This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past,
for human events ever resemble those of preceding times.”
Week of July 17-23, 2017
1775 – The first U.S. military hospital (medical department) is approved in Massachusetts with a Director-General (chief physician of the Hospital), four surgeons, an apothecary (pharmacist), and nurses (usually wives or widows of military personnel). The pay for the surgeons and the pharmacist is $1.66 a day and nurses $2 a month.
1856 – The Great Train Wreck of 1856 between Camp Hill and Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, kills over 60 people when two trains traveling on the same track in opposite directions collide.
1938 – Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan leaves New York for Los Angeles in his modified Curtiss Robin and ends up in Ireland. He is denied permission to fly across the Atlantic and claims his trans-Atlantic flight is due to a navigation error. The New York Post prints its headline backwards. Watch a 50th anniversary news report with Corrigan:
1941 – The longest hitting streak in baseball history ends when the Cleveland Indians pitchers hold New York Yankee Joe DiMaggio hitless for the first time in 57 games.
1955 – Disneyland opens in Anaheim, California. The Magic Kingdom covers 160 acres and costs $17 million to build. Watch Walt Disney’s brief opening speech:
1955 – Arco, Idaho, becomes the first U.S. city lit by nuclear power. The Experimental Breeder Reactor Number 1 near Arco becomes the first nuclear reactor in the U.S. when it goes online in 1951. It is decommissioned in 1964 and is now a Registered National Historic Landmark.
1962 – Robert White set the aircraft altitude record of 354,300 feet (over 67 miles) in the X-15. William Knight set the highest speed ever recorded by a manned, powered aircraft when he flew the X-15 at 4,520 miles per hour (Mach 6.72) on November 18, 1967.
1972 – The first 2 women begin training as FBI agents at Quantico, Virginia. Former Marine Susan Roley Malone and former nun Joanne Pierce Misko complete the 14-week training. Malone works for 7 years before rejoining the Marines. Misko retires in 1994 after 22 years of service. In 2012 they are honored on the 40th anniversary of their groundbreaking service.
1975 – An Apollo spacecraft docks with a Soyuz spacecraft in orbit. It is the first link up between the U.S. and Soviet Union in space. Watch the docking and greeting of the astronauts:
1986 – The largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history (at the time) takes place when LTV Corporation (Ling-Temco-Vought) asks for court protection from more than 20,000 creditors with its debts in excess of $4 billion. Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc. now holds that distinction when it filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2008 with $639 billion in assets.
1995 – Forbes Magazine announces that Bill Gates is the richest man in world ($12.9 billion). Bill Gates still tops the list with $76 billion.
1997 – After 119 years in business, the Woolworth Corp. closes the last of its 400 stores. The first store was opened by Frank Winfield Woolworth in 1878 in Utica, New York. The Greensboro, North Carolina, Woolworth store was the site of the 1960 lunch counter sit-in.
2005 – Tiger Woods wins his 10th major golf tournament by winning The British Open Championship by 5 strokes. Woods becomes only the second golfer, after Jack Nicklaus, to win each major more than once.
1768 – Boston Gazette publishes “Liberty Song,” America’s first patriotic song.
1927 – Baseball Hall of Famer Ty Cobb gets his 4,000th career hit on his way to 4,191. Pete Rose holds the record for most career hits with 4,256. Cobb and Rose are the only two major league baseball players with more than 4,000 career hits.
1938 – Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan lands in Ireland after leaving New York for California and “accidentally” flying the wrong way. Corrigan had applied to the Bureau of Air Commerce to fly non-stop from New York to Ireland, but was denied permission. Watch Corrigan explain what happened:
1947 – President Harry Truman signs the Presidential Succession Act. The line of succession after the VP is Speaker of the House, President Pro Tem of the Senate, Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Defense, the Attorney General, Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, HHS, HUD, Transportation, Energy, Education, VA, and Homeland Security (as long as they are constitutionally eligible).
1969 – Mary Jo Kopechne dies when Senator Edward Kennedy drives his car off the Chappaquiddick Bridge. Kennedy escapes unhurt, but Kopechne, age 28, dies of asphyxiation several hours after the accident when the oxygen in an air pocket in the car runs out. Two fishermen find the submerged car in the morning after Kennedy finally reports the accident. Kennedy, age 37, pleads guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and receives a two-year suspended sentence. Kennedy died in 2009 at age 77.
1986 – Videotapes are released showing Titanic’s sunken remains. Marine geologist Robert Ballard discovers the Titanic wreckage 350 miles southeast of Newfoundland, 13,000 feet down on the ocean floor. Watch a video of a 2004 dive on the wreckage:
1994 – Comet Shoemaker-Levy collides with Jupiter. American astronomers Carolyn and Eugene Shoemaker and David Levy discover the comet in 1993.
1995 – “Dreams from My Father,” a memoir by Barack Obama, is published by Times Books. Obama’s second book, “The Audacity of Hope,” was published in 2006 published by Crown Books. That title came from a sermon Obama heard delivered by his Chicago pastor, Jeremiah Wright.
2015 – President Obama’s administration normalizes relations with Cuba. The U.S. broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba when President Eisenhower closed the American Embassy in Havana on January 3, 1961.
2015 – PayPal is spun off from eBay as a separate publicly traded company on the NASDAQ.
1692 – Five more people are hanged for witchcraft (making 19 in all) in Salem, Massachusetts. The Salem Witch Trials began as a result of the diagnosis of “bewitchment” by local doctor William Griggs when two village girls become ill.
1848 – The first U.S. women’s rights convention is held in Seneca Falls, New York, to discuss women’s social and political equality. Nearly 300 people attend the 2-day convention. Speakers included Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Frederick Douglass.
1879 – Doc Holliday (a dentist) kills for the first time after a man shoots up his New Mexico saloon. Holliday flees when a reward is offered for his capture. He joins the Earp brothers in the gunfight at the OK Corral in 1881. Holliday died of TB in 1887 at age 36.
1899 – New York City newspaper boys revolt when Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst raise the wholesale price they charge the boys to sell bundles of 100 newspapers from 50 to 60 cents. The children stand their ground until the newspaper moguls back down two weeks later. The newsboys strike had reduced newspaper circulation from 360,000 to 125,000.
1909 – The first unassisted triple play in major league baseball is made by Cleveland Indians shortstop Neal Ball in a game against Boston.
1930 – Admiral Richard E. Byrd, Laurence McKinley Gould, and their polar expedition team return to the U.S. following the first exploration of the interior of Antarctica. The expedition began in 1928. Byrd went on a second expedition in 1934. Byrd died in 1957 at the age of 68.
1945 – The USS submarine Cod saves 56 sailors from the sinking Dutch sub O-19 in the only international sub-to-sub rescue in history. After being mothballed, recommissioned, and decommissioned, the USS Cod opens for public tours in 1976 and is designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986. She is now docked in Lake Erie at Cleveland, Ohio. Watch archival footage (no sound) of the rescue:
1961 – TWA shows the first in-flight movie (MGM’s “By Love Possessed” starring Lana Turner and Efrem Zimbalist Jr.)
1973 – Willie Mays is named to the National League all-star baseball team for 20th time (tied with Stan Musial). Hank Aaron holds the record at 21 all-star game appearances.
1982 – According to the 1981 U.S. Census Bureau report 14 percent (about 32 million) of the population have an income below the official poverty level. In 2014 the percentage is 14.8 (almost 47 million people).
1985 – Christa McAuliffe is chosen as the first teacher to fly in a space shuttle. She is killed on January 28, 1986, during the Space Shuttle Challenger launch disaster.
1858 – An entrance fee is charged for the first time to see a baseball game (50 cents). New York beats Brooklyn 22-18.
1881 – Sioux Indian Chief Sitting Bull, a fugitive since the 1876 Battle of Little Big Horn, surrenders to federal troops and is forced onto a reservation. He is shot and killed in 1890 while being arrested by U.S. government and Indian agents who feared he would lead an uprising. The chief was 59 years old.
1917 – The World War I draft lottery held. Number 258 is the first number drawn.
1921 – Congresswoman Alice Mary Robertson (R-OK) becomes the first woman to preside over the U.S. House of Representatives. She is only the second woman ever elected to Congress. Jeanette Rankin (R-MT) is the first in 1916.
1940 – Billboard publishes the first ranking of record singles. Tommy Dorsey scored the first #1 single with “I’ll Never Smile Again.” The song, featuring vocals by Frank Sinatra, stayed at #1 for 12 weeks.
1942 – The first detachment of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs) begins basic training at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. There are 440 officer candidates (average age 30) and 125 enlisted women (average age 24). The Women’s Army Corps was disbanded in 1978 and women were integrated with men’s units.
1968 – Iron Butterfly’s song “In-a-gadda-da-vida” becomes the first heavy metal song to hit the music charts. The original recording of the song was 17 minutes long.
1969 – Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. aboard Apollo 11 (The Eagle) become the first men to land on the moon. Michael Collins remains in lunar orbit aboard the command spacecraft. Watch the Eagle land:
1976 – Hank Aaron hits home run #755, his final major league homer, off Angels’ pitcher Dick Drago. Babe Ruth set the home run record at 714 in 1927. Aaron plays his last game on October 3rd and is inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1982. Hank is 82 years old.
1984 – Vanessa Williams is asked to resign as Miss America after “Penthouse Magazine” announces it plans to publish nude photos of her. Williams, the first black Miss America, resigns three days later, becoming the first Miss America to resign. First runner-up Suzette Charles, Miss New Jersey, assumes the crown. Williams, now 54, has been nominated for numerous TV, movie, and music awards. Watch the crowning ceremony:
1989 – Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe’s show opens at Washington, D.C.’s Project for the Arts after the Smithsonian Institution’s Corcoran Gallery cancels it following protests over his sexually explicit material. Mapplethorpe died in March 1989 of AIDS at age 42.
1990 – Justice William Brennan resigns from the Supreme Court and is replaced by David Souter. President Eisenhower appointed Brennan to the court in 1956.
2000 – The leaders of Salt Lake City’s bid to win the 2002 Winter Olympics are indicted by a federal grand jury for bribery, fraud, and racketeering. Ten members of the International Olympic Committee was expelled and ten others were sanctioned. It is the first time in the IOC’s history that members were expelled or sanctioned for corruption.
2012 – Twelve people are killed and 59 injured after a gunman opens fire at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. The (here unnamed) gunman, now 29, is serving life without the possibility of parole because the jury could not unanimously agree on the death penalty. In 2015, he was transferred to an undisclosed location after he was attacked by another inmate.
1861 – The Battle of Bull Run at Manassas Junction, Virginia, begins. The Confederates win the battle, but there are 4,690 casualties (killed, wounded, and missing). Although this is listed as the first land battle of the U.S. Civil War, the first land battle of the war is actually the Battle of Carthage (Missouri), fought on July 5th. This is also a Confederate victory, with 118 casualties (killed and wounded).
1865 – Wild Bill Hickok shoots and kills Davis Tutt in Springfield, Missouri, after quarreling over a card game. This is the first recorded case of two men taking part in a quick-draw duel. The following month Hickok is acquitted of murder after pleading self-defense.
1873 – Jesse James and James Younger’s gang commit their first train robbery (the Rock Island Line) near Adair, Iowa.
1925 – The Scopes Monkey Trial ends when Tennessee high school biology teacher John Scopes is found guilty of teaching Darwinism. He is fined $100. His defense attorney is Clarence Darrow. The prosecutor is three-time Democrat presidential nominee William Jennings Bryant, who dies five days after the trial.
1930 – The Veterans Administration is established.
1969 – Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to walk on the moon and utters the immortal words, “One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” A total of 12 men, all Americans, have walked on the moon. Watch the first small step:
1972 – Fifty-seven murders are committed in 24 hours in New York.
1974 – The House Judiciary Committee approves two Articles of Impeachment against President Richard Nixon following the Watergate scandal. Nixon resigns on August 9th.
1976 – The first outbreak of “Legionnaires’ Disease” kills 29 people at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia. The disease, a type of pneumonia, is so named because the first known victims were attendees at the American Legion convention.
1980 – Draft registration begins in the U.S. for men aged 19 and 20 years old.
1984 – The first documented case of a robot killing a human in the U.S. occurs when 34-year-old Harry Allen is pinned by a robot against a trim press at the Diecast Corporation in Jackson, Michigan. Allen died 5 days later.
1997 – The fully restored 200-year-old USS Constitution (aka “Old Ironsides”) celebrates her 200th birthday by setting sail for the first time in 116 years. Watch an aerial and on deck video of the sailing:
2011 – NASA’s Space Shuttle program ends with the landing of Space Shuttle Atlantis on mission STS-135. NASA’s space shuttle program begins with its first launch (Columbia mission STS-1) on April 12, 1981. Watch the final landing:
1587 – The second English colony is established on Roanoke Island off North Carolina. The colony vanishes under mysterious circumstances.
1775 – George Washington, at the age of 43, becomes Commander-In-Chief of America’s revolutionary army.
1893 – Katharine Lee Bates writes the poem, “America the Beautiful” after being inspired during a visit to Pike’s Peak in Colorado. She doesn’t publish it for two years, when it is then set to the music by composer S. A. Ward’s “Materna,” the tune to which we sing it today.
1934 – “Public Enemy No. 1” John Dillinger is mortally wounded by FBI agents outside Chicago’s Biograph Theatre. Watch a Smithsonian video about his criminal life:
1963 – Sonny Liston KOs Floyd Patterson in the first round of their second fight for the heavyweight boxing title. Liston was found dead in his home under suspicious circumstances in 1970 at age 38. Patterson died of Alzheimer’s in 2006 at age 71. Watch a newsreel of the lead up to the bout and the fight:
1975 – The House of Representatives votes to restore citizenship to General Robert E. Lee. In 1865, Lee signs an amnesty oath issued by President Andrew Johnson but is not pardoned because Secretary of State William Seward (of Seward’s folly fame) gives the application to a friend as a souvenir. A National Archives examiner eventually finds Lee’s oath and initiates the amnesty process.
1991 – Jeffrey Dahmer confesses to killing 17 boys and young men between 1978 and 1991. He pleads guilty and is sentenced to 16 life terms. In November 1994, 34-year-old Dahmer is killed in the Wisconsin prison shower by fellow inmate Christopher Scarver. Already serving life in prison for murder, Scarver was sentenced to additional life terms.
1994 – OJ Simpson pleads “Absolutely 100 percent not guilty” of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman. He is found not guilty on October 3, 1995. One of OJ’s lawyers was Robert “Keeping Up With The” Kardashian. Kardashian died in 2003 at age 59. Simpson, now 70, has been in prison since 2008 for kidnapping, armed robbery, and assault with a deadly weapon. He may be paroled this week.
1995 – Susan Smith is found guilty of drowning her 2 sons. She first claims she is carjacked but later admits to driving her car into a South Carolina lake with her 3-year-old and 14-month-old sons strapped in their car seats. Smith is sentenced to life in prison and will be eligible for parole in 2024 after serving a minimum of 30 years. Smith is now 45 years old.
2004 – The September 11 commission’s final report is released. White House officials are briefed on the report the day before. The 575-page report concludes that hijackers exploited “deep institutional failings within our government.”
1715 – The first lighthouse in America is authorized for construction on Little Brewster Island, Massachusetts, and is known as the Boston Light.
1880 – The first application of hydropower electricity generation within an industrial setting in the U.S. occurs when the Wolverine Chair Factory in Grand Rapids, Michigan, powers up 16 brush-arc lamps using a water turbine. The world’s first commercial hydroelectric power plant built to provide electricity to buildings outside the plant opens in September 30, 1882, on the Fox River in Appleton, Wisconsin.
1904 – The Library of Congress recognizes Charles E. Menches as the creator of the ice cream cone at the St. Louis World’s Fair. (He is one of many who make this claim.)
1956 – The Bell X-2 rocket plane, piloted by Col. Frank Everest, sets a world aircraft speed record of 1,895 miles per hour (Mach 2.87) at 60,000 feet over Edwards Air Force Base in California. The X-15 currently holds the official world record for the fastest speed ever reached by a manned aircraft at 4,520 mph. (See July 17, 1962.) Watch a newsreel of the X-2 flight:
1980 – Billy Carter, brother of President Jimmy Carter, admits to being a registered agent of the Libyan government. He admits to taking more than $200,000 from Libya.
1989 – FOX tops ABC, NBC, and CBS in TV ratings for the first time with the show “America’s Most Wanted.” The show was cancelled several times but resumed by public demand. The 6-year-old son of the host John Walsh was kidnapped and murdered in 1981. John Walsh, now 71, championed unsolved crimes on the show following his son’s brutal murder. Watch a 2010 interview with Walsh:
1998 – Scientists at the University of Hawaii turn out more than 50 “carbon-copy” mice using a new cloning technique. Universities using the method that cloned Dolly the sheep have failed to duplicate. The Hawaiian scientists declined to discuss whether the new technique would make human cloning more feasible.
2015 – NASA’s Kepler mission announces the discovery of the most Earth-like planet yet, named Kepler-452b, at a distance of 1,400 light years from Earth (about 93 million miles).