This Week in History, Week of April 13-19, 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 April 13-19, 2015


April 13

1796 – The first elephant arrives in the U.S. from India. The 2-year-old Asian elephant is bought and transported to the U.S. at a cost of $450. It is taken on tour on the East Coast over the next 12 years and people are charged 25¢ to 50¢ to see it.

1860 – The first Pony Express reaches Sacramento, California, in just under 10 days. The Pony Express originates in St. Joseph, Missouri, and uses a relay of young riders. The Pony Express lasts about a year and a half.

1869 – George Westinghouse patents the steam power brake.

1883 – Alfred Packer is the first American convicted of cannibalism. He goes on a gold prospecting expedition to Colorado in 1874 with five others and returns alone two months later. He claims self-defense and that he consumed the men to survive. He is sentenced to 40 years but is eventually paroled due to doubt about his guilt.

1902 – J C Penney opens his first store, called the “Golden Rule Store,” in Kemmerer, Wyoming. The first day’s sales are $33.41.


1934 – The U.S. Congress passes the Johnson Debt Default Act, which prohibits future loans to countries that have previously defaulted on U.S. loans.

1943 – President FDR dedicates the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC.

1957 – Due to lack of funds Saturday mail delivery in the U.S. is temporarily halted. Saturday mail delivery is restored the following week when Congress allocates $41 million to the Post Office.

1964 – Sidney Poitier becomes the first black man to win an Oscar for best actor in “Lilies of the Field.” Watch the award presentation:

1970 – Astronauts on Apollo 13 calmly announce, “Houston, we’ve had a problem,” after the Beech-built oxygen tank explodes en route to the Moon. The spacecraft and its astronauts return safely to earth on April 17th.

1984 – Pete Rose becomes the first National League baseball player to get 4,000 hits in a career. American League player Ty Cobb, in 1927, is the only other player to get over 4,000 hits. Watch Charlie Hustle get his 4,000th hit:

1997 – Tiger Woods becomes the youngest person to win the Masters Tournament at the age of 21. He also sets a record when he finishes at 18 under par.

1999 – Jack Kervorkian is sentenced in Pontiac, Michigan, to 10-25 years in prison for the second-degree murder of Thomas Youk. Youk’s assisted suicide is videotaped and shown on “60 Minutes” in 1998. Kervorkian died in 2011 at age 83.


April 14

1775 – The first abolitionist society in the U.S. organizes in Philadelphia.

1818 – The U.S. Medical Corps forms when physicians are recruited by the Medical Department of the Army, which is created by the Continental Congress.

1828 – Noah Webster registers his copyright for the publication of the first American dictionary.

1865 – President Abraham Lincoln is shot and mortally wounded by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC after a plan to kidnap the president fails. Booth escapes, but he is killed when the barn where he is hiding is set on fire and burned down.

1903 – Dr. Harry Plotz, working in New York City, discovers the vaccine against typhoid.

1912 – The Titanic hits an iceberg at 11.40 pm off Newfoundland on its way to New York City.


1918 – Douglas Campbell is the first U.S. ace pilot. He shoots down 5 German planes during World War I.

1935 – The worst sandstorm in the U.S., known as Black Sunday, ravages the Midwest and creates the Dust Bowl. The drought and sandstorms continue until 1939.


1960 – The first underwater Polaris missile is launched. A total of 41 are launched between 1960 and 1966.

1971 – The Supreme Court upholds busing as a means of achieving racial desegregation.

1981 – The first Space Shuttle, Columbia STS-1, returns to Earth. Watch the historic landing:

1984 – The Texas Board of Education begins requiring that the state’s public school textbooks describe the evolution of human beings as “theory rather than fact.”

2003 – The Human Genome Project is completed with 99% of the human genome sequenced to an accuracy of 99.99% with support from the U.S. Department of Energy. The projects starts in 1987.

2009 – Georgetown University covers up its religious symbols at the request of the Obama administration before Obama speaks at the university.



April 15

1817 – Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet opens the first American school for the deaf in Hartford, Connecticut.

1861 – President Lincoln mobilizes the Federal (Union) army with its 75,000 volunteers.

1871 – “Wild Bill” Hickok becomes the marshal of Abilene, Kansas. (See this date – 1951)

1877 – The first telephone is installed in Boston, Massachusetts.

1910 – President William Howard Taft begins the tradition of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch on baseball’s opening day at Griffith Stadium in Washington, DC. Every president since Taft has done this.


1912 – The Titanic sinks off the coast of Newfoundland after it strikes an iceberg on its way to New York City.

1924 – Rand McNally publishes its first road atlas.

1947 – Jackie Robinson plays his first major league baseball game for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Previously he has only appeared in exhibition games.

1951 – The first episode of the “Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok” airs on the radio.

1955 – Ray Kroc starts the McDonald’s chain of fast food restaurants in Des Plaines, Illinois. There are now more than 35,000 McDonald restaurants in over 100 countries. Kroc died in 1984 at age 81.


1964 – The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, connecting Virginia and Maryland, opens as the world’s longest bridge-tunnel at 23 miles.


1967 – Richard Speck is found guilty of murdering eight student nurses in their Chicago home. Although Speck is sentenced to death, his sentence is commuted to 50-100 years after the Supreme Court abolishes capital punishment. Speck is never tried for multiple other murders he is suspected of committing. Speck died in prison in 1991 at age 49, having served just 19 years.

1981 – Janet Cooke says her Pulitzer award story called “Jimmy’s World” about an 8-year-old heroin addict is a lie. The Washington Post relinquishes the Pulitzer Prize on the fabricated story. Cooke resigns from the Post.

1992 – Billionaire Leona Helmsley goes to jail to serve a four-year sentence for tax evasion. She serves 18 months and has to do community service and pay fines. The “Queen of Mean” died in 2007 at age 87.

1992 – Jay Leno makes his final appearance as the “permanent guest host” of Tonight Show.

1997 – Baseball honors Jackie Robinson by retiring #42 for all teams.

2012 – The U.S. Secret Service’s inappropriate conduct scandal begins when at least 11 agents are implicated. The 11 agents are placed on leave after an investigation into inappropriate conduct in Columbia prior to a summit attended by President Obama. Three more agents are sent home for inappropriate conduct prior to President Obama’s trip to Holland in March 2014.


April 16

1862 – The U.S. Confederate Congress approves the conscription act for all white males 18-35 years of age.

1881 – Bartholomew “Bat” Masterson fights his last gun battle in Dodge City, Kansas. No one is killed and Masterson pays an $8 fine. Masterson serves as a sheriff and U.S. Marshall for the next three decades. He becomes a sports editor in New York City and dies of a heart attack at his desk in 1921 at age 67.


1900 – The first book of postage stamps is issued. The two-cent stamps are available in books of 12, 24 and 48 stamps.

1905 – Andrew Carnegie donates $10,000,000 of his personal money to set up the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

1922 – Annie Oakley sets a women’s record by shooting 100 clay targets in a row.

1935 – The first broadcast of “Fibber McGee & Molly” airs on the radio. The real-life husband and wife team of Jim and Marian Jordan create and star in the show until 1959.


1940 – The White Sox and Cubs play in the first televised baseball game.

1956 – The first solar powered radios go on sale.

1962 – Walter Cronkite begins anchoring the CBS Evening News. His news program airs until 1981. He is called “The most trusted man in America.” Cronkite died in 2009 at age 92. Watch his final broadcast:

1992 – The House of Representatives ethics committee lists 303 current and former lawmakers who have overdrawn their House bank accounts.

1993 – A jury reaches a guilty verdict in the Federal case against the police officers who beat Rodney King, but the verdict is not read until April 17th.

2002 – The Supreme Court overturns major parts of a 1996 child pornography law based on rights to free speech.

2007 – In the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, 23-year-old student Seung-Hui Cho, shoots 32 people to death and injures at least 17 others on the campus of Virginia Tech before committing suicide.


April 17

1704 – John Campbell publishes in Boston the first successful U.S. newspaper.

1865 – Mary Surratt is arrested as a conspirator in President Lincoln’s assassination. She owns the boarding house where her son John Surratt, John Wilkes Booth, and others conspire to kill the president. She is hanged on July 7th with three others convicted of the conspiracy. Mary, aged 42, is the first woman executed by order of the U.S. government.


1924 – Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures, and Louis B. Mayer Company merge to form MGM.

1934 – The new Fenway Park opens. The Washington Senators beat the Red Sox 6-5.

1941 – The Office of Price Administration is established to handle rationing during World War I.

1964 – Jerrie Mock becomes the first woman to fly solo around the world after completing a flight of 29 days. She flies in a Cessna 180 christened the “Spirit of Columbus.” Mock died in 2014 at age 88.


1967 – Surveyor 3 is launched and lands on the Moon on April 20th.

1969 – Sirhan Sirhan is convicted of assassinating U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy. He is sentenced to death but his sentence is commuted to life in prison after California abolishes capital punishment. Sirhan is now 71 years old and still in prison.

1972 – Nina Kuscsik of New York wins the first Boston Women’s Marathon in 3:10:26.

1978 – A record 63,500,000 shares are traded on the New York stock exchange. Daily shares traded tops 7 billion in 2009.

1982 – The final episode of “The Lawrence Welk Show” airs. The show premieres in 1955 and airs over 1,000 shows. Welk died in 1992 at age 89.

1986 – IBM produces the first megabit-chip.


1991 – The Dow Jones closes above 3,000 for the first time (3,004.46).

1996 – Lyle and Erik Menendez are sentenced to life in prison without parole for killing their parents in 1989 when the sons are age 21 and 18 respectively. All their appeals have been denied.



April 18

1775 – Paul Revere and William Dawes ride from Charleston to Lexington warning colonists, “The Regulars are coming out!”

1861 – Col. Robert E. Lee turns down President Lincoln’s offer to command the Union Army.

1906 – The San Francisco earthquake and subsequent fire kills nearly 4,000 people and destroys 75 percent of city. It ranks as the 16th strongest earthquake in the U.S. at 7.8 on the Richter scale.

1912 – The Cunard liner Carpathia brings the 705 survivors from the Titanic to New York City.

1924 – The first crossword puzzle book is published by Simon & Schuster.

1934 – The first “Washateria” (Laundromat) opens in Fort Worth, Texas.

1942 – “Stars & Stripes” newspaper for U.S. armed forces begins publishing.

1958 – A U.S. federal court rules that Idaho-born poet Ezra Pound is to be released from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for the criminally insane after 13 years of confinement. Pound lived in Italy during WWII and strongly supported Mussolini. He is arrested at the end of the war and held in a prison camp, where he suffers a mental breakdown. After his release from St. Elizabeth’s, Pound returns to Italy, where he lives until his death in 1972 at the age of 87.

1964 – Sandy Koufax is the first pitcher to strike out the side on 9 pitches (the minimum).

1966 – Bill Russell becomes the first black coach in National Basketball Association history. He coaches the Boston Celtics for 3 years.

1968 – U.S. oil executive Robert P. McCulloch buys the London Bridge for $2.4 million to be reassembled in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. The London Bridge, originally built in 1831, opens as an attraction in 1971.


1978 – The Senate votes to turn the Panama Canal over to Panama on Dec 31, 1999.

1983 – A lone suicide/ homicide bomber kills 63 people at the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon.

1987 – Gregory Robertson does a 200-mph free fall from 13,500 feet over Phoenix to save fellow skydiver Debbie Williams, who is knocked unconscious when she collides with another skydiver. Robertson pulls her ripcord and Williams lands, sustaining several injuries.

1991 – The U.S. Census Bureau says it failed to count up to 63 million in the 1990 census.

1994 – Former President Nixon suffers a stroke and dies four days later at the age of 81.

2002 – Actor Robert Blake and his bodyguard are arrested in connection with the shooting death of Blake’s wife, Bonnie Lee Bakley, about a year before. Although Blake is acquitted in 2005, he is found guilty in a civil trial and ordered to pay $30 million to Bakley’s children. Blake files for bankruptcy. He is now 81 years old.

2007 – The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the 2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in a 5-4 decision.


April 19

1775 – The American Revolution begins in Lexington Common after the “shot heard round the world” is fired by a British soldier. The phrase comes from the 1837 poem “Concord Hymn” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

1782 – John Adams secures the Dutch Republic’s recognition of the United States as an independent government. The house he purchased in The Hague, Netherlands becomes the first American embassy.

1897 – The first American marathon is held in Boston. John J. McDermott wins in 2:55:10.

1927 – Mae West is sentenced to 10 days in jail and fined $500. The 34-year-old West is charged with “obscenity and corrupting the morals of youth” for writing (under the pen name Jane Mast), directing, and performing in the play “Sex.”

1933 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt issues a proclamation that removes the U.S. from the gold standard.

1934 – Shirley Temple appears in her first movie “Stand Up & Cheer” one week before her 6th birthday. During her 30-year career she appears in over 75 movies and film projects. She later serves as the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and then Ghana. Shirley Temple Black died in 2014 at age 85. Watch the amazing little Shirley Temple:

1955 – The German automaker Volkswagen, after six years of selling cars in the United States, founds Volkswagen of America in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, in order to standardize its dealer and service network.

1966 – Roberta Bignay becomes the first woman to run in the Boston Marathon.

1982 – Sally Ride is named as the first woman astronaut. In 1983 Ride becomes the first American woman in space. Ride flies into space on another Space Shuttle mission in 1985. Ride died in 2012 at the age of 61 from pancreatic cancer.

1987 – The last wild condor is captured at a California wildlife reserve. The male condor joins the 27 only remaining condors for the breeding program at the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

1993 – Seventy-six Branch Davidian men, women, and children in Waco, Texas, die in a fire after a 51-day siege. Janet Reno approves the use of tear gas because Bill Clinton said, “If she thought it was the right thing to do, she should proceed.” Watch a CNN report of the first siege:

1994 – Rodney King is awarded $3,800,000 in compensation for his police beating. King died in 2012 at 47.

1995 – A truck bomb parked at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City kills 168 and injures 500. Timothy McVeigh is arrested, convicted, and executed for the bombing.


2000 – The Oklahoma City National Memorial is dedicated on the fifth anniversary of the bombing in Oklahoma that kills 168 people.

2002 – The USS Cole is relaunched. When in Yemen, 17 sailors are killed when the ship is attacked by terrorists on October 12, 2000. The attack is blamed on Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network.