This Week in History, February 2-8, 2015


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 February 2-8, 2015


February 2

1802 – The first leopard is exhibited in the U.S. in Boston. Admission costs 25 cents.

1848 – The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ends the Mexican-American War. The U.S. acquires Texas, California, New Mexico, and Arizona for $15 million.

1863 – Samuel Clemens uses the pen name Mark Twain for the first time. Twain means two and mark twain signifies a safe depth of two fathoms (12 feet) of the Mississippi River.

Mark Twain

1892 – A bottle cap with a cork seal is intetented by William Painter of Baltimore, Maryland.


1925 – Dogsleds reach Nome, Alaska, after a 1,000-km relay with emergency serum for a diphtheria epidemic. The Iditarod Race is a recreation of that relay. A statue of Balto, the lead dog, stands in New York City’s Central Park.

1935 – The lie detector, invented by Leonarde Keeler, is first used in court in Portage, Wisconsin. Two criminals are convicted of assault after the polygraph test results are read in court.

first lie detecter

1940 – Frank Sinatra has his singing debut in Indianapolis, Indiana, with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.

1950 – “What’s My Line” is first broadcast on CBS-TV and airs until 1967 with host John Daly. The show is revived from 1968 to 1975. Watch a 1954 episode with Liz Taylor at:

1954 – President Eisenhower reports the detonation of the first H-bomb. It actually happened in 1952.

1957 – Liz Taylor gets married again. It is the third marriage for both 24-year-old Liz and 47-year-old Mike Todd. They have one child. Todd is killed in a plane crash in March 1958. He was 48 years old. Watch a newsreel of the event at:

1959 – Buddy Holly performs for the last time. He is killed in a plane crash on February 3rd.

1964 – GI Joe debuts as a popular American boy’s toy.

1974 – The F-16 Fighting Falcon flies for the first time. General Dynamics has sold over 4,400 F-16s.

1980 – The FBI releases details of Abscam, a sting operation that targeted 31 elected and public officials for bribes and political favors. One senator and six representatives are convicted after their trials in 1981. Abscam comes from the name of the fake company (Abdul Enterprises) the FBI used to target (scam) corrupt politicians.

1982 – “Late Night with David Letterman” premieres on TV and still airs nightly.

1991 – The cost of a U.S. postage stamp is raised from 25 cents to 29 cents. Postage stamps now cost 49 cents.

25 cent

February 3

1690 – The Massachusetts Bay Colony issues the first paper money in (what would later become) America.

first paper money

1870 – The 15th Amendment is passed. Although it declares that the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” poll taxes and literacy tests kept the 15th Amendment from being fully applied until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed.

1876 – Albert Spalding starts sporting goods company with $800, manufacturing the first official baseball, tennis ball, basketball, golf ball, and football.

1882 – Circus owner P.T. Barnum buys his world famous elephant Jumbo from the London Zoo for $10,000. In September 1885, while touring with “The Greatest Show on Earth,” Jumbo is hit and killed by a train in Toronto, Canada.

1913 – The 16th Amendment, authorizing a federal income tax, is ratified.

1930 – Former president William Howard Taft (1909-1913) resigns as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for health reasons. Taft is appointed to the Supreme Court in 1921, making him the only president to also serve on the Supreme Court. Taft died the following month at age 72.


1941 – The Supreme Court upholds the Federal Wage and Hour law, which sets minimum wages and maximum hours.

1953 – J. Fred Muggs, a chimp, becomes a regular on NBC’s Today Show. Watch Muggs on the Today Show at:

1962 – President Kennedy bans all trade with Cuba except for food and drugs.

1973 – President Nixon signs the Endangered Species Act into law.

1984 – The first baby conceived by embryo transplant is born in Long Beach, California.

1990 – Jockey Billy Shoemaker retires at age 58 after 40,350 horse races with a 22% win record. He is paralyzed in an auto accident in 1991 and trains horses from his electric wheelchair. Shoemaker died in 2003 at age 77.

1994 – President Bill Clinton lifts the U.S. trade embargo against Vietnam.


February 4

1787 – Shays’ Rebellion (of debt-ridden Massachusetts farmers) fails. Daniel Shays leads a group of farmers who revolt against the government for seizing the farms of farmers who couldn’t pay their taxes.

1789 – The first Electoral College chooses George Washington as President and John Adams as Vice President.

1861 – The Confederate Constitutional Convention meets for the first time in Montgomery. The states of Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina elect Jefferson Davis President of Confederacy.

1866 – Mary Baker Eddy claims she is cured from her spinal injury after opening her Bible. She becomes the founder of the Christian Science denomination. Eddy died in 1910 at age 89.

Mary Baker Eddy

1945 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin meet for one week in Yalta to discuss rebuilding Europe after World War II.

1957 – Smith Corona offers the first electric portable typewriter for sale.

1964 – The 24th Amendment abolishes the Poll tax.

1974 – Patty Hearst, daughter of publisher Randolph Hearst, is kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army and held for 19 months. Patty will be 60 years old on February 20th.

Patty Hearst

1979 – The TV comedy show “Co-Ed Fever” debuts and is cancelled the same night. It is ranked #32 on TV Guide’s 50 Worst Shows of All Time list. Watch the opening credits at:

1991 – The Baseball Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors votes 12-0 to bar Pete Rose for life for betting on games. The ban still stands.

1997 – O. J. Simpson is found libel in the murders of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman. OJ is found not guilty in his 1995 criminal trial but is now serving a 9- to 33-year sentence after his 2008 conviction for armed robbery and kidnapping.


February 5

1778 – South Carolina becomes the first state to ratify the Articles of Confederation.

1861 – Samuel Goodale of Cincinnati, Ohio, patents the first moving picture peep show machine.

1901 – John Pierpont (JP) Morgan forms the U.S. Steel Corporation. Morgan died in 1913 at age 75.

1918 – Stephen W. Thompson is the first U.S. pilot to shoot down an enemy aircraft. Thompson died in 1977 at age 83.

1922 – Reader’s Digest magazine is first published. DeWitt Wallace comes up with the idea of publishing articles on various subjects while he is recovering from wounds received during World War I.

1927 – Buster Keaton’s silent movie “The General” is released and bombs.

1937 – Charlie Chaplin first talkie “Modern Times” is released.

Charlie modern times

1948 – Dick Button becomes the first U.S. figure skating Olympic champion. The Olympic games are held in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Watch Button perform for his second Olympic medal in 1952 at:

1967 – “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” premieres on CBS-TV. Later they move to ABC, then NBC, and the show airs until 1969. Tom and Dick are often embroiled in controversy with the censors. Tom is now 78 and Dick is 75 years old.

1969 – The U.S. population reaches 200 million. As of 2013 the U.S. population is 316 million.

1973 – A funeral is held for Lt. Col. William Nolde, the last U.S. soldier killed in the Vietnam War.

1977 – Sugar Ray Leonard beats Luis Vega in 6 rounds in his first pro boxing fight.

Sugar Ray

1979 – The costliest single periodical ad, $3.2 million, appears in Time Magazine by Gulf + Western Oil.

1991 – A Michigan court bars Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a euthanasia activist, from assisting in suicides. Between 1994 and 1997 Kevorkian is tried four times for participating in assisted suicides. He is acquitted three times (the fourth is a mistrial). In 1999 Kevorkian is convicted of 2nd degree murder and serves 8 years of his 10-15-year sentence. He died in 2011 at age 83.

1997 – Brook Lee of Hawaii is crowned the 46th Miss USA. She is crowned Miss Universe in May. Watch a video about her at:


February 6

1693 – A royal charter is granted for the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. It is the 2nd college in the U.S., after Harvard University.

1861 – The Provisional Congress of Confederate States of America holds its first meeting.

1891 – The Dalton Gang stage their first, albeit unsuccessful, train robbery when they attempt to rob a Southern Pacific train in California.

Dalton gang

1926 –The National Football League rules that college students are ineligible to play pro football until they graduate from college. The rule is not changed until 1990 when the NFL rules that players can play football three years after graduating from high school.

1933 – The 20th Amendment goes into effect making the presidential term begin in January not March.

1958 – Ted Williams signs with the Boston Red Sox for $135,000, making him the highest paid baseball player to date. (See Feb. 8, 1991)

1971 – Alan Shepard hits the first golf balls on the Moon. Both golf balls Shepard hit are still on the Moon. Shepard died in 1998 at age 74. Watch his zero gravity putt at:

1987 – The no-smoking ban in federal buildings takes effect.

1996 – Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss begins her 7-year jail sentence for tax evasion of which she served 20 months. Her 1994 conviction for pandering is later overturned. Fleiss is now 48 years old.

1998 – Washington National Airport is renamed Ronald Reagan National Airport.


February 7

1795 – The 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, affirming the power of individual states.

1839 – Henry Clay declares in the Senate, “I had rather be right than president.” Clay loses his bid for the presidency in 1824, 1832, and 1844. Clay died in 1852 at age 75 and is the first person to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

Henry Clay

1915 – The first wireless message sent from a moving train to a station is received.

1936 – A flag is authorized for the Vice President of the U.S..

1948 – Omar Bradley succeeds Dwight Eisenhower as Army Chief of Staff.

Omar Bradley

1964 – The Beatles land at New York’s JFK airport for their first U.S. tour. Watch the lads land and take America by storm at:

1964 – Boxer Cassius Clay becomes a Muslim and adopts the name Muhammad Ali.

1983 – Elizabeth Dole is sworn-in as the first female secretary of transportation during the Reagan administration. Dole also serves as North Carolina’s first female senator from 2003-2009.

1984 – The Bubble Boy (born without an immune system) touches his mom for the first time as he lay dying in the hospital following an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant. Twelve-year-old David dies two weeks later. His last name (Vetter) is not revealed until 10 years after his death to protect his family’s privacy. His brother, born with the same hereditary disease (SCID), lived only 7 months. Watch a touching video at:

1984 – U. S. Astronaut Bruce McCandless makes the first un-tethered space walk. During the nearly 6-hour space walk, he and fellow astronaut Robert Stewart practice retrieval and repair procedures to be undertaken by the next shuttle mission. Candless is now 77 years old.

1993 – Cartoon characters Pebbles Flintstone and Bamm Bamm Rubble get married in a made-for-TV movie.


February 8

1837 – Richard Johnson is the first vice president chosen by the Senate according to the 12th Amendment. He serves during the Van Buren administration. Johnson died in 1850 ate age 70.

1887 – The Dawes Act, written by Congressman Henry Dawes, authorizes the President of the United States to survey Native American tribal land and divide it into individual allotments called reservations.

1898 – John Ames Sherman patents the first envelope folding and gumming machine.

1910 – William D. Boyce, philanthropist, incorporates the Boy Scouts of America. Boyce died in 1929 at age 70.

1918 – “Stars & Stripes”, a weekly U.S. armed forces newspaper, is first published.

1935 – Jay Berwanger of the University of Chicago is the first player picked in the first National Football League draft. Berwanger is picked by the Eagles, but never plays in the NFL.

1944 – Harry McAlpin is the first black reporter accredited to the White House.

1969 – The last edition of the “Saturday Evening Post” is published. It is first published in 1897.

1977 – “Hustler” magazine publisher Larry Flynt is sentenced to 7-25 years for “pandering obscenity” for selling Hustler magazine in Cincinnati, but serves only 6 days. His conviction is overturned in 1979. Flynt is shot and paralyzed in 1978 by serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin, who is executed in November 2013. Flynt is now 72 years old.

Larry Flint

1990 – “60 Minutes” commentator Andy Rooney is suspended by CBS for 3 months for racial remarks attributed to him by a gay magazine.

Andy Rooney

1991 – Roger Clemens signs a (then) record $5,380,250 per year contract with the Boston Red Sox. The highest paid baseball player is currently Yankees Alex Rodriguez at $29 million per year.