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 26, 2016-January 1, 2017

December 26

1799 – George Washington is eulogized by Col. Henry Lee as, “First in war, first in peace, and first in hearts of his countrymen.” Henry Lee is the grandfather of Civil War general Robert E. Lee.

1825 – The Erie Canal opens. It links Lake Erie and the Hudson River.

1862 – The first U.S. navy hospital ship enters service during the Civil War.

1865 – James H. Mason of Massachusetts patents the first U.S. coffee percolator.

1877 – The Socialist Labor Party of North America holds its first national convention.

1924 – Judy Garland, age 2½, makes her show business debut billed as Baby Frances. Her real name is Frances Gumm. Her most famous role is as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.” Garland died in 1969 at age 47. Watch the Gumm Sisters (Baby Frances is on the left):

1928 – Johnny Weissmuller announces his retirement from amateur swimming after winning six Olympic medals. He goes on to star as Tarzan in 12 movies. Romanian-born Weissmuller died in 1984 at age 79.

1941 – Winston Churchill becomes the first British Prime Minister to address a joint meeting of Congress, warning that the Axis would “stop at nothing.”

1954 – “The Shadow” airs for last time on radio. It premiers in 1930 with the burning question, ”Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?” (Answer: The Shadow knows!)

1982 – Time Magazine’s “Man” of the Year is a computer.

1986 – The soap opera “Search for Tomorrow” ends its 35-year run on TV. Watch the last scene of the last episode:

1991 – Jack Ruby’s gun, used to kill Lee Harvey Oswald, sells for $220,000 at auction.

1996 – Six-year-old beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey is found beaten and strangled to death in the basement of her family’s home in Boulder, Colorado. Her murder remains unsolved.

December 27

1892 – The foundation stone of the Cathedral of St. John the Devine is laid in New York City.

1900 – Temperance leader Carrie Nation leads her first public smashing of a bar at the Carey Hotel in Wichita, Kansas. Watch a slide show about her life:

1927 – Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s musical “Show Boat” premieres at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City.

1932 – Radio City Music Hall opens in New York City.

1937 – Mae West performs an Adam and Eve skit that is so suggestive it gets her banned from NBC radio. Mae West died in 1980 at age 87.

1947 – The first “Howdy Doody Show” (Puppet Playhouse) is telecast on TV. It airs until 1960. Watch the 1947 intro:

1985 – Dian Fossey, an American naturalist, is found murdered at a research station in Rawanda. She was 53 years old. No one ever serves prison time for her murder.

1991 – The new version of the “Carol Burnett Show” last airs on TV. The original show airs from 1967 to 1978. Carol Burnett is now 83 years old.

2012 – NASA unveils its plan to capture a 500 ton asteroid in 2025.

December 28

1832 – John C. Calhoun becomes the first Vice President to resign from office. He cites political differences with President Andrew Jackson. Calhoun then seeks to fill the vacant Senate seat in South Carolina, which he does.

1860 – Harriet Tubman arrives in Auburn, New York, on her last mission to free slaves after evading capture for eight years on the Underground Railroad.

1869 – William Finley Semple of Mount Vernon, Ohio, patents chewing gum. Semple is a dentist who intended for the gum to clean teeth and strengthen the jaw.

1905 – The Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the U.S. founded and becomes the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in 1910.

1945 – Congress officially recognizes the “Pledge of Allegiance.” The phrase “Under God” is added in 1954.

1948 – A DC-3 airliner disappears 50 miles south of Miami, Florida, in the Bermuda Triangle. The airplane is never found.

1963 – Merle Haggard, a former member of Buddy Holly and The Crickets, has his first appearance on the country music charts with “Sing a Sad Song.” Haggard gave up his seat to The Big Bopper on the ill-fated flight that also killed Buddy Holly. Haggard died in April 2016 at age 79. Watch him singing a sad song in a live performance:

1967 – Muriel Siebert is the first woman to be a member of the New York Stock Exchange. She died in August 2013 at age 80.

1981 – Elizabeth Jordan Carr, the first American test-tube baby, is born in Norfolk, Virginia.

1984 – The soap opera “Edge of Night” ends its 28-year run on TV. Watch the final scene from the final episode:

2000 – Retail giant Montgomery Ward announces it is going out of business after 128 years. Aaron Montgomery Ward started the company in 1872. Ward died in 1913 at age 69.

2005 – A U.S. immigration judge orders John Demjanjuk deported to Ukraine for crimes against humanity committed during World War II.

2008 – The Detroit Lions finish the season 0-16 after a 31-21 lost to the Green Bay Packers. It is the first time in National Football League history that a team goes winless in a 16-game season.

2012 – Vladimir Putin signs into law a ban on the U.S. adoption of Russian children.

December 29

1848 – Gas lights are first installed at the White House during the Polk administration.

1851 – The first chapter of America’s Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) opens in Boston, Massachusetts.

1930 – Fred P. Newton completes the longest swim ever (1,826 miles) when he swims the Mississippi River from Ford Dam, Minnesota, to New Orleans, Louisiana. He is in the water for 742 hours over a five-month period. The feat still stands in the Guinness Book of Records.

1957 – Singers Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme get married in Las Vegas, Nevada. Eydie died in 2013 at age 84. Steve is now 81 years old. Watch them in a medley on the Ed Sullivan Show, What’s My Line, with Sammy Davis, Jr., and on The Johnny Carson Show:

1958 – The soap opera “Young Dr. Malone” debuts on TV and airs until 1963. It starts as a radio show in 1939. John Connell plays the young Dr. Malone, son of William Prince, the older Dr. Malone.

1970 – The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) is signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon.

1972 – Life magazine ceases weekly publication. It originally starts in 1883 and goes through several owners and eras. Watch a slide show of the 40 best Life covers:

1982 – Football Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant ends his 24-year career with the University of Alabama Crimson Tide with 323 wins. Bryant died in 1983 at age 69.

1992 – Governor Mario Cuomo grants clemency to Jean Harris, who killed Scarsdale Diet Doctor Dr. Herman Tarnower in 1980. Harris, who suffered several heart attacks, had previously been denied clemency several times. Harris died in 2012 at age 89.

2007 – New England Patriot quarterback Tom Brady sets a (then) NFL record by throwing his 50th touchdown pass for the season. The Patriots become the first team in NFL history to finish the longer regular season at 16-0.

December 30

1903 – An electric arc lamp sets fire to the Iroquois Theater in Chicago, leaving 602 people dead in the deadliest single-building blaze in American history.

1907 – Abraham Mills, head of the Mills commission, declares that Abner Doubleday invented baseball. The Commission is charged with settling a dispute over whether baseball evolved from the British game of Rounders or, as Albert Spalding contended, was invented in America.

1924 – Edwin Hubble announces the existence of other galactic systems after he views the spiral nebula Andromeda through a telescope. The space telescope named for Hubble is launched in April 1990. Hubble died in 1953 at age 63.

1953 – The first NTSC color television sets go on sale for about $1,175 each by RCA.

1963 – “Let’s Make a Deal” debuts on TV and is still on the air. Its first host is co-creator Monty Hall, who is now 95 years old. The current host is Wayne Brady.

1968 – Frank Sinatra first records the song “My Way.” The lyrics were written by Paul Anka. Watch Sinatra sing his signature song live:

1985 – IBM releases its PC DOS Version 3.2.

1988 – Oliver North subpoenas Ronald Reagan and George Bush as defense witnesses for his upcoming Iran-Contra trial.

2003 – Attorney General John Ashcroft recuses himself and his office from the Valerie Plame affair. She is a CIA employee and wife of the former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Robert Novak writes a newspaper column about whether false information provided by Plame is used to justify the Iraq war during the Bush administration.

December 31

1879 – The cornerstone is laid for Iolani Palace in Hawaii, the only royal palace in the U.S. It is used as the royal Hawaiian residence until the monarchy is overthrown in 1893. Hawaii becomes a state in 1959. The palace is used as the state capital building until 1969 and opens as a museum in 1978.

1879 – Thomas Edison gives his first public demonstration of his incandescent lamp.

1890 – Ellis Island in New York opens as a U.S. immigration depot.

1904 – The first New Year’s Eve celebration is held in Times Square, known as Longacre Square, in New York City.

1907 – For the first time the ball drops at Times Square to signal the start of a new year. The first New Year’s Eve ball, made of iron and wood, is adorned with one hundred 25-watt light bulbs, is 5 feet in diameter, and weighs 700 pounds. It has been lowered every year since, except for 1942 and 1943.

1910 – The U.S. tobacco industry produces 9 billion cigarettes during the year.

1935 – Charles Darrow patents the board game Monopoly. Parker Brothers negotiates the rights to mass-produce the game, making Darrow the first game designer to be a millionaire. Darrow died in 1967 at age 78.

1940 – The first monthly U.S. social security payment is made to Ida May Fuller of Vermont for $22.54. She collects social security payments until her death in 1975 at age 100.

1946 – President Harry Truman officially proclaims the end of World War II.

1953 – Willie Shoemaker breaks the record by riding 485 winning horses in one year. He is the third winningest jockey of all time.

1955 – The General Motors Corporation becomes the first U.S. corporation to make over $1 billion in a year.

1961 – The Marshall Plan (the European Recovery Program) expires after distributing more than $12 billion to European countries recovering from WWII.

1961 – The Beach Boys make their debut performance at the Ritchie Valens memorial concert. They sing “Surfin” and “Johnny B. Goode.” Listen to The Beach Boys’ 1961 acoustic rehearsal of “Surfin” with still photos:

1967 – In the “Ice Bowl”, the Packers beat the Cowboys 21-17 in the NFL championship game. Game temperature is -13°F.

1974 – The ban on “hoarding” gold in the U.S. ends. In 1933 President FDR signs Executive Order 6102 making it illegal to own gold, except in small amounts or in the form of gold coins or certificates. Gold is turned over to the Federal Reserve in exchange for $20.67 per troy ounce.

1984 – The U.S. withdraws from UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization).

1990 – The Sci-Fi Channel begins transmitting on cable TV.

1995 – Cartoonist Bill Watterson ends his Calvin & Hobbes comic strip after 10 years. Watterson is now 58 years old.

1997 – Microsoft buys Hotmail E-mail service in a stock-swap transaction worth an estimated $400 million.

1999 – The U.S. turns over control of Panama Canal to Panama.

2007 – The Central Artery/ Tunnel Project, known as the “Big Dig,” is completed in Boston, Massachusetts. It is the most expensive highway project in U.S. history, costing more than $14 billion. The project was scheduled for completed in 1998 at a cost of less than $3 billion. Watch a CBS This Morning report on the dig:

January 1 – Happy New Year!

1788 – Quakers in Pennsylvania emancipate their slaves.

1808 – Congress prohibits the importation of slaves.

1840 – The first recorded bowling match in the U.S. is held at Knickerbocker Alleys in New York City. The origins of bowling can be traced back to Rome and Greece more than 4,000 years ago.

1861 – President Lincoln declares slavery in the Confederate states unlawful via the Emancipation Proclamation.

1863 – The first homestead under the Homestead Act is claimed near Beatrice, Nebraska.

1886 – The first Tournament of Roses Parade is held in Pasadena, California. The parade is the promotional brainchild of Pasadena’s distinguished Valley Hunt Club.

1902 – The first Rose Bowl football game in played in Pasadena, California. The University of Michigan defeats Stanford University 49-0. (See this date – 1942)

1912 – The first running of San Francisco’s famed “Bay to Breakers” race is held (7.63 miles/12.3 km).

1914 – The world’s first airline, St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line, begins operations.

1919 – Edsel Ford succeeds his father, Henry Ford, as president of the Ford Motor Company.

1928 – The first air-conditioned office building in the U.S. opens in San Antonio, Texas.

1934 – Alcatraz in the San Francisco bay officially becomes a federal prison.

1935 – In the first Sugar Bowl Tulane beats Temple, 20-14.

1935 – In the first Orange Bowl Bucknell beats Miami (FL), 26-0.

1942 – The Rose Bowl football game is played in North Carolina instead of California after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor three weeks earlier. Oregon beats Duke 20-16. It is the only time the Rose Bowl is not played in Pasadena.

1958 – Johnny Cash plays his first of many free concerts behind bars at San Quentin Prison. Twenty-year-old inmate Merle Haggard is in the audience. Watch Johnny Cash sing at one of his San Quintin concerts:

1966 – All U.S. cigarette packs have to carry the warning “Caution Cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health.”

1971 – Cigarette advertisements are banned on TV.

1976 – The Liberty Bell moves to its new home behind Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

1985 – The first mandatory seat belt law in the U.S. goes into effect in New York.

1985 – The Internet’s Domain Name System is created.

1995 – Cartoonist Gary Larson retires and publishes the last “The Far Side” cartoon. Larson started publishing the single-panel cartoon The Far Side in 1980. Larson is now 66 years old. Watch a 14-minute 20/20 interview:

1998 – All California bars, clubs, and card rooms must be smoke-free after California passes a landmark statewide smoke-free law.

2002 – The Open Skies Treaty, a mutual surveillance treaty, officially comes into effect. It is initially signed in 1992 by 34 countries, including the U.S., to promote openness and transparency of military forces and activities.

2014 – In the 100th Rose Bowl game #4 Michigan State beats #5 Stanford, 24-20.