This Week In History, February 15-21, 2016


This Week In History

by Dianne Hermann


“While I take inspiration from the past, like most Americans,

I live for the future.”

– Ronald Reagan

Week of February 15-21, 2016




February 15


1764 – St. Louis, Missouri, is founded as a French trading post by fur trader Pierre Laclede. Laclede died in 1877 at age 48.


1879 – Congress authorizes women lawyers to practice before the Supreme Court.


1903 – The first Teddy Bear, named after President Theodore Roosevelt, is made by Morris and Rose Michtom.


1932 – George Burns and Gracie Allen debut as regulars on the “Guy Lombardo Show” on the radio. Gracie Allen died in 1964 at age 69 and George Burns died in 1996 at age 100.


1932 – U.S. bobsled team member Eddie Egan becomes the only athlete to win gold medals in both the Summer and Winter Olympics. He wins gold in 1920 in boxing. Egan died in 1995 at age 65.


1941 – Duke Ellington records his hit song “Take the A Train.”


1961 – The entire U.S. figure skating team of 18 dies in the Belgian Sabena 707 plane crash en route to the World Figure Skating Championships in Prague. One of the skaters who died is 16-year-old Laurence Owen, who won the U.S. figure Stating Championship in January. She appeared on the February 13th cover of Sports Illustrated. Watch her skate just one month before her death:


1992 – Jeffrey Dahmer is found sane and subsequently convicted of killing 15 boys and sentenced to 15 life terms in prison. Dahmer is murdered in prison in 1994 at age 34 by then 25-year-old Christopher Scarver.


2001 – The first draft of the complete Human Genome is published in Nature, the international weekly journal of science.


2005 – YouTube, the popular Internet site on which videos may be shared and viewed by others, is launched in the U.S.



February 16


1838 – Kentucky passes a law permitting women to attend school under certain conditions.


1852 – The Studebaker Brothers Wagon Company is established. It is the precursor of automobile manufacturing.


1857 – Gallaudet College (National Deaf Mute college) forms in Washington, DC. Edward Miner Gallaudet, founder of the first school for deaf students in the U.S., becomes the new school’s first superintendent.


1878 – The silver dollar becomes U.S. legal tender.


1883 – “Ladies Home Journal” begins publication. In 1903 it becomes the first American magazine to reach 1 million subscribers. Last April the Meredith Corporation announces it will cease publishing the monthly magazine, saying it will be available quarterly and online.


1932 – James Markham of Illinois receives the first patent issued for a tree. It is for a peach tree.


1937 – DuPont Corporation patents nylon, developed by its employee Wallace H. Carothers.


1950 – The longest-running prime-time game show, “What’s My Line” premiers on CBS-TV and airs until 1967. An all-star panel tries to guess the contestant’s occupation. The first contestant is Miss Pat Finch, a hat check girl. The first “mystery guest,” when the panelists are blindfolded, is Yankee baseball great Phil Rizzuto. Watch a montage of Pat Finch on WML:


1951 – New York City passes a bill prohibiting racism in city-assisted housing.


1953 – Baseball star Ted Williams, recalled for active duty as a Marine fighter pilot in 1952, safely crash lands his damaged Panther jet in Korea. Williams is awarded the Air Medal and two Gold Stars before being discharged for health reasons. He returns to play baseball until 1960. Williams died in 2002 at age 83.


1968 – The first 911 emergency phone system in the U.S. goes into service in Haleyville, Alabama.


1982 – “Six Million Dollar Man” Lee Majors and “Charlie’s Angel” Farrah Fawcett divorce after 7 years of marriage. Majors is now 76 years old. Fawcett died in 2009 at age 62.


2005 – National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman cancels the 2004-05 season. This is the first time that a North American professional sports league has canceled a season due to a labor dispute.



February 17


1801 – The House of Representatives breaks an Electoral College tie, after casting three-dozen ballots, choosing Thomas Jefferson for president over Aaron Burr. Each candidate received 73 votes, but electors fail to distinguish between the office of President and Vice President.


1817 – Baltimore, Maryland, is the first U.S. city lit by gas.


1864 – The Confederate submarine “HL Hunley” sinks the Union ship “Housatonic,” becoming the first submarine to sink an enemy ship.


1897 – The National Congress of Parents and Teachers (PTA) organizes in Washington, DC.


1905 – Frances Willard – educator, temperance reformer, and women’s suffragist – becomes the first woman honored in National Statuary Hall in Washington, DC. Willard died in 1898 at age 58.


1913 – The first minimum wage law in the U.S. takes effect in Oregon.


1915 – Edward Stone, the first U.S. combatant to die in World War I, is mortally wounded.


1933 – The first issue of “Newsweek” magazine is published.


1934 The first high school car driving course offered in the city of State College, Pennsylvania.


1936 – The world’s first superhero, The Phantom, makes his first appearance in comics.


1943 – New York Yankee and future Baseball Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio enlists into the U.S. army. After being hospitalized with stomach ulcers DiMaggio is released from the service in September of 1945. He returns to play for the New York Yankees in 1946.


1947 – Voice of America begins radio broadcasting to the USSR. The Soviet Union responds by initiating electronic jamming of VOA broadcasts on April.


1953 – Baseball star and pilot Ted Williams is uninjured when his plane shot down in Korea. Williams retires from baseball in 1960, is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966, and dies in 2002 at age 83. His son has Williams’ body cryogenically frozen in Scottsdale, Arizona.


1964 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules 1 man 1 vote in Westberry v Sanders after James Westberry files suit against Georgia Governor Carl Sanders over the unequal apportionment of congressional districts.


1969 – Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash record an album together, but it is never released. Listen to part of the amazing recording session:


1972 – President Nixon leaves Washington, DC for China.


1995 – A Federal judge allows a lawsuit claiming U.S. tobacco makers knew nicotine was addictive and manipulated its levels to keep customers hooked.


1998 – Larry Wayne Harris and Bill Leavitt are arrested in Las Vegas for possession of anthrax. Harris is put on probation for 18 months for violating terms of a previous probation. Charges are dismissed when the material turns out to be a veterinary vaccine.


2006 – Lindsey Jacobellis wins the Silver Medal in snowboarding after falling on her final jump at the Turin Winter Olympics. Watch the entire run and the dramatic fall:



February 18


1841 – The first continuous filibuster in the U.S. Senate begins over the dismissal of the printer for the Senate and lasts until March 11th.


1861 – Confederate President Jefferson Davis is inaugurated in Montgomery, Alabama. Davis resigned his seat as a U.S. senator from Mississippi in January.


1878 – Outlaw Jessie Evans murders John Tunstall, sparking the Lincoln County War in New Mexico between immigrant English and Irish ranchers and merchants. Tensions and murders raged until 1884. One of the combatants is Billy the Kid.


1885 – Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is published.


1929 – The first Academy Awards, hosted by Douglas Fairbanks, are announced. “Wings” starring Clara Bow and Gary Cooper is the winner for Best Picture.


1932 – Sonja Henie wins her 6th straight World Women’s figure skating title. Henie wins Olympic gold medals in 1928, 1932 and 1936. She moves to the U.S. and becomes a movie star. Henie died in 1969 at age 57. Watch Henie at the 1932 Olympics:


1944 – The Cincinnati Reds sign 15-year-old Joe Nuxhall as the youngest player in baseball history.


1960 – The 8th Winter Olympics games open in Squaw Valley, California.


1972 – The California Supreme Court abolishes the state death penalty.


1977 – The Space Shuttle Enterprise, mounted above a modified Boeing 747, goes on its first test flight.


1978 – Fifteen competitors race in the first Ironman Triathlon (swim, bike ride, and marathon) held in Kona, Hawaii. Gordon Haller is the winner, completing the race in 11 hours and 46 minutes. U.S. Navy Commander John Collins founded the event as a way to determine whether swimmers, cyclists, or runners are more fit.


1988 – Anthony M. Kennedy is sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice. Kennedy is now 79 years old.


2001 – FBI agent Robert Hanssen is arrested for spying for the Soviet Union. He is ultimately convicted and sentenced to 15 consecutive life terms in prison after a plea deal enables him to escape the death penalty. Hanssen is now 71 years old.



February 19


1807 – Vice President Aaron Burr, arrested in Alabama for treason, is later found innocent.


1856 – Hamilton Smith of New London, Connecticut, patents the tintype camera. Smith is a scientist, photography, and astronomer.


1859 – Dan Sickles is acquitted of murder on grounds of temporary insanity. It is the first time this defense is successfully used.


1878 – Thomas Alva Edison patents the gramophone (phonograph).


1881 – Kansas becomes the first state to prohibit all alcoholic beverages.


1906 – W. K. Kellogg and Charles D. Bolin incorporate the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company in Battle Creek, Michigan.


1913 – The first prize is inserted into a Cracker Jack box. The snack’s creator Louis Rueckheim gives the treat to a salesman who exclaims, “That’s a Cracker, Jack!” So Rueckheim trademarks the name in 1896.


1922 – Ed Wynn becomes the first talent to sign a contract as a radio entertainer.


1942 – President FDR orders the detention and internment of all west coast Japanese-Americans during World War II. Twelve detention centers in California and one in Oregon house more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans. In December of 1944, FDR announces the end of the detentions and the internees return home. By then, they had lost their homes, businesses, and possessions. President Ronald Reagan signed into law The Civil Liberties Act of 1988, providing an apology and redress to the internees still living, although nearly half of those who had been imprisoned died before the bill was signed.


1945 – The U.S. 5th Fleet launches the invasion of Iwo Jima against the Japanese when 30,000 U.S. Marines land on the island.


1963 – The USSR informs President Kennedy it is withdrawing several thousand troops from Cuba.


1974 – The first American Music Award are held. Helen Reddy and Jim Croce win. Jim Croce died in a plane crash the previous September at age 30.


1984 – Twins Phil and Steve Mahre become the first brother combo to win Gold and Silver medals in the same event at the Sarajevo Olympics (Slalom skiing).


1985 – Canned and bottled Cherry Coke introduced by Coca-Cola. Watch the first Cherry Coke commercial:


1986 – The U.S. Senate ratifies the United Nation’s Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide 36 years after it is adopted by the UN.


1987 – An anti-smoking ad by the American Cancer Society, featuring Yul Brynner, airs for the first time on TV. It is filmed two years before, just months before Brynner dies of lung cancer. Watch Yul Brynner’s plea:


1997 – The FCC makes available 311 for non-emergency calls and 711 for hearing or speech-impaired emergency calls.


2002 – NASA’s Mars Odyssey space probe begins to map the surface of Mars using its thermal emission imaging system.



February 20


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 Metroploitan 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. Watch a newsreel about the teams:


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 is now 94 years old.


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 85 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: