This Week in History


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 19-25, 2016

December 19

1732 – Benjamin Franklin, under the pseudonym of Richard Saunders, begins publication of Poor Richard’s Almanack. It is published until 1758.

1776 – Thomas Paine published his first “American Crisis” essay, in which he writes, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”

1823 – Georgia is the first U.S. state to pass a birth registration law.

1907 – In the worst mining disaster in Pennsylvania, 239 workers died in a coal mine explosion in Jacobs Creek.

1910 – Baltimore, Maryland, passes the first city ordinance requiring separate white and black residential areas.

1918 – Robert Ripley begins his “Believe It or Not” column in the New York Globe.

1919 – Popeye makes his first appearance in the comic strip “Thimble Theatre.”

1928 – The first autogiro (predecessor of helicopter) has its flight in the U.S.

1942 – Robert Stroud, the “Birdman of Alcatraz,” is transferred to Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. Burt Lancaster stars in a 1962 movie about Stroud, and is nominated for an Oscar as Best Actor. Stroud died in 1963 at age 73.

1950 – General Eisenhower is named NATO commander.

1958 – President Eisenhower makes the first radio broadcast from space. His recorded Christmas message is “This is the President of the United States speaking. Through the marvels of scientific advance, my voice is coming to you via a satellite circling in outer space. My message is a simple one: Through this unique means I convey to you and all mankind, America’s wish for peace on Earth and goodwill toward men everywhere.” Listen to the message:

1972 – Apollo 17 returns to Earth. It is the last spacecraft to land on the moon. Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan is the last person to walk on the moon.

1974 – Nelson A. Rockefeller is sworn in as the 41st vice president. Vice President Gerald Ford becomes president after President Nixon resigns following the Watergate scandal.

1975 – John Paul Stevens becomes a Supreme Court Justice and serves until 2010. Justice Stevens is now 96 years old.

1986 – Michael Sergio, who parachutes into Shea Stadium during game 6 of the World Series, is sentenced to 100 hours of community service and fined $500. Watch his perfect landing:

1998 – President Bill Clinton is impeached on two charges of perjury and obstruction of justice by the House of Representatives, but he is not removed from office.

2007 – The Lakotah people, a Native American tribe, proclaim independence and withdraw all their treaties with the United States. They then proceed to establish the Republic of Lakotah, with an ongoing process of international recognition as a separate country.

December 20

1606 – The ships “Susan Constant,” “Godspeed,” and “Discovery” set sail from London on their way to Jamestown, Virginia, to start of the first permanent English settlement in America.

1790 – The first successful U.S. cotton mill to spin yarn is in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

1803 – The Louisiana Purchase formally transfers land from France to the U.S. for $27 million.

1820 – Missouri imposes a $1 bachelor tax on unmarried men ages of 21 to 50.

1860 – South Carolina votes 169-0 for the Ordinance of Secession, becoming the first state to secede from the Union.

1892 – The pneumatic automobile tire is patented in Syracuse, New York.

1920 – Bob Hope becomes an American citizen. He is born in England and immigrates to the U.S with his family in 1907 at age 4. Bob Hope died in 2003 at age 100.

1921 – The American League votes to return to the best-of-7 baseball World Series, while the National League votes for the best-of-9 games. Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis casts deciding vote for best-of-7 games.

1945 – The rationing of auto tires ends in the U.S.

1946 – The movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring James Stewart and Donna Reed premieres in New York.

1954 – Buick Motor Company signs Jackie Gleason to one of the largest contracts ever entered into with an entertainer. Gleason agrees to produce 78 half-hour shows over a two-year period for over $6 million.

1956 – Montgomery, Alabama, removes race-based seat assignments on its buses following a yearlong bus boycott.

1957 – Elvis Presley receives a draft notice from the U.S. Army. He serves from March 1958 to March 1960. He is stationed in Fort Hood, Texas, and in Germany.

1962 – The Osmond Brothers, before Donnie Osmond joined them, debut on the Andy Williams Show. Watch the brothers sing a cappella:

1969 – Peter, Paul & Mary’s song “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” written by John Denver, reaches #1 on the charts.

1985 – Howard Cosell retires from television sports after 20 years with ABC sports.

1998 – In Houston, Texas, 27-year-old Nadya Suleman gives birth to the only known living set of octuplets.

1991 – A Missouri court sentences the Palestinian militant Zein Isa and his wife Maria Isa to death for the honor killing of their 16-year-old daughter Palestina. Zein dies in prison in 1997 while awaiting execution and Maria’s death sentence is commuted to life in prison without parole.

2012 – Intercontinental Exchange purchases the New York Stock Exchange, the largest in the world, for $8 billion.

2015 – Host Steve Harvey announces the wrong winner of the Miss Universe pageant. He mistakenly announces Miss Columbia instead of Miss Philippines. Harvey will host the next Miss Universe pageant. Watch the crowning and uncrowning:

December 21

1784 – John Jay becomes the first U.S. Secretary of State for foreign affairs. Jay is also the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1789-1795).

1891 – Eighteen students play the first basketball game at Springfield College in Massachusetts. The game is created by James Naismith.

1909 The first junior high school in the U.S. is established in Berkeley, California.

1913 – The first crossword puzzle (with 32 clues) is printed in the New York World newspaper. The crossword puzzle is created by Arthur Wynne.

1919 – J. Edgar Hoover deports anarchist/feminist Emma Goldman to Russia.

1933 – Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers appear in their first movie together, “Flying Down to Rio.” Watch them cut a rug:

1937 – “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” premieres as the first full-length animated feature film and the earliest of the Walt Disney Animated Classics series.

1954 – Dr. Sam Sheppard is convicted of the murder of his wife Marilyn. Sheppard is released from prison following a landmark Supreme Court ruling after serving 10 years. Sheppard died in 1970 at age 46.

1959 – Tom Landry accepts the football coaching job with the Dallas Cowboys. He coaches the Cowboys until 1988. Landry died in 2000 at age 75.

1969 – Diana Ross makes her last of 17 TV appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show” as a Supreme.

1969 – Vince Lombardi coaches the Washington Redskins in his last football game. As head coach and general manager of the Green Bay Packers, Lombardi led the team to three NFL championships and victories in the first two Super Bowls (1967 and 1968). Lombardi died of colon cancer in 1970 at age 57.

1978 – Police in Des Plaines, Illinois, arrest John Wayne Gacy Jr. for murder. He is convicted of the assault and murder of 33 teenage boys and young men. Gacy is executed in 1994 at age 52.

1988 – New York bound Pan Am Flight 103 is destroyed by a bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew.

2012 – “Gangnam Style” becomes the first video to reach one billion views on YouTube. Views have now exceeded two and a half billion. YouTube had to upgrade its counter to accommodate the high number of hits. Watch the music video phenomenon:

December 22

1783 – George Washington resigns his military commission as the U.S. Army’s commander-in-chief.

1882 – Thomas Edison creates the first string of Christmas tree lights.

1894 – The United States Golf Association (USGA) forms in New York City.

1941 – Winston Churchill arrives in Washington, DC for a wartime conference with President FDR. In 1963 Churchill is made an honorary U.S. citizen. Barack Obama sends the bust of Churchill back to the British embassy when he takes over the White House. Churchill’s bust is returned to Washington thanks to the efforts of former Speaker of the House John Boehner. The bust is dedicated on October 30th, 2013.

1956 – Colo, the first gorilla to be bred in captivity, is born at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Columbus, Ohio. Colo, age 60, is the oldest gorilla living in captivity. Watch a “bio” of Colo:

1964 – Comedian Lenny Bruce is convicted of obscenity and sentenced to “four months in the workhouse.” He had already been charged with narcotics possession and obscenity several times. While awaiting an appeal Bruce dies of a heroin overdose on August 3, 1966, at the age of 40.

1964 – The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, with test pilot Bob Gilliland, makes its first flight at Plant #42 in Palmdale, California. Watch Lockheed footage of the test flight (no sound):

1968 – Julie Nixon marries Dwight David Eisenhower. Julie is the daughter of President Nixon and Dwight is the grandson of former President Eisenhower.

1984 – Bernhard Goetz shoots 4 black muggers on a New York City subway train. The “Subway Vigilante” is acquitted of attempted murder but is convicted of gun violations and serves less than a year. Goetz is now 68 years old.

2001 – Richard Reid attempts to destroy a passenger airliner by igniting explosives hidden in his shoes aboard American Airlines Flight 63.

2010 – President Barack Obama signs into law the repeal of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, the 17-year-old policy banning homosexuals from serving openly in the U.S. military.

December 23

1779 – Revolutionary War hero Benedict Arnold is court-martialed for improper conduct after he agrees to turn over West Point to the British through Major John Andre in exchange for money. Arnold is cleared of all charges while Andre is captured and subsequently hanged in October 1790.

1788 – Maryland votes to cede a 10-sqaure-mile area to form the District of Columbia.

1823 – “A Visit from St Nicholas” by Clement C. Moore is published in the Troy, New York Sentinel. Listen to the poem read by Lorne Greene with stills from the book:

1867 – Sarah Breedlove, known as Madame C. J. Walker, is born. She becomes the first self-made female millionaire in the U.S. with her hair care products for black women. She died in 1919 at age 51.

1912 – The first of twelve Keystone Kops film, “Hoffmeyer’s Legacy,” premiers. The fictional slapstick Bangville police officers are portrayed as incompetent. Watch the silent film:

1913 – President Woodrow Wilson signs the Federal Reserve Act into law. In spite its name the Federal Reserve is a privately owned banking system and is not part of the federal government. It has never been audited.

1938 – Margaret Hamilton is severely burned after her costume catches fire during the filming of “The Wizard of Oz.” Although she is featured in many other movies, Hamilton is quintessentially known as the Wicked Witch. Hamilton died in 1985 at age 82.

1947 – John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley invent the transistor at Bell Laboratories. They jointly receive the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1956.

1954 – Dr. Joseph E. Murray performs the first human kidney transplant on identical twins Richard and Ronald Herrick (born 1931) at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Richard is still living but Ronald died in 2010 at age 79.

1961 – Fidel Castro announces Cuba will release 1,113 prisoners after the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion in exchange for $62 million worth of food and medical supplies.

1962 – Cuba starts returning U.S. prisoners from the Bay of Pigs invasion.

1968 – Eighty-two crew members of U.S. intelligence ship USS Pueblo are released by North Korea 335 days after it was captured. The ship remains in North Korea.

1972 – In what became known as the “Immaculate Reception” the Pittsburg Steelers turn around a 7-6 deficit with a last second touchdown reception by John Fugua from Terry Bradshaw against the Oakland Raiders for a 13-7 win. Watch it from several different angles:

1975 – President Ford signs into law the Metric Conversion Act passed by Congress.

1986 – Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager (no relation to Chuck Yeager) complete the first around-the-world flight without refueling when they land the Voyager at Edwards Air Force Base in California 9 days, 3 minutes, and 44 seconds after takeoff. Watch a report on the historic flight and landing:

1997 – Terry Nichols is found guilty of manslaughter in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. He is sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

1997 – Woody Allen, age 62, marries Soon-Yi Previn age 27, Mia Farrow’s daughter that Allen adopted.

2002 – A U.S. MQ-1 Predator drone is shot down by an Iraqi MiG-25, making it the first time in history that an aircraft and an unmanned drone engaged in combat.

December 24

1814 – The Treaty of Ghent is signed, ending the U.S.-British War of 1812.

1851 – Fire devastates the U.S. Library of Congress in Washington, DC, destroying 35,000 volumes and documents.

1906 – Reginald A. Fessenden, using an alternator-transmitter, becomes first person to broadcast music over radio. The short broadcast from Brant Rock, Massachusetts, included him playing the violin while singing “O, Holy Night.”

1936 – The first radioactive isotope medicine is administered in Berkeley, California.

1943 – President FDR appoints future president General Eisenhower as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces.

1948 – The first house in the U.S. completely sun-heated is occupied in Dover, Massachusetts. It cost about $20,000 to build. Eleanor Raymond designs the structure, Maria Telkes designs the heating system, and Boston heiress and sculptress Amelia Peabody finances it.

1964 – Filming begins on “The Cage,” the pilot for the “Star Trek” TV show.

1968 – Apollo 8 astronauts give a Christmas Eve reading from the book of Genesis in the Bible while orbiting the Moon. Watch images from Apollo 8 as the astronauts read from Genesis:

1973 – The District of Columbia Home Rule Act is passed, allowing residents of Washington, D.C. to elect their own local government.

1974 – Former astronaut and retired Marine John Glenn joins the Senate (D-OH) and serves until 1999. Glenn died December 8th at age 95.

2000 – Thirty-six minutes after the end of the football game, the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins are called back to the field to play the final 3 seconds of the game, which the Dolphins had won 27-24. The final score did not change.

December 25

1651 – A Massachusetts General Court orders a fine of five shillings for “observing any such day as Christmas.” The law banning Christmas celebrations is passed in 1659 and lasts 22 years.

1776 – General George Washington crosses the Delaware River, surprising and defeating 1,400 Hessians soldiers during the Revolutionary War.

1831 – Louisiana and Arkansas are the first states to observe Christmas as a holiday.

1868 – Despite bitter opposition, President Andrew Johnson grants an unconditional pardon to all persons involved in the Southern Rebellion (aka The Civil War).

1896 – John Philip Sousa writes “Stars & Stripes Forever.” The following year Congress makes the song the official national march of the U.S.

1908 – Jack Johnson KOs Tommy Burns to become the first black heavyweight boxing champion.

1938 – George Cukor announces that British actress Vivien Leigh will play Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind.” About 1,400 actresses audition for the part and 400 are asked to do readings. Leigh died in 1967 at age 53.

1939 – Montgomery Ward in Chicago introduces Rudolph as the 9th reindeer in the story “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” written by marketing employee Robert May. May’s brother-in-law put the story to music and the song was recorded by Gene Autry. Watch Autry perform the song as the audience sings along:

1954 – Rhythm and blues singer Johnny Ace accidentally shoots himself in the head during a break in his dressing room at the City Auditorium in Houston, Texas. He had just been named the Most Programmed Artist of 1954. He was 25 years old.

1974 – Marshall Fields drives his Chevy Impala through the gates of the White House, resulting in a four-hour standoff. He surrenders and the bombs he said were strapped to his body turn out to be flares.

1990 – The first successful trial test is run on the system that would become the World Wide Web.

2003 – The ill-fated Beagle 2 probe, which is released from the Mars Express Spacecraft on December 19, disappears shortly before its scheduled landing.

2016 – Have yourself a merry little Christmas.