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 April 10-16, 2017
1790 – Captain Robert Gray is the first American to circumnavigate the globe. He repeats his trek in 1793. Gray died in 1806 at the age of 51.
1849 – Walter Hunt patents the safety pin. He sells the rights for $100. Hunt patents many inventions including the fountain pen, streetcar bell, street sweeper, and nail-making machine.
1865 – General Robert E. Lee issues his last order at Appomattox Court House, General Order #9, praising his soldiers and ordering them to return home.
1866 – The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is founded in New York City by philanthropist and diplomat Henry Bergh.
1869 – Congress passes the Judiciary Act of 1869, which among other things, increases the number of Supreme Court justices from 7 to 9.
1912 – RMS Titanic sets sail for New York City on its first (and only) voyage. The “unsinkable” ship hits an iceberg just before midnight on the 14th and sinks on the morning of the 15th. Titanic’s survivors arrive in New York City aboard the Carpathia on April 18th. Watch grainy silent footage of survivors aboard the Carpathia in New York:
1916 – The Professional Golfers Association of America (PGA) is created in New York City.
1930 – Thiokol synthetic rubber is first produced in Yardley, New Jersey. Two chemists create the substance while trying to invent an inexpensive antifreeze.
1941 – Ford Motor Company becomes the last major U.S. automaker to recognize the United Auto Workers as the representative for its workers.
1947 – Jackie Robinson becomes the first black player in a major league baseball game (Brooklyn Dodgers).
1953 – Warner Brothers premieres the first 3-D film, entitled “House of Wax.” Watch Vincent Price at his scariest:
1961 – Gary Player of South Africa becomes the first foreign golfer to win the Green Jacket at the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia.
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 receives the surprise invitation while in Japan for the 31st World Table Tennis Championship.
1989 – Heinz, Van Camp Seafood, and Bumble Bee Seafood agree they will not buy tuna caught in nets that also trap dolphins.
1992 – In Los Angeles, financier Charles Keating Jr. is sentenced to nine years in prison for swindling investors when his Lincoln Savings and Loan collapsed. The convictions are later overturned.
1996 – President Bill Clinton vetoes a bill that would have outlawed a technique used to end pregnancies in their late stages (late term abortions).
2001 – Jane Swift takes office as the first female governor of Massachusetts. She succeeds Paul Cellucci, who resigns to become the U.S. ambassador to Canada.
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).
1876 – The Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks (BPOE) is organized.
1898 – President McKinley asks for a declaration of War against Spain. Congress passes a resolution on April 20th, giving Spain an ultimatum to relinquish control of Cuba. When they refuse Congress votes to wage war on Spain. The Spanish-American War ends with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on December 10th.
1907 – New York Giant Roger Bresnahan becomes the first baseball catcher to wear protective shin guards. The catcher experiments with protective gear, including the batting helmet.
1921 – Iowa becomes the first state to impose a cigarette tax.
1921 – The first radio broadcast of a sports event airs on Westinghouse station KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is the broadcast of a 10-round, no-decision boxing match between Johnny Dundee and Johnny Ray at Pittsburgh’s Motor Square Garden.
1945 – U.S. soldiers liberate the Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald.
1951 – President Harry Truman relieves General Douglas MacArthur of his command of U.S. forces in Korea and replaces him with General Matthew Ridgeway.
1956 – Singer Nat “King” Cole is attacked and injured on stage of a Birmingham theater by whites in an apparent kidnapping. All four attackers are convicted.
1961 – Singer Bob Dylan makes his first public appearance at Gerde’s Folk City in Greenwich Village.
1964 – President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In 1957, then Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson (D-TX) opposed the bill because of fears it would divide his party. Southern Democrats fought against the bill’s passage.
1966 – Emmett Ashford becomes the first black major league umpire.
1970 – The ill-fated Apollo 13 rocket is launched on an unsuccessful mission to land men on the Moon. The events of the mission are 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 66 years old.
1984 – Space Shuttle Challenger astronauts complete the first in space satellite repair.
1986 – Halley’s Comet makes its closest approach to Earth on its 76-year trip. The comet is first observed and recorded in 420 BC and is scheduled to return in 2061. Watch a brief history of Haley’s Comet:
1986 – Kellogg’s stops giving tours of its breakfast-food plant. The reason for the end of the 80-year tradition is said to be that company secrets are at risk due to spies from other cereal companies.
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 signs into law the “Child Pilot Safety Act.” Watch a breaking new story of the crash:
2007 – Apple announces that the iTunes Store has sold over two million movies.
2015 – President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro meet in Panama. It is 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 Cape Disappointment, Washington.
1861 – Fort Sumter, South Carolina, is shelled by the Confederacy, starting the Civil War. The Union troops surrender the following day after 34 hours of shelling.
1864 – Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest (future Ku Klux Klan founder) captures Fort Pillow, Tennessee, during the Civil War and slaughters black Union soldiers.
1877 – A catcher’s mask is first used in a baseball game by James Alexander Tyng.
1892 – George C. Blickensderfer of Erie, Pennsylvania, patents the portable typewriter. No examples of the typewriter are known to exist.
1938 – The first U.S. law requiring medical tests (for syphilis) to obtain marriage licenses is passed in New York.
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 becomes president.
1954 – Bill Haley & the Comets record “Rock Around The Clock.” The song reaches #1 on the Billboard Chart, stays there for 8 weeks, and remains on the Top 40 chart for 24 weeks. Watch the band rock on Dick Clark’s Bandstand in 1960:
1961 – Douglas MacArthur declines an offer to become the baseball commissioner.
1981 – The first space shuttle (Columbia STS-1) is launched on its maiden voyage. It lands safely on the 14th after orbited the earth 37 times. John Young and Robert Crippen are the first space shuttle astronauts. Watch the NASA launch:
1987 – Texaco files Chapter 11 bankruptcy after it fails to settle a legal dispute with Pennzoil.
1988 – Sonny Bono is elected mayor of Palm Springs. California. The former Sonny & Cher singer is elected to Congress in 1994. Sonny died in a skiing accident in 1998 at age 62.
1992 – Trump Shuttle Airlines, started in 1989, becomes US Air Shuttle.
1999 – President Bill Clinton is cited for contempt of court for giving “intentionally false statements” in a sexual harassment civil lawsuit.
2009 – The U.S. Navy rescues Richard Phillips, captain of the Maersk Alabama, killing three Somali hijackers and capturing a fourth.
2010 – World leaders, presidents, prime ministers, and top officials from forty-seven countries arrive in Washington for a nuclear security summit. President Obama warns world leaders of the problems of nuclear arms falling into the hands of extremists.
2015 – Hillary Clinton announces that she will run for the Democrat nomination for President for the second time. She loses 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 is bought and transported to the U.S. at a cost of $450. It is taken on tour on the East Coast over the next 12 years and people are charged 25¢ to 50¢ to see it.
1860 – The first Pony Express reaches Sacramento, California, in just under 10 days. The Pony Express originates in St. Joseph, Missouri, and uses a relay of young riders. The Pony Express lasts about a year and a half.
1869 – George Westinghouse patents the steam power brake.
1883 – Alfred Packer is the first American convicted of cannibalism. He goes on a gold prospecting expedition to Colorado in 1874 with five others and returns alone two months later. He claims self-defense and that he consumed the men to survive. He is sentenced to 40 years but is eventually paroled due to doubt about his guilt.
1902 – J C Penney opens his first store, called the “Golden Rule Store,” in Kemmerer, Wyoming. The first day’s sales are $33.41.
1911 – The House of Representatives votes to institute the direct elections of senators to Congress.
1934 – Congress passes the Johnson Debt Default Act, which prohibits future loans to countries that have preciously defaulted on U.S. loans.
1943 – President FDR dedicates the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC.
1957 – Due to lack of funds Saturday mail delivery in the U.S. is temporarily halted. Saturday mail delivery is restored the following week when Congress allocates $41 million to the Post Office.
1964 – Sidney Poitier becomes the first black man to win an Oscar for best actor in “Lilies of the Field.” Watch the award presentation:
1970 – Astronauts on Apollo 13 calmly announce, “Houston, we’ve had a problem,” after the Beech-built oxygen tank explodes en route to the Moon. The spacecraft and its astronauts return safely to earth on April 17th.
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, is the only other player to get over 4,000 hits. Watch 42-year-old Charlie Hustle get his 4,000th hit:
1997 – Tiger Woods becomes the youngest person to win the Masters Tournament at the age of 21. He also sets a record when he finishes at 18 under par.
1999 – Jack Kervorkian is sentenced in Pontiac, Michigan, to 10-25 years in prison for the second-degree murder of Thomas Youk. Youk’s assisted suicide is videotaped and shown on “60 Minutes” in 1998. Kervorkian died in 2011 at age 83.
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.
1775 – The first abolitionist society in the U.S. organizes in Philadelphia.
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.
1828 – Noah Webster registers his copyright for the publication of the first American dictionary.
1865 – President Abraham Lincoln is shot and mortally wounded by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC after a plan to kidnap the president fails. Booth escapes, but he is killed when the barn where he is hiding is set on fire and burned down.
1903 – Dr. Harry Plotz, working in New York City, discovers the vaccine against typhoid.
1912 – The Titanic hits an iceberg at 11.40 pm off Newfoundland on its way to New York City.
1918 – Douglas Campbell is the first U.S. ace pilot. He shoots down 5 German planes during World War I.
1935 – The worst sandstorm in the U.S., known as Black Sunday, ravages the Midwest and creates the Dust Bowl. The drought and sandstorms continue until 1939. Watch a report with photographs of the sandstorm:
1944 – General (and future president) Dwight D. Eisenhower becomes the Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force.
1960 – The first underwater Polaris missile is launched. A total of 41 are launched between 1960 and 1966.
1971 – The Supreme Court upholds busing as a means of achieving racial desegregation.
1981 – The first Space Shuttle, Columbia STS-1, returns to Earth. Watch the historic landing:
1984 – The Texas Board of Education begins requiring that the state’s public school textbooks describe the evolution of human beings as “theory rather than fact.”
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 starts in 1987.
2009 – Georgetown University covers up its religious symbols at the request of the Obama administration before Obama speaks at the university.
1817 – Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet opens the first American school for the deaf in Hartford, Connecticut.
1861 – President Lincoln mobilizes the Federal (Union) army with its 75,000 volunteers.
1865 – President Abraham Lincoln is shot while attending the play “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre in Washington. He dies 9 hours later.
1871 – “Wild Bill” Hickok becomes the marshal of Abilene, Kansas. (See this date – 1951)
1877 – The first telephone is installed in Boston, Massachusetts.
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.
1912 – The Titanic sinks off the coast of Newfoundland after it strikes an iceberg on its way to New York City.
1924 – Rand McNally publishes its first road atlas.
1931 – Plennie Wingo of Texas begins the first backwards walk around the world. Wingo completes his trek in 1932 after walking backward for more than 18 months. His wife divorced him in absentia. Wingo died in 1993 at age 98.
1947 – Jackie Robinson plays his first major league baseball game for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Previously he has only appeared in exhibition games.
1951 – The first episode of the “Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok” airs on the radio.
1955 – Ray Kroc starts the McDonald’s chain of fast food restaurants in Des Plaines, Illinois. There are now more than 35,000 McDonald restaurants in over 100 countries. Kroc died in 1984 at age 81. Watch a 10-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 at 23 miles.
1967 – Richard Speck is found guilty of murdering eight student nurses in their Chicago home. Although Speck is sentenced to death, his sentence is commuted to 50-100 years after the Supreme Court abolishes 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 story called “Jimmy’s World” about an 8-year-old heroin addict is a lie. The Washington Post relinquishes the Pulitzer Prize on the fabricated story. Cooke resigns from the Post.
1992 – Billionaire Leona Helmsley goes to jail to serve a four-year sentence for tax evasion. She serves 18 months and has to do community service and pay fines. The “Queen of Mean” died in 2007 at age 87.
1992 – Jay Leno makes his final appearance as the “permanent guest host” of Tonight Show.
1997 – Baseball honors Jackie Robinson by retiring #42 for all teams.
2012 – The U.S. Secret Service’s inappropriate conduct scandal begins when at least 11 agents implicated. The 11 agents are placed on leave after an investigation into inappropriate conduct in Columbia prior to a summit attended by President Obama. Three more agents are 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 is killed and Masterson pays an $8 fine. Masterson serves as a sheriff and U.S. Marshall for the next three decades. He becomes a sports editor in New York City and dies of a heart attack at his desk in 1921 at age 67.
1900 – The first book of postage stamps is issued. The two-cent stamps are available in books of 12, 24, and 48 stamps.
1905 – Andrew Carnegie donates $10,000,000 of his personal money to set up the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
1922 – Annie Oakley sets a women’s record by shooting 100 clay targets in a row.
1935 – The first broadcast of “Fibber McGee & Molly” airs on the radio. The real-life husband and wife team of Jim and Marian Jordan create and star in the show until 1959. They also portray their characters in four movies. Watch the most famous scene from all their movies:
1940 – The White Sox and Cubs play in the first televised baseball game.
1956 – The first solar powered radios go on sale.
1962 – Walter Cronkite begins anchoring the CBS Evening News. His news program airs until 1981. He is 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 lists 303 current and former lawmakers who have overdrawn their House bank accounts.
1993 – A jury reaches a guilty verdict in the Federal case against the police officers who beat Rodney King, but the verdict is not read until April 17th.
2002 – The Supreme Court overturns major parts of a 1996 child pornography law based on rights to free speech.
2007 – In 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.