This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“No problem of human making is too great to be overcome by
human ingenuity, human energy, and the untiring hope of the human spirit.”
President George H. W. Bush
Week of Jan. 28-Feb. 3, 2019
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 to 10 in Super Bowl XXIV. It is the most lopsided game in Super Bowl history.
2013 – John Kerry succeeds Hillary Rodham Clinton as the U.S. Secretary of State. The current Secretary of State is Rex Tillerson.
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:
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 defeat the San Diego Chargers 49-26 in Super Bowl XXIX. The Pittsburgh Steelers now hold that record with six Super Bowl wins. The New England Patriots, in this year’s Super Bowl, also have five 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. 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.
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 was 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 the 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 45 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.
1964 – A U.S. report “Smoking & Health” connects smoking to lung cancer.
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 brief:
1990 – McDonald’s opens its first fast-food restaurant in Moscow, Russia. There are now 36,900 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. On January 28, 2001, Lewis was named MVP of the Super Bowl champions Baltimore Ravens. Lewis was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 2018.
1790 – The Supreme Court convenes for the first time in New York City.
1898 – Travelers Insurance Company issues the first auto 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.
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. Watch a report about her visit:
2003 – The Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrates over Texas and Louisiana during reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts aboard. 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) of 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 4,500 of the F-16s. It is a single-engine supersonic fighter aircraft developed for the U.S. Air Force.
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.
1690 – The Massachusetts Bay Colony issues the first paper money in (what would later become) America.
1870 – The 15th Amendment is passed. Although it declared that the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” poll taxes and literacy tests kept the 15th Amendment from being fully applied until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed.
1876 – Albert Spalding starts sporting goods company with $800, manufacturing the first official baseball, tennis ball, basketball, golf ball, and football.
1882 – Circus owner P.T. Barnum buys his world famous elephant Jumbo from the London Zoo for $10,000. In September 1885, while touring with “The Greatest Show on Earth,” Jumbo was hit and killed by a train in Toronto, Canada. The Ringling Brothers/ Barnum & Bailey Circus closed in 2017.
1913 – The 16th Amendment is ratified, authorizing a federal income tax.
1930 – Former president William Howard Taft (1909-1913) resigns as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for health reasons. Taft was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1921, making him the only president to also serve on the Supreme Court. Taft died the following month at age 72.
1953 – J. Fred Muggs, a chimp, becomes a regular on NBC’s Today Show. Watch Muggs in action on the Today Show:
1973 – President Richard Nixon signs the Endangered Species Act into law.
1984 – The first baby conceived by embryo transplant is born in Long Beach, California. The embryo was conceived in one woman’s womb and transferred to another woman without using test tube fertilization. The baby boy was born 38 weeks after the procedure was performed.
1990 – Jockey Billy Shoemaker retires at age 58 after 40,350 horse races with a 22% win record, making him the winningest jockey. He was paralyzed in an auto accident in 1991 and trained horses from his electric wheelchair. His record has since been eclipsed by jockeys Laffit A. Pincay, Jr. and Russel A. Baze. Shoemaker died in 2003 at age 77.
2002 – The New England Patriots beat the St. Louis (now LA) Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI by 20-17. Tom Brady was the MVP.
Image from CBSnews.com