This Week in History: Jan. 29-Feb. 4, 2024


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

Jan. 29-Feb. 4, 2024

January 29

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. Scenes from the 2012 movie “Battleship” were filmed on the USS Missouri.

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 each.

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.

January 30

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. (That’s about $500,000 in today’s money.)

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 for the trial was Francis Scott Key. British-born Lawrence was found not guilty by reason of insanity and institutionalized until his death in 1861.

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. Operations at the embassy were briefly suspended during the chaotic U.S. withdrawal in August 2021.

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, France, 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 50 years old.

January 31

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 5 weeks.

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.

1990 – McDonald’s opens its first restaurant in Moscow. About 30,000 people were served the first day, setting a first day world record in the history of McDonald’s. Watch a news report on the grand opening.

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. Nevertheless, 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.

2017 – President Donald Trump announced he will nominate Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court to replace Antonin Scalia.

February 1

1790 – The Supreme Court convenes for the first time in New York City. There were six justices.

1905 – The USDA Forest Service is created within the Department of Agriculture. The agency was given the mission to sustain healthy, diverse, and productive forests and grasslands for present and future generations.

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. Two of the four students are still living, Joseph McNeil (81) and Ezell Blair, Jr. (82). Watch a 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 400 Minuteman-III ICBMs at three Air Force bases.

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 XLVIII (38), resulting in U.S. broadcasters adopting a stronger adherence to FCC censorship guidelines. You decide.

February 2

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.

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.

February 3

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.

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.

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. Watch his last race with a short bio.

2019 – The New England Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 in the lowest scoring Super Bowl. It was the Patriots’ 6th Super Bowl win, tying with the Steelers for the most wins. The San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys are tied with five wins each.

February 4

1787 – Shays’ Rebellion (by debt-ridden Massachusetts farmers) fails. Daniel Shays led a group of farmers who revolted against the government for seizing the farms of farmers who couldn’t pay their taxes due to harsh economic conditions. Since the federal government was unable to finance an army due to lack of money, the Massachusetts governor raised money from local merchants and created a privately-funded militia army that ultimately defeated the Revolutionary War veteran Daniel Shays and local farmers.

1861 – The Provisional Congress of Confederate States of America holds its first meeting in Montgomery, Alabama. The states of Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina elected Jefferson Davis as President of Confederacy.

1974 – Patty Hearst, granddaughter of publisher William Randolph Hearst, is kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army and held for 19 months. Patty is now 69 years old. Watch a brief look back at her kidnapping.

1991 – The Baseball Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors votes 12-0 to bar Pete Rose for life for betting on baseball games. Rose appealed the decision several times, but the ban still stands because he was deemed “permanently ineligible.” Rose is 82 years old.

1997 – OJ Simpson is found libel in the murders of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman. OJ was found not guilty in his 1995 criminal trial. He later served a 9-year sentence after his 2008 conviction for armed robbery and kidnapping. OJ was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 1985 because the bylaws stipulated that only a player’s achievements on the football field are considered as criteria for induction in the Hall of Fame. OJ is 76 years old.

2004 – Facebook is launched by Mark Zuckerberg from his Harvard dormitory after he steals the idea from his fellow classmates.

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