This Week In History
by Dianne Hermann
“While I take inspiration from the past, like most Americans,
I live for the future.”
– Ronald Reagan
Week of April 25-May 1, 2016
1846 – A military skirmish known as the Thornton Affair begins over the disputed border of Texas, triggering the Mexican-American War.
1901 – New York becomes the first state requiring automobile license plates. They charge a $1 fee.
1928 – Morris Frank becomes the first American to use a guide dog. Buddy, a German shepherd, is the first guide dog. Watch a touching video of Morris, in his own words, and Buddy:
1945 – Delegates from about 50 countries meet in San Francisco to organize the United Nations.
1950 – Chuck Cooper becomes the first black player in the National Basketball Association.
1956 – Elvis Presley has his first number one on the Billboard Pop Singles Chart with “Heartbreak Hotel.” It stays number one for 8 weeks.
1959 – The St. Lawrence Seaway linking the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes opens to shipping.
1960 – The submarine USS Triton becomes the first submerged vessel to circumnavigate the Earth. The trip takes nearly 61 days.
1967 – Colorado Governor John Love signs the first law in the U.S. legalizing abortions. The law is limited to therapeutic abortions when agreed to unanimously by a panel of three physicians.
1974 – The National Football League moves the goal posts and adopts the sudden-death playoff.
1984 – David Anthony Kennedy, son of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, is found dead in a hotel room of a drug overdose.
1990 – The Hubble space telescope is placed into orbit by the space shuttle Discovery.
1998 – First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton is questioned by Whitewater prosecutors on videotape about her work as a private lawyer for the failed savings and loan at the center of the investigation. Watch a 1996 interview with Barbara Walters:
2007 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes above 13,000 for the first time.
1607 – The British establish an American colony at Cape Henry near Jamestown, Virginia. It is the first permanent English establishment in the Western Hemisphere.
1819 – The first Odd Fellows lodge in the U.S. is established in Baltimore, Maryland.
1859 – New York politician Dan Sickles is acquitted of murdering his wife’s lover on grounds of temporary insanity. It is the first time the insanity defense is used successfully.
1865 – John Wilkes Booth is killed by the U.S. Federal Cavalry at the Garrett Farm in Virginia. Booth assassinated President Lincoln on April 15.
1907 – The Jamestown Virginia Tercentenary (300th) Exposition opens.
1937 – “LIFE” magazine is printed without the word “LIFE” on the cover.
1941 – A tradition of playing organ music during a baseball game begins when the Chicago Cubs use an organ as a one-time gimmick. It is so popular that the Cubs management keeps the instrument. Gary Pressy is in his 30th year as organist at Wrigley Field. Watch an interview with Pressy:
1954 – A nationwide test of Salk anti-polio vaccine begins.
1962 – NASA’s Ranger 4 spacecraft makes a crash landing on the backside of the moon when its onboard computer fails to deploy the solar panels and navigation system.
1983 – Dow Jones Industrial Average breaks 1,200 for first time.
1986 – Actor, body builder, and future California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger marries John F. Kennedy’s niece, newscaster Maria Shriver. They separate in 2011.
1992 – The final episodes of “Growing Pains” (after 7 years) and “Who’s The Boss” (after 8 years) air on ABC-TV.
1993 – NBC announces that Conan O’Brien will replace David Letterman on late night TV. O’Brien is replaced by Jay Leno. Jimmy Fallon is the current host. Steve Allen was the first.
1996 – Sotheby’s ends a 4-day auction of 6,000 items belonging to the late Jackie Kennedy Onassis. The auction brings in $34.5 million.
2000 – Vermont Gov. Howard Dean signs the nation’s first bill allowing same-sex couples to form civil unions. Dean runs unsuccessfully for president in 2004.
2009 – American health officials declare a public health emergency after twenty cases of swine flu (H1N1) have been confirmed.
1805 – U.S. Marines attack the shores of Tripoli at the port city of Derna in present-day Libya at the end of the First Barbary War. “The Halls of Montezuma” refer to the 1847 Battle of Chapultepec during the Mexican-American War when Marines storm the Chapultepec Castle. Both events are memorialized in the Marine Corps’ official song. The unknown author of the song put the events in reverse chronological order.
1897 – Grant’s Tomb is dedicated. The answer to the age-old question of who’s buried in Grant’s tomb is President Ulysses S. Grant and his wife Julia. It is the largest mausoleum in North America.
1911 – William P. Frye resigns as President Pro Tempore of the Senate. He dies before his successor can be named. A compromise is reached to rotate the office of President Pro Tempore between political parties for the next two years.
1938 – Geraldine Apponyi marries King Zog of Albania. She is the first American woman to become a queen.
1953 – The U.S. offers $50,000 and political asylum to any Communist pilot who delivers a MIG jet in Operation Moolah. The plan is not successful.
1956 – Heavyweight champ Rocky Marciano retires undefeated from boxing at the age of 31. He is the only boxer to ever retire undefeated. Marciano died in a plane crash in 1969 at age 45.
1978 – A construction accident at the nuclear reactor at Willow Island, West Virginia, kills 51 workers.
1983 – Nolan Ryan becomes baseball’s strikeout leader with 3,509 strikeouts, passing Walter Johnson. Ryan still holds the record for the most strikeouts in a career with 5,714. Ryan is now 69 years old. Watch Ryan’s record breaking pitch:
1987 – The U.S. Justice Department bars Austrian President Kurt Waldheim from entering the U.S. claiming he aided in the deportation and execution of thousands of Jews and others as a German Army officer during World War II.
1994 – President Richard Nixon is buried at the Nixon Library in California. Nixon died on April 22nd.
2006 – In New York City, construction begins on the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower on the site of former World Trade Center. Watch an incredible 2-minute time-lapse video of the 9-year construction project:
2011 – On the deadliest day of the 3-day Super Outbreak of tornadoes, 316 of the 321 people killed are killed on this day. It is the largest tornado outbreak in U.S. history.
2011 – President Obama releases his long-form birth certificate from the state of Hawaii in an effort to quell “birther” conspiracy theorists.
1818 – The U.S. Senate ratifies the Rush-Bagot Pact of 1817, limiting naval forces on the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain except for small patrol vessels. The Convention of 1818 sets the boundary between the Missouri Territory and British North America (which becomes Canada) at the 49th parallel.
1855 – The first veterinary college in the U.S. is incorporated in Boston.
1914 – W.H. Carrier patents the design for his air conditioner.
1937 – Pan Am makes the first commercial flight across the Pacific Ocean.
1952 – The U.S. occupation of Japan officially ends when a treaty with the U.S. and 47 other countries goes into effect.
1959 – Arthur Godfrey makes his final broadcast of “Arthur Godfrey and His Friends” on CBS-TV.
1967 – Muhammad Ali refuses induction into the army and is stripped of his boxing title.
1972 – Courts award the 1968 Kentucky Derby prize money to 2nd place winner “Forward Pass” after the winner “Dancer’s Image” is disqualified for being given drugs before the race.
1975 – Beatle John Lennon appears on “The Tonight Show” and Beatle Ringo Starr appears on “The Smothers Brothers Show.”
1988 – The roof tears off of Aloha Airlines Boeing 737 while in flight after explosive decompression. One flight attendant is killed and 65 passengers are injured. The plane lands safely. Listen to the actual aviation voice transmissions with still photos:
1992 – The U.S. Agriculture Department unveils a pyramid-shaped recommended-diet chart.
1994 – Former CIA officer Aldrich Ames and his wife Rosario plead guilty to spying. Aldrich is still serving a life sentence. Rosario is deported back to
Columbia in 1999 after completing her 5-year sentence.
1996 – President Clinton gives a 4 1/2 hour videotaped testimony as a defense witness in the criminal trial of his former Whitewater business partners.
2001 – Millionaire Dennis Tito becomes the world’s first space tourist. He spends eight days in space and visits the International Space Station at an estimated cost of $20 million. Tito is now 75 years old. Watch a report about Tito in space:
1892 – Charlie Reilly is baseball’s first pinch hitter.
1913 – Gideon Sundback patents an all-purpose zipper.
1927 – Construction is completed on the “Spirit of St. Louis,” which is designed by Charles Lindbergh. Two weeks later Lindbergh becomes the first person to fly across the Atlantic. Lindbergh died in 1974 at age 72.
1952 – IBM President Thomas J. Watson, Jr., informs his company’s stockholders that IBM is building “the most advanced, most flexible high-speed computer in the world.” The computer is unveiled 1953 as the IBM 701 Electronic Data Processing Machine.
1961 – ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” premiers. The last show airs in 2006.
1974 – President Nixon says he will release the edited Watergate tapes made in the White House that have been subpoenaed by the House Judiciary Committee. The tapes are finally released in July. Nixon resigns on August 8th.
1975 – The U.S. begins to evacuate U.S. citizens from Saigon during Operation Frequent Wind prior to an expected North Vietnamese takeover. U.S. involvement in the war comes to an official end.
1986 – Over 800,000 books are destroyed in a fire at the Los Angeles Central Library.
1992 – A jury acquits Los Angeles police officers of beating Rodney King. Rioting begins in Los Angeles and other U.S. cities.
1997 – American astronaut Jerry Linenger and cosmonaut Vasily Tsibliyev go on the first joint U.S.-Russian space walk.
1998 – The U.S., Canada, and Mexico end tariffs on $1 billion through NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).
2002 – The United States is re-elected to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights one year after losing the seat it had held for 50 years.
2004 – Oldsmobile builds its final car, an Alero, ending 107 years of production as America’s oldest car brand. The signatures of the Lansing plant employees are written inside the hood of the car.
2004 – The National World War II Memorial, located between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, opens to the public in Washington D.C.
2010 – The Defense Department announces that the ban will be lifted in February on women serving on U.S. submarines.
2015 – The White Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 8-2 at Camden Yards. The game is played without the fans present due to the ongoing riots and protests in Baltimore. This is the first time a Major League Baseball game is played in an empty stadium.
1789 – George Washington is sworn in as the first U.S. President.
1803 – The U.S. doubles in size through the Louisiana Purchase at a cost of $15 million.
1871 – The Camp Grant Massacre of Apaches in Arizona Territory, perpetrated by white and Mexican adventurers, kills 144 people.
1885 – The Boston Pops Orchestra forms. Arthur Fiedler, its most famous conductor, serves from1930 until just before his death in1979. The current conductor is Keith Lockhart.
1900 – Casey Jones dies in a train wreck in Vaughn, Mississippi, while trying to make up time on the Cannonball Express. He applies the brake to try to slow the train because another train is too long for the sidetrack, leaving the caboose on the main line.
1904 – The ice cream cone makes its debut at the World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri.
1922 – Charlie Robertson of the Chicago White Sox (AL) pitches a no-hit, no-run perfect game against the Detroit Tigers, winning 3-0. The next American League regular season no-hit perfect game does not come along until 46 years later when Oakland A’s Catfish Hunter pitches against Minnesota.
1925 – The automaker Dodge Brothers, Inc is sold to Dillon, Read & Company for $146 million plus $50 million for charity.
1938 – Happy Rabbit appears in the cartoon “Porky’s Hare Hunt.” This rabbit later evolves into Bugs Bunny.
1939 – Lou Gehrig plays his last game with the New York Yankees. He is diagnosed with ALS, a disease that will eventually bear his name.
1947 – The Boulder Dam is renamed in honor of President Herbert Hoover.
1952 – Mr. Potato Head is the first toy advertised on television. Watch an early commercial (when you had to use a real potato):
1972 – “Arthur Godfrey Time” ends its 27-year run on the radio. Various Godfrey shows are broadcast on radio and TV starting in 1948. Godfrey died in 1983 at age 79.
1975 – The last U.S. helicopter leaves the U.S. embassy grounds in Saigon, Viet Nam.
1984 – President Reagan signs a cultural and scientific agreement with China. He also signs a tax accord that makes it easier for American companies to operate in China.
1988 – The largest banana split ever, at 4 ½ miles long, is made in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. The record still stands. Watch a tongue-in-cheek history of banana splits:
2009 – Chrysler automobile company files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In 2011 Fiat buys the shares owned by the U.S. Treasury.
2015 – NASA’s Messenger spacecraft crashes into the surface of Mercury. The space probe sent back more than 270,000 pictures to earth.
1751 – The first American cricket match is played.
1841 – The first emigrant wagon train leaves Independence, Missouri, headed for California.
1873 – The first U.S. post card is issued.
1883 – “Buffalo Bill” Cody puts on his first Wild West Show. Cody died in 1917 at age 70.
1931 – The Empire State Building opens in New York City as the tallest building in the world at 103 stories.
1935 – The Boulder Dam is completed. It is 726’ high and 1,244’ long.
1937 – President Franklin Roosevelt signs an act of neutrality to keep the U.S. out of World War II.
1940 – The 1940 Tokyo Summer Olympics are cancelled due to the outbreak of World War II. The 1940 Winter Olympics and 1944 Summer and Winter Olympics are also cancelled. Note: The 1916 Summer Olympics were cancelled due to World War I.
1941 – General Mills introduces Cheerios cereal.
1943 – Food rationing begins in the U.S. during World War II.
1960 – Russia shoots down U.S. pilot Francis Gary Powers in his U-2 spy plane 15 days before President Eisenhower is scheduled to attend an East-West Summit in Paris. Powers pleads guilty and is convicted of espionage in August and sentenced to three years imprisonment and seven years of hard labor. He serves one year and nine months of the sentence before being exchanged for Rudolf Abel in February of 1962. Powers died in 1977 at age 47 in a helicopter accident.
1961 – The first U.S. airplane is hijacked to Cuba. A National Airlines plane is hijacked from Miami to Cuba by Antulio Ramirez Ortiz.
1962 – The first Kmart department store opens in Garden City, Michigan, selling a range of clothes, shoes, housewares, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, and electronics.
1963 – James Whittaker becomes the first American to conquer Mount Everest.
1967 – Elvis Presley and Priscilla Beaulieu get married in Las Vegas. They are divorced in 1973. They have one daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, born in 1968.
1971 – Amtrak (National Railroad Passenger Corp.) begins operation.
1989 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules that employees have the legal burden to prove non-discriminatory reasons for not hiring or promoting.
1991 – Oakland A’s Rickey Henderson, in a baseball game against the Yankees, breaks Lou Brocks record by stealing a record 939 bases. He goes on to steal 1,406 bases in his career. Watch the record-breaking steal and an MLB report:
1999 – On Mount Everest, a group of U.S. mountain climbers discover the body of George Mallory. Mallory died in June of 1924 while trying to become the first person to reach the summit of Everest. At the time of the discovery it was unclear whether or not Mallory had actually reached the summit.
2003 – In what becomes known as the “Mission Accomplished” speech, President George W. Bush, on board the USS Abraham Lincoln off the coast of California declares that, “major combat operations in Iraq have ended.” Watch part of the speech:
2011 – President Barack Obama announces that U.S. soldiers killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
2012 – Occupy Wall Street protesters gather across the U.S. to stage a day of protest for International Workers’ Day. Thousands of people march in New York, Oakland, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Chicago in protest. The protest ends up lasting for weeks.