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 24-March 1, 2020
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, 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: h
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.
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.
1813 – Congress authorizes the use of steamboats to transport mail.
1922 – The Supreme Court unanimously upholds the 19th amendment guaranteeing a woman’s right to vote. The 19th Amendment was passed by Congress in June 1919 and ratified in August 1920.
1939 – The Supreme Court rules that sit-down strikes, where strikers sit down at their work stations and prevent replacement workers from taking their place, are illegal.
1951 – The 22nd amendment is ratified, limiting a president to two terms (8 years).
1972 – During his visit to China, President Nixon and People’s Republic of China Premier Jhou Enlai issue the Shanghai Communique, pledging to work toward the normalization of their relations.
1982 – Wayne Williams is convicted on two counts of murder in the Atlanta murder case. Over a two-year period, from 1979 to 1981, at least 28 children, teens, and adults were murdered. Williams is serving a life sentence.
1991 – The Gulf War ends after Iraqi troops retreat and Kuwait is re-taken by the U.S.
1794 – Swiss-born Abraham Gallatin’s election to the U.S. Senate is voided because he did not meet the citizenship requirement of 9 years. Gallatin was elected to the House of Representatives in 1795, where he became the House Majority Leader. He was also the founder of New York University.
1827 – The Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) is chartered as the first commercial railroad in the U.S.
1914 – Construction begins on Tower of Jewels in San Francisco for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition at the 1915 World’s Fair. The Tower was 435 feet tall and decorated with 102,000 glass jewels. The temporary building was demolished after the World’s Fair ended.
1953 – American scientist James D. Watson and British scientist Francis H.C. Crick discover the double-helix structure of DNA in a Cambridge University laboratory. Crick died in 2004 at age 88. Watson is now 91 years old.
1993 – A gun battle erupts between the FBI and the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas. The standoff lasted 51 days. Seventy-six men, women, and children, including 33-year-old founder David Koresh, died after the FBI launched an assault in the compound.
1997 – Two heavily armed men wearing body armor are involved in the North Hollywood shootout after a failed Bank of America robbery attempt. The bank robbers fired over 1,100 rounds of ammunition before being killed by law enforcement officers. Eighteen officers and civilians were wounded. Watch actual news footage:
2019 – Youtube announces it will disable comments on videos that feature children because of inappropriate comments that have been left by pedophiles.
February 29 (Leap Year)
1692 – The first group of people, Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba, are accused of witchcraft in Salam, Massachusetts.
1940 – “Gone with the Wind,” wins 8 Oscars at the Academy Awards. Hattie McDaniel became the first black woman to win an Oscar.
1944 – The Office of Defense Transportation, for the second year in a row, restricts attendance at the Kentucky Derby to residents of the Louisville area. This is an effort to prevent a railroad traffic burden during wartime.
1960 – The first Playboy Club, featuring Playboy bunnies, opens in Chicago.
1692 – The “Salem witch hunt” begins when authorities interrogate Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and an Indian slave, Tituba, to determine if they practiced witchcraft. In all, more than 150 people were jailed and 14 women and 5 men were executed. Many of those in jail died while incarcerated.
1790 – The first U.S. census is authorized. The U.S. population was almost 4 million people. The current U.S. population is estimated at 326 million.
1792 – The Presidential Succession Act is passed as the first law establishing the line of succession. It established the President pro tempore of the Senate next in line after the vice president, followed by the Speaker of the House. The Presidential Succession Act of 1886 followed the assassination of James Garfield and the Presidential Succession Act of 1947 was passed after the death of FDR, each one changing the procedure and order of succession.
1872 – Yellowstone is established as the world’s first national park during the U.S. Grant administration.
1875 – Congress passes a Civil Rights Act forbidding discrimination in hotels, trains, and public spaces, but the Supreme Court invalidated it in 1883.
1932 – Charles Lindbergh, Jr. (20 months old) is kidnapped in New Jersey. The Lindbergh baby was found dead May 12. Bruno Hauptmann was found guilty of kidnapping and murdering the Lindbergh baby and was executed in 1936. Watch a short British Movietone newsreel:
1961 – President Kennedy establishes the Peace Corps.
1962 – The first K-Mart store opens in Garden City, Michigan. Sebastian S. Kresge founded the S.S. Kresge Company and opened the first store in Detroit in 1899. The “K” in K-Mart stands for Kresge. Attention K-Mart shoppers, watch the history of S. S. Kresge and K-Mart:
1967 – The House of Representatives excludes (refuses to allow to seat) Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. He was accused of mismanaging his committee’s budget in the previous Congress, excessive absenteeism, and misuse of public funds. The only other Representative who was excluded was Brigham Henry Roberts (D-UT), who was denied his seat in January 1900 for practicing polygamy.
1981 – The first Golden Raspberry Awards ceremony is held in John Wilson’s living room to recognize the worst movies of the previous year. The winner (or loser) was “Can’t Stop the Music.” It wasn’t until the 4th Razzies that the event was televised.
2002 – The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Operation Anaconda, begins in eastern Afghanistan.
2004 – Terry Nichols is convicted of state murder charges and being an accomplice to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. Nichols was sentenced to 161 consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole (160 people plus 1 unborn child were killed). Nichols is incarcerated in Colorado and is now 64 years old.
Image from: commonswikimedia.org