This Week in History: Dec. 4-10, 2023


This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann

“History is a vast early warning system.” Norman Cousins

Dec. 4-10, 2023

December 4

1872 – The American merchant ship Mary Celeste is discovered mysteriously abandoned in the Atlantic Ocean. There were no signs of foul play and her crew was never found.

1918 – President Wilson sails for the Versailles Peace Conference in France at the end of World War I, becoming the first chief executive to travel outside U.S. while in office. The Conference set the terms for peace.

1920 – In the first pro football playoff game, the Buffalo All-Americans beat the Canton Bulldogs 7-3 at the Polo Grounds. The undefeated Akron Pros go on to beat the Buffalo All-Americans.

1964 – Baseball approves a free-agent draft. Rick Monday was the first pick in the first free agent draft on June 8, 1965. Monday is most well-known for rescuing the American flag from fans trying to burn it during a 1976 game at Dodger Stadium. Watch the heroic incident with player interviews.

1978 – Dianne Feinstein becomes San Francisco’s first woman mayor when she is named to replace Mayor George Moscone, who was murdered. Feinstein, who passed away in 2023 during her sixth term, was the oldest Senator at 89 years of age. She was also listed as the second-wealthiest Senator.

1991 – Pan American World Airways, founded in 1927, ceases operations. Pan Am was the largest U.S. international air carrier. Delta, founded in 1924, is the oldest airline company still operating in the U.S.

1998 – The Unity Module, the first U.S.-built module for the International Space Station, is launched on board the Space Shuttle Endeavor. The main construction of the ISS was completed in 2011. It has been continuously occupied since November 2000.

2017 – The Supreme Court allows President Trump’s travel ban for six mostly Muslim nations to go into effect.

December 5

1792 – George Washington is re-elected President, with John Adams as his Vice-President.

1848 – President Polk triggers the Gold Rush of ’49 when he confirms the discovery of gold in Sutter’s Mill, California. About 300,000 people went to California and extracted more than 750,000 pounds of gold.

1933 – The 21st Amendment is ratified as the only amendment adopted to repeal an earlier amendment (18th Amendment – Prohibition).

1945 – The “Lost Squadron” disappears east of Florida in the Bermuda Triangle. Five bombers of Flight 19 reported problems with their instruments. The search aircraft also disappeared, for a total loss of 27 men.

1955 – The AFL (founded in 1886) and CIO (founded in 1935) unions merge. The AFL-CIO represents 58 national and international unions with about 12.5 million active and retired members. Membership peaked in 1979 with 20 million members.

1964 – Captain Roger Donlon is awarded the first Medal of Honor of the Vietnam War for his heroism in battle earlier in the year. Watch Cpt. Donlon’s story in his own words.

1985 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average rises above 1,500 for the first time. It recently closed below 34,000. In contrast, the Dow closed at almost 37,000 in January.

1998 – James P. Hoffa becomes the president of the Teamsters union, 23 years after his father, Jimmy Hoffa, was the head of the Teamsters. His father disappeared in 1975 and is presumed dead.

2008 – OJ Simpson is sentenced to 33 years in prison for kidnapping and armed robbery. He was paroled in 2017 after serving 9 years.

December 6

1790 – Congress convenes in Philadelphia, the new temporary U.S. capital, after leaving New York City. Washington, DC became the permanent capital of the U.S. in 1800.

1884 – The construction of the Washington Monument is completed. The project took 34 years to build and was interrupted by financial problems and the Civil War. The marble used for upper two-thirds of the monuments came from a different quarry and is a different color.

1907 – A coal mine explosion in Monongah, West Virginia, kills 362 miners in the worst mine disaster in U.S. history. It was one of four deadly coal mine disasters in 1907.

1923 – President Calvin Coolidge makes the first presidential address on the radio. The broadcast to a joint session of Congress was the first of what is now known as the State of the Union Address.

1957 – The first U.S. attempt to launch a satellite fails when the Vanguard rocket blows up. Only 3 of the 11 Vanguard rockets were successfully placed in orbit from 1957 to 1959.

1964 – “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” a stop-action animation movie, airs for the first time on TV (and every year since). The title song was written by Johnny Marks and sung by country music legend Gene Autry. Listen to the iconic song with images from the movie.

1969 – About 300,000 people attend the Altamont Speedway Free Concert in California, four months after Woodstock. The rock concert, featuring the Rolling Stones, was marred by violence.

1994 – The Maltese Falcon is auctioned for $398,590. In 2013, it sold at auction for over $4 million, making it one of the most expensive movie props ever sold.

2006 – NASA announces that photographs taken by Mars Global Surveyor suggests the presence of liquid water on Mars.

December 7

1787 – Delaware becomes the first state to ratify the Constitution.

1891 – The 52nd Congress, the first Congress to appropriate $1 billion, holds its first session.

1925 – Swimmer Johnny Weissmuller sets a world record in the 150-yard freestyle with a time of 1 minute 25 seconds. He went on to play “Tarzan” in several movies. Weissmuller died in 1984 at age 79. Watch a 1974 interview with Weissmuller on how he became Tarzan.

1941 – The Japanese attack the U.S. at Pearl Harbor Naval Base, Hawaii, killing 2,403 people, on a date that will live in infamy.

1963 – Instant replay is used for the first time in the Army-Navy game. The system was invented by CBS Sports Director Tony Verna and weighed 1,300 pounds.

1968 – Richard Dodd returns a library book his great-grandfather checked out in 1823. The fine was not levied, but it would have been $22,646. The book was “Medical Reports of the Effects of Water, Cold & Warm, Remedy in Fever & Febrile Diseases, Whether Applied to the Body or Used Internally” by James Currie.

1982 – Charlie Brooks Jr., a convicted murderer, becomes the first prisoner in the U.S. to be executed by lethal injection. He was executed at a prison in Huntsville, Texas.

1998 – Attorney General Janet Reno declines to seek an independent counsel investigation of President Bill Clinton over his 1996 campaign financing.

2005 – Rigoberto Alpizar, a passenger on American Airlines Flight 924 who claimed to have a bomb, is shot and killed by a team of U.S. federal air marshals at Miami International Airport.

December 8

1792 – South Carolina Delegate Henry Laurens is the first person to be cremated in the U.S.

1941 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivers his “Day of Infamy” speech to the U.S. Congress the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Watch the speech.

1953 – President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivers his “Atoms for Peace” speech to the U.N. General Assembly, spelling out the necessity of repurposing existing nuclear weapons technology to peaceful ends. It was seen as the inspiration for the creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency of 1956.

1963 – Frank Sinatra’s son is kidnapped. Frank Sinatra, Jr. was released two days later when his father paid a ransom of $240,000. Three kidnappers were caught, convicted, and sentenced for the kidnapping. Frank Sinatra, Jr. died in March of 2016 at age 72.

1966 – The U.S. and the USSR sign a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons in outer space.

1987 – President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev sign a treaty eliminating medium range nuclear missiles to “trust, but verify.”

1993 – President Clinton signs into law the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). President Trump replaced NAFTA in September 2018 with USMCA, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

2010 – SpaceX becomes the first privately held company to successfully launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft. In 2012, they became the first private company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station. To date, Space X has launched 192 rockets from the Falcon 9 fleet, including four launches in November.

December 9

1803 – Congress passes the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, directing Electors to vote for a President and for a Vice-President rather than for two choices for President. Previously, the presidential candidate who received the most votes became president and the candidate with the second-most votes became vice president.

1878 – Joseph Pulitzer buys the St. Louis Dispatch newspaper for $2,500 and merges it with the St. Louis Post, creating the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The first edition was published on December 12th and the newspaper is still in circulation.

1958 – Robert H.W. Welch Jr. and 11 other men meet in Indianapolis, Indiana, to form the anti-Communist John Birch Society. The organization was named for John Morrison Birch, a minister, missionary, and Air Force captain, who was killed by Chinese Communists at age 27 a few days after the end of WWII.

1978 – The first Women’s Professional Basketball League (WNBL) game is played. The Chicago Hustle defeated the Milwaukee Does 92-87. The league is disbanded in 1981. Watch the first slam dunk in a WNBL game.

2008 – Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, is arrested by federal officials for a number of alleged crimes including wire fraud, attempted extortion, conspiracy to solicit bribes, and others related to his attempt to sell the Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama’s election to the Presidency. Blago was sentenced in 2011 to 14 years in prison for corruption. Four of the 18 charges were overturned in July 2015 on appeal. In August 2016, a district judge ruled that the 14-year sentence would stand. President Trump commuted his sentence in 2020. Blago will be 66 years old tomorrow.

December 10

1690 – Massachusetts Bay becomes first American colonial government to issue paper money.

1869 – The Wyoming Territory is the first grant women the right to vote. Women did not get the right to vote nationally until the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1919.

1898 – The Spanish-American War formally ended with the Treaty of Paris. The U.S. acquired the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam.

1906 – President Theodore Roosevelt is the first American to be awarded a Nobel Prize. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

1931 – Jane Addams, social worker and founder of Hull House, is the first American woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Watch a film about Addams and Hull House.

1936 – Edward VIII abdicates the British throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. They were married the following year.

1964 – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Dr. King was assassinated April 4, 1968.

1974 – The joint U.S.-German Helios 1 spacecraft is launched. In February 1975 it came closer to the sun than any other previous spacecraft.

2016 – The Nobel Prize ceremony is held in Stockholm, Sweden, without Bob Dylan in attendance. Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature, but declined to attend the ceremony. He finally accepted the award in June of 2017.

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