This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history
is the most important of all the lessons of history.” Aldous Huxley
Week of Dec. 30, 2019-Jan 5, 2020
1903 – An electric arc lamp sets fire to the Iroquois Theater in Chicago, leaving 602 people dead in the deadliest single-building blaze in American history.
1907 – Abraham Mills, head of the Mills commission, declares that Abner Doubleday invented baseball. The Commission was charged with settling a dispute over whether baseball evolved from the British game of Rounders or, as Albert Spalding contended, was invented in America.
1924 – Edwin Hubble announces the existence of other galactic systems after he views the spiral nebula Andromeda through a telescope. The space telescope, named for Hubble, was launched in April 1990. Hubble died in 1953 at age 63.
1953 – The first color television sets, made by RCA, go on sale for about $1,175 each.
1968 – Frank Sinatra first records the song “My Way.” The lyrics were written by Paul Anka. Watch Sinatra sing his signature song live:
1988 – Oliver North subpoenas President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George Bush as defense witnesses for his upcoming Iran-Contra trial. Reagan testified in February 1990. North was convicted on three of 16 felony counts, but his conviction was vacated on appeal in 1990.
2003 – Attorney General John Ashcroft recuses himself and his office from the Valerie Plame affair. Plame was a CIA employee and wife of the former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Robert Novak wrote a newspaper column about whether false information provided by Plame was used to justify the Iraq war during the Bush administration.
1879 – The cornerstone is laid for Iolani Palace in Hawaii, the only royal palace in the U.S. It was used as the royal Hawaiian residence until the monarchy was overthrown in 1893. Hawaii became a state in 1959. The palace was used as the state capital building until 1969 and opened as a museum in 1978.
1890 – Ellis Island in New York opens as a U.S. immigration depot.
1904 – The first New Year’s Eve celebration is held in Times Square, known as Longacre Square, in New York City.
1907 – For the first time the ball drops at Times Square to signal the start of a new year. The first New Year’s Eve ball, made of iron and wood, was adorned with one hundred 25-watt light bulbs, is 5 feet in diameter, and weighed 700 pounds. It has been lowered every year since, except for 1942 and 1943.
1935 – Charles Darrow patents the board game Monopoly. Parker Brothers negotiated the rights to mass-produce the game, making Darrow the first game designer to be a millionaire. Darrow is better known as the defense attorney for the teacher in the Scopes Monkey Trial and in the Leopold and Loeb murder trial. Darrow died in 1967 at age 78.
1940 – The first monthly U.S. social security payment is made to Ida May Fuller of Vermont for $22.54. She collected social security payments until her death in 1975 at age 100.
1961 – The Marshall Plan (the European Recovery Program) expires after more than $12 billion was distributed to European countries recovering from WWII.
1967 – In the “Ice Bowl,” the Packers beat the Cowboys 21-17 in the NFL championship game. The temperature of -13°F made it the coldest game on record.
1974 – The ban on “hoarding” gold in the U.S. ends. In 1933, President FDR signed Executive Order 6102 making it illegal to own gold, except in small amounts or in the form of gold coins or certificates. Gold was turned over to the Federal Reserve in exchange for $20.67 per troy ounce.
1999 – The U.S. turns over control of Panama Canal to Panama during the Carter administration. The U.S. built the Canal from 1903 to 1914.
2007 – The Central Artery/ Tunnel Project, known as the “Big Dig,” is completed in Boston, Massachusetts. It was the most expensive highway project in U.S. history, costing more than $14 billion. The project was scheduled for completion in 1998 at a cost of less than $3 billion. Watch a CBS This Morning report on the dig:
January 1 – Happy New Year!
1788 – Quakers in Pennsylvania emancipate their slaves.
1808 – Congress prohibits the importation of slaves.
1861 – President Lincoln declares slavery in the Confederate states unlawful via the Emancipation Proclamation.
1886 – The first Tournament of Roses Parade is held in Pasadena, California. The parade was the promotional brainchild of Pasadena’s distinguished Valley Hunt Club.
1902 – The first Rose Bowl football game in played in Pasadena, California. The University of Michigan defeated Stanford University 49-0.
1942 – The Rose Bowl football game is played in North Carolina instead of California after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor three weeks earlier. Oregon beat Duke 20-16. It was the only time the Rose Bowl was not played in Pasadena.
1958 – Johnny Cash plays his first of many free concerts behind bars at San Quentin Prison. Twenty-year-old inmate Merle Haggard was in the audience. Watch Johnny Cash sing at one of his San Quintin concerts:
1966 – All U.S. cigarette packs have to carry the warning “Caution Cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health.”
1971 – Cigarette advertisements are banned on TV.
1976 – The Liberty Bell moves to its new home behind Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for the U.S. bicentennial.
1985 – The Internet’s Domain Name System is created when a Scandinavian research collaboration creates the domain name Nordu.net, which was never registered. The first registered domain name was Symbolics.com, a computer systems company.
2002 – The Open Skies Treaty, a mutual surveillance treaty, officially goes into effect. It was initially signed in 1992 by 34 countries, including the U.S., to promote openness and transparency of military forces and activities.
1811 – U.S. Senator Timothy Pickering is the first senator to be censured. He revealed confidential documents communicated from President Taft to the Senate.
1903 – President Theodore Roosevelt shuts down a post office in Indianola, Mississippi, for refusing to accept its appointed postmistress because she’s black.
1932 – The Young Brothers (Paul, Harry, and Jennings) kill six police officers in a shootout near Springfield, Missouri. It was the worst single killing of U.S. law enforcement officers in the 20th Century. Harry and Jennings were tracked down in Texas after a national manhunt and died in what is believed to be a murder-suicide. Watch a modern news report about the massacre:
1942 – The U.S. Navy opens a blimp base at Lakehurst, New Jersey. Although the crash of the Hindenburg over Lakehurst in 1937 ended commercial blimp travel the military continued to successfully use blimps until 1962.
1974 – President Richard Nixon imposes a National Maximum Speed Law of 55 MPH as part of the Emergency Highway Conservation Act. This was in response to the 1973 oil crisis. Congress repealed the national speed limit in 1995 and returns control to individual states.
1988 – Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and President Ronald Reagan sign a Canada-U.S. free trade agreement.
2017 – An attempt by Republicans to move the Office of Congressional Ethics under direct control of the House Ethics Committee was reversed less than 24 hours after the initial vote. The OCE was created in 2008 to review misconduct allegations against House members. The lengthy list of investigations can be found on the OCE’s website: List of OCE Investigations
1823 – Stephen F. Austin receives a grant of land from the government of Mexico and settles with his family in what is now Texas. He is considered the “Father of Texas.”
1920 – The New York Yankees purchase baseball player Herman “Babe” Ruth from the Boston Red Sox for $125,000. It was the largest sum paid for a single player to date. He led the Yankees to seven pennants and four World Series wins. Ruth retired from baseball with the Boston Braves in 1935. Ruth died in 1948 at age 53.
1929 – Twenty-seven-year-old William S. Paley becomes the founder and president of CBS-TV. In 1946, he named Frank Stanton to head CBS. Paley died in 1990 at age 89.
1938 – March of Dimes is founded by President FDR to fight polio. Entertainer Eddie Cantor coined the phrase March of Dimes and encouraged a national fundraising campaign the week preceding the president’s birthday on January 30th. More than $85,000 in dimes were mailed in letters to the White House.
1944 – World War II top flying ace Major Greg “Pappy” Boyington is shot down over the Pacific and captured by the Japanese. The Black Sheep Squadron leader was released after 20 months in captivity. Boyington was awarded the Medal of Honor by President F. D. Roosevelt while still a prisoner of war. He was presented with the Medal by President Truman the following October. Pappy died in 1988 at age 75.
1952 – Dragnet with Jack Webb premieres on NBC-TV. It started as a radio series in 1949, spawned three generations of TV series, and was made into movies in 1954, 1966 and 1987. Webb died in 1982 at age 62. Watch one of Webb’s classics speeches:
1977 – Apple Computer is incorporated.
1994 – The controversial 35-foot-tall statue of Chief Wahoo, the Cleveland Indians trademark which sat on top of their stadium since 1962, is taken down to be moved to the new stadium at Jacob’s Field. The Indians redesigned their uniforms and stopped using the logo for the 2019 season.
2005 – After hosting the show for over 30 years, Casey Kasem gives up hosting “American Top 40” to Ryan Seacrest. Kasem died in 2014 at age 82.
1847 – Samuel Colt sells his first revolver pistol, the Walker, to the U.S. government.
1893 – President Harrison grants amnesty to Mormon polygamists. Utah is admitted to the Union exactly three years later.
1936 – Billboard magazine publishes its first music Hit Parade. The first # 1 song in Billboard history was Joe Venuti, father of the jazz violin, performing “Stop, Look and Listen.” Listen to the recording:
1954 – Elvis Presley records a 10-minute demo tape in Nashville, Tennessee.
1970 – Walter Cronkite stops hosting his weekly documentary but continues reporting for the CBS Evening News. He retired from CBS in March 1981 because of their policy of mandatory retirement by age 65. Cronkite died in 2009 at age 92.
1995 – Newt Gingrich (R) becomes Speaker of the House. He resigned as Speaker in January 1999 after House Republicans had the worst performance in 64 years following the November 1998 mid-term elections.
2004 – NASA’s Mars Rover Spirit lands successfully on Mars. It was launched in June 2003. Communication with Spirit was lost in March 2010.
2007 – The 110th United States Congress convenes, electing Nancy Pelosi as the first female Speaker of the House in U.S. history.
1781 – A British naval expedition led by former American General and traitor Benedict Arnold burns Richmond, Virginia. Arnold joined the British Army after his unsuccessful plot to turn over West Point to the British. Arnold died in London in 1801 at age 60.
1836 – Davy Crockett arrives in Texas. Crocket served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1927 to 1935. After being defeated for reelection in 1934, he said, “I told the people of my district that I would serve them as faithfully as I had done; but if not, they might go to hell, and I would go to Texas.” He was killed on March 6th at age 49 defending the Alamo.
1914 – James Cox of Ford Motor Company announces wages will jump from $2.40/9-hour day to $5.00/8-hour day.
1959 – The “Bozo the Clown” live children’s show premieres on TV. The show survived in several forms, including “Bozo’s Big Top,” until 2001. One of the actors who portrayed Bozo was Willard Scott, who went on to be the first Ronald McDonald. Watch one of the early live TV shows:
1971 – The Harlem Globetrotters lose 99-100 to the New Jersey Reds, ending their 2,495-game winning streak. The Globetrotters have lost a total of six games against their opponents, usually The Generals.
1976 – The “MacNeil-Lehrer Report” premieres on PBS. Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer originally teamed up to cover the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaigns, formed to investigate Watergate. MacNeil is now 88 and Lehrer is 85 years of age.
1987 – The surrogate Baby M case begins in Hackensack, New Jersey. William and Elizabeth Stern entered into a surrogacy agreement with Mary Beth Whitehead. Whitehead changed her mind and took Baby M away from the Sterns. A New Jersey court awarded custody to the Sterns and Whitehead was given visitation rights. Baby M (Melissa Elizabeth Stern) is now 33 years old.
2002 – Fifteen-year-old student pilot Charles Bishop crashes a small plane into a building in Tampa, Florida. Bishop was about to begin a flying lesson when he took off without permission and without a flight instructor. He left a suicide note praising Osama bin Laden for the 9-11 attacks. Bishop died on impact.
Image from: cbsnews.com