This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past,
for human events ever resemble those of preceding times.”
Week of April 17-23, 2017
1704 – John Campbell publishes in Boston the first successful U.S. newspaper.
1865 – Mary Surratt is arrested as a conspirator in President Lincoln’s assassination. She owns the boarding house where her son John Surratt, along with John Wilkes Booth and others, conspire to kill the president. She is hanged on July 7th with three others convicted of the conspiracy. Mary, aged 42, is the first woman executed by order of the U.S. government.
1924 – Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures, and Louis B. Mayer Company merge to form MGM.
1934 – The new Fenway Park opens. The Washington Senators beat the Red Sox 6-5.
1941 – The Office of Price Administration is established to handle rationing during World War I.
1948 – Bernard Baruch, advisor to presidents Hoover and Truman, introduces term Cold War when he says, “Let us not be deceived, we are today in the midst of a Cold War.”
1961 – A group of 1,500 Cuban exiles supported by the U.S. government invades the Bay of Pigs on the southern coast of Cuba in an attempt to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro. The invasion fails and by April 21st all fighters are killed or captured.
1964 – Jerrie Mock becomes the first woman to fly solo around the world when she completes a flight of 29 days. She flies in a Cessna 180 christened the “Spirit of Columbus.” Mock died in 2014 at age 88. Watch a short slide show of Jerrie’s career:
1967 – Surveyor 3 is launched and lands on the Moon on April 20th.
1969 – Sirhan Sirhan is convicted of assassinating U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy. He is sentenced to death but his sentence is commuted to life in prison after California abolishes capital punishment. Sirhan is now 74 years old and still in prison.
1972 – Nina Kuscsik of New York wins the first Boston Women’s Marathon in 3:10:26.
1978 – A record 63,500,000 shares are traded on the New York stock exchange. Daily shares traded tops 7 billion in 2009.
1982 – The final episode of “The Lawrence Welk Show” airs. The show premieres in 1955 and airs over 1,000 shows. Welk died in 1992 at age 89.
1986 – IBM produces the first megabit-chip.
1991 – The Dow Jones closes above 3,000 for the first time (3,004.46).
1996 – Lyle and Erik Menendez are sentenced to life in prison without parole for killing their parents in 1989 when the sons are age 21 and 18 respectively. All their appeals have been denied. Watch a recent report about the brothers:
2010 – George Washington is reported to have racked up $300,000 in late fees for failing to return a book to a Manhattan library. After staff at Washington’s former home in Mount Vernon, Virginia, learn of the situation, they get in touch with the library and offer to replace the book with another copy of the same book. During a ceremony in May the Mount Vernon staff present the book to the New York library.
1775 – Paul Revere and William Dawes ride from Charleston to Lexington warning colonists, “The Regulars are coming out!”
1861 – Col. Robert E. Lee turns down President Lincoln’s request to command the Union Army.
1906 – The San Francisco earthquake and subsequent fire kills nearly 4,000 people and destroys 75 percent of city. It ranks as the 16th strongest earthquake in the U.S. at an estimated 7.8 on the Richter scale.
1912 – The Cunard liner Carpathia brings the 705 survivors from the Titanic to New York City.
1924 – The first crossword puzzle book is published by Simon & Schuster.
1934 – The first “Washateria” (Laundromat) opens in Fort Worth, Texas.
1942 – “Stars & Stripes” newspaper for U.S. armed forces begins publishing.
1958 – A U.S. federal court rules that Idaho-born poet Ezra Pound is to be released from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for the criminally insane after 13 years of confinement. Pound lived in Italy during WWII and strongly supported Mussolini. He is arrested at the end of the war and held in a prison camp, where he suffers a mental breakdown. After his release from St. Elizabeth’s, Pound returns to Italy, where he lives until his death in 1972 at the age of 87.
1964 – Sandy Koufax is the first pitcher to strike out the side with only 9 pitches (the minimum).
1966 – Bill Russell becomes the first black coach in National Basketball Association history. He coaches the Boston Celtics for three years.
1968 – U.S. oil executive Robert P. McCulloch buys the London Bridge for $2.4 million to be reassembled in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. The London Bridge, originally build in 1831, opens as an attraction in 1971. Watch an American version of the history of the London Bridge:
1978 – The Senate votes to turn the Panama Canal over to Panama on Dec 31, 1999.
1983 – A lone suicide/ homicide bomber kills 63 people at the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon.
1987 – Gregory Robertson does a 200-mph free fall from 13,500 feet over Phoenix to save fellow skydiver Debbie Williams, who is knocked unconscious when she collides with another skydiver. Robertson pulls her ripcord and Williams lands, sustaining several injuries. Watch a dramatic report with a description by Robertson:
1991 – The U.S. Census Bureau says it failed to count up to 63 million in the 1990 census.
1994 – Former President Nixon suffers a stroke and dies four days later at the age of 81.
2002 – Actor Robert Blake and his bodyguard are arrested in connection with the shooting death of Blake’s wife, Bonnie Lee Bakley, about a year before. Although Blake is acquitted in 2005, he is found guilty in a civil trial and ordered to pay $30 million to Bakley’s children. Blake files for bankruptcy. He is now 83 years old.
2007 – The Supreme Court upholds the 2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in a 5-4 decision.
2008 – A Texas District Judge rules that the state will keep temporary custody of the 416 children that were taken from a polygamous sect “Yearning For Zion” West Texas compound. Prosecutors say polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs and others adults sexually abused the children.
1775 – The American Revolution begins in Lexington Common after the “shot heard round the world” is fired by a British soldier. The phrase comes from the 1837 poem “Concord Hymn” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
1782 – John Adams secures the Dutch Republic’s recognition of the United States as an independent government. The house he purchased in The Hague, Netherlands becomes the first American embassy.
1897 – The first American marathon is held in Boston. John J. McDermott wins in 2:55:10. The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon.
1927 – Mae West is sentenced to 10 days in jail and fined $500. The 34-year-old West is charged with “obscenity and corrupting the morals of youth” for writing (under the pen name Jane Mast), directing, and performing in the play “Sex.”
1933 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt issues a proclamation that removes the U.S. from the gold standard.
1934 – Shirley Temple appears in her first movie “Stand Up & Cheer” one week before her 6th birthday. During her 30-year career she appears in over 75 movies and film projects. She later serves as the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and then Ghana. Shirley Temple Black died in 2014 at age 85. Watch the amazing little Shirley Temple:
1955 – The German automaker Volkswagen, after selling cars in the U.S. for six years, founds Volkswagen of America in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, in order to standardize its dealer and service network.
1966 – Roberta Bignay becomes the first woman to run in the Boston Marathon.
1982 – Sally Ride is named as the first woman astronaut. In 1983 Ride becomes the first American woman in space. Ride flies into space on another Space Shuttle mission in 1985. Ride died in 2012 at the age of 61 from pancreatic cancer.
1987 – The last wild condor is captured at a California wildlife reserve. The male condor joins the 27 only remaining condors for the breeding program at the San Diego Wild Animal Park.
1993 – Seventy-six Branch Davidian men, women, and children in Waco, Texas, die in a fire after a 51-day siege. Janet Reno approves the use of tear gas because Bill Clinton said, “If she thought it was the right thing to do, she should proceed.” Watch a CNN report of the first siege:
1994 – Rodney King is awarded $3,800,000 in compensation for his police beating. King died in 2012 at age 47.
1995 – A truck bomb parked at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City kills 168 and injures 500. Timothy McVeigh is arrested, convicted, and executed for the bombing.
2000 – The Oklahoma City National Memorial is dedicated on the fifth anniversary of the bombing in Oklahoma that kills 168 people.
2002 – The USS Cole is relaunched. When in Yemen, 17 sailors are killed when the ship is attacked by terrorists on October 12, 2000. The attack is blamed on Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network.
1775 – The British begin the siege of Boston, Massachusetts.
1853 – Harriet Tubman starts the Underground Railroad.
1871 – The 3rd Enforcement Act allows the President to suspend the writ of habeas corpus to combat the Ku Klux Klan. President Grant receives the legislation within a month of his request and uses it to dismantle the KKK.
1896 – The first public film showing in U.S. is John Philip Sousa’s “El Capitan.” It premieres in New York City.
1904 – The Louisiana Purchase Exposition opens in St Louis, Missouri.
1912 – Fenway Park in New York and Tiger Stadium in Detroit officially open.
1935 – “Your Hit Parade” debuts on the radio. The show airs on the radio and TV until 1959.
1940 – The first electron microscope is demonstrated by RCA in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
1949 – Jockey legend Bill Shoemaker wins his first horse race in Albany, California.
1961 – American Harold Graham makes the first untethered flight of the rocket belt. The 108-foot flight lasts 13 seconds. Watch a CBS report and the flight:
1962 – NASA civilian pilot Neil Armstrong makes his first X-15 flight. In 1969 Armstrong becomes the first man to walk on the moon. Armstrong died in 2012 at age 82.
1977 – The Supreme Court rules that New Hampshire citizens may cover the phrase “Live Free or Die” on license plates after George Maynard, a Jehovah’s Witness, finds the motto to be contrary to his religious and political beliefs and cuts the words “or Die” off his plate.
1988 – The U.S. Air Forces’ Stealth B-2 bomber is officially unveiled. Watch the roll out:
1999 – Students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold kill 13 people and wound 24 others at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colorado, before committing suicide.
2008 – Danica Patrick wins the Indy Japan 300, becoming the first female driver in history to win an Indy car race. In 2005 Patrick becomes the first woman to lead at the Indy 500 in Indianapolis. Patrick is 35 years old.
2010 – Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explodes, killing 11, causing the rig to sink, and initiating a massive oil discharge in the Gulf of Mexico.
2010 – The Supreme Court rules that a law which makes it illegal to sell videos of animals being tortured violates the right to free speech. Chief Justice John Roberts says that the law is too broad and invalid to be used under the First Amendment.
1789 – John Adams is sworn in as the first U.S. Vice President. George Washington is sworn in as President 9 days later.
1836 – During the Battle of San Jacinto, Texas militia under Sam Houston capture Mexican General Santa Anna. In exchange for his freedom Santa Anna recognizes Texas’ independence from Mexico.
1855 – The first train crosses the Chicago Rock Island Bridge, which is the first bridge across the Mississippi River. It spans the river from Rock Island, Illinois, to Davenport, Iowa.
1862 – The U.S. Congress established the U.S. Mint in Denver, Colorado.
1892 – The first buffalo is born in captivity at Golden Gate Park.
1904 – Ty Cobb makes his professional baseball debut for Augusta in the South Atlantic League. Cobb spends most of his baseball career with the Detroit Tigers. He still holds the record for career batting average at .367 and is in the first group of Baseball Hall of Fame’s inductees. Cobb died in 1961 at age 74.
1930 – A fire at the Ohio State Penitentiary kills 322 prisoners, many of whom died in their locked cells.
1956 – Elvis Presley has his first number one hit when “Heartbreak Hotel” tops the Billboard charts.
1967 – Svetlana Alliluyeva (Svetlana Stalina) defects in New York City. She is the daughter of Joseph Stalin. Alliluyeva died in 2011 at age 85. Watch her 1967 press conference:
1984 – The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says a virus discovered in France causes AIDS.
1986 – Geraldo Rivera opens Al Capone’s vault during a live two-hour special on TV and finds nothing inside. Watch Geraldo’s own commentary:
1992 – Robert Alton Harris becomes the first person executed by the state of California in 25 years. He is put to death for the 1978 murder of two teen-age boys.
1995 – The FBI arrests Timothy McVeigh and charges him with the April 19th Oklahoma City bombing. McVeigh is subsequently convicted and executed.
1997 – The ashes of the late Gene Roddenberry, the “Star Trek” creator, are launched into space.
2000 – The 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act goes into effect to protect children’s privacy and increase safety online, including restrictions on the marketing to those under age 13.
2009 – UNESCO launches The World Digital Library. The World Digital Library (WDL) is an international digital library operated by UNESCO and the U.S. Library of Congress.
1793 – President Washington attends the opening of Rickett’s, the first circus in the U.S.
1861 – Robert E. Lee is named commander of Virginia forces after earlier declining President Lincoln’s request to command the Union Army.
1864 – The United States mints a 2-cent coin. It has the first appearance of “In God We Trust.”
1889 – The Oklahoma land rush officially starts. The name “Sooners” comes from a clause in the Indian Appropriations Act that denies the right to claim land to anyone who arrives sooner than the official opening time.
1898 – President McKinley orders a blockade of Cuban harbors during the Spanish-American War.
1914 – Babe Ruth makes his pitching debut with the Baltimore Orioles.
1931 – James G. Ray lands an autogyro on the lawn of the White House. President Hoover presents pilot Ray and autogyro builder Harold Pitcairn with the National Aeronatic Association’s Collier Trophy, awarded “for the greatest achievement in aviation in America, the value of which has been demonstrated by actual use during the preceding year.” Watch a silent video of the landing:
1940 – Rear Admiral Joseph Taussig testifies before the U.S. Senate Naval Affairs Committee that war with Japan is inevitable.
1951 – New York City holds a ticker-tape parade for General MacArthur after he is relieved of his command by President Truman. Watch the parade (without sound):
1955 – Congress orders all U.S. coins to bear the motto “In God We Trust.”
1964 – The World’s Fair opens in Flushing Meadow, New York.
1970 – The first “Earth Day” is observed by millions of Americans. Twenty million Americans participate in various events coordinated by Denis Hayes. Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI), the founder of Earth Day, died in 2005 at age 89.
1972 – Apollo 16 astronauts John Young and Charles Duke ride on the moon in the Lunar Roving Vehicle. (Apollo 17 in December 1972 is the last manned mission to the moon.) Watch the historic moon ride:
1974 – Barbara Walters becomes news co-anchor of the Today Show on daytime TV.
1976 – Barbara Walters becomes the first female nightly network news anchor.
1981 – $3.3 million is stolen from the First National Bank in Tucson, Arizona. David Grandstaff, 44, and Douglas Brown, 41, of Des Moines, Iowa, are both acquitted. A third man, Douglas Fennimore, accepts a plea deal and turns over almost $1million. Grandstaff and Brown serve time for an unrelated jewelry heist. No one else is ever charged.
1993 – The Holocaust Memorial Museum is dedicated in Washington, DC.
2000 – In a pre-dawn raid, federal agents seize six-year-old Elián González from his uncle’s home in Miami, Florida. González is among Cuban boat people rescued on Thanksgiving Day when 12 members of his family die. He is released to his uncle but his father in Cuba demands custody. Attorney General Janet Reno approves the plan to forcibly remove González from the home. He returns to Cuba on June 28th. González is now 23 years old.
2005 – Zacarias Moussaoui (a French citizen of Moroccan descent) pleads guilty to conspiring with other al-Qaeda members in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He is later sentenced to life in prison and is now serving a life sentence at the Federal ADX Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.
2010 – The Vatican defends its decision not to defrock Wisconsin priest Father Lawrence Murphy who was accused of sexually assaulting as many as two hundred deaf boys from the 1950’s to the 1970’s. Murphy died in 1998.
2014 – The Supreme Court rules 6 to 2 in favor of a Michigan ban on affirmative action.
1635 – The oldest U.S. public institution still in operation, Boston Latin School, is founded.
1789 – President-elect George Washington moves into Franklin House in New York City.
1900 – The word “hillbilly” is first used in print in an article in the “New York Journal.” It is spelled “Hill-Billie”.
1908 – President Theodore Roosevelt signs an act creating the U.S. Army Reserve.
1924 – The U.S. Senate passes the Soldiers Bonus Bill for World War I vets. President Coolidge vetoes the bill in May but Congress overrides the presidential veto. President Harding vetoes a similar bill in 1922. Veterans march on Washington in 1932 to force Congress to pay the bonuses.
1954 – Hammerin’ Hank Aaron hits the first of his 755 homers. Aaron breaks Babe Ruth’s home run record with 715 during a home game for the Atlanta Braves on April 8, 1974. He hits his final home run as a Milwaukee Brewer on July 20, 1976. Aaron is now 83 years old.
1956 – The U.S. Supreme Court ends race segregation on buses.
1969 – Sirhan Sirhan is sentenced to death for killing Bobby Kennedy on June 6, 1968. Three years later Sirhan’s sentence is commuted to life in prison because California deems capital punishment of convicted assassins as cruel and unusual punishment. Sirhan is still in prison and is now 73 years old.
1984 – Researchers announce they discovered and isolated a virus they say is likely to be the primary cause of AIDS.
1985 – The Coca-Cola Company announces that it is changing its 99-year-old secret formula. New Coke is not successful, which results in the resumption of the selling the original version. Watch the mea culpa announcement of Coca-Cola returning to the original formula:
1988 – A federal ban on smoking during domestic airline flights of 2 hours or less takes effect.
1989 – Wine merchant William Sokolin breaks a bottle of 1787 Château Margaux worth $500,000, possibly belonging to Thomas Jefferson, while at the Four Seasons restaurant in New York. The bottle was insured.
1992 – Marion Barry, former mayor of Washington, DC, is released from prison following his conviction for drug possession. Barry is reelected mayor of DC in 1994.
1996 – An auction of the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ possessions begins at Sotheby’s in New York City. The sale brings in $34.5 million.
2005 – The first video is uploaded to YouTube.com. Watch the first YouTube video with over 30 million views:
2009 – The iTunes Music Store reaches 1 billion applications downloaded.
2010 – Arizona’s governor Jan Brewer signs an immigration bill into law that is seen as one of the toughest in the U.S., despite criticism by President Obama.