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 7-13, 2017
1782 – George Washington creates the Order of the Purple Heart after the Continental Congress forbids Washington from granting soldiers commissions and promotions for merit.
1882 – The Hatfields of West Virginia and the McCoys of Kentucky begin their infamous feud with the mortal wounding of Elliston Hatfield by three McCoy brothers in a dispute over a stolen pig. The families agree to stop fighting in 1891 after 15 people are killed and many more are wounded, but bad feelings continue throughout the 20th Century. The ongoing grudge inspires the TV show “The Family Feud.” Descendants of both families appear on the show in 1979 where the show’s producers pay each family the winner’s share to avoid renewing hostilities. Watch the fifth and final Family Feud game:
1909 – The U.S. issues the first Lincoln penny. In 1959, the new Lincoln Memorial design on the U.S. penny goes into circulation. It replaces the “sheaves of wheat” design.
1912 – The Progressive (Bull Moose) Party nominates Theodore Roosevelt for president, who has already served as president 1901-1909. Woodrow Wilson wins the 1912 election.
1963 – First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy has a daughter Arabella Kennedy, becoming the 1st First Lady since Frances Cleveland in 1893 to give birth while her husband is in office. Tragically, the Kennedy’s daughter is stillborn.
1964 – Congress passes the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which gives President Johnson broad powers in dealing with North Vietnamese attacks on American ships, without having to declare war. The resolution was repealed by President Nixon in January 1971.
1970 – The first all-computer chess championship is held in New York City. Six programs enter the North American Computer Championships sponsored by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). In 1950, Alan Turing wrote the first computer chess program.
1990 – Operation Desert Shield (aka Gulf War) begins when the U.S. deploys troops to Saudi Arabia from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia.
2007 – Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants breaks baseball great Hank Aaron’s record by hitting his 756th home run. Watch the homer:
1844 – Brigham Young is chosen as the Mormon Church leader following the death of Joseph Smith. Smith and his brother Hyrum were murdered by a mob in a Carthage, Illinois, jail on June 27, 1944. Joseph Smith, mayor of Nauvoo, was awaiting trial for ordering the destruction of local newspaper critical of Mormon Church leaders. Smith was running for President of the U.S. at the time of his death. He was 69 years old. Five defendants charged with the murders were all acquitted.
1854 – Smith & Wesson patents metal bullet cartridges. Prior to this, paper cartridges were used.
1900 – The first Davis Cup tennis competition, named after tennis player and politician Dwight Filley Davis, begins at Longwood Cricket Club in Massachusetts and is won by the United States two days later. The Davis Cup is now the world’s largest annual international team sport competition (135 nations entered in 2016).
1911 – Public Law 62-5 (Apportionment Act) sets the number of representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives at 435. The law goes into effect in 1913.
1918 – Alvin York is given command of troops when six U.S. soldiers are surrounded by Germans in France during World War I. York shoots 20 Germans and captures 132 more. He is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and eight other American and European awards. Sergeant York was the most highly decorated soldier of WWI. York died in 1964 at age 76.
1945 – President Harry S. Truman signs the United Nations Charter. The U.N. came into existence on October 24, 1945, after it is ratified by a majority of member nations. The U.N. headquarters building in New York City was completed in 1952.
1973 – Vice President Spiro T. Agnew says the reports that he took kickbacks from government contracts in Maryland are “damned lies” and he vows not to resign. Agnew resigns on October 10, 1973.
1992 – The “Dream Team” clinches the gold medal in basketball at the Barcelona Summer Olympics when the U.S. team beats Croatia 117-85. The Dream Team is elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010. Watch a video of the 10 top U.S. plays at the Olympics:
2000 – The Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley is raised to the surface after 136 years on the ocean floor off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. It is the first submarine to sink a ship during wartime. The sinking of the Federal warship USS Housatonic also results in the sinking of the Hunley due to its close proximity to the explosion. The Housatonic remains on the ocean floor.
1790 – The three-masted sailing ship Columbia under the command of Captain Robert Gray returns to Boston after a 3-year journey, becoming the first ship to carry the U. S. flag around the world.
1930 – Betty Boop debuts in Max Fleischer’s animated cartoon “Dizzy Dishes.” Watch the animated film:
1936 – Jesse Owens wins his 4th gold medal at the Berlin Summer Olympics. President Roosevelt never invites Owens to the White House because FDR is running for re-election.
1944 – The Forest Service and Wartime Advertising Council create “Smokey the Bear” to curb forest fires and conserve resources. A bear cub is rescued during a 1950 New Mexico fire, sent to the National Zoo in Washington, and becomes the living symbol of Smokey the Bear. Smokey died in 1976 and is buried in New Mexico. Watch an early public service ad:
1945 – The U.S. drops its second atomic bomb (Fat Man) on Nagasaki, Japan. The following day the Japanese government announces Japan will surrender. The only condition is that the status of Emperor Hirohito will remain unchanged. Japan signs the surrender on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2nd.
1969 – The Manson family commits the Tate-LaBianca murders. Charles Manson’s followers murder pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others in her home, and then murder Leno and Rosemary LaBianca the next day. Manson and four of his followers are convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The sentences are commuted to life in prison by the California Supreme Court’s 1972 ruling in People vs. Anderson. Manson is now 82 years old.
1974 – Richard Nixon resigns the presidency. Vice President Gerald Ford becomes the president. Nixon selected Senator Gerald Ford as Vice President in 1973 after Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned. Ford is the only person to serve as both President and Vice President without having been elected to either office. Watch Nixon’s announcement from the White House:
1975 – The New Orleans Superdome is officially opened when the Saints play the Houston Oilers in an exhibition football game. The Superdome costs $163 million to build. In 2011, German automaker Mercedes-Benz bought the naming rights for the stadium.
1985 – Arthur J. Walker, a retired Navy officer, is found guilty of seven counts of spying for the Soviet Union. Walker made a plea deal requiring him to testify against his co-conspirator Jerry Whitworth in exchange for a lesser sentence for his son Michael, who was also involved in the spy ring. Arthur Walker and Whitworth are sentenced to life in prison. Michael Walker is sentenced to 25 years. Whitworth is still incarcerated. Michael was paroled in 2000. Arthur died in prison in 2014 at age 77.
1831 – Former slave Nat Turner leads a violent slave insurrection, killing 55 to 65 whites. Turner is captured two months later. He is tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. Turner is hanged on November 11th. Between 100 and 200 slaves (guilty and innocent) are executed and lynched after the revolt.
1846 – Congress signs a charter establishing the Smithsonian Institution with a $500,000 donation from English scientist James Smithson. Childless, Smithson’s will specifies that if his nephew dies without an heir that his fortune should go “to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Smithson died in 1829 and his nephew died without an heir in 1935.
1927 – Mount Rushmore was formally dedicated. The individual faces of the presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and T. Roosevelt) are dedicated later. The rate of erosion is about one inch ever 10,000 years.
1948 – Allen Funt’s Candid Camera TV show debuts on ABC. Allen Funt hosts or co-hosts almost every TV version of the show until his stroke in 1993 from which he never recovers. His son Peter Funt hosts and produces the show until 2004. Watch one of the earliest, and funniest, practical jokes:
1966 – NASA launches Lunar Orbiter 1, the first spacecraft to orbit the moon. It orbits the moon 577 times over 80 days, sending back photos of the moon and earth, including the first photo of the earth from the moon.
1977 – “Son of Sam” killer David Berkowitz is arrested for six shooting deaths in New York. Berkowitz shoots a total of 13 people. He is arrested 11 days after his last murder when a witness notices the killer’s car has a parking ticket on the windshield. Berkowitz is sentenced to 25 years-to-life for each of the six murder and was denied parole in 2016 for the 8th time. On July 10, 1979, a fellow inmate slashed Berkowitz’s throat, a cut that required 60 stitches. He is now 64 years old.
1990 – NASA’s Magellan spacecraft, launched in May 1989 from the Space Shuttle Atlantis, arrives at Venus and maps 98 percent of the planet’s surface. Magellan’s mission lasted four years until it burned up in the Venusian atmosphere.
1994 – President Clinton claims presidential immunity when he asks a federal judge to dismiss, at least for the time being, a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Paula Corbin Jones. In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that a sitting president is not immune from civil law suits for acts done prior to taking office.
2006 – Scotland Yard disrupts a major terrorist plot to destroy aircraft travelling from the United Kingdom to the United States. As a result, all toiletries over 3 ounces are banned from commercial U.S. airplanes.
1860 – The first successful silver mill in the U.S. begins operating in Virginia City, Nevada.
1919 – The Green Bay Packers football team is founded by George Calhoun and Earl “Curly” Lambeau and is named after its sponsor, the Indian Packing Company. Lanbeau is the first Packers coach. The Packers win the first Super Bowl on January 15, 1967, in Los Angeles against the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10.
1934 – The first federal prisoners arrive at Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco Bay in California. Sixty special FBI agents, U.S. Marshals, and railway security officials escort the 137 handcuffed prisoners to The Rock. Alcatraz closed as a prison in 1963. Watch a brief history of Alcatraz:
1984 – During a radio voice test President Reagan joked he “signed legislation that would outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in 5 minutes.” Listen to the radio bite:
1984 – Carl Lewis duplicates Jesse Owens’ 1936 Olympic feat by winning four track gold medals during the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California.
1992 – The Mall of America opens in Bloomington, Minnesota, as the largest shopping mall in the U.S. It has almost 3 million square feet of retail space. It averages 42 million visitors annually, roughly eight times the population of Minnesota.
1994 – A U.S. federal jury awards $286.8 million to about 10,000 commercial fishermen for losses as a result of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.
1998 – British Petroleum (BP) becomes No. 3 among oil companies with the $49 billion purchase of Amoco. It was the largest foreign takeover of a U.S. company at the time.
1620 – The ships Mayflower and Speedwell arrive in Dartmouth, England, to repair leaks in the Speedwell. On September 6th the Mayflower heads for America alone when the Speedwell’s leaks cannot be fixed. There is no record of the Speedwell ever setting sail again. The Mayflower voyage takes 66 days.
1851 – The U.S. schooner America beats the British yacht Aurora around the Isle of Wight in the first race now known as the America’s Cup. The first challenge to the Cup isn’t issued until 1870. The race is only held when there is a challenge. The next race is scheduled for 2021 with the 2017 defending winner Team New Zealand.
1851 – Isaac Singer patents the sewing machine.
1898 – Secretary of State William Day signs the Peace Protocol (by the authority of President McKinley) ending the Spanish-American War.
1908 – Ford builds the first Model T automobile in Detroit, Michigan. It sells for $825. The last Model T was built in 1927. About 15 million “Tin Lizzies” were built.
1927 – The movie “Wings” opens starring Clara Bow. It is the only silent film to win an Oscar for best picture. It wins the Oscar at the first Academy Awards in 1929. Watch the movie trailer with voice over:
1935 – George Herman “Babe” Ruth plays his final baseball game at Fenway Park with 41,766 fans in attendance. Ruth played for 22 season as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and outfielder for the New York Yankees. Ruth, who was diagnosed with cancer in 1946, died 1948 at age 53. He was one of the first patients to be treated with experimental drugs and radiation treatments simultaneously.
1955 – President Eisenhower raises the minimum wage from 75 cents to $1 an hour.
1970 – St. Louis Cardinal’s outfielder Curt Flood loses his antitrust lawsuit against baseball following a Supreme Court decision. He claims baseball effectively binds a player and his contract to a team for life. In December 1975 baseball players finally win the right to free agency. Pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter signs the first free-agent contract.
1972 – The last American combat ground troops leave Vietnam.
1981 – IBM unveils its first PC (personal computer). It sells for $1,565. Watch an early IBM commercial:
2013 – Mob boss Whitey Bulger is found guilty of federal racketeering, extortion, conspiracy, and 11 murders. He is sentenced to two life terms plus 5 years. Bulger is now 87 years old.
2013 – According to a U.S. Treasury report only 65 percent of the nearly $80 billion that President Obama unilaterally diverted from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to bail out the auto industry has been recovered. Congress excluded the auto industry from the TARP bill in 2008.
1889 – William Gray patents the coin-operated telephone. He installs the first phone at a bank in Hartford, Connecticut, as a post-pay phone. The first pre-pay phone is installed in Chicago in 1898. By 1902 there are 81,000 pay telephones in use in the U.S. At the peak in 1995, there were 2.6 million payphones in the U.S.
1919 – The racehorse Man o’ War suffers the only defeat of his career by the ironically named horse Upset at Saratoga, New York. Man o’ War retires to stud in 1920 and foals many champions, including the 1937 Triple Crown winner War Admiral. Watch Man o’ War in a 1920 match race with actual race footage:
1939 – The passenger train “City of San Francisco” is derailed and falls into the Humboldt River in Elko, Nevada, killing 24 and injuring 121 passengers and crew. Sabotage is found to be the cause of the crash when the investigation shows the tracks were moved and the track circuits were bypassed. No one is ever arrested, in spite of a $10,000 reward, and the case remains unsolved.
1953 – General Omar Bradley becomes the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford is the current chairman.
1963 – Federal custom agents confiscate 21 gold coins from the Witte Museum in San Antonio, Texas. Executive Order 6102, signed by President FDR in 1933, prohibits the “hoarding” of gold coins, bullion, and certificates in the U.S.
1993 – The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals rules, subsequent to Armstrong vs. The Executive Office following a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, that the White House, specifically, and government agencies, in general, must preserve all their e-mail messages under the Federal Records Act (FRA) of 1950 since they are deemed official records. In 1989, Scott Armstrong, executive director of the National Security Archive, filed a FOIA request for the contents of the White House electronic mail and records system to be reviewed before disposition. Armstrong sought, and received, an injunction prohibiting the destruction of backup tapes after repeated attempts to secure the records failed.