This Week in History, December 7-13, 2015


This Week In History

by Dianne Hermann


“Educate and inform the whole mass of the people.

They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”

– Thomas Jefferson




Week of December 7-13, 2015




December 7


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


1796 – John Adams is elected to be the second president of the U.S.


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


1927 – The Harlem Globetrotters play their first basketball game.


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


1945 – The microwave oven is patented. It is first sold under the name Radarange in 1947.


1946 – A fire at the Winecoff Hotel in Atlanta kills 119 people and injures 62 others. It is America’s worst hotel fire disaster. The hotel founder, W. Frank Winecoff, is also killed in the fire. Watch a report about the fire, including eye witness interviews


1968 – Richard Dodd returns a library book his great-grandfather checked out in 1823. The fine is not levied, but it would have been $22,646. The book is “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.


1972 – The Apollo 17, the final manned lunar landing mission and the last of Apollo Moon series, launches.


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


1987 – Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev arrives in American soil for the first time for a Washington summit with President Reagan.


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 allegedly 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.


1886 – The American Federation of Labor (AFL) is formed by 26 craft unions. Samuel Gompers is elected the first AFL president.


1902 – Civil war veteran Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. becomes an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court and serves until 1931. Holmes died in 1935 at age 93.


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, which includes the text, a


1952 – TV has its first acknowledgement of pregnancy when it is announces on “I Love Lucy” that Lucy is “enceinte” (French for expecting). The episode when Lucy gives birth airs on January 19, 1953, to coincide with Lucille Ball’s real-life delivery of Desi Arnez, Jr. by Caesarean section. This episode is watched by more people than any other TV program up to that time. Watch the hilarious announcement at:


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 is seen as the inspiration for the creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency of 1956. Watch the speech, which includes the text, at:


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.


1998 – The Supreme Court rules that police cannot search people or their cars after ticketing for a routine traffic violation.


2000 – Mario Lemieux, owner of the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins, announces that he plans to return to the team as a player at age 35 after cancer treatments.


2009 – The video game Angry Birds is released.



December 9


1793 – Noah Webster establishes “American Minerva,” New York’s first daily newspaper.


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.


1875 – The Massachusetts Rifle Association, America’s Oldest Active Gun Club, is founded.


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 is published on December 12th and the newspaper is still in circulation.


1907 – The first Christmas Seals are sold at a Wilmington, Delaware, post office.


1926 – The USGA legalizes steel shaft golf clubs.


1935 – Jay Berwanger is the first recipient of the college football’s Heisman Trophy.


1940 – The Longines Watch Company signs up for the first FM radio advertising contract with the experimental station W2XOR in New York City.


1958 – Robert H.W. Welch Jr. and 11 other men meet in Indianapolis, Indiana, to form the anti-Communist John Birch Society.


1963 – Frank Sinatra, Jr., age 19, is kidnapped. (See Dec. 12, 1963)


1965 – “A Charlie Brown Christmas” premieres on TV.


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


1990 – The first of the American hostages to be released by Iraq begin arriving in the U.S.


2008 – The Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, is arrested by federal officials for a number of alleged crimes including attempting to sell the United States Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama’s election to the Presidency. Blago is sentenced in 2011 to 14 years in prison for corruption. Blago will be 59 years old tomorrow.



December 10


1690 – The Massachusetts Bay Colony becomes the first American colonial government to borrow money.


1869 – The Wyoming Territory is the first to grant women’s suffrage (right to vote).


1898 – The Spanish-American War between Spain and the U.S. ends with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. The U.S. acquires Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam.


1906 – President Theodore Roosevelt becomes the first American to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.


1911 – Calbraith Rodgers completes the first crossing of U.S. by airplane. It takes 84 days. He took flying lessons from the Wright brothers. Rodgers dies in 1912 at age 33 in a plane crash during an exhibition flight in California.


1915 – The 10 millionth model T Ford is assembled.


1920 – President Woodrow Wilson receives Nobel Peace Prize.


1927 – The Grand Ole Opry makes its first radio broadcast in Nashville, Tennessee. It is the longest running live radio show.


1931 – Social Worker Jane Addams, Chicago’s Hull House founder, is the first U.S. woman named the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. She is in the hospital following a heart attack when the prize is awarded. She died in 1934 at age 74.


1936 – King Edward VIII signs the Instrument of Abdication, giving up the British throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.


1950 – Ralph J. Bunche is the first black American presented with the Nobel Peace Prize.


1963 – Six-year-old Donny Osmond makes his singing debut on the Andy Williams Show. Watch his performance at


1964 – The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


1971 – William H. Rehnquist is confirmed as a Supreme Court justice during the Nixon administration. He is elevated to Chief Justice by President Reagan in 1986. Rehnquist serves until his death in 1995 at age 80.


1985 – A bill to balance the federal budget is passed by Congress. The Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 is better known as “Gramm-Rudman-Hollings.” President Reagan signs the bill. In 1986 the Supreme Court rules the Act is unconstitutional on the grounds that the sequestration process gives Congress undue budgetary power. A new Act is passed in 1987.


1991 – Chinese-born architect IM Pei receives $5 million for his design of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Pei is now 98 years old.


2013 – Mary Barra of General Motors becomes the first female CEO of a major automotive company



December 11


1620 – One hundred three Mayflower pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock.


1872 – Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback, the first black U.S. governor, takes office in Louisiana.


1882 – Boston’s Bijou Theatre is the first American playhouse lit exclusively by electricity. The first performance is Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic opera “Iolanthe.”


1928 – National League Baseball President John Heydler proposes using designated hitters for pitchers, although he is not the first to propose the idea. In 1969 spring training both the American League and National League agreed to try the designated pinch hitter (DPH), but they did not agree on the implementation. The AL agrees to use the DPH in 1973.


1930 – The Bank of the United States in New York City closes after an estimated 2,500-3,000 depositors withdraw $2 million from the bank the day before. This run on the bank is seen as the beginning of the Great Depression.


1951 – Joe DiMaggio announces his retirement from baseball saying, “When baseball is no longer fun, it’s no longer a game, and so, I’ve played my last game.” He is best known for his 56-game hitting streak (May 15-July 16, 1941), a record that still stands. DiMaggio is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955.


1964 – Che Guevara speaks at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. An unknown terrorist fires a mortar shell at the building during the speech.


1972 – Astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt in Apollo 17 become the 11th and 12th (and last) men to walk on the Moon. Watch Gene Cernan hop on the moon at


1975 – First class postage stamps in the U.S. rise from 10 cents to 13 cents.


1981 – Muhammad Ali fights his last bout. He loses his 61st fight to Trevor Berbick.


1985 – The Dow Jones closes above 1,500 for the first time (1,511.70).


1991 – Salman Rushdie, under an Islamic death sentence for blasphemy after publishing “The Satanic Verses,” makes his first public appearance since 1989 at a New York dinner marking the 200th anniversary of the First Amendment (which guarantees freedom of speech in the U.S.).


2008 – Bernard Madoff is arrested and charged with securities fraud in a $50 billion Ponzi scheme. He is sentenced in 2009 to 150 years in prison.


2012 – HSBC (Swiss bank) settles with U.S. authorities to pay $1.9 billion for drug cartel money laundering.



December 12


1791 – The Bank of the United States, also known as the First Bank, opens for business in Philadelphia, PA.


1800 – Washington, DC is established as the permanent capital of the U.S.


1914 – The largest one-day percentage drop in the history of Dow Jones Industrial Average happens when the Dow drops 24.39 percent. The Dow closes at 54 points.


1917 – Father Edward Flanagan opens Boys Town in Nebraska. The farm village is for wayward boys. In 1979 it is opened to girls.


1925 – The “Motel Inn,” the first motel in the world, opens in San Luis Obispo, California.


1946 – Tide laundry detergent is introduced.


1953 – Chuck Yeager reaches Mach 2.43 in his Bell X-1A rocket plane (almost 2 ½ times the speed of sound).


1963 – Frank Sinatra, Jr. is released after being kidnapped when his famous father pays $240,000 in ransom. Barry Keenan, Johnny Irwin, and Joe Amsler are quickly caught, tried, and convicted of kidnapping. Although sentenced to long prison terms, Amsler and Irwin are released after 3 ½ years and Keenan, the mastermind, is released after 4 ½ years.


1968 – Arthur Ashe becomes the first black person to be ranked #1 in tennis.


1975 – Sara Jane Moore pleads guilty to a charge of trying to kill President Ford in San Francisco the previous September.


1980 – U.S. copyright law is amended to include computer programs.


1989 – Leona Helmsley, The Queen of Mean, is fined $7 million and sentenced to four years in prison for tax evasion.


1997 – A federal judge sentences Autumn Jackson, who claims to be Bill Cosby’s daughter, to 26 months in jail for trying to extort $40 million from Cosby.


2000 – The U.S. Supreme Court releases its decision in the Bush v. Gore “hanging chad” case in favor of George Bush.


2013 – The U.S. announces sanctions on the two dozen companies who assisted Iran with its nuclear program



December 13


1636 – The Massachusetts Bay Colony organizes three militia regiments to defend the colony against the Pequot Indians. This organization is recognized today as the founding of the United States National Guard.


1759 – The first music store in America opens in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


1903 – The Wright brothers make their first flight at Kittyhawk, North Carolina.


1913 – The Federal Reserve System is established by Congress to provide the nation with a safer, more flexible, and more stable monetary and financial system. “The Fed” has never been audited.


1922 – Brooklyn Dodgers owner and architect Charles Ebbets proposes putting numbers on baseball players’ sleeves or caps. The St. Louis Cardinals are the first team to put player numbers on uniforms in 1923.


1950 – James Dean begins his acting career with an appearance in a Pepsi commercial. Watch the commercial at


1961 – Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John” album is country music’s first million-dollar seller. Watch Dean’s 1963 performance at:


1975 – Saturday Night Live uses a time delay for the first time when Richard Pryor hosts the TV show.


1978 – The Susan B. Anthony dollar, the first U.S. coin to honor a woman, is issued.


1995 – Actor Christopher Reeves (a.k.a. Superman) is released from a physical rehab center after breaking his neck in a horse riding accident. He died in 2004 at the age of 52.


2000 – The “Texas 7” escape from the maximum security John Connally Unit near Kenedy, Texas. The 7 escaped prisoners go on a crime spree and kill police officer Aubrey Hawkins during a robbery. After being featured on “America’s Most Wanted” all 7 prisoners are located. One commits suicide and the others are arrested. All have been executed or are awaiting execution for the murder of Officer Aubrey Hawkins.


2003 – Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is captured by U.S. troops near his hometown of Tikrit in Operation Red Dawn.


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