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 29-May 5, 2019
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 aired 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 were 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 came to an official end.
1986 – Over 800,000 books are destroyed in a fire at the Los Angeles Central Library.
1992 – A jury acquits Los Angeles police officers of beating Rodney King. Rioting started 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:
1998 – The U.S., Canada, and Mexico end tariffs on $1 billion through NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).
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 under 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 White Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 8-2 at Camden Yards. The game was 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.
1900 – Casey Jones dies in a train wreck in Vaughn, Mississippi, while trying to make up time on the Cannonball Express. He applied the brake to try to slow the train because another train was too long for the sidetrack, leaving the caboose on the main line.
1904 – The ice cream cone makes its debut at the World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri.
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 didn’t come along until 46 years later when Oakland A’s Catfish Hunter pitched 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.
1988 – The largest banana split ever, at 4 ½ miles long, is made in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. The record still stands. Watch a tongue-in-cheek history of banana split records:
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 bought 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.
1937 – President Franklin Roosevelt signs an act of neutrality to keep the U.S. out of World War II.
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.)
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 pleaded 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 in California.
1961 – The first U.S. airplane is hijacked to Cuba. A National Airlines plane was hijacked from Miami to Cuba by Antulio Ramirez Ortiz.
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. Kmart and Sears merged in 2004.
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. The protest ended up lasting for weeks.
1865 – President Johnson offers a $100,000 reward for capture of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
1908 – The song “Take me out to the Ball Game” is registered for copyright.
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 used 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.
1919 – America’s first passenger flight takes off from New York City and lands in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
1923 – The first nonstop transcontinental flight (New York City to San Diego) is completed.
1952 – The first airplane lands at the geographic North Pole. It was flown by U.S. Air Force pilots Joseph O. Fletcher and William P. Benedict.
1997 – Garry Kasparov begins a 6-game chess rematch with the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue in Pennsylvania, winning 3 ½ to 2 ½. Watch a diagram and a move by move explanation of the game:
1999 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes above 11,000 for the first time.
2001 – The U.S. loses its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission for the first time since the commission was formed in 1947.
2006 – Al-Quaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui is given a sentence of life in prison for his role in the terrorist attack on the U.S. on September 11, 2001. Moussaoui is currently serving his sentence in a maximum-security penitentiary in Colorado.
1780 – The American Academy of Arts & Science is founded in Massachusetts when 62 people sign the charter, including John Adams, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock.
1893 – Cowboy Bob Pickett, the son of former slaves, invents the rodeo sport of bulldogging. Pickett died in 1932 at age 69 after being kicked in the head by a horse.
1904 – Construction on the Panama Canal is taken over by the United States from France, which started the project in 1881. The 48-mile-long canal was completed in 1914.
1932 – Al Capone, convicted of income tax evasion, enters the Atlanta Penitentiary. He was paroled in 1939 and died in 1947 at age 48.
1959 – The first Grammy Awards are held. Perry Como and Ella Fitzgerald win as best male and female vocalists. Henry Mancini won album of the year for “The Theme from Peter Gunn.”
1975 – Houston Astros’ Bob Watson scores baseball’s one-millionth run of all time. He was awarded $10,000 and 1 million Tootsie Rolls. Watson served as Major League Baseball’s vice president in charge of discipline and vice president of rules and on-field operations until 2010. Watch a report on the big hit:
1998 – A federal judge in Sacramento, California, gives “Unabomber” Theodore Kaczynski four life sentences plus 30 years after Kaczynski accepted a plea agreement sparing him from the death penalty.
2003 – Idaho Gem, the first member of the horse family to be cloned, is born. Watch him gets his legs under him:
2013 – Harper Lee files a lawsuit against her literary agent over the copyright of her Pulitzer Prize winning book “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Rights to the book were returned to Lee, who died in 2016 at age 89.
1809 – Mary Kies is the first woman issued a U.S. patent. It was for a technique of weaving straw with silk and thread in making hats.
1865 – About one dozen men tear up tracks in the first U.S. train robbery. Over 100 passengers were robbed near North Bend, Ohio. The robbers were never caught.
1893 – In the wake of the Panic of 1893, the New York Stock Exchange crashes, leading to the Depression of 1893. This is why the subsequent stock market crash of 1929 is called the Great Depression.
1925 – John T. Scopes is arrested for teaching evolution in Tennessee. Scopes was tried, convicted, and fined $100. His conviction was overturned on a technicality by the Tennessee Supreme Court.
1943 – Postmaster General Frank C. Walker develops the Postal Delivery Zone System.
1961 – Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space when he is launched aboard Freedom 7. (John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth.) Shepard went to the moon on Apollo 14 in 1971. Shepard died in 1998 at age 74. Watch a 10-minute biography:
1965 – U.S. Army ground units arrive in South Vietnam for the first large-scale mission.
1979 – Voyager 1 passes Jupiter. It was launched by NASA in September 1977. In 2012 Voyager I passed into interstellar space.
2018 – A 38-year-old Florida man is killed in the first death attributed to an e-cigarette. His Vape Pen exploded, sending pieces of the pen into his head.
Image from gcn.com