This Week in History: July 1-7, 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

July 1-7, 2024




July 1

1836 – President Andrew Jackson announces to Congress the bequest by James Smithson of 100,000 gold sovereigns to establish the institution in Washington, DC that bears his name.

1874 – Four-year-old Charles Ross of Germantown, Pennsylvania, is the first U.S. kidnapping victim using a ransom note. He was held for $20,000 and the kidnappers wrote a total of 23 ransom letters over a five-month period. Two suspects were shot during a robbery attempt and admitted to kidnapping Charlie before they died. Charlie was never found, although his father and mother searched for him until their deaths in 1897 and 1912 respectively.

1898 – Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders charge up San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War. Vice President Teddy Roosevelt became president in 1901 when President McKinley was assassinated. Roosevelt was elected president in 1904.

1943 – The U.S. Government begins automatically withholding federal income tax from paychecks.

1963 – The U.S. postal service institutes the “zip” code (Zone Improvement Plan).

1966 – Medicare becomes available as a result of the Medicare Act being signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 31, 1965.

1971 – The cost of building the Golden Gate Bridge, completed in 1933, is paid in full. There is still a toll, however, to cross the bridge ($8.75-$10.25 for cars and motorcycles). Watch a video of the amazing statistics about the bridge.



1996 – Placido Domingo becomes artistic director of Washington (DC) National Opera, a post he held until 2011. The current director is Timothy O’Leary.

2015 – The U.S. and Cuba announce an agreement to re-open embassies and establish full diplomatic ties.


July 2

1776 – Richard Henry Lee’s resolution that the American colonies “are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States” is adopted by the Continental Congress.

1864 – Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol is established and Congress invites each state to contribute two statues of prominent citizens. The first statue was of Revolutionary War hero Nathanael Greene of Rhode Island, placed in the Hall in 1870. There are currently 100 statues in the Capitol.

1881 – President James A. Garfield is shot by Charles J. Guiteau, a disappointed office-seeker. Garfield died on September 19th. Vice President Chester Arthur became president when Garfield died. Guiteau was convicted of murder and hanged on June 30, 1882.

1926 – The U.S. Army Air Corps is created and the Distinguish Flying Cross is authorized. The first recipient of the DFC medal was Charles A. Lindbergh, then a captain in the Army Reserve, on June 11, 1927. The award recognized his 1927 transatlantic crossing in the Spirit of St. Louis.

1937 – Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan disappear over the Pacific Ocean in their Lockheed 5B Vega in their attempt to fly around the world. They were never found.

1947 – An unidentified flying object (UFO) crashes at William “Mack” Brazel’s ranch in Roswell, New Mexico. The U.S. Army Air Force insisted it was a weather balloon, but eyewitness accounts led to speculation that it might have been an alien spacecraft. Brazel died in 1963 at age 64.

1962 – Wal-Mart Discount City opens in Rogers, Arkansas. The company founded by Sam Walton and his brother James is now headquartered in nearby Bentonville, Arkansas.

1964 – President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act into law. As Senate Majority Leader in 1957, Johnson (D-TX) successfully blocked the civil rights legislation he was forced to sign when he was president! Watch a newsreel that includes a political who’s who. LBJ signs Civil Rights Bill

1995 – “Forbes” magazine reports that Microsoft’s chairman Bill Gates is the world’s richest person. Tesla/SpaceX founder Elon Musk is now the richest person ($205 billion).

2002 – Steve Fossett becomes the first person to fly solo around the world nonstop in a balloon. Fossett disappeared in September 2007 while flying an airplane. The crash site was found in September 2008 and his remains were identified in November. He was 63 years old.


July 3

1839 – The first “normal school” (teacher’s college) in the U.S. opens in Lexington, Massachusetts, with three female students enrolled, launching teaching as a profession.

1898 – Joshua Slocum completes the first solo circumnavigation of the globe and lands in Rhode Island after sailing more than three years. He launched his sloop the “Spray” from Massachusetts on April 24, 1895. In 1909, Slocum disappeared while sailing to the West Indies, and was presumed lost at sea. He was 65 years old.

1965 – Roy Rogers’ horse Trigger dies at age 33. Trigger’s first movie role was with Olivia de Havilland starring as Maid Marian. She rode Trigger (then called Golden Cloud) through the forest in the 1938 movie “The Adventures of Robin Hood.” Watch Trigger’s film debut with a description of his rise to fame.



1986 – President Reagan presides over a relighting ceremony in New York Harbor of the renovated Statue of Liberty.

2014 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes above 17,000 for the first time. The Dow is now about 39,000.


July 4 – Independence Day

1776 – The U.S. Congress proclaims in the Declaration of Independence our independence from Britain.

1785 – The first Independence Day celebration is held in Bristol, Rhode Island, and is the oldest continuous Independence Day celebration in the U.S.

1802 – The United States Military Academy opens at West Point, New York. The fortifications were originally built on the west point of the Hudson River in 1778 during the Revolutionary War, making it the longest continually occupied post in the U.S.

1826 – John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (2nd and 3rd presidents) die within five hours of each other at ages 90 and 82 respectively.

1939 – Baseball player Lou Gehrig makes his “luckiest man alive” speech. The Iron
Horse took himself out of the Yankee lineup for health reasons after playing 2,130 consecutive games. He was later diagnosed with ALS, a disease that now bears his name. Watch his iconic speech.



1966 – President LBJ signs the Freedom of Information Act. It act requires full or partial disclosure of information and documents on request that are controlled by the government, with nine exceptions including to national security, personnel, and trade secrets.

1997 – NASA’s unmanned spacecraft, the Mars Pathfinder, lands on Mars. The rover Sojourner was deployed to gather data about the surface of the planet. Its last communication was on September 27, 1997, after traveling 330 feet.

2004 – The cornerstone of the Freedom Tower (One World Trade Center) is laid on the former World Trade Center site in New York City. The building opened in November of 2014.

2005 – NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft, launched earlier in 2005, takes pictures as a space probe smashes into the Tempel 1 comet. The mission was aimed at learning more about comets that formed from the leftover building blocks of the solar system. Watch a short but compelling video of the impact.



2009 – The Statue of Liberty’s crown reopens to visitors. It had been closed to the public since 2001.


July 5

1775 – The Second Continental Congress adopts the Olive Branch Petition in an attempt to assert the rights of the colonists while appearing to maintain their loyalty to Britain and submits it to King George on July 8th. King George refused to read the petition and proclaimed that the colonists have “proceeded to open and avowed rebellion.”

1865 – The U.S. Secret Service is created to fight the counterfeiting of money. The Secret Service was asked to protect presidents in 1901 after the assassination of President McKinley.

1934 – On “Bloody Thursday” police open fire on striking longshoremen in San Francisco during a riot, striking three men and mortally wounding two. Watch actual newsreel footage of the shootout.



1954 – The B-52A bomber makes its maiden flight. A total of 744 were built by Boeing between 1952 and 1962. As of 2022, 58 are still in service, 18 are in reserve, and 12 are in long-term storage.

1989 – Former U.S. National Security Council aide Oliver North receives a $150,000 fine and a suspended prison term for his part in the Iran-Contra affair. His convictions were later overturned.

1994 – Amazon.com is founded by Jeff Bezos in Bellevue, Washington, under the name “Cadabra.” The name was quickly changed to Amazon.

1998 – Japan joins the U.S. and Russia in space exploration with the launching of the Planet-B probe to Mars.

2016 – The FBI releases a report stating that Hillary Clinton was “extremely careless” in her handling of classified emails, but did not recommend prosecution.


July 6

1699 – The pirate Captain William Kidd is captured in Boston and sent to England for trial. He was convicted of piracy and murder and hanged in May 1701. He was 56 years old.

1785 – Congress unanimously resolves that the U.S. currency be named the “dollar” and adopts decimal coinage.

1945 – Abbott and Costello’s film “The Naughty Nineties” is released and features the longest version of their iconic “Who’s on First” routine. Watch the famous sketch from the movie. Who’s on first?

1945 – President Truman signs an executive order establishing the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It is awarded “for especially meritorious contribution to 1) the security or national interests of the United States, or 2) world peace, or 3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” It is the highest civilian award in the U.S. President Kennedy re-established the award in 1963 and expanded the scope of achievements. About 650 people have been awarded the Medal of Freedom by former presidents. President Biden has yet to present any medals.

1971 – President Nixon forms the White House Plumbers unit to plug news leaks after the “Pentagon Papers” are released to the New York Times. The “Plumbers” were also instrumental in trying to cover up the Watergate break-in at the Democrat National Committee’s Headquarters in 1972.

1983 – The Supreme Court rules 5-4 in Arizona Governing Committee v. Norris that retirement plans can’t pay women smaller monthly payments solely because of their sex.

1993 – John F. Kennedy Jr. gives notice he is quitting as Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan. In 1995, he launched the magazine “George.” Kennedy, his wife, and sister-in-law died in a plane crash in July 1999.

2003 – Serena Williams beats her sister Venus Williams (4-6, 6-4, 6-2) at the 110th Wimbledon Women’s Tennis Tournament.

2008 – Venus Williams beats her sister Serena Williams (7-5 6-4) at the 115th Wimbledon Women’s Tennis Tournament. The sisters have competed against each other 31 times, with Serena holding a 19 to 12 advantage.

2010 – NASA Administrator Charles Bolden tells al-Jazeera news that President Obama told him, “He wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.” See it for yourself.




July 7

1863 – The first military draft in the U.S. is held. Exemptions to service during the Civil War cost $100.

1928 – Sliced bread is sold for the first time by the Chillicothe Baking Company in Missouri. It was described as the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was first wrapped. No word on what was the greatest thing before sliced bread.

1948 – The Cleveland Indians sign 42-year-old Satchel Paige to a baseball contract. He was the oldest rookie in baseball history. Paige died in 1982 at age 75. Watch a short bio of Paige.


1981 – Sandra Day O’Connor is nominated as the first woman Supreme Court Justice. She was unanimously confirmed by Congress on July 8. She submitted her letter of resignation from the Court in 2008. O’Connor died in 2023 at age 93.

1983 – Eleven-year-old Samantha Smith of Manchester, Maine, leaves for a visit to the Soviet Union at the personal invitation of Soviet leader Yuri Andropov after she writes him a letter. Samantha died in 1985 at age 13 in a plane crash with her father. Watch Ted Koppel’s interview with Samantha.



2016 – In Dallas, Texas, a gunman ambushes police officers, killing five and wounding nine others, during a protest march against fatal police shootings of blacks. During a standoff, the gunman was killed by a bomb attached to a robot.





Image from: spacecoastdaily.com


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