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 4-10, 2016
July 4 – Independence Day
1776 – The U.S. Congress proclaims in the Declaration of Independence our independence from Britain.
1796 – The first Independence Day celebration is held.
1802 – The United States Military Academy opens at West Point, New York.
1826 – John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (2nd and 3rd presidents) die within five hours of each other at ages 90 and 82 respectively.
1848 – The cornerstone for the Washington Monument is laid in Washington, DC.
1881 – Booker T. Washington establishes Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
1883 – Buffalo Bill Cody presents his first Wild West show in North Platte, Nebraska.
1895 – Katherine Lee Bates publishes the song “America the Beautiful.”
1914 – The first motorcycle race in the U.S. (300 miles) is held in Dodge City, Kansas.
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 is later diagnosed with ALS, a disease that now bears his name. Watch the speech:
1959 – The 49-star U.S. flag becomes official. Alaska joins the Union on January 3rd.
1960 – The 50-star U.S. flag becomes official. Hawaii joins the Union on August 21st.
1966 – President LBJ signs the Freedom of Information Act.
1970 – Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40” debuts on the radio. Kasem died in 2014 at age 82.
1976 – The U.S. celebrates its Bicentennial.
1996 – Hotmail, a free Internet E-mail service, begins.
1997 – NASA’s Mars Pathfinder, an unmanned spacecraft, lands on Mars. A rover named Sojourner is deployed to gather data about the surface of the planet.
2004 – The cornerstone of the Freedom Tower (One World Trade Center) is laid on the former World Trade Center site in New York City.
2005 – NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft, launched in 2005, takes pictures as a space probe smashes into the Tempel 1 comet. The mission is aimed at learning more about comets that formed from the leftover buidling blocks of the solar system.
2009 – The Statue of Liberty’s crown reopens to visitors. It had been closed to the public since 2001.
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 refuses to read the petition and proclaims 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 is asked to protect presidents in 1901 after the assassination of President McKinley.
1916 – Sisters Adeline and Augusta Van Buren (ages 22 and 24 respectively) begin the first successful transcontinental motorcycle tour to be attempted by two women. They start in New York City and arrive in San Diego, California, on September 12th.
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 newslreel footage of the shootout:
1935 – President F. D. Roosevelt signs into law the Wagner Act establishing the National Labor Relations Act. The act authorizes laborers to organize for the purpose of collective bargaining.
1937 – Joe DiMaggio hits his first of three grand slam home runs for the season. He has 13 career grand slams.
1937 – The Hormel Foods Corporation introduces the luncheon meat Spam.
1954 – The B-52A bomber makes its maiden flight.
1975 – Arthur Ashe becomes the first black man to win a Wimbledon singles title when he defeats Jimmy Connors.
1983 – A baby girl is born in Roanoke, Virginia, to a mother who has been brain dead for 84 days.
1986 – Nancy Reagan cuts a red, white, and blue ribbon after President Reagan’s speech, reopening the Statue of Liberty after its refurbishment. Watch Ronald and Nancy light up the Statue of Liberty at night:
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 are later overturned.
1994 – The U.S. changes its refugee policy by sending back Haitian boat people.
1998 – Japan joins the U.S. and Russia in space exploration with the launching of the Planet-B probe to Mars.
2009 – Serena Williams beats her sister Venus Williams (7-6, 6-2) at the 116th Wimbledon Women’s Tennis Tournament.
1699 – The pirate Captain William Kidd is captured in Boston and sent to England for trial. He is 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.
1848 – The Mexican-American War ends with the Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo.
1858 – Lyman Blake patents a shoe-manufacturing machine that sews the upper part of the shoes to the soles.
1903 – George Wyman completes the first motorized transcontinental trip when he arrives in New York City by motorcycle after driving from San Francisco in 51 days. Wyman made the trip on a 1.25-horsepower, 90cc California motorcycle designed by Roy Marks. Wyman died in 1959 at age 82.
1905 – Fingerprints are exchanged for the first time between officials in Europe and the U.S. The person in question is John Walker.
1908 – Robert Peary’s expedition, with a crew of 23, sails from New York for the North Pole.
1924 – The first photo is sent experimentally across the Atlantic by radio from the U.S. to England.
1932 – The postage rate for first class mail increases from 2 cents to 3 cents.
1945 – Abbott and Costello’s film “The Naughty Nineties” is released and features the longest version of their “Who’s on First” routine. Watch the sketch from the movie:
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.”
1960 – Dr. Barbara Moore completes a 3,207-mile walk from Los Angeles to New York City in 46 days. Of the people who are documented to have walked or ran across the U.S., Moore did it in the shortest amount of time. Moore, a Russian-born British engineer, died in 1977 at age 73.
1971 – President Nixon forms the White House Plumbers unit to plug news leaks after the “Pentagon Papers” are released to the New York Times.
1983 – The Supreme Court rules that retirement plans can’t pay women smaller monthly payments solely because of their gender.
1993 – John F. Kennedy Jr. gives notice he is quitting as Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan. In 1995 he launches the magazine “George.” Kennedy, his wife, and sister-in-law die 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.
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:
1863 – The first military draft in the U.S. is held. Exemptions to service during the Civil War cost $100.
1898 – President McKinley signs the resolution of annexation of the Hawaiian Islands.
1920 – A radio compass is used for the first time on a Navy airplane near Norfolk, Virginia.
1928 – Sliced bread is sold for the first time by the Chillicothe Baking Company in Missouri. It is described as the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread is first wrapped.
1946 – Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini is canonized as the first American citizen to become saint. Mother Frances is born in Italy but becomes an American citizen.
She died in Chicago in 1917 at age 67.
1948 – The Cleveland Indians sign 42-year-old Satchel Paige to a baseball contract. He is the oldest rookie in baseball history. Paige died in 1982 at age 75. Watch a short bio:
1949 – “Dragnet” starring Jack Webb premieres on the radio. Dragnet is a TV series in 1951 and 1967, also starring Jack Webb.
1961 – James R. Hoffa is elected chairman of the Teamsters Union. Hoffa disappears in 1975 at age 62 and his body is never found.
1972 – Susan Lynn Roley and Joanne E Pierce are sworn in as the first female FBI members.
1981 – Sandra Day O’Connor is nominated as the first woman Supreme Court Justice. She is unanimously confirmed by Congress on July 8. She submits her letter of resignation from the Court in 2005. O’Connor is now 86 yers old.
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:
1986 – The Supreme Court strikes down the Gramm-Rudman deficit-reduction law.
1987 – Lt. Col. Oliver North begins public testimony at the Iran-Contra hearing.
1994 – Amazon.com, Inc. is founded in Seattle, Washington, by Jeff Bezos under the name “Cadabra” but the name is quickly changed to Amazon.
2000 – Amazon.com announces that they sold almost 400,000 copies of “Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire,” making it the biggest selling book in e-tailing history.
2002 – Serena Williams beats her sister Venus Williams 7-6, 6-3 at the 109th Wimbledon Women’s Tennis Tournament.
1693 – New York City authorizes the first police uniforms in the American colonies.
1776 – Col. John Nixon gives the first public reading of Declaration of Independence. It is read aloud at the State House in Philadelphia.
1796 – The State Department issues the first American passport.
1797 – William Blount of Tennessee becomes the first U.S. senator to be expelled by impeachment. He is allegedly part of a conspiracy to assist England in taking possession of Louisiana and parts of Florida. Blount fails to appear before the Senate to answer the charges.
1889 – The Wall Street Journal begins publishing.
1911 – Nan Aspinwall is the first woman to complete a solo transcontinental trip by horse when she arrives in New York City. She leaves San Francisco on her horse Lady Ellen on September 1, 1910. Aspinwall makes the ride on a bet by Buffalo Bill Cody. Aspinwall died in 1968 at age 88.
1932 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes at its lowest during the Depression (41.22).
1948 – The Milton Berle Show (“Texaco Star Theater”) premieres on TV. The show runs under various names on various TV networks until 1956. Berle died in 2002 at age 93. Watch the show’s opening and closing:
1950 – Gen. Douglas MacArthur becomes commander-in-chief of UN forces in Korea by order of President Truman. MacArthur is relieved of his command by Truman in April of 1951. MacArthur later tells Congress, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” MacArthur died in 1964 at age 84.
1963 – All Cuban-owned assets in the U.S. are frozen.
1969 – The U.S. Patent Office issued a patent for the game “Twister.”
1975 – President Ford announces he will seek the Republican nomination for president. Ford is the only person to serve as both vice president and president without being elected to either office. Ford is nominated vice president to replace Spiro Agnew after he resigns for tax evasion and bribery and then replaces Richard Nixon after he resigns after the Watergate scandal.
1988 – Blind singer Stevie Wonder announces he will run for mayor of Detroit in the 1992 election. He does not follow through with the mayoral campaign. Wonder is now 66 years old.
1997 – The Mayo Clinic and the U.S. government warn that the diet-drug combination known as “fen-phen” could cause serious heart and lung damage.
2011 – The Space Shuttle Atlantis is launched on the final mission of the U.S. Space Shuttle program. There are a total of 135 flights starting with the Columbia on April 12, 1981. Watch a 7-minute video of the 30-year history of the Space Shuttle:
2015 – The NFL’s Washington Redskins have their trademark vacated by a federal judge on the grounds it may be disparaging to Native Americans, but the ruling does not bar the football team from using the name “Redskins.” In April 2016 the team asks the Supreme Court to review the lower court ruling. (See July 9, 1932)
1776 – The American Declaration of Independence is read aloud to Gen. George Washington’s troops in New York.
1868 – The 14th Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, granting citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” which included former slaves recently freed. In addition, it forbids states from denying any person “life, liberty or property, without due process of law.”
1872 – The doughnut cutter is patented by John Blondel of Thomaston, Maine. His original design is made of wood.
1893 – Dr. Daniel Williams performs the first successful open heart surgery in the U.S. Dr. Williams treats a man who had been stabbed in the chest.
1910 – Walter Brookins, who worked with the Wright brothers, becomes the first pilot to fly an airplane over 1 mile high. Brookins flies to an altitude of 6,234 in a Wright Model A over Atlantic City, New Jersey.
1922 – Johnny Weissmuller (the future Tarzan) becomes the first person to swim the 100 meters freestyle in less than a minute.
1932 – The Washington Redskins (then the Boston Braves) forms. The football team moves to Fenway Park in July 1933 and changes their name to the Redskins. They move to DC in 1937. A movement to get the team to change their name has been unsuccessful.
1948 – Satchel Paige, baseball’s oldest rookie at 42, debuts in the major league. He pitches 2 scoreless innings for Cleveland Indians. Watch a short video from the Baseball Hall of Fame:
1951 – President Harry Truman asks Congress to formally end the state of war with Germany.
1956 – Dick Clark’s makes his first appearance as host of “American Bandstand.” The show airs until 1989. Dick Clark died in 2012 at age 82.
1968 – The first All-Star baseball game to be played indoors takes place at the Houston Astrodome in Texas.
1973 – Secretariat becomes the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years by winning horse racing’s Belmont Stakes. (The previous winner is Citation in 1948.) Secretariat is inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in 1974. He is euthanized in 1989 at age 19 because of Laminitis, a painful inflammation of the sensitive tissue beneath the hoof wall. Watch his amazing record-setting Triple Crown win:
1997 – Mike Tyson is banned from the boxing ring and fined $3 million for biting the ear of opponent Evander Holyfield.
2005 – American Danny Way, a daredevil skateboarder, rolls down a large ramp and jumps across the Great Wall of China. He is the first person to clear the wall without motorized aid.
2015 – The South Carolina House of Representatives approves removing the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds.
1850 – Vice President Fillmore becomes president when Zachary Taylor dies in office after a brief illness.
1866 – The indelible pencil is patented by Edson P. Clark of Northampton, Massachusetts.
1900 – “His Master’s Voice” is registered with the U.S. Patent Office. The logo of the Victor Recording Company, and later, RCA Victor, shows the dog, Nipper, looking into the horn of a gramophone machine.
1913 – The highest temperature ever recorded in the U.S. is 134° F in Death Valley, California.
1919 – President Wilson personally delivers the Treaty of Versailles to the Senate. The treaty is rejected by the Senate and never ratified.
1938 – Howard Hughes sets a new record when he flies around the world in 91 hours.
1950 – “Your Hit Parade” premiers on TV and airs until 1959.
1962 – The Telstar I Communications satellite is launched. Later that same day it transmits the first live television images from the United States to France.
1966 – The U.S. launches Orbiter 1 to the Moon on a mission to photograph the lunar surface.
1984 – Dwight ‘Doc’ Gooden of the New York Mets becomes the youngest baseball player to appear in an All-Star Game as a pitcher. He is 19 years, 7 months, and 24 days old. He is named the 1984 Rookie of the year. Gooden is now 51 years old.
1985 – Coca-Cola resumes selling the old formula of Coke that is renamed “Coca-Cola Classic.” It is also announced that they will continue to sell “New” Coke. Watch Coke president Donald Keough make a hasty retreat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nqir3-NXqG0
1991 – President Bush lifts economic sanctions against South Africa, citing its “profound transformation” toward racial equality.
1997 – RJR Nabisco announces it will replace cigarette logo Joe Camel in new ads.
1998 – The U.S. military delivers the remains of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Blassie to his family in St. Louis, Missouri. Blassie is shot down over South Vietnam in 1972. He had been placed in Arlington Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown in 1984. His identity was confirmed with DNA tests.
2015 – The Confederate flag is permanently taken down from South Carolina Capitol grounds one day after the state legislature orders it removed. It is placed in a state military museum. Watch the flag being lowered in front of a cheering crowd: