This Week In History
by Dianne Hermann
“While I take inspiration from the past, like most Americans, I live for the future.”
– Ronald Reagan
Week of July 18-24, 2016
1768 – Boston Gazette publishes “Liberty Song,” America’s first patriotic song.
1853 – The first train to cross the U.S.-Canada boundary goes from Portland, Maine, to Montreal.
1918 – U.S. and French forces launch the Aisne-Marne offensive in France during World War I.
1927 – Baseball Hall of Famer Ty Cobb gets his 4,000th career hit on his way to 4,191.
1932 – The U.S. and Canada signed a treaty to develop the St. Lawrence Seaway.
1938 – Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan lands in Ireland after he leaves New York for California but “accidentally” flies the wrong way. Watch Corrigan explain what happened:
1940 – The Democrat National Convention nominates FDR for a third term as president.
1947 – President Harry Truman signs the Presidential Succession Act. The line of succession after the VP 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, drowns in the car. Two fishermen find the submerged car in the morning after Kennedy fails to report the accident. Kennedy, age 37, pleads guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and receives a two-month suspended sentence.
1986 – Videotapes are released showing Titanic’s sunken remains. Marine geologist Robert Ballard discovers 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:
1994 – Comet Shoemaker-Levy collides with Jupiter. American astronomers Carolyn and Eugene Shoemaker and David Levy discover the comet in 1993.
1995 – “Dreams from My Father,” a memoir by Barack Obama, is published by Times Books.
2015 – President Obama’s administration normalizes relations with Cuba.
2015 – PayPal 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 and political equality. Nearly 300 people attend the 2-day convention.
1850 – The Airship Elizabeth leaves for Fire Island, New York, during a storm and crashes, killing 42 people.
1879 – Doc Holliday (a dentist) kills for the first time after a man shoots up his New Mexico saloon. Holliday flees when a reward is offered for his capture. He joins the Earp brothers in the gunfight at the OK Corral in 1881. Holliday died of TB at age 36 in 1887.
1899 – New York City newspaper boys revolt when Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst raise the price they charge the boys to sell bundles of 100 newspapers from 50 to 60 cents. The childen stand their ground until the newspaper moguls back down.
1909 – The first unassisted triple play in major-league baseball is made by Cleveland Indians shortstop Neal Ball in a game against Boston.
1912 – A meteorite with an estimated mass of 190 kg explodes over the town of Holbrook in Navajo County, Arizona, causing approximately 16,000 pieces of debris to rain down on the town.
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 opens for public tours in 1976 and is designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986. She is now docked in Lake Erie at Cleveland, Ohio.
1957 – Don Bowden becomes the first American to break the 4-minute mile (3mins, 58 secs).
1961 – TWA shows the first in-flight movie (MGM’s “By Love Possessed” starring Lana Turner and Efrem Zimbalist Jr.)
1973 – Willie Mays is named to the National League all-star baseball team for 24th time (ties with Stan Musial). Hank Aaron holds the record at 25 games.
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 is 14.8 (almost 47 million people).
1985 – Christa McAuliffe is chosen as the first teacher to fly in a space shuttle. She is killed on January 28, 1986, during the Space Shuttle Challenger launch.
1996 – The XXVI (26th) Olympic games open in Atlanta, Georgia.
1858 – An entrance fee is first charged to see a baseball game (50 cents). New York beats Brooklyn 22-18.
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 is 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 is the first number drawn.
1921 – Congresswoman Alice Mary Robertson (R-OK) becomes the first woman to preside over the U.S. House of Representatives. She is only the second woman ever elected to Congress. Jeanette Rankin (R-MT) is the first in 1916.
1940 – Billboard first publishes the 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 are 440 officer candidates (average age 30) and 125 enlisted women (average age 24).
1960 – The USS George Washington is the first submerged submarine to fire a Polaris missile.
1968 – Iron Butterfly’s song “In-a-gadda-da-vida” becomes the first heavy metal song to hit the music charts.
1969 – Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. aboard Apollo 11 (The Eagle) become the first men to land on the moon. Michael Collins remains 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 plays his last game on October 3rd and is inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1982. Hank is 82 years old.
1984 – Vanessa Williams is asked to resign as Miss America after “Penthouse Magazine” announces it plans to publish nude photos of her. Williams, the first black Miss America, resigns three days later, becoming the first Miss America to resign. First runner-up Suzette Charles, Miss New Jersey, assumes the crown. Watch the crowning ceremony:
1989 – Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe’s show opens at Washington, D.C.’s Project for the Arts after the Smithsonian Institution’s Corcoran Gallery cancels it.
1990 – Justice William Brennan resigns from the Supreme Court and is replaced by David Souter. President Eisenhower appointed Brennan to the court in 1956.
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 59 injured after a gunman opens fire at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.
1861 – The first major battle of the U.S. Civil War begins. It is the Battle of Bull Run at Manassas Junction, Virginia. The Confederates win the battle. The first land battle of the Civil War is 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 is the first recorded case of two men taking part in a quick-draw duel. The following month Hickok is acquitted of murder after pleading self-defense.
1873 – Jesse James and James Younger’s gang commit their first train robbery (the Rock Island Line) near Adair, Iowa.
1925 – The Scopes Monkey Trial ends when Tennessee high school biology teacher John Scopes is found guilty of teaching Darwinism. He is fined $100. His defense attorney is Clarence Darrow. The prosecutor is three-time Democrat presidential nominee William Jennings Bryant, who dies five days after the trial.
1930 – The U.S. Veterans Administration is established.
1949 – The Senate ratifies the North Atlantic Treaty by a vote of 82-13.
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:
1972 – Fifty-seven murders are committed in 24 hours in New York.
1974 – The House Judiciary Committee approves two Articles of Impeachment against President Richard Nixon. Nixon resigns on August 9th.
1976 – The first outbreak of “Legionnaires’ Disease” kills 29 people at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia.
1980 – Draft registration begins in the U.S. for men aged 19 and 20 years old.
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 dies 5 days later.
1987 – Mary Hart of “Entertainment Tonight” has her legs insured by Lloyd’s of London for $2 million.
1997 – The fully restored 200-year-old USS Constitution (aka “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:
2002 – WorldCom Inc. files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. At the time it is the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.
2004 – White House officials are briefed on the September 11 commission’s final report. The 575-page report concludes that hijackers exploited “deep institutional failings within our government.” The report is 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 begins 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 vanishes under mysterious circumstances.
1775 – George Washington, at the age of 43, becomes Commander-In-Chief of America’s revolutionary army.
1893 – Katharine Lee Bates writes the poem, “America the Beautiful” after being inspired during a visit to Pike’s Peak in Colorado. She doesn’t publish it for two years, when it is then set to the music by composer S. A. Ward’s “Materna,” the tune to which we sing it today.
1933 – Wiley Post completes his around-the-world flight. He travels 15,596 miles in 7 days, 18 hours and 45 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 more justices to the Supreme Court.
1942 – Gasoline rationing begins in the U.S. during World War II.
1955 – Richard Nixon is the first vice president to preside over cabinet meeting.
1963 – Sonny Liston KOs Floyd Patterson in the first round of their second fight for the heavyweight boxing title. Watch a newsreel of the leadup to the bout and the fight:
1975 – The House of Representatives votes to restore citizenship to General Robert E. Lee. In 1865 Lee signs an amnesty oath issued by President Andrew Johnson but is not pardoned because Secretary of State William Seward (of Seward’s folly fame) gives the application to a friend as a souvenir. A National Archives examiner eventually finds Lee’s oath and initiates the amnesty process.
1991 – Jeffrey Dahmer confesses to killing 17 boys and young men between 1978 and 1991. He pleads guilty and is sentenced to 16 life terms. In November 1994, 34-year-old Dahmer is killed in the Wisconsin prison shower by fellow inmate Christopher Scarver.
1994 – OJ Simpson pleads “Absolutely 100 percent not guilty” of murdering his ex-wife and her friend. He is found not guilty on October 3, 1995. One of OJ’s lawyers is Robert “Keeping Up With The” Kardashian. Kardashian died in 2003 at age 59.
1995 – Susan Smith is found guilty of drowning her 2 sons. She first claims she is carjacked but later admits to driving her car into a South Carolina lake with her 3-year-old and 14-month-old sons strapped in their car seats. Smith is sentenced to life in prison and will be eligible for parole in 2024 after serving a minimum of 30 years. Smith is now 44 years old.
2000 – Astronomers at the University of Arizona announce that they found a 17th moon orbiting Jupiter.
2004 – The September 11 commission’s final report is released. The 575-page report concludes that hijackers exploited “deep institutional failings within our government.”
1715 – The first lighthouse in America is authorized for construction on Little Brewster Island, Massachusetts, and is known as the Boston Light.
1726 – Benjamin Franklin sails back to Philadelphia from England on the first of 4-round trip crossings of the Atlantic Ocean from America to Europe.
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 opens in September 30, 1882, on the Fox River in Appleton, Wisconsin.
1904 – The Library of Congress recognizes Charles E. Menches as the creator of the ice cream cone at the St. Louis World’s Fair. (He is one of many who make this claim.)
1938 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approves the first federal game preserve. The area covers 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. The X-15 currently holds the 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:
1980 – Billy Carter, brother of President Jimmy Carter, admits to being a registered agent of the Libyan government. He admits to taking more than $200,000 from Libya.
1984 – Vanessa Williams (Miss New York), the first black Miss America, resigns after it is revealed she posed nude for Penthouse Magazine. First runner-up Suzette Charles (Miss New Jersey) takes over the crown for the rest of the year.
1989 – FOX tops ABC, NBC, and CBS in TV ratings for the first time with their show “America’s Most Wanted.” The show is cancelled several times and resumes by public demand. The 6-year-old son of the host John Walsh was kidnapped and murdered in 1981.
1998 – U.S. scientists at the University of Hawaii turn out more than 50 “carbon-copy” mice using a cloning technique.
2015 – NASA’s Kepler mission announces the discovery of the most Earth-like planet yet, named Kepler-452b, 1,400 light years from Earth.
1758 – George Washington is admitted to Virginia House of Burgesses. He represents Frederick County and Fairfax County until 1775. The first meeting of the colonial House of Burgesses is held in Jamestown in 1619.
1824 – A Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, newspaper publishes the results of the first public opinion poll showing a clear lead for presidential candidate Andrew Jackson in a four-candidate race for the presidency. Jackson receives a plurality of votes but loses when the House of Representatives settles the contested election by selecting John Quincy Adams, who actually receives fewer popular and electoral votes. It is the only election when this ever happened. Four years later, Jackson handily wins the White House by defeating incumbent John Quincy Adams.
1866 – Tennessee becomes the first state to be readmitted to the Union after the U.S. Civil War.
1901 – Author O. Henry (pen name of William Sydney Porter) is released from prison in Austin, Texas, after serving three years for embezzlement from a bank. Henry publishes a dozen stories from prison to help support his daughter after his wife dies of TB.
1915 – The excursion ship Eastland, carrying employees of the Western Electric Company to a company picnic, capsizes on Lake Michigan killing 844 passengers.
1925 – John T. Scopes is found guilty of teaching evolution in the “Scopes monkey trial” in Dayton, Tennessee. He is fined $100 plus court costs.
1938 – Nestlé creates instant coffee under the name Nescafé.
1956 – Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis end their highly successful 10-year partnership after their final live performance at the Copacabana Nightclub in New York City. They made 16 movies together. Martin died in 1995 at age 78. Lewis is now 90 years old.
1959 – Vice President Richard Nixon argues with Soviet Sectretary Nikita Khrushchev in what become known as the “Kitchen Debate.” Watch the exchange with translation:
1961 – A U.S. commercial plane is hijacked to Cuba. It is the first time an American carrier flight originating from the U.S. is hijacked to Cuba.
1974 – The Supreme Court unanimously rules that President Nixon must turn over his Watergate tapes.
1978 – Billy Martin is fired for the first of three times as the manager of the New York Yankees baseball team.
1998 – Russell Eugene Weston, Jr. bursts into the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC and opens fire, killing Officer Jacob Chestnut and Detective John Gibson, who shoots and wounds Weston. Weston is transferred to a psychiatric center at Butner Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, North Carolina, and is later ruled to be incompetent to stand trial. Weston, now age 59, remains at the institution.
2002 – James Traficant (D-OH) is expelled from the House of Representatives on a vote of 420 to 1 for using campaign donations for his own personal use. He is tried, convicted, and sentenced to eight years in prison. He runs for his former House seat from prison in 2002, and loses. Traficant is released in 2009 and died in 2014 at age 73.
2005 – Lance Armstrong retires after winning a record seventh consecutive Tour de France victory. He is stripped of his titles in 2012 for doping.