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 August 12-18, 2019
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 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.
1927 – The movie “Wings” opens starring Clara Bow. It was the only silent film to win an Oscar for best picture. Watch the movie trailer with voice over:
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 following a Supreme Court decision. 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.
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” is derailed 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.
1963 – Federal custom agents confiscate 21 gold coins from the Witte Museum in San Antonio, Texas. Executive Order 6102, signed by President FDR in 1933, prohibited the “hoarding” of gold coins, bullion, and certificates in the U.S.
1993 – The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals rules, subsequent to Armstrong vs. 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.
1911 – Senate leaders begin rotating the office of President pro tempore of the Senate among leading candidates to fill the vacancy left by the death William P. Frye.
1935 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act into law, creating unemployment insurance and pension plans for the elderly.
1936 – Rainey Bethea is hanged in Owensboro, Kentucky, in the last public execution in the U.S. Bethea was convicted of rape and murder based on his fingerprints, a new identification technique.
1941 – President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill issue the joint declaration that later becomes known as the Atlantic Charter. Although not a treaty, it was an affirmation “of certain common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they based their hopes for a better future for the world.” Watch a Discovery video with actual footage:
1945 – In what is called V-J Day, Japan surrenders unconditionally to end World War II after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
1966 – The first U.S. lunar spacecraft, Lunar Orbiter 1, begins orbiting the Moon. It crashed on the far side of the moon on October 29th after 577 moon orbits.
1974 – Congress authorizes U.S. citizens to own gold again. The Gold Reserve Act of January 1934 outlawed most private possession of gold.
2015 – Patrick Hardison receives the most extensive full face transplant surgery ever performed. The surgery was done by Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez at New York University Langone Medical Center. Hardison was a volunteer firefighter who was severely burned in a 2001 fire. Watch a graphic documentary by the Medical Center:
1635 – The first recorded hurricane in the U.S. hits the Plymouth Colony.
1824 – Freed American slaves form the country of Christopolis in Africa. The settlement was renamed Monrovia after the American president James Monroe. It claimed its independence in 1847. The colony is now formally called Liberia and is the oldest democratic republic in Africa.
1877 – Thomas Edison writes to the president of the Telegraph Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The letter stated that the greeting “hello” would be a more appropriate greeting than “ahoy” when answering the telephone.
1914 – The Panama Canal opens to trans-oceanic traffic. Work began on the canal in 1904. The grand opening procession that was planned was cancelled after the outbreak of World War I. In 1977, President Carter signed the Panama Canal Treaty, which returned control of the canal to Panama in 1999.
1935 – Will Rogers and Wiley Post are killed in a plane crash in Alaska. Rogers was 55 and Post, one of America’s greatest aviation pioneers, just 36.
1969 – Woodstock Music & Art Fair opens in New York State on Max Yasgur’s 600-acre Dairy Farm. Thirty-two musical acts performed at the outdoor concert. The fair closed with Jimi Hendrix as the final act. An estimated 400,000 people attended the 3-day event. Watch Max welcome the crowd:
1970 – Patricia Palinkas becomes the first woman professional football player. She was the holder for the Orlando Panthers in the Atlantic Coast Football League.
1971 – President Nixon announces a 90-day freeze on wages, prices, and rents in an attempt to counter high inflation.
1995 – Shannon Faulkner becomes the first female cadet in the history of The Citadel, South Carolina’s state military college when she won her battle for admission in a Supreme Court decision. She quits the school after five days. The Citadel drops its gender requirements for admission in July 1996 and admits four women in August 1996. Shannon Faulkner Marshall is now 42 years old. Watch her interview with Oprah then and now:
1829 – Conjoined twin brothers Chang and Eng Bunker of Siam arrive in Boston to be exhibited in the circus. The Siamese twins married two sisters in 1843 and had 21 children between them. The twins died on the same day in 1874 at age 62.
1863 – President Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation.
1898 – Edwin Prescott patents the “Loop-the-Loop” roller coaster. The first roller coaster in the U.S., however, is built by L. A. Thompson and opened at Coney Island, New York, in June of 1884. It was based on railway designs.
1920 – Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians is hit in the head by a pitch from New York Yankees pitcher Carl Mays. Chapman died the next day and was the only major league baseball player game fatality.
1949 – During the Truman Administration, U.S. General Omar Bradley becomes the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On September 22, 1950, Congress officially promoted Bradley to General of the Army with five stars. He was the last officer promoted to that rank, and the only one since World War II.
1954 – “Sports Illustrated” publishes its first magazine. Milwaukee Braves baseball player Eddie Mathews was on the cover.
1960 – Joseph Kittinger, Jr. sets the free-fall world record from 19 ½ miles. He fell more than 16 miles (over 102,000 feet) before opening his parachute over New Mexico. In 2012, Kittinger served as the capsule communicator for Felix Baumgartner’s record-setting free-fall from 24 miles. Kittinger is now 91 years old. Watch a news report of Kittinger jump:
2003 – Representative Bill Janklow (R-SD) runs a stop sign and hits and kills a motorcyclist at a rural intersection near Trent, South Dakota. He was eventually convicted of manslaughter and resigned from Congress in January 2004. Janklow died of brain cancer in 2012 at age 72.
1859 – The first airmail flight takes off from Lafayette, Indiana, in a hot air balloon.
1903 – Journalist and publisher Joseph Pulitzer donates $1 million to Columbia University to begin the Pulitzer Prizes. The first Pulitzer Prizes were awarded in 1917 to Herbert Bayard Swope of the New York World newspaper for his articles entitled “Inside the German Empire” and the biography Julia Ward Howe by Laura E. Richards and Maude Howe Elliott. The New York Tribune received an award for an editorial on the first anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania.
1945 – At the end of World War II North and South Korea are divided along the 38th parallel. The U.S. occupied the area south of the 38th parallel and the Soviet Union occupied the area north of the parallel.
1958 – The U.S. attempts to launch the world’s first Moon probe, Thor-Able, which fails when it explodes at T+77 seconds (77 seconds after takeoff).
1960 – The U-2 spy trial of downed American pilot Francis Gary Powers begins in Moscow. Powers pleaded guilty to espionage and was sentenced to three years in prison and seven years hard labor. He served 21 months and was exchanged for convicted KGB spy Rudolph Abel in February 1962, who served 4 years of his 45-year sentence. Watch a report including interviews with Powers:
1992 – Actor Woody Allen admits to being romantically involved with 21-year-old Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of Mia Farrow, who is Allen’s longtime companion. Allen and Previn were married in 1997 and are still married. Allen is now 83 and Previn is 48 years old.
1996 – Ross Perot is announced as the Reform Party’s first-ever presidential candidate. He garnered 19 percent of the popular vote in the November election.
1998 – President Bill Clinton admits in taped testimony that he had an “improper physical relationship” with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. He admitted before the nation that he “misled people” about his relationship with her. Watch Clinton’s public mea culpa:
1735 – The Boston Evening Post newspaper begins publishing in Boston, Massachusetts. It is among the oldest newspapers published in America. The last issue is published in April of 1775.
1872 – Aaron Montgomery Ward issues the first mail-order catalog from his Chicago-based company. It offered 163 products. In 1875, Ward announced his products come with “satisfaction guaranteed.” All Montgomery Ward stores were closed by 2001, but it was relaunched as an online business in 2004.
1914 – President Woodrow Wilson issues The “Proclamation of Neutrality.” Wilson declared that the U.S. would remain “impartial in thought as well as in action,” an attempt at keeping the U.S. out of World War I.
1920 – The 19th Amendment is ratified, giving women the right to vote. A women’s suffrage amendment was first introduced in the Senate in 1872 by Aaron Sargent (R-CA).
1956 – Elvis Presley’s double-sided record “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel” reach #1 and #2 on the music charts and stay there for over a year.
1982 – The New York Stock Exchange passes the 100 million mark for the first time when 132.69 million shares are traded.
1997 – Beth Ann Hogan becomes the first female coed in the Virginia Military Institute’s 158-year history. Hogan dropped out of VMI in January 1998.
2000 – A Federal jury finds the EPA guilty of discrimination against Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, later inspiring passage of the No FEAR Act. The No FEAR (Federal Antidiscrimination and Retaliation) Act is intended to reduce the incidence of workplace discrimination within the federal government by making agencies and departments more accountable.
2004 – Donald Trump re-releases his board game (TRUMP the Game) where players bid on real estate, buy big-ticket items, and make billion-dollar business deals. Watch the original 1989 commercial for the game featuring the future president:
Image from smithsonianmag.com