This Week in History: Feb 15-21, 2021


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

Feb 15-21, 2021

February 15

1903 – The first Teddy Bear, named for President Theodore Roosevelt, is made by Morris and Rose Michtom.

1932 – George Burns and Gracie Allen debut as regulars on the “Guy Lombardo Show” on the radio. Gracie Allen died in 1964 at age 69 and George Burns died in 1996 at age 100.

1932 – U.S. bobsled team member Eddie Eagan becomes the only athlete to win gold medals in both the Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics. He also won gold in 1920 in boxing. Egan died in 1995 at age 65. Watch a bio of the impressive career of Eagan.

1961 – The entire 18 member U.S. figure skating team dies in a plane crash en route to the World Figure Skating Championships in Prague. One of the skaters who died was 16-year-old Laurence Owen, who won the U.S. Figure Skating Championship in January. She appeared on the February 13th cover of Sports Illustrated. Watch her skate just one month before her death.

1992 – Jeffrey Dahmer is found sane and subsequently convicted of killing 15 boys and sentenced to 15 life terms in prison. Dahmer was murdered in prison in 1994 at age 34 by then 25-year-old Christopher Scarver.

2002 – Investigators find 339 uncremated bodies disposed of in the woods and buildings at the Tri-State Crematory in LaFayette, Georgia. It was one of the worst incidents of abuse in the funeral service industry. Ray Brent Marsh, the founder’s son, eventually plead guilty and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. The conditions of his probation included writing a letter of apology to each of the designated representatives for each of the identified remains.

February 16

1838 – Kentucky passes a law permitting women to attend school under certain conditions.

1852 – The Studebaker Brothers Wagon Company is established. It was the precursor of automobile manufacturing.

1857 – Gallaudet College (National Deaf Mute College) forms in Washington, DC. Edward Miner Gallaudet, founder of the first school for deaf students in the U.S., became the new school’s first superintendent.

1883 – “Ladies Home Journal” begins publication. In 1903, it became the first American magazine to reach 1 million in subscriptions. In 2014, the Meredith Corporation announced it would cease publishing the monthly magazine, saying it would be published quarterly. Publication ceased in 2016.

1937 – DuPont Corporation patents nylon, developed by its employee Wallace H. Carothers.

1950 – The longest-running prime-time game show at the time, “What’s My Line,” premiers on CBS-TV and airs until 1967. An all-star panel tried to guess the contestant’s occupation. The first contestant was Miss Pat Finch, a hat check girl. The first “mystery guest,” when the panelists are blindfolded, was Yankee baseball great Phil Rizzuto. Currently the longest-running game show is The Price is Right. Watch a montage of Pat Finch on What’s My Line.

1968 – The first 911 emergency phone system in the U.S. goes into service in Haleyville, Alabama.

2005 – National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman cancels the 2004-05 hockey season. This was the first time a North American professional sports league canceled a season due to a labor dispute.

February 17

1801 – The House of Representatives breaks an Electoral College tie, after casting three dozen ballots, choosing Thomas Jefferson for president over Aaron Burr. Each candidate received 73 votes, but electors failed to distinguish between the office of President and Vice President.

1864 – The Confederate submarine “H.L. Hunley” sinks the Union ship “Housatonic,” becoming the first submarine to sink an enemy ship. The Hunley also sank after the attack, but that wasn’t known until it failed to return to base. The wreckage was discovered in 1970, but it wasn’t recovered until 2000.

1905 – Frances Willard – educator, temperance reformer, and women’s suffragist – becomes the first woman honored in National Statuary Hall in Washington, DC. Willard died in 1898 at age 58.

1943 – New York Yankee and future Baseball Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio enlists into the U.S. army. After being hospitalized with stomach ulcers, DiMaggio was released from the service in September of 1945. He returned to play for the New York Yankees in 1946.

1947 – Voice of America begins radio broadcasting to the USSR. The Soviet Union responded by initiating electronic jamming of VOA broadcasts in April.

1964 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules one man one vote in Westberry v Sanders after James Westberry filed suit against Georgia Governor Carl Sanders over the unequal apportionment of congressional districts.

1969 – Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash record an album together, but it was never released. Listen to the amazing recording session with photos and videos.

1995 – A Federal judge allows a lawsuit claiming U.S. tobacco makers knew nicotine was addictive and manipulated its levels to keep customers hooked.

2016 – Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook confirms that Apple will contest an FBI order to unlock the phone of radical Muslim terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook after the mass murder in San Bernardino. The FBI was able to unlock the phone without Apple’s help.

February 18

1841 – The first continuous filibuster in the U.S. Senate begins over the dismissal of the printer for the Senate and lasts until March 11th.

1861 – Confederate President Jefferson Davis is inaugurated in Montgomery, Alabama. Davis had resigned his seat as a U.S. senator from Mississippi in January.

1878 – Outlaw Jessie Evans murders John Tunstall, sparking the Lincoln County War in New Mexico between immigrant English and Irish ranchers and merchants. Tensions and murders raged until 1884. One of the combatants was Billy the Kid.

1929 – The first Academy Awards, hosted by Douglas Fairbanks, are announced. “Wings” starring Clara Bow and Gary Cooper won for Best Picture.

1932 – Sonja Henie wins her 6th straight World Women’s figure skating title. Henie won Olympic gold medals in 1928, 1932 and 1936. She moved to the U.S. and became a movie star. Henie died in 1969 at age 57.

1978 – Fifteen competitors race in the first Ironman Triathlon (swim, bike ride, and marathon) held in Kona, Hawaii. Gordon Haller was the winner, completing the race in 11 hours and 46 minutes. U.S. Navy Commander John Collins founded the event as a way to determine whether swimmers, cyclists, or runners are more fit. Watch a 2013 interview with Haller.

2001 – FBI agent Robert Hanssen is arrested for spying for the Soviet Union. He was ultimately convicted and sentenced to 15 consecutive life terms in prison after a plea deal enabled him to escape the death penalty. The movies “Master Spy” and “Breach” were made about his life as a spy. Hanssen is now 76 years old.

February 19

1807 – Former Vice President Aaron Burr is arrested in Alabama for treason, but is later found innocent. He was charged with treason for an alleged conspiracy to provoke a rebellion and take parts of the south by force from the Union. In 1804, while serving as vice president, Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel.

1859 – Dan Sickles is acquitted of murder on grounds of temporary insanity. It was the first time this defense was successfully used.

1913 – The first prize is inserted into a Cracker Jack box. In 1896, the snack’s creator Louis Rueckheim gave the treat to a salesman who exclaimed, “That’s a cracker, Jack!” So Rueckheim trademarked the name.

1942 – President FDR orders the detention and internment of all west coast Japanese-Americans during World War II. Twelve detention centers in California and one in Oregon house more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans. In December of 1944, FDR announced the end of the detentions and the internees returned home. By then, they had lost their homes, businesses, and possessions. President Ronald Reagan signed into law The Civil Liberties Act of 1988, providing an apology and redress to the internees still living, although nearly half of those who had been imprisoned died before the bill was signed.

1953 – Baseball star Ted Williams, recalled for active duty as a Marine fighter pilot in 1952, safely crash lands his damaged Panther jet in Korea. Williams was awarded the Air Medal and two Gold Stars before being discharged for health reasons. Williams retired from baseball in 1960, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966, and died in 2002 at age 83. His son had Williams’ body cryogenically frozen in Scottsdale, Arizona.

1974 – The first American Music Award are held. Helen Reddy and Jim Croce (posthumously) won. Jim Croce died in a plane crash the previous September at age 30.

1986 – The U.S. Senate ratifies the United Nation’s Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide 36 years after it is adopted by the UN.

1987 – An anti-smoking ad by the American Cancer Society, featuring Yul Brynner, airs for the first time on TV. It was filmed two years before, just months before Brynner died of lung cancer. Watch Yul Brynner’s plea.

2002 – NASA’s Mars Odyssey space probe begins to map the surface of Mars using its thermal emission imaging system.

February 20

1792 – The U.S. postal service is created. Postage cost 6 cents to 12 cents depending on the distance.

1809 – The Supreme Court rules the federal government’s power is greater than any state.

1872 – The Metropolitan Museum of Art opens in New York City. It is the fourth largest art museum in the world. The Lourve in Paris, France, is the largest.

1937 – The first combination automobile/airplane is tested in Santa Monica, California. Designed by aero-engineer Waldo Dean Waterman, it claimed a top air speed of 120 mph and highway speed of 70 mph. Watch it drive and fly.

1943 – Phil Wrigley (the chewing gum mogul) and Branch Rickey (who signed up baseball’s Jackie Robinson) charter the All-American Girls Softball League. The 1992 movie “A League of Their Own” starring Tom Hanks and Geena Davis was a fictionalized account of the league’s history.

1962 – John Glenn, on board Friendship 7, is the first American to orbit the Earth. He served four terms as a U.S. Senator from Ohio before returning to space on the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1988. Glenn died in 2016 at age 95.

1992 – Ross Perot announces on the Larry King Show that he’ll run for President. He received 18.9% of the popular vote but no Electoral College votes. Perot died in 2019 at age 89.

2002 – Jim Shea, Jr. wins the gold medal in skeleton (sled) racing at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, making him the 1st third-generation Olympian. His father and grandfather both won medals in the 1964 and 1932 Olympics respectively. Jim’s grandfather was killed in a car crash just one month before Jim won the gold medal. Watch Shea’s amazing run.

February 21

1885 – The Washington Monument is dedicated in Washington, DC. Construction took place in two phases, 1848-1856 and 1876-1884. Lack of funds and the Civil War halted the building process. By the time construction resumed at the 150’ level, the color within the marble and granite stone quarries had changed. That color change line is still visible on the monument.

1918 – The last Carolina Parakeet dies in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo. The last known specimen in the wild was killed in 1904. The Carolina Parakeet was the only parakeet native to North America north of Mexico.

1947 – Edwin H. Land demonstrates the first instant developing camera he invented in New York City. He was the founder of the Polaroid Corporation in 1937. Land died in 1991 at age 81.

1965 – Malcolm X is assassinated by members of the Nation of Islam. He was 39 years old.

1988 – During a live TV broadcast, televangelist Jimmy Swaggart (then age 52) admits to visiting a prostitute. He then announced he would leave his ministry for an unspecified length of time. Swaggart was defrocked in April by the Assemblies of God and ordered to stay off TV for a year, but returned after only three months. Swaggart is now 85 years old and still on the Internet and TV. Watch his TV apology with a report.

1995 – Steve Fossett completes the first air balloon flight over the Pacific Ocean. In 2002, Fossett was the first person to circumnavigate the Earth in a balloon. He disappeared during an airplane flight in 2007. His remains were found in 2008. He was 63 years old.

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