This Week in History, December 29 – January 4


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 29, 2014-January 4, 2015

December 29

1848 – Gas lights are first installed at the White House during the aradolk 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 is in the water for 742 hours over a five-month period. The feat still stands in the Guinness Book of Records.

1957 – Singers Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme get married in Las Vegas, Nevada. Eydie died in 2013 at age 84. Steve is now 79 years old. Watch them in a medley on the Ed Sullivan Show, What’s My Line, with Sammy Davis, Jr., and on The Johnny Carson Show at:


1958 – The soap opera “Young Dr. Malone” debuts on TV. It airs until 1963. It starts as a radio show in 1939. John Connell plays the young Dr. Malone, son of William Prince, the older Dr. Malone.

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


1982 – Football Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant ends his 24-year career with the University of Alabama Crimson Tide with 232 wins at Alabama and 323 wins overall in his coaching career. Bryant died in 1983 at age 69.

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


December 30

1903 – An electric arc lamp sets fire to the Iroquois Theater in Chicago, leaving 602 people dead in the deadliest single-building blaze in American history.

1907 – Abraham Mills, head of the Mills commission, declares that Abner Doubleday invented baseball. The Commission is charged with settling a dispute over whether baseball evolved from the British game of Rounders or, as Albert Spalding contended, was invented in America.

1924 – Edwin Hubble announces the existence of other galactic systems after he views the spiral nebula Andromeda through a telescope. The space telescope named for Hubble launches in April 1990. Hubble died in 1953 at age 63.


1953 – The first NTSC color television sets go on sale for about $1,175 each by RCA.

1963 – “Let’s Make A Deal” debuts on NBC-TV and is still on the air. Its first host is co-creator Monty Hall, who is now 93 years old. The current host is Wayne Brady.


1985 – IBM releases its PC DOS Version 3.2.

1988 – Oliver North subpoenas Ronald Reagan and George Bush as defense witnesses for his upcoming Iran-Contra trial.

2003 – U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft recuses himself and his office from the Valerie Plame affair. She is a CIA employee and wife of the former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Robert Novak writes a newspaper column about whether false information provided by Plame is used to justify the Iraq war during the Bush administration.


December 31

1879 – The cornerstone is laid for Iolani Palace in Hawaii, the only royal palace in the U.S. It is used as the royal Hawaiian residence until the monarchy is overthrown in 1893. Hawaii becomes a state in 1959. The palace is used as the state capital building until 1969 and opens as a museum in 1978.


1879 – Thomas Edison gives his first public demonstration of his incandescent lamp.

1890 – Ellis Island in New York opens as a U.S. immigration depot.

1904 – The first New Year’s Eve celebration is held in Times Square, known as Longacre Square, in New York City.


1907 – For the first time the ball drops at Times Square to signal the start of a new year. The first New Year’s Eve ball, made of iron and wood, is adorned with one hundred 25-watt light bulbs, is 5 feet in diameter, and weighs 700 pounds. It has been lowered every year since, except for 1942 and 1943.

1935 – Charles Darrow patents the board game Monopoly. Parker Brothers negotiates the rights to mass-produce the game, making Darrow the first game designer to be a millionaire. Darrow died in 1967 at age 78.

1940 – The first monthly U.S. social security payment is made to Ida May Fuller of Vermont for $22.54. She collects social security payments until her death in 1975 at age 100.

1946 – President Harry Truman officially proclaims the end of World War II.

1961 – The Marshall Plan (the European Recovery Program) expires after distributing more than $12 billion to European countries recovering from WWII.

1961 – The Beach Boys make their debut performance at the Ritchie Valens memorial concert. They sing Surfin’ and Johnny B. Goode. Listen to The Beach Boys 1961 acoustic rehearsal of Surfin’ with still photos at:

1974 – The ban on “hoarding” gold in the U.S. ends. In 1933 President FDR signs Executive Order 6102 making it illegal to own gold, except in small amounts or in the form of gold coins or certificates. Gold is turned over to the Federal Reserve in exchange for $20.67 per troy ounce.


1990 – The Sci-Fi Channel begins transmitting on cable TV.

1995 – Cartoonist Bill Watterson ends his Calvin & Hobbes comic strip after 10 years. Watterson is now 56 years old.


1997 – Microsoft buys Hotmail E-mail service in a stock-swap transaction worth an estimated $400 million.

2007 – The Central Artery/ Tunnel Project, known as the “Big Dig,” is completed in Boston, Massachusetts. It is the most expensive highway project in U.S. history, costing more than $14 billion. The project was scheduled for completed in 1998 at a cost of less than $3 billion.


January 1 – Happy New Year!

1788 – Quakers in Pennsylvania emancipate their slaves.

1808 – Congress prohibits the importation of slaves.

1840 – The first recorded bowling match in the U.S. is held at Knickerbocker Alleys in New York City. The origins of bowling can be traced back to Rome and Greece more than 4,000 years ago.

1861 – President Lincoln declares slavery in the Confederate states unlawful via the Emancipation Proclamation.

1863 – The first homestead under the Homestead Act is claimed near Beatrice, Nebraska.

1886 – The first Tournament of Roses Parade is held in Pasadena, California. The parade is the promotional brainchild of Pasadena’s distinguished Valley Hunt Club.


1902 – The first Rose Bowl football game in played in Pasadena, California. The University of Michigan defeats Stanford University 49-0. (See this date – 1942)

1912 – The first running of San Francisco’s famed “Bay to Breakers” race is held (7.63 miles/12.3 km).

1919 – Edsel Ford succeeds his father, Henry Ford, as president of the Ford Motor Company.

1928 – The first air-conditioned office building in the U.S. opens in San Antonio, Texas.

1934 – Alcatraz in the San Francisco bay officially becomes a federal prison.

1942 – The Rose Bowl football game is played in North Carolina instead of California after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor three weeks earlier. Oregon beats Duke 20-16. It is the only time the Rose Bowl is not played in Pasadena.

1958 – Johnny Cash plays his first of many free concerts behind bars at San Quentin Prison. Twenty-year-old inmate Merle Haggard is in the audience. Watch Johnny Cash sing at one of his San Quinton concerts at:

1976 – The Liberty Bell moves to its new home behind Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

1995 – Cartoonist Gary Larson retires and publishes the last “The Far Side” cartoon. Larson started publishing the single-panel cartoon The Far Side in 1980. Larson is now 64 years old. Watch a 14-minute 20/20 interview at:

1998 – All California bars, clubs, and card rooms must be smoke-free after California passes a landmark statewide smoke-free law.


January 2

1811 – U.S. Senator Timothy Pickering is the first senator to be censured. He reveals confidential documents communicated from the President to the Senate.

1903 – President Theodore Roosevelt shuts down a post office in Indianola, Mississippi, for refusing to accept its appointed postmistress because she is black.

1932 – The Young Brothers (Paul, Harry, and Jennings) kill six police officers in a shootout near Springfield, Missouri. It is the worst single killing of U.S. law enforcement officers in the 20th Century. Harry and Jennings are tracked down in Texas after a national manhunt and are killed in what is believed to be a murder-suicide.

1942 – The United States Navy opens a blimp base at Lakehurst, New Jersey. Although the crash of the Hindenburg over Lakehurst in 1937 ended commercial blimp travel the military continued to successfully use blimps.

1974 – President Richard Nixon imposes a National Maximum Speed Law of 55 MPH as part of the Emergency Highway Conservation Act. This is in response to the 1973 oil crisis. Congress repeals the national speed limit in 1995 and returns control to individual states.

1975 – U.S. Department of Interior designates the grizzly bear a threatened species. In 2007 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removes the grizzly from the Threatened and Protected Species list. After several environmental groups file suit U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy reinstates the grizzly bear on the list.

1988 – Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and President Ronald Reagan sign a Canada-U.S. free trade agreement.



January 3

1777 – George Washington defeats the British at the Battle of Princeton in New Jersey.

1823 – Stephen F. Austin receives a grant of land from the government of Mexico and settles with his family in what is now Texas. He is considered the “Father of Texas.”

1870 – Construction begins on Brooklyn Bridge in New York. It is completed on May 24, 1883.

1920 – The New York Yankees purchase baseball player Herman “Babe” Ruth from the Boston Red Sox for $125,000. It is the largest sum paid for a single player to date. He leads the Yankees to seven pennants and four World Series wins. Ruth retires from baseball with the Boston Braves in 1935. Ruth died in 1948 at age 53.

1929 – Twenty-seven-year-old William S. Paley becomes the founder and president of CBS-TV. In 1946 he names Frank Stanton to head CBS. Paley died in 1990 at age 89.

1933 – Minnie D. Craig is elected Speaker of the House of Representatives in North Dakota. Craig is the first female to hold a Speaker position in the United States.

1938 – March of Dimes is established to fight polio.

1944 – World War II top flying ace Major Greg “Pappy” Boyington is shot down over the Pacific and captured by the Japanese. The Black Sheep Squadron leader is released after 20 months in captivity. Boyington is awarded the Medal of Honor by President F. D. Roosevelt while still a prisoner of war. He is presented with the Medal by President Truman the following October. Pappy died in 1988 at age 75.


1952 – Dragnet with Jack Webb premieres on NBC-TV. It starts as a radio series in 1949, spawns three generations of TV series, and is made into movies in 1954, 1966 and 1987. Webb died in 1982 at age 62. Watch one of Webb’s classics speeches at:

1959 – Alaska is admitted as 49th U.S. state.

1961 – The U.S. breaks diplomatic relations with Cuba and closes its embassy in Havana.

1977 – Apple Computer is incorporated.

1984 – Syria frees captured U.S. pilot Lt. Robert Goodman after an appeal from Jesse Jackson.

1987 – The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducts Aretha Franklin as its first female artist.

1994 – The 35-foot-tall statue of Chief Wahoo, the Cleveland Indians trademark on top of Stadium since 1962, is taken down to be moved to Jacob’s Field.



January 4

1754 – Columbia University is founded as Kings College in New York City.

1847 – Samuel Colt sells his first revolver pistol, the Walker, to the United States government. TIS_4_Colt_revolver_The_Walker

1863 – James Plimpton of New York patents the four-wheeled roller skates.

1893 – President Harrison grants amnesty to Mormon polygamists and Utah is admitted to the Union exactly 3 years later.

1920 – The first Black baseball league, National Negro Baseball League, organizes.

1935 – Bob Hope makes his debut on network radio as part of The Intimate Revue.

1936 – Billboard magazine publishes its first music Hit Parade. The first # 1 song in Billboard history is Joe Venuti, father of the jazz violin, performing “Stop, Look and Listen.” Listen to the recording at:

1954 – Elvis Presley records a 10-minute demo tape in Nashville, Tennessee.

1968 – Leo Fender sells Fender Guitars for $13 million.

1970 – Walter Cronkite stops hosting his weekly documentary but continues reporting for the CBS Evening News. He retires from CBS in March 1981 because of their policy of mandatory retirement by age 65. Cronkite died in 2009 at age 92.

1980 – President Carter announces the U.S. boycott of the Moscow Summer Olympics in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

1995 – Newt Gingrich (R) becomes Speaker of the House. He resigns as Speaker in January 1999 after House Republicans have the worst mid-term performance in 64 years following the November 1998 mid-term elections.

1999 – Former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura is sworn in as governor of Minnesota and serves one term.

2007 – The 110th United States Congress convenes, electing Nancy Pelosi as the first female Speaker of the House in U.S. history.