This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“History is a vast early warning system.” Norman Cousins
Apr 3-9, 2023
1513 – Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon lands at what is now Florida.
1860 – The first Pony Express riders leave St. Joseph, Missouri, for Sacramento, California, on a trip across the country that takes about a week. The Pony Express, which advertises for “Young, skinny, wiry fellows, not over 18, must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily, orphans preferred,” only lasts about a year and a half. Buffalo Bill Cody and Wild Bill Hickok are among the riders. Watch a brief history of the Pony Express.
1882 – The outlaw Jesse James is shot in the back and killed by Robert Ford. Jesse James was 34 years old.
1944 – The Supreme Court rules in Smith v Allwright that “all white” primaries are unconstitutional. Lonnie Smith, a black voter in Texas, challenged the Democrat party rules that allowed for only whites to vote in primaries.
1953 – “TV Guide” is published for the first time. Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball’s son Desi Arnaz, Jr. is on the cover. Little Desi is now 70 years old.
1973 – The first mobile phone call is made by Motorola employee Martin Cooper from Manhattan to Bell Labs headquarters in New Jersey.
1991 – Football player Bo Jackson signs a 1-year contract with the Chicago White Sox baseball team. Jackson was the first athlete to play in an All-Star game in two different sports. In 2013, ESPN named Jackson the “Greatest Athlete of All Time.” Watch ESPN’s interview with Bo.
1996 – Unabomber suspect Theodore Kaczynski is arrested. He pleaded guilty in January 1998 to five Unabomber attacks in exchange for a life sentence without the chance of parole. Kaczynski is now 80 years old.
2010 – The first Apple iPad is released.
1818 – Congress passes a plan that says the U.S. flag will have 13 red and white stripes and 20 stars. It had 15 stripes to represent 15 states, but Congress realized it would be impractical to keep adding stripes. The plan allowed that a new star would be added for the each new state.
1841 – President William Henry Harrison, at the age of 68, becomes the first president to die in office. He took the oath of office only a month before he died of pneumonia. He delivered a 2-hour inaugural address on a cold, wet day without wearing a coat or hat.
1914 – The first known serialized moving picture opens in New York City. It was “The Perils of Pauline.” Watch the first episode (black and white with dramatic piano music).
1949 – The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) treaty is signed in Washington, DC.
1968 – Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, at age 39.
1973 – The world’s tallest building, the World Trade Center, opens in New York City at 110 stories. We will always remember 9-11-2001. Watch a CNN slideshow on the building and opening of the World Trade Center.
1975 – Microsoft is founded as a partnership between Bill Gates and Paul Allen.
2008 – During a raid on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints owned YFZ Ranch in Texas, 401 children and 133 women are taken into state custody. Several male members of the compound were found guilty or plead no contest to sexual assault.
1792 – President George Washington casts the first presidential veto. He determined that the apportionment bill passed by Congress violated the constitutional guidelines that determined the number of delegates in the House of
1869 – Daniel Bakeman, the last surviving soldier of the U.S. Revolutionary War, dies at the age of 109.
1934 – Baseball superstar Babe Ruth agrees to do three 15-minute broadcasts a week for 13 weeks with NBC for a fee of $39,000. That was $4,000 more than his annual contract with the Yankees.
1951 – Americans Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are sentenced to death for committing espionage for the Soviet Union.
1973 – Pioneer 11 launches on its mission to study Jupiter. NASA lost contact with the spacecraft in 1995 after receiving data for 22 years.
2009 – The media is allowed to film the return of slain soldiers for the first time when an 18-year ban is lifted. President George H.W. Bush placed the ban on photos and President Obama lifted the ban.
2016 – PayPal announces it is cancelling a $3.6 million investment in North Carolina after the state passes anti-gay legislation, although PayPal continues to do business in communist China.
1789 – The first U.S. Congress begins regular sessions at Federal Hall in New York City. George Washington was inaugurated there the same month. Built in 1700, the building was demolished in 1812.
1896 – The first modern Olympic games opens in Athens, Greece. American James Connolly is known as the first modern Olympic Champion. He left Harvard at age 27 to compete in Athens. Connolly won a Silver medal in the high jump, a Bronze medal in the long jump, and a Gold medal in the triple jump. Connolly also competed in the 1900 and 1906 Olympics. Connolly died in 1957 at age 88.
1909 – Americans Robert Peary and Matthew Henson reach the North Pole. Frederick Cook claimed to have reached the North Pole one year earlier. In 1988, Matthew Henson was buried next to Robert Peary in Arlington National Cemetery. Henson died in 1955 and was originally buried in New York City’s Woodlawn Cemetery.
1924 – Four Douglas airplanes leave Seattle, Washington, on the first successful around-the-world flight. They traveled about 25,000 miles and returned to Seattle on September 28th.
1947 – The First Tony Awards, formally known as the Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Theatre, is held in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. Among the winners were José Ferrer in “Cyrano de Bergerac” and Ingrid Bergman in “Joan of Lorraine.” Antoinette “Tony” Perry was a stage actress and director in the early 1900s. She also co-founded the American Theatre Wing, which operated the Stage Door Canteens during WWII. Perry died in 1946 and the first awards were given out in 1947.
1954 – The first frozen TV dinner, made by Swanson & Sons, goes on sale. They cost 98 cents and contained turkey, sweet potatoes, peas, and corn bread stuffing. Watch a 1955 Swanson commercial.
1965 – President Lyndon B. Johnson authorizes the use of ground troops in combat operations in Vietnam. The last U.S. troops withdrew from Vietnam in March 1973. America’s longest war is now the War in Afghanistan (19 years, 10 months), which lasted five months longer than the Vietnam War (19 years, 5 months).
1983 – The Veteran’s Administration (VA) announces it will give free medical care for conditions traceable to radiation exposure to more than 220,000 veterans who participated in nuclear tests from 1945 to 1962.
2009 – President Barack Hussein Obama, during a visit to Turkey, announces that the U.S. is not, and never will be, at war with Islam. Watch his claim.
1890 – Ellis Island is designated as an immigration station. Prior to this the individual states regulated immigration. A new structure was built and opened in 1892 and operated for 61 years. The original building is now part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument.
1922 – President Warren G. Harding’s Interior Secretary, Albert B. Fall, leases the Teapot Dome oil reserves to Harry Sinclair without competitive bidding, setting in motion what became known as the Teapot Dome Scandal.
1933 – Prohibition ends when Utah becomes the 38th state to ratify 21st Amendment. The prohibition on the sale of alcoholic beverages began in 1919.
1966 – The U.S. recovers an H-bomb from the floor of the Mediterranean Sea after a 2 ½ month search. Four H-bombs were released, with two detonating, when a B-52 bomber and a KC-135 tanker collided in air while refueling, killing 7 of the 11 crew members on board the two aircraft. Both aircraft were destroyed and the other three bombs were found on land in southern Spain. Watch a report of the mission and crash, with actual recovery footage.
1970 – John Wayne wins his first and only Oscar for his role in the movie “True Grit.” He starred in over 200 films. John Wayne died in 1979 at age 72.
2001 – The Mars Odyssey rocket is launched. The mission has been extended five times and had enough propellant to last until 2025. It is the longest-surviving continually active spacecraft in orbit around a planet (other than Earth).
2003 – U.S. troops capture Baghdad, Iraq. Saddam Hussein’s regime falls two days later. Saddam was captured in December, convicted of mass killings, and hanged in 2006.
2003 – The Supreme Court rules that, although burning a cross at a Ku Klux Klan rally is protected by the First Amendment, burning a cross as a means of intimidation is not, thus upholding a 50-year-old Virginia law.
1766 – The first fire escape is patented that uses a wicker basket on a pulley and chain.
1913 – The 17th amendment is ratified, requiring the direct election of senators. Prior to that, Senators were chosen by each state legislature and was vulnerable to corruption. It also allowed governors to appoint a Senator to fill a vacant seat until a special election could be held.
1952 – President Harry Truman seizes U.S. steel mills to prevent a strike. In June the Supreme Court ruled the president lacked the authority to seize the steel mills. The 53-day strike ended with union workers accepting the same terms proposed before the strike.
1964 – The unmanned Gemini 1 rocket is launched on America’s first successful orbit of the earth. It completed three orbits.
1974 – Hank Aaron hits his 715th home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s record of 714. Watch Hank’s record breaking swing and the subsequent pomp and circumstance.
2006 – The Senate is unable to approve the compromise bill that is designed for millions of illegal immigrants to become citizens. The bill’s supporters could only muster 38 of the 60 votes that were needed to protect it from amendments that its opponents introduced. Both parties blamed each other for the deal’s collapse.
2015 – Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, now age 29, is convicted for the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that killed 3 and injured 264 others. He was sentenced to death and is awaiting execution. Following several appeals the Supreme Court ruled the death penalty sentence would stand.
2015 – Sarah Thomas is hired as the first full-time female official in NFL history. She was an official in the 2019 Patriots v Charges post-season game.
1682 – Robert La Salle claims the lower Mississippi River and all lands that touch it for France.
1865 – Confederate General Robert E. Lee and 26,765 Confederate troops surrender at Appomattox Court House in Virginia to U.S. General Ulysses S. Grant, ending the Civil War. The following day Lee issued his last order at Appomattox General Order #9, praising his soldiers and ordering them to return home.
1939 – Marian Anderson sings before 75,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday. She was scheduled to appear at Constitution Hall, but the DAR, who manages the Hall, denied her access because of her race. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt resigned her membership in the DAR in protest and helped arrange for Anderson to perform at the Lincoln Memorial. Watch a Newsreel story.
1963 – Winston Churchill becomes the first honorary U.S. citizen. Churchill’s mother, Jennie Jerome of Brooklyn, New York, married Lord Randolph Churchill of England. Winston was born in England.
1992 – Former Panamanian ruler Manuel Noriega is convicted in Miami, Florida, on eight drug and racketeering charges and sentenced to seven years in prison. After his release, the French government ordered Noriega’s extradition to France, where he was convicted for his crimes. The Panamanian government found Noriega guilty in absentia in 1995 for murder and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. He was transferred to Panama in 2011, where he died in 2017 at age 83.
2001 – The Securities and Exchange Commission orders all U.S. stock markets to switch to the decimal system. Prior to that, stock prices were reported in fractions (sixteenths of a dollar).
2012 – “The Lion King” becomes (and remains) the highest grossing Broadway show, cumulatively grossing over $8 billion. “The Phantom of the Opera” is still the longest running Broadway show (35 years).
Image from: themarysue.com