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 29-August 4, 2019
1858 – The Treaty of Amity and Commerce (Harris Treaty) is signed between the U.S. and Japan opening Japanese ports to trade.
1920 – The first of three JL-6 aircraft leave New York for San Francisco on the inaugural transcontinental airmail flight. Former WWI flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker was one of the passengers.
1928 – Walt Disney’s “Steamboat Willie” (Mickey Mouse) is released. Watch the primitive cartoon:
1945 – After delivering the Atomic Bomb across the Pacific, the USS Indianapolis is torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine. Since the mission was secret, the ship was not reported missing. Survivors were accidentally found and rescued 4 days later. Only 317 of the 1,196 men on board survived in the shark-infested sea.
1957 – Jack Paar begins hosting the “Tonight” show on NBC-TV. The name of the show was changed to “The Jack Paar Show.” Paar was the host for five years. Steve Allen was the original host (1953-1957). Then came Johnny Carson (1962-1992), Jay Leno (1992-2009 and 2010-2014), Conan O’Brien (2009-2010), and the current host Jimmy Fallon.
1958 – President Eisenhower signs into law the National Aeronautics and Space Act (NASA).
1988 – The last Playboy Club in the U.S. (in Lansing, Michigan) closes. The first Playboy Club was opened by Hugh Hefner in 1960. Hefner died in 2017 at age 91.
1998 – The United Auto Workers union end a 54-day strike against General Motors. The strike causes $2.8 billion in lost revenues.
1619 – The first representative assembly in America convenes in Jamestown, Virginia as the House of Burgesses.
1839 – Slaves take over the slave ship Amistad after 60 days at sea and are arrested in New York. The district court judge ruled that the slaves were free men, and ordered them released from prison. He also ordered that the U.S. government transport them back to Africa. The Supreme Court upheld the decision.
1932 – Walt Disney’s “Flowers and Trees” premiers. It was the first Academy Award winning cartoon and first cartoon short to use Technicolor. Watch the video, which includes sound:
1942 – President FDR signs the bill creating the U.S. Women’s Naval Reserve, the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service).
1956 – The phrase “In God We Trust” is adopted as the U.S. national motto.
1965 – President Johnson signs into law Social Security Act that establishes Medicare and Medicaid. It went into effect the following year.
1998 – A group of Ohio machine-shop workers (who call themselves the Lucky 13) win the $295.7 million Powerball jackpot. It was the largest-ever American lottery to date. The largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history is Powerball in 2016 at $1.6 billion.
2014 – The European Union and the U.S. extend sanctions on Russia to include banks, energy, and defense firms. Moscow denied the allegation that Russia was arming rebels in Eastern Ukraine.
1792 – The cornerstone is laid for the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, the first United States government building.
1928 – MGM’s mascot Leo the Lion roars on film for the first time. The lion, whose name was Jackie, introduced MGM’s first talking picture, “White Shadows in the South Seas.” There have been seven “Leos”: Slats (1917-1928); Jackie (1928-1956); George (1956-1957); and Leo (1957-present). Three other lions were also used in cartoons and movies: Telly (1928-1932); Coffee (1932-1935); and Tanner (1934-1956) Hear Leo (aka Jackie) roar and watch the movie’s intro:
1953 – The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) is created during the Eisenhower administration. President Harding proposed a department of education and welfare in 1923. HEW was a cabinet-level department until 1979, when it was separated into different departments.
1971 – Astronauts ride in a vehicle on the moon for the first time in a lunar rover vehicle (LRV). Watch the lunar ride:
1987 – Rockwell International is awarded a contract to build a fifth space shuttle, the Endeavor, to replace the Challenger, which exploded on launch in 1986. The Endeavor flew 25 missions from 1992 to 2011.
1991 – The U.S. Senate votes to allow women to fly combat aircraft. Air Force Colonel Martha McSally was the first woman to fly a combat mission after the 43-year ban was lifted.
1991 – President George H.W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev sign the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). The New START Treaty was signed by U.S. President Obama and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in 2010 and ratified by the Senate in 2011.
2014 – The U.S. agrees to resupply arms to Israel – including rocket launchers, mortar rounds, and grenades – despite condemnation of civilian casualties in Gaza.
1790 – The first U.S. census is taken showing a population of 3,939,214, of which 697,624 are slaves. The current U.S. population is about 326 million. The next census will be in 2020.
1855 – Castle Clinton (aka Fort Clinton) in New York City opens as the first U.S. receiving station for immigrants. More than eight million people arrived in the U.S. until Ellis Island opens on January 1, 1892. Castle Clinton is now a national monument.
1907 – The U.S. Army establishes an aeronautical division, which becomes the U.S. Air Force on September 18, 1947.
1943 – The Navy patrol torpedo boat PT-109 sinks near the Solomon Islands after being attacked by a Japanese destroyer. The boat was under the command of future president Navy Lt. John F. Kennedy. The 11 surviving crewmembers swam to Naru Island and were rescued on August 7th. The last surviving crewman of PT-109, Gerard Zinser, died in 2001 at age 82. Watch a short “American Experience” video”:
1957 – The Bridgers and Paxton Office Building in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is the first commercial building to be heated by solar energy. It is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
1972 – Carl Bernstein, now 75, and Bob Woodward, now 76, publish their first article exposing the Watergate scandal.
1977 – Gary Powers dies when his news helicopter crashes in Los Angeles. Powers was 48 years old. Powers was the former CIA U-2 pilot who was shot down while on a surveillance mission over Russia in 1960 and held for two years. On August 19, 1960, Powers was convicted of espionage in Russia and sentenced to 10 years confinement. Powers was returned to the U.S. in February 1962 in a prisoner exchange.
2001 – Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has a Ten Commandments monument installed in the judiciary building, leading to a lawsuit to have the monument removed and Moore removed from office. District Court Judge Myron Thompson ordered Moore to remove the Ten Commandments from the courthouse rotunda within fifteen days. Moore refuses, but the monument was later moved to a room that was not open for public viewing. On August 23, 2003, a panel of the Alabama Court of the Judiciary unanimously voted to remove Judge Moore from the bench for not renouncing God. In 2012, Moore was re-elected as Alabama’s Chief Justice. In 2016, the Alabama Judiciary Inquiry Commission brought charges of six ethics violations against Moore and he was suspended pending a trial. He was found guilty, lost his appeal, and resigned in April 2017. Moore lost his bid for the U.S. Senate in a special election to replace Jeff Sessions in December 2017. Watch part of the 2003 trial and the verdict to remove Justice Moore:
1819 – The first parachute jump in U.S. takes place in New York when Charles Guille jumps from a hot air balloon and travels airborne for half an hour over about eight miles before successfully landing in Bushwick.
1921 – A Chicago jury brings back a not guilty verdict against eight Chicago White Sox players for “throwing” the 1919 baseball World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds won the series 5 games to 3. The trial was dubbed the “Black Sox Scandal.” The following day Baseball Commissioner Judge “Kenesaw Mountain” Landis announced that he would banish from baseball for life the eight White Sox players involved in the 1919 World Series scandal, despite their acquittal, including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. Watch an amateur video of the scandal with actual footage:
1939 – President Roosevelt signs the Hatch Act, prohibiting civil service employees from taking an active part in “Pernicious Political Activities.”
1994 – Congressional hearings begin on the Clinton Whitewater scandal. In 1978, in Arkansas, Bill and Hillary entered into a land deal with James and Susan McDougal. As a result of the investigation, James was convicted of 18 counts of fraud, sentenced to five years in prison, and died in prison in 1998. Susan was convicted of fraud and sentenced to two years in prison. Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker was convicted of mail fraud but served no jail time. Vince Foster, a friend of the Clinton’s and White House Counsel, “committed suicide” in 1993. Bill and Hillary were implicated in the scandal, but avoided any charges of wrongdoing.
1777 – The first U.S. flag was officially flown during battle during the Siege of Fort Stanwix (aka Fort Schuyler), New York.
1882 – Congress passes the first law restricting immigration. It imposed a 50 cent head tax on non-citizens and restricted “criminals, the insane, or any person unable to take care of him or herself.”
1923 – Vice President Calvin Coolidge becomes our 30th president after the sudden and unexpected death of President Warren Harding following an apparent heart attack the day before.
1952 – Francis the Talking Mule (with Chill T. Wills providing the voice) is the mystery guest on the TV show “What’s My Line?” Francis (in reality a female mule named Molly) was the first recipient of the American Humane Association Annual Patsy Award in 1950. The award is given for an outstanding performance by an animal appearing in motion pictures. Watch the blindfolded “What’s My Line?” judges try to guess the mystery guest (starts at 15:08 of clip):
2004 – NASA launches the spacecraft Messenger. The 6 1/2 year journey was scheduled to arrive at the planet Mercury in March 2011. On April 30, 2015, Messenger crashed into the surface of Mercury after sending back more than 270,000 pictures.
1821 – The first edition of Saturday Evening Post is published. It ceased publication in 1969 after losing a $3 million defamation lawsuit arising from an article in the Post alleging that the Georgia Bulldogs football coach Wally Butts and Alabama football head coach Bear Bryant conspired to fix games. The Post returned as a quarterly publication in 1971. Ownership changed hands several times and is now published six times a year.
1892 – The bodies of Andrew and Abby Borden are found in their house in Fall River, Massachusetts. Their daughter (Abby’s step-daughter), Sunday school teacher Lizzie Borden, was arrested for their murders a week later but subsequently acquitted. No one else was ever charged with the murders. Lizzie died in 1927 at age 66.
1922 – AT&T and Bell Systems recognizes the death of Alexander Graham Bell two days earlier by shutting down all of its switchboards and switching stations. The shutdown affected 13 million phones.
1958 – Billboard Magazine introduces its “Hot 100” chart, which is a barometer of the movement of potential hits. The first Number One song was Ricky Nelson’s “Poor Little Fool.” Listen to Nelson sing it, along with videos of his performances over the years:
1964 – The bodies of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James E. Chaney are discovered in an earthen Mississippi dam. In November the FBI accused 21 Mississippi men, including a county sheriff, of engineering a conspiracy to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney. When Mississippi officials refused to try any of the men for murder they were charged and convicted of civil rights violations. Seven were convicted, but none served more than 6 years. In 2005, 80-year-old Edgar Ray Killen was tried and convicted of three counts of manslaughter and sentenced to three consecutive terms of 20 years in prison. Killen died in 2018 at age 92 years old while still in prison.
1977 – President Jimmy Carter establishes the Department of Energy.
1987 – The Federal Communications Commission rescinds the 1949 Fairness Doctrine. The doctrine required that radio and TV stations present controversial issues in an “honest, equitable, and balanced” manner.
1988 – Congress votes to award $20,000 to each Japanese-American interned during WW II. President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act (H.R. 442) on August 10th. Rev. Mamoru Eto of Los Angeles, age 107, was the first to receive a check on October 9, 1990.
2015 – Muppets Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog announce on Twitter the end of their relationship. Watch a post-break up interview with the famous Muppets:
Image from newsweek.com