This Week In History, April 14 – 20


by Dianne Hermann

“The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.”
– Winston Churchill

Week of April 14-20, 2014

April 14

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.


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 ravages the U.S. Midwest and creates the Dust Bowl. The drought and sandstorms continue until 1939.

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 means of achieving racial desegregation.

1981 – The first Space Shuttle – Columbia 1- returns to Earth.

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 starting in 1987.


April 15

1817 – Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet opens the first American school for the deaf in Hartford, Connecticut.

1861 – The Federal (Union) army, with 75,000 volunteers, is mobilized by President Lincoln.

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.

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.

1964 – The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, connecting Virginia and Maryland, opens as the world’s longest bridge-tunnel at 23 miles.


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.

1997 – Baseball honors Jackie Robinson by retiring #42 for all teams.

2012 – The U.S. Secret Service’s inappropriate conduct scandal begins with at least 11 agents implicated. The 11 agents are place 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.


April 16

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.


1922 – Annie Oakley sets a women’s record by breaking 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 Jordon create and star in the show until 1959.


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.

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.

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.


April 17

1704 – The first successful U.S. newspaper is published in Boston by John Campbell.


1865 – Mary Surratt is arrested as a conspirator in the Lincoln’s assassination. She owns the boarding house where her son John, John Wilkes Booth, and others conspire to kill the president. She is hanged on July 7th with three others convicted of the conspiracy. Mary, age 42, is the first woman executed by order of the U.S. government.


1924 – Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures, and Louis B. Mayer Company merge to form MGM.

1964 – Jerrie Mock becomes the first woman to fly solo around the world after completing a flight of 29 and ½ days. She flies in a Cessna 180 christened the “Spirit of Columbus.

1967 – Surveyor 3 is launched and lands on the Moon on April 20th.

1972 – The first Boston Women’s Marathon is won by Nina Kuscsik of New York in 3:10:26.

1978 – A record 63,500,000 shares are traded on the New York stock exchange. Daily shares traded tops 7 billion in 2009.

1986 – IBM produces the first megabit-chip.


April 18

1775 – Paul Revere and William Dawes ride from Charleston to Lexington warning colonists, “The Regulars are coming out!”


1861 – Col. Robert E. Lee turns down President Lincoln’s offer to command Union armies.

1906 – The San Francisco earthquake and subsequent fire kills nearly 4,000 people and destroys 75% of city. It ranks as the 16th strongest earthquake in the U.S. at 7.8 on the Richter scale.


1912 – The Cunard liner Carpathia brings the 705 survivors from the Titanic to New York City.

1924 – The first crossword puzzle book is published. (Simon & Schuster)

1934 – The first “Washateria” (Laundromat) opens in Fort Worth, Texas.

1942 – “Stars & Stripes” newspaper for U.S. armed forces starts.

1958 – A U.S. federal court rules that Idaho-born poet Ezra Pound is to be released from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for the criminally insane after 13 years of confinement. Pound lived in Italy during WWII and strongly supported Mussolini. He is arrested at the end of the war and held in a prison camp, where he suffers a mental breakdown. After his release from St. Elizabeth’s, Pound returns to Italy, where he lives until his death in 1972 at the age of 87.

1964 – Sandy Koufax is the first pitcher to strike out the side on 9 pitches (the minimum).

1966 – Bill Russell becomes the first black coach in National Basketball Association history. He coaches the Boston Celtics for 3 years.

1968 – U.S. oil executive Robert P. McCulloch buys the London Bridge for $2.4 million to be reassembled in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. The London Bridge, originally build in 1831, opens as an attraction in 1971.

1978 – The Senate votes to turn the Panama Canal over to Panama on Dec 31, 1999, during the Clinton Administration.

1983 – A lone suicide bomber kills 63 at the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon.

1987 – Gregory Robertson does a 200-mph free fall from 13,500 feet over Phoenix to save fellow skydiver Debbie Williams, who is knocked unconscious when she collides with another skydiver. Robertson pulls her ripcord and Williams lands, sustaining several injuries.

1991 – The U.S. Census Bureau says it failed to count up to 63 million in the 1990 census.

1994 – Former President Nixon suffers a stroke and dies four days later at the age of 81.

2007 – The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the 2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in a 5-4 decision.


April 19

1775 – The American Revolution begins in Lexington Common after the “shot heard round the world” is fired by a British soldier. The phrase comes from the 1837 poem “Concord Hymn” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

1782 – John Adams secures the Dutch Republic’s recognition of the United States as an independent government. The house he had purchased in The Hague, Netherlands becomes the first American embassy.

1897 – The first American marathon is held in Boston. John J. McDermott wins in 2:55:10.

1934 – Shirley Temple appears in her first movie “Stand Up & Cheer” one week before her 6th birthday. During her 30-year career she appears in over 75 movies and film projects. She later serves as the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and then Ghana. Shirley Temple Black died in February at age 85.


1955 – The German automaker Volkswagen, after six years of selling cars in the United States, founds Volkswagen of America in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, in order to standardize its dealer and service network.

1966 – Roberta Bignay becomes the first woman to run in the Boston Marathon.

1982 – Sally Ride is named as the first woman astronaut. In 1983 Ride becomes the first American woman in space. Ride flies into space on two Space Shuttle missions. Ride died in 2012 at the age of 61 from pancreatic cancer.


1987 – The last wild condor is captured at a California wildlife reserve. The male condor joins the 27 only remaining condors for the breeding program at the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

1993 – Seventy-six Branch Davidian men, women, and children in Waco, Texas, die in a fire after a 51-day siege. Janet Reno approved the use of tear gas because Bill Clinton said, “If she thought it was the right thing to do, she should proceed.”

1994 – Rodney King is awarded $3,800,000 in compensation for his police beating.

1995 – A truck bomb at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City kills 168 and injures 500. Timothy McVeigh is arrested, convicted, and executed for the bombing.


April 20

1775 – The British begin the siege of Boston.

1871 – The 3rd Enforcement Act allows the President to suspend writ of habeas corpus to combat the Ku Klux Klan. President Grant receives the legislation within a month of his request and uses it to dismantle the KKK.

1896 – The first public film showing in U.S. is John Philip Sousa’s “El Capitan.” It premieres in New York City.

1949 – Jockey legend Bill Shoemaker wins his first horse race in Albany, California.

1961 – American Harold Graham makes the first untethered flight of the rocket belt. The 108-foot flight lasts 13 seconds.

1962 – NASA civilian pilot Neil Armstrong makes his first X-15 flight. In 1969 Armstrong becomes the first man to walk on the moon. Armstrong died in 2012 at age 82.

1999 – Students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold kill 13 people and injure 24 others at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colorado, before committing suicide.

2008 – Danica Patrick wins the Indy Japan 300, becoming the first female driver in history to win an Indy car race. In 2005 Patrick becomes the first woman to lead at the Indy 500 in Indianapolis. Patrick is 32 years old.


2010 – Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explodes, killing 11, causing the rig to sink, and initiating a massive oil discharge in the Gulf of Mexico.


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