This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“History is a vast early warning system.” Norman Cousins
Apr 10-16, 2023
1790 – Captain Robert Gray is the first American to circumnavigate the globe. He repeated his trek in 1793. Gray died in 1806 at the age of 51.
1849 – Walter Hunt patents the safety pin. He sold the rights for $100. Hunt patented many inventions including the fountain pen, streetcar bell, street sweeper, and nail-making machine.
1912 – RMS Titanic sets sail for New York City on its first (and only) voyage. The “unsinkable” ship hit an iceberg just before midnight on the 14th and sank on the morning of the 15th. Titanic’s survivors arrived in New York City aboard the Carpathia on April 18th. Watch grainy silent footage of survivors aboard the Carpathia in New York.
1971 – The American table tennis team arrives in China. They are the first group of Americans officially allowed into China since the founding of the People Republic in 1949. The team received the surprise invitation while in Japan for the 31st World Table Tennis Championship.
1996 – President Bill Clinton vetoes a bill that would have outlawed a technique used to end pregnancies in their late stages (late term abortions).
2012 – Apple Inc. claims a value of $600 billion, making it the largest company (by market capitalization) in the world.
1783 – After receiving a copy of the provisional treaty on March 13th, the U.S. Congress proclaims a formal end to hostilities with Great Britain (aka The Revolutionary War).
1898 – President McKinley asks for a declaration of War against Spain. Congress passed a resolution on April 20th, giving Spain an ultimatum to relinquish control of Cuba. When they refused, Congress voted to wage war on Spain. The Spanish-American War ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on December 10th.
1921 – The first radio broadcast of a sports event airs on Westinghouse station KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was the broadcast of a 10-round, no-decision boxing match between Johnny Dundee and Johnny Ray at Pittsburgh’s Motor Square Garden.
1956 – Singer Nat “King” Cole is attacked and injured on stage of a Birmingham theater by whites in an apparent kidnapping. All four attackers were arrested and convicted.
1964 – President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In 1957, then Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson (D-TX) opposed the bill because of fears it would divide his party. Southern Democrats also fought against the bill’s passage.
1970 – The ill-fated Apollo 13 rocket is launched on an unsuccessful mission to land men on the Moon. On April 13th, Apollo 13 astronauts calmly announced, “Houston, we’ve had a problem,” after the Beech-built oxygen tank exploded en route to the Moon. The spacecraft and its astronauts returned safely to earth on April 17th. The events of the mission were recounted in the 1995 movie “Apollo 13” starring Tom Hanks.
1976 – The Apple I computer, created by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, is released. The Woz is 72 years old. Wozniak made a guest appearance on The Big Bang Theory on September 30, 2010, one of many scientists, actors, and celebrities to appear on the hit TV show.
1996 – Seven-year-old Jessica Dubroff is killed with her father and flight instructor when her plane crashes after takeoff from Cheyenne, Wyoming, during poor weather conditions. Jessica hoped to become the youngest person to fly cross-country. In October, President Clinton signed into law the “Child Pilot Safety Act.” Watch a short video with interviews taken before the crash.
2015 – President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro meet in Panama. It was the first meeting of U.S. and Cuban heads of state since the Cuban Revolution in 1959.
1811 – The first U.S. colonists on the Pacific coast arrive at what is now called Cape Disappointment, Washington. It was so named after a British explorer’s attempt to find the Columbia River ended in disappointment.
1861 – Fort Sumter, South Carolina, is shelled by the Confederacy, starting the Civil War. The Union troops surrendered the following day after 34 hours of shelling.
1945 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies in Warm Spring, Georgia, of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 63 just weeks into his 4th term. Vice President Harry S. Truman became president.
1961 – Five-star general Douglas MacArthur declines an offer to become the baseball commissioner. MacArthur was relieved of his command in 1951 by Harry Truman after criticizing the president’s policies.
1981 – The first space shuttle (Columbia STS-1) is launched on its maiden voyage. It landed safely on the 14th after orbited the earth 37 times. John Young and Robert Crippen were the first space shuttle astronauts. Young died in 2018 at age 87 and Crippen is now 85 years old. Watch the NASA launch.
2009 – The U.S. Navy rescues Richard Phillips, captain of the Maersk Alabama, and kill three Somali hijackers and capture a fourth.
2015 – Hillary Clinton announces that she will run for the Democrat nomination for President for the second time. She lost the 2008 Democrat nomination to Barack Hussein Obama.
1796 – The first elephant arrives in the U.S. from India. The 2-year-old Asian elephant was bought and transported to the U.S. at a cost of $450. It was taken on tour on the East Coast over the next 12 years. People were charged 25¢ to 50¢ to see it.
1860 – The first Pony Express reaches Sacramento, California, in just under 10 days. The Pony Express originated in St. Joseph, Missouri, and used a relay of about 80 riders at 184 stations and over 400 horses while in operation to deliver mail. The Pony Express lasted about a year and a half, ending after the transcontinental telegraph was completed.
1883 – Alfred Packer is the first American convicted of cannibalism. He went on a gold prospecting expedition to Colorado in 1874 with five others and returned alone two months later. He claimed self-defense and that he consumed the men to survive. He was sentenced to 40 years, but was paroled after 18 years due to doubt about his guilt.
1902 – James Cash Penney opens his first store, called the “Golden Rule Store,” in Kemmerer, Wyoming. The first day’s sales were $33.41. JC Penny died in 1971 at age 95.
1934 – Congress passes the Johnson Debt Default Act, which prohibits future loans to countries that have preciously defaulted on U.S. loans.
1957 – Due to lack of funds, Saturday mail delivery in the U.S. is temporarily halted. Saturday mail delivery was restored the following week when Congress allocated $41 million to the Post Office.
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, was the only other player to get over 4,000 hits. Watch 42-year-old Charlie Hustle get his 4,000th hit.
2004 – Barry Bonds hits his 661st career home run, passing Willie Mays on the all-time home run list. Bonds ended his career with 762 home runs.
2011 – Former baseball player Barry Bonds is found guilty of obstruction of justice after a trial about his steroid use. Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s home run record in 2007, but his accomplishment is overshadowed by steroid use accusations. Bonds is now 58 years old.
1775 – The first abolitionist society in the U.S. organizes in Philadelphia. Around 1785 Ben Franklin was elected as its president.
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.
1865 – President Abraham Lincoln is shot and mortally wounded by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater during the play “Our American Cousin” in Washington, DC after a plan to kidnap the president fails. Lincoln died nine hours later. Booth escaped, but he was killed when the barn where he was hiding was set on fire and burned down.
1935 – The worst sandstorm in the U.S., known as Black Sunday, ravages the Midwest and creates the Dust Bowl. The drought and sandstorms continued until 1939. Watch a report with photographs of the sandstorm.
1971 – In Swann vs Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, the Supreme Court upholds busing as a means of achieving racial desegregation.
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 project was started in 1987.
2009 – Georgetown University covers up its religious symbols at the request of the Obama administration before President Obama speaks at the university.
1817 – Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet opens the first American school for the deaf in Hartford, Connecticut.
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.
1955 – Ray Kroc starts the McDonald’s chain of fast food restaurants in Des Plaines, Illinois. Hamburgers cost 15 cents, while French fries and sodas cost 10 cents each. There are now more than 39,000 McDonald’s restaurants in over 100 countries. Kroc died in 1984 at age 81. Watch a 9-minute bio of Krok and the history of McDonald’s.
1964 – The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, connecting Virginia and Maryland, opens as the world’s longest bridge-tunnel complex at 23 miles long. The toll is $18.
1967 – Richard Speck is found guilty of murdering eight student nurses in their Chicago home. Although Speck was sentenced to death, his sentence was commuted to 50-100 years after the Supreme Court abolished 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 winning story called “Jimmy’s World” about an 8-year-old heroin addict is a lie. The Washington Post relinquished the Pulitzer Prize on the fabricated story and Cooke resigned from the Post.
2012 – The U.S. Secret Service’s inappropriate conduct scandal begins when at least 11 agents are implicated. The 11 agents were placed on leave after an investigation into inappropriate conduct in Columbia prior to a summit attended by President Obama. Three more agents were sent home for inappropriate conduct prior to President Obama’s trip to Holland in March 2014.
2013 – Three people are killed and 183 injured after two terrorist bombs explode near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Watch an ABC News report.
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 was killed and Masterson paid an $8 fine. Masterson served as a sheriff and U.S. Marshall for the next three decades. He became a sports editor in New York City and died of a heart attack at his desk in 1921 at age 67.
1922 – Annie Oakley sets a women’s record by shooting 100 clay targets in a row. Annie also starred in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.
1962 – Walter Cronkite begins anchoring the CBS Evening News. His news program aired until 1981. He was 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 listed 303 current and former lawmakers who have overdrawn their House bank accounts.
2002 – The Supreme Court overturns major parts of a 1996 child pornography law based on rights to free speech.
2007 – In one of 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.
Image from: chicagotribune.com