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 5-11, 2019
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.
1921 – The cartoon “On the Road to Moscow” by Rollin Kirby is published in the New York World. It was the first cartoon to win a Pulitzer Prize.
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 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 51 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:
1946 – The U.S. officially submits to the jurisdiction of the World Court by accepting an optional clause in the Court’s statute. It gave the World Court compulsory jurisdiction over cases regarding interpretation of treaties, any question of international law, and any breach of international obligations. The U.S. is not a State Party in the International Criminal Court, founded in 2002.
1986 – William J. Schroeder dies after living 620 days with the Jarvik-7 man-made heart. He was the world’s longest surviving recipient of a permanent artificial heart to date. In March 1983, Dr. Barney Clark died 112 days after having the Jarvik-7 implanted.
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 land on Mars is the InSight, launched in May 2018. The planned landing date is November 26th.
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 agree to stop fighting in 1891 after 15 people are killed and many more are wounded, but bad feelings continue throughout the 20th Century. The ongoing grudge inspires the TV show “The Family Feud.” Descendants of both families appear on the show in 1979 where the show’s producers pay 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.
1963 – First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy has a daughter Arabella Kennedy, becoming the 1st First Lady since Frances Cleveland in 1893 to give birth while her husband is in office. Tragically, the Kennedy’s daughter was stillborn.
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.
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 ever 10,000 years.
1966 – NASA launches Lunar Orbiter 1, the first spacecraft to orbit the moon. It orbits the moon 577 times over 80 days, sending back photos of the moon and earth, 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 3 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. Watch a brief history of Alcatraz:
1984 – During a radio voice test President Reagan joked he “signed legislation that would outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in 5 minutes.” Listen to the radio bite:
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 42 million visitors annually, roughly eight times the population of Minnesota.
Image from worldhistory.us