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 December 5-11, 2016
1792 – George Washington is re-elected President with John Adams as his Vice-President.
1804 – Thomas Jefferson is re-elected President with George Clinton as his Vice-President.
1848 – President Polk triggers the Gold Rush of ’49 when he confirms the discovery of gold in California.
1854 – Aaron Allen of Boston patents folding theater chair.
1908 – Numerals are first used on football uniforms worn by college football players at the University of Pittsburgh.
1933 – The 21st Amendment is ratified as the only amendment adopted to repeal an earlier amendment (18th Amendment – Prohibition).
1935 – National Council of Negro Women is formed by Mary McLeod Bethune in New York City.
1945 – The “Lost Squadron” disappears east of Florida in the Bermuda Triangle. Five bombers of Flight 19 report problems with their instruments. The search aircraft also disappears for a total loss of 27 men.
1946 – President Truman creates the Committee on Civil Rights by Executive Order #9808.
1955 – The AFL and CIO unions merge, with George Meany as its first president.
1955 – The historic bus boycott begins in Montgomery, Alabama, after Rosa Parks is arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white person.
1957 – New York City becomes the first city to legislate against racial or religious discrimination in housing market (Fair Housing Practices Law).
1964 – Captain Roger Donlon is awarded the first Medal of Honor of the Vietnam War for his heroism in battle earlier in the year. Watch Cpt. Donlon’s story in his own words:
1978 – Baseball free agent Pete Rose signs a 4-year, $32 million contract with the Phillies, becoming the highest paid player. Giancarlo Stanton becomes the highest paid athlete in any sport when he signs a $325 million 13-year contract with the Miami Marlins in 2014.
1985 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average rises above 1,500 for the first time.
1993 – Space Shuttle Atlantis astronauts begin repair of Hubble telescope in space. Watch the in actual space repairs with audio:
1998 – James P. Hoffa becomes the head of the Teamsters union, 23 years after his father, Jimmy Hoffa, was the head of the Teamsters. His father disappeared in 1975 and is presumed dead.
2008 – OJ Simpson is sentenced to 33 years in prison for kidnapping and armed robbery.
1790 – Congress convenes in Philadelphia, the new temporary U.S. capital, after leaving New York City. Washington, DC becomes the permanent capital of the U.S. in 1800.
1849 – Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery in Maryland for the second and final time.
1865 – The 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution abolishing slavery is ratified.
1877 – Thomas Edison makes the first sound recording by reciting “Mary had a little lamb.”
1884 – The construction of the Washington Monument was completed. The project takes 34 years and is interrupted by the Civil War.
1902 – Martha Washington is the first American woman to appear on a U.S. postage stamp.
1907 – A coal mine explosion in Monongah, West Virginia, kills 361 miners in the worst mine disaster in U.S. history.
1923 – President Calvin Coolidge makes the first presidential address on the radio. The broadcast to a joint session of Congress is the first of what is now known as the State of the Union Address.
1933 – The ban on James Joyce’s “Ulysses” in lifted in the U.S. The book is banned for being obscene, but a judge rules that, “(W)hilst in many places the effect of Ulysses on the reader undoubtedly is somewhat emetic, nowhere does it tend to be an aphrodisiac.”
1955 – New York psychologist Dr. Joyce Brothers wins the “$64,000 Question” on a boxing question. Brothers wins the show again in 1957. Brothers died in 2013 at age 85.
1957 – The first U.S. attempt to launch a satellite fails when the Vanguard rocket blows up. Watch the failed launch: Vanguard rocket blows up
1957 – The AFL-CIO votes to expel the Teamsters. The Teamsters are readmitted in October 1987.
1960 – Western movie star Gene Autry and Bob Reynolds is granted the Los Angeles Angels baseball franchise by the American League.
1964 – “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” a stop-action animation movie, airs for the first time on TV (and every year since). The title song is written by country music legend Gene Autry. Listen to the title song with images from the movie:
1969 – About 300,000 people attend the Altamont rock concert in California, featuring the Rolling Stones.
1973 – Gerald Ford is sworn in as the first unelected Vice President when he succeeds Spiro T. Agnew, who resigns amid a scandal.
1992 – San Francisco 49er Jerry Rice catches an NFL record 101 touchdowns. Rice still holds the record with 197 touchdowns. Watch one of Rice’s amazing TD catches:
1994 – Orange County, California, files for bankruptcy protection, becoming the largest municipality to file for bankruptcy.
1994 – The Maltese Falcon is auctioned for $398,590. In 2013 it sells at auction for over $4 million, becoming one of the most expensive movie props ever sold.
1998 – Astronauts aboard the space shuttle Endeavour connect the first two building blocks of the international space station in the shuttle cargo bay.
2006 – NASA announces that photographs taken by Mars Global Surveyor suggests the presence of liquid water on Mars.
1787 – Delaware becomes the first state to ratify the Constitution.
1796 – John Adams is elected to be the second president of the U.S.
1891 – The 52nd Congress, the first Congress to appropriate $1 billion, holds its first session.
1917 – The U.S. becomes the 13th country to declare war on Austria during World War I.
1925 – Swimmer Johnny Weissmuller sets a world record in the 150-yard freestyle with a time of 1 minute 25 seconds. He goes on to play “Tarzan” in several movies. Weissmuller died in 1984 at age 79. Watch a 1974 interview with Weissmuller on how he became Tarzan:
1941 – The Japanese attack the U.S. at Pearl Harbor Naval Base, Hawaii, killing 2,403 people, on a date that will live in infamy.
1945 – The microwave oven is patented. It is first sold under the name Radarange in 1947.
1946 – A fire at the Winecoff Hotel in Atlanta kills 119 people and injures 62 others. It is America’s deadliest hotel fire disaster. The hotel founder, W. Frank Winecoff, is also killed in the fire. Watch a report about the fire, including eye witness interviews:
1963 – Instant replay is used for the first time in the Army-Navy game. The system was invented by CBS Sports Director Tony Verna and weighed 1,300 pounds.
1968 – Richard Dodd returns a library book his great-grandfather checked out in 1823. The fine is not levied, but it would have been $22,646. The book is “Medical Reports of the Effects of Water, Cold & Warm, Remedy in Fever & Febrile Diseases, Whether Applied to the Body or Used Internally” by James Currie.
1972 – The Apollo 17, the final manned lunar landing mission and the last of Apollo Moon series, launches.
1982 – Charlie Brooks Jr., a convicted murderer, becomes the first prisoner in the U.S. to be executed by lethal injection. He is executed at a prison in Huntsville, Texas.
1987 – Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev arrives in the U.S. for the first time for a Washington summit with President Reagan.
1998 – Attorney General Janet Reno declines to seek an independent counsel investigation of President Bill Clinton over his 1996 campaign financing.
2005 – Rigoberto Alpizar, a passenger on American Airlines Flight 924 who allegedly claimed to have a bomb, is shot and killed by a team of U.S. federal air marshals at Miami International Airport.
1792 – South Carolina Delegate Henry Laurens is the first person to be cremated in the U.S.
1886 – The American Federation of Labor (AFL) is formed by 26 craft unions. Samuel Gompers is elected the first AFL president.
1902 – Civil war veteran Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. becomes an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court and serves until 1931. Holmes died in 1935 at age 93.
1941 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivers his “Day of Infamy” speech to the U.S. Congress the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Watch the speech, which includes the text: “Day of infamy” speech
1952 – TV has its first acknowledgement of pregnancy when it is announced on “I Love Lucy” that Lucy is “enceinte” (French for expecting). The episode when Lucy gives birth airs on January 19, 1953, to coincide with Lucille Ball’s real-life delivery of Desi Arnez, Jr. by Caesarean section. This episode is watched by more people than any other TV program up to that time. Watch the hilarious “enceinte” announcement:
1953 – President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivers his “Atoms for Peace” speech to the U.N. General Assembly, spelling out the necessity of repurposing existing nuclear weapons technology to peaceful ends. It is seen as the inspiration for the creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency of 1956.
1963 – Frank Sinatra’s son is kidnapped. Frank Sinatra, Jr. is released two days later when his father pays a ransom of $240,000. Three kidnappers were caught, convicted, and sentenced for the kidnapping. Frank Sinatra, Jr. died in March of 2016 at age 72.
1966 – The U.S. and the USSR sign a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons in outer space.
1987 – President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev sign a treaty eliminating medium range nuclear missiles to “trust, but verify.”
1993 – President Clinton signs into law the North American Free Trade Agreement.
1998 – The Supreme Court rules that police cannot search people or their cars after ticketing for a routine traffic violation.
2000 – Mario Lemieux, owner of the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins, announces that he plans to return to the team as a player at age 35 after cancer treatments.
2009 – The video game Angry Birds is released. Watch the video trailer on how the game is played:
2010 – SpaceX becomes the first privately held company to successfully launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft.
1793 – Noah Webster establishes “American Minerva,” New York’s first daily newspaper.
1803 – Congress passes the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, directing Electors to vote for a President and for a Vice-President rather than for two choices for President.
1875 – The Massachusetts Rifle Association, America’s Oldest Active Gun Club, is founded.
1878 – Joseph Pulitzer buys the St. Louis Dispatch newspaper for $2,500 and merges it with the St. Louis Post, creating the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The first edition is published on December 12th and the newspaper is still in circulation.
1907 – The first Christmas Seals are sold at a Wilmington, Delaware, post office.
1926 – The USGA legalizes steel shaft golf clubs.
1935 – Jay Berwanger is the first recipient of the college football’s Heisman Trophy. Watch ESPN compiled footage of Berwanger in action:
1940 – The Longines Watch Company signs up for the first FM radio advertising contract with the experimental station W2XOR in New York City.
1958 – Robert H.W. Welch Jr. and 11 other men meet in Indianapolis, Indiana, to form the anti-Communist John Birch Society.
1965 – “A Charlie Brown Christmas” premieres on TV.
1971 – Lewis F. Powell Jr. is appointed to the Supreme Court and serves until 1987.
1978 – The first Women’s Professional Basketball League (WNBL) game is played. The Chicago Hustle defeats the Milwaukee Does 92-87. The league is disbanded in 1981. Watch the first slam dunk in a WNBL game:
1985 – Jerry Rice begins his National Football League streak of 274 consecutive games with a reception, a record that still stands.
1990 – The first of the American hostages to be released by Iraq begin arriving in the U.S.
2008 – The Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, is arrested by federal officials for a number of alleged crimes including attempting to sell the Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama’s election to the Presidency. Blago is sentenced in 2011 to 14 years in prison for corruption. Blago will be 60 years old tomorrow.
1690 – The Massachusetts Bay Colony becomes the first American colonial government to borrow money.
1869 – The Wyoming Territory is the first to grant women’s suffrage (right to vote).
1898 – The Spanish-American War between Spain and the U.S. ends with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. The U.S. acquires Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam.
1906 – President Theodore Roosevelt becomes the first American to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
1911 – Calbraith Rodgers completes the first crossing of U.S. by airplane. It takes 84 days. He took flying lessons from the Wright brothers. Rodgers dies in 1912 at age 33 in a plane crash during an exhibition flight in California.
1915 – The 10 millionth model T Ford is assembled. The vehicle makes a cross country tour. Watch a silent video of the trek:
1920 – President Woodrow Wilson receives Nobel Peace Prize.
1927 – The Grand Ole Opry makes its first radio broadcast in Nashville, Tennessee. It is the longest running live radio show.
1931 – Social Worker Jane Addams, Chicago’s Hull House founder, is the first U.S. woman named the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. She is in the hospital following a heart attack when the prize is awarded. She died in 1934 at age 74.
1936 – King Edward VIII signs the Instrument of Abdication, giving up the British throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.
1950 – Ralph J. Bunche is the first black American presented with the Nobel Peace Prize.
1963 – Six-year-old Donny Osmond makes his singing debut on the Andy Williams Show. Watch Donny’s performance:
1964 – The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
1971 – William H. Rehnquist is confirmed as a Supreme Court justice during the Nixon administration. He is elevated to Chief Justice by President Reagan in 1986. Rehnquist serves until his death in 1995 at age 80.
1985 – A bill to balance the federal budget is passed by Congress. The Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 is better known as “Gramm-Rudman-Hollings.” President Reagan signs the bill. In 1986 the Supreme Court rules the Act is unconstitutional on the grounds that the sequestration process gives Congress undue budgetary power. A new Act is passed in 1987.
1991 – Chinese-born architect IM Pei receives $5 million for his design of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Pei is now 99 years old.
2009 – President Barack Obama accepts the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway.
2013 – Mary Barra of General Motors becomes the first female CEO of a major automotive company
1620 – One hundred three Mayflower pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock.
1872 – Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback, the first black U.S. governor, takes office in Louisiana.
1882 – Boston’s Bijou Theatre is the first American playhouse lit exclusively by electricity. The first performance is Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic opera “Iolanthe.”
1928 – National League Baseball President John Heydler proposes using designated hitters for pitchers, although he is not the first to propose the idea. In 1969 spring training both the American League and National League agreed to try the designated pinch hitter (DPH), but they did not agree on the implementation. The AL agrees to use the DPH in 1973.
1930 – The Bank of the United States in New York City closes after an estimated 2,500-3,000 depositors withdraw $2 million from the bank the day before. This run on the bank is seen as the beginning of the Great Depression.
1941 – Germany and Italy declare war on U.S.
1951 – Joe DiMaggio announces his retirement from baseball saying, “When baseball is no longer fun, it’s no longer a game, and so, I’ve played my last game.” He is best known for his 56-game hitting streak (May 15-July 16, 1941), a record that still stands. DiMaggio is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955.
1964 – Che Guevara speaks at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. An unknown terrorist fires a mortar shell at the building during the speech.
1972 – Astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt in Apollo 17 become the 11th and 12th (and last) men to walk on the Moon. Watch Gene Cernan hop on the moon:
1975 – First class postage stamps in the U.S. rise from 10 cents to 13 cents.
1981 – Muhammad Ali fights his last bout. He loses his 61st fight to Trevor Berbick. Ali died in June of 2016 at age 74.
1985 – The Dow Jones closes above 1,500 for the first time (1,511.70).
1991 – Salman Rushdie, under an Islamic death sentence for blasphemy after publishing “The Satanic Verses,” makes his first public appearance since 1989 at a New York dinner marking the 200th anniversary of the First Amendment (which guarantees freedom of speech in the U.S.). Watch a New York Times interview with Rushdie:
2008 – Bernard Madoff is arrested and charged with securities fraud in a $50 billion Ponzi scheme. He is sentenced in 2009 to 150 years in prison.
2012 – HSBC (Swiss bank) settles with U.S. authorities to pay $1.9 billion for drug cartel money laundering.
2015 – “Playboy” magazine publishes its last nude issue, which features Pamela Anderson on the cover.