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 8-14, 2019
1766 – The first fire escape is patented that uses a wicker basket on a pulley and chain.
1910 – The first auto race in the U.S. is run at the Los Angeles Motordrome. The roadway was wooden. The racetrack closed in 1913.
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 25, 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 68 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.
1954 – Bill Haley & the Comets record “Rock Around The Clock.” The song reached #1 on the Billboard Chart, stayed there for 8 weeks, and remained on the Top 40 chart for 24 weeks. Watch the band rock on Dick Clark’s Bandstand in 1960:
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.
1796 – The first elephant arrives in the U.S. from India. The 2-year-old Asian elephant was bought and transported to the U.S. at a cost of $450. It was taken on tour on the East Coast over the next 12 years. People were charged 25¢ to 50¢ to see it.
1860 – The first Pony Express reaches Sacramento, California, in just under 10 days. The Pony Express originated in St. Joseph, Missouri, and used a relay of about 180 young riders and over 400 horses while in operation to deliver mail. The Pony Express lasted about a year and a half, ending after the transcontinental telegraph was completed.
1883 – Alfred Packer is the first American convicted of cannibalism. He went on a gold prospecting expedition to Colorado in 1874 with five others and returned alone two months later. He claimed self-defense and that he consumed the men to survive. He was sentenced to 40 years, but was paroled after 18 years due to doubt about his guilt.
1902 – J. C. Penney opens his first store, called the “Golden Rule Store,” in Kemmerer, Wyoming. The first day’s sales were $33.41.
1934 – Congress passes the Johnson Debt Default Act, which prohibits future loans to countries that have preciously defaulted on U.S. loans.
1957 – Due to lack of funds, Saturday mail delivery in the U.S. is temporarily halted. Saturday mail delivery was restored the following week when Congress allocated $41 million to the Post Office.
1984 – Pete Rose becomes the first National League baseball player to get 4,000 hits in a career. American League player Ty Cobb, in 1927, was the only other player to get over 4,000 hits. Watch 42-year-old Charlie Hustle get his 4,000th hit:
2004 – Barry Bonds hits his 661st career home run, passing Willie Mays on the all-time home run list. Bonds ended his career with 762 home runs.
2011 – Former baseball player Barry Bonds is found guilty of obstruction of justice after a trial about his steroid use. Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s home run record in 2007, but his accomplishment is overshadowed by steroid use accusations.
1775 – The first abolitionist society in the U.S. organizes in Philadelphia.
1818 – The U.S. Medical Corps forms when physicians are recruited by the Medical Department of the Army, which is created by the Continental Congress.
1828 – Noah Webster registers his copyright for the publication of the first American dictionary.
1865 – President Abraham Lincoln is shot and mortally wounded by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater during the play “Our American Cousin” in Washington, DC after a plan to kidnap the president fails. Lincoln died 9 hours later. Booth escaped, but he was killed when the barn where he was hiding was set on fire and burned down.
1935 – The worst sandstorm in the U.S., known as Black Sunday, ravages the Midwest and creates the Dust Bowl. The drought and sandstorms continued until 1939. Watch a report with photographs of the sandstorm:
1971 – The Supreme Court upholds busing as a means of achieving racial desegregation.
1981 – The first Space Shuttle, Columbia STS-1, returns to Earth. Watch the historic landing:
2003 – The Human Genome Project is completed with 99% of the human genome sequenced to an accuracy of 99.99% with support from the U.S. Department of Energy. The project was started in 1987.
2009 – Georgetown University covers up its religious symbols at the request of the Obama administration before President Obama speaks at the university.
Image from gwu.edu