is officially recognized. The cause is later discovered to be a human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV.
1982 – Michael Jackson releases his “Thriller” album and it becomes the best-selling album of all time.
1982 – Dentist Barney B. Clark receives the first artificial heart. He lives for 112 days.
1987 – NASA announces four companies (Boeing Aerospace, G. E.’s Astro-Space Division, McDonnell Douglas Aeronautics, and Rocketdyne Division of Rockwell International) have been given contracts to help build a space station.
1998 – Exxon announces that it will buy Mobil for $73.7 billion creating the largest company in the world to date.
2001 – The 76 years of TWA airline operations ends when Captain Bill Compton lands Trans World Airlines Flight 220, an MD-83, into St. Louis International Airport. American Airlines purchases TWA.
1816 – The first savings bank in the U.S. opens as the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society (PFSF). By the late 1910s, PSFS has the most depositors of any savings bank in the United States.
1823 – President James Monroe declares his “Monroe Doctrine.” Monroe stated during a message to Congress that, “The American continents … are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.”
1845 – U.S. President James K. Polk announces to Congress that the United States should aggressively expand into the West in what becomes known as “Manifest Destiny.”
1867 – In a New York City theater, British author Charles Dickens gives the first of many public readings of his works in the United States.
1927 – The first Model A Fords sells for $385.
1933 – Fred Astaire’s film debut, “Dancing Lady,” is released. It stars Joan Crawford and Clark Gable. Watch all three stars:
1942 – Dr. Enrico Fermi and his staff at the University of Chicago demonstrates a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.
1954 – The U.S. Senate censures Senator Joe McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) for “conduct that tends to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.” McCarthy claims that communists have infiltrated the U.S. State Department. He becomes chair of the Senate’s subcommittee on investigations. He continues to serve in the Senate until his death in May of 1957 at age 48.
1957 – The first nuclear power plant in the US opens in Shippingport, Pennsylvania, and remains operational until 1982.
1969 – The Boeing 747 jumbo jet has its first public preview.
1970 – The Environmental Protection Agency begins with William Ruckelshaus as its first Director.
1982 – The first permanent artificial heart is successfully implanted in retired dentist Barney Clark. He lives 112 days with the Jarvic-7 heart.
1994 – A jury finds “Hollywood Madam” Heidi Fleiss guilty of pandering by running a call girl ring. She is sentenced to 3 years in prison. Fleiss is now 50 years old.
2001 – Enron files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the Southern District of New York.
2014 – Stephen Hawking claims that Artificial Intelligence could be a “threat to mankind” and spell the end of the human race. Watch a report on the claim:
2015 – A terrorist attack on a social services center in San Bernardino, California, kills 14 people and wounds 22 others. The husband and wife terrorists are shot and killed after the attack.
1847 – Former slave Frederick Douglass publishes the first issue of his abolitionist newspaper North Star. In June of 1851 the paper merges with the Liberty Party Paper of Syracuse, New York, and is renamed Frederick Douglass’ Paper. It is in circulation under this new name until 1860.
1868 – The first blacks are selected to serve on a U.S. jury for the trial of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
1911 – Willis Carrier makes his presentation on “Rational Psychrometric Formulae” on air conditioning to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
1923 – The first Congressional open session is broadcast via radio from Washington, DC.
1931 – Alka-Seltzer goes on sale. Maurice Treener, the head chemist at Miles Medicine Company in Elkhart, Indiana, develops it. The trademark effervescence is produced when the baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and citric acid react to form sodium citrate and carbon dioxide gas. Watch a 1960s commercial:
1947 – Tennessee Williams’ play “A Streetcar Named Desire” premieres in New York City.
1950 – Paul Harvey begins his national radio broadcast. Harvey starts his radio career with a local broadcast in Chicago in 1944. He is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. His final broadcast is on February 7, 2009. Harvey died three weeks later at age 90. Good day!
1968 – The rules committee of Major League Baseball announces that in 1969 the pitcher’s mound would be lowered from 15 to 10 inches.
1971 – President Nixon commutes Jimmy Hoffa’s 13-year jail term after 5 years. Hoffa disappears in 1975 and is never found.
1984 – America’s oldest groom, 103-year-old Harry Stevens, weds 83-year-old Thelma Lucas in Wisconsin.
1989 – Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President George H. W. Bush declare the Cold War over.
2012 – The Voyager 1 spacecraft, launched in 1977, reaches the end of our solar system and enters interstellar space.
2014 – Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot dead unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, resigns.
2014 – Protests erupt in cities across the U.S. after a grand jury decides not to bring charges against the New York police officer who killed Eric Garner with a choke-hold.
2015 – Defense Secretary Ash Carter announces that all combat roles in U.S. armed forces will be open to women. Watch Carter’s announcement from the Pentagon:
1674 – Father Marquette, a French Jesuit priest sent to convert Indians in the Midwest, builds the first dwelling in what is now Chicago.
1783 – Gen. George Washington bids farewell to his officers at Fraunces Tavern in New York.
1812 – Peter Gaillard of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, patents a horse-drawn mower.
1867 – Former Minnesota farmer Oliver Hudson Kelley founds The Order of the Patrons of Husbandry (known today as the Grange) to promote the economic and political well-being of the agricultural community.
1872 – The American merchant ship Mary Celeste is discovered mysteriously abandoned in the Atlantic Ocean. There are no signs of foul play and her crew is never found.
1875 – William Marcy Tweed, the “Boss” of New York City’s Tammany Hall political organization, escapes from jail and flees from the U.S.
1918 – President Wilson sails for the Versailles Peace Conference in France at the end of World War I, becoming the first chief executive to travel outside U.S. while in office.
1920 – In the first pro football playoff game, the Buffalo All-Americans beats the Canton Bulldogs 7-3 at the Polo Grounds. The undefeated Akron Pros go one to beat Buffalo.
1927 – Duke Ellington opens at the Cotton Club in Harlem. Watch a brief history of the Duke and the Cotton Club:
1933 – President FDR creates the Federal Alcohol Control Administration after the repeal of Prohibition.
1943 – Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis announces that any team is free to employ black players.
1954 – The first Burger King restaurant opens in Miami, Florida. Burger King now operates more than 12,000 restaurants in every state and 73 countries.
1961 – The Museum of Modern Art in New York City hangs Henri Matisse’s painting “Le Bateau” upside down for 47 days.
1964 – Baseball approves a free-agent draft. Rick Monday is the first pick in the first free agent draft on June 8, 1965.
1978 – Dianne Feinstein becomes San Francisco’s first woman mayor when she is named to replace George Moscone, who had been murdered.
1981 – President Reagan signs Executive Order on Intelligence (No. 12333) that allows the CIA to engage in domestic counter-intelligence.
1991 – The mother-daughter duo “The Judds” perform their final concert after Naomi (mother) is diagnosed with Hepatitis C. They have twenty top-10 country music hit songs and earn 8 consecutive awards at all three major county music award shows. Watch them sing their hit song “Grandpa”:
1991 – Pan American World Airways, founded in 1927, ceases operations.
1997 – The National Basketball Association suspends Latrell Sprewell of the Golden State Warriors for one year for choking and threatening to kill his coach, P.J. Carlesimo.
1998 – The Unity Module, the first U.S. built module for the International Space Station, is launched.