This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“History is a vast early warning system.” Norman Cousins
Aug 7-13, 2023
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 already served as president 1901-1909. Woodrow Wilson won the 1912 election.
1964 – Congress passes the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which gave 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 The resolution was repealed by President Nixon in January 1971.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 would surrender. The only condition was that the status of Emperor Hirohito 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 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.
2014 – Michael Brown, age 18, is shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, after robbing a store and assaulting the clerk. The St. Louis County prosecutor announced that charges would not be brought against the police officer in Brown’s death.
1831 – Former slave Nat Turner leads a violent slave insurrection, killing 55 to 65 whites. Turner was captured two months later. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. Turner was hanged on November 11th. Between 100 and 200 slaves (guilty and innocent) were executed and lynched after the revolt.
1846 – Congress signs a charter establishing the Smithsonian Institution with a $500,000 donation from English scientist James Smithson. Childless, Smithson’s will specifies that if his nephew died without an heir that his fortune should go “to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Smithson died in 1829 and his nephew died without an heir in 1935.
1927 – Mount Rushmore was formally dedicated. The individual faces of the presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and T. Roosevelt) were dedicated later. The rate of erosion is about one inch every 10,000 years.
1966 – NASA launches Lunar Orbiter 1, the first spacecraft to orbit the moon. It orbited the moon 577 times over 80 days, sending back photos, including the first photo of the earth from the moon.
1994 – President Clinton claims presidential immunity when he asks a federal judge to dismiss, at least for the time being, a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Paula Corbin Jones. In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that a sitting president is not immune from civil law suits for acts done prior to taking office.
2006 – Scotland Yard disrupts a major terrorist plot to destroy aircraft travelling from the United Kingdom to the United States. As a result, all toiletries over three ounces were banned from commercial U.S. airplanes.
1860 – The first successful silver mill in the U.S. begins operating in Virginia City, Nevada.
1919 – The Green Bay Packers football team is founded by George Calhoun and Earl “Curly” Lambeau and is named after its sponsor, the Indian Packing Company. Lanbeau was the first Packers coach. The Packers won the first Super Bowl on January 15, 1967, in Los Angeles against the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10.
1934 – The first federal prisoners arrive at Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco Bay in California. Sixty special FBI agents, U.S. Marshals, and railway security officials escort the 137 handcuffed prisoners to The Rock. Alcatraz closed as a prison in 1963 and is now open to tourists. Watch a brief history of Alcatraz.
1965 – The Watts Riots in Los Angeles begin and lasts for six days. A black motorist, Marquette Frye, on parole for robbery was pulled over by police for reckless driving. A fight ensued and Frye was arrested for drunk driving. The riots resulted in 34 deaths and over $40 million in property damage. The National Guard was called in and helped suppress the riots.
1992 – The Mall of America opens in Bloomington, Minnesota, as the largest shopping mall in the U.S. It has almost 3 million square feet of retail space. It averages 40 million visitors annually, roughly eight times the population of Minnesota.
2008 – Airbnb, an online vacation rental marketplace, is founded in San Francisco.
1620 – The ships Mayflower and Speedwell arrive in Dartmouth, England, to repair leaks in the Speedwell. On September 6th the Mayflower headed for America alone when the Speedwell’s leaks could not be fixed. There is no record of the Speedwell ever setting sail again. The Mayflower voyage took 66 days.
1908 – Ford builds the first Model T automobile in Detroit, Michigan. It sold for $825. The last Model T was built in 1927. About 15 million “Tin Lizzies” were built.
1935 – George Herman “Babe” Ruth plays his final baseball game at Fenway Park with 41,766 fans in attendance. Ruth played for 22 season as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and outfielder for the New York Yankees. Ruth, who was diagnosed with cancer in 1946, died 1948 at age 53. He was one of the first patients treated with experimental drugs and radiation treatments simultaneously.
1970 – St. Louis Cardinal’s outfielder Curt Flood loses his antitrust lawsuit against baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn following a 5-3 Supreme Court decision (Flood v. Kuhn). He claimed baseball effectively bound a player and his contract to a team for life. In December 1975, baseball players finally won the right to free agency. Pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter signed the first free-agent contract.
1981 – IBM unveils its first PC (personal computer). It sold for $1,565. Watch an early IBM commercial.
2013 – According to a U.S. Treasury report, only 65 percent of the nearly $80 billion that President Obama unilaterally diverted from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to bail out the auto industry had been recovered. Congress excluded the auto industry from the TARP bill in 2008.
1889 – William Gray patents the coin-operated telephone. He installed the first phone at a bank in Hartford, Connecticut, as a post-pay phone. The first pre-pay phone was installed in Chicago in 1898. By 1902, there were 81,000 pay telephones in use in the U.S. At the peak in 1995, there were 2.6 million payphones in the U.S. There are currently an estimated 100,000 pay phones in the U.S., with about one-fifth located in New York.
1919 – The racehorse Man o’ War suffers the only defeat of his career by the ironically named horse Upset at Saratoga, New York. Man o’ War retired to stud in 1920 and foaled many champions, including the 1937 Triple Crown winner War Admiral. Watch Man o’ War in a 1920 match race against Sir Barton with actual race footage.
1939 – The passenger train “City of San Francisco” derails and falls into the Humboldt River in Elko, Nevada, killing 24 and injuring 121 passengers and crew. Sabotage was found to be the cause of the crash when the investigation showed the tracks were moved and the track circuits were bypassed. No one was ever arrested, in spite of a $10,000 reward, and the case remains unsolved.
1993 – The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals rules, subsequent to Armstrong v. The Executive Office following a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, that the White House, specifically, and government agencies, in general, must preserve all their e-mail messages under the Federal Records Act (FRA) of 1950 since they are deemed official records. In 1989, Scott Armstrong, executive director of the National Security Archive, filed a FOIA request for the contents of the White House electronic mail and records system to be reviewed before disposition. Armstrong sought and received an injunction prohibiting the destruction of backup tapes after repeated attempts to secure the records failed.
2016 – Michael Phelps closes his Rio Olympics swimming career with a record 23 gold medals.
Image from: Britanica.com