This Week in History: Feb. 25-March 3, 2019


This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann

“No problem of human making is too great to be overcome by
human ingenuity, human energy, and the untiring hope of the human spirit.”
President George H. W. Bush

Week of Feb. 25-March 3, 2019

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.

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 7 people.

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.

February 27

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.

1951 – The 22nd amendment is ratified, limiting a president to two terms (8 years).

1991 – The Gulf War ends after Iraqi troops retreat and Kuwait is re-taken by the U.S.

February 28

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 90 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:

March 1

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. 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 invalidates 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 63 years old.

March 2

1819 – The U.S. passes its first immigration law. A total of 556 people were deported under the Immigration Act.

1877 – Rutherford B. Hayes (R) is declared president despite Samuel J. Tilden (D) winning the popular vote, but Tilden is 1 electoral vote short of victory. The other presidents who received fewer popular votes but more electoral votes, thus becoming president, are John Quincy Adams (over Andrew Jackson), Benjamin Harrison (over Grover Cleveland), George W. Bush (over Al Gore), and Donald Trump (over Hillary Clinton).

1939 – The Massachusetts Legislature votes to ratify the Bill of Rights – 147 years late.

1942 – The Stage Door Canteen opens on West 44th Street in New York City. The canteen provided dancing and entertainment for WWII servicemen. The first canteen could accommodate 500 people. Other canteens opened later in Boston, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Newark. Watch the history of the Stage Door Canteen:

1962 – Wilt Chamberlain, with the Philadelphia Warriors, scores an incredible 100 points in a National Basketball Association game against the New York Nicks. The record still stands. Chamberlain holds 72 NBA record, including the most games scoring 60 or more points (32 games). Chamberlain died in 1999 at age 63. Watch Wilt “The Stilt” score the 100 points:

1994 – Representative William Natcher (D-KY) casts his 18,401st (and last) consecutive vote. He still holds the longest uninterrupted voting record. Natcher died while in office on March 29, 1994 at age 84.

2016 – U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko return to earth after nearly a year (340 days) in space, setting an International Space Station record.

March 3

1812 – The U.S. Congress passes the first foreign aid bill to help Venezuela’s earthquake victims.

1837 – Congress increases the Supreme Court membership from 7 to 9 justices. The Constitution did not establish the number of Supreme Court justices, but it was set at 5 in 1801 and increased to 7 in 1807. In 1937, President FDR attempted unsuccessfully to increase the number of justices by 6 based on the age of the current justices in his Judicial Procedures Reform Bill. It was seen as a plan to pack the court in his favor after the Supreme Court ruled his New Deal unconstitutional.

1845 – The U.S. Senate overrides a presidential veto for the first time. President Tyler vetoed a Congressional bill that would have denied him the power to appropriate federal funds to build ships without Congressional approval.

1887 – Anne Sullivan begins teaching 6-year-old blind and deaf Helen Keller. Sullivan died in 1936 at age 70. Author and lecturer Helen Keller died in 1968 at age 87. Watch the actual newsreel with Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller when Anne explains how she taught Helen to speak:

1931 – The “Star Spangled Banner” officially becomes the U.S. national anthem. Francis Scott Key wrote it as a poem while being held prisoner on a ship near Fort McHenry, Maryland, during the War of 1812.

1934 – John Dillinger breaks out of jail using a wooden pistol. Dillinger took part in a robbery on March 6th in South Dakota, on March 13th in Iowa, and on June 30th in Indiana. After spending time with family and friends, Dillinger was shot and killed by federal agents on July 22, 1934 outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago. He was 31 years old. His body was put on display for 2 days for the public to view.

1972 – Sculpted figures of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson are completed on Stone Mountain in Georgia. The monolith is the largest stone caring in the world at 158 feet tall.

1991 – The Los Angeles Police severely beat motorist Rodney King, which is captured on amateur video. Four LAPD police officers were indicted for assault and using excessive force. Their acquittal resulted in riots where more than 50 people were killed. King was arrested several more times for various offenses. King died in 2012 at age 47 when he drowned in his pool after using drugs and alcohol. Watch a short 1992 ABC news report:

1999 – Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones begin their circumnavigation of the Earth in a hot air balloon non-stop. The flight took 20 days.

2005 – Steve Fossett becomes the first person to fly an airplane solo around the world without any stops and without refueling. The journey of 25,000 miles began and ended in Kansas and was completed in 67 hours and 2 minutes. The first non-stop flight around the world was completed by the team of Dick Rutan and Jeanna Yeager in 1986. Watch a video about Fossett and the flight:

2013 – A 2-year-old U.S. girl becomes the first child born with HIV to be cured.


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