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 January 26-February 1, 2015
1784 – Ben Franklin expresses unhappiness over the eagle as America’s symbol. It is said he preferred the turkey.
1862 – President Lincoln issues General War Order #1, calling for a Union offensive. Union General McClellan ignores the order.
1911 – Glenn Curtiss pilots the first successful hydroplane in San Diego, California.
1913 – Jim Thorpe relinquishes his 1912 Olympic medals for playing semi-professional baseball. His medals are posthumously returned on January 18, 1983. Thorpe died in 1953 at age 64.
1918 – The U.S. food administrator Hoover calls for “wheatless” and “meatless” days for the war effort.
1948 – President Truman signs Executive Order 9981, ending segregation in the U.S. Armed Forces.
1950 – Automaker Preston Tucker is found not guilty of mail fraud and conspiracy to defraud. Tucker’s defense attorneys surprised everyone by not calling any witnesses to the stand. Tucker is unable to pick up the pieces of his company. He died in 1956 at age 53.
1954 – Ground breaking begins on Disneyland in California. The theme park opens on July 17, 1955. Walt Disney is introduced at the opening ceremony by future governor and president Ronald Reagan.
1961 – Dr. Janet G. Travell becomes the first woman “personal physician to the president.” She is President Kennedy’s physician. Travell died in 1997 at the age of 95.
1979 – “The Dukes of Hazzard” premieres on CBS-TV and airs until 1985. Watch 10 minutes of jumps by “General Lee” at:
1988 – “The Phantom of the Opera” makes its U.S. debut at the Majestic Theater in New York City. It is the longest running show in Broadway history, playing more than 10,000 performances over 27 years.
1992 – The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) goes into effect.
2005 – Condoleezza Rice is sworn in as U.S. Secretary of State, becoming the first black woman to hold the post.
1825 – The U.S. Congress approves a plan by Secretary of War John C. Calhoun for an Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa. This clears the way for the forced relocation of the Eastern Indians through the Indian Removal Act of 1830 during what becomes known as the “Trail of Tears.”
1926 – The U.S. Senate agrees to join the World Court.
1951 – The U.S. conducts the first nuclear test at the Nevada Test Site located 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The mushroom-shaped cloud could be seen from Las Vegas.
1961 – “Sing Along with Mitch” [Mitch Miller] premieres on NBC-TV and airs until 1966. Miller died in 2010 at age 99. Sing along with Mitch at:
1967 – Astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White, and Roger B. Chaffee die when a flash fire engulfs their Apollo 1 command capsule during testing. They are the first astronauts to die in the line of duty.
1973 – The United States and Vietnam sign the Paris Peace Accord initiating a cease-fire. Negotiations began in 1968. The Vietnam War does not officially end until May 1975.
1878 – George W. Coy is hired in New Haven, Connecticut, as the first full-time telephone operator at the first telephone exchange.
1887 – The world’s largest snowflakes are reported in a snowstorm at Fort Keogh, Montana, at 15 inches wide and 8 inches thick.
1915 – The first U.S. ship lost in World War I is the merchant ship “William P. Frye.” It is carrying wheat to England.
1932 – Wisconsin enacts the first U.S. state unemployment insurance.
1956 – Elvis Presley makes his first TV appearance. He performs on the Dorsey Brothers Stage Show with Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey. Watch Elvis Presley’s first TV performance at:
1986 – The Challenger, on the 25th Space Shuttle mission, explodes 73 seconds after liftoff. All crewmembers are lost. Watch the disaster on CNN live video at:
2013 – John Kerry succeeds Hillary Rodham Clinton as the U.S. Secretary of State.
1845 – Edgar Allen Poe’s narrative poem “The Raven” is first published once upon a midnight dreary. Poe died mysteriously in 1849 at the age of 40.
1879 – The Custer Battlefield National Monument in Montana is established. Lakota, Sioux, and Cheyenne warriors kill Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and over 200 troops of the 7th Cavalry on June 25, 1876 near the Little Bighorn River.
1920 – Walt Disney starts his first job as a cartoonist with the Kansas City Slide Company at $35 a week.
1936 – Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson are the first players elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame building is dedicated in 1939.
1951 – Elizabeth Taylor gets divorced for the first time. Conrad Hilton, Jr. is the first of her eight husbands. She marries Richard Burton twice. Liz died in 2011 at age 79.
2002 – In his State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush describes the “regimes that sponsor terror” as an Axis of Evil, which includes Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Listen to his chillingly accurate prediction at:
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.
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.
1976 – Future president George Bush (#41) becomes the 11th CIA director.
1977 – The 8th and final part of “Roots” is the most-watched TV entertainment show to date.
1989 – The American embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, closes.
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.
1949 – “These Are My Children” is the first daytime soap 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.
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.
1790 – The Supreme Court convenes for the first time in New York City.
1862 – Julia Howe publishes “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.
1951 – An atomic explosion airs live on TV for the first time.
1953 – “General Electric Theater” premieres on CBS 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 at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xbbcjn4d1cE
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 after 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 at:
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 at: