This Week in History: Jan. 15-21, 2018


This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann

“The most effective way to destroy people is to
deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
George Orwell

Week of Jan. 15-21, 2018

January 15

1870 – A donkey is first used as a symbol of Democratic Party in Harper’s Weekly. The donkey is 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.

1889 – The Coca-Cola Company, then known as the Pemberton Medicine Company, is officially incorporated in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. John Stith Pemberton invents Coca-Cola as a “Delicious and Refreshing” fountain drink. It is first sold at Jacobs’ Pharmacy in Atlanta for 5 cents.

1934 – John Dillinger is shot several times by police while robbing the First National Bank in East Chicago, Indiana. Dillinger survives because he is wearing a bullet proof vest.

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.

1951 – The Supreme Court rules that “clear and present danger” of incitement to riot is not protected speech and can be a cause for arrest.

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 is Green Bay Quarterback Bart Starr.

1976 – Sara Jane Moore is sentenced to life for attempting to assassinate President Gerald Ford in September 1975. Moore is released from prison in 2007. She is now 86 years old.

1988 – Sports broadcaster Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder makes what are deemed racist remarks about black athletes. He was fired the following day. Snyder died in 1996 at age 77. Watch Snyder’s comments:

2001 – Wikipedia, a free Wiki content encyclopedia, goes online.

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 survive. 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 37m.

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.

1939 – The comic strip “Superman” debuts.

1951 – The world’s largest gas pipeline opens. It spans from Brownsville, Texas, to New York City.

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 rules 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 wins 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.

1984 – The Supreme Court rules (5-4) that the private use of home VCRs to tape TV programs for later viewing do not violate federal copyright laws.

1989 – “The Simpsons” premieres on Fox-TV. It is the longest running sitcom in U.S. TV history at 29 seasons. Previously, the longest running TV show was “Gunsmoke,” at 20 years. Watch the making of “The Simpsons”:

2001 – President Bill Clinton posthumously raises Meriwether Lewis’ rank from Lieutenant to Captain.

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.

1929 – The “New York Daily Mirror” with columnist Walter Winchell debuts on the radio.

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

1960 – The U.S. and Japan sign a joint defense treaty.

1962 – The U.S. begins spraying foliage in Vietnam with Agent Orange to reveal Viet Cong guerrillas.

1979 – Peter Jenkins finishes “A Walk Across America” in Florence, Oregon. He started in New York in October 1973. Jenkins is now 66 years old.

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:

1991 – Eastern Air Lines goes out of business after 62 years, citing financial problems.

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 92 years old. The only other surviving cast member is Larry Mathews, now 62, 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.

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 46 years old. Watch the confession to Oprah:

January 20

1778 – The first American military court martial trial begins in Brunswick, New Jersey. General Charles Lee, George Washington’s second in command, was charged and found guilty of disobeying orders, misbehavior before the enemy, and disrespect to the Commander-In-Chief. He was suspended from the Army for one year.

1801 – John Marshall is appointed U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice. Chief Justice Marshall serves until his death in 1835 at age 79. Marshall is the longest serving Supreme Chief Justice in U.S. history, serving during the administration of six presidents.

1869 – Elizabeth Cady Stanton becomes the first woman to testify before the U.S. Congress. She spoke about woman’s rights and suffrage. Stanton died in 1902 at age 86.

1920 – The American Civil Liberties Union is founded. Its primary focus in the early years was defending free speech and anti-war protesters.

1937 – FDR is the first president to be inaugurated on the newly selected Inauguration Day. It is held every four years on the January 20th thereafter.

1945 – FDR is sworn-in for an unprecedented 4th term as President. FDR died April 12th at age 63 and was succeeded by Vice President Harry Truman.

1961 – Poet Robert Frost recites “Dedication” at JFK’s inauguration. Frost was the first poet to be included in a presidential inauguration. Frost died in 1963 at age 88. Listen to Frost recite his poem:

1980 – President Jimmy Carter announces the U.S. boycott of the Winter Olympics in Moscow following the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. The U.S. was one of 65 countries that do not participate in the Olympics.

1981 – The 52 Americans held hostage in Iran for 444 days are freed just moments after President Ronald Reagan is inaugurated. Ronald Reagan becomes the first President since 1840 to be elected in a year ending in “0” (1980) to leave office alive.

1986 – New footage of the 1931 movie “Frankenstein” is found. The footage was originally deleted because it was considered to be too shocking. Watch the 19 seconds of unseen footage:

1994 – Shannon Faulkner becomes the first woman to attend classes at The Citadel in South Carolina. Faulkner joined the cadet corps in August 1995 under court order but soon dropped out.

January 21

1677 – The first medical publication in America is a pamphlet on smallpox. Thomas Thacher’s pamphlet, “A Brief Rule to Guide the Common People of New England how to order themselves and theirs in the Small Pocks, or Measles” was published in Boston.

1789 – The first American novel, W. H. Brown’s “Power of Sympathy” is published. It was subtitled “The Triumph of Nature.”

1908 – The Sullivan Ordinance is passed in New York City. It made smoking in public places by women illegal. The measure was vetoed by Mayor George McClellan, Jr. two weeks later.

1915 – Kiwanis International is founded in Detroit, Michigan. It is now headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. Its new motto, adopted in 2005, is “Serving the Children of the World.”

1950 – A New York jury finds former State Department official Alger Hiss guilty of perjury. He was convicted of lying about passing state secrets to Whittaker Chambers, a Time magazine editor.

1954 – The submarine USS Nautilus is launched in Groton, Connecticut, as the first atomic-powered submarine. First Lady Mamie Eisenhower broke the traditional bottle of champagne across the bow to christen the sub. It began its first nuclear-powered test voyage one year later. The Nautilus was decommissioned in 1980. It is now part of a museum in Connecticut. Watch a brief history of the Nautilus:

1977 – President Carter pardons almost all Vietnam War draft evaders.

1999 – In one of the largest drug busts in American history, the U.S. Coast Guard intercepts a ship with over 9,500 pounds of cocaine on board.

2003 – The Census Bureau announces that estimates show that the Hispanic population has passed the black population for the first time.


Thomas Nast cartoon from

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments