This Week in History: Jan 13-19, 2020


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 Jan 13-19, 2020


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.

1888 – The National Geographic Society is founded in Washington, DC.

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.

1979 – The YMCA files a libel suit against The Village People’s “YMCA” song. The lawsuit was later dropped.

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.

1952 – The “Today Show” premieres on TV with Dave Garroway and Jack Lescoulie as the world’s first morning news and talk show. Watch the Today Show premiere:

1963 – George C. Wallace is sworn in as the 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. Watch Carter’s speech on the 50th anniversary of King’s march on Washington:

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 featuring 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.

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 is 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’s assassination attempt came just 17 days after Manson follower Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme’s attempt on Ford’s life. Moore was released from prison in 2007. She is now 89 years old.

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 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.

1920 – Prohibition begins when the 18th Amendment goes into effect. The prohibition of alcohol was repealed with the 21st Amendment was ratified in 1933.

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 31 seasons. Previously, the longest running scripted TV show was “Gunsmoke,” at 20 years. Watch the making of “The Simpsons”:

2017 – President Barack Obama, 3 days before leaving office, commutes Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence from 35 years to 7 years (time served). Manning, a transgender woman, was court martialed and convicted under the Espionage Act after disclosing 750,000 classified documents. Chelsea Manning, born Bradley Edward Manning, was released from prison in May 2017 and ran unsuccessfully for the Maryland Senate in 2018.

January 18

1778 – Captain James Cook stumbles onto the Sandwich Islands (later renamed Hawaiian Islands).

1911 – The first shipboard landing of a plane is successfully completed when Eugene Burton Ely lands his Curtiss pusher airplane from Tanforan Park onto the deck of the USS Pennsylvania.

1948 – “Ted Mack and The Original Amateur Hour” talent show debuts and airs until 1970. It was the continuation of the “Major Bowes Original Amateur Hour” radio show after the death of Bowes.

1962 – The U.S. begins spraying the foliage and defoliant Agent Orange in Vietnam to reveal Viet Cong guerrillas. The U.S. military sprayed about 20 million gallons of chemicals, including Agent Orange, was used in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia until 1972. It is now banned.

1983 – The International Olympic Committee restores Jim Thorpe’s Olympic medals 70 years after they were taken from him for being paid $25 in semipro baseball. Thorpe died in 1953 at age 64.

1986 – AIDS charity record “That’s What Friends Are For” hits #1. The song was written by Bert Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager and performed by Gladys Knight, Dionne Warwick, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder. Watch a studio performance:

1996 – Lisa Marie Presley files for divorce from Michael Jackson after 20 months of marriage.

January 19

1825 – Ezra Daggett and his nephew Thomas Kensett patent food storage in tin cans to “preserve animal substances in tin.”

1840 – American naval officer Charles Wilkes leads an expedition and discovers Antarctica.

1883 – The first electric lighting system employing overhead wires, built by Thomas Edison, begins service at Roselle, New Jersey.

1922 – The U.S. Geological Survey says the U.S. oil supply will be depleted in 20 years.

1961 – The first episode for “Dick Van Dyke Show” is filmed. It aired until 1966. Dick Van Dyke is now 94 years old. The only other surviving cast member is Larry Mathews, now 64, who played the son. Watch the iconic 1962 show intro:

1977 – President Ford pardons American-born World War II propaganda broadcaster Iva Toguri D’Aquino (a.k.a. Tokyo Rose). She was arrested, tried, and convicted of treason in 1949. She served six years of a 10-year sentence. D’Aquino died in 2006 at age 90.

2006 – The New Horizons probe is launched by NASA on the first mission to Pluto. The probe sent back data from its “flyby” in 2015 and 2016. The mission has been extended to 2021 explore the Kuiper Belt.

2013 – Lance Armstrong admits to doping in all seven of his Tour de France victories. He was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. Armstrong is now 48 years old. Watch the confession to Oprah:

2017 – Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is extradited to the U.S. to face trial on criminal charges related to his role in the drug cartel. In 2019, he was found guilty and is serving a life sentence at the maximum security facility in Colorado.


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