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
Aug 3-9, 2020
1777 – The first U.S. flag was officially flown during battle during the Siege of Fort Stanwix (aka Fort Schuyler), New York.
1882 – Congress passes the first law restricting immigration. It imposed a 50 cent head tax on non-citizens and restricted “criminals, the insane, or any person unable to take care of him or herself.”
1923 – Vice President Calvin Coolidge becomes our 30th president after the sudden and unexpected death of President Warren Harding following an apparent heart attack the day before.
1952 – Francis the Talking Mule (with Chill T. Wills providing the voice) is the mystery guest on the TV show “What’s My Line?” Francis (in reality a female mule named Molly) was the first recipient of the American Humane Association Annual Patsy Award in 1950. The award is given for an outstanding performance by an animal appearing in motion pictures. Watch the blindfolded “What’s My Line?” judges try to guess the mystery guest (starts at 15:08 of clip).
2004 – NASA launches the spacecraft Messenger. The 6 1/2 year journey was scheduled to arrive at the planet Mercury in March 2011. On April 30, 2015, Messenger crashed into the surface of Mercury after sending back more than 270,000 pictures.
1892 – The bodies of Andrew and Abby Borden are found in their house in Fall River, Massachusetts. Their daughter (Abby’s step-daughter), Sunday school teacher Lizzie Borden, was arrested for their murders a week later but subsequently acquitted. No one else was ever charged with the murders. Lizzie died in 1927 at age 66.
1922 – AT&T and Bell Systems recognizes the death of Alexander Graham Bell two days earlier by shutting down all of its switchboards and switching stations. The shutdown affected 13 million phones.
1958 – Billboard Magazine introduces its “Hot 100” chart, which is a barometer of the movement of potential hits. The first Number One song was Ricky Nelson’s “Poor Little Fool.” Listen to Nelson sing it, along with videos of his performances over the years.
1964 – The bodies of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James E. Chaney are discovered in an earthen Mississippi dam. In November the FBI accused 21 Mississippi men, including a county sheriff, of engineering a conspiracy to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney. When Mississippi officials refused to try any of the men for murder they were charged and convicted of civil rights violations. Seven were convicted, but none served more than 6 years. In 2005, 80-year-old Edgar Ray Killen was tried and convicted of three counts of manslaughter and sentenced to three consecutive terms of 20 years in prison. Killen died in 2018 at age 92 years old while still in prison.
1977 – President Jimmy Carter establishes the Department of Energy.
1987 – The Federal Communications Commission rescinds the 1949 Fairness Doctrine. The doctrine required that radio and TV stations present controversial issues in an “honest, equitable, and balanced” manner.
1988 – Congress votes to award $20,000 to each Japanese-American interned during WW II. President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act (H.R. 442) on August 10th. Rev. Mamoru Eto of Los Angeles, age 107, was the first to receive a check on October 9, 1990.
2015 – Muppets Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog announce on Twitter the end of their relationship. Watch a post-break up interview with the famous Muppets.
1861 – The U.S. levies its first Income Tax (3% of incomes over $800).
1864 – Admiral David Farragut orders, during the Battle of Mobile Bay, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”
1884 – The cornerstone for the Statue of Liberty is laid on Bedloe’s Island in New York City. The Statue of Liberty, a gift from France, was dedicated in 1886.
1914 – The first traffic light in the U.S. is installed on Euclid Ave and East 105th Street in Cleveland, Ohio. The traffic signal had only a red and green light and a buzzer that was operated by a traffic officer on the corner. British railway signal engineer J.P. Knight invented the traffic light in 1868. Black American inventor Garrett Morgan is credited with adding the yellow warning light in 1923.
1985 – The establishment of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is announced. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum opened in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1995. The first inductees included Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, The Everly Brothers, Alan Freed, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, and 10 others. Watch a video montage of artists and the museum.
1997 – Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of world trade center bombing, goes on trial. He was convicted in 1998 and sentenced to 240 years in prison without parole. He is now 52 years old.
2012 – General Motors (Chevrolet) signs a record breaking seven-year $559 million marketing deal with Manchester (England) United soccer team. In 2008, the Bush administration authorized $13 billion in loans to GM through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). In April and May 2009, the Obama administration provided another $6 billion. GM filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in June. The Obama administration provided a $30 billion debtor-in-possession loan. In July 2009, GM exited bankruptcy and in 2010 GM made its final repayment, with the government still holding 61 percent in GM stocks. In December 2013, the last stocks were sold and the U.S. government no longer owns stock in GM. The government recovered only $70 billion of the $80 billion it lent to the GM and Chrysler in the TARP bailout.
1890 – The electric chair is first used in U.S. for execution on William Kemmler (aka John Hart) in New York, who was convicted of murder.
1890 – Cy Young pitches and wins his first game. He went on to play baseball for 22 seasons, setting the still unbroken records of most career wins and most complete games. Young died in 1955 at age 88. In 1956, baseball commissioner Ford Frick introduced the Cy Young Award, given every year to the best pitcher in each league.
1930 – Supreme Court Justice Joseph Force Crater disappears in New York City. He was declared legally dead in 1939. The case was officially closed in 1979 and remains unsolved. A letter found among the effects of a woman who died 2005 claimed her late police-officer husband and cab-diver brother-in-law murdered Crater and buried him under the Coney Island Boardwalk.
1945 – The U.S. drops the world’s first atom bomb (Little Boy) on Hiroshima, Japan. Watch a BBC documentary of the bombing and aftermath.
1996 – NASA announces the discovery of evidence of primitive life on Mars based on a meteorite found in Antarctica. The meteorite is believed to have come from Mars and contained a fossil.
2011 – A helicopter carrying 20 members of Navy SEAL Team 6 is shot down in Afghanistan, killing all 31 U.S. specials ops troops and 7 Afghan commandos. The death toll surpassed the worst single day loss of life for the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001. Members of SEAL Team 6 killed Osama bin Ladan three months earlier.
2012 – The Mars rover Curiosity lands on the floor of Gale Crater. The Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in November 2011. The most recent mission to Mars is the InSight. It launched in May 2018 and landed on Mars in November 2018.
1782 – George Washington creates the Order of the Purple Heart after the Continental Congress forbids Washington from granting soldiers commissions and promotions based on merit.
1882 – The Hatfields of West Virginia and the McCoys of Kentucky begin their infamous feud with the mortal wounding of Elliston Hatfield by three McCoy brothers in a dispute over a stolen pig. The families agreed to stop fighting in 1891 after 15 people were killed and many more were wounded, but bad feelings continued throughout the 20th Century. The ongoing grudge inspired the TV show “The Family Feud.” Descendants of both families appeared on the show in 1979 where the show’s producers paid each family the winner’s share to avoid renewing hostilities. Watch the fifth and final Family Feud game.
1912 – The Progressive (Bull Moose) Party nominates Theodore Roosevelt for president, who has already served as president 1901-1909. Woodrow Wilson won the 1912 election.
1964 – Congress passes the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which gives President Johnson broad powers in dealing with North Vietnamese attacks on American ships, without having to declare war. The resolution was repealed by President Nixon in January 1971.
2007 – Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants breaks baseball great Hank Aaron’s record by hitting his 756th home run. Watch the homer.
1894 – Will Kellogg accidentally invents the cereal Corn Flakes when he leaves cooked wheat set out at the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan. When the wheat was processed through the rollers it came out in flakes, and was then served to patients.
1918 – Alvin York is given command of troops when six U.S. soldiers are surrounded by Germans in France during World War I. York shot 20 Germans and captured 132 more. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and eight other American and European awards. Sergeant York was the most highly decorated soldier of WWI. York died in 1964 at age 76.
1945 – President Harry S. Truman signs the United Nations Charter. The U.N. came into existence on October 24, 1945, after it was ratified by a majority of member nations. The U.N. headquarters building in New York City was completed in 1952.
1973 – Vice President Spiro T. Agnew says the reports that he took kickbacks from government contracts in Maryland are “damned lies” and he vows not to resign. Agnew resigned on October 10, 1973.
1992 – The “Dream Team” clinches the gold medal in basketball at the Barcelona Summer Olympics when the U.S. team beats Croatia 117-85. The Dream Team was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010. Watch a video of the best U.S. shots at the Olympics.
2000 – The Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley is raised to the surface after 136 years on the ocean floor off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. It was the first submarine to sink a ship during wartime. The sinking of the Federal warship USS Housatonic also resulted in the sinking of the Hunley due to its close proximity to the explosion. The Housatonic remains on the ocean floor.
1790 – The three-masted sailing ship Columbia under the command of Captain Robert Gray returns to Boston after a 3-year journey, becoming the first ship to carry the U. S. flag around the world.
1936 – Jesse Owens wins his 4th and final gold medal at the Berlin Summer Olympics. President Roosevelt never invited Owens to the White House because he was running for re-election.
1944 – The Forest Service and Wartime Advertising Council create “Smokey the Bear” to curb forest fires and conserve resources. A bear cub was rescued during a 1950 New Mexico fire, sent to the National Zoo in Washington, and became the living symbol of Smokey the Bear. Smokey died in 1976 and is buried in New Mexico. Watch an early public service ad.
1945 – The U.S. drops its second atomic bomb (Fat Man) on Nagasaki, Japan. The following day the Japanese government announced Japan will surrender. The only condition was that the status of Emperor Hirohito will remain unchanged. Japan signed the surrender on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2nd.
1969 – The Manson family commits the Tate-LaBianca murders. Charles Manson’s followers murdered pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others in her home, and then murdered Leno and Rosemary LaBianca the next day. Manson and four of his followers were convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The sentences were commuted to life in prison by the California Supreme Court’s 1972 ruling in People vs. Anderson. Manson died in prison in 2018 at the age of 83.
1974 – Richard Nixon resigns the presidency. Vice President Gerald Ford became the president. Nixon selected Senator Gerald Ford as Vice President in 1973 after Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned. Ford is the only person to serve as both President and Vice President without having been elected to either office. Watch Nixon’s announcement from the White House.
1985 – Arthur J. Walker, a retired Navy officer, is found guilty of seven counts of spying for the Soviet Union. Walker made a plea deal requiring him to testify against his co-conspirator Jerry Whitworth in exchange for a lesser sentence for his son Michael, who was also involved in the spy ring. Arthur Walker and Whitworth were sentenced to life in prison. Michael Walker was sentenced to 25 years. Whitworth is still incarcerated. Michael was paroled in 2000. Arthur died in prison in 2014 at age 77.
2014 – Michael Brown, 18, is shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, after robbing and assaulting a store clerk. The St. Louis County prosecutor announced last week that charges would not be brought against the police officer in Brown’s death.
Image from: nationalzoo.si.edu