This Week in History: Jan. 8-14, 2024

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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. 8-14, 2024




January 8

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 $34 trillion. (Last year on this date the national debt was $31.5 trillion.) The National Debt Clock registers dozens of U.S. indicators. National debt clock

1867 – Legislation gives voting rights to blacks in Washington, DC, despite President Andrew Johnson’s veto. Johnson was a Democrat from North Carolina.

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.



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.


January 9

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. Charles Q. Brown, Jr.

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 82 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.


January 10

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 53 years old and John is 56.

2018 – Amazon founder Jeff Bezos becomes a billionaire. He was the richest person in the world until Elon Musk took the top spot. Seven of the top ten billionaires in the world are Americans. There are currently 756 billionaires in America, 150 more than last year.


January 11

1794 – Robert Forsyth, a 40-year-old U.S. Marshal, is killed in Augusta, Georgia, when trying to serve court papers. Forsyth was the first U.S. marshal to die in the line of duty.

1803 – James Monroe and Robert Livingston sail for Paris to buy New Orleans. They end up purchasing Louisiana. Monroe served as president from 1817 to 1825. Livingston helped draft the Declaration of Independence and administered the presidential oath of office to George Washington in 1789.

1849 – Elizabeth Blackwell becomes the first woman in the U.S. to earn a medical degree. She opened an infirmary in 1857 and trained nurses during the Civil War. Blackwell died in 1910 at age 89. Watch a brief bio of Dr. Blackwell.



1953 – J. Edgar Hoover turns down a 6-figure offer to become the president of the International Boxing Club. Hoover served as FBI director from 1924 until his death in 1972.

1984 – The Supreme Court reinstates the $10 million award to Karen Silkwood’s family. Silkwood worked at the Kerr-McGee Cimarron Fuel Fabrication Site plant near Crescent, Oklahoma, and became a nuclear safety activist. She died in a suspicious car accident in 1974 at age 28.

2021 – House Democrats introduce one article of impeachment against former president Donald Trump for “incitement of insurrection” for the January 6th protests at the Capitol. (Note: Trump was impeached 7 days before the end of his term.) Trump was impeached in February, making him the only president to be impeached twice. He was also acquitted twice.


January 12

1773 – The first public museum in the U.S. is established in Charlestown, South Carolina.

1906 – Dow Jones closes above 100 for the first time (100.26). After the stock market crash and the Great Depression, it wasn’t until 1933 that the Dow Jones closed above 100 again.

1921 – Kenesaw Mountain Landis becomes the first commissioner of baseball. The former federal judge served until his death in 1944 at age 78. He was the longest serving commissioner in baseball history.

1948 – The Supreme Court rules in favor of Ada Sipuel in the case of Sipuel vs. Oklahoma State Board of Regents. Two years earlier Ada Sipuel applied for admission to the all-white law school at the University of Oklahoma and was denied because of her race. Future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall argued before the Supreme Court while future Justice John Paul Stevens watched from the gallery.

1967 – The Louisville, Kentucky, draft board refuses an exemption for the boxer Muhammad Ali. Ali (born Cassius Clay) was convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to 5 years in prison, fined $10,000, and banned from boxing for three years. He stayed out of prison during his appeal and the Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 1971. Ali died in 2016 at age 74.

1967 – Dr. James Bedford, who died of heart failure and kidney cancer at age 73, becomes the first person to be placed in cryonic suspension with the intent of future resuscitation. Bedford’s body was successfully transferred to a new cryogenic storage dewar (capsule) in 1991. There are currently about 500 people in cryonic suspension (300 people are in the U.S.) in seven facilities worldwide.

2005 – NASA’s spacecraft Deep Impact launches from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a Delta 2 rocket on a mission to land on a comet. In July, the impactor separated from the fly-by spacecraft and hit the comet. The fly-by spacecraft was reprogrammed and crossed paths with other comets. Communication was lost in 2013. Watch an onboard video of the impact (no sound).



2020 – Novak Djokovic and his tennis partner win the doubles tournament at the Association of Tennis Professionals first men’s tennis cup of the year in Sydney, Australia. Djokovic is now embroiled in a COVID vaccine controversy with the Australian government. Djokovic has been the number one ranked tennis player in the world for a record 406 straight weeks.


January 13

1794 – Congress changes the U.S. flag to 15 stars and 15 stripes. The flag was in use until 1818, when the number of stripes were reduced to 13 (for the 13 colonies) and the stars were increased to 20. The current flag with 50 stars was adopted in 1960 with the admission of Hawaii.

1906 – Telimco advertises the first radio set for $7.50 in Scientific American. It claimed to receive signals up to one mile away.

1948 – The first country music TV show, Midwestern Hayride, premieres in Cincinnati, Ohio. The first country music radio show was the National Barn Dance (1924-1960). Watch excerpts from one of the shows.



1972 – Former housewife Bernice Gera wins the lawsuit she initiated on March 15, 1971, to become a minor league baseball umpire. Gera became the first professional female umpire of a minor league baseball game in June 1972, but later resigned because male umpires refuse to work with her. All of the current 76 full-time baseball umpires are men. Gera died in 1992 at age 61.

1988 – The Supreme Court issues a landmark decision (5-3) in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier that public school officials have broad powers to censor school newspapers, plays, and other expressive activities.

2018 – Transgender Chelsea Manning, the former soldier convicted of passing 750,000 documents to Wikileaks, announces his/her bid for the Senate seat from Maryland. Ben Cardin won the election by a landslide. Originally sentenced in 2013 to 35 years in prison, President Obama commuted the remainder of Manning’s sentence in 2017. Manning is now 36 years old.


January 14

1784 – The Revolutionary War ends when Congress ratifies the Treaty of Paris. The treaty established the United States as a sovereign nation.

1938 – The National Society for the Legalization of Euthanasia is founded in New York by Rev. Charles Francis Potter. Euthanasia was referred to as “mercy killing.” Potter was also an advisor to Clarence Darrow on the Bible during his defense of Thomas Scopes, who was charged with teaching evolution. Ironically, even though Potter supported euthanasia, he opposed capital punishment.

1963 – George C. Wallace is sworn in as the Democrat governor of Alabama for the first of four nonconsecutive terms. In his inaugural address he stated, “Segregation now; segregation tomorrow; segregation forever!” He was shot and left paralyzed in 1972. Wallace died in 1998 at age 79.



1979 – President Jimmy Carter proposes that Martin Luther King’s birthday be a holiday. President Ronald Reagan signed legislation in 1983 designating the third Monday in January as an annual federal holiday. The first official celebration took place on January 20, 1986.

1995 – Mexico pledges the profits from its state-owned Pemex’s $7 billion-per-year oil revenues in an effort to secure U.S. congressional approval of loan guarantees. President Clinton approved a $20 billion U.S. aid package for Mexico. Emails released in 2017 from presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s private server showed that her State Department helped break up Pemex’s monopoly in 2009.

2019 – The U.S. National Safety Council says that for the first time an American’s chance of dying from an accidental opioid overdose is higher than dying in a car accident.



Image from: mercurynews.com


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