This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history
is the most important of all the lessons of history.” Aldous Huxley
Week of April 6-12, 2020
1789 – The first U.S. Congress begins regular sessions at Federal Hall in New York City. George Washington was inaugurated there the same month. Built in 1700, the building was 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 left Harvard at age 27 to compete in Athens. Connolly won a Silver medal in the high jump, a Bronze medal in the long jump, and a Gold medal in the triple jump. Connolly also competed 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 claimed to have reached the North Pole one year earlier. In 1988, Matthew Henson was buried next to Robert Peary in Arlington National Cemetery. Henson died in 1955 and was originally buried in New York City’s Woodlawn Cemetery.
1924 – Four Douglas airplanes leave Seattle, Washington, on the first successful around-the-world flight. They traveled about 25,000 miles and returned 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.
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 were José Ferrer in “Cyrano de Bergerac” and Ingrid Bergman in “Joan of Lorraine.” Antoinette “Tony” Perry was a stage actress and director in the early 1900s. She also co-founded the American Theatre Wing, which operated the Stage Door Canteens during WWII. Perry died in 1946 and the first awards were given out in 1947.
1954 – The first frozen TV dinner, made by Swanson & Sons, goes on sale. They cost 98 cents and contained 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. The last U.S. troops withdrew from Vietnam in March 1973, making it America’s longest war.
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.
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 was built and opened in 1892 and operated 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 without competitive bidding, setting in motion what became known as the Teapot Dome Scandal.
1933 – Prohibition ends when Utah becomes the 38th state to ratify 21st Amendment. The prohibition on the sale of alcoholic beverages began in 1919.
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, with two detonating, 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 mission and crash, with actual recovery footage:
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:
2001 – The Mars Odyssey rocket is launched. The mission has been extended five times and had enough propellant to last until 2025. It is the longest-surviving continually active spacecraft in orbit around a planet (other than Earth).
2003 – U.S. troops capture Baghdad, Iraq. Saddam Hussein’s regime falls two days later. Saddam was 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 that uses a wicker basket on a pulley and chain.
1913 – The 17th amendment is ratified, requiring the direct election of senators. Prior to that, Senators were chosen by each state legislature and was vulnerable to corruption. It also allowed governors to appoint a Senator to fill a vacant seat until a special election could be held.
1952 – President Harry Truman seizes U.S. steel mills to prevent a strike. In June the Supreme Court ruled the president lacked the authority to seize the steel mills. The 53-day strike ended 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 completed three orbits.
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:
2006 – The Senate is unable to approve the compromise bill that is designed for millions of illegal immigrants to become citizens. The bill’s supporters could only muster 38 of the 60 votes that were needed to protect it from amendments that its opponents introduced. Both parties blamed each other for the deal’s collapse.
2015 – Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, now age 26, is convicted for the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that killed 3 and injured 264 others. He was sentenced to death and is awaiting execution pending rulings on his appeal.
2015 – Sarah Thomas is hired as the first full-time female official in NFL history. She was an official in the 2019 Patriots v Charges post-season game.
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. The following day Lee issued his last order at Appomattox General Order #9, praising his soldiers and ordering them to return home.
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 required 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 was raised to $35 an ounce.
1939 – Marian Anderson sings before 75,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday. She was scheduled to appear at Constitution Hall, but the DAR, who manages the Hall, denied her access because of her race. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt resigned her membership in the DAR in protest and helped arrange for Anderson to perform at the Lincoln Memorial. Watch a Newsreel story:
1963 – Winston Churchill becomes the first honorary U.S. citizen. Churchill’s mother, Jennie Jerome of Brooklyn, New York, married Lord Randolph Churchill of England. Winston was born in England.
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 ordered Noriega’s extradition to France, where he was convicted for his crimes. The Panamanian government found Noriega guilty in absentia in 1995 for murder and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. He was transferred to Panama in 2011, where he died in 2017 at age 83.
2001 – The Securities and Exchange Commission orders all U.S. stock markets to switch to the decimal system. Prior to that, stock prices were reported in fractions (sixteenths of a dollar).
2012 – “The Lion King” becomes (and remains) the highest grossing Broadway show, cumulatively grossing over $8 billion internationally. “The Phantom of the Opera” is still the longest running Broadway show.
1790 – Captain Robert Gray is the first American to circumnavigate the globe. He repeated his trek in 1793. Gray died in 1806 at the age of 51.
1849 – Walter Hunt patents the safety pin. He sold the rights for $100. Hunt patented many inventions including the fountain pen, streetcar bell, street sweeper, and nail-making machine.
1912 – RMS Titanic sets sail for New York City on its first (and only) voyage. The “unsinkable” ship hit an iceberg just before midnight on the 14th and sank on the morning of the 15th. Titanic’s survivors arrived in New York City aboard the Carpathia on April 18th. Watch grainy silent footage of survivors aboard the Carpathia in New York:
1917 – An ammunition plant in Eddystone, Pennsylvania, exploded, killing 139 workers, mostly women and children. Since the incident occurred during WWI, sabotage was initially suspected, but it was ultimately thought to be an accident.
1971 – The American table tennis team arrives in China. They are the first group of Americans officially allowed into China since the founding of the People Republic in 1949. The team received the surprise invitation while in Japan for the 31st World Table Tennis Championship.
1996 – President Bill Clinton vetoes a bill that would have outlawed a technique used to end pregnancies in their late stages (late term abortions).
2012 – Apple Inc. claims a value of $600 billion, making it the largest company (by market capitalization) in the world.
1783 – After receiving a copy of the provisional treaty on March 13th, the U.S. Congress proclaims a formal end to hostilities with Great Britain (aka The Revolutionary War).
1898 – President McKinley asks for a declaration of War against Spain. Congress passed a resolution on April 20th, giving Spain an ultimatum to relinquish control of Cuba. When they refused, Congress voted to wage war on Spain. The Spanish-American War ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on December 10th.
1921 – The first radio broadcast of a sports event airs on Westinghouse station KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was the broadcast of a 10-round, no-decision boxing match between Johnny Dundee and Johnny Ray at Pittsburgh’s Motor Square Garden.
1956 – Singer Nat “King” Cole is attacked and injured on stage of a Birmingham theater by whites in an apparent kidnapping. All four attackers were convicted.
1964 – President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In 1957, then Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson (D-TX) opposed the bill because of fears it would divide his party. Southern Democrats fought against the bill’s passage.
1970 – The ill-fated Apollo 13 rocket is launched on an unsuccessful mission to land men on the Moon. On April 13th, Apollo 13 astronauts calmly announced, “Houston, we’ve had a problem,” after the Beech-built oxygen tank exploded en route to the Moon. The spacecraft and its astronauts returned safely to earth on April 17th. The events of the mission were recounted in the 1995 movie “Apollo 13” starring Tom Hanks.
1976 – The Apple I computer, created by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, is released. The Woz is 69 years old.
1996 – Seven-year-old Jessica Dubroff is killed with her father and flight instructor when her plane crashes after takeoff from Cheyenne, Wyoming, during poor weather conditions. Jessica hoped to become the youngest person to fly cross-country. In October, President Clinton signs into law the “Child Pilot Safety Act.” Watch a breaking new story of the crash:
2015 – President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro meet in Panama. It was the first meeting of U.S. and Cuban heads of state since the Cuban Revolution in 1959.
1811 – The first U.S. colonists on the Pacific coast arrive at Cape Disappointment, Washington.
1861 – Fort Sumter, South Carolina, is shelled by the Confederacy, starting the Civil War. The Union troops surrendered the following day after 34 hours of shelling.
1945 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies in Warm Spring, Georgia, of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 63 just weeks into his 4th term. Vice President Harry S. Truman became president.
1961 – Five-star general Douglas MacArthur declines an offer to become the baseball commissioner. MacArthur was relieved of his command in 1951 by Harry Truman after criticizing the president’s policies.
1981 – The first space shuttle (Columbia STS-1) is launched on its maiden voyage. It landed safely on the 14th after orbited the earth 37 times. John Young and Robert Crippen were the first space shuttle astronauts. Watch the NASA launch:
2009 – The U.S. Navy rescues Richard Phillips, captain of the Maersk Alabama, and kill three Somali hijackers and capture a fourth.
2015 – Hillary Clinton announces that she will run for the Democrat nomination for President for the second time. She lost the 2008 Democrat nomination to Barack Hussein Obama.
Image from: tonyawards.com