This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall
possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in
need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.” Samuel Adams
Jan 4-10, 2021
1847 – Samuel Colt sells his first revolver pistol, the Walker, to the U.S. government.
1893 – President Harrison grants amnesty to Mormon polygamists. Utah is admitted to the Union exactly three years later.
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 a total of six games against their opponents, usually The 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 34 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 74) has been the host since 1981. Vanna White (age 63) 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 movie grossed more than $2 billion worldwide. The 2019 movie “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” earned about $177 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 is 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.
1970 – Local farmers sue Max Yasgur for $35,000 in damages caused by the “Woodstock” concert.
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 almost $22 trillion. (Last year on this date the national debt was $21.5 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 with photos of the King.
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.
1964 – President Lyndon B. Johnson declares the “War on Poverty.”
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 life 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. The first members were Admiral William D. Leahy, President Roosevelt’s special military adviser/ Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy; General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the Army; Admiral Ernest J. King, Chief of Naval Operations and Commander in Chief of the U.S. Fleet; and General Henry H. Arnold, Deputy Army Chief of Staff for Air and Chief of the Army Air Corps.
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 79 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 a four-year sentence. Watch the award ceremony.
2007 – Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs announces the iPhone.
1776 – Thomas Paine publishes “Common Sense.” Originally published anonymously, “Common Sense” advocated independence from Britain for the American colonies.
1789 – The first national presidential election in the U.S. ends. The election process began on December 15, 1788. George Washington was unanimously elected to the first of his two 4-year terms.
1870 – John D. Rockefeller incorporates Standard Oil. He became the world’s first millionaire.
1943 – President F.D. Roosevelt leaves for Casablanca, Morocco, becoming the first U.S. president to visit a foreign country in wartime.
1984 – The U.S. establishes full diplomatic relations with Vatican after 117 years. In 1983, Congress lifted a prohibition on diplomatic relations enacted in 1867 during widespread anti-Roman Catholic sentiment and concern about the struggle for Italian unification.
1987 – The Dow Jones industrial average closes over the 2,000 mark for the first time. Thirty years later, on January 25, 2017 (five days after President Trump took office), the Dow Jones closed over 20,000. The Dow closed over 30,000 on November 24, 2020.
1994 – The trial of Lorena Bobbitt begins. She cut off her husband John’s penis in 1993 after what she claims was years of abuse. His member was reattached during a nine-hour surgery. Lorena was acquitted of malicious wounding. Lorena is now 50 years old and John is 53.
2018 – Amazon founder Jeff Bezos becomes a billionaire. He is now the richest person in the world. Seven of the top ten billionaires in the world are Americans.
Image from: jpl.nasa.gov