This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past,
for human events ever resemble those of preceding times.”
Week of April 3-9, 2017
1513 – Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon lands at what is now Florida.
1860 – The first Pony Express riders leave St. Joseph, Missouri, for Sacramento, California, on a trip across the country that takes about a week. The Pony Express, which advertises for “Young, skinny, wiry fellows, not over 18, must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily, orphans preferred,” only lasts about a year and a half. Buffalo Bill Cody and Wild Bill Hickok are among the riders. Watch a brief history of the Pony Express:
1882 – The outlaw Jesse James is shot in the back by Robert Ford. Jesse James was 34 years old.
1910 – James Wickersham makes the first (albeit unsuccessful) attempt to climb Alaska’s Mt. McKinley, the highest mountain in North America.
1936 – Richard Bruno Hauptmann is executed for the kidnapping and death of the son of Charles and Anne Lindbergh.
1948 – President Harry Truman signs the Marshall Plan giving $5 billion in aid to 16 European countries.
1949 – Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis debut on radio on the “Martin and Lewis Show”. The NBC radio program runs until 1953. Martin and Lewis go on to star in a variety of TV shows and movies. Martin died in 1995 at age 78. Lewis is now 91 years old.
1953 – “TV Guide” is published for the first time. Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball’s son Desi Arnaz, Jr. is on the cover. Little Desi is now 64 years old.
1973 – The first portable cell phone call is made in New York City.
1977 – Egyptian President Anwar Sadat has his first meeting with President Jimmy Carter.
1986 – The U.S. national debt hits $2 trillion. The current national debt is over $18 trillion, which has doubled since 2006.
1991 – Football player Bo Jackson signs a 1-year contract with the Chicago White Sox baseball team. Jackson is the first athlete to play in the All-Star game in two different sports. In 2013, ESPN names Jackson the “Greatest Athlete of All Time.” Watch ESPN’s interview with Bo:
1996 – Unabomber suspect Theodore Kaczynski is arrested. He pleads guilty in January 1998 to five Unabomber attacks in exchange for a life sentence without the chance of parole. Kaczynski is now 74 years old.
2000 – The Nasdaq sets a one-day record when it loses 349.15 points to close at 4,233.68.
2010 – The first Apple iPad is released.
1818 – Congress passes a plan that says the U.S. flag will have 13 red and white stripes and 20 stars and that a new star would be added for the each new state.
1841 – President William Henry Harrison, at the age of 68, becomes the first president to die in office. He is sworn in only a month before he died of pneumonia.
1887 – Susanna Madora Salter of Argonia, Kansas, is elected the first woman mayor in the U.S.
1914 – The first known serialized moving picture opens in New York City. It is “The Perils of Pauline.” Watch the first episode (black and white with dramatic piano music):
1917 – The Senate votes 82-6 to participate in WW I.
1932 – After five years of research, professor C.G. King of the University of Pittsburgh, isolates Vitamin C.
1933 – The U.S. dirigible Akron crashes off coast of New Jersey, killing 73 people. There are three survivors.
1949 – The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) treaty is signed in Washington, DC.
1967 – Johnny Carson quits “The Tonight Show.” He returns three weeks later after getting a raise of $30,000 a week. Carson retired in 1992 after hosting the show 30 years and died in 2005 at age 79.
1968 – Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, at age 39.
1974 – Hank Aaron ties Babe Ruth’s home-run record by hitting his 714th home run. (See April 8, 1974) Watch #714 go over Pete Rose’s head:
1975 – Microsoft is founded as a partnership between Bill Gates and Paul Allen.
1988 – Eddie Hill becomes the world’s first drag racing driver to cover the quarter mile in less than 5 seconds.
1994 – Netscape Communications is founded as Mosaic Communications.
2008 – During a raid on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints owned YFZ Ranch in Texas, 401 children and 133 women are taken into state custody. Several male members of the compound are found guilty or plead no contest to sexual assault.
1792 – President George Washington casts the first presidential veto.
1869 – Daniel Bakeman, the last surviving soldier of the U.S. Revolutionary War, dies at the age of 109.
1887 – Anne Sullivan teaches the hand sign for “water” to Helen Keller.
1923 – Firestone Tire and Rubber Company begins the first regular production of balloon tires for automobiles.
1933 – The first operation to remove a lung is performed at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri.
1951 – Americans Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are sentenced to death for committing espionage for the Soviet Union.
1973 – Pioneer 11 launches on its mission to study Jupiter. NASA loses contact with the spacecraft in 1995 after receiving data for 22 years. Watch a video of the space mission:
1974 – The world’s tallest building, the World Trade Center, opens in New York City at 110 stories. We will always remember 9-11-01.
1984 – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar breaks Wilt Chamberlain’s all-time career scoring record by scoring 31,421 points.
1987 – The FOX Broadcasting Company launches its nighttime shows with “Married . . . With Children” and “The Tracey Ullman Show.”
1997 – Steve Irwin’s show “The Crocodile Hunter” debuts on TV. Irwin dies in 2006 at age 44 during underwater filming.
1999 – Three of Tammy Wynette’s daughters file a $50 million lawsuit that blame Wynette’s death on negligence by her husband and her doctor. Tammy died in 1998 at age 55.
2009 – The media is allowed to film the return of slain soldiers for the first time when an 18-year ban is lifted.
2010 – An explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, West Virginia, kills 29 miners and leaves several missing, making it the deadliest mining accident in the U.S. in 40 years. Watch a news report about the subsequent documentary:
2015 – Rolling Stone Magazine retracts the “Rape on Campus” story it published in 2014 about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. In 2016, the university wins a defamation lawsuit against the magazine for the fake news story.
2016 – PayPal announces it is cancelling a $3.6 million investment in North Carolina after the state passes anti-gay legislation, although PayPal continues to do business in communist China.
1789 – The first U.S. Congress begins regular sessions at Federal Hall in New York City. George Washington is inaugurated there the same month. Built in 1700, the building is demolished in 1812.
1896 – The first modern Olympic games opens in Athens, Greece. American James Connolly is known as the first modern Olympic Champion. He leaves Harvard at age 27 to compete in Athens. Connolly wins a Silver medal in the high jump, a Bronze medal in the long jump, and a Gold medal in the triple jump. Connolly also competes in the 1900 and 1906 Olympics. Connolly died in 1957 at age 88.
1909 – Americans Robert Peary and Matthew Henson reach the North Pole. Frederick Cook claims to have reached the North Pole one year earlier. (See this date – 1988)
1916 – Charlie Chaplin becomes the highest-paid film star in the world when he signs a contract with Mutual Film Corporation for $675,000 a year. He is 26 years old. Chaplin died in 1977 at age 88.
1917 – The U.S. declares war on Germany and enters World War I.
1924 – Four Douglas airplanes leave Seattle, Washington, on the first successful around-the-world flight. They travel about 25,000 miles and return to Seattle on September 28th.
1927 – William P. MacCracken, Jr. earns license Number 1 when the Department of Commerce issues the first pilot’s license.
1930 – Hostess Twinkies are invented by bakery executive James Dewar. Twinkies originally have a banana filling.
1938 – Teflon is invented by Roy J. Plunkett.
1947 – The First Tony Awards, formally known as the Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Theatre, is held in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. Among the winners are José Ferrer in “Cyrano de Bergerac” and Ingrid Bergman in “Joan of Lorraine.”
1954 – The first frozen TV dinner, made by Swanson & Sons, goes on sale. They cost 98 cents and contain turkey, sweet potatoes, peas, and corn bread stuffing. Watch a 1955 Swanson commercial:
1965 – President Lyndon B. Johnson authorizes the use of ground troops in combat operations in Vietnam.
1980 – Post-It Notes are introduced. 3M scientist Dr. Spencer Silver discovers the unique adhesive on accident while trying to invent a strong adhesive.
1983 – The Veteran’s Administration (VA) announces it will give free medical care for conditions traceable to radiation exposure to more than 220,000 veterans who participated in nuclear tests from 1945 to 1962.
1988 – Black North Pole explorer Matthew Henson is buried next to Robert Peary in Arlington National Cemetery. Henson died in 1955 and was originally buried in New York City’s Woodlawn Cemetery.
1998 – Citicorp and Travelers Group announce that they will merge. The new company is the largest financial-services conglomerate in the world called Citigroup.
1998 – The Dow Jones industrial average closes above 9,000 points for the first time.
2009 – President Barack Hussein Obama, during a visit to Turkey, announces that the U.S. is not, and never will be, at war with Islam. Watch his claim:
1890 – Ellis Island is designated as an immigration station. Prior to this the individual states regulated immigration. A new structure is built and opens in 1892 and operates for 61 years. The original building is now part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument.
1922 – President Warren G. Harding’s Interior Secretary, Albert B. Fall, leases the Teapot Dome oil reserves to Harry Sinclair, setting in motion what comes to be known for the next two years as the Teapot Dome Scandal.
1923 – The Workers Party of America of New York City officially becomes the Communist Party.
1933 – Prohibition ends when Utah becomes the 38th state to ratify 21st Amendment. The prohibition on the sale of alcoholic beverages begins in 1919.
1940 – Booker T. Washington is the first black person to appear on U.S. postage stamp. He is the founder of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama for the training of black teachers.
1963 – At the age of 23, Jack Nicklaus becomes the youngest golfer to win the iconic Green Jacket at the Masters Tournament.
1966 – The U.S. recovers an H-bomb from the floor of the Mediterranean Sea after a 2 ½ month search. Four H-bombs were released when a B-52 bomber and a KC-135 tanker collided in air while refueling, killing 7 of the 11 crew members on board the two aircraft. Both aircraft were destroyed and the other three bombs were found on land in southern Spain. Watch a report of the crash with actual recovery footage:
1969 – The Supreme Court unanimously strikes down laws prohibiting private possession of obscene material.
1970 – John Wayne wins his first and only Oscar for his role in the movie “True Grit.” He starred in over 200 films. John Wayne died in 1979 at age 72. Watch his Oscar presentation and acceptance speech:
1978 – A Gutenberg Bible, made in wood block by John Gensfleisch of Gutenburg, Germany (1398/9-1468), sells at auction for $2 million in New York City. Only 22 copies are known to exist.
1980 – The U.S. breaks diplomatic relations with Iran and imposes economic sanctions in response to the taking of hostages on November 4, 1979.
1990 – National Security Advisor John Poindexter is found guilty in the Iran-Contra scandal. He is sentenced to six months in prison. The conviction is reversed on appeal in 1991 on the grounds that several witnesses against him were influenced by his testimony, even though Congress gave him immunity for that testimony.
1998 – Mary Bono, the widow of Sonny Bono, wins a special election to serve out the remainder of her husband’s congressional term. Sonny Bono is killed in a skiing accident in January at age 62.
2000 – President Bill Clinton signs the Senior Citizens Freedom to Work Act that reverses a Depression-era law and allows senior citizens to earn money without losing Social Security retirement benefits.
2001 – The Mars Odyssey rocket is launched. The mission has been extended five times and had enough propellant to last until last year. It is considered to be on an extended mission.
2003 – U.S. troops capture Baghdad, Iraq. Saddam Hussein’s regime falls two days later. Saddam is captured in December, convicted of mass killings, and hanged in 2006.
2003 – The Supreme Court rules that, although burning a cross at a Ku Klux Klan rally is protected by the First Amendment, burning a cross as a means of intimidation is not, thus upholding a 50-year-old Virginia law.
1766 – The first fire escape is patented and uses a wicker basket on a pulley and chain.
1879 – Milk is sold in glass bottles for the first time.
1910 – The first race is run at the Los Angeles Motordrome, the first U.S. auto speedway. The roadway is wooden. The racetrack closes in 1913.
1913 – The 17th amendment is ratified, requiring the direct election of senators.
1935 – Congress approves the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
1952 – President Harry Truman seizes U.S. steel mills to prevent a strike. In June the Supreme Court rules the president lacks the authority to seize the steel mills. The 53-day strike ends with union workers accepting the same terms proposed before the strike.
1964 – The unmanned Gemini 1 rocket is launched on America’s first successful orbit of the earth. It completes three orbits.
1968 – Baseball’s Opening Day is postponed because of Martin Luther King’s assassination.
1969 – The first major league baseball game is played in Canada. The Montreal Expos beat the New York Mets 10-9.
1974 – Hank Aaron hits his 715th home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s record of 714. Watch Hank’s record breaking swing and the subsequent pomp and circumstance:
1975 – Cleveland Indians player Frank Robinson debuts as the first black baseball manager. The Indians beat New York 5-3.
1986 – Clint Eastwood is elected mayor of Carmel, California. Eastwood is now 86 years old.
1991 – Actor Michael Landon announces that he has inoperable cancer of the pancreas and liver. He dies on July 1st at age 54. Watch an “ET” special about Landon:
1994 – Smoking is banned in the Pentagon and all U.S. military bases.
1998 – The widow of Martin Luther King Jr. presents new evidence in an appeal for new federal investigation of the assassination of her husband.
2006 – The Senate is not able to approve the compromise bill that is designed for millions of illegal immigrants to become citizens. The bill’s supporters can only muster 38 of the 60 votes that are needed to protect it from amendments that its opponents introduced. Both parties blame each other for the deal’s collapse.
2015 – Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, age 21, is convicted for the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that killed 3 and injured 264 others. He is sentenced to death and is awaiting execution.
1682 – Robert La Salle claims the lower Mississippi River and all lands that touch it for France.
1865 – Confederate General Robert E. Lee and 26,765 Confederate troops surrender at Appomattox Court House in Virginia to U.S. General Ulysses S. Grant, ending the Civil War.
1867 – The Senate ratifies the treaty with Russia (by one vote) that authorizes the purchase of the territory of Alaska.
1872 – Samuel R. Percy patents dried milk.
1928 – Mae West makes her debut on Broadway in the production of “Diamond Lil.” West died in 1980 at age 87.
1933 – President Franklin Roosevelt signs “United States Executive Order 6102” which prohibits the “hoarding” of privately held gold coins and bullion in the U.S. The government requires holders of gold to sell their gold at the prevailing price of $20.67 per ounce. Shortly after this forced sale, the price of gold is raised to $35 an ounce.
1939 – Marian Anderson sings before 75,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday. She is scheduled to appear at Constitution Hall, but the DAR, who manages the Hall, denies her access because of her race. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt resigns her membership in the DAR in protest and helps arrange for Anderson to perform at the Lincoln Memorial. Watch a Newsreel story:
1950 – Bob Hope’s first TV special airs on Easter Sunday. His guests include Douglas Fairbanks and Dinah Shore.
1963 – Winston Churchill becomes the first honorary U.S. citizen. Churchill’s mother, Jennie Jerome of Brooklyn, New York, marries Lord Randolph Churchill of England. Winston is born in England.
1968 – Martin Luther King, Jr. is buried in Atlanta, Georgia.
1986 – The TV show “Dallas” announces it will revive Bobby Ewing’s character, who is killed off in the previous season. The entire previous season is (spoiler alert) all part of his wife’s dream. Watch the steamy shower scene:
1992 – Former Panamanian ruler Manuel Noriega is convicted in Miami, Florida, on eight drug and racketeering charges and sentenced to seven years in prison. After his release, the French government orders Noriega’s extradition to France where he is convicted for his crimes. The Panamanian government finds Noriega guilty in absentia in 1995 for murder and sentences him to 20 years in prison. He is transferred to Panama and 83-year-old Noriega is still in prison.
1998 – The National Prisoner of War Museum opens in Andersonville, Georgia, at the site of an infamous Civil War camp.
2012 – “The Lion King” becomes the highest grossing Broadway show after overtaking “The Phantom of the Opera,” cumulatively grossing over $5 billion.