This Week in History, April 6 – 12


This Week In History

by Dianne Hermann


“Educate and inform the whole mass of the people.

They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”

– Thomas Jefferson


Week of April 6-12, 2015


April 6

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.


1916 – Charlie Chaplin became 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.

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.


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 by accident while trying to invent a strong adhesive.

1983 – The U.S. Veteran’s Administration 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 – The Dow Jones industrial average closes above 9,000 points for the first time.


April 7

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 Green Jacket at the Masters Tournament.

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.


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.

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 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 has enough propellant to last until later this year.

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.


April 8

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 by a Canadian team. The Montreal Expos beat the New York Mets 10-9 at Shea Stadium in New York.

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 84 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 at:

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.


April 9

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 U.S. 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.


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 arranges for Anderson to perform at the Lincoln Memorial. Watch a Newsreel story at:

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.

1986 – The TV show “Dallas” announces it will revive Bobby Ewing’s character that it 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 at:

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 81-year-old Noriega is still in prison.

2012 – “The Lion King” becomes the highest grossing Broadway show after overtaking “The Phantom of the Opera,” cumulatively grossing over $5 billion.


April 10

1790 – Captain Robert Gray is the first American to circumnavigate the globe. He repeats his trek in 1793. Gray died in 1806 at the age of 51.

1849 – Walter Hunt patents the safety pin. He sells the rights for $100. Hunt patents many inventions including the fountain pen, streetcar bell, street sweeper, and nail-making machine.


1865 – General Robert E. Lee issues his last order at Appomattox Court House, General Order #9, praising his soldiers and ordering them to return home.

1866 – The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is founded in New York City by philanthropist and diplomat Henry Bergh.

1869 – Congress passes the Judiciary Act of 1869, which among other things, increases number of Supreme Court justices from 7 to 9.

1912 – RMS Titanic sets sail for New York City on its first (and only) voyage. The “unsinkable” ship hits an iceberg just before midnight on the 14th and sinks on the morning of the 15th. Titanic’s survivors arrive in New York City aboard the Carpathia on April 18th.

1916 – The Professional Golfers Association of America (PGA) is created in New York City.

1941 – Ford Motor Company becomes the last major U.S. automaker to recognize the United Auto Workers as the representative for its workers.

1947 – Jackie Robinson becomes the first black player in major league baseball (Brooklyn Dodgers).

1953 – Warner Brothers premieres the first 3-D film, entitled “House of Wax.” Watch Vincent Price at his scariest at:

1961 – Gary Player of South Africa becomes the first foreign golfer to win the Green Jacket at the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia.

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 receives the surprise invitation while in Japan for the 31st World Table Tennis Championship.

1989 – Heinz, Van Camp Seafood, and Bumble Bee Seafood agree they will not buy tuna caught in nets that also trap dolphins.

1992 – In Los Angeles, financier Charles Keating Jr. is sentenced to nine years in prison for swindling investors when his Lincoln Savings and Loan collapsed. The convictions are later overturned.

1996 – President Bill Clinton vetoes a bill that would have outlawed a technique used to end pregnancies in their late stages (late term abortions).

2001 – Jane Swift takes office as the first female governor of Massachusetts. She succeeds Paul Cellucci, who resigns to become the U.S. ambassador to Canada.

2012 – Apple Inc. claims a value of $600 billion making it the largest company (by market capitalization) in the world.


April 11

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).

1876 – The Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks (BPOE) is organized.

1898 – President McKinley asks for a declaration of War against Spain. Congress passes a resolution on April 20th, giving Spain an ultimatum to relinquish control of Cuba. When they refuse Congress votes to wage war on Spain. The Spanish-American War ends with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on December 10th.

1907 – New York Giant Roger Bresnahan becomes the first baseball catcher to wear protective shin guards. The catcher experiments with protective gear, including the batting helmet.


1921 – Iowa becomes the first state to impose a cigarette tax.

1921 – The first radio broadcast of a sports event airs on Westinghouse station KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is the broadcast of a 10-round, no-decision boxing match between Johnny Dundee and Johnny Ray at Pittsburgh’s Motor Square Garden.

1951 – President Harry Truman relieves General Douglas MacArthur of his command of U.S. forces in Korea and replaces him with General Matthew Ridgeway.

1956 – Singer Nat “King” Cole is attacked and injured on stage of a Birmingham theater by whites in an apparent kidnapping. All four attackers are convicted.

1961 – Singer Bob Dylan makes his first public appearance at Gerde’s Folk City in Greenwich Village.

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 the bill’s passage.

1966 – Emmett Ashford becomes the first black major league umpire.

1970 – The ill-fated Apollo 13 rocket is launched on an unsuccessful mission to land men on the Moon. The events of the mission are recounted in the 1995 movie “Apollo 13” starring Tom Hanks.

1984 – Space Shuttle Challenger astronauts complete the first in space satellite repair.

1986 – Halley’s Comet makes its closest approach to Earth on its 76-year trip. The comet is first observed and recorded in 420 BC and is scheduled to return in 2061.

1986 – Kellogg’s stops giving tours of its breakfast-food plant. The reason for the end of the 80-year tradition is said to be that company secrets are at risk due to spies from other cereal companies.

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.”


2007 – Apple announces that the iTunes Store has sold over two million movies.


April 12

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 surrender the following day after 34 hours of shelling.

1864 – Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest (future Ku Klux Klan founder) captures Fort Pillow, Tennessee, during the Civil War and slaughters black Union soldiers.


1877 – A catcher’s mask is first used in a baseball game by James Alexander Tyng.

1892 – George C. Blickensderfer of Erie, Pennsylvania, patents the portable typewriter. No examples of the typewriter are known to exist.

1938 – The first U.S. law requiring medical tests (for syphilis) to obtain marriage licenses is passed in New York.

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 becomes president.

1954 – Bill Haley & the Comets record “Rock Around Clock.” The song reaches #1 on the Billboard Chart, stays there for 8 weeks, and remains on the Top 40 chart for 24 weeks.

1961 – Douglas MacArthur declines an offer to become the baseball commissioner.

1981 – The first space shuttle (Columbia STS-1) is launched on its maiden voyage. It lands safely on the 14th after orbiting the earth 37 times. John Young and Robert Crippen are the first space shuttle astronauts. Watch the NASA launch at:

1987 – Texaco files Chapter 11 bankruptcy after it fails to settle a legal dispute with Pennzoil.

1988 – Sonny Bono is elected mayor of Palm Springs. California. The former Sonny & Cher singer is elected to Congress in 1994. Sonny died in a skiing accident in 1998 at age 62.

2009 – The U.S. Navy rescues Richard Phillips, captain of the Maersk Alabama, killing three Somali hijackers and capturing a fourth.