This Week In History April 21-27


by Dianne Hermann

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

Week of April 21-27, 2014

April 21

1789 – John Adams is sworn in as the first U.S. Vice President. George Washington is sworn in as President 9 days later.

1836 – During the Battle of San Jacinto, Texas militia under Sam Houston capture Mexican General Santa Anna. In exchange for his freedom Santa Anna recognizes Texas’ independence from Mexico.

1855 – The first train crosses the Chicago Rock Island Bridge, which is the first bridge across the Mississippi River. It spans the river from Rock Island, Illinois, to Davenport, Iowa.


1904 – Ty Cobb makes his professional baseball debut for Augusta in the South Atlantic League. Cobb spends most of his baseball career with the Detroit Tigers. He still holds the record for career batting average at .367 and is 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.

1984 – The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says a virus discovered in France causes AIDS.

1986 – Geraldo Rivera opens Al Capone’s vault during a live two-hour special on TV and finds nothing inside.


1995 – The FBI arrests Timothy McVeigh and charges him with the April 19th Oklahoma City bombing. McVeigh is subsequently convicted and executed.

1997 – The ashes of the late Gene Roddenberry, the “Star Trek” creator, are launched into space.


April 22

1793 – President Washington attends the opening of Rickett’s, the first circus in the U.S.

1864 – The United States mints a 2-cent coin. It has the first appearance of “In God We Trust.”

1889 – The Oklahoma land rush officially starts. The name “Sooners” comes from a clause in the Indian Appropriations Act that denies the right to claim land to anyone who arrives sooner than the official opening time.

1898 – President McKinley orders a blockade of Cuban harbors during the Spanish-American War.

1940 – Rear Admiral Joseph Taussig testifies before the U.S. Senate Naval Affairs Committee that war with Japan is inevitable.

1951 – New York City holds a ticker-tape parade for General MacArthur after he is relieved of his command by President Truman.


1955 – Congress orders all U.S. coins to bear the motto “In God We Trust.”

1964 – The World’s Fair opens in Flushing Meadow, New York.

1972 – Apollo 16 astronauts John Young and Charles Duke ride on the moon in the Lunar Roving Vehicle.


1974 – Barbara Walters becomes news co-anchor of the Today Show on daytime TV.


1976 – Barbara Walters becomes the first female nightly network news anchor.

1981 – $3.3 million are stolen from the First National Bank in Tucson, Arizona, in the largest bank robbery in U.S. history. David Grandstaff, 44, and Douglas Brown, 41, of Des Moines, Iowa, are both acquitted. A third man, Douglas Fennimore, accepts a plea deal and turns over almost $1million. Grandstaff and Brown serve time for an unrelated jewelry heist. No one else is ever charged.

1993 – The Holocaust Memorial Museum is dedicated in Washington, DC.

2000 – In a pre-dawn raid, federal agents seize six-year-old Elián González from his uncle’s home in Miami, Florida. González is among Cuban boat people rescued on Thanksgiving Day when 12 members of his family die. He is released to his uncle but his father in Cuba demands custody. Attorney General Janet Reno approves the plan to forcibly remove González from the home. He returns to Cuba on June 28th. González is now 20 years old.



April 23

1635 – The oldest U.S. public institution still in operation, Boston Latin School, is founded.


1861 – Robert E. Lee is named commander of Virginia Confederate forces.

1924 – The U.S. Senate passes the Soldiers Bonus Bill for World War I vets. President Coolidge vetoes the bill in May but Congress overrides the presidential veto. President Harding vetoes a similar bill in 1922.

1954 – Hammerin’ Hank Aaron hits the first of his 755 homers. Aaron breaks Babe Ruth’s home run record with 715 during a home game for the Atlanta Braves on April 8, 1974. He hits his final home run as a Milwaukee Brewer on July 20, 1976. Aaron is now 80 years old.


1956 – The U.S. Supreme Court ends race segregation on buses.

1969 – Sirhan Sirhan is sentenced to death for killing Bobby Kennedy on June 6, 1968. Three years later Sirhan’s sentence is commuted to life in prison because California deems capital punishment of convicted assassins as cruel and unusual punishment. Sirhan is still in prison and is now 70 years old.

1985 – The Coca-Cola Company announces that it is changing its 99-year-old secret formula. New Coke is not successful, which results in the resumption of the selling the original version.

1988 – A federal ban on smoking during domestic airline flights of 2 hours or less takes effect.

1992 – Marion Barry, former mayor of Washington, DC, is released from prison following his conviction for drug possession. Barry is reelected mayor of DC in 1994.


April 24

1704 – The “Boston News-Letter” is established. It is the first successful newspaper in the U.S.

1800 – The Library of Congress is established when President John Adams signs a bill that also moves the capital from Philadelphia to Washington, DC. The bill includes a $5,000 allocation for a reference library for Congressional use.

1833 – Jacob Evert and George Dulty are granted a patent is for the first soda fountain.

1897 – William Price is the first reporter assigned to the White House.

1898 – Spain declares war after rejecting the U.S. ultimatum to withdraw from Cuba.

1908 – Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Murdock become the first to travel across the U.S. by car. They leave Los Angeles in a Packard and arrive in New York City 32 days, 5 hours, and 25 minutes later.


1980 – The U.S. military Operation Eagle Claw, ordered by President Jimmy Carter to save 52 hostages in Iran, fails. Eight servicemen die during a refueling stop in bad weather. All the hostages are released seconds after President Reagan completes his inauguration speech on January 20, 1981.

1981 – The IBM-PC computer is introduced. When is goes on sale in August it costs $1,565.


1981 – The U.S. ends the grain embargo against the USSR.


April 25

1846 – A military skirmish known as the Thornton Affair begins over the disputed border of Texas, triggering the Mexican-American War.

1901 – New York becomes the first state requiring automobile license plates. They charge a $1 fee.

1928 – Morris Frank becomes the first American to use a guide dog. Buddy, a German shepherd, is the first guide dog.


1950 – Chuck Cooper becomes the first black player in the National Basketball Association.

1959 – The St. Lawrence Seaway linking the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes opens to shipping.

1960 – The submarine Triton becomes the first submerged vessel to circumnavigate the Earth.


1990 – The Hubble space telescope is placed into orbit by the space shuttle Discovery.


April 26

1607 – The British establish an American colony at Cape Henry near Jamestown, Virginia. It is the first permanent English establishment in the Western Hemisphere.

1859 – New York politician Dan Sickles is acquitted of murdering his wife’s lover on grounds of temporary insanity. It is the first time the insanity defense is used successfully.


1907 – The Jamestown Virginia Tercentenary (300th) Exposition opens.

1941 – A tradition of playing organ music during a baseball game begins when the Chicago Cubs use an organ as a one-time gimmick. It is so popular that the Cubs management keeps the instrument. Gary Pressy has been the organist at Wrigley Field for more than 25 years.


1954 – A nationwide test of Salk anti-polio vaccine begins.

1962 – NASA’s Ranger 4 spacecraft makes a crash landing on the backside of the moon when its onboard computer fails to deploy the solar panels and navigation system.

1996 – Sotheby’s ends a 4-day auction of 6,000 items belonging to the late Jackie Onassis. The auction brings in $34.5 million.


April 27

1805 – U.S. Marines attack the shores of Tripoli at the port city of Derna in present-day Libya at the end of the First Barbary War. “The Halls of Montezuma” refer to the 1847 Battle of Chapultepec during the Mexican-American War when Marines storm the Chapultepec Castle. Both events are memorialized in the Marine Corps’ official song. The unknown author of the song put the events in reverse chronological order.

1897 – Grant’s Tomb is dedicated. The answer to the age-old question of who’s buried in Grant’s tomb is President Ulysses S. Grant and his wife Julia. It is the largest mausoleum in North America.


1911 – William P. Frye resigns as President Pro Tempore of the Senate. He dies before his successor can be named. A compromise is reached to rotate the office of President Pro Tempore between political parties for the next two years.

1956 – Heavyweight champ Rocky Marciano retires undefeated from boxing at the age of 31. He is the only boxer to ever retire undefeated. Marciano died in a plane crash in 1969 at age 45.


1978 – A construction accident at the coal-fired plant at Willow Island, West Virginia, kills 51 workers.

1983 – Nolan Ryan becomes baseball’s strikeout leader with 3,509 strikeouts, passing Walter Johnson. Ryan still holds the record for the most strikeouts in a career with 5,714.


1994 – President Richard Nixon is buried at the Nixon Library in California. Nixon died on April 22nd.

2011 – This marks the deadliest day of the 3-day Super Outbreak of tornadoes, when 316 of the 321 people are killed. It is the largest tornado outbreak in U.S. history.

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