This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“History is a vast early warning system.” Norman Cousins
Jan 16-22, 2023
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 Prohibition went in effect January of 1920 and was repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933.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.
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 were ever recovered.
1982 – Cities across the U.S. record the lowest temperatures in over 100 years on the day known as “Cold Sunday.” Even cities in Alabama and Mississippi saw temperatures below zero.
1989 – “The Simpsons” premieres on Fox-TV. It is the longest running scripted TV show in U.S. history at 33 seasons. Previously, the longest running scripted TV show was “Gunsmoke,” at 20 years. Watch the making of “The Simpsons.”
1992 – Operation Desert Storm begins when the U.S.-led coalition forces begin bombing Iraq during the Gulf War.
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 to Wikileaks. Chelsea Manning, born Bradley Edward Manning, was released from prison in May 2017 and ran unsuccessfully for the Maryland Senate in 2018.
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. Ely died in a crash at a flying exhibition in October 1911 on his 25th birthday.
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.
2013 – Former Democrat New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin is indicted on 21 corruption charges following business contracts and bribes in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Nagin was convicted on 20 of the 21 charges. In 2014, Nagin was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was released and place on house arrest in April 2020 due to COVID. Nagin was ordered to pay $84,264 in restitution and ordered to forfeit over $500,000 as recompense for illegal contracts and bribes. In spite of having $12,600 in monthly income, he and his wife declared bankruptcy, saying they had less than $10 in assets and were relying on food stamps.
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 97 years old. The only other surviving cast member is Larry Mathews, now 67, who played the son. Watch the iconic 1962 show intro. Dick Van Dyke 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 6 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 51 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.
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 served until his death in 1835 at age 79. Marshall is the longest serving Chief Justice in U.S. history, serving during the administration of six presidents.
1937 – This is the first time the presidential inauguration is held on January 20th. It was previously held on March 4th.
1980 – President Carter announced the U.S. boycott of the Moscow Winter Olympics to protest the Soviet Union’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan.
1994 – Shannon Faulkner becomes the first woman to attend classes at The Citadel in South Carolina, breaking the 152-year-old male-only tradition. Faulkner formally joined the cadet corps in August 1995 under court order, but she dropped out soon after. Faulkner, now 47, is an English teacher in South Carolina.
2009 – Barack Hussein Obama is inaugurated as the first bi-racial president.
2017 – More than 500,000 people march in protest at President Trump’s inauguration in the “Women’s March.”
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.
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. He was not charged with espionage because the statute of limitations had run out. Hiss served less than four years of his five year sentence. Hiss died in 1996 at age 92.
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.
1673 – Postal service between New York and Boston is inaugurated.
1814 – The first Knights Templar grand encampment in the U.S. is held in New York City.
1917 – President Wilson pleads for an end to war in Europe, calling for “peace without victory.” America entered the war the following April.
1946 – Congress creates the CIA, Central Intelligence Agency, during the Hoover administration. Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter was its first director.
1950 – Automaker Preston Tucker is found not guilty of mail fraud and conspiracy to defraud after being hounded by the SEC for years. Tucker’s defense attorneys surprised everyone by not calling any witnesses to the stand. Even though Tucker was acquitted, his factory had been closed down and he was deep in debt. Of the 51 Tucker Sedans that were made, 48 are still around, mostly in private collections. He died in 1956 at age 53. Watch a video on the rise and fall of Tucker.
1973 – The U.S. Supreme Court legalizes some abortions in the Roe vs. Wade decision. There have been an estimated 62 million abortions in the U.S. since Roe vs. Wade.
1990 – Robert Tappan Morris, Jr. is convicted of releasing the 1988 Internet worm. He was the first person to be indicted under the new Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Morris was sentenced to three years of probation, 400 hours of community service, and fined $10,050.
2002 – Kmart Corp becomes the largest retailer in U.S. history to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Image from: NPR