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 27-Feb 2, 2020
1825 – Congress approves a plan by Secretary of War John C. Calhoun for an Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa. This cleared the way for the forced relocation of the Eastern Indians through the Indian Removal Act of 1830 during what becomes known as the “Trail of Tears.”
1888 – The National Geographic Society is organized in Washington, DC. Alexander Graham Bell served as the second president.
1918 – “Tarzan of the Apes,” the first Tarzan film, premieres in New York City. Tarzan was a fictional character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in a 1912 novel. Tarzan was first played by Elmo Lincoln. Of the 15 actors who portrayed Tarzan, the most well-known was 5-time Olympic gold medal winner (swimming) Johnny Weissmuller.
1927 – United Independent Broadcasters Inc. starts a radio network with 16 stations. The company later became Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS).
1951 – The U.S. conducts the first nuclear test at the Nevada Test Site located 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The mushroom-shaped cloud could be seen from Las Vegas. A total of 928 nuclear tests were conducted there between 1951 and 1992, of which 100 were above ground.
1967 – Astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White, and Roger B. Chaffee die when a flash fire engulfs their Apollo 1 command capsule during testing. They were the first astronauts to die in the line of duty.
1973 – The United States and Vietnam sign the Paris Peace Accord initiating a cease-fire. Negotiations began in 1968. The Vietnam War did not officially end until May 1975.
1998 – First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton appears on NBC’s “Today” show with charges that the allegations against her husband are the work of a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” President Clinton was impeached December 1998. Watch her claim:
2010 – Steve Jobs unveils the Apple iPad. Jobs died in 2011 at age 56.
1878 – George W. Coy is hired in New Haven, Connecticut, as the first full-time telephone operator at the first telephone exchange.
1915 – The Coast Guard is created by an act of Congress to fight contraband trade and aid distressed vessels at sea.
1956 – Elvis Presley makes his first TV appearance. He performed on the Dorsey Brothers Stage Show with Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey.
1985 – USA For Africa records the song “We are the World.” The song is written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and produced by Quincy Jones. It sold more than 20 million copies. Watch the official star-studded video:
1986 – The Challenger, on the 25th Space Shuttle mission, explodes 73 seconds after liftoff. All crewmembers were lost. The space shuttle program was halted for 32 months. The first space shuttle mission after the Challenger disaster was the Discovery in September of 1988.
1990 – The San Francisco 49ers beat the Denver Broncos 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV. It was the most lopsided game in Super Bowl history.
2013 – John Kerry succeeds Hillary Rodham Clinton as U.S. Secretary of State. The current Secretary of State is Mike Pompeo.
1845 – Edgar Allen Poe’s narrative poem “The Raven” is first published once upon a midnight dreary. Poe died mysteriously in 1849 at the age of 40.
1879 – The Custer Battlefield National Monument in Montana is established. Lakota, Sioux, and Cheyenne warriors killed Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and over 200 troops of his 7th Cavalry troops on June 25, 1876 near the Little Bighorn River.
1936 – Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson are the first players elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Watch actual footage of the 1939 opening of the Baseball Hall of Fame:
1944 – The USS Missouri is launched. It was the last battleship commissioned by the Navy. The Japanese surrender took place on the deck of the Missouri that August. Decommissioned in 1992, the Missouri is now a museum ship at Pearl Harbor.
1975 – The first American Annual Comedy Awards is held and lasted two years. It was hosted by Alan King, who founded the American Academy of Humor. The American Comedy Awards began on Comedy Central in 1987 and lasted until 2001. NBC revived the awards ceremony in 2014. The award statue was renamed “The Lucy” starting in 1989 after the death of Lucille Ball.
1995 – The San Francisco 49ers become the first team in National Football League (NFL) history to win five Super Bowl titles when they defeated the San Diego Chargers 49-26 in Super Bowl XXIX. The Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots now hold the record with six Super Bowl wins.
2002 – In his State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush describes the “regimes that sponsor terror” as an Axis of Evil, which includes Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Listen to his chillingly accurate prediction:
1798 – The first brawl in the House of Representatives takes place when Congressmen Matthew Lyon and Roger Griswold fight on the House floor. Although a committee investigating the incident recommended they both be censured, the House rejected the motion. Lyon also was the only person ever elected to Congress while in jail. He was found guilty of violating the newly enacted Alien and Sedition Acts, and as such, was the first person to be convicted under that statute. He spent four months in jail. During the presidential election of 1800, it was Lyon who changed his vote to break the tie that allowed Jefferson to be elected over incumbent John Adams.
1815 – The Library of Congress, burned by the British during the War of 1812, is reestablished with 6,487 books bought from Thomas Jefferson at a cost of $23,950.
1835 – Andrew Jackson becomes the first president to be the victim of an assassination attempt when Richard Lawrence’s gun misfires in the Capitol Building. Jackson clubbed Lawrence with his cane. The prosecuting attorney during the trial was Francis Scott Key. British-born Lawrence was found not guilty by reason of insanity and institutionalized until his death in 1861.
1862 – The U.S. Navy’s first ironclad warship, the USS Monitor, is launched. The Monitor and the USS Virginia (formerly the Merrimack) engaged in the first ironclad battle on March 9th. Neither ship sustained serious damage but the Monitor sank in bad weather off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, later the same year.
1962 – Two members of the Flying Wallendas high-wire act are killed when their 7-person chair pyramid collapses during a performance in Detroit, Michigan. The Wallenda family started as circus performers in the 1780s in Europe. Watch a video of the family and accident (first 2 minutes) and the next generation pyramid (at 5:35):
1989 – The American embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, closes over security concerns. The embassy reopened in 2002 following Operation Enduring Freedom. It was attacked by the Taliban in September 2011 and again in April 2012.
2003 – Richard Reid, aka the Shoe Bomber, is sentenced to three consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole. He pleaded guilty to eight counts related to his terrorist attempt to ignite a bomb in his shoe on a flight from Paris to Miami, Florida, on December 22, 2001. U.S. airlines subsequently required all airline passengers to remove their shoes prior to boarding aircraft. Reid is now 46 years old.
1851 – Mr. Gail Borden announces the invention of evaporated milk. He patented the process of condensing milk in a vacuum.
1865 – Congress passes the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery in America by declaring that, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
1905 – The first auto to exceed 100 mph is driven by A. G. MacDonald at Daytona Beach, Florida.
1949 – “These Are My Children” airs as the first daytime soap opera on TV. It ran for 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for 2 months.
1958 – Explorer I is launched as the first successful U.S. satellite. It orbited Earth carrying instruments to measure cosmic rays, micrometeorites, and its own temperature. It transmitted data until May 23, 1958, and reentered Earth’s atmosphere in 1970 after orbiting 58,000 times.
1984 – Newscaster Edwin Newman retires from NBC News after 35 years with the network. Newman died in 2010 at age 91. Watch Newman in a 1983 report:
1990 – McDonald’s opens its first fast-food restaurant in Moscow, Russia. There are now 37,900 McDonald’s restaurants in 120 countries.
2000 – Baltimore Ravens football player Ray Lewis and his companions were involved in a fight that led to the death of two men. Murder charges against Lewis were changed to obstruction of justice in exchange for his testimony against his companions. Lewis was sentenced to 1-year-probation and fined $250,000., Lewis was named MVP of the Super Bowl champions Baltimore Ravens on January 28, 2001, and inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in August 2018.
1790 – The Supreme Court convenes for the first time in New York City.
1898 – Travelers Insurance Company issues the first automobile insurance policy in the U.S.
1906 – The first federal penitentiary building is completed in Leavenworth, Kansas. It was the largest maximum-security prison in the U.S. until 2005 when it was downgraded to a minimum-security prison.
1953 – “General Electric Theater” premieres on TV, a show later hosted by Ronald Reagan.
1960 – Four freshmen from North Carolina A&T University stage the first civil rights sit-in at a Greensboro, North Carolina, Woolworth’s store. A section of the lunch counter is now in the Smithsonian Museum. Watch a History.com feature about the sit-in:
1961 – The first full-scale test of a U.S. Minuteman-I Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) is successful. A total of 800 ICBMs were delivered to U.S. military bases. The U.S. currently operates 405 Minuteman-III ICBMs at three Air Force bases.
1989 – Princess Diana of England visits New York City for three days. It was her first visit to New York and her major official trip without her husband, Prince Charles. Princess Diana died in 1997 at age 36.
2003 – The Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrates over Texas and Louisiana during reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts aboard. A piece of foam that fell off the external fuel tank during launch struck the left wing, causing damage that led to the accident on reentry. It was Columbia’s 28th mission. Space Shuttle flights were suspended for more than two years.
2004 – Janet Jackson has a “wardrobe malfunction” when her breast is exposed during the half-time show of Super Bowl XXXVIII (38), resulting in U.S. broadcasters adopting a stronger adherence to FCC censorship guidelines. You decide:
1848 – The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ends the Mexican-American War. The U.S. acquired Texas, California, New Mexico, and Arizona for $15 million.
1863 – Samuel Clemens uses the pen name Mark Twain for the first time. Twain means two and mark twain signifies a safe depth of two fathoms (12 feet) in the Mississippi River.
1925 – Dogsleds reach Nome, Alaska, after a 1,000-km relay carrying emergency serum for a diphtheria epidemic. The Iditarod Race is a re-creation of that relay. A statue of Balto, the lead dog, stands in New York City’s Central Park. Watch a Smithsonian Channel history of the Iditarod as it honors that 1925 lifesaving relay:
1935 – The lie detector, invented by Leonarde Keeler, is first used in court in Portage, Wisconsin. Two criminals were convicted of assault after the polygraph test results were read in court.
1954 – President Eisenhower reports the detonation of the first H-bomb. It actually happened in 1952.
1974 – The F-16 Fighting Falcon flies for the first time. General Dynamics has built over 4,600 of the F-16s. It is a single-engine supersonic fighter aircraft developed for the U.S. Air Force. About 3,000 are still operational.
1980 – The FBI releases details of Abscam, a sting operation that targeted 31 elected and public officials for bribes and political favors. One senator and six representatives were convicted after their trials in 1981. Abscam came from the name of the fake company (Abdul Enterprises) the FBI used to target (scam) corrupt politicians.
2004 – It is reported that a white powder had been found in an office of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention later confirmed that the powder was the poison ricin. Two other letters were found in October and November 2003. No one has ever been arrested.
Image from: cbsnews.com