This Week in History: Jan 18-24, 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 18-24, 2021




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.

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.


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 65, 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.


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 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.

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 45, 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.”


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.

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.


January 22

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 enters 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, 47 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 over 60 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.


January 23

1855 – The first bridge over the Mississippi River opens in what is now Minneapolis, Minnesota. The bridge today is called the Father Louis Hennepin Bridge.

1862 – Agoston Haraszthy, the first vintner in Sonoma Valley, California, imports 10,000 grapevine cuttings. He introduced more than 300 varieties of European grapes. Haraszthy, a Hungarian immigrant, is called the “Father of Modern Winemaking in California.” He had previously started the second oldest winery in the U.S. in Wisconsin.

1930 – The George Washington Birthplace National Monument is established in Colonial Beach, Virginia.

1968 – The spy ship USS Pueblo and its 83-man crew are seized in Sea of Japan by North Korea. The crew was released 11 months later, but the ship still remains in North Korea. Watch a video by the Council on Foreign Relations.



1986 – The first inductees into Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame are Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles, “Fats” Domino, The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley. Only Don Everly, age 83, and Jerry Lee Lewis, age 85, are still living.

1993 – New York Newsday reports that Oregon’s Senator Bob Packwood sexually harassed 23 women. Packwood announced his resignation from the Senate on September 7, 1995, after the Senate Ethics Committee unanimously recommended that he be expelled from the Senate for ethical misconduct.

2002 – Reporter Daniel Pearl is kidnapped in Karachi, Pakistan. He was subsequently murdered by Al-Quaeda terrorists on live TV. A British national of Pakistani origin was sentenced to death by hanging in Pakistan for the murder. He is still awaiting execution.

2013 – The U.S. armed forces overturn a 1994 ban on women serving in combat.


January 24

1848 – James Marshall finds gold in Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California, starting the gold rush.

1922 – Christian K. Nelson gets the patent for the Eskimo Pie, a chocolate covered ice cream bar. It was originally called the “I Scream Bar.”

1925 – Moving pictures of a solar eclipse are taken from a U.S. Navy dirigible over Long Island. Watch the flight from Los Angeles to New York with the eclipse footage (no narration).



1935 – The Krueger Brewing Company sells the first canned beer, “Krueger Cream Ale.” Beer had previously only been sold in bottles.

1964 – The 24th Amendment to the Constitution goes into effect. It states that voting rights cannot be denied due to failure to pay taxes.

1984 – Apple Computer Inc. unveils its revolutionary Macintosh personal computer. Watch Apple’s first Mac commercial.



1989 – Confessed serial killer Ted Bundy is put to death in Florida’s electric chair for the 1978 kidnap-murder of 12-year-old Kimberly Leach.

2003 – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security officially begins operation.



Image from: madison.com

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