This Week In History – December 23rd – 29th


by Dianne Hermann

“The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.”
– Winston Churchill

Week of December 23-29, 2013

December 23

1779 – Revolutionary War hero Benedict Arnold is court-martialed for improper conduct after he agreed to turn over West Point to the British through Major John Andre in exchange for money. Arnold is cleared of all charges while Andre is captured and subsequently hanged in October 1790.


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

1823 – A Visit from St Nicholas by Clement C. Moore 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 “Keystone Kops” film, Hoffmeyer’s Legacy, premiers. The fictional slapstick police officers are portrayed as incompetent.


1913 – President Woodrow Wilson signs the Federal Reserve Act into law 100 years ago. In spite of its name the Federal Reserve is a privately owned banking system and is not part of the federal government.

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


1947 – The transistor is invented by Bardeen, Brattain, and Shockley in Bell Laboratories.

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 started 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 Fuqua and Franco Harris from Terry Bradshaw against the Oakland Raiders for a 13-7 win.


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.


December 24

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

1851 – Fire devastates 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 General Eisenhower supreme commander of the Allied Forces.

1948 – The first house in the U.S. completely sun-heated is occupied in Dover, Massachusetts. 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.



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 was passed in 1659 and lasted 22 years.

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

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 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.

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.


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


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.TIS_26_Judy_Garland

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.


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.

1996 – Six-year-old beauty queen Jon Benét 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 Cathedral of St. John 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.


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.

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 80 years old.TIS_27_Carol_Burnett



December 28

1832 – John C. Calhoun becomes the first Vice President to resign from office. He cited political differences with President Andrew Jackson. Calhoun also 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, 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 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.

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 – The first American test-tube baby, Elizabeth Jordan Carr, 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. The company is started by Aaron Montgomery Ward in 1872.


December 29

1848 – Gas lights are first installed at the White House during the Polk administration.

1851 – The first chapter of America’s Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) opens in Boston, Massachusetts.

1930 – Fred P. Newton completes the longest swim ever (1,826 miles) when he swims the Mississippi River from Ford Dam, Minnesota, to New Orleans, Louisiana. He was in the water for 742 hours.

1957 – Singers Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme get married in Las Vegas, Nevada. Eydie died in August 2013 at age 84.


1958 – The soap opera Young Dr. Malone debuts on TV. It airs until 1963. It stated as a radio show in 1939.

1972 – Life magazine ceases weekly publication. It was originally starts in 1883 and goes through several owners and eras.

1982 – Football Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant ends his career with Alabama with 323 wins. Bryant died in 1983 at age 69.


1992 – Governor Mario Cuomo grants clemency to Jean Harris who killed Dr. Herman Tarnower, the Scarsdale Diet Doctor, in 1980. Harris, who suffered several heart attacks, had previously been denied clemency several times. Harris died in 2012 at age 89.