This Week in History, December 22-28, 2014


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 December 22-28, 2014


December 22

1783 – George Washington resigns his military commission as the U.S. Army’s commander-in-chief.

1882 – Thomas Edison creates the first string of Christmas tree lights.

1894 – The United States Golf Association (USGA) forms in New York City.

1941 – Winston Churchill arrives in Washington, DC for a wartime conference with President FDR. In 1963 Churchill is made an honorary U.S. citizen. Barack Obama sends the bust of Churchill back to the British embassy when he takes over the White House. Churchill’s bust is returned to Washington thanks to the efforts of Speaker of the House John Boehner. The bust is dedicated on October 30th, 2013.

1964 – Comedian Lenny Bruce is convicted of obscenity and sentenced to “four months in the workhouse.” He had already been charged with narcotics possession and obscenity several times. While awaiting an appeal Bruce dies of a heroin overdose on August 3, 1966, at the age of 40.

1964 – The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, with test pilot Bob Gilliland, makes its first flight at Plant #42 in Palmdale, California.


1968 – Julie Nixon marries Dwight David Eisenhower. Julie is the daughter of President Nixon and Dwight is the grandson of former President Eisenhower.


1984 – Bernhard Goetz shoots 4 black muggers on a New York City subway train. The “Subway Vigilante” is acquitted of attempted murder but is convicted of gun violations and serves less than a year. Goetz is now 67 years old.

2001 – Richard Reid attempts to destroy a passenger airliner by igniting explosives hidden in his shoes aboard American Airlines Flight 63.

2010 – President Barack Obama signs into law the repeal of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, the 17-year-old policy banning homosexuals from serving openly in the U.S. military.


December 23

1779 – Revolutionary War hero Benedict Arnold is court-martialed for improper conduct after he agrees to turn over West Point to the British through Major John Andre in exchange for money. Arnold fled and became a Brigadier General in the British Army. He received a pension from King George and lived out his life in London.

1788 – Maryland votes to cede a 10-sqaure-mile area to form the District of Columbia.

1823 – “A Visit from St Nicholas” by Clement C. Moore is published in the Troy, New York Sentinel.

1867 – Sarah Breedlove, known as Madame C. J. Walker, is born. She becomes the first self-made female millionaire in the U.S. with her hair care products for black women. She died in 1919 at age 51.

1912 – The first of twelve Keystone Kops’ films, Hoffmeyer’s Legacy, premiers. The fictional slapstick police officers are portrayed as incompetent.

1913 – President Woodrow Wilson signs the Federal Reserve Act into law. In spite of its name the Federal Reserve is a privately owned banking system and is not part of the federal government. It has never been audited.

1938 – Margaret Hamilton is severely burned after her costume catches fire during the filming of “The Wizard of Oz.” Although she is featured in many other movies, Hamilton is quintessentially known as the Wicked Witch. Hamilton died in 1985 at age 82.


1947 – John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley invent the transistor at Bell Laboratories. They jointly receive the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1956.

1954 – Dr. Joseph E. Murray performs the first human kidney transplant on identical twins Richard and Ronald Herrick (born 1931) at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Richard is still living but Ronald died in 2010 at age 79.

1961 – Fidel Castro announces Cuba will release 1,113 prisoners after the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion in exchange for $62 million worth of food and medical supplies.

1962 – Cuba starts returning U.S. prisoners from the Bay of Pigs invasion.

1968 – Eighty-two crew members of U.S. intelligence ship USS Pueblo are released by North Korea 335 days after it was captured. The ship remains in North Korea.

1972 – In what became known as the “Immaculate Reception” the Pittsburg Steelers turn around a 7-6 deficit with a last second touchdown reception by John Fugua from Terry Bradshaw against the Oakland Raiders for a 13-7 win. Watch it at:

1986 – Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager (no relation to Chuck Yeager) complete the first around-the-world flight without refueling when they land at Edwards Air Force Base in California 9 days, 3 minutes, and 44 seconds after takeoff.

1997 – Terry Nichols is found guilty of manslaughter in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. He is sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

1997 – Woody Allen, age 62, marries Soon-Yi Previn age 27, Mia Farrow’s daughter that he adopted.


December 24

1814 – The Treaty of Ghent is signed, ending the U.S.-British War of 1812.

1851 – Fire devastates the U.S. Library of Congress in Washington, DC, destroying 35,000 volumes and documents.

1936 – The first radioactive isotope medicine is administered in Berkeley, California.

1943 – President FDR appoints future president General Eisenhower as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces.

1948 – The first house in the U.S. completely sun-heated is occupied in Dover, Massachusetts. It cost about $20,000 to build it. Eleanor Raymond designs the structure, Maria Telkes designs the heating system, and Boston heiress and sculptress Amelia Peabody finances it.


1964 – Filming begins on “The Cage,” the pilot for the “Star Trek” TV show.

1968 – Apollo 8 astronauts give a Christmas reading of the book of Genesis while orbiting the Moon.


December 25

1651 – A Massachusetts General Court orders a fine of five shillings for “observing any such day as Christmas.” The law banning Christmas celebrations is passed in 1659 and lasts 22 years.

1776 – General George Washington crosses the Delaware River, surprising and defeating 1,400 Hessians soldiers during the Revolutionary War.

1831 – Louisiana and Arkansas are the first states to observe Christmas as a holiday.

1868 – Despite bitter opposition, President Andrew Johnson grants an unconditional pardon to all persons involved in the Southern Rebellion (aka The Civil War).

1896 – John Philip Sousa writes “Stars & Stripes Forever.” The following year Congress makes the song the official national march of the U.S.

1908 – Jack Johnson KOs Tommy Burns to become the first black heavyweight boxing champion.

1938 – George Cukor announces that Vivien Leigh will play Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind.” About 1,400 actresses interview for the part and 400 are asked to do readings. Leigh died in 1967 at age 53.

1939 – Montgomery Ward introduces Rudolph as the 9th reindeer in the story “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” written by marketing employee Robert May.

1974 – Marshall Fields drives his vehicle through the gates of the White House, resulting in a four-hour standoff. He surrenders and the bombs he said were strapped to his body turn out to be flares.

1990 – The first successful trial test is run on the system that would become the World Wide Web.

2003 – The ill-fated Beagle 2 probe, which is released from the Mars Express Spacecraft on December 19, disappears shortly before its scheduled landing.


2014 – Have yourself a merry little Christmas.


December 26

1799 – George Washington is eulogized by Col. Henry Lee as, “First in war, first in peace, and fist in hearts of his countrymen.” Lee is the grandfather of Civil War general Robert E. Lee.

1825 – The Erie Canal opens. It links Lake Erie and the Hudson River.

1862 – The first U.S. navy hospital ship enters service during the Civil War.

1865 – James H. Mason of Massachusetts patents the first U.S. coffee percolator.

1877 – The Socialist Labor Party of North America holds its first national convention.

1924 – Judy Garland, age 2½, makes her show business debut billed as Baby Frances. Her real name is Frances Gumm. Her most famous role is as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.” Garland died in 1969 at age 47.


1928 – Johnny Weissmuller announces his retirement from amateur swimming after winning six Olympic medals. He goes on to star as Tarzan in 12 movies. Romanian-born Weissmuller died in 1984 at age 79.

1941 – Winston Churchill becomes the first British Prime Minister to address a joint meeting of Congress, warning that the Axis would “stop at nothing.”

1954 – “The Shadow” airs for last time on radio. It premiers in 1930 with the burning question, ”Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?”

1982 – Time Magazine’s “Man” of the Year is a computer.


1986 – The soap opera “Search for Tomorrow” ends its 35-year run on TV.

1991 – Jack Ruby’s gun, used to kill Lee Harvey Oswald, sells for $220,000 at auction.


1996 – Six-year-old beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey is found beaten and strangled to death in the basement of her family’s home in Boulder, Colorado. Her murder remains unsolved.


December 27

1892 – The foundation stone of the Cathedral of St. John the Devine is laid in New York City.


1900 – Temperance leader Carrie Nation leads her first public smashing of a bar at the Carey Hotel in Wichita, Kansas.

1927 – Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s musical “Show Boat” premieres at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City.

1932 – Radio City Music Hall opens in New York City.

1937 – Mae West performs an Adam and Eve skit that is so suggestive it gets her banned from NBC radio. Mae West died in 1980 at age 87.

1947 – The first “Howdy Doody Show” (Puppet Playhouse) is telecast on NBC. It airs until 1960.


1991 – The new version of the “Carol Burnett Show” last airs on CBS-TV. The original show airs from 1967 to 1978. Carol Burnett is 81 years old.


December 28

1832 – John C. Calhoun becomes the first Vice President to resign from office. He cited political differences with President Andrew Jackson. Calhoun then sought to fill the vacant Senate seat in South Carolina, which he did.

1860 – Harriet Tubman arrives in Auburn, New York, on her last mission to free slaves after evading capture for eight years on the Underground Railroad.

1869 – William Finley Semple of Mount Vernon, Ohio, patents chewing gum. Semple is a dentist who intended for the gum to clean teeth and strengthen the jaw.

1905 – The Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the U.S. founded and becomes the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in 1910.

1945 – Congress officially recognizes the “Pledge of Allegiance.” The phrase “Under God” is added in 1954.

1963 – Merle Haggard, a former member of Buddy Holly and The Crickets, has his first appearance on the country music charts with “Sing a Sad Song.” Haggard gave up his seat to The Big Bopper on the ill-fated flight that also killed Buddy Holly. Haggard is now 77 years old.


1967 – Muriel Siebert is the first woman to be a member of the New York Stock Exchange. She died in August 2013 at age 80.

1981 – Elizabeth Jordan Carr, the first American test-tube baby, is born in Norfolk, Virginia.


1984 – The soap opera “Edge of Night” ends its 28-year run on TV.

2000 – U.S. retail giant Montgomery Ward announces it is going out of business after 128 years. Aaron Montgomery Ward started the company in 1872. Ward died in 1913 at age 69.