This Week in History: Apr. 29-May 5, 2024


This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate
their own understanding of their history.” George Orwell

Apr. 29-May 5, 2024

April 29

1927 – Construction is completed on the “Spirit of St. Louis,” which was designed by Charles Lindbergh. Two weeks later Lindbergh became 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 was unveiled 1953 as the IBM 701 Electronic Data Processing Machine.

1961 – ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” premiers. The last show airs in 2006. Watch the show’s iconic opening.

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 resigned 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.

1992 – A jury acquits four Los Angeles police officers of beating Rodney King. Rioting began 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. Watch actual footage of the spacewalk.

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 were 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 Chicago White Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 8-2 at Camden Yards. The game was played without the fans present due to the ongoing riots and protests in Baltimore. This was the first time a Major League Baseball game was played in an empty stadium.

April 30

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.

1885 – The Boston Pops Orchestra forms. Arthur Fiedler, its most famous conductor, served from 1930 until just before his death in 1979. Keith Lockhart has been the Pops conductor since 1995.

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 doesn’t come along until 46 years later when Oakland A’s Catfish Hunter pitches against Minnesota. Only 24 perfect games have been recorded in MLB history.

1952 – Mr. Potato Head is the first toy advertised on television. Watch an early Hasbro commercial (when you had to use a real potato).

1975 – The last U.S. helicopter leaves the U.S. embassy grounds in Saigon, Viet Nam.

2003 – An unmanned rocket sled sets a land speed record when it reaches 6,416 mph (Mach 8.5) at White Sands, New Mexico. The record still stands.

2009 – Chrysler automobile company files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In 2011, Fiat bought 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.

May 1

1841 – The first emigrant wagon train leaves Independence, Missouri, headed for California.

1883 – “Buffalo Bill” Cody puts on his first Wild West Show. Cody died in 1917 at age 70.

1898 – U.S. Admiral George Dewey gives the famous command, “You may fire when you are ready, Gridley.” He sank or captured the entire Spanish fleet at Manila Bay. Dewey is the only person in U.S. history to achieve the rank of Admiral of the Navy.

1931 – The Empire State Building opens in New York City as the tallest building in the world at 103 stories. It now ranks as the 43rd tallest building in the world.

1940 – The 1940 Tokyo Summer Olympics are cancelled due to the outbreak of World War II. The 1940 Winter Olympics and 1944 Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics were also cancelled. (Note: The 1916 Summer Olympics was cancelled due to World War I. The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo was postponed due to COVID-19.)

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 plead guilty and was convicted of espionage in August and sentenced to three years imprisonment and seven years of hard labor. He served 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 news helicopter accident.

1961 – The first U.S. airplane is hijacked to Cuba. A National Airlines plane was hijacked from Miami to Cuba by Antulio Ramirez Ortiz, a Puerto Rican born American citizen.

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. Of the 2,323 stores in the U.S., are only 12 stores still open.

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.

2012 – Occupy Wall Street protesters gather across the U.S. to stage a day of protest for International Workers’ Day. Thousands of people marched in New York, Oakland, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Chicago in protest, which ended up lasting for weeks.

May 2

1865 – President Andrew Johnson offers a $100,000 reward for capture of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Davis was captured by the Union Army on May 10th in Irwinville, Georgia.

1916 – President Woodrow Wilson signs Harrison Drug Act, which regulated and taxed the production and distribution of opium and cocaine products.

1927 – The Supreme Court rules 8-1 in Buck v. Bell that forced sterilizations of various “unfit” people by state authorities for eugenic reasons does not violate the 14th Amendment right to due process. That Supreme Court decision has never been overturned. As a result, more than 60,000 men, women, and children were sterilized in the U.S. without their permission from the 1920s to the 1970s. Adolph Hitler uses this law as a model for his “Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring,” where an estimated 400,000 people were sterilized in Nazi Germany.

1939 – Lou Gehrig ends his 2,130 consecutive games streak. He died of ALS (now called Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 1941 at age 37.

1941 – The Federal Communications Commission agrees to allow the scheduling of TV broadcasts by commercial TV stations beginning on July 1, 1941. This was the start of network television.

1970 – Diane Crump is the first woman jockey to race in the Kentucky Derby. Watch an interview with Crump about the future of thoroughbreds.

2011 – Osama bin Laden, the suspected mastermind behind the September 11 attacks and the FBI’s most wanted man, is killed by U.S. Special Forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

May 3

1919 – America’s first passenger flight takes off from New York City and lands in Atlantic City.

1923 – The first nonstop transcontinental flight (New York to San Diego) is completed.

1952 – The first airplane lands at the geographic North Pole. It was flown by U.S. Air Force pilots Joseph O. Fletcher and William P. Benedict.

1997 – Garry Kasparov begins a 6-game chess rematch with the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue in Pennsylvania, winning 3 ½ to 2 ½. Watch a diagram and a move by move explanation of the game.

1999 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes above 11,000 for the first time. The Dow is now around 38,000.

2001 – The U.S. loses its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission for the first time since the commission was formed in 1947. The U.S. was reinstated in 2022.

2006 – Al-Quaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui is given a sentence of life in prison for his role in the terrorist attack on the U.S. on September 11, 2001. Moussaoui is currently serving his sentence in a maximum-security penitentiary in Colorado.

May 4

1780 – The American Academy of Arts & Science is founded by the Massachusetts legislature when 62 people sign the charter, including John Adams, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock. Its purpose was “to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.” The Academy is headquartered in Cambridge.

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 was completed in 1914.

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.”

1970 – Four students were killed and nine were injured on the campus of Kent State when Ohio National Guard troops fired on students protesting the Vietnam War. John Filo, a university photojournalism student, took the Pulitzer Prize winning photo of 14-year-old runaway Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the dead body of 20-year-old student Jeffrey Miller.

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 served as Major League Baseball’s vice president in charge of discipline and vice president of rules and on-field operations until 2010. Watson died in 2020 at age 74. Watch a report on the big hit.

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. He mailed 16 bombs from 1978 to 1995 that killed or injured 23 people. He enrolled at Harvard at age 16 and ultimately earned his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Michigan. He died in prison in 2023 at age 81 of an apparent suicide.

2013 – Harper Lee files a lawsuit against her literary agent over the copyright of her Pulitzer Prize winning book “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Rights to the book were returned to Lee, who died in 2016 at age 89.

May 5

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

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

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 subsequent stock market crash of 1929 is called the Great Depression.

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

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

1961 – Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space when he is launched aboard Freedom 7. (John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth.) Shepard went 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 was launched by NASA in September 1977. In 2012 Voyager I passed into interstellar space. The probe continues to send information back to earth.

2018 – A Florida man dies when his E-cigarette explodes. It was the first death attributed to a vaping product.

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