This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall
possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in
need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.” Samuel Adams
April 26-May 2, 2021
1607 – The British establish an American colony at Cape Henry near Jamestown, Virginia. It was 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 was the first time the insanity defense was used successfully.
1865 – John Wilkes Booth is killed by the U.S. Federal Cavalry at the Garrett Farm in Virginia. Booth assassinated President Lincoln on April 15th at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC.
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 was so popular that the Cubs management kept the instrument. Gary Pressy ended his 33 year stint as organist at Wrigley Field at the end of the 2019 season. Watch an interview with Pressy.
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.
1993 – NBC announces that Conan O’Brien will replace David Letterman on late night TV. O’Brien was replaced by Jay Leno. Jimmy Fallon is the current host. Steve Allen was the first.
2000 – Vermont Gov. Howard Dean signs the nation’s first bill allowing same-sex couples to form civil unions. Dean ran unsuccessfully for president in 2004.
2009 – American health officials declare a public health emergency after 20 cases of swine flu (H1N1) were confirmed.
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 were 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’s the largest mausoleum in North America.
1911 – William P. Frye resigns as President Pro Tempore of the Senate. He died before his successor could be named. A compromise was reached to rotate the office of President Pro Tempore between political parties for the next two years.
1953 – The U.S. offers $50,000 and political asylum to any Communist pilot who delivers a MIG jet in Operation Moolah. The plan was not successful.
1956 – Heavyweight champ Rocky Marciano retires undefeated from boxing at the age of 31. He was the only boxer to ever retire undefeated. Marciano died in a plane crash in 1969 at age 45.
1987 – The U.S. Justice Department bars Austrian President Kurt Waldheim from entering the U.S., claiming he aided in the deportation and execution of thousands of Jews and others as a German Army officer during World War II.
2006 – In New York City, construction begins on the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower on the site of former World Trade Center. Watch an incredible 2-minute time-lapse video of the 9-year construction project.
2011 – President Obama releases his long-form birth certificate from the state of Hawaii in an effort to quell “birther” conspiracy theorists.
1818 – The U.S. Senate ratifies the Rush-Bagot Pact of 1817, limiting naval forces on the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain except for small patrol vessels. The Convention of 1818 set the boundary between the Missouri Territory and British North America (which becomes Canada) at the 49th parallel.
1919 – Les Irvin makes the first jump from an airplane with a U.S. Army Air Corps parachute (rip-cord type).
1952 – The U.S. occupation of Japan officially ends when a treaty with the U.S. and 47 other countries goes into effect.
1967 – Muhammad Ali refuses induction into the army and is stripped of his boxing title.
1972 – Courts award the 1968 Kentucky Derby prize money to 2nd place winner “Forward Pass” after the winner “Dancer’s Image” is disqualified for being given drugs before the race.
1992 – The U.S. Agriculture Department unveils a pyramid-shaped recommended-diet chart. In 2015, the USDA introduced new guidelines that used an image of a segmented plate of food instead of a pyramid.
1994 – Former CIA officer Aldrich Ames and his wife Rosario plead guilty to spying. Aldrich, now 79, is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Rosario was deported back to Columbia in 1999 after completing her 5-year sentence.
2001 – Millionaire Dennis Tito becomes the world’s first space tourist. He spent eight days in space and visits the International Space Station at an estimated cost of $20 million. Tito is now 80 years old. Watch a report about Tito in space.
1913 – Gideon Sundback patents an all-purpose zipper.
1927 – Construction is completed on the “Spirit of St. Louis,” which is designed by Charles Lindbergh. Two weeks later Lindbergh became the first person to fly across the Atlantic. Lindbergh died in 1974 at age 72.
1952 – IBM President Thomas J. Watson, Jr., informs his company’s stockholders that IBM is building “the most advanced, most flexible high-speed computer in the world.” The computer was unveiled 1953 as the IBM 701 Electronic Data Processing Machine.
1961 – ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” premiers. The last show airs in 2006. Watch the show’s iconic opening.
1974 – President Nixon says he will release the edited Watergate tapes made in the White House that have been subpoenaed by the House Judiciary Committee. The tapes are finally released in July. Nixon resigned on August 8th.
1975 – The U.S. begins to evacuate U.S. citizens from Saigon during Operation Frequent Wind prior to an expected North Vietnamese takeover. U.S. involvement in the war comes to an official end.
1992 – A jury acquits Los Angeles police officers of beating Rodney King. Rioting began in Los Angeles and other U.S. cities.
1997 – American astronaut Jerry Linenger and cosmonaut Vasily Tsibliyev go on the first joint U.S.-Russian space walk. Watch actual footage of the spacewalk.
2002 – The United States is re-elected to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights one year after losing the seat it had held for 50 years.
2004 – Oldsmobile builds its final car, an Alero, ending 107 years of production as America’s oldest car brand. The signatures of the Lansing plant employees were written inside the hood of the car.
2004 – The National World War II Memorial, located between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, opens to the public in Washington D.C.
2010 – The Defense Department announces that the ban will be lifted in February on women serving on U.S. submarines.
2015 – The Chicago White Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 8-2 at Camden Yards. The game is played without the fans present due to the ongoing riots and protests in Baltimore. This was the first time a Major League Baseball game was played in an empty stadium.
1789 – George Washington is sworn in as the first U.S. President.
1803 – The U.S. doubles in size through the Louisiana Purchase at a cost of $15 million.
1885 – The Boston Pops Orchestra forms. Arthur Fiedler, its most famous conductor, served from 1930 until just before his death in 1979. The current conductor is Keith Lockhart.
1922 – Charlie Robertson of the Chicago White Sox (AL) pitches a no-hit, no-run perfect game against the Detroit Tigers, winning 3-0. The next American League regular season no-hit perfect game doesn’t come along until 46 years later when Oakland A’s Catfish Hunter pitches against Minnesota.
1952 – Mr. Potato Head is the first toy advertised on television. Watch an early Hasbro commercial (when you had to use a real potato).
1975 – The last U.S. helicopter leaves the U.S. embassy grounds in Saigon, Viet Nam.
2003 – An unmanned rocket sled sets a land speed record when it reaches 6,416 mph (Mach 8.5) at White Sands, New Mexico. The record still stands.
2009 – Chrysler automobile company files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In 2011, Fiat buys the shares owned by the U.S. Treasury.
2015 – NASA’s Messenger spacecraft crashes into the surface of Mercury. The space probe sent back more than 270,000 pictures to earth.
1841 – The first emigrant wagon train leaves Independence, Missouri, headed for California.
1883 – “Buffalo Bill” Cody puts on his first Wild West Show. Cody died in 1917 at age 70.
1898 – U.S. Admiral George Dewey gives the famous command, “You may fire when you are ready, Gridley.” He sank or captured the entire Spanish fleet at Manila Bay. Dewey is the only person in U.S. history to achieve the rank of Admiral of the Navy.
1931 – The Empire State Building opens in New York City as the tallest building in the world at 103 stories.
1940 – The 1940 Tokyo Summer Olympics are cancelled due to the outbreak of World War II. The 1940 Winter Olympics and 1944 Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics were also cancelled. (Note: The 1916 Summer Olympics were cancelled due to World War I. The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo was postponed due to COVID-19.)
1960 – Russia shoots down U.S. pilot Francis Gary Powers in his U-2 spy plane 15 days before President Eisenhower is scheduled to attend an East-West Summit in Paris. Powers plead guilty and was convicted of espionage in August and sentenced to three years imprisonment and seven years of hard labor. He served one year and nine months of the sentence before being exchanged for Rudolf Abel in February of 1962. Powers died in 1977 at age 47 in a helicopter accident.
1961 – The first U.S. airplane is hijacked to Cuba. A National Airlines plane was hijacked from Miami to Cuba by Antulio Ramirez Ortiz, a Puerto Rican born American citizen.
1962 – The first Kmart department store opens in Garden City, Michigan, selling a range of clothes, shoes, housewares, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, and electronics.
1971 – Amtrak (National Railroad Passenger Corp.) begins operation.
1999 – On Mount Everest, a group of U.S. mountain climbers discover the body of George Mallory. Mallory died in June of 1924 while trying to become the first person to reach the summit of Everest. At the time of the discovery it was unclear whether or not Mallory had actually reached the summit.
2003 – In what becomes known as the “Mission Accomplished” speech, President George W. Bush, on board the USS Abraham Lincoln off the coast of California declares that, “major combat operations in Iraq have ended.” Watch part of the speech.
2012 – Occupy Wall Street protesters gather across the U.S. to stage a day of protest for International Workers’ Day. Thousands of people marched in New York, Oakland, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Chicago in protest, which ended up lasting for weeks.
1865 – President Johnson offers a $100,000 reward for capture of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
1916 – President Woodrow Wilson signs Harrison Drug Act, which regulated and taxed the production and distribution of opium and cocaine products.
1927 – The Supreme Court rules 8-1 in Buck v. Bell that forced sterilizations of various “unfit” people by state authorities for eugenic reasons does not violate the 14th Amendment right to due process. The Supreme Court decision has never been overturned. Adolph Hitler uses this law as a model for his “Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring.”
1939 – Lou Gehrig ends his 2,130 consecutive games streak. He died of ALS (now called Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 1941 at age 37.
1941 – The Federal Communications Commission agrees to allow the scheduling of TV broadcasts by commercial TV stations beginning on July 1, 1941. This was the start of network television.
1970 – Diane Crump is the first woman jockey to race in the Kentucky Derby. Watch an interview with Crump about the future of thoroughbreds.
2011 – Osama bin Laden, the suspected mastermind behind the September 11 attacks and the FBI’s most wanted man, is killed by U.S. Special Forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
2012 – Edvard Munch’s famous painting ‘The Scream” sells at auction in New York City for a record $119,922,500. The painting was stolen twice from Oslo, Norway, museums in 1994 and 2004, and recovered both times.
Image from: bbc.co.uk