This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Ronald Reagan
Jan. 31-Feb. 6, 2022
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 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.
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 39,198 McDonald’s restaurants in 120 countries.
2000 – Baltimore Ravens football player Ray Lewis and his companions are 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. 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.
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. Two of the four students are still living, Joseph McNeil (79) and Ezell Blair, Jr. (80). 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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 67 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 80 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. He is 74 years old.
2004 – Facebook is launched by Mark Zuckerberg from his Harvard dormitory after he steals the idea from his fellow classmates.
1778 – South Carolina becomes the first state to ratify the Articles of Confederation. It was replaced by the Constitution in 1788.
1922 – Reader’s Digest magazine is first published. Roy DeWitt Wallace came up with the idea of publishing articles on various subjects while he was recovering from wounds he received during World War I. Wallace was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Nixon in 1972. Wallace died 1981 at age 91.
1973 – A funeral is held for Lt. Col. William Nolde, the last U.S. soldier killed in the Vietnam War. Nolde was killed in combat 11 hours before the ceasefire under the Paris Peace Accord became effective.
1991 – A Michigan court bars Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a euthanasia activist, from assisting in suicides. Between 1994 and 1997 Kevorkian was tried four times for participating in assisted suicides. He was acquitted three times (the fourth was a mistrial). In 1999 Kevorkian was convicted of 2nd degree murder and served 8 years of his 10-15-year sentence. He died in 2011 at age 83. Watch a brief CNN news report.
2003 – Secretary of State Colin Powell presents evidence to the U.N. concerning Iraq’s material breach of U.N. Resolution 1441, which was unanimously passed in 2002. Its purpose was to give Saddam Hussain another opportunity to comply with the disarmament obligations set out in 10 previous resolutions.
2018 – The Dow Jones has its largest one-day point loss in history. It dropped 1,175.21 points. That record stood until March 16, 2020, when the Dow dropped 2,997 points amid concerns over the Coronavirus.
1693 – A royal charter is granted for the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was the 2nd college in the U.S., after Harvard University.
1891 – The Dalton Gang stages their first, albeit unsuccessful, train robbery when they attempt to rob a Southern Pacific train in California. The Dalton brothers were lawmen in the late 1880s. It’s believed they became outlaws because of strained frontier conditions and not being paid. The gang robbed several trains and banks until they attempted to rob two bank simultaneously in Coffeyville, Kansas, in October of 1892. Two Dalton Brothers and two other gang members were killed, while Emmett Dalton survived being shot 23 times. Emmett was pardoned after serving 14 years of a life sentence. He moved to California and became a real estate agent, author and actor. Emmett died in 1937 at age 66.
1911 – The Arizona Pioneers’ Home, the first old-age home in the U.S., opened in Prescott, Arizona. It was a home for indigent pioneers and disabled miners. It is still in operation.
1971 – Alan Shepard hits the first golf balls on the Moon. Both golf balls Shepard hit are still on the Moon. Shepard died in 1998 at age 74. Watch his zero gravity putt.
1996 – Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss begins her 7-year jail sentence for tax evasion of which she served 20 months. Her 1994 conviction for pandering was later overturned. Fleiss is now 56 years old.
2000 – First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton formally declares that she is a candidate for a U.S. Senate seat from the state of New York. She won the election in November. She lost her presidential bids in 2008 and 2016.
Image from: smithsonianmag.com