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 August 14-20, 2017
1911 – Senate leaders begin rotating the office of President pro tempore of the Senate among leading candidates to fill the vacancy left by the death William P. Frye.
1935 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act into law creating unemployment insurance and pension plans for the elderly.
1936 – Rainey Bethea is hanged in Owensboro, Kentucky, in the last public execution in the U.S. Bethea is convicted of rape and murder based on his fingerprints, a new identification technique.
1941 – U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill issue the joint declaration that later becomes known as the Atlantic Charter. Although not a treaty, it is an affirmation “of certain common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they based their hopes for a better future for the world.” Watch a Discovery video with actual footage:
1945 – In what is called V-J Day, Japan surrenders unconditionally to end World War II.
1966 – The first U.S. lunar spacecraft begins orbiting the Moon. It crashes on the far side of the moon on October 29th after 577 moon orbits.
1974 – Congress authorizes U.S. citizens to own gold again. The Gold Reserve Act of January 1934 outlawed most private possession of gold.
1987 – Mark McGwire sets the record for major league home runs by a rookie when he connects for his 49th home run of the season. Watch McGwire hit a homerun in 1998 that broke Roger Maris’ record:
2015 – Patrick Hardison receives the most extensive full face transplant surgery ever performed. The surgery is done by Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez at New York University Langone Medical Center. Hardison is a volunteer firefighter who is severely burned in a 2001 fire. Watch a graphic documentary by the Medical Center:
1635 – The first recorded hurricane in the U.S. hits the Plymouth Colony.
1824 – Freed American slaves form the country of Christopolis in Africa. The settlement is renamed Monrovia after the American president James Monroe. The colony is now formally called Liberia and is the oldest democratic republic in Africa.
1877 – Thomas Edison writes to the president of the Telegraph Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The letter states that the greeting “hello” would be a more appropriate greeting than “ahoy” when answering the telephone.
1911 – Procter & Gamble unveils Crisco shortening, which is made entirely of vegetable oil. The brand name Crisco is a modification of the phrase “crystallized cottonseed oil” and is designed to remain solid at room temperature.
1914 – The Panama Canal opens to trans-oceanic traffic. Work began on the canal in 1904. The grand opening procession that was planned is cancelled after the outbreak of World War I. In 1977, President Carter signed the Panama Canal Treaty that returned control of the canal to Panama in 1999.
1935 – Will Rogers and Wiley Post are killed in a plane crash in Alaska. Rogers was 55 and Post, one of America’s greatest aviation pioneers, just 36.
1945 – Japan surrenders after the U.S. drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
1969 – Woodstock Music & Art Fair opens in New York State on Max Yasgur’s 600-acre Dairy Farm. Thirty-two musical acts perform at the outdoor concert. The fair in closes with Jimi Hendrix as the final act. An estimated 400,000 people attend the 3-day event. Watch Max welcome the crowd:
1970 – Patricia Palinkas becomes the first woman professional football player (Orlando).
1971 – President Nixon announces a 90-day freeze on wages, prices, and rents.
1994 – The Social Security Administration becomes an independent government agency. It had been a part of the Department of Health and Human Services.
1995 – Shannon Faulkner becomes the first female cadet in the history of The Citadel, South Carolina’s state military college when she won her battle for admission in a Supreme Court decision. She quits the school after five days. The Citadel drops its gender requirements for admission in July 1996 and admits four women in August 1996. Shannon Faulkner Marshall is now 41 years old. Watch her interview with Oprah then and now:
1829 – Siamese twins Chang and Eng Bunker arrive in Boston to be exhibited in the circus.
1863 – President Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation.
1898 – Edwin Prescott patents the “Loop-the-Loop” roller coaster. The first roller coaster in the U.S., however, is built by L. A. Thompson and opens at Coney Island, New York, in June of 1884. It is based on railway designs.
1920 – Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians is hit in the head by a New York Yankee Carl Mays pitch. Chapman dies next day and is the only major league baseball player game fatality.
1927 – New York Yankee baseball player Babe Ruth hits the first ever out of the park homerun at Comiskey Park in Chicago.
1949 – During the Truman Administration, U.S. General Omar Bradley becomes the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On September 22, 1950, Congress officially promotes Bradley to General of the Army with five stars. He is the last officer promoted to that rank, and the only one since World War II.
1954 – “Sports Illustrated” publishes its first magazine. Milwaukee Braves baseball player Eddie Mathews is on the cover.
1960 – Joseph Kittinger sets the free-fall world record. He falls more than 19 miles (over 102,000 feet) before opening his parachute over New Mexico. In 2012 Kittinger serves as the capsule communicator for Felix Baumgartner’s record-setting free-fall from 24 miles. Kittinger is now 89 years old. Watch a news report:
2003 – Representative Bill Janklow (R-SD) runs a stop sign and hits and kills a motorcyclist at a rural intersection near Trent, South Dakota. He is eventually convicted of manslaughter and resigns from Congress in January 2004. Janklow died of brain cancer in 2012 at age 72.
1859 – The first airmail flight takes off from Lafayette, Indiana, in a hot air balloon.
1903 – Journalist and publisher Joseph Pulitzer donates $1 million to Columbia University to begin the Pulitzer Prizes. The first Pulitzer Prizes are awarded in 1917 to Herbert Bayard Swope of the New York World newspaper for his articles entitled “Inside the German Empire” and the biography Julia Ward Howe by Laura E. Richards and Maude Howe Elliott. The New York Tribune receives an award for an editorial on the first anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania.
1945 – At the end of World War II North and South Korea are divided along the 38th parallel. The U.S. occupies the area south of the 38th parallel and the Soviet Union occupies the area north of the parallel.
1958 – The U.S. attempts to launch the world’s first Moon probe, Thor-Able, which fails when it explodes at T+77 seconds (77 seconds after takeoff).
1960 – The U-2 spy trial of downed American pilot Francis Gary Powers begins in Moscow. Powers pleads guilty to espionage and is sentenced to three years in prison and seven years hard labor. He serves 21 months and is exchanged for convicted KGB spy Rudolph Abel in February 1962, who serves 4 years of his 45-year sentence. Watch a report including interviews with Powers:
1978 – Three Americans, Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson, and Larry Newman, make the first successful crossing of the Atlantic in a balloon after 137 hours aboard the Eagle II.
1992 – Actor Woody Allen admits to being romantically involved with 21-year-old Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of Mia Farrow, who is Allen’s longtime companion. Allen and Previn get married in 1997 and are still married. Allen is now 80 and Previn is 45 years old.
1996 – Ross Perot is announced as the Reform Party’s first-ever presidential candidate. He garners 19 percent of the popular vote in the November election.
1998 – President Bill Clinton admits in taped testimony that he had an “improper physical relationship” with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. He admits before the nation that he “misled people” about his relationship with her. Watch Clinton’s mea culpa:
1735 – The Boston Evening Post newspaper begins publishing in Boston, Massachusetts. It is among the oldest newspapers published in America. The last issue is published in April of 1775.
1872 – Aaron Montgomery Ward issues the first mail-order catalog from his Chicago-based company. It offers 163 products. In 1875 Ward announces his products come with “satisfaction guaranteed.”
1914 – President Woodrow Wilson issues The “Proclamation of Neutrality,” aimed at keeping the U.S. out of World War I.
1920 – The 19th Amendment is ratified, giving women the right to vote.
1940 – Canada and the U.S. establish a joint defense plan against the possible enemy attacks during World War II.
1956 – Elvis Presley’s double-sided record “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel” reach #1 and #2 on the music charts and stays there for over a year.
1962 – The singing trio Peter, Paul and Mary release their first hit, “If I Had a Hammer.” The song was written in 1949 by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays as “The Hammer Song.” Watch the trio nail it:
1982 – The New York Stock Exchange passes the 100 million mark for the first time when 132.69 million shares are traded.
1997 – Beth Ann Hogan becomes the first female coed in the Virginia Military Institute’s 158-year history. Hogan drops out of VMI in January 1998.
2000 – A Federal jury finds the EPA guilty of discrimination against Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, later inspiring passage of the No FEAR Act. The No FEAR (Federal Antidiscrimination and Retaliation) Act is intended to reduce the incidence of workplace discrimination within the federal government by making agencies and departments more accountable.
2004 – Donald Trump re-releases his board game (TRUMP the Game) where players bid on real estate, buy big-ticket items, and make billion-dollar business deals. Watch the original 1989 commercial for the game featuring the future president:
2005 – Dennis Rader is sentenced to 175 years in prison for the BTK (bind, torture, and kill) serial killings of 10 people.
1791 – Benjamin Banneker, born a free black in Maryland, publishes his first almanac. He published the Farmer’s Almanac from 1792 to 1797. He was a self-taught astronomer and mathematician.
1812 – The U.S. warship Constitution defeats the British warship Guerriere 400 miles southeast of the British base at Halifax, earning the nickname “Old Ironsides.”
1895 – American frontier murderer and outlaw John Wesley Hardin is killed by an off-duty policeman in a saloon in El Paso, Texas. Hardin claimed to have killed 42 men. He served 17 years of a 25-year sentence for one of the murders and obtained a law license after being released from prison in 1894.
1934 – The first All-American Soap Box Derby is held in Dayton, Ohio. The following year the race is moved to Akron because of the central location and hilly terrain. The Derby has run continuously except during World War II.
1940 – The new Civil Aeronautics Administration awards honorary license #1 to 68-year-old Orville Wright.
1984 – Ronald Reagan is nominated for president for a second term at the Republican National Convention in Houston, Texas. He is re-elected in November, winning 49 of the 50 states (all but Walter Mondale’s home state of Minnesota).
1984 – California Supreme Court refuses to allow 26-year-old quadriplegic Elizabeth Bouvia to starve herself to death in a public hospital. She appeals and is later granted the right to die. Bouvia changed her mind and is still living.
2004 – Google Inc. stock begins selling on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The initial price is set at $85 and ends the day at $100.34 with more than 22 million shares traded. It is now selling for over $900 a share.
2010 – Operation Iraqi Freedom ends with the last of the U.S. brigade combat teams crossing the border into Kuwait.
2011 – The West Memphis Three are released from prison after 18 years when they negotiate Alford plea deals. The Alford plea allows a defendant to admit the prosecution has enough evidence for a conviction without admitting guilt. In 2007, DNA evidence and jury misconduct accusations led to a retrial. Then teenagers Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, Jr., and Jason Baldwin were convicted in 1993 of murdering three 2nd grade students. No one else is ever arrested for the crime.
2015 – The Food and Drug administration approves the female Viagra libido pill Addyi.
1619 – The first black slaves are brought by the Dutch to the colony of Jamestown, Virginia.
1741 – Danish explorer Vitus Bering discovers Alaska. Alaska becomes the 49th state in 1959.
1866 – President Andrew Johnson formally declares that the Civil War is over.
1920 – The American Professional Football Association (APFC) forms when Jim Thorpe and six others meet in Canton, Ohio, to organize a professional football league. Thorpe serves as its first president. Canton is the location of the Football Hall of Fame.
1920 – The first U.S. commercial radio station, WWJ am 950 in Detroit, Michigan, begins daily broadcasting. WWJ News-radio still broadcasts from Detroit.
1964 – President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Economic Opportunity Act, a $1 billion anti-poverty measure.
1977 – NASA launches Voyager 2 toward the outer planets. It explores Jupiter in 1979, Saturn in 1981, Uranus in 1986, and Neptune in 1989. After 40 years, Voyager 2, one of the farthest man-made objects, is still in contact with the Deep Space Network.
1998 – The U.S. military launches cruise missile attacks against alleged al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan and a suspected chemical weapons plant in Sudan in retaliation for the August 7th bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The attack instead destroyed the al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum. The attack occurred during the President Clinton hearings on the Monica Lewinsky scandal.