This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“No problem of human making is too great to be overcome by
human ingenuity, human energy, and the untiring hope of the human spirit.”
President George H. W. Bush
Week of April 15-21, 2019
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. 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 complex at 23 miles long.
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.
1900 – The first book of postage stamps is issued. The two-cent stamps were available in books of 12, 24, and 48 stamps.
1922 – Annie Oakley sets a women’s record by shooting 100 clay targets in a row.
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 lists 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.
1704 – John Campbell publishes in Boston the first successful U.S. newspaper.
1865 – Mary Surratt is arrested as a conspirator in President Lincoln’s assassination. She owned the boarding house where her son John Surratt, along with John Wilkes Booth and others, conspired to kill the president. She was hanged on July 7th with three others convicted of the conspiracy. Mary, aged 42, was the first woman executed by order of the U.S. government.
1948 – Bernard Baruch, advisor to presidents Hoover and Truman, introduces term Cold War when he says, “Let us not be deceived, we are today in the midst of a Cold War.”
1961 – A group of 1,500 Cuban exiles supported by the U.S. government invades the Bay of Pigs on the southern coast of Cuba in an attempt to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro. The invasion failed and by April 21st all fighters were killed or captured.
1964 – Jerrie Mock becomes the first woman to fly solo around the world when she completes a flight of 29 days. She flew in a Cessna 180 christened the “Spirit of Columbus.” Mock died in 2014 at age 88. Watch a short slide show of Jerrie’s career:
1969 – Sirhan Sirhan is convicted of assassinating U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy. He was sentenced to death but his sentence was commuted to life in prison after California abolished capital punishment. Sirhan is now 75 years old and still in prison.
1996 – Lyle and Erik Menendez are sentenced to life in prison without parole for killing their parents in 1989 when the brothers were age 21 and 18 respectively. All their appeals have been denied. They were recently reunited for the first time in 30 years. They had been housed in separate prisons. Watch a report about the brothers:
2010 – George Washington is reported to have racked up $300,000 in late fees for failing to return a book to a Manhattan library. After staff at George Washington’s former home in Mount Vernon, Virginia, learn of the situation, they get in touch with the library and offer to replace the book with another copy of the same book. During a ceremony in May the Mount Vernon staff present the book to the New York library.
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 request to command the Union Army.
1906 – The San Francisco earthquake and subsequent fire kills nearly 4,000 people and destroys 75 percent of city. It ranks as the 16th strongest earthquake in the U.S. at an estimated 7.8 on the Richter scale.
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 was arrested at the end of the war and held in a prison camp, where he suffered a mental breakdown. After his release from St. Elizabeth’s, Pound returned to Italy, where he lived until his death in 1972 at the age of 87.
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, opened as an attraction in 1971. Watch an American version of the history of the London Bridge:
1978 – The Senate votes to turn the Panama Canal over to Panama on Dec 31, 1999.
1987 – Gregory Robertson does a 200-mph free fall from 13,500 feet over Phoenix to save fellow skydiver Debbie Williams, who was knocked unconscious when she collided with another skydiver. Robertson pulled her ripcord and Williams landed, sustaining several injuries. Watch a dramatic report with a description by Robertson:
2008 – A Texas District Judge rules that the state will keep temporary custody of the 416 children that were taken from a polygamous sect “Yearning For Zion” West Texas compound. Prosecutors say polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs and others adults sexually abused the children.
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.
1897 – The first American marathon is held in Boston. John J. McDermott won in 2:55:10. In 1966, Roberta Bignay became the first woman to run in the Boston Marathon. The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon.
1927 – Mae West is sentenced to 10 days in jail and fined $500. The 34-year-old West was charged with “obscenity and corrupting the morals of youth” for writing (under the pen name Jane Mast), directing, and performing in the play “Sex.”
1934 – Shirley Temple appears in her first movie “Stand Up & Cheer” one week before her 6th birthday. During her 30-year career she appeared in over 75 movies and film projects. She later served as the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and then Ghana. Shirley Temple Black died in 2014 at age 85. Watch the amazing little Shirley Temple:
1982 – Sally Ride is named as the first woman astronaut. In 1983, Ride became the first American woman in space. Ride flew into space on another Space Shuttle mission in 1985. 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 joined the 27 only remaining condors for the breeding program at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. As of December 2016, there were 446 condors living in the wild or in captivity.
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.” Watch a CNN report of the first siege:
1995 – A truck bomb parked at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City kills 168 and injures 500. Timothy McVeigh is arrested, convicted, and executed for the bombing.
2000 – The Oklahoma City National Memorial is dedicated on the fifth anniversary of the bombing in Oklahoma that kills 168 people.
1853 – Harriet Tubman starts the Underground Railroad. She made 19 trips to the South over 10 years, escorting over 300 slaves to the North.
1871 – The 3rd Enforcement Act allows the President to suspend the writ of habeas corpus to combat the Ku Klux Klan. President Grant received the legislation within a month of his request and used it to dismantle the KKK. The KKK was started by six Confederate Civil War veterans in December 1865, with Nathan Bedford Forrest serving as its first national leader.
1940 – The first electron microscope is demonstrated by RCA in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
1961 – American Harold Graham makes the first untethered flight of the rocket belt. The 108-foot flight lasted 13 seconds. Watch a CBS report and the flight (no sound except for annoying music):
1962 – NASA civilian pilot Neil Armstrong makes his first X-15 flight. In 1969, Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. Armstrong died in 2012 at age 82.
1988 – The U.S. Air Force’s Stealth B-2 bomber is officially unveiled. Watch the roll out:
1999 – Students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold kill 13 people and wound 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 became the first woman to lead at the Indy 500 in Indianapolis. Patrick is 37 years old.
2010 – The Supreme Court rules that a law which makes it illegal to sell videos of animals being tortured violates the right to free speech. Chief Justice John Roberts said that the law was too broad and invalid to be used under the First Amendment.
1789 – John Adams is sworn in as the first vice president. George Washington was sworn in as president 9 days later.
1836 – During the Battle of San Jacinto, the Texas militia under Sam Houston captures Mexican General Santa Anna. In exchange for his freedom Santa Anna recognized Texas’ independence from Mexico.
1862 – The U.S. Congress established the U.S. Mint in Denver, Colorado.
1904 – Ty Cobb makes his professional baseball debut for Augusta in the South Atlantic League. Cobb spent most of his baseball career with the Detroit Tigers. He still holds the record for career batting average at .367 and was in the first group of Baseball Hall of Fame’s inductees. Cobb died in 1961 at age 74.
1930 – A fire at the Ohio State Penitentiary kills 322 prisoners, many of whom died in their locked cells.
1956 – Elvis Presley has his first number one hit when “Heartbreak Hotel” tops the Billboard charts.
1967 – Svetlana Alliluyeva (Svetlana Stalina) defects in New York City. She was the daughter of Joseph Stalin. Alliluyeva died in 2011 at age 85. Watch her 1967 press conference:
1986 – Geraldo Rivera opens Al Capone’s vault during a live two-hour special on TV and finds nothing inside. Watch Geraldo’s own commentary on the non-event:
1997 – The ashes of the late Gene Roddenberry, the “Star Trek” creator, are launched into space.
2000 – The 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act goes into effect to protect children’s privacy and increase safety online, including restrictions on the marketing to those under age 13.
Image from KPBS