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 July 31-August 6, 2017
1792 – The cornerstone is laid for the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, the first United States government building.
1928 – MGM’s mascot Leo the Lion roars on film for the first time. The lion, whose name is Jackie, introduces MGM’s first talking picture, “White Shadows in the South Seas.” There have been seven “Leos”: Slats (1917-1928); Jackie (1928-1956); George (1956-1957); and Leo (1957-present). Three other lions were also used in cartoons and movies: Telly (1928-1932); Coffee (1932-1935); and Tanner (1934-1956) Hear Leo (aka Jackie) roar and watch the movie’s intro:
1953 – The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) is created during the Eisenhower administration. President Harding proposed a department of education and welfare in 1923. HEW was a cabinet-level department until 1979, when it was separated into different departments.
1970 – Chet Huntley retires from NBC, ending the “Huntley-Brinkley Report,” which aired in 1956. Huntley died in 1974 at age 62. David Brinkley died in 2003 at age 82. Goodnight, David. Goodnight, Chet.
1971 – Astronauts ride in a vehicle on the moon for the first time in a lunar rover vehicle (LRV). Watch the lunar ride:
1987 – Rockwell International is awarded a contract to build a fifth space shuttle, the Endeavor, to replace the Challenger. The Endeavor flew 25 missions from 1992 to 2011.
1991 – The U.S. Senate votes to allow women to fly combat aircraft. Air Force Colonel Martha McSally is the first woman to fly a combat mission after the 43-year ban is lifted.
1991 – President George H.W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev sign the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). The New START Treaty was signed by U.S. President Obama and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in 2010 and ratified by the Senate in 2011.
2014 – The U.S. agrees to resupply arms to Israel – including rocket launchers, mortar rounds, and grenades – despite condemnation of civilian casualties in Gaza.
1790 – The first U.S. census is taken showing a population of 3,939,214, of which 697,624 are slaves. The current U.S. population is about 326 million.
1855 – Castle Clinton (aka Fort Clinton) in New York City opens as the first U.S. receiving station for immigrants. More than eight million people arrive in the U.S. until Ellis Island opens on January 1, 1892. Castle Clinton is now a national monument.
1907 – The U.S. Army establishes an aeronautical division, which becomes the U.S. Air Force on September 18, 1947.
1943 – The Navy patrol torpedo boat PT-109 sinks near the Solomon Islands after being attacked by a Japanese destroyer. The boat is under the command of future president Navy Lt. John F. Kennedy. The 11 surviving crewmembers swim to Naru Island and are rescued on August 7th. The last surviving crewman of PT-109, Gerard Zinser, died in 2001 at age 82.
1946 – The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission is established.
1957 – The Bridgers and Paxton Office Building in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is the first commercial building to be heated by solar energy. It is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
1958 – The first class postage goes up to 4 cents, after having cost 3 cents for 26 years. A first class postage stamp is now 49 cents.
1966 – Charles Whitman, age 25, climbs the University of Texas tower and shoots 12 people dead before being killed by police. It is the 6th deadliest mass killing in the U.S. in modern history. Watch live footage (part without sound):
1972 – Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward publish their first article exposing the Watergate scandal.
1977 – Gary Powers dies when his news helicopter crashes in Los Angeles. Powers was 48 years old. Powers is the former CIA U-2 pilot who was shot down while on a surveillance mission over Russia in 1960 and held for two years. On August 19, 1960, Powers was convicted of espionage in Russia and sentenced to 10 years confinement. Powers was returned to the U.S. in February 1962 in a prisoner exchange.
2001 – Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has a Ten Commandments monument installed in the judiciary building, leading to a lawsuit to have the monument removed and Moore removed from office. District Court Judge Myron Thompson orders Moore to remove the Ten Commandments from the courthouse rotunda within fifteen days. Moore refuses, but the monument is later moved to a room that is not open for public viewing. On August 23, 2003, a panel of the Alabama Court of the Judiciary unanimously votes to remove Judge Moore from the bench for not renouncing God. In 2012, Moore is re-elected as Alabama’s Chief Justice. In 2016, the Alabama Judiciary Inquiry Commission brought charges of six ethics violations against Moore and he is suspended pending a trial. He is found guilty, loses his appeal, and resigns in April 2017. Moore is now running for the U.S. Senate. Watch part of the 2003 trial and the verdict to remove Justice Moore:
1610 – Henry Hudson enters bay later named after him, the Hudson Bay.
1819 – The first parachute jump in U.S. takes place in New York when Charles Guille jumps from a hot air balloon and travels airborne for half an hour over about eight miles before successfully landing in Bushwick.
1921 – A Chicago jury brings back a not guilty verdict against eight Chicago White Sox players for “throwing” the 1919 baseball World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds win the series 5 games to 3. The trial is dubbed the “Black Sox Scandal.” The following day Baseball Commissioner Judge “Kenesaw Mountain” Landis announces that he will banish from baseball for life the eight White Sox players involved in the 1919 World Series scandal, despite their acquittal, including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. Watch an amateur video of the scandal with actual footage:
1939 – President Roosevelt signs the Hatch Act prohibiting civil service employees from taking an active part in “Pernicious Political Activities.”
1983 – The House of Representatives approves a law that designates the third Monday of January as the federal holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The law is signed by President Reagan on November 2nd.
1994 – Congressional hearings begin on the Clinton Whitewater scandal. In 1978 in Arkansas, Bill and Hillary enter into a land deal with James and Susan McDougal. As a result of the investigation, James is convicted of 18 counts of fraud, sentenced to five years in prison, and dies in prison in 1998. Susan is convicted of fraud and sentenced to two years in prison. Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker is convicted of mail fraud but serves no jail time. Vince Foster, a friend of the Clinton’s and White House Counsel, “committed suicide” in 1993. Bill and Hillary are implicated in the scandal, but avoid any charges of wrongdoing.
1777 – The first U.S. flag was officially flown during battle during the Siege of Fort Stanwix (aka Fort Schuyler), New York.
1882 – Congress passes the first law restricting immigration. It imposed a 50 cent head tax on non-citizens and restricted “criminals, the insane, or any person unable to take care of him or herself.”
1923 – Vice President Calvin Coolidge becomes our 30th president after the sudden and unexpected death of President Warren Harding following an apparent heart attack the day before.
1949 – The Basketball Association of America and the National Basketball League merge to form National Basketball Association (NBA).
1981 – The 13,000 PATCO Union air traffic controllers begin their illegal strike. President Reagan fires them on August 5th.
1984 – Mary Lou Retton wins a gold medal in gymnastics at the Los Angeles Summer Olympics, including a perfect 10 score in the vault. Watch Retton’s perfect 10:
2004 – The pedestal of the Statue of Liberty reopens after being closed since the September 11, 2001, attacks. It opens again on July 4, 2013, after being closed for damages sustained when Hurricane Sandy struck in October of 2012.
2004 – NASA launches the spacecraft Messenger. The 6 1/2 year journey is planned to arrive at the planet Mercury in March 2011. On April 30, 2015, Messenger crashes into the surface of Mercury after sending back more than 270,000 pictures.
1821 – The first edition of Saturday Evening Post is published. It ceases publication in 1969 after losing a $3 million defamation lawsuit arising from an article in the Post alleging that the Georgia Bulldogs football coach Wally Butts and Alabama football head coach Bear Bryant conspired to fix games. The Post returns as a quarterly publication in 1971. Ownership changed hands several times and is now published six times a year.
1892 – The bodies of Andrew and Abby Borden are found in their house in Fall River, Massachusetts. Their daughter (Abby’s step-daughter), Sunday school teacher Lizzie Borden, is arrested for their murders a week later but subsequently acquitted. No one else is ever charged with the murders. Lizzie died in 1927 at age 66.
1922 – AT&T and Bell Systems recognizes the death of Alexander Graham Bell two days earlier by shutting down all of its switchboards and switching stations. The shutdown affects 13 million phones.
1958 – Billboard Magazine introduces its “Hot 100” chart, which is a barometer of the movement of potential hits. The first Number One song is Ricky Nelson’s “Poor Little Fool.” Listen to Nelson sing it, along with videos of his performances over the years:
1964 – The bodies of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James E. Chaney are discovered in an earthen Mississippi dam. In November the FBI accuses 21 Mississippi men, including a county sheriff, of engineering a conspiracy to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney. When Mississippi officials refuse to try any of the men for murder they are charged and convicted of civil rights violations. Seven are convicted, but none serve more than 6 years. In 2005, 80-year-old Edgar Ray Killen is tried and convicted of three counts of manslaughter and sentenced to three consecutive terms of 20 years in prison. Killen is now 92 years old and still in prison.
1972 – Arthur Bremer is jailed for shooting Alabama Governor George Wallace, who is paralyzed. Bremer is released early on November 9, 2007, for being a “model inmate.” Former Gov. Wallace dies in 1998. Arthur Bremer is now 66 years old.
1977 – President Jimmy Carter establishes the Department of Energy.
1985 – The musical “Dreamgirls” closes at the Imperial Theater in New York City after 1,522 performances. Former American Idol finalist Jennifer Hudson co-stars in the 2006 movie “Dreamgirls” and wins an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Watch Hudson’s American Idol audition:
1987 – The Federal Communications Commission rescinds the 1949 Fairness Doctrine. The doctrine requires that radio and TV stations present controversial issues in an “honest, equitable, and balanced” manner.
1988 – Congress votes to award $20,000 to each Japanese-American interned during WW II. President Reagan signs the Civil Liberties Act (H.R. 442) on August 10th. Rev. Mamoru Eto of Los Angeles, age 107, is the first to receive a check on October 9, 1990.
2007 – NASA’s Phoenix spacecraft is launched on a space exploration mission to Mars. The Phoenix Lander descends and lands on the surface of Mars on May 25, 2008. NASA’s Curiosity Rover, launched in November 2011, landed on Mars in August 6, 2012.
2010 – Judge Vaughn Walker overturns California’s Proposition 8, the ballot initiative prohibiting same-sex marriage, which is passed by California voters in 2008 in the case of Perry v. (Gov.) Schwarzenegger. The case goes all the way to the Supreme Court and in January 2015 the Court legalizes same-sex marriage.
2015 – Muppets Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog announce on Twitter the end of their relationship. Watch a post-break up interview with the famous Muppets:
1861 – The U.S. levies its first Income Tax (3% of incomes over $800).
1864 – Admiral David Farragut orders, during the Battle of Mobile Bay, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”
1884 – The cornerstone for the Statue of Liberty is laid on Bedloe’s Island in New York City. The Statue of Liberty, a gift from France, is dedicated in 1886.
1914 – The first traffic light in the U.S. is installed on Euclid Ave and East 105th Street in Cleveland, Ohio. The traffic signal has only a red and green light and a buzzer that is operated by a traffic officer on the corner. British railway signal engineer J.P. Knight invented the traffic light in 1868. Black American inventor Garrett Morgan is credited with adding the yellow warning light in 1923.
1921 – The cartoon “On the Road to Moscow” by Rollin Kirby is published in the New York World. It is the first cartoon to win a Pulitzer Prize.
1954 – The Ring magazine establishes the Boxing Hall of Fame and selects 24 modern and 15 pioneer boxers before it disbands in 1988. The following year the International Boxing Hall of Fame is established in New York and adopts the inductees from The Ring’s Boxing Hall of Fame.
1985 – The establishment of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is announced. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum opens in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1995. The first inductees include Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, The Everly Brothers, Alan Freed, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, and 10 others. Watch a video montage of the Museum:
1997 – Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of world trade center bombing, goes on trial. He is convicted in 1998 and sentenced to 240 years in prison without parole. He is now 49 years old.
2011 – Standard & Poor’s Financial Services lowers the United States’ AAA credit rating by one notch to AA-plus.
2012 – General Motors (Chevrolet) signs a record breaking seven-year $559 million marketing deal with Manchester (England) United soccer team. In 2008, the Bush administration authorizes $13 billion in loans to GM through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). In April and May 2009, the Obama administration provides another $6 billion. GM files for Chapter 11 reorganization in June. The Obama administration provides a $30 billion debtor-in-possession loan. In July 2009, Gm exits bankruptcy and in 2010 GM makes its final repayment, with the government still holding 61 percent in GM stocks. In December 2013, the last stocks are sold and the U.S. government no longer owns stock in GM. The government recovered only $70 billion of the $80 billion it lent to the GM and Chrysler in the TARP bailout.
1819 – Norwich University is founded in Vermont as the first private military school in the U.S.
1890 – The electric chair is first used in U.S. for execution on William Kemmler (aka John Hart) in New York, who is convicted of murder.
1890 – Cy Young pitches and wins his first game. He goes on to play baseball for 22 seasons, setting the still unbroken records of most career wins and most complete games. Young died in 1955 at age 88. In 1956, baseball commissioner Ford Frick introduced the Cy Young Award, given every year to the best pitcher in each league.
1930 – Supreme Court Justice Joseph Force Crater disappears in New York City. He is declared legally dead in 1939. The case is officially closed in 1979 and remains unsolved. A letter found among the effects of a woman who died 2005 claimed her late police-officer husband and cab-diver brother-in-law murdered Crater and buried him under the Coney Island Boardwalk.
1945 – The U.S. drops the world’s first atom bomb (Little Boy) on Hiroshima, Japan. Watch a documentary of the bombing and aftermath:
1946 – The U.S. officially submits to the jurisdiction of the World Court by accepting an optional clause in the Court’s statute. It gives the World Court compulsory jurisdiction over cases regarding interpretation of treaties, any question of international law, and any breach of international obligations. The U.S. is not a participant in the World Criminal Court, founded in 2002.
1965 – President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act, guaranteeing voting rights for blacks. Watch part of Johnson’s remarks after the signing:
1986 – William J. Schroeder dies after living 620 days with the Jarvik-7 man-made heart. He is the world’s longest surviving recipient of a permanent artificial heart to date. In March 1983, Dr. Barney Clark died 112 days after having the Jarvik-7 implanted.
1996 – NASA announces the discovery of evidence of primitive life on Mars based on a meteorite found in Antarctica. The meteorite is believed to have come from Mars and contained a fossil.
2011 – A helicopter carrying 20 members of Navy SEAL Team 6 is shot down in Afghanistan, killing all 31 U.S. specials ops troops and 7 Afghan commandos. The death toll surpasses the worst single day loss of life for the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan since the war begins in 2001. Members of SEAL Team 6 killed Osama bin Ladan three months earlier.
2012 – The Mars rover Curiosity lands on the floor of Gale Crater. The Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on November 26, 2011. The next mission to land on Mars is the InSight, scheduled for launch in May 2018.