This Week In History, December 30 – January 5


by Dianne Hermann

“The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.”
– Winston Churchill

Week of December 30-January 5, 2014

December 30

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 launches in April 1990.

1953 – The first NTSC color television sets go on sale for about $1,175 each by RCA.

1963 – Let’s Make A Deal debuts on NBC-TV and is still on the air. Its first host is co-creator Monty Hall, who is now 92 years old.


1985 – IBM releases its PC DOS Version 3.2.

2003 – U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft recuses himself and his office from the Valerie Plame affair. She is 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.

December 31

1879 – The cornerstone is laid for Iolani Palace in Hawaii, the only royal palace in the U.S. It is used as the royal Hawaiian residence until the monarchy is overthrown in 1893. It is used as the capital building until 1969 and opens as a museum in 1978.


1879 – Thomas Edison gives his first public demonstration of his incandescent lamp.

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, then called Longacre Square, in New York City, New York.

1907 – For the first time a ball drops at Times Square to signal the start of a new year.

1935 – Charles Darrow patents the board game Monopoly. Parker Brothers negotiates the rights to mass-produce the game, making Darrow the first game designer to be a millionaire. Darrow died in 1967 at age 78.

1946 – President Harry Truman officially proclaims the end of World War II.

1961 – The Marshall Plan (the European Recovery Program) expires after distributing more than $12 billion to European countries recovering from WWII.

1990 – The Sci-Fi Channel begins transmitting on cable TV.

1995 – Cartoonist Bill Watterson ends his Calvin & Hobbes comic strip after 10 years.

2007 – The Central Artery/ Tunnel Project, known as the “Big Dig,” is completed in Boston, Massachusetts. It is the most expensive highway project in U.S. history, costing more than $14 billion. The project was scheduled to be completed in 1998 at a cost of less than $3 billion.



January 1

1788 – Quakers in Pennsylvania emancipate their slaves.

1808 – Congress prohibits the importation of slaves.

1840 – The first recorded bowling match in the U.S. is held at Knickerbocker Alleys in New York City.

1861 – President Lincoln declares slavery in the Confederate states unlawful via the Emancipation Proclamation.

1863 – The first homestead under the Homestead Act is claimed near Beatrice, Nebraska.

1886 – The first Tournament of Roses Parade is held in Pasadena, California. The parade is 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 defeats Stanford University 49-0.

1912 – The first running of San Francisco’s famed “Bay to Breakers” race is held (7.63 miles/12.3 km).

1919 – Edsel Ford succeeds his father, Henry Ford, as president of the Ford Motor Company.


1928 – The first air-conditioned office building in the U.S. opens in San Antonio, Texas.

1934 – Alcatraz in the San Francisco bay officially becomes a federal prison.


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 beats Duke 20-16. It is the only time the Rose Bowl is not played in Pasadena.

1960 – Johnny Cash plays his first of many free concerts behind bars at San Quentin Prison. Twenty-year-old inmate Merle Haggard is in the audience.

1976 – The Liberty Bell moves to its new home behind Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


1995 – The last Far Side cartoon by cartoonist Gary Larson is published. It started in 1980.


January 2

1811 – U.S. Senator Timothy Pickering is the first senator to be censured. He revealed confidential documents communicated from the President to the Senate.


1903 – President Theodore Roosevelt shuts down a post office in Indianola, Mississippi, for refusing to accept its appointed postmistress because she is black.

1932 – The Young Brothers (Paul, Harry, and Jennings) kill six police officers in a shootout near Springfield, Missouri. It is the worst single killing of U.S. law enforcement officers in the 20th Century.


1942 – The United States 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.

1975 – U.S. Department of Interior designates the grizzly bear a threatened species. In 2007 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removes the grizzly from the Threatened and Protected Species list. After several environmental groups file suit U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy reinstates the grizzly bear on the list.


January 3

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.”


1870 – Construction begins on Brooklyn Bridge in New York. It is completed on May 24, 1883.

1920 – The New York Yankees purchase baseball player Herman “Babe” Ruth from the Boston Red Sox for $125,000. It is the largest sum paid for a single player to date. He leads the Yankees to seven pennants and four World Series wins. Ruth retires from baseball with the Boston Braves in 1935. Ruth died in 1948 at age 53.

1929 – Twenty-seven-year-old William S. Paley becomes founder and president of CBS-TV. In 1946 he names Frank Stanton to head CBS. Paley died in 1990 at age 89.

1933 – Minnie D. Craig is elected as Speaker of the North Dakota House of Representatives. Craig is the first female to hold a Speaker position anywhere in the United States.

1938 – March of Dimes is established to fight polio.

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 is released after 20 months in captivity. Boyington is awarded the Medal of Honor by President F. D. Roosevelt. Pappy died in 1988 at age 75.


1952 – Dragnet with Jack Webb premieres on NBC-TV. It starts as a radio series in 1949, spawns three generations of TV series, and is made into movies in 1954, 1966 and 1987. Webb died in 1982 at age 62.


1987 – The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducts Aretha Franklin as its first female artist.


January 4

1847 – Samuel Colt sells his first revolver pistol, the Walker, to the United States government.


1863 – James Plimpton of New York patents the four-wheeled roller skates.


1935 – Bob Hope makes his debut on network radio as part of The Intimate Revue.

1936 – Billboard magazine publishes its first music hit parade.

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 retires from CBS in March 1981 because of their policy of mandatory retirement by age 65. Cronkite died in 2009 at age 92.


1999 – Former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura is sworn in as governor of Minnesota and serves one term.

2007 – The 110th United States Congress convenes, electing Nancy Pelosi as the first female Speaker of the House in U.S. history.


January 5

1781 – A British naval expedition led by former American General and traitor Benedict Arnold burns Richmond, Virginia.

1905 – The National Association of Audubon Society incorporates. William Dutcher serves as its first president.

1959 – The Bozo the Clown live children’s show premieres on TV. The show survives in several forms, including Bozo’s Big Top, until 2001. One of the actors who portrayed Bozo is Willard Scott, who went on to be the first Ronald McDonald.


1961 – The U.S. breaks diplomatic relations with Cuba.

1971 – The body of U.S. heavyweight boxer “Sonny” Liston is found in his Las Vegas home. It is estimated that he has been dead a week. He is approximately 38 years old since his actual date of birth is unknown. His death is ruled a heroin overdose but the cause of death is inconclusive.


1993 – The state of Washington executes Westley Allan Dodd by hanging (at his request) for multiple child murders. It is the first legal hanging in America since 1965.


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