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
June 29-July 5, 2020
1767 – The British pass the Townshend Revenue Act, which levies taxes on the colonists for items such as glass, paint, paper, and tea.
1940 – The U.S. passes the Alien Registration Act, known as the Smith Act. It set criminal penalties for advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government by non-citizens, expanded deportation, and required immigrants to register and be fingerprinted.
1956 – The National Interstate and Defense Highways Act is signed by President Eisenhower, authorizing the construction of 41,000 miles of interstate highways from coast to coast.
1972 – The Supreme Court rules in Furman v. Georgia in a 5-4 decision that the death penalty could constitute “cruel and unusual punishment.” The ruling prompted states to revise their capital punishment laws.
1979 – The San Diego Chicken (Ted Giannoulas) has a “grand hatching” at baseball’s Jack Murphy Stadium after the local radio station fires the mascot and then loses a lawsuit to keep Giannoulas from making appearances as the Chicken. Ted Giannoulas is originally hired by the radio station in 1974 for $2 an hour to wear a chicken costume for a week to hand out Easter eggs at a zoo. He then volunteers to appear in a chicken costume at the Padres games. He’s been doing it ever since! Watch the Grand Hatching.
1994 – President Clinton reopens the Guantanamo Naval Base to process Haitian refugees.
2006 – The Supreme Court rules in Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld in a 6-3 decision that President George W. Bush’s plan to try Guantanamo Bay detainees in military tribunals violates U.S. and international law.
1859 – Charles Blondin is the first person to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Blondin walks the 1,100’ across the falls 160’ above the water before a crowd of 25,000 people without a safety net or harness.
1906 – The Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act are adopted during the Teddy Roosevelt administration.
1927 – The U.S. Assay Office in Deadwood, South Dakota, closes. It opened in 1898 to test the purity to precious metals like gold and silver.
1933 – The U.S. Assay Offices close in Helena, Montana, Boise, Idaho, and Salt Lake City, Utah. They all opened in 1869.
1938 – Superman first appears in DC Comics’ Action Comics Series issue #1.
1971 – The 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified when Ohio becomes the 38th state to approve it. The amendment lowered the minimum voting age to 18.
1994 – The U.S. Figure Skating Association strips Tonya Harding of the 1994 national championship and bans her from the organization for life for the attack on rival ice skater Nancy Kerrigan.
1998 – Officials confirm that the remains of a Vietnam War serviceman buried in the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery have been identified through DNA tests as those of Air Force pilot Michael J. Blassie. Watch part of the solemn ceremony to exhume Blassie’s body.
2000 – President Clinton signs the E-Signature bill, giving the same legal validity to an electronic signature as a signature in pen and ink.
1836 – President Andrew Jackson announces to Congress the bequest by James Smithson of 100,000 gold sovereigns to found the institution in Washington, DC that bears his name.
1874 – Four-year-old Charles Ross of Germantown, Pennsylvania, is the first U.S. kidnapping victim using a ransom note. He was held for $20,000 and the kidnappers wrote a total of 23 ransom letters over a five-month period. Two suspects were shot during a robbery attempt and admitted to kidnapping Charlie before they died. Charlie was never found, although his father and mother searched for him until their deaths in 1897 and 1912 respectively.
1874 – The first zoo in the U.S. opens in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia Zoo is still open.
1898 – Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders charge up San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War. Vice President Teddy Roosevelt became president in 1901 when President McKinley was assassinated and was elected president in 1904.
1943 – The U.S. Government begins automatically withholding federal income tax from paychecks.
1963 – The U.S. postal service institutes the zip code (Zone Improvement Plan).
1966 – Medicare becomes available as a result of the Medicare Act being signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 31, 1965.
1971 – The cost of building the Golden Gate Bridge, completed in 1933, is paid in full. There is still a toll, however, to cross the bridge ($8.35 for cars and motorcycles, up 35 cents from last year). Watch a video of the amazing statistics about the bridge.
1987 – Robert Bork is nominated to the Supreme Court. The Senate rejected Bork’s nomination in October. Ten other nominees have been rejected by the Senate, with Bork being the most recent. Twenty other nominees withdrew, died, or were not voted on.
1996 – Placido Domingo becomes artistic director of Washington (DC) National Opera, a post he held until 2011. The current director is Francesca Zambello.
2015 – The U.S. and Cuba announce an agreement to re-open embassies and establish full diplomatic ties.
1776 – Richard Henry Lee’s resolution that the American colonies “are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States” is adopted by the Continental Congress.
1864 – Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol is established and Congress invites each state to contribute 2 statues of prominent citizens. The first statue was of Revolutionary War hero Nathanael Greene of Rhode Island, placed in the Hall in 1870. There are currently 100 statues in the Capitol.
1881 – President James A. Garfield is shot by Charles J. Guiteau, a disappointed office-seeker. Garfield died on September 19th. Vice President Chester Arthur became president when Garfield died. Guiteau was convicted of murder and hanged on June 30, 1882.
1926 – The U.S. Army Air Corps is created and the Distinguish Flying Cross is authorized. The first recipient of the DFC medal was Charles A. Lindbergh, then a captain in the Army Reserve, on June 11, 1927. The award recognized his 1927 transatlantic crossing in the Spirit of St. Louis.
1937 – Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan disappear over the Pacific Ocean in their Lockheed 5B Vega in their attempt to fly around the world. They were never found.
1947 – An unidentified flying object (UFO) crashes at William “Mack” Brazel’s ranch in Roswell, New Mexico. The U.S. Army Air Force insisted it was a weather balloon, but eyewitness accounts led to speculation that it might have been an alien spacecraft. Brazel died in 1963 at age 64.
1962 – Wal-Mart Discount City opens in Rogers, Arkansas. The company founded by Sam Walton and his brother James is now headquartered in nearby Bentonville, Arkansas.
1964 – President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act into law. As Senate Majority Leader in 1957, Johnson (D-TX) successfully blocked the civil rights legislation he was forced to sign when he was president! Watch a newsreel that includes a political who’s who.
1995 – “Forbes” magazine reports that Microsoft’s chairman Bill Gates is worth $12.9 billion, making him the world’s richest man. He is now worth $103 billion, making him the second richest man in the world after Amazon founder Jeff Bezos ($157 billion).
2002 – Steve Fossett becomes the first person to fly solo around the world nonstop in a balloon. Fossett disappeared in September 2007 while flying an airplane. The crash site was found in September 2008 and his remains were identified in November. He was 63 years old.
1775 – George Washington takes command of the Continental Army at Cambridge, Massachusetts.
1839 – The first “normal school” (teacher’s college) in the U.S. opens in Lexington, Massachusetts, with 3 female students enrolled, launching teaching as a profession.
1898 – Joshua Slocum completes the first solo circumnavigation of the globe and lands in Rhode Island after sailing more than 3 years. He launched his sloop the “Spray” from Massachusetts on April 24, 1895. In 1909, Slocum disappeared while sailing to the West Indies, and was presumed lost at sea. He was 65 years old.
1913 – A common tern, banded in Maine on this day, is found dead in 1919 in Africa. It was the first bird known to have crossed the Atlantic Ocean.
1965 – Roy Rogers’ horse Trigger dies at age 33. Trigger’s first movie role was with Olivia de Havilland starring as Maid Marian. She rode Trigger (then called Golden Cloud) through the forest in the 1938 movie “The Adventures of Robin Hood.” Watch Trigger’s film debut with a description of his rise to fame.
1986 – President Reagan presides over a relighting ceremony in New York Harbor of the renovated Statue of Liberty.
2014 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes above 17,000 for the first time.
July 4 – Independence Day
1776 – The U.S. Congress proclaims in the Declaration of Independence our independence from Britain.
1785 – The first Independence Day celebration is held in Bristol, Rhode Island, and is the oldest continuous Independence Day celebration in the U.S.
1802 – The United States Military Academy opens at West Point, New York. The fortifications were originally built on the west point of the Hudson River in 1778 during the Revolutionary War, making it the longest continually occupied post in the U.S.
1826 – John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (2nd and 3rd presidents) die within five hours of each other at ages 90 and 82 respectively.
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 was later diagnosed with ALS, a disease that now bears his name. Watch his iconic speech.
1966 – President LBJ signs the Freedom of Information Act. It act requires full or partial disclosure of information and documents on request that are controlled by the government, with nine exceptions including to national security, personnel, and trade secrets.
1996 – Hotmail begins as a free Internet E-mail service.
1997 – NASA’s Mars Pathfinder, an unmanned spacecraft, lands on Mars. The rover Sojourner was deployed to gather data about the surface of the planet. Its last communication was on September 27, 1997, after traveling 330 feet.
2004 – The cornerstone of the Freedom Tower (One World Trade Center) is laid on the former World Trade Center site in New York City. The building opened in November of 2014.
2005 – NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft, launched earlier in 2005, takes pictures as a space probe smashes into the Tempel 1 comet. The mission was aimed at learning more about comets that formed from the leftover building blocks of the solar system. Watch a short but compelling video of the impact.
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 refused to read the petition and proclaimed 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 was asked to protect presidents in 1901 after the assassination of President McKinley.
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 newsreel footage of the shootout.
1954 – The B-52A bomber makes its maiden flight. A total of 744 were built by Boeing between 1952 and 1962. As of 2019, 58 were still in service and 18 were in reserve.
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 were later overturned.
1994 – The U.S. changes its refugee policy by sending back Haitian boat people.
1994 – Amazon.com is founded by Jeff Bezos in Bellevue, Washington, under the name “Cadabra.” The name was quickly changed to Amazon.
1998 – Japan joins the U.S. and Russia in space exploration with the launching of the Planet-B probe to Mars.
2016 – The FBI releases a report stating that Hillary Clinton was “extremely careless” in her handling of classified emails, but did not recommend prosecution.
Image from: pbs.org