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 February 20-26, 2017
1792 – The U.S. postal service is created. Postage costs 6 cents to 12 cents depending on the distance.
1809 – The Supreme Court rules the federal government’s power is greater than any state.
1872 – The Metropolitan Museum of Art opens in New York City. It is the second largest art museum in the world, after the Lourve in Paris, France.
1877 – The first cantilever bridge in the U.S. is completed in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, and spans the Kentucky River. A cantilever bridge is a horizontal bridge that is supported on only one end.
1937 – The first combination automobile/airplane is tested in Santa Monica, California. Designed by aero-engineer Waldo Dean Waterman, it claims a top air speed of 120 mph and highway speed of 70 mph. Watch it drive and fly:
1943 – Phil Wrigley (the chewing gum mogul) and Branch Rickey (who signed up baseball’s Jackie Robinson) charter the All-American Girls Softball League. The 1992 movie “A League of Their Own” starring Tom Hanks and Geena Davis is a fictionalized account of the league’s history.
1953 – The U.S. Court of Appeals rules that Organized Baseball is a sport and not a business, affirming the 25-year-old Supreme Court ruling.
1962 – John Glenn, on board Friendship 7, is the first American to orbit the Earth. He served four terms as a U.S. Senator from Ohio before returning to space on the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1988. Glenn died in 2016 at age 95.
1971 – The National Emergency Center in Colorado erroneously orders all U.S. radio and TV stations to go off the air. The mistake isn’t resolved for 30 minutes.
1992 – Ross Perot announces on the Larry King Show that he’ll run for President. He receives 18.9% of the popular vote but no Electoral College votes. Perot is now 86 years old. Watch Perot with Larry:
2002 – Jim Shea, Jr. wins the gold medal in skeleton (sled) racing at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, making him the 1st third-generation Olympian. His father and grandfather both win medals in the 1964 and 1932 Olympics respectively. Jim’s grandfather is killed in a car crash one month before Jim wins the gold medal. Watch Shea’s amazing run:
1866 – Lucy B. Hobbs (Taylor) becomes the first woman in the U.S. to earn a DDS (dentist) degree.
1885 – The Washington Monument is dedicated in Washington, DC. Construction takes place in two phases, 1848-1856 and 1876-1884. Lack of funds and the Civil War halt the building process. By the time construction resumes at the 150’ level the color within the marble and granite stone quarries has changed. That color change line is visible on the monument.
1918 – The last Carolina Parakeet dies in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo. The last known specimen in the wild is killed in 1904. The Carolina Parakeet is the only parakeet native to North America north of Mexico.
1931 – Alka Seltzer is introduced and marketed for the relief of minor aches, pains, fever, headache, heartburn, sour stomach, indigestion, and hangovers. The iconic character “Speedy” is introduced in 1951. Watch an early commercial:
1947 – Edwin H. Land demonstrates the first instant developing camera he invented in New York City. He is the founder of the Polaroid Corporation in 1937. Land died in 1991 at age 81.
1965 – Malcolm X is assassinated by members of the Nation of Islam. He was 39 years old.
1970 – The Jackson 5, featuring 11-year-old Michael Jackson, made their TV debut on “American Bandstand.” Michael died in 2009 at age 50. Watch him shake that money maker:
1972 – Richard Nixon becomes the first U.S. president to visit China.
1975 – John Mitchell, H. R. Haldeman, and John D. Ehrlichman are sentenced to 2 1/2 to 8 years for their roles in the Watergate Scandal.
1988 – During a live TV broadcast, televangelist Jimmy Swaggart (then age 52) admits to visiting a prostitute. He then announces he will leave his ministry for an unspecified length of time. Swaggart is defrocked in April by the Assemblies of God and ordered to stay off TV for a year, but returns after only three months. Swaggart is now 81 years old. Watch his TV apology:
1992 – Kristi Yamaguchi of the U.S. wins Olympic gold medal in women’s figure skating at the Olympics in Albertville, France.
1995 – Chicago stockbroker Steve Fossett becomes the first person to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean in a balloon. He lands in Saskatchewan, Canada.
1784 – The first U.S. ship to trade with China, “Empress of China,” sets sails from New York.
1821 – Spain sells the east part of Florida to the United States for $5 million.
1878 – Frank Winfield Woolworth obtains credit from his former boss, William Moore, along with some savings, to buy merchandise and open the “Woolworth’s Great Five Cent Store” in Utica, New York, which fails in May of the same year.
1889 – U.S. President Grover Cleveland signs the bill to admitting the Dakotas, Montana, and Washington state to the union.
1903 – Due to drought the U.S. side, Niagara Falls runs short of water.
1920 – The first artificial rabbit is used at a dog racetrack in Emeryville, California.
1935 – Airplanes are no longer permitted to fly over the White House when a no-fly zone is created.
1959 – Lee Petty wins the first Daytona 500 auto race in a photo finish in 3 hours and 41 minutes with an average speed of 135.521 MPH. His son, Richard Petty, has won the Daytona 500 seven times. Watch a short Daytona history and part of the race:
1980 – The U.S. Olympic ice hockey team upsets the USSR 4-3 in what instantly becomes known as the “Miracle on Ice.” The U.S. goes on to win the Olympic gold medal in Lake Placid. Watch the miracle:
1984 – The Census Bureau statistics show that the state of Alaska is the fastest growing state of the decade with an increase in population of 19.2 percent.
1995 – Steve Fossett completes the first air balloon flight over the Pacific Ocean. In 2002 Fossett is the first person to circumnavigate the Earth in a balloon. He disappears during an airplane flight in 2007. His remains are found in 2008. He was 63 years old.
2010 – A copy of “Action Comics #1” featuring the introduction of Superman sells at auction for $1 million.
1813 – The first U.S. raw cotton-to-cloth mill is founded in Waltham, Massachusetts.
1836 – The Alamo is besieged for 13 days by the Mexican army under General Santa Anna. By March 6th the entire garrison is killed. The Alamo is built as the chapel of the Mission San Antonio de Valero in Texas.
1861 – President-elect Abraham Lincoln arrives secretly in Washington, DC to take office because seven states have already seceded from the Union since the election. Noted private detective Allen Pinkerton uncovers an assassination plot and escorts Lincoln to Washington.
1896 – Tootsie Roll candy is introduced by Austrian immigrant Leo Hirshfield.
1904 – The U.S. acquires control of the Panama Canal Zone for $10 million. President Jimmy Carter returns control of the Canal to Panama in 1999.
1927 – President Coolidge creates the Federal Radio Commission (the predecessor to the FCC).
1945 – U.S. Marines raise the American flag on Iwo Jima. The famous photo becomes the model for the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial erected at Arlington National Cemetery. Hershel “Woody” Williams, now age 93, is the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle for Iwo Jima. Watch an interview with Woody:
1954 – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is the site of the first mass inoculation against polio using the vaccine developed by Jonas Salk. Salk died in 1995 at age 80.
1968 – Wilt Chamberlain (Philadelphia 76ers) becomes the first player to score 25,000 career points in the National Basketball Association.
1971 – Lieutenant William Calley confesses to the My Lai massacre in Viet Nam in April 1969 and implicates his commander Captain Ernest Medina. Medina is acquitted and Calley is sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labor. After numerous appeals Calley serves only 31/2 years of house arrest. Calley is now 73 years old.
1980 – American Eric Heiden wins all five speed skating gold medals at the Lake Placid Olympics. Heiden is now 58 years old. Watch Heiden win all 5 medals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUF2ptVA-eE
1993 – Former child actor Gary Coleman wins a $1,280,000 lawsuit against his parents for the high fees they charged him. Coleman died in 2010 at age 42.
1995 – The Dow Jones closes above 4,000 for the first time (4,003.33).
1998 – The Supreme Court lets stand Megan’s Law. Megan’s Law (named for 7-year-old Megan Kanka who was raped and murdered by a repeat sex offender) allows the information on registered sex offenders to be made public.
2008 – A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit (Stealth Bomber) crashes at Anderson Air Force Base in Guam. The crew survives but the aircraft is destroyed, making it the most expensive air crash in history (the aircraft alone cost $1.2 billion). The B-2 had a perfect safety record before the crash.
1803 – The Supreme Court makes its first ruling that a law is unconstitutional (Marbury v Madison). This decision makes the case for judicial review, cementing the Supreme Court as a separate but equal branch of government.
1868 – The first U.S. parade with floats, the Mardi Gras Parade, is held in Mobile, Alabama. Mobile is also the site of the oldest Mardi Gras celebration, dating back to 1703.
1868 – The House of Representatives votes 126 to 47 to impeach President Andrew Johnson. His impeachment trial begins on March 13, but Johnson’s opponents fail to get the needed two-thirds majority to convict him. Bill Clinton is impeached in 1998, but is also not removed from office. The first attempted presidential impeachment attempt is John Tyler in 1843, which fails.
1903 – The U.S. signs an agreement acquiring a naval station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
1938 – Du Pont begins commercial production of nylon toothbrush bristles.
1942 – The U.S. stops shipments of all 12-gauge shotguns for sporting use for the wartime effort.
1961 – NASA’s Explorer 10, a battery-operated spacecraft, fails to reach Earth orbit.
1981 – Jean Harris is convicted of murdering Scarsdale diet doctor Herman Tarnower. Harris serves 12 years of her 15-year sentence. She died in 2012 at age 89.
1983 – The Dow Jones closes above 1,100 for the first time (1,121.81).
1999 – The State of Arizona executes Karl LaGrand, a German national involved in an armed robbery, in spite of Germany’s legal action to save him.
2011 – The Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-133) is launched for the final time. The last Space Shuttle launch is the Atlantis (STS-135) in July 2011. Watch the launch including videos attached to the shuttle:
1751 – The first performing monkey is exhibited in America in New York City. Admission is 1 cent.
1793 – George Washington holds the first cabinet meeting at his home in Mt. Vernon, Virginia.
1836 – Samuel Colt patents the Colt Paterson, the first revolving barrel multi-shot firearm.
1837 – Thomas Davenport patents the first electric printing press in the U.S.
1862 – Congress forms the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Paper currency (greenbacks) is introduced by President Abraham Lincoln.
1870 – Senator Hiram Revels of Mississippi is sworn in as the first black member of Congress.
1901 – The U.S. Steel Corporation is organized by J. P. Morgan.
1919 – Oregon is the first state to tax gasoline (1 cent per gallon).
1933 – The USS Ranger is christened as the first genuine aircraft carrier.
1950 – “Your Show of Shows” with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca premieres on NBC and airs until 1954. Writers include Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, and Woody Allen. Coca dies in 2001 at age 92. Caesar died in 2014 at age 91. Watch a pantomime sketch with Sid and Imogene:
1964 – Cassius Clay, a 7-1 underdog, TKOs champion Sonny Liston in the 7th round to win the world heavyweight championship. It is Liston’s 2nd loss in 37 bouts. Liston died under suspicious circumstances in 1970 at age 38. Mohamed Ali (Clay) died in 2016 at age 74. Watch interviews and part of the fight:
1987 – The U.S. Supreme Court upholds affirmative action in a 5-4 decision.
1989 – The Dallas Cowboys fire their original football coach Tom Landry after a 29-year career. He is replaced by Coach Jimmy Johnson.
1991 – The U.S. barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia is hit by SCUD missile, killing 28.
1732 – The first Catholic mass celebrated in a church in the U.S. is in St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Philadelphia.
1891 – The first two buffalo are purchased for the Golden Gate Park. A bison cow and bull are transported to the park. A buffalo herd can still be seen in the park’s Buffalo Paddock.
1907 – The members of Congress raise their own salaries to $7,500. Congressional salaries are currently $174,000 with a pay freeze for 2015.
1916 – Mutual Film signs Charlie Chaplin to a film contract. In the largest salary deal extended to a motion picture star to date, $670,000 for a single year’s work, Chaplin is to make 12 two-reel comedies for the Mutual Film Corporation.
1919 – Congress establishes the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.
1930 – The first red and green traffic lights in the U.S. are installed in Manhattan, New York.
1933 – The groundbreaking ceremony for the Golden Gate Bridge is held at Crissy Field. The bridge opens to pedestrian traffic on May 27, 1937, and vehicular traffic the next day.
1940 – The U.S. Air Defense Command established at Mitchell Field, Long Island New York.
1954 – Michigan representative Ruth Thompson (R) introduces legislation to ban the mailing “obscene, lewd, lascivious, or filthy” phonograph (rock & roll) records.
1973 – Triple Crown winning horse Secretariat’s breeding rights are purchased for a record $5.7 million.
1977 – The first flight of a Space Shuttle atop a specially modified Boeing 747 takes off headed for the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
1979 – The last total eclipse of the sun in 20th century visible in the continental U.S. is observed.
1983 – Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album goes to #1 and stays #1 for 37 weeks. Watch the short version of the video:
1984 – Reverend Jesse Jackson, a Democrat presidential candidate, acknowledges after repeated denials that he called Jews “Hymies” and New York City “Hymietown” while at Washington National Airport a month earlier.
1993 – The New York City World Trade Center is bombed and 7 people die.
1998 – Oprah Winfrey wins a libel suit brought by Texas cattlemen in a trial over comments made by Winfrey about Mad Cow Disease on a 1996 show.
2009 – The Pentagon reverses its 18-year policy of not allowing the media to cover returning war dead. The reversal allows some media coverage with family approval.