This Week in History: Feb 20-26, 2023

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This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann

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

Feb 20-26, 2023




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 percent 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 87 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.

2016 – Denny Hamlin wins the Daytona 500 by the closest margin in race history – just 0.01 seconds (1/100).


February 22

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.


February 23

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 98, 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 79 years old.

1980 – American Eric Heiden wins all five speed skating gold medals at the Lake Placid Olympics. Heiden is now 64 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.


February 24

1803 – The Supreme Court makes its first ruling that a law is unconstitutional (Marbury v Madison). This decision marked the case for judicial review, cementing the Supreme Court as a separate but equal branch of government.

1868 – The first U.S. parade with floats, the Mardi Gras Parade, is held in Mobile, Alabama. Mobile was also the site of the oldest Mardi Gras celebration, dating back to 1703.

1868 – The House of Representatives votes 126 to 47 to impeach President Andrew Johnson. His Senate impeachment trial began on March 13, but Johnson’s opponents failed to get the needed two-thirds majority to convict him. Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998, but was not removed from office. In 2019, Donald Trump was impeached twice, but also not removed from office. The first attempted presidential impeachment attempt was John Tyler in 1843, which failed in the House by a vote of 127-83.

1903 – The U.S. signs an agreement acquiring a naval station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It now serves as a military prison. Although President Obama promised to close the facility, Congress passed laws to prohibit the detainees from being transferred to the U.S. Obama reduced the number of detainees from 245 to 41 by releasing them or transferring them to other countries. In 2018, President Trump signed an executive order keeping the detention camp open.

1942 – The U.S. stops shipments of all 12-gauge shotguns for sporting use as part of the wartime effort.

1999 – The State of Arizona executes Karl LaGrand, a German national involved in an armed robbery, in spite of Germany’s legal action to save him.

2011 – The Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-133) is launched for the final time. The last Space Shuttle launch was the Atlantis (STS-135) in July 2011. Watch the launch including videos attached to the shuttle.




February 25

1793 – George Washington holds the first cabinet meeting at his home in Mt. Vernon, Virginia. In attendance was Vice President John Adams (future president), Secretary of State John Jay (later the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court), Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton (killed by Aaron Burr in a duel in 1804), Secretary of War Henry Knox (for whom Fort Knox in Kentucky is named), and Attorney General Edmund Randolph (former governor of Virginia).

1836 – Samuel Colt patents the Colt Paterson, the first revolving barrel multi-shot firearm.

1862 – Congress forms the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Paper currency (greenbacks) was introduced by President Abraham Lincoln.

1933 – The USS Ranger is christened as the first genuine aircraft carrier. The captain of the USS Ranger from 1937 to 1939 was the late Senator John McCain’s grandfather.

1950 – “Your Show of Shows” with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca premieres on NBC and airs until 1954. Writers included Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, and Woody Allen. Coca died in 2001 at age 92. Caesar died in 2014 at age 91. Watch a pantomime sketch with Sid and Imogene.



1987 – The U.S. Supreme Court upholds Affirmative Action in a 6-3 decision with its only gender-based ruling in Johnson v. Transportation Agency. Paul Johnson claimed he was passed over for promotion by a woman, whom he claimed was less qualified.

1991 – The U.S. barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia is hit by a SCUD missile, killing 28 and wounding 89. Among the dead were three women, the first killed in the Persian Gulf War.

1995 – Frank Sinatra performs his final live concert in Palm Desert, California. Sinatra died in 1998 at age 82.


February 26

1732 – The first Catholic mass celebrated in a church in the U.S. is in St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Philadelphia.

1891 – The first two buffalo are purchased for the Golden Gate Park. A bison cow and bull were transported to the park. A buffalo herd can still be seen in the park’s Buffalo Paddock.

1907 – The members of Congress raise their own salaries to $7,500. Congressional salaries are currently $174,000, with a pay freeze since 2015.

1930 – The first red and green traffic lights in the U.S. are installed in Manhattan, New York.

1954 – Michigan representative Ruth Thompson (R) introduces legislation to ban the mailing “obscene, lewd, lascivious, or filthy” (rock & roll) phonograph records.

1977 – The first flight of a Space Shuttle (Enterprise) atop a specially modified Boeing 747 takes off from California headed for the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Enterprise was flight tested but never flown in space. Originally named “Constitution,” it was renamed by President Ford after a letter writing campaign by fans of the TV show Star Trek.

1983 – Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album goes to #1 and stays #1 for 37 weeks. Watch the short version of the video.



1984 – Reverend Jesse Jackson, a Democrat presidential candidate, acknowledges after repeated denials that he called Jews “Hymies” and New York City “Hymietown” while at Washington National Airport a month earlier.

1993 – The New York City World Trade Center is bombed, killing 6 people and injuring over 1,000. In 1994, four men were convicted of the bombing. In 1997, two more terrorists were convicted, including the mastermind of the 1993 bombing, Ramzi Yousef. He was also convicted of the bombing of Philippine Airlines flight 434 and sentenced to life imprisonment plus 240 years. He is incarcerated at a super maximum security prison on the same cell block as Eric Rudolph, Ted Kaczynski, and Terry Rudolph.

2009 – The Pentagon reverses its 18-year policy of not allowing the media to cover returning war dead. The reversal allowed some media coverage with family approval.



Image from: GW Today


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