This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“History is a vast early warning system.” Norman Cousins
Feb 27-Mar 5, 2023
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, now 64, 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.
2019 – The House of Representatives passes H.R 8 that would have required background checks on all firearm sales. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not allow it to be taken up in the Senate for consideration.
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 94 years old.
1993 – A gun battle erupts between the FBI and the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas. The ensuing 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.
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 333 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.
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.
2002 – The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Operation Anaconda, begins in eastern Afghanistan. President Biden pulled troops out of Afghanistan in 2021, making it the longest U.S. war.
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 67 years old.
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 one 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.
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.
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.
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 carving 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.
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 Jeana Yeager in 1986. Watch a video about Fossett and the flight.
1789 – The House of Representatives has its first meeting in New York City.
1849 – The U.S. has no president for one day. James Polk’s term ended at noon on Sunday, but Zachary Taylor refused to be sworn in on Sunday. Senator David Atchison (D-MO), the President Pro Tem, was sworn in for one day and Taylor was sworn in on Monday.
1861 – Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated as the sixteenth president. For the first time the U.S. has five living former presidents: Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan. There are currently five living former presidents: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush (#43), Barack Hussain Obama, and Donald J. Trump.
1917 – Representative Jeannette Rankin (R-MT) becomes the first female member of Congress. She was the only member of Congress to vote against declaring war on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Rankin died in 1973 at age 92.
1934 – The Easter Cross located on Mt. Davidson (the highest natural point in San Francisco) is dedicated. In 1991, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Jewish Congress, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State sued the city over its ownership of the cross. The city lost and in 1997 auctioned the .38-acre and cross to the highest bidder. The Council of Armenian American Organization of Northern California purchased the cross for $26,000. Watch an aerial view of the cross with historical facts and images.
1998 – The Supreme Court rules in Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services that federal laws banning on-the-job sexual harassment also apply when both parties are the same sex.
2006 – The final attempted contact with Pioneer 10 by the Deep Space Network is unsuccessful when no response is received. Pioneer was launched on 1972 and was over 6 billion miles from earth.
1770 – During the “Boston Massacre,” British troops shoot and kill five citizens in a crowd. Crispus Attucks, an American of African descent, was the first to die. He was later held up as early black martyr.
1845 – Congress appropriates $30,000 to ship camels to the U.S. for use in the western deserts. The first shipment from Egypt arrived with 33 camels and the second shipment had 41 camels. The camels were used extensively but were scattered during the Civil War. Several camels were reported to have survived and bred, with numerous sightings reported in the desert southwest for decades after.
1925 – South Dakota Governor Gunderson signs a bill establishing a memorial association that will build Mount Rushmore. The faces of presidents Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Lincoln (L to R) were carved under the direction of sculptor Gutzon Borglum. He died before the monument was dedicated in October of 1941.
1946 – Winston Churchill delivers his “Iron Curtain” speech in Fulton, Missouri. Watch part of Churchill’s speech.
1984 – The Supreme Court rules in a 5-4 decision in Lynch v Donnelly that a city (Pawtucket, Rhode Island) may use public money for a Nativity scene because it does not violate the Establishment Clause and has “legitimate secular purposes.”
1998 – NASA announces that Air Force Lt. Col. Eileen Collins will lead the crew of Columbia on a 1999 mission to launch a large X-ray telescope. She was the first woman to command a space shuttle mission. In 1995, Collins became the first woman to pilot a space shuttle mission. Collins is now 66 years old. Watch a brief biography of Collins.
2013 – The Dow Jones surpasses its 2007 pre-financial crisis levels for the first time when it closes at 14,253.77.
Image from: PBS