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 Feb 17-23, 2020
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 part of the amazing recording session with still photos:
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.
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 was the winner 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:
1988 – Anthony M. Kennedy is sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice. Kennedy, who retired in 2018, was the longest serving jurist. A total of 114 justices have served on the Supreme Court.
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 75 years old.
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.
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.
1971 – The National Emergency Center in Colorado erroneously orders all U.S. radio and TV stations to go off the air. The mistake wasn’t resolved for 30 minutes.
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 is now 89 years old.
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:
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 84 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.
1784 – The first U.S. ship to trade with China, “Empress of China,” sets sails from New York.
1878 – Frank Winfield Woolworth obtains credit from his former boss, William Moore, along with some savings, to buy merchandise and open the “Woolworth’s Great Five Cent Store” in Utica, New York, which failed in May of the same year.
1935 – Airplanes are no longer permitted to fly over the White House when a no-fly zone is created.
1972 – Richard Nixon becomes the first U.S. president to visit China. He meets with the Chinese premier in Beijing.
1980 – The U.S. Olympic ice hockey team upsets the USSR 4-3 in what instantly becomes known as the “Miracle on Ice.” The U.S. went on to win the Olympic gold medal in Lake Placid. Watch the miracle:
2010 – A copy of “Action Comics #1” featuring the introduction of Superman sells at auction for $1 million.
1836 – The Alamo is besieged for 13 days by the Mexican army under General Santa Anna. By March 6th the entire garrison had been killed. The Alamo was built as the chapel of the Mission San Antonio de Valero in Texas.
1861 – President-elect Abraham Lincoln arrives secretly in Washington, DC to take office because seven states have already seceded from the Union since the election. Noted private detective Allen Pinkerton uncovered an assassination plot and escorted Lincoln to Washington.
1904 – The U.S. acquires control of the Panama Canal Zone for $10 million. President Jimmy Carter returned control of the Canal to Panama in 1999.
1927 – President Coolidge creates the Federal Radio Commission (the predecessor to the FCC).
1945 – U.S. Marines raise the American flag on Iwo Jima. The famous photo became the model for the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial erected at Arlington National Cemetery. Hershel “Woody” Williams, now age 96, is the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle for Iwo Jima. Watch an interview with Woody:
1954 – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is the site of the first mass inoculation against polio using the vaccine developed by Jonas Salk. Salk died in 1995 at age 80.
1971 – Lieutenant William Calley confesses to the My Lai massacre in Viet Nam in April 1969 and implicates his commander Captain Ernest Medina. Medina was acquitted and Calley was sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labor. After numerous appeals Calley served only 3 ½ years of house arrest. Calley is now 76 years old.
1980 – American Eric Heiden wins all five speed skating gold medals at the Lake Placid Olympics. Heiden is now 61 years old. Watch Heiden win all 5 medals:
1995 – The Dow Jones closes above 4,000 for the first time (4,003.33).
1998 – The Supreme Court lets stand Megan’s Law. Megan’s Law (named for 7-year-old Megan Kanka who was raped and murdered by a repeat sex offender) allows the information on registered sex offenders to be made public.
2008 – A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit (Stealth Bomber) crashes at Anderson Air Force Base in Guam. The crew survived but the aircraft was destroyed, making it the most expensive air crash in history (the aircraft alone cost $1.2 billion). The B-2 had a perfect safety record before the crash.
Image from: latimes.com