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 January 30-February 5, 2017
1798 – The first brawl in the House of Representatives takes place when Congressmen Matthew Lyon and Roger Griswold fight on the House floor.
1815 – The Library of Congress, burned by the British during the War of 1812, is reestablished with 6,487 books bought from Thomas Jefferson at a cost of $23,950.
1835 – Andrew Jackson becomes the first president to be the victim of an assassination attempt when Richard Lawrence’s gun misfires in the Capitol Building. Jackson clubs Lawrence with his cane.
1862 – The U.S. Navy’s first ironclad warship, the USS Monitor, is launched. The Monitor and the USS Virginia (formerly the Merrimack) engage in the first ironclad battle on March 9th. Neither ship sustains serious damage but the Monitor sinks in bad weather off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina later the same year. Watch a history about the Monitor:
1933 – “The Lone Ranger” begins a 21-year run on ABC radio. “The Lone Ranger” TV show airs from 1949 to 1957 starring Clayton Moore. Moore died in 1999 at age 85.
1946 – The Franklin Roosevelt dime is first minted.
1956 – Martin Luther King Jr.’s home is bombed. No one is injured.
1962 – Two members of the Flying Wallendas high-wire act are killed when their 7-person chair pyramid collapses during a performance in Detroit, Michigan. The Wallenda family started as circus performers in the 1780s in Europe. Watch a short video of the accident:
1976 – Future president George H. W. Bush (#41) becomes the 11th CIA director.
1977 – The 8th and final episode of “Roots” is one of the most-watched TV entertainment shows to date.
1982 – Richard Skrenta, a 15-year-old high school student, writes the first PC virus code as a prank. The code is 400 lines long and is disguised as an Apple boot program called “Elk Cloner”.
1989 – The American embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, closes.
2003 – Richard Reid is sentenced to life in prison for attempting to bomb an American Airlines flight in December of 2001 with 197 passengers and crew on board. He tried unsuccessfully to light a bomb in his shoe.
1851 – Mr. Gail Borden announces the invention of evaporated milk. He patents the process of condensing milk in a vacuum.
1865 – General Robert E. Lee is named Commander-in-Chief of the Confederate Armies during the American Civil War.
1865 – Congress passes the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery in America by declaring that, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
1905 – The first auto to exceed 100 mph is driven by A. G. MacDonald at Daytona Beach, Florida.
1928 – Scotch tape is first marketed by 3-M Company.
1944 – Operation-Overlord (D-Day) is postponed until June.
1949 – “These Are My Children” airs as the first daytime soap opera on TV.
1950 – President Harry Truman publicly announces development of the H-bomb.
1957 – Elizabeth Taylor gets divorced for the 2nd time. It’s Michael Wilding turn.
1958 – Explorer I is put into orbit around the earth and is the first U.S. earth satellite.
1964 – A U.S. report “Smoking & Health” connects smoking to lung cancer.
1974 – McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc buys the San Diego Padres baseball team.
1984 – Newscaster Edwin Newman retires from NBC News after 35 years with the network. Newman died in 2010 at age 91. Watch Newman in a 1983 brief:
1985 – The final Jeep rolls off the assembly line at the AMC plant in Toledo, Ohio.
1990 – McDonald’s opens its first fast-food restaurant in Moscow, Russia.
2006 – Alan Greenspan retires as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, where he served since 1987. Greenspan is now 90 years old.
1790 – The Supreme Court convenes for the first time in New York City.
1862 – Julia Ward Howe publishes her poem “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
1865 – John S. Rock, the first black lawyer to practice law in the Supreme Court, is admitted to bar. He died in 1866 at age 41.
1898 – Travelers Insurance Company issues the first auto insurance policy in the U.S.
1906 – The first federal penitentiary building is completed in Leavenworth, Kansas. It is the largest maximum-security prison in the U.S. until 2005 when it is downgraded to a minimum-security prison.
1920 – The first commercial armored car is introduced in St Paul, Minnesota.
1951 – An atomic explosion airs live on TV for the first time.
1953 – “General Electric Theater” premieres on TV, a show Ronald Reagan later hosts.
1958 – The first successful U.S. satellite is launched. Explorer I orbits Earth carrying instruments to measure cosmic rays, micrometeorites, and its own temperature. It transmits data until May 23, 1958, and reenters Earth’s atmosphere in 1970 after orbiting 58,000 times.
1960 – Four students stage the first civil rights sit-in at a Greensboro, North Carolina, Woolworth’s store. Watch a History.com feature about the sit-in:
1961 – The first full-scale test of a U.S. Minuteman-I Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) is successful. A total of 800 ICBMs are delivered to U.S. military bases.
1965 – Martin Luther King, Jr. and 700 demonstrators are arrested in Selma, Alabama, during a voting rights demonstration.
1976 – Sonny and Cher start their new TV variety show following their real-life divorce in 1975 after 6 years of marriage. “The Sonny and Cher Show” airs from 1976 to 1977. Their first show, “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour,” airs from 1971 to 1974. Watch an early show with banter and singing:
1978 – Harriet Tubman is the first black woman honored on a U.S. postage stamp.
1989 – Princess Diana of England visits New York City for 3 days. It is her first visit to New York and her major official trip without her husband, Prince Charles. Princess Diana died in 1997 at age 36. Watch a report about her visit:
1992 – Barry Bonds signs baseball’s highest single year contract ($4.7 million).
2003 – The Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrates over Texas and Louisiana during reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts aboard. It is Columbia’s 28th mission. Space Shuttle flights are suspended for more than two years.
2013 – John Kerry succeeds Hillary Clinton as the Secretary of State.
2004 – Janet Jackson has a wardrobe malfunction when her breast is exposed during the half-time show of Super Bowl XXXVIII (38), resulting in U.S. broadcasters adopting a stronger adherence to FCC censorship guidelines.
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.
1892 – William Painter of Baltimore, Maryland, patents a bottle cap with a cork seal.
1901 – Congress passes the Army Reorganization Act, placing the minimum number of men under arms at 58,000.
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.
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:
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:
1959 – Buddy Holly performs for the last time. He is killed in a plane crash on February 3rd. Holly was 22 years old.
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. “Late Show with David Letterman” is still on the air. Watch part of the first episode:
1984 – “Days of Our Lives” wins the first Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Daytime Soap Opera. “Dynasty” wins for Outstanding Prime Time Soap Opera.
1991 – The cost of a U.S. postage stamp is raised from 25 cents to 29 cents. Postage stamps now cost 48 cents.
1993 – Frito Lay is ordered by the court to pay singer/ songwriter Tom Wait $2.4 million for using his song and sound-alike voice.
2004 – It is reported that a white powder had been found in an office of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention later confirms that the powder was the poison ricin.
2014 – Super Bowl XLVIII becomes the most viewed television event in the U.S. as the Seattle Seahawks defeat the Denver Broncos 42-8. Over 111 million viewers watched the game.
1690 – The Massachusetts Bay Colony issues the first paper money in (what would later become) America.
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.
1948 – Dick Button becomes the first world figure skating champion from the U.S.
1953 – J. Fred Muggs, a chimp, becomes a regular on NBC’s Today Show. Watch Muggs on the Today Show:
1959 – A plane crash kills musicians Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, J. P. Richardson (The Big Bopper), and the pilot near Clear Lake. Iowa. It is known as “The Day the Music Died.” Watch still photos and actual footage of the crash site:
1962 – President John F. Kennedy bans all trade with Cuba except for food and drugs.
1973 – President Richard 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.
1998 – Karla Faye Tucker, age 38, is executed in Texas, becoming the first woman executed in the U.S. since 1984. She is convicted a pick ax murders.
2009 – Eric Holder was sworn in as the first black attorney general.
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.
1914 – Congress approves the Burnett-anti-immigration law, which included a literacy component. The bill is vetoed by President Wilson.
1932 – The 3rd Winter Olympic Games open in Lake Placid, New York.
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, 19-year-old daughter of publisher Randolph Hearst, is kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army and held for 19 months. Patty will be 63 years old on February 20th.
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:
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.
1999 – Gary Coleman (TV show “Diff’rent Strokes”) is sentenced to a $400 fine, a suspended 90-day jail sentence, and ordered to attend 52 anger-management classes. The sentence stems from Coleman assaulting an autograph seeker in 1998. Coleman died in 2010 at age 42.
2004 – Mark Zuckerberg launches Facebook from his Harvard dormitory room. Twin brothers Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss successfully sue Zuckerberg for stealing their “HarvardConnect” social networking idea and work. They are awarded $65 million.
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 he received during World War I.
1927 – Buster Keaton’s silent movie “The General” is released, but bombs at the box office.
1937 – Charlie Chaplin first talkie “Modern Times” is released.
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:
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 were often embroiled in controversy with the censors. Tom is now 80 and Dick is 77 years old.
1969 – The U.S. population reaches 200 million. As of 2013 the U.S. population is 316 million.
1971 – Apollo 14, the 3rd U.S. manned expedition, lands on the moon. Alan Shepard and Edward Mitchell walk on moon for 4 hours.
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.
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 Brook: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZdq9nvi6iA
2003 – Secretary of State Colin Powell presents evidence to the U.N. concerning Iraq’s material breach of U.N. Resolution 1441.