This Week In History, Week of May 9-15, 2016


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 May 9-15, 2016

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 recording of the show are archived in the Library of Congress.

1950 – A 5-pound bear cub is rescued during a New Mexico forest fire and named Smokey the Bear. Smokey died in 1976 at the National Zoo in Washington and buried in New Mexico. Watch a video of the history of Smokey:

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.

1996 – In video testimony to a courtroom in Little Rock, Arkansas, President Clinton insists that he had nothing to do with a $300,000 loan in the criminal case against his former Whitewater partners.

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 Federal Bureau of Investigation. 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.

1969 – The National and American Football Leagues announce their plans to merge for the 1970-71 season.

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:


May 11

1751 – The first hospital in America’s 13 Colonies is founded as the Pennsylvania Hospital.

1752 – The first U.S. fire insurance policy is issued in Philadelphia.

1816 – The American Bible Society is formed in New York City.

1904 – Andrew Carnegie donates $1.5 million to build the Peace Palace in The Hague, Holland. Construction is completed in 1913. It houses the International Court of Justice.

1927 – Louis B. Mayer forms the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

1928 – General Electric opens the first TV station in Schenectady, New York.

1929 – The first regularly scheduled TV broadcasts 3 nights per week.

1947 – B.F. Goodrich Company announces the creation of the tubeless tire.

1951 – Jay Forrester patents the computer core memory.

1973 – Citing government misconduct, charges are dismissed against Daniel Ellsberg for his involvement in releasing the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times.

1978 – Margaret A. Brewer is the first female general in the U.S. Marine Corps. Brewer died in 2013 at age 82.

1980 – Pete Rose, age 39, steals second, third, and home in one inning for the Phillies.

1987 – The first “domino” heart-lung transplant takes place in Baltimore. A healthy human heart is taken from one living person (whose lungs were destroyed by cystic fibrosis) and transplanted into another human needing a heart transplant. The donor receives the heart and lungs of a deceased accident victim.


May 12

1777 – The first advertisement for ice cream appears in the New York Gazette.

1932 – The decomposed body of Charles Lindbergh’s son, kidnapped on March 1st, is found in the woods near the Lindbergh’s New Jersey home. It is believed the baby has been dead since the night of the kidnapping.

1949 – Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit of India is the first foreign woman ambassador to be received in the U.S. She is also the first female president of the UN General Assembly.

1967 – H. Rap Brown replaces Stokely Carmichael as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and is a prominent figure in the Black Panther Party.

1970 – Harry A. Blackmun is confirmed by the Senate as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. He authors the Roe v Wade decision in 1973 and on the court serves until 1994. Blackmun died in 1999 at age 90.

1978 – The Commerce Department says hurricane names will no longer be only female names.

1980 – Maxie Anderson and his son Kris complete the first nonstop crossing of the U.S. via a balloon. Maxie dies in 1983 at age 48 in a balloon accident.

1985 – Amy Eilberg is ordained in New York as the first woman Conservative rabbi.

1986 – Fred Markham, unpaced and unaided by wind, is the first person to pedal 65 mph on a level course in Big Sand Flat, California. He wins the $18,000 DuPont Prize. Watch the wild ride:

1993 – The last broadcast of “Cheers” airs on NBC-TV after 10 seasons.

2002 – Former President Jimmy Carter arrives in Cuba for a visit with Fidel Castro. It is the first time a U.S. head of state, in or out of office, has visited the island since Castro’s 1959 revolution.

2003 – Fifty-nine Democrat lawmakers flee the Texas Legislature and go into hiding to prevent a quorum in a dispute over a Republican congressional redistricting plan. The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the plan.


May 13

1828 – The U.S. passes the Tariff of Abominations, so called by Southerners because of the adverse effects it has on their economy. The Tariff of 1828 is designed to protect northern industries from low priced imported goods.

1846 – The U.S. declares war on Mexico, two months after fighting begins.

1865 – The last land engagement of the Civil War is fought at the Battle of Palmito Ranch in south Texas, more than a month after Gen. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Virginia.

1911 – The New York Giants set a major league baseball record when ten runners cross home plate before the first out of the game against St. Louis.

1946 – The U.S. convicts 58 camp guards of the Mauthausen concentration camp to death as part of the Nuremberg trials following World War II.

1950 – Diner’s Club issues its first credit cards. In 1949, businessman Frank McNamara forgets his wallet while dining out at a New York City restaurant. He starts the restaurant credit card company with his partner Ralph Schneider.

1960 – The first launch of a Thor-Delta rocket carrying the Echo-1 series satellite fails to reach orbit after the second-stage control system failure. The satellite is destroyed.

1983 – Reggie Jackson becomes the first major league baseball player to strike out 2,000 times.

1992 – Three astronauts simultaneously walk in space for the first time. Richard Hieb, Pierre Thuot, and Thomas Akers conduct an 8 ½-hour space walk outside Space Shuttle Endeavor. Watch an astronaut-narrated video of the flight and spacewalk:

1992 – Frank Stallone beats Geraldo Rivera in boxing on Howard Stern Show billed as “The Scrapple in the Apple.”

2003 – The U.S. government unveils the newly designed version of the $20 bill. It is the first bill to be colorized in an effort to stop counterfeiters.


May 14

1804 – Lewis and Clark set out from St. Louis for the Pacific Coast.

1853 – Gail Borden patents his process for condensed milk.

1878 – Vaseline is first sold as a registered trademark for petroleum jelly. Robert Chesbrough creates Vaseline by processing petroleum (oil).

1897 – “The Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Phillip Sousa is performed for the first time at a ceremony when a statue of George Washington is unveiled.

1904 – In St. Louis, the Olympic Games are held. It is the first time the games are played in the U.S.

1913 – The Rockefeller Foundation is created by John D. Rockefeller with a gift of $100 million.

1921 – Florence Allen is the first woman judge to sentence a man to death. She sentences gangster Frank Motto to die in the electric chair for the murder of two men.

1942 – The U.S. Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs) forms after Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts introduces a bill in Congress. The Corps becomes a permanent part of the Army from 1948 until 1978, when women are assimilates into all but the combat branches of the Army.

1948 – The U.S. grants Israel de facto recognition by President Harry Truman after Israel’s proclamation of independence.

1949 – Harry Truman signs a bill establishing a rocket test range at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

1951 – Ernie Kovacs TV Variety Show debuts on NBC. Kovacs goes on to star in a variety of TV shows and composes songs for shows. He died in 1962 at age 42.

1973 – Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In last airs on NBC-TV. It premiers in 1967 and is hosted by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin. Dan Rowan died in 1987 at age 65 and Dick Martin died in 2008 at age 86.

1973 – The U.S. Supreme Court approves equal rights to females in military.

1976 – Lowell Thomas ends his 46-year career as radio network reporter.

1980 – The Department of Health & Human Services begins operation.

1998 – The last episode of Seinfeld, which premiers in 1989, airs on NBC. Commercials for the final episode cost $2 million for 30 seconds. Watch the monologue from the last episode:

1999 – North Korea returns the remains of six U.S. soldiers who were killed during the Korean War.

2012 – Stanford University scientists develop a prototype bionic eye.


May 15

1817 – The Asylum for the Relief of Persons Deprived of the Use of Their Reason (now Friends Hospital) opens in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as the first private mental health hospital in the U.S.

1869 – The National Woman Suffrage Association forms. Elizabeth Cady Stanton serves as its first president.

1911 – The Supreme Court dissolves Standard Oil Company using the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, which is passed by Congress to combat monopolies.

1928 – Mickey Mouse makes his first appearance in the cartoon short “Plane Crazy.” Watch the primitive animation classic:

1933 – The first voice amplification system is used in the U.S. Senate.

1934 – The Department of Justice offers a $25,000 reward for John Dillinger, dead or alive. Dillinger is shot and killed by FBI agents on July 22nd in Chicago.

1940 – Nylon stockings go on sale for the first time in the U.S.

1941 – Joe DiMaggio starts his 56-game hitting streak.

1942 – Gasoline is first rationed in 17 eastern states.

1944 – President Eisenhower, General Montgomery, Winston Churchill, and King George VI meet to discuss D-Day planned for June 6th.

1951 – AT&T becomes the first corporation to have one million stockholders.

1963 – Peter, Paul & Mary win their first Grammy for “If I Had a Hammer.”

1963 – Weight Watchers is founded by New York homemaker Jean Nidetch. She is now 91 years old.

1972 – Presidential candidate and former Governor George Wallace is shot and left paralyzed by Arthur Bremer in Laurel, Maryland. Bremer is convicted and sentenced to 63 years in prison. He is paroled in 2007 when he is 57 years old after serving 35 years. Gov. Wallace died in 1998 at age 79.

1981 – “Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island” airs on TV.

1991 – President Bush takes Queen Elizabeth to an Oakland A’s-Baltimore Orioles baseball game. Watch some of the pomp and circumstance:

2008 – California becomes the second U.S. state (after Massachusetts in 2004) to legalize same-sex marriage after the states own Supreme Court rules a previous ban unconstitutional.

2014 – The National September 11 Memorial Museum is dedicated in New York City.



  1. Dianne Hermann, I absolutely love your column, “This Week in History.” I won’t go on about the obvious exhaustive research you do, or the timely and entertaining way you construct your weekly entries, the clever way you thread the past with the present and make it all relevant, or the genius of packaging it all into each column, each column distinctive and thought-provoking in its own right. I won’t rave about how your column cries out for readers to forward and share with family, friends, and social media connections. I will simply say, “This Week in History” is a delightful read anytime or anywhere. And I thank you.

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