This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“History is a vast early warning system.” Norman Cousins
July 17-23, 2023
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.
2019 – Mexican drug cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, now 65, is sentenced in New York to life in prison plus 30 years and ordered to forfeit $12.7 billion. He is incarcerated at Colorado’s Supermaz, the most secure federal prison.
1768 – Boston Gazette publishes “Liberty Song,” America’s first patriotic song.
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, then 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.
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 2 weeks later.
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. It is now docked in Lake Erie at Cleveland, Ohio. Watch part of the rescue.
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.
2017 – A 16-year-old victim of serial killer John Wayne Gacy is identified by DNA 41 years after his remains were discovered under Gacy’s house. Jimmy Haakenson was one of 33 murder victims. Of the six who remain unidentified, another victim, Francis Wayne Alexander, was identified by DNA and forensic genealogy in 2021. Police are still trying to identify the other five victims through DNA.
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 is 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. Hammerin’ Hank died in 2021 at age 86.
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. Williams in now 60 years old. Watch the crowning ceremony.
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.
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 (VA) 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.
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.
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.
1587 – The second English colony is established on Roanoke Island off North Carolina. The colony vanished under mysterious circumstances.
1893 – Katharine Lee Bates writes the poem, “America the Beautiful” after being inspired during a visit to Pike’s Peak in Colorado. She didn’t publish it for two years, when it was then set to the music by composer S. A. Ward’s “Materna,” the tune to which we sing it today.
1933 – Wiley Post completes the first solo around-the-world flight. He traveled 15,596 miles in 7 days, 18 hours and 49 minutes.
1934 – “Public Enemy No. 1” John Dillinger is mortally wounded by FBI agents outside Chicago’s Biograph Theatre. Watch a Smithsonian video about his criminal life.
1937 – The U.S. Senate rejects President Roosevelt’s proposal to add up to six more justices to the Supreme Court.
1975 – The House of Representatives votes to restore citizenship to General Robert E. Lee. In 1865, Lee signed an amnesty oath issued by President Andrew Johnson but was not pardoned because Secretary of State William Seward (of Seward’s folly fame) gave the application to a friend as a souvenir. A National Archives examiner eventually found Lee’s oath and initiated the amnesty process.
1994 – OJ Simpson pleads “Absolutely 100 percent not guilty” of murdering his ex-wife and her friend. He was found not guilty on October 3, 1995. One of OJ’s attorneys was Robert “Keeping Up With The” Kardashian. Kardashian died in 2003 at age 59.
1999 – The Woodstock 99 Music Festival (30th anniversary of Woodstock) begins in Rome, New York, and lasted until the 25th. It was attended by an estimated 400,000 and ended early due to violence. Woodstock 50 (50th anniversary) was scheduled for August 16-18, 2019, but it did not take place.
2003 – Saddam Hussein’s sons are killed by members of the U.S. 101st Airborne and Special Forces. Saddam Hussein was executed in 2006.
1715 – The first lighthouse in America is authorized for construction on Little Brewster Island, Massachusetts, and is known as the Boston Light.
1880 – The first application of hydropower electricity generation within an industrial setting in the U.S. occurs when the Wolverine Chair Factory in Grand Rapids, Michigan, powers up 16 brush-arc lamps using a water turbine. The world’s first commercial hydroelectric power plant built to provide electricity to buildings outside the plant opened in September 30, 1882, on the Fox River in Appleton, Wisconsin.
1938 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approves the first federal game preserve. The area covered 2,000 acres in Utah.
1956 – The Bell X-2 rocket plane, piloted by Col. Frank Everest, sets a world aircraft speed record of 1,895 miles per hour (Mach 2.87) at 60,000 feet over Edwards Air Force Base in California. In 1967, the X-15 set the current official world record for the fastest speed ever reached by a manned aircraft at 4,520 mph. Watch a newsreel of the X-2 flight.
1989 – FOX tops ABC, NBC, and CBS in TV ratings for the first time with their show “America’s Most Wanted.” The show was cancelled several times and resumed by public demand. The 6-year-old son of the host John Walsh was kidnapped and murdered in 1981.
2015 – NASA’s Kepler mission announces the discovery of the most Earth-like planet yet, named Kepler-452b, 1,400 light years from Earth (over 8 quadrillion miles).
Image from: nbc.news.com