This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Ronald Reagan
Jan. 3-9, 2022
1823 – Stephen F. Austin receives a grant of land from the government of Mexico and settles with his family in what is now Texas. He is considered the “Father of Texas.”
1920 – The New York Yankees purchase baseball player Herman “Babe” Ruth from the Boston Red Sox for $125,000. It was the largest sum paid for a single player to date. He led the Yankees to seven pennants and four World Series wins. Ruth retired from baseball with the Boston Braves in 1935. He died in 1948 at age 53.
1938 – March of Dimes is founded by President FDR to fight polio. Entertainer Eddie Cantor coined the phrase March of Dimes and encouraged a national fundraising campaign the week preceding the president’s birthday on January 30th. More than $85,000 in dimes were mailed in letters to the White House.
1944 – World War II top flying ace Major Greg “Pappy” Boyington is shot down over the Pacific and captured by the Japanese. The Black Sheep Squadron leader was released after 20 months in captivity. Boyington was awarded the Medal of Honor by President F. D. Roosevelt while still a prisoner of war. He was presented with the Medal by President Truman the following October. Pappy died in 1988 at age 75.
1952 – Dragnet with Jack Webb premieres on NBC-TV. It started as a radio series in 1949, spawned three generations of TV series, and was made into movies in 1954, 1966 and 1987. Webb died in 1982 at age 62. Watch one of Webb’s classics speeches.
1977 – Apple Computer is incorporated.
1994 – The controversial 35-foot-tall statue of Chief Wahoo, the Cleveland Indians trademark which sat on top of their stadium since 1962, is taken down to be moved to the new stadium at Jacob’s Field. The Indians redesigned their uniforms and stopped using the logo for the 2019 season and changed the team name to the “Guardians” in 2021.
2005 – After hosting the show for over 30 years, Casey Kasem gives up hosting “American Top 40” to Ryan Seacrest. Kasem died in 2014 at age 82.
1847 – Samuel Colt sells his first revolver pistol, the Walker, to the U.S. government.
1936 – Billboard magazine publishes its first music Hit Parade. The first # 1 song in Billboard history was Joe Venuti, father of the jazz violin, performing “Stop, Look and Listen.” Listen to the recording.
1954 – Elvis Presley records a 10-minute demo tape in Nashville, Tennessee.
1970 – Walter Cronkite stops hosting his weekly documentary but continues reporting for the CBS Evening News. He retired from CBS in March 1981 because of their policy of mandatory retirement by age 65. Cronkite died in 2009 at age 92.
1995 – Newt Gingrich (R) becomes Speaker of the House. He resigned as Speaker in January 1999 after House Republicans had the worst performance in 64 years following the November 1998 mid-term elections.
2004 – NASA’s Mars Rover Spirit lands successfully on Mars. It was launched in June 2003. Communication with Spirit was lost in March 2010.
2007 – The 110th United States Congress convenes, electing Nancy Pelosi as the first female Speaker of the House in U.S. history.
1781 – A British naval expedition led by former American General and traitor Benedict Arnold burns Richmond, Virginia. Arnold joined the British Army after his unsuccessful plot to turn over West Point to the British. Arnold died in London in 1801 at age 60.
1836 – Davy Crockett arrives in Texas. Crocket served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1927 to 1935. After being defeated for reelection in 1934, he said, “I told the people of my district that I would serve them as faithfully as I had done; but if not, they might go to hell, and I would go to Texas.” He was killed on March 6th at age 49 defending the Alamo.
1914 – James Cox of Ford Motor Company announces wages will jump from $2.40/9-hour day to $5.00/8-hour day.
1959 – The “Bozo the Clown” live children’s show premieres on TV. The show survived in several forms, including “Bozo’s Big Top,” until 2001. One of the actors who portrayed Bozo was Willard Scott, who went on to be the first Ronald McDonald. Watch one of the early live TV shows.
1971 – The Harlem Globetrotters lose 99-100 to the New Jersey Reds, ending their 2,495-game winning streak. The Globetrotters have lost 345 games, most against the Washington Generals.
1976 – The “MacNeil-Lehrer Report” premieres on PBS. Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer originally teamed up to cover the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaigns, formed to investigate Watergate. MacNeil is now 89 and Lehrer died in 2020 at age 85.
1987 – The surrogate Baby M case begins in Hackensack, New Jersey. William and Elizabeth Stern entered into a surrogacy agreement with Mary Beth Whitehead. Whitehead changed her mind and took Baby M away from the Sterns. A New Jersey court awarded custody to the Sterns and gave visitation rights to Whitehead. Baby M (Melissa Elizabeth Stern) is now 35 years old.
2002 – Fifteen-year-old student pilot Charles Bishop crashes a small plane into a building in Tampa, Florida. Bishop was about to begin a flying lesson when he took off without permission and without a flight instructor. He left a suicide note praising Osama bin Laden for the 9-11 attacks. Bishop died on impact.
1759 – George Washington marries Martha Dandridge Custis. Martha was a widow who has 2 children. George died in 1799 at age 67 and Martha died in 1802 at age 70.
1893 – The Washington National Cathedral is chartered by Congress and signed by President Benjamin Harrison. Construction took 83 years, from 1907 to 1990, at a cost of $65 million in private donations.
1941 – FDR makes his “4 Freedoms” speech (speech, worship, from want, and from fear). Listen to his speech with a slide show.
1975 – The original daytime version of “Wheel of Fortune” debuts on NBC-TV. It lasted until 1989, when it moved to CBS for two years before moving back to NBC. The original host was Chuck Woolery. Pat Sajak (age 75) has been the host since 1981. Vanna White (age 64) has been the hostess since 1982. It is the second longest running TV game show after “The Price Is Right.”
1994 – Tonya Harding’s ex-husband and her bodyguard hire Shane Stant to break the leg of ice skater Nancy Kerrigan the day before the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Kerrigan withdrew from the competition with a bruised leg. Both skaters were named to the Olympic team, where Kerrigan won the Silver Medal and Harding finished eighth. Harding plead guilty to hindering the prosecution and received three years’ probation, 500 hours of community service, a $160,000 fine, and a lifetime ban from figure skating.
2016 – “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” sets a new opening weekend box office record with $248 million. The record is now held by “Avengers: Endgame,” which earned about $357 million on its opening weekend.
1608 – Fire destroys the colony at Jamestown, Virginia.
1896 – Fanny Farmer publishes her first cookbook. She was partially paralyzed after a stroke when she was 16. She enrolled in the Boston Cooking School at age 30 and attends until 1989. Farmer died in 1915 at age 57.
1927 – The Harlem Globetrotters basketball team play their first game in Hinckley, Illinois. They started as the “Savoy Big Five” in 1926 with 24-year-old coach Abe Saperstein. “Sweet Georgia Brown” became their theme song in 1952. They played basketball against the Washington Generals. In 1982, the Harlem Globetrotters became the only sports team with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Watch their top 10 dunks video.
1969 – The U.S. Congress doubles the president’s salary to $200,000. In 1999, President Clinton doubled his salary to $400,000 plus benefits. In 1789, George Washington was paid $25,000 a year. President Trump takes a salary of $1 a year.
1998 – Former White House intern Monica Lewinsky signs an affidavit denying she had an affair with President Bill Clinton.
1999 – President Bill Clinton begins his impeachment trial in the Senate for perjury and obstruction of justice after saying he did not have sex with “that woman.” Although Clinton was convicted in the House, both charges failed in the Senate on February 12th. Watch Clinton ask for the definition of the word “is.”
2002 – Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates introduces a new device called the Mira. The device was a tablet-like device that is a cross between a handheld computer and a TV remote control. Mira was cancelled in December 2003 after technological problems could be resolved.
1790 – President George Washington delivers the first State of the Union Address before a joint session of Congress in New York City. Many of the early addresses, however, were only delivered to Congress in writing. Since the ratification of the 20th Amendment in 1933, that changed the opening of Congress from March to January, the President’s Annual Message to Congress has been delivered in late January or early February.
1835 – The U.S. national debt is $0 for the first and only time. The current national debt is $29.5 trillion. (Last year on this date the national debt was almost $22 trillion.) The National Debt Clock registers dozens of U.S. indicators. U.S. Debt Clock
1867 – Legislation gives voting rights to blacks in Washington, DC, despite President Andrew Johnson’s veto.
1877 – Crazy Horse and his warriors fight their last battle with the U. S. Cavalry at Wolf Mountain in the Montana Territory. Crazy Horse surrendered in May with his band to protect him, and went to Fort Robinson in Nebraska. Crazy Horse died that September. A mountain monument of Crazy Horse is being constructed 17 miles from Mount Rushmore in Custer County, South Dakota. His face is 87 feet high, while the president’s faces are 60 feet high.
1954 – Elvis Presley pays $4 to a Memphis studio and records his first two songs, “Casual Love” and “I’ll Never Stand in Your Way.” Listen to the Elvis recording.
1963 – The “Mona Lisa” painting by Leonardo de Vinci, on loan from the Louvre Museum in Paris, is unveiled in America’s National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC for President and Mrs. Kennedy.
1973 – The trial of Watergate burglars begins in Washington, DC. James W. McCord and G. Gordon Liddy were convicted on charges conspiracy, burglary, and wiretapping. Five others plead guilty earlier. McCord’s sentence was reduced to four months and Liddy served four years of his 20-year sentence.
2002 – President George W. Bush signs into law the “No Child Left Behind” Act. The “Every Student Succeeds” Act replaced NCLB in 2015.
2011 – The attempted assassination of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords at a Safeway grocery store in Tuscon, Arizona, kills 6 and wounds 13, including Giffords. She resigned from Congress a year later. Jared Lee Loughner was convicted of the shooting and sentenced to 7 life terms plus 140 years in prison without possibility of parole.
1793 – The first hot-air balloon flight in the U.S. lifts off in Philadelphia, piloted by Jean Pierre Blanchard. He flew to an altitude of over one mile and traveled more than 15 miles.
1861 – The Union merchant vessel Star of the West is fired upon at Ft. Sumter in South Carolina in the first hostile act of Civil War.
1903 – Frank Farrell and Bill Devery purchase the American League Baltimore baseball team franchise for $18,000 and move the team to New York City. The team was renamed the Highlanders until 1913, then renamed the Yankees.
1942 – The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff positions are created. They include the chairman, vice chairman, and service chiefs of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Space Force, and National Guard. The current chairman is Gen. Mark Milley.
1956 – Abigail Van Buren’s “Dear Abby” column first appears in newspapers. Her real name was Pauline Phillips. Abby died in January 2013 at age 94. Her twin sister was columnist “Ann Landers,” who died in 2002 at age 83.
1979 – The Supreme Court strikes down a Pennsylvania law (by a 6-3 vote) requiring doctors performing an abortion to try to preserve lives of potentially viable fetuses.
1991 – Baseball officially bans Pete Rose from being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. “Charlie Hustle” was banned for betting on baseball games while he was a player and manager. Rose is now 80 years old.
2002 – Michael Jackson receives the Artist of the Century award at the American music awards. Jackson died in 2009 at age 50. Jackson’s physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for administering the drugs that killed Jackson. Murray served two years of his four-year sentence. Watch the award ceremony.
2007 – Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs announces the iPhone.
Image from: wksu.com