This Week in History: July 6-12, 2020

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This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann

“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history
is the most important of all the lessons of history.” Aldous Huxley

July 6-12, 2020




July 6

1699 – The pirate Captain William Kidd is captured in Boston and sent to England for trial. He was 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.

1945 – Abbott and Costello’s film “The Naughty Nineties” is released and features the longest version of their iconic “Who’s on First” routine. Watch the famous 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.” It is the highest civilian award in the U.S. President Kennedy re-established the award in 1963 and expanded the scope of achievements. About 600 people have been awarded the Medal of Freedom.

1971 – President Nixon forms the White House Plumbers unit to plug news leaks after the “Pentagon Papers” are released to the New York Times. The “Plumbers” were also instrumental in trying to cover up the Watergate break-in at the Democrat National Committee’s Headquarters in 1972.

1983 – The Supreme Court rules 5-4 in Arizona Governing Committee v. Norris 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 launched the magazine “George.” Kennedy, his wife, and sister-in-law died 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. The sisters have competed against each other 29 times, with Serena holding a 17 to 12 advantage.

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.




July 7

1863 – The first military draft in the U.S. is held. Exemptions to service during the Civil War cost $100.

1928 – Sliced bread is sold for the first time by the Chillicothe Baking Company in Missouri. It was described as the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was first wrapped. No word on what is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

1948 – The Cleveland Indians sign 42-year-old Satchel Paige to a baseball contract. He was the oldest rookie in baseball history. Paige died in 1982 at age 75. Watch a short bio of Paige.



1981 – Sandra Day O’Connor is nominated as the first woman Supreme Court Justice. She was unanimously confirmed by Congress on July 8. She submitted her letter of resignation from the Court in 2008. O’Connor is now 90 years 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.



2016 – In Dallas, Texas, a gunman ambushes police officers, killing five and wounding nine others, during a protest march against fatal police shootings of blacks. During a standoff, the gunman was killed by a bomb attached to a robot.


July 8

1797 – William Blount of Tennessee becomes the first U.S. senator to be expelled by impeachment. He was allegedly part of a conspiracy to assist England in taking possession of Louisiana and parts of Florida. Blount failed to appear before the Senate to answer the charges.

1911 – Nan Aspinwall is the first woman to complete a solo transcontinental trip by horse when she arrives in New York City. She left San Francisco on her horse Lady Ellen on September 1, 1910. Aspinwall made 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).

1950 – Gen. Douglas MacArthur becomes commander-in-chief of UN forces in Korea by order of President Truman. MacArthur was relieved of his command by Truman in April of 1951. MacArthur later told Congress, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” MacArthur died in 1964 at age 84.

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 was nominated vice president to replace Spiro Agnew after he resigned for tax evasion and bribery, and then he replaced Richard Nixon after he resigned following the Watergate scandal.

2011 – The Space Shuttle Atlantis is launched on the final mission of the U.S. Space Shuttle program. There were 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 asked the Supreme Court to review the lower court ruling. In July 2017, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Washington Redskins. The Redskins, however, are now considering a team name change.


July 9

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 forbade states from denying any person “life, liberty or property, without due process of law.”

1893 – Dr. Daniel Williams performs the first successful open heart surgery in the U.S. Dr. Williams treated a man who had been stabbed in the chest.

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 was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in 1974. He was 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.



2015 – The South Carolina House of Representatives approves removing the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds. The Confederate flag was permanently taken down from South Carolina Capitol grounds the following day. It was placed in a state military museum. Watch the flag being lowered in front of a cheering crowd.




July 10

1850 – Vice President Fillmore becomes president when Zachary Taylor dies following a brief illness after just 16 months in office.

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.

1919 – President Wilson personally delivers the Treaty of Versailles to the Senate. The Treaty followed six months of negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference after the WWI Armistice on November 11, 1918. The treaty was rejected by a deeply divided Senate and was never ratified.

1962 – The Telstar I Communications satellite is launched. Later that same day it transmitted the first live television images from the United States to France.

1985 – Coca-Cola resumes selling the old formula of Coke that is renamed “Coca-Cola Classic.” It was also announced that they would continue to sell “New” Coke. Watch Coke president Donald Keough make a hasty retreat.



1998 – The U.S. military delivers the remains of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Blassie to his family in St. Louis, Missouri. Blassie was shot down over South Vietnam in 1972. He had been placed in Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 1984. His identity was confirmed through DNA testing.

1999 – The U.S. women’s soccer team wins the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final over China. The tournament is played every 4 years. They also won in 1991, 2015, and 2019.

2017 – NASA‘s spacecraft Juno made its closest pass over Jupiter’s Red Spot at 5,600 miles. Juno was launched in 2011. NASA updated Juno’s scientific operations to extend the mission until July 2021.


July 11

1798 – President John Adams signs the bill establishing the U.S. Marine Corps as a permanent military force under the jurisdiction of the Department of Navy.

1804 – Vice President Aaron Burr kills Alexander Hamilton in a pistol duel near Weehawken, New Jersey. Burr was indicted for murder, but the charges were later dropped. Burr and Hamilton had been bitter political and personal rivals for years.

1944 – Franklin Roosevelt announces that he will run for a fourth term as President of the United States. He was re-elected, but died in office in 1945 at the age of 63. Congress passed the 22nd Amendment in 1947 that limited a president to two terms in office.

1973 – John Paul Getty III, the 16-year-old heir to the Getty oil fortune, is kidnapped in Italy and held for $17 million ransom. When his father refused to pay, the kidnappers cut off the teenager’s ear and sent it in the mail. Getty agreed to pay part of the ransom and made a loan to his son for the remainder. Getty was freed in December. Two of the nine kidnappers were sentenced to prison. Getty III overdosed on drugs on 1981 and was paralyzed. He died in 2011 at age 54 after a long illness.

1977 – Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. is posthumously awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.

1981 – Neva Rockefeller is the first woman ordered to pay alimony to her husband. Neva, now 76, is the great-granddaughter of John D. Rockefeller.

1987 – Bo Jackson signs a contract to play football for the L.A. Raiders for 5 years. He also continued to play baseball for the Kansas City Royals. He is the only athlete to be named an All-Star in two major sports. Bo is now 57 years old.

1999 – A U.S. Air Force jet flies over the Antarctic and drops off emergency medical supplies for Dr. Jerri Nielsen at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Research Center after she discovered a lump in her breast. Nielsen performed a biopsy on herself and then treated herself with chemotherapy using supplies parachuted by the Air Force the following month. Nielsen died of cancer in 2009 at age 57. Watch a short AP report on her life and death.



2019 – The Dow Jones closes over 27,000 for the first time.


July 12

1630 – New Amsterdam’s governor buys Gull Island from the Indians for cargo and renames it Oyster Island. It was later renamed Ellis Island.

1862 – Congress authorizes the Medal of Honor. More than 3,600 medals have been awarded to service men and women.

1909 – The resolution proposing the 16th Amendment (income tax) is passed by the 61st Congress and submitted to the state legislatures. The resolution read simply “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.” The 16th Amendment was voted on by each state legislature and subsequently ratified on February 3, 1913.

1912 – “Queen Elizabeth” is the first foreign feature film shown in U.S. Watch a portion of the silent film.



1933 – Congress passes the first minimum wage law (25 cents per hour) as part of the National Industrial Recovery Act. The Supreme Court ruled the act unconstitutional in 1935.

1984 – U.S. Rep. Geraldine A. Ferraro (D-NY) is chosen by Democrat presidential candidate Walter Mondale to be his running mate. Ferraro became the first woman to run for vice president on a major party ticket. Ferraro died in 2011 at age 75. Watch part of her acceptance speech.



2009 – All television broadcasts in the U.S. switch from analog NTSC to digital ATSC transmission.



Image from: contently.com

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