This Week in History: July 15-21, 2019


This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann

“No problem of human making is too great to be overcome by
human ingenuity, human energy, and the untiring hope of the human spirit.”
President George H. W. Bush

Week of July 15-21, 2019


July 15

1789 – The Marquis de Lafayette (Marie Joseph Yves Roche Gilbert du Motier) is named colonel-general of the new National Guard of Paris. During the Revolutionary War, Congress commissioned Lafayette a Major General in the Continental Army. He assisted George Washington in winning the war and they became life-long friends.

1830 – Indian tribes (Sioux, Sauk, and Fox) sign the fourth Treaty of Prairie du Chien giving the U.S. most of Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri. William Clark (of the Lewis and Clark Expedition) represented the U.S. at the signing.

1933 – Wiley Post begins the first solo flight around world. The flight took 7 days, 18 hours. He was killed, along with his friend Will Rogers, when their plane crashed in Alaska on August 15, 1935.

1954 – The Boeing 707 becomes the first commercial jet transport plane tested in the U.S. The prototype, nicknamed “Dash 80,” served as a flying lab until it was given to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in 1972. Boeing went on to build more than 14,000 jetliners. The company was started by William Boeing in 1916. Watch actual test flight footage with commentary from the test pilot:

1975 – The U.S.S.R.’s Soyuz 19 and NASA’s Apollo 18 launch and rendezvous in space two days later. It was the first space rendezvous of spacecraft from different countries.

1976 – Brothers Richard and James Schoenfeld and their friend Frederick Woods kidnap 26 school children and their bus driver Frank Ray in Chowchilla, California. They hid the bus in a quarry and demanded $5 million ransom, but the bus driver Frank Ray helped the students escape. All three kidnappers pleaded guilty and were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, which was changed to life with the possibility of parole. Richard Schoenfeld, now 64, was paroled in 2012. James, now 66, was paroled in 2015. Frederick Woods, now 67, who has been repeatedly denied parole, has his next hearing in 2021. Frank Ray died in 2012 at age 91. Watch a montage of actual footage:

2002 – “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh pleads guilty to supplying aid to the enemy and to possession of explosives during the commission of a felony and is sentenced to 20 years in prison. In May 2019, Lindh was released early from prison for good behavior with probation for the remaining time of his sentence.

2003 – AOL Time Warner disbands Netscape Communications Corporation and establishes Mozilla Foundation on the same day.

2006 – The social networking service Twitter is launched. The micro-blogging service averages 336 million monthly users.

July 16

1790 – U.S. Congress establishes the District of Columbia, initially known as “The Federal City.” The nation’s capital moved from Philadelphia to Washington, DC in 1800.

1941 – Joe DiMaggio hits in his 56th straight game with the American League New York Yankees. The streak ends the next day in Cleveland, but Joe goes on to hit in the next 18 consecutive games. Willie Keeler of Baltimore holds the National League record with 45 consecutive hits during the 1896-97 season. Watch still photos as DiMaggio talks about his hitting streak:

1957 – Marine Major John Glenn sets the transcontinental speed record in an F8U-1P Crusader. Glenn set another record when he becomes the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962 in Friendship 7 and the oldest person in space in 1998 at age 77 aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. Glenn died in 2016 at the age of 95.

1969 – Apollo 11 launches from Kennedy Space Center carrying Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin on the successful mission to land on the moon.

1988 – Florence Griffith Joyner sets the 100-meter women’s world record at 10.49 seconds during the Olympic time trials in Indianapolis, Indiana. She is considered the fastest woman of all time because her record for the 100-meter and 200-meter has never been beat. Flo-Jo died in her sleep in 1998 at age 38 from an epileptic seizure. Watch the fastest woman ever:

1999 – John F. Kennedy, Jr. (piloting a Piper Saratoga), his wife Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and sister-in-law Lauren Bessette are killed in a plane crash off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

2015 – A 24-year-old Kuwaiti-born Muslim terrorist shoots and kills 5 American soldiers at a Chattanooga, Tennessee, naval reserve training center. The soldiers returned fire to help others escape. The terrorist was shot to death by police. His father was on the terrorist watch list.

July 17

1775 – The first U.S. military hospital (medical department) is approved in Massachusetts with a Director-General (chief physician of the Hospital), four surgeons, an apothecary (pharmacist), and nurses (usually wives or widows of military personnel). The pay for the surgeons and the pharmacist was $1.66 a day and nurses $2 a month.

1938 – Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan leaves New York for Los Angeles in his modified Curtiss Robin and ends up in Ireland. He was denied permission to fly across the Atlantic and claimed his trans-Atlantic flight was due to a navigation error. The New York Post printed its headline backwards. Watch a 50th anniversary news report with Corrigan:

1955 – Disneyland opens in Anaheim, California. The Magic Kingdom covers 160 acres and cost $17 million to build. Watch Walt Disney’s brief opening speech:

1955 – Arco, Idaho, becomes the first U.S. city lit by nuclear power. The Experimental Breeder Reactor Number 1 near Arco becomes the first reactor in the U.S. when it went online in 1951.

1975 – An Apollo spacecraft docks with a Soyuz spacecraft in orbit. It was the first link up between the U.S. and Soviet Union in space.

1997 – After 117 years in business, the Woolworth Corp. closes the last of its 400 stores. The first store opened on 1879 as Woolworth’s Great Five Cent Store in Utica, New York. It soon failed and the second store opened in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, after founder Frank Woolworth brought in his brother Charles.

July 18

1768 – Boston Gazette publishes “Liberty Song,” America’s first patriotic song.

1938 – Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan lands in Ireland after he leaves New York for California but “accidentally” flew the wrong way. Watch Corrigan explain what happened:

1947 – President Harry Truman signs the Presidential Succession Act. The line of succession after the Vice President is Speaker of the House, President Pro Tem of the Senate, Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Defense, the Attorney General, Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, HHS, HUD, Transportation, Energy, Education, VA, and Homeland Security (as long as they are constitutionally eligible).

1969 – Mary Jo Kopechne dies when Senator Edward Kennedy drives his car off the Chappaquiddick Bridge. Kopechne, age 28, drowned in the car. Two fishermen found the submerged car in the morning after Kennedy failed to report the accident. Kennedy, age 37, pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and received a two-month suspended sentence.

1986 – Videotapes are released showing Titanic’s sunken remains. Marine geologist Robert Ballard discovered the Titanic wreckage 350 miles southeast of Newfoundland, 13,000 feet down on the ocean floor. Watch a video of a 2004 dive on the wreckage:

2015 – PayPal, an online payment system, is spun off from eBay as a separate publicly traded company on the NASDAQ.

July 19

1692 – Five more people are hanged for witchcraft (making 20 in all) in Salem, Massachusetts.

1848 – The first U.S. women’s rights convention is held in Seneca Falls, New York, to “discuss women’s social, civil, and religious condition, and rights of women.” Nearly 300 people attended the 2-day convention. Organizers included Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

1899 – New York City newspaper boys revolt when Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst raised the price they charged the boys to sell bundles of 100 newspapers from 50 to 60 cents. The children, boys and girls, stood their ground until the newspaper moguls backed down after 2 weeks.

1930 – Admiral Richard E. Byrd, Laurence McKinley Gould, and their polar expedition team return to the U.S. following the first exploration of the interior of Antarctica.

1945 – The USS submarine Cod saves 56 sailors from the sinking Dutch sub O-19 in the only international sub-to-sub rescue in history. After being mothballed, recommissioned, and decommissioned, the USS Cod opened for public tours in 1976 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986. She is now docked in Lake Erie at Cleveland, Ohio. Watch part of the rescue:

1982 – According to the 1981 U.S. Census Bureau report 14 percent (about 32 million) of the population have an income below the official poverty level. In 2014, the percentage was 14.8 (almost 47 million people). The 2016 Census reported the poverty level to be 12.7 percent.

1985 – Christa McAuliffe is chosen as the first teacher to fly in a space shuttle. She was killed on January 28, 1986, during the Space Shuttle Challenger launch.

1993 – President Clinton fires FBI Director William Sessions after he was accused of using an FBI plane to visit his family. Sessions, a Republican, was appointed by President Reagan.

July 20

1881 – Sioux Indian Chief Sitting Bull, a fugitive since the 1876 Battle of Little Big Horn, surrenders to federal troops and is forced onto a reservation. He was shot and killed in 1890 while being arrested by U.S. government and Indian agents who feared he would lead an uprising.

1917 – The World War I draft lottery held. Number 258 was the first number drawn.

1940 – Billboard publishes the first ranking of record singles. Tommy Dorsey scored the first #1 single with “I’ll Never Smile Again.” The song, featuring vocals by Frank Sinatra, stayed #1 for 12 weeks.

1942 – The first detachment of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs) begins basic training at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. There were 440 officer candidates (average age 30) and 125 enlisted women (average age 24).

1969 – Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. aboard Apollo 11 (The Eagle) become the first men to land on the moon. Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit aboard the command spacecraft. Watch the Eagle land:

1976 – Hank Aaron hits home run #755, his final major league homer, off Angels’ pitcher Dick Drago. Babe Ruth set the home run record at 714 in 1927. Aaron played his last game on October 3rd and was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1982. Hank is 85 years old.

1984 – Vanessa Williams is asked to resign as Miss America after “Penthouse Magazine” announces its plans to publish nude photos of her. Williams, the first black Miss America, resigned three days later, becoming the first Miss America to resign. First runner-up Suzette Charles, Miss New Jersey, assumed the crown. Watch the crowning ceremony:

2000 – The leaders of Salt Lake City’s bid to win the 2002 Winter Olympics are indicted by a federal grand jury for bribery, fraud, and racketeering.

2012 – Twelve people are killed and 70 injured after a gunman opens fire at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. James Eagan Holmes was convicted of murder and given 12 life sentences plus 3,318 years for attempted murder.

July 21

1861 – The Battle of Bull Run at Manassas Junction, Virginia, recognized as the first major battle of the U.S. Civil War, begins. The first land battle of the Civil War was actually the Battle of Carthage (Missouri), fought on July 5th.

1865 – Wild Bill Hickok shoots and kills Davis Tutt in Springfield, Missouri, after quarreling over a card game. This was the first recorded case of two men taking part in a quick-draw duel. The following month Hickok was acquitted of murder after pleading self-defense.

1925 – The Scopes Monkey Trial ends when Tennessee high school biology teacher John Scopes is found guilty of teaching Darwinism. He was fined $100. His defense attorney was Clarence Darrow and the prosecutor was three-time Democrat presidential nominee William Jennings Bryant, who died five days after the trial.

1930 – The U.S. Veterans Administration is established.

1969 – Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to walk on the moon and utters the immortal words, “One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” A total of 12 people have walked on the moon, all Americans. Watch the first small step:

1974 – The House Judiciary Committee approves two Articles of Impeachment against President Richard Nixon following the Watergate investigation. Nixon resigned on August 9th.

1976 – The first outbreak of “Legionnaires’ Disease” kills 29 people at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia.

1980 – Selective Service (draft) registration begins in the U.S. for men aged 19 and 20 years old following Proclamation #4771 signed by President Carter in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

1984 – The first documented case of a robot killing a human in the U.S. occurs when 34-year-old Harry Allen is pinned by a robot against a trim press at the Diecast Corporation in Jackson, Michigan. Allen died 5 days later.

1997 – The fully restored 200-year-old USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”) celebrates her 200th birthday by setting sail for the first time in 116 years. Watch an aerial and on deck video of the sailing:

2004 – White House officials are briefed on the September 11 commission’s final report. The 575-page report concluded that hijackers exploited “deep institutional failings within our government.” The report was released to the public the next day.

2011 – NASA’s Space Shuttle program ends with the landing of Space Shuttle Atlantis on mission STS-135. NASA’s space shuttle program began with its first launch (Columbia mission STS-1) on April 12, 1981. Watch the final landing:


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