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 Dec. 4-10, 2017
1674 – Father Marquette, a French Jesuit priest sent to convert Indians in the Midwest, builds the first dwelling in what is now Chicago.
1872 – The American merchant ship Mary Celeste is discovered mysteriously abandoned in the Atlantic Ocean. There are no signs of foul play and her crew was never found.
1918 – President Wilson sails for the Versailles Peace Conference in France at the end of World War I, becoming the first chief executive to travel outside U.S. while in office.
1920 – In the first pro football playoff game, the Buffalo All-Americans beats the Canton Bulldogs 7-3 at the Polo Grounds. The undefeated Akron Pros go on to beat the Buffalo All-Americans.
1927 – Duke Ellington opens at the Cotton Club in Harlem. Watch a brief history of the Duke and the Cotton Club:
1964 – Baseball approves a free-agent draft. Rick Monday is the first pick in the first free agent draft on June 8, 1965. Monday is most well-known for rescuing the American flag from fans trying to burn it during a 1976 game at Dodger Stadium. Watch the heroic incident with player interviews:
1978 – Dianne Feinstein becomes San Francisco’s first woman mayor when she is named to replace Mayor George Moscone, who had been murdered. Feinstein, now seeking her fifth term in Congress, is the oldest Senator at 84 years of age. She is also listed as the second-wealthiest Senator.
1981 – President Reagan signs Executive Order on Intelligence (No. 12333) that allows the CIA to engage in domestic counter-intelligence.
1991 – Pan American World Airways, founded in 1927, ceases operations. Pan Am was the largest U.S. international air carrier. Delta, founded in 1924, is the oldest operating airline company in the U.S.
1998 – The Unity Module, the first U.S. built module for the International Space Station, is launched on board the Space Shuttle Endeavor.
1792 – George Washington is re-elected President with John Adams as his Vice-President.
1848 – President Polk triggers the Gold Rush of ’49 when he confirms the discovery of gold in California.
1933 – The 21st Amendment is ratified as the only amendment adopted to repeal an earlier amendment (18th Amendment – Prohibition).
1945 – The “Lost Squadron” disappears east of Florida in the Bermuda Triangle. Five bombers of Flight 19 report problems with their instruments. The search aircraft also disappears for a total loss of 27 men.
1955 – The AFL (founded in 1886) and CIO (founded in 1935) unions merge. The AFL-CIO represents 56 national and international unions with about 12 million active and retired members. Membership peaked in 1979 with 20 million members.
1957 – New York City becomes the first city to legislate against racial or religious discrimination in housing market (Fair Housing Practices Law).
1964 – Captain Roger Donlon is awarded the first Medal of Honor of the Vietnam War for his heroism in battle earlier in the year. Watch Cpt. Donlon’s story in his own words:
1978 – Baseball free agent Pete Rose signs a 4-year, $32 million contract with the Phillies, becoming the highest paid player. Giancarlo Stanton becomes the highest paid athlete in any sport when he signs a $325 million 13-year contract with the Miami Marlins in 2014.
1985 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average rises above 1,500 for the first time.
1993 – Space Shuttle Atlantis astronauts begin repair of Hubble telescope in space. Watch the actual space repairs with audio:
1998 – James P. Hoffa becomes the head of the Teamsters union, 23 years after his father, Jimmy Hoffa, was the head of the Teamsters. His father disappeared in 1975 and is presumed dead.
2008 – OJ Simpson is sentenced to 33 years in prison for kidnapping and armed robbery. He was paroled in 2017 after serving 9 years.
1790 – Congress convenes in Philadelphia, the new temporary U.S. capital, after leaving New York City. Washington, DC becomes the permanent capital of the U.S. in 1800.
1877 – Thomas Edison makes the first sound recording by reciting “Mary had a little lamb.”
1884 – The construction of the Washington Monument is completed. The project took 34 years to build and was interrupted by the Civil War.
1902 – Former first lady Martha Washington is the first American woman to appear on a U.S. postage stamp.
1907 – A coal mine explosion in Monongah, West Virginia, kills 361 miners in the worst mine disaster in U.S. history. It was one of four deadly coal mine disasters in 1907.
1923 – President Calvin Coolidge makes the first presidential address on the radio. The broadcast to a joint session of Congress is the first of what is now known as the State of the Union Address.
1933 – The ban on James Joyce’s “Ulysses” in lifted in the U.S. The book is banned for being obscene, but a judge rules that, “(W)hilst in many places the effect of Ulysses on the reader undoubtedly is somewhat emetic, nowhere does it tend to be an aphrodisiac.”
1957 – The first U.S. attempt to launch a satellite fails when the Vanguard rocket blows up. Watch the failed launch:
1964 – “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” a stop-action animation movie, airs for the first time on TV (and every year since). The title song was written by country music legend Gene Autry. Listen to the title song with images from the movie:
1969 – About 300,000 people attend the Altamont Speedway Free Concert in California, four months after Woodstock. The rock concert, featuring the Rolling Stones, was marred by violence.
1992 – San Francisco 49er Jerry Rice catches an NFL record 101 touchdowns. Rice still holds the record with 208 touchdowns. Watch one of Rice’s amazing TD catches:
1994 – Orange County, California, files for bankruptcy protection, becoming the largest municipality to file for bankruptcy.
1994 – The Maltese Falcon is auctioned for $398,590. In 2013, it sold at auction for over $4 million, becoming one of the most expensive movie props ever sold.
2006 – NASA announces that photographs taken by Mars Global Surveyor suggests the presence of liquid water on Mars.
1787 – Delaware becomes the first state to ratify the Constitution.
1891 – The 52nd Congress, the first Congress to appropriate $1 billion, holds its first session.
1925 – Swimmer Johnny Weissmuller sets a world record in the 150-yard freestyle with a time of 1 minute 25 seconds. He goes on to play “Tarzan” in several movies. Weissmuller died in 1984 at age 79. Watch a 1974 interview with Weissmuller on how he became Tarzan:
1941 – The Japanese attack the U.S. at Pearl Harbor Naval Base, Hawaii, killing 2,403 people, on a date that will live in infamy.
1946 – A fire at the Winecoff Hotel in Atlanta kills 119 people and injures 62 others. It is America’s deadliest hotel fire disaster. The hotel founder, W. Frank Winecoff, is also killed in the fire. Watch a report about the fire, including eye witness interviews:
1963 – Instant replay is used for the first time in the Army-Navy game. The system was invented by CBS Sports Director Tony Verna and weighed 1,300 pounds.
1968 – Richard Dodd returns a library book his great-grandfather checked out in 1823. The fine is not levied, but it would have been $22,646. The book is “Medical Reports of the Effects of Water, Cold & Warm, Remedy in Fever & Febrile Diseases, Whether Applied to the Body or Used Internally” by James Currie.
1982 – Charlie Brooks Jr., a convicted murderer, becomes the first prisoner in the U.S. to be executed by lethal injection. He is executed at a prison in Huntsville, Texas.
1998 – Attorney General Janet Reno declines to seek an independent counsel investigation of President Bill Clinton over his 1996 campaign financing.
2005 – Rigoberto Alpizar, a passenger on American Airlines Flight 924 who allegedly claimed to have a bomb, is shot and killed by a team of U.S. federal air marshals at Miami International Airport.
1792 – South Carolina Delegate Henry Laurens is the first person to be cremated in the U.S.
1941 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivers his “Day of Infamy” speech to the U.S. Congress the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Watch the speech, which includes the text: Day of Infamy speech
1952 – TV has its first acknowledgement of pregnancy when it is announced on “I Love Lucy” that Lucy is “enceinte” (French for expecting). The episode when Lucy gives birth airs on January 19, 1953, to coincide with Lucille Ball’s real-life delivery of Desi Arnez, Jr. by Caesarean section. This episode is watched by more people than any other TV program up to that time. Watch the hilarious “enceinte” announcement:
1953 – President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivers his “Atoms for Peace” speech to the U.N. General Assembly, spelling out the necessity of repurposing existing nuclear weapons technology to peaceful ends. It is seen as the inspiration for the creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency of 1956.
1963 – Frank Sinatra’s son is kidnapped. Frank Sinatra, Jr. is released two days later when his father pays a ransom of $240,000. Three kidnappers were caught, convicted, and sentenced for the kidnapping. Frank Sinatra, Jr. died in March of 2016 at age 72.
1966 – The U.S. and the USSR sign a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons in outer space.
1987 – President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev sign a treaty eliminating medium range nuclear missiles to “trust, but verify.”
1993 – President Clinton signs into law the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
1998 – The Supreme Court rules that police cannot search people or their cars after ticketing for a routine traffic violation.
2010 – SpaceX becomes the first privately held company to successfully launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft.
1793 – Noah Webster establishes “American Minerva,” New York’s first daily newspaper.
1803 – Congress passes the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, directing Electors to vote for a President and for a Vice-President rather than for two choices for President.
1878 – Joseph Pulitzer buys the St. Louis Dispatch newspaper for $2,500 and merges it with the St. Louis Post, creating the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The first edition is published on December 12th and the newspaper is still in circulation.
1935 – Jay Berwanger is the first recipient of the college football’s Heisman Trophy. Watch ESPN compiled footage of Berwanger in action:
1958 – Robert H.W. Welch Jr. and 11 other men meet in Indianapolis, Indiana, to form the anti-Communist John Birch Society. The organization is named for John Morrison Birch, a minister, missionary, and Air Force captain, who was killed by Chinese Communists at age 27 a few days after the end of WWII.
1978 – The first Women’s Professional Basketball League (WNBL) game is played. The Chicago Hustle defeats the Milwaukee Does 92-87. The league is disbanded in 1981. Watch the first slam dunk in a WNBL game:
1985 – Jerry Rice begins his National Football League streak of 274 consecutive games with a reception, a record that still stands.
2008 – Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, is arrested by federal officials for a number of alleged crimes including wire fraud, attempted extortion, conspiracy to solicit bribes, and others related to his attempt to sell the Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama’s election to the Presidency. Blago is sentenced in 2011 to 14 years in prison for corruption. Four of the 18 charges were overturned in July 2015 on appeal. In August 2016, a district judge ruled that the 14-year sentence would stand. Blago will be 61 years old tomorrow.