This Week in History, March 9 – 15


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 March 9-15, 2015

March 9

1776 – The book on economics “The Wealth of Nations” by Adam Smith is published.

1820 – President and Mrs. James Monroe’s daughter Maria marries Samuel Lawrence Gouverneur (Mrs. Monroe’s nephew) in the White House.

1862 – The battle of the “Monitor” (Union) and the “Merrimack” (Confederate) takes place in Hampton Roads, Virginia. It is the first battle between ironclads.


1864 – Ulysses S. Grant is appointed commander of the Union Army. Grant serves as president from 1869 to 1873.

1933 – Congress is called into special session by President FDR and begins its “100 days.” In all, Roosevelt pushed 15 major bills through Congress in his first 100 days in office.

1954 – The first local color TV commercial airs in New York City for Castro Decorators. The ad is for a convertible sofa.

1954 – Edward R. Murrow criticizes Senator Joseph McCarthy on his show “See It Now.” Watch his commentary at:

1964 – The first Ford Mustang is produced. Introduced mid-year, it is known as the 1964 ½ Mustang. Over one million Mustangs are sold in the first two years of production.


1976 – The first female cadets are accepted to West Point Military Academy. Of the first 119 female cadets, 62 of them graduate.

1979 – Commissioner Bowie Kuhn orders baseball to give equal access to female reporters.

1986 – NASA announces that searchers have found the remains of the Space Shuttle Challenger astronauts following the January 28th explosion on takeoff.

2007 – The U.S. Justice Department releases an internal audit that finds that the Federal Bureau of Investigation acted illegally in its use of the USA Patriot Act to secretly obtain personal information about U.S. citizens.

2011 – The Space Shuttle Discovery makes its final landing after 39 flights. The last Space Shuttle flight is the Atlantis in July 2011. There are a total of 135 Space Shuttle missions.


March 10

1849 – Abraham Lincoln applies for and receives (on May 22nd) a patent for his invention of a device to lift boats over shoals. Although his device is never manufactured, Lincoln is the only U.S. president to hold a patent.


1862 – The U.S. issues the first paper money ($5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $500, and $1000 bills).

1876 – Alexander Graham Bell makes the first telephone call. The call is to his assistant Thomas Watson.

1933 – Nevada becomes the first U.S. state to regulate narcotics.

1951 – FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover declines the job of baseball commissioner. Ford Frick becomes baseball commissioner. Hoover remains FBI director until his death in 1972 at age 77.

1964 – A U.S. reconnaissance plane is shot down over East Germany.

1969 – James Earl Ray pleads guilty of the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. Ray died in prison in 1998 at age 70.


1971 – The U. S. Senate approves the 26th Amendment lowering the voting age from 21 to 18.

1980 – Willard Scott becomes the weather forecaster on the “Today Show.” He is also the first Ronald McDonald. Scott just turned 81 years old. Watch Scott in a 1987 weather forecast at:

1982 – President Reagan proclaims economic sanctions against Libya.

1996 – New York City Mayor Giuliani visits Israel.


March 11

1789 – Benjamin Banneker, the son of a freed slave, and Pierre L’Enfant, who came from France to fight in the Revolutionary War, begins laying out the plans for Washington, DC.

1823 – Concord Academy of Concord, Vermont opens as the first normal school (training school for teachers) in the U.S. It is founded by Samuel Read Hall. It is now a college-prep high school. 


1841 – The first continuous filibuster in the U.S. Senate, which begins on February 18th, ends. It starts over Senator Henry Clay’s bill to charter the Second Bank of the United States. The word “filibuster” is derived from the French word meaning “pirate.”

1897 – A meteorite enters the earth’s atmosphere and explodes over New Martinsville, West Virginia. The debris causes damage, but no human injuries are reported.

1918 – The first confirmed cases of the Spanish Flu are observed at Fort Riley, Kansas, starting the 3-year global flu pandemic that kills 3 to 5 percent of the world’s population.

1927 – The first Golden Gloves tournament is held. The tournament is started and named by Paul Gallico.


1941 – FDR signs the Lend-Lease Bill to provide aid to Britain and other foreign nations during World War II.

1953 – An American B-47 aircraft accidentally drops a nuclear bomb on Mars Bluff, South Carolina. The bomb doesn’t detonate, but the hole it made is still visible.


1958 – Charles Van Doren finally loses on the TV game show “Twenty-One.” It is later revealed that the show’s producers provided Van Doren with the answer and told his previous competitor Herb Stempel to give the wrong answer, resulting in one of the biggest game show scandals. Watch the full episode at:

1968 – Otis Redding posthumously receives a gold record for “Dock of the Bay.” Redding died December 10th in a plane crash. Watch a montage of the video at:

1982 – Senator Harrison Williams (D-NJ) resigns rather than face expulsion following his 1981 conviction for taking bribes in the ABSCAM sting.

1982 – Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat sign a peace treaty in Washington, DC during the Carter administration.


1986 – The National Football League adopts the instant replay rule.

1997 – The ashes of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry are launched into space on the Voyager Memorial Spaceflight Service arranged by the Houston-based firm Celestis, Inc. The ashes of his wife are also launched into space after her 2012 death.


March 12

1664 – The first naturalization act is passed in American colonies. The first Oaths of Allegiance are also taken.

1789 – The U.S. Post Office is established.

1894 – Coca-Cola is sold in bottles for the first time.


1912 – Juliette Gordon Low forms the Girl Scouts in Savannah, Georgia.

1933 – FDR conducts his first “fireside chat” on the radio. Listen to the chat at:

1947 – President Truman establishes the “Truman Doctrine” to help Greece and Turkey resist Communism.

1956 – The Dow Jones closes above 500 for the first time (500.24).

1974 – “Wonder Woman” debuts on TV and airs until 1979. Watch the introduction from each season at:

1980 – A jury finds John Wayne Gacy guilty of murdering 33 men and boys in Chicago. Gacy is executed by lethal injection in 1994 at age 52.

1986 – Susan Butcher wins the first of her four 1,158-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Races (1986, 1987, 1988, and 1990). She runs the race 18 times. Only Rick Swenson has won more Iditarod races (5). The first Iditarod race is run in 1973. Butcher died of leukemia in 2006 at age 51. Watch a brief bio of Butcher at:

1989 – About 2,500 veterans and supporters march at the Art Institute of Chicago to demand that officials remove an American flag placed on the floor as part of an exhibit. The exhibit is closed for only a short period of time then reopens.


2003 – Elizabeth Smart is found after having been missing for 9 months. She is kidnapped from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah, by Brian David Mitchell. He is sentenced to life in prison in 2011. Smart is now 27 years old.


2003 – The U.S. Air Force announces that it will resume reconnaissance flights off the coast of North Korea. The flights stop on March 2 after an encounter with four armed North Korean jets.


March 13

1868 – The Senate begins U.S. President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment trial. The Senate fails to impeach Johnson by one vote.

1884 – The U.S. adopts Standard Time.

1901 – Andrew Carnegie announces that he is retiring from business and that he will spend the rest of his life giving away his fortune. His net worth is estimated at $300 million.

1925 – Tennessee passes the “Butler Act,” making it unlawful to teach evolution. High school teacher John Scopes is tried for violating that act in July. He is found guilty and is fined $100, but the verdict is overturned on a technicality. It is later revealed that town leaders convinced Scopes to plead guilty for the publicity after the ACLU offered to defend anyone accused of teaching evolution.

1930 – It is announced that the planet Pluto has been discovered by scientist Clyde Tombaugh at the Lowell Observatory.

1951 – The comic strip “Dennis the Menace” by Hank Ketcham appears for the first time in newspapers across the country.


1960 – The National Football League’s Chicago Cardinals move to St Louis. (See March 15, 1988)

1963 – Ernesto Miranda is arrested in Phoenix, Arizona, and interrogated by police until he signs a confession. The Supreme Court rules in 1966 that Miranda had not been informed of his legal rights and his conviction for kidnapping and rape is overturned. Miranda was stabbed to death in a bar fight in 1976. He was 34 years old.

1974 – The U.S. Senate votes 54-33 to restore the death penalty.

1987 – John Gotti is acquitted of racketeering. Gotti is finally convicted of murder and racketeering in 1992 and sentenced to life in prison. Gotti died of throat cancer at a medical center for prisoners in 2002 at age 61.

1991 – Exxon pays $1 billion in fines and for the cleanup of the Valdez oil spill.

1997 – The unidentified flying objects called the “Phoenix Lights” are seen over Phoenix, Arizona, by hundreds of people and by millions on television. They are now a hotly debated controversy. Watch amateur video at:


March 14

1794 – Eli Whitney patents the cotton gin.

1812 – Congress authorizes the sale of war bonds to finance the War of 1812.

1900 – U.S. currency goes on the gold standard. Since 1971, the U.S. dollar is called fiat currency, meaning it is not backed by a physical commodity (gold), and is only worth the paper it’s printed on.

1903 – The first national bird reservation established in Sebastian, Florida.

1913 – John D. Rockefeller gives $100 million to the Rockefeller Foundation.

1923 – President Warren G. Harding becomes the first President to file an income tax report and pay taxes.

1937 – In the Battle of the Century, Fred Allen and Jack Benny meet on the radio on what becomes a decade-long faux feud.


1948 – The Freedom Train that toured the lower 48 states arrives in San Francisco.


1958 – The Recording Industry Association of America is created and Perry Como’s “Catch A Falling Star” is certified as its first gold record. Watch Como perform it in England at:

1964 – A Dallas jury sentences Jack Ruby to death for the murder of Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. Ruby died of lung cancer and a stroke in 1967 at age 55.

1967 – President JFK’s body is moved from a temporary grave to a permanent memorial at Arlington National Ceremony.

1967 – In the first NFL-AFL football common draft, the Baltimore Colts pick defensive lineman Bubba Smith.

1997 – President Clinton trips at 1:20 AM while on a fund-raising trip to Florida. The injury requires knee surgery.


March 15

1869 – The Cincinnati Red Stockings become the first professional baseball team.

1875 – John McCloskey of New York City is selected as the first U.S. cardinal of the Catholic Church.

1892 – The first escalator is patented by inventor Jesse W. Reno. It is introduced as an amusement park ride at New York’s Coney Island in 1896.

1892 – The first lever voting machine, the “Myers Automatic Booth,” debuts in Lockport, New York. A lever is assigned to each candidate and the voter pulls the lever to vote for the corresponding candidate.

1912 – Future Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Cy Young retires from baseball with 511 wins. The award bearing his name is given annually to the best pitcher starting in 1956, the year after Young’s death.


1913 – Woodrow Wilson holds the first presidential press conference.

1916 – General Pershing and 15,000 troops, on orders from President Wilson, chase Pancho Villa into Mexico after Villa repeatedly attacks American interests in New Mexico. Villa is never captured but is assassinated in Mexico in 1923.

1937 – The first blood bank is established in Chicago, Illinois.

1945 – Billboard publishes its first top album chart with “The King Cole Trio” as its first #1 album. The album includes “It’s Only A Paper Moon.” Listen to the original song with still photos at:

1945 – Bert Shepard, a WWII veteran with an artificial leg, tries out as a pitcher for Washington Senators. He pitches in one game on August 4th. Shepard died in 2008 at age 87.

1954 – “CBS Morning Show” premieres with Walter Cronkite and Jack Paar. Cronkite died in 2009 at age 92 and Paar died in 2004 at age 85.

1968 – LIFE magazine calls Jimi Hendrix the “most spectacular guitarist in the world.” Hendrix died in 1970 at age 27. Watch left-handed Hendrix perform “Purple Haze” at:

1969 – Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas asks President Lyndon B. Johnson to remove his name from consideration to replace retiring Chief Justice Earl Warren when Fortas fails to receive Congressional approval. Fortas becomes the first nominee since 1795 to fail to win Senate approval. He resigns from the Supreme Court in May. Fortas died in 1982 at age 71.

1977 – The U.S. House of Representatives begins a 90-day test of televising its sessions.

1985 – The first Internet domain name,, is registered.

1988 – NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals officially move to Phoenix. The Los Angeles Rams move to St. Louis for the 1995 season.

1989 – The Department of Veterans Affairs is officially established as a Cabinet position.