This Week in History, Week of May 4 – 10, 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 May 4-10, 2015

May 4

1780 – The American Academy of Arts & Science is founded in Massachusetts when 62 people sign the charter, including John Adams, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock.

1893 – Cowboy Bob Pickett, the son of former slaves, invents the rodeo sport of bulldogging. Pickett died in 1932 at age 69 after being kicked in the head by a horse.


1904 – Construction on the Panama Canal is taken over by the United States from France, who started the project in 1881. The 48-mile-long canal is completed in 1914.

1919 – The first legal Sunday baseball game is played in New York City. The Phillies beat the Giants 4-3.

1932 – Al Capone, convicted of income tax evasion, enters the Atlanta Penitentiary. He is paroled in 1939. Capone died in 1947 at age 48.

1953 – The Pulitzer Prize is awarded to Ernest Hemingway for “The Old Man and The Sea.”

1957 – Alan Freed hosts the “Rock n’ Roll Show,” the first primetime network TV rock music show.

1959 – The first Grammy Awards are held. Perry Como and Ella Fitzgerald win as best male and female vocalists. Henry Mancini wins album of the year for “The Theme From Peter Gunn.”


1961 – American Navy pilots Malcolm Ross and Victor Prather set a balloon altitude record of 113,740 feet to test the Navy’s 22-pound neoprene pressurized space suit. The balloon flight altitude record still stands.

1964 – Soap operas “Another World” and “As the World Turns” premiere on TV.

1967 – Lunar Orbiter 4 is launched by the U.S. and begins orbiting the Moon on May 7.

1975 – Houston Astros’ Bob Watson scores baseball’s one-millionth run of all time. He is awarded $10,000 and 1 million Tootsie Rolls. Watson now serves as Major League Baseball’s vice president in charge of discipline and vice president of rules and on-field operations.

1998 – A federal judge in Sacramento, California, gives “Unabomber” Theodore Kaczynski four life sentences plus 30 years after Kaczynski accepts a plea agreement sparing him from the death penalty.

2003 – Idaho Gem, the first member of the horse family to be cloned, is born. Watch him get his legs under him:

May 5

1809 – Mary Kies is the first woman issued a U.S. patent. It is for a technique of weaving straw with silk and thread in making hats.

1816 – The American Bible Society is organized in New York. Elias Boudinot, former president of the Continental Congress, serves as its first president.

1865 – About one dozen men tear up tracks in the first U.S. train robbery. Over 100 passengers are robbed near North Bend, Ohio. The robbers are never caught.

1891 – Andrew Carnegie’s Music Hall (later named Carnegie Hall) opens in New York City with Ilyich Tchaikovsky as the guest conductor.

1893 – In the wake of the Panic of 1893 the New York Stock Exchange crashes, leading to the Depression of 1893. This is why the resulting stock market crash of 1929 is called the Great Depression.

1904 – Cy Young of Boston pitches the first perfect baseball game against the Philadelphia A’s, winning 3-0.

1925 – John T. Scopes is arrested for teaching evolution in Tennessee. Scopes is tried, convicted, and fined $100. His conviction is overturned on a technicality by the Tennessee Supreme Court.

1926 – Sinclair Lewis refuses the 1925 Pulitzer Prize for his book “Arrowsmith.” He states in a letter to the committee that the terms of the prize (for the American novel published during the year which shall best present the wholesome atmosphere of American life, and the highest standard of American manners and manhood) means “anything whatsoever, would appear to mean that the appraisal of the novels shall be made not according to their actual literary merit but in obedience to whatever code of Good Form may chance to be popular at the moment.”

1942 – The U.S. begins rationing sugar during World War II.

1943 – Postmaster General Frank C. Walker develops the Postal Delivery Zone System.

1956 – Jim Bailey of Australia becomes the first runner to break the four-minute mile in the U.S. He is clocked at 3:58.5.

1961 – Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space when he is launched aboard Freedom 7. (John Glenn is the first American to orbit the Earth.) Shepard goes to the moon on Apollo 14 in 1971. Shepard died in 1998 at age 74. Watch a 10-minute biography:

1965 – U.S. Army ground units arrive in South Vietnam for the first large-scale mission.

1979 – Voyager 1 passes Jupiter. It is launched by NASA in September 1977. In 2012 Voyager I passes into interstellar space.

1997 – The final episode of “Married With Children” airs on Fox TV after 11 seasons.


May 6

1833 – Blacksmith and inventor John Deere makes its first steel plow. His company is founded in 1837.

1853 – In the first major U.S. rail disaster, 46 people are killed in Norwalk, Connecticut, when a train engineer misses an open drawbridge signal and the cars plunge into the Norwalk River.

1861 – Jefferson Davis approves a bill declaring War between the United States and the Confederacy.

1877 – Chief Crazy Horse surrenders to U.S. troops in Nebraska.

1937 – The Dirigible Hindenburg explodes in flames at Lakehurst, New Jersey, killing 36. Watch a newsreel of the historic tragedy:

1941 – Bob Hope performs in his first USO show at California’s March Field. Hope headlines a total of 57 tours during every war from World War II to Operation Desert Shield in 1991. Hope died in 2003 at age 100.

1957 – Senator John F. Kennedy is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for book “Profiles in Courage.”

1981 – A jury of international architects and sculptors unanimously selects Maya Ying Lin’s entry for the design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. It is the second most visited monument in Washington, after the Lincoln Memorial.

1994 – Former Arkansas state worker Paula Jones files suit against President Bill Clinton alleging that he sexually harassed her in 1991.

1996 – The body of former CIA director William Colby is found washed up on a riverbank in southern Maryland, eight days after he disappears in an apparent boating accident. He was 46 years old.

2002 – “Spider-Man” becomes the first movie to make more than $100 million in its first weekend.

2013 – Wal-Mart becomes the largest company by revenue on the Fortune 500 list.

May 7

1789 – The first inaugural ball is held after George Washington is sworn in as president in New York City.

1847 – The American Medical Association (AMA) organizes in Philadelphia.

1888 – George Eastman patents the “Kodak box camera.”


1912 – Columbia University approves plans for awarding the Pulitzer Prize in several categories. The award is established by Joseph Pulitzer as part of his will. The first prize is awarded in 1917.

1914 – The U.S. Congress establishes Mother’s Day.

1915 – The Lusitania ocean liner is sunk by a German submarine on its way from New York to England and about 1,200 lives are lost.


1942 – In the Battle of the Coral Sea, American and Japanese navies attack each other with carrier planes. It is the first time in the history of naval warfare where two enemy fleets fight without seeing each other.

1954 – The United States and the United Kingdom reject the Soviet Union’s bid to join NATO.

1975 – President Ford declares an end to the “Vietnam Era.”

1984 – A $180 million out-of-court settlement is announced in the Agent Orange class-action lawsuit brought by Vietnam veterans who claim they suffered injuries from exposure to the defoliant while serving in the armed forces.

1982 – IBM releases PC-DOS version 1.1.

1992 – A Constitutional amendment barring mid-term congressional raises is ratified. James Madison proposes in 1789 what becomes the 27th Amendment.

1992 – The U.S. Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-49) launches on its maiden voyage. It is built to replace the Challenger, destroyed in a launch accident in January 1986.

1998 – Mercedes-Benz buys Chrysler for $40 billion and forms Daimler/Chrysler in the largest industrial merger in history.

1999 – A jury finds “The Jenny Jones Show” and Warner Brothers liable in the shooting death of Scott Amedure after the show purposely deceives Jonathan Schmitz into appearing on a secret same-sex crush episode. Schmitz kills Amedure days after the show’s taping. A jury awards Amedure’s family $25 million. Watch the never-aired episode and interviews:

May 8

1792 – The U.S. establishes the military draft.

1861 – Richmond, Virginia, is named the capital of the Confederacy. Richmond is just over 100 miles south of Washington, DC.

1878 – Paul Hines completes the first unassisted triple play in organized baseball when he catches a fly ball and touches third base, resulting in 2 outs for the two runners who had already passed third base for home plate.

1879 – George Selden files the first patent for a gasoline-driven automobile.

1886 – Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta sells Coca-Coke for the first time. It actually contains cocaine.


1919 – Edward George Honey first proposes the idea of a moment of silence to commemorate the Armistice of World War I, which later results in the creation of an international Remembrance Day. It is now known as Veterans Day in the U.S.

1961 – The first practical seawater conversion plant opens in Freeport, Texas.

1973 – A group of about 200 American Indians holding the South Dakota town of Wounded Knee since February 27th surrender after protesting corruption and treaty violations.


1976 – The rollercoaster Revolution opens at Six Flags Magic Mountain as the first roller coaster with a full vertical flip. Take the wild ride:

1984 – The USSR announces it will not participate in Los Angeles Summer Olympics.

1987 – Democrat presidential candidate Gary Hart quits the race after the Donna Rice affair.

1994 – The Colorado Silver Bullets, an all-female pro baseball team, play their first game. They play their last game in 1997. Watch a report about the team:

1999 – Nancy Mace becomes the first female cadet to graduate from The Citadel military college.

May 9

1754 – The first political cartoon in America, “Join, or Die,” is printed in Benjamin Franklin’s newspaper.

1887 – Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show opens in London, England.

1913 – The 17th Amendment passes, providing for the election of senators by popular vote.

1914 – President Wilson proclaims Mother’s Day a holiday.

1926 – Americans Richard Byrd and Floyd Bennett make the first flight over the North Pole. They circle the North Pole to verify their location and take photos.

1936 – The first radio quiz show “Professor Quiz” premieres.

1939 – The Catholic Church beatifies Kateri Tekakwitha as the first Native American saint. Born in 1656 in New York, Tekakwitha is known as the “Lily of the Mohawks.”

1946 – “NBC’s Hour Glass” premieres as the first hour-long variety show on TV. The show lasts until March 1947. No videos of the shows exist. Audio recordings of the show are archived in the Library of Congress.

1960 – The U.S. is the first country to use the birth control pill legally.

1977 – Patty Hearst is released from jail after serving her sentence for bank robbery after being kidnapped and held by the SLA.

2005 – The liberal commentary website The Huffington Post is launched by Arianna Huffington.

May 10

1752 – Benjamin Franklin tests the lightning rod.

1775 – The 2nd Continental Congress names George Washington as supreme commander.

1801 – The Barbary pirates of Tripoli declare war on the United States.

1823 – The first steamboat to navigate the Mississippi River arrives at Fort Snelling, Minnesota.

1869 – The Golden Spike is driven, completing the Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Point, Utah.

1877- President Rutherford B. Hayes has the first telephone installed in the White House. The White House phone number is #1.

1924 – J. Edgar Hoover is appointed head of the FBI. He remains the FBI director until his death in 1972.

1930 – The first planetarium in the U.S. opens in Chicago, Illinois.

1968 – The Vietnam peace talks began in Paris between the U.S. and North Vietnam.

1983 – The last episode of “Laverne & Shirley” airs on ABC-TV. The show premiered in 1976.


2002 – Dr. Pepper announces that it will introduce a new flavor for the first time in 117 years. It is called Red Fusion.


2011 – It is announced that Microsoft has closed a deal to purchase the Internet phone service Skype for $8.5 billion.

2013 – Crane operators in New York City hoist the final pieces of the spire atop One World Trade Center (formerly called the Freedom Tower), making it the tallest building in the U.S. and the 4th tallest building in the world. Watch time-lapse photography of the spire installation: