This Week In History, April 20-26


This Week In History

by Dianne Hermann


“Educate and inform the whole mass of the people.

They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”

– Thomas Jefferson


Week of April 20-26, 2015


April 20

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.

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 injure 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 33 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.


April 21

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.

1967 – Svetlana Alliluyeva (Svetlana Stalina) defects in New York City. She is the daughter of Joseph Stalin. Alliluyeva died in 2011 at age 85.


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.


April 22

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.

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.

1972 – Apollo 16 astronauts John Young and Charles Duke ride on the moon in the Lunar Roving Vehicle. Watch the 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 are 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 21 years old.


April 23

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 81 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 71 years old.

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.


1988 – A federal ban on smoking during domestic airline flights of 2 hours or less takes effect.

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 Watch the first YouTube video with almost 20 million views:

2009 – The iTunes Music Store reaches 1 billion applications downloaded.


April 24

1704 – The “Boston News-Letter” is established. It is the first successful newspaper in the U.S.

1800 – The Library of Congress is established when President John Adams signs a bill that also moves the capital from Philadelphia to Washington, DC. The bill includes a $5,000 allocation for a reference library for Congressional use.

1833 – Jacob Evert and George Dulty are granted a patent is for the first soda fountain.

1897 – William Price is the first reporter assigned to the White House.

1898 – Spain declares war after rejecting the U.S. ultimatum to withdraw from Cuba.

1908 – Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Murdock become the first people to travel across the U.S. by car. They leave Los Angeles in a Packard and arrive in New York City 32 days, 5 hours, and 25 minutes later.


1917 – The U.S. Congress passes the Liberty Loan Act, authorizing the Treasury to issue a public subscription for $2 billion in bonds for the war.

1962 – MIT sends a TV signal by satellite for the first time. The signal travels from California to Massachusetts.

1980 – The U.S. military operation Eagle Claw, ordered by President Jimmy Carter to save 52 hostages in Iran, fails. Eight servicemen die during a refueling stop in bad weather. All the hostages are released moments after President Reagan completes his inauguration speech on January 20, 1981.

1981 – The U.S. ends the grain embargo against the USSR.

1990 – The space shuttle Discovery blasts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida carrying the $1.5 billion Hubble Space Telescope.

1997 – The U.S. Senate ratifies the Chemical Weapons Convention. The global treaty bans the development, production, storage and use of chemical weapons.


April 25

1846 – A military skirmish known as the Thornton Affair begins over the disputed border of Texas, triggering the Mexican-American War.

1901 – New York becomes the first state requiring automobile license plates. They charge a $1 fee.

1928 – Morris Frank becomes the first American to use a guide dog. Buddy, a German shepherd, is the first guide dog. Watch a touching video of Morris, in his own words, and Buddy:

1945 – Delegates from about 50 countries meet in San Francisco to organize the United Nations.

1950 – Chuck Cooper becomes the first black player in the National Basketball Association.

1959 – The St. Lawrence Seaway linking the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes opens to shipping.

1960 – The submarine Triton becomes the first submerged vessel to circumnavigate the Earth.

1967 – Colorado Governor John Love signs the first law in the U.S. legalizing abortions. The law is limited to therapeutic abortions when agreed to unanimously by a panel of three physicians.

1974 – The National Football League moves the goal posts and adopts the sudden-death playoff.

1984 – David Anthony Kennedy, son of the late Robert F. Kennedy, is found dead in a hotel room of a drug overdose.


1990 – The Hubble space telescope is placed into orbit by the space shuttle Discovery.


1998 – First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton is questioned by Whitewater prosecutors on videotape about her work as a private lawyer for the failed savings and loan at the center of the investigation. Watch a 1996 interview with Barbara Walters:

2007 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes above 13,000 for the first time.


April 26

1607 – The British establish an American colony at Cape Henry near Jamestown, Virginia. It is the first permanent English establishment in the Western Hemisphere.

1819 – The first Odd Fellows lodge in the U.S. is established in Baltimore, Maryland.

1859 – New York politician Dan Sickles is acquitted of murdering his wife’s lover on grounds of temporary insanity. It is the first time the insanity defense is used successfully.

1865 – John Wilkes Booth is killed by the U.S. Federal Cavalry at the Garrett Farm in Virginia. Booth assassinated President Lincoln on April 15.

1907 – The Jamestown Virginia Tercentenary (300th) Exposition opens.

1937 – “LIFE” magazine is printed without the word “LIFE” on the cover.


1941 – A tradition of playing organ music during a baseball game begins when the Chicago Cubs use an organ as a one-time gimmick. It is so popular that the Cubs management keeps the instrument. Gary Pressy has been the organist at Wrigley Field for more than 25 years.


1954 – A nationwide test of Salk anti-polio vaccine begins.

1962 – NASA’s Ranger 4 spacecraft makes a crash landing on the backside of the moon when its onboard computer fails to deploy the solar panels and navigation system.

1986 – Actor, body builder, and future California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger marries John F. Kennedy’s niece, newscaster Maria Shriver. They separate in 2011.


1992 – The final episodes of “Growing Pains” (after 7 years) and “Who’s The Boss” (after 8 years) air on ABC-TV.

1993 – NBC announces that Conan O’Brien will replace David Letterman on late night TV. O’Brien is replaced by Jay Leno. Jimmy Fallon is the current host. Steve Allen was the first.

1996 – Sotheby’s ends a 4-day auction of 6,000 items belonging to the late Jackie Kennedy Onassis. The auction brings in $34.5 million.