This Week in History: Jan 11-17, 2021

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This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann

“If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall
possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in
need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.” Samuel Adams


Jan 11-17, 2021




January 11

1794 – Robert Forsyth, a 40-year-old U.S. Marshal, is killed in Augusta, Georgia, when trying to serve court papers. Forsyth was the first U.S. marshal to die in the line of duty.

1803 – James Monroe and Robert Livingston sail for Paris to buy New Orleans. They end up purchasing Louisiana. Monroe served as president from 1817 to 1825. Livingston helped draft the Declaration of Independence and administered the presidential oath of office to George Washington in 1789.

1849 – Elizabeth Blackwell becomes the first woman in the U.S. to earn a medical degree. She opened an infirmary in 1857 and trained nurses during the Civil War. Blackwell died in 1910 at age 89. Watch a brief bio of Dr. Blackwell.



1953 – J. Edgar Hoover turns down a 6-figure offer to become the president of the International Boxing Club. Hoover served as FBI director from 1924 until his death in 1972.

1964 – The first government report is issued by U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry warning that smoking may be hazardous to one’s health.

1984 – The Supreme Court reinstates the $10 million award to Karen Silkwood’s family. Silkwood worked at the Kerr-McGee Cimarron Fuel Fabrication Site plant near Crescent, Oklahoma, and became a nuclear safety activist. She died in a suspicious car accident in 1974 at age 28.

1991 – Congress empowers President Bush to use force against Iraq.

2010 – Simon Cowell leaves “American Idol,” the U.S. singing competition he created and hosted since 2002. The 19th season will premiere on February 14, 2021. The TV show has the longest winning streak in the Nielsen ratings with seven consecutive years as the highest-rated TV program.


January 12

1773 – The first public museum in the U.S. is established in Charlestown, South Carolina.

1906 – Dow Jones closes above 100 for the first time (100.26). After the stock market crash and the Great Depression, it wasn’t until 1933 that the Dow Jones closed above 100 again.

1921 – Kenesaw Mountain Landis becomes the first commissioner of baseball. The former federal judge served until his death in 1944 at age 78. He was the longest serving commissioner in baseball history.

1948 – The Supreme Court rules in favor of Ada Sipuel in the case of Sipuel vs. Oklahoma State Board of Regents. Two years earlier Ada Sipuel applied for admission to the all-white law school at the University of Oklahoma and was denied because of her race. Future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall argued before the Supreme Court while future Justice John Paul Stevens watched from the gallery.

1967 – The Louisville, Kentucky, draft board refuses an exemption for the boxer Muhammad Ali. Ali (born Cassius Clay) was convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to 5 years in prison, fined $10,000, and banned from boxing for three years. He stayed out of prison during his appeal and the Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 1971. Ali died in 2016 at age 74.

1967 – Dr. James Bedford, who died of kidney cancer at age 73, becomes the first person to be placed in cryonic suspension with the intent of future resuscitation. Bedford’s body was successfully transferred to a new cryogenic storage dewar (capsule) in 1991. There are currently over 250 people in cryonic suspension in seven facilities worldwide (five are in the U.S.).

1995 – Malcolm X’s daughter Qubilah Shabazz is arrested for plotting the murder of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, whom she believed was responsible for her father’s assassination in 1965. As Malcolm X, a former member of the Nation of Islam, was preparing to speak before the Organization of Afro-American Unity, three men charged the stage and shot Malcom 21 times. All three men were convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Following a May 2000 interview on 60 Minutes, Farrakhan said that he may have “created the atmosphere that ultimately led to Malcolm X’s assassination.”

2005 – NASA’s spacecraft Deep Impact launches from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a Delta 2 rocket on a mission to land on a comet. In July, the impactor separated from the fly-by spacecraft and hit the comet. The fly-by spacecraft was reprogrammed and crossed paths with other comets. Communication was lost in 2013. Watch an onboard video of the impact (no sound).




January 13

1794 – Congress changes the U.S. flag to 15 stars and 15 stripes. The flag was in use until 1818, when the number of stripes were reduced to 13 (for the 13 colonies) and the stars were increased to 20. The current flag was adopted in 1960 with the admission of Hawaii.

1906 – Telimco advertises the first radio set for $7.50 in Scientific American. It claimed to receive signals up to one mile.

1948 – The first country music TV show, Midwestern Hayride, premieres in Cincinnati, Ohio. The first country music radio show was the National Barn Dance (1924-1960). Watch excerpts from one of the shows.



1972 – Former housewife Bernice Gera wins the lawsuit she initiated on March 15, 1971, to become a minor league baseball umpire. Gera became the first professional female umpire of a minor league baseball game in June 1972, but later resigned because male umpires refuse to work with her. All of the current 230 baseball umpires are men. Gera died in 1992 at age 61.

1988 – The Supreme Court issues a landmark decision (5-3) in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier that public school officials have broad powers to censor school newspapers, plays, and other expressive activities.

2016 – Three winning tickets holders in California, Tennessee, and Florida share a record Powerball lottery of $1.6 billion.


January 14

1784 – The Revolutionary War ends when Congress ratifies the Treaty of Paris. The treaty established the United States as a sovereign nation.

1794 – Dr. Jesse Bennett of Edom, Virginia, performs the first successful Cesarean section operation in the U.S. He performed the surgery on his wife Elizabeth after their family physician refused to operate. Elizabeth and her daughter both survived.

1938 – The National Society for the Legalization of Euthanasia is founded in New York by Rev. Charles Francis Potter. Euthanasia was referred to as “mercy killing.” Potter was also an advisor to Clarence Darrow on the Bible during his defense of Thomas Scopes, who was charged with teaching evolution. Ironically, even though Potter supported euthanasia, he opposed capital punishment.

1963 – George C. Wallace is sworn in as the Democrat governor of Alabama for the first of four nonconsecutive terms. In his inaugural address he stated, “Segregation now; segregation tomorrow; segregation forever!” He was shot and left paralyzed in 1972. Wallace died in 1998 at age 79.



1979 – President Jimmy Carter proposes that Martin Luther King’s birthday be a holiday. President Ronald Reagan signed legislation in 1983 designating the third Monday in January as an annual federal holiday. The first official celebration took place on January 20, 1986.

1995 – Mexico pledges the profits from its state-owned Pemex’s $7-billion-per-year oil revenues in an effort to secure U.S. congressional approval of loan guarantees. President Clinton approved a $20-billion U.S. aid package for Mexico. Emails released in 2017 from presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s private server showed that her State Department helped break up Pemex’s monopoly in 2009.

2004 – A Lewis and Clark Exhibition opens at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis on the bicentennial of the expedition. The exhibition features 500 rare and priceless objects used by the Corps of Discovery.


January 15

1870 – A donkey is first used as a symbol of Democratic Party in Harper’s Weekly. The donkey was first associated with Democrat Andrew Jackson’s 1828 presidential campaign. Critics insulted Jackson by calling him a jack—. Thomas Nast is credited with the creating cartoons depicting Democrats as a donkey and Republicans as an elephant.

1889 – The Coca-Cola Company, then known as the Pemberton Medicine Company, is officially incorporated in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. John Stith Pemberton tested several formulas before inventing Coca-Cola as a non-alcoholic fountain drink. It was first sold at Jacobs’ Pharmacy in Atlanta for 5 cents. His original formula was a medicine made in an attempt to break his addiction to morphine, which he used after an injury he sustained during the Civil War.

1934 – John Dillinger is shot several times by police while robbing the First National Bank in East Chicago, Indiana. Dillinger survived because he was wearing a bullet proof vest. He was finally shot and killed by FBI agents in July. Dillinger was the first Public Enemy #1.

1943 – The world’s largest office building, the Pentagon, is completed near the Potomac River in Northern Virginia.

1947 – The butchered, mutilated corpse of Elizabeth Short (“The Black Dahlia”) is found in Leimert Park, Los Angeles, California. The murder of the 22-year-old aspiring actress remains unsolved, although subsequent investigations implicated George Hodel, Jr. a physician, as her killer.

1967 – The Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in the first Super Bowl, which was held in Los Angeles, California. The Super Bowl MVP was Green Bay Quarterback Bart Starr. The Packers also won the second Super Bowl.

1976 – Sara Jane Moore is sentenced to life for attempting to assassinate President Gerald Ford in September 1975. Moore was released from prison in 2007. In 2019, Moore was arrested on a parole violation after failing to tell her parole officer she took a trip out of the country. Now 90 years old, Moore is back is prison.

2001 – Wikipedia, a free encyclopedia, goes online. Wiki means “fast, quick” in Hawaiian.

2009 – U.S. Airways Flight 1549, piloted by Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, makes an emergency landing in the Hudson River shortly after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport in New York City. All passengers and crew survived. Watch an amazing computer simulation with actual footage and audio.



2016 – The American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan unveils the exhibit of a replica skeleton of a Titanosaur dinosaur (found in 2010 in Argentina). It is the largest known dinosaur at 70 tons and 37 meters.


January 16

1847 – John C. Frémont is appointed the Governor of the new California Territory. Frémont was the first presidential candidate of the new Republican Party in 1856.

1919 – Prohibition is ratified by three-quarters of the states when Nebraska becomes the 36th state to vote in favor of the prohibition of alcohol. Prohibition went in effect January of 1920 and was repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933.

1970 – Curt Flood files a $1 million civil lawsuit challenging baseball’s reserve clause, which started in 1879 to allow teams to “reserve” players. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of major league baseball in its 1972 decision. Players won free agency in 1975 with the Seitz decision, in which arbitrator Peter Seitz declared that baseball players could become free agents after playing for a team for one year without a contract.

1970 – Buckminster Fuller, author of over 30 books, receives the Gold Medal award from the American Institute of Architects. He was awarded the patent for the geodesic dome, although it was created by Dr. Walther Bauersfeld 30 years earlier. Fuller died in 1983 at age 87. Watch a biography including interviews with Fuller.



1991 – Operation Desert Storm begins when the U.S. and 27 allies attack Iraq for occupying Kuwait. The air war begins at 6:38 PM EST due to an 8-hour time difference, when an Apache helicopter attacks.

2003 – The Space Shuttle Columbia takes off for mission STS-107 on what would be its final space flight. Columbia disintegrated on re-entry 16 days later. During launch, a piece of foam insulation broke off and struck the left wing. On re-entry, the damage allowed atmospheric gases to enter and destroy the internal wing structure. This caused the space shuttle to become unstable and break apart.


January 17

1916 – Professional Golfer Association (PGA) forms in New York City. Englishman Jim Barnes won the first PGA Championship at Siwanoy Country Club Bronxville, New York.

1948 – The trial of 11 U.S. Communist Party members begins in New York City, under the Smith Act, a statute that imposes penalties on those who advocate the violent overthrow of the government. All were convicted and sentenced to 5 years in prison. Their convictions were upheld by the Supreme Court in 1951.

1950 – Seven men rob the Brinks office in Boston of $1.2 million cash and $1.5 million in securities. Six years after the robbery one of the conspirators who languished in jail on unrelated charges confessed to the crime and implicated 10 others. Eight of the surviving men were convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Only a small amount of the money and securities was ever recovered.

1989 – “The Simpsons” premieres on Fox-TV. It is the longest running scripted TV show in U.S. history at 32 seasons. Previously, the longest running scripted TV show was “Gunsmoke,” at 20 years. Watch the making of “The Simpsons.”


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