This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“The most effective way to destroy people is to
deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
Week of August 6-12, 2018
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 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:
1844 – Brigham Young is chosen as the Mormon Church leader following the death of Joseph Smith. Smith and his brother Hyrum were murdered by a mob in a Carthage, Illinois, jail on June 27, 1944. Joseph Smith, mayor of Nauvoo, was awaiting trial for ordering the destruction of local newspaper critical of Mormon Church leaders. Smith was running for President of the U.S. at the time of his death. He was 69 years old. Five defendants charged with the murders were all acquitted.
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 10 top U.S. plays 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.
1977 – “Son of Sam” killer David Berkowitz is arrested for six shooting deaths in New York. Berkowitz shot a total of 13 people. He was arrested 11 days after his last murder when a witness noticed the killer’s car has a parking ticket on the windshield. Berkowitz was sentenced to 25 years-to-life for each of the six murder and was denied parole in 2016 for the 8th time. On July 10, 1979, a fellow inmate slashed Berkowitz’s throat, a cut that required 60 stitches. He is now 65 years old.
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.
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.
Images from worldhistory.us