This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall
possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in
need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.” Samuel Adams
August 9-15, 2021
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.
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.
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 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 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. 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 the history of Man O’ War and his progeny with actual 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.
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.
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, on August 6th and 9th respectively.
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, now formally called Liberia, is the oldest democratic republic in Africa.
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.
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.
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 quit the school after five days. The Citadel dropped its gender requirements for admission in July 1996 and admitted four women in August 1996. Shannon Faulkner Marshall is now 44 years old. Watch her interview with Oprah then and now.
2017 – A tweet by former president Obama becomes the most liked tweet in history. He tweeted, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion.”
Image from: telegraph.co.uk