This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“History is a vast early warning system.” Norman Cousins
Mar 13-19, 2023
1868 – The Senate begins President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment trial. The Senate failed by one vote to impeach Johnson.
1901 – Andrew Carnegie announces he is retiring from business and that he will spend the rest of his life giving away his fortune. His net worth was estimated at $300 million. That’s about $9.3 billion in today’s dollars.
1925 – Tennessee passes the “Butler Act,” making it unlawful to teach evolution. High school teacher John Scopes was tried in July for violating that act. He was found guilty and fined $100, but the verdict was overturned on a technicality. It was later revealed that town leaders convinced Scoped to plead guilty for the publicity after the ACLU offered to defend anyone accused of teaching evolution.
1963 – Ernesto Miranda is arrested in Phoenix, Arizona, and interrogated by police until he signs a confession. The Supreme Court ruled in 1966 that Miranda had not been informed of his legal rights and his conviction for kidnapping and rape was overturned. Miranda was stabbed to death in a bar fight in 1976. He was 34 years old.
1991 – Exxon pays $1 billion in fines and for the cleanup of the Valdez oil spill.
1997 – The unidentified flying objects called the “Phoenix Lights” are seen over Phoenix, Arizona, by hundreds of people and by millions on television. They continue to be a hotly debated controversy. Watch a news report.
2012 – After 244 years of publication, Encyclopedia Britannica announced it is discontinuing its U.S. print edition.
1812 – Congress authorizes the sale of war bonds to finance the War of 1812.
1900 – U.S. currency goes on the gold standard. Since 1971, the U.S. dollar has been called fiat currency, meaning it is not backed by a physical commodity (gold), and is only worth the paper it’s printed on.
1958 – The Recording Industry Association of American is created. Perry Como’s “Catch a Falling Star” is certified as its first gold record. Listen to Mr. Relaxation perform his hit song.
1967 – In the first NFL-AFL football common draft, the Baltimore Colts pick defensive lineman Bubba Smith. Smith won the 1971 Super Bowl with the Baltimore Colts. He turned to acting after a career-ending knee injury. Bubba died in 2011 at age 66.
1989 – Imported semi-automatic “assault” rifles are banned in the U.S. under President George H.W. Bush’s administration.
1997 – President Bill Clinton trips at 1:20 AM while on a fund-raising trip to Florida. The injury required knee surgery.
2018 – NASA reports the results of their twins study with astronaut Scott Kelly and his brother Mark. After one year in space, Scott is no longer identical to his twin brother because 7% of his genes had been altered.
1869 – The Cincinnati Red Stockings become the first professional baseball team.
1892 – The first escalator is patented by inventor Jesse W. Reno. It was introduced as an amusement park ride at New York’s Coney Island in 1896.
1892 – The first lever voting machine, the “Myers Automatic Booth,” debuts in Lockport, New York. A lever was assigned to each candidate and the voter pulled the lever to vote for the corresponding candidate.
1912 – Future Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Cy Young retires from baseball with 511 wins. The award bearing his name has been given annually to the best pitcher starting in 1956, the year after Young’s death.
1916 – General Pershing and 15,000 troops, on orders from President Wilson, chase Pancho Villa into Mexico after Villa repeatedly attacked American interests in New Mexico. Villa was never captured but was assassinated in Mexico in 1923.
1945 – Billboard publishes its first top album chart with “The King Cole Trio” as its first #1 album. The album included “It’s Only a Paper Moon.” Listen to the original song with still photos.
1954 – “CBS Morning Show” premieres with Jack Paar and Walter Cronkite. Paar died in 2004 at age 85 and Cronkite died in 2009 at age 92.
1968 – LIFE magazine calls Jimi Hendrix the “most spectacular guitarist in the world.” Hendrix died in 1970 at age 27. Watch left-handed Hendrix perform “Purple Haze.”
1977 – The U.S. House of Representatives begins a 90-day test of televising its sessions.
1985 – The first Internet domain name, symbolics.com, is registered.
1989 – The Department of Veterans Affairs is officially established as a Cabinet position.
2002 – Burger King begins selling a veggie burger in the U.S. The event was billed as the first veggie burger to be sold nationally by a fast food chain. Many fast food restaurants now sell meatless burgers.
1641 – The general court declares Rhode Island a democracy and it adopts a new constitution.
1802 – Thomas Jefferson signs legislation establishing the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.
1881 – The P. T. Barnum and James A. Bailey Circuses merge and debuts as “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Bailey bought Barnum’s shares after his death in 1890 and the five Ringling brothers bought the circus after Bailey’s death in 1906 creating the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus. The circus closed in 2017.
1912 – First Lady Helen Herron Taft plants the first cherry trees in Washington, DC. The first Cherry Blossom Festival was held in 1935.
1926 – Rocket scientist Robert Goddard launches the first liquid fuel rocket. It went up 184 feet. He is considered the father of the Space Age for his work as a theorist and engineer.
1968 – Robert Kennedy announces his presidential campaign. Kennedy was assassinated on June 6th in Los Angeles when he was 42 years old. His older brother, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated five years earlier. Listen to Robert’s announcement.
1974 – The first performance at the new Grand Ole Opry House is held at Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee. President Nixon and his wife Pat were the first presidential couple to attend the Opry. Nixon is still the only president to perform at the Opry when he played “God Bless America” on the piano. He also played “Happy Birthday” to First Lady Pat Nixon. Watch Nixon play (starts at 1:50).
1988 – A federal grand jury indicts Oliver North and John Poindexter in the Iran-Contra affair. North is convicted of accepting an illegal gratuity, obstructing a congressional inquiry, and destruction of documents, but the ruling is overturned since he had been granted immunity. Poindexter was convicted in 1990 of five counts of lying to Congress and obstructing the investigation, but his conviction was overturned on appeal in 1991.
1995 – The Mississippi House of Representatives finally ratifies the 13th Amendment, formally abolishing slavery. Mississippi originally rejected the amendment in 1865, the year it was passed by Congress.
2012 – George Clooney, his father, and other several prominent participants, including Martin Luther King III, are arrested during a protest outside the Sudanese Embassy for civil disobedience. Watch the protest and arrests.
1894 – The U.S. and China sign a treaty preventing Chinese laborers from entering the U.S. for 10 years. Chinese immigration started with the California Gold Rush of 1848-1855 and continued with the building of the Transcontinental Railroad of 1863-1869.
1912 – Mrs. Luther Halsey Gulick announces the organization of Camp Fire Girls. Now co-ed, it was founded as a sister organization to the Boy Scouts.
1927 – The U.S. government does not sign the League of Nations disarmament treaty after World War I. Member nations were Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan. Although President Wilson was the main founder, the U.S. never joined the League of Nations.
1958 – The Navy launches Vanguard 1 into orbit to measure the Earth’s shape. The first successful U.S. rocket launch was the Jupiter C on January 31, 1958.
1970 – The U.S. casts its first UN Security Council veto. The U.S. cast the lone veto regarding the Rhodesian crisis in order to prevent another resolution relating to Israel.
1973 – The first American prisoners of war (POWs) are released from the “Hanoi Hilton” in Hanoi, North Vietnam.
2008 – New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer resigns after a scandal involving a high-end prostitute. David Paterson became the acting New York State governor. Spitzer lost his bid for mayor of New York City in 2013. Watch his resignation speech.
1850 – Henry Wells and William Fargo form American Express in Buffalo, New York.
1882 – Morgan Earp is assassinated in Tombstone, Arizona, two months after the gunfight at the OK Corral. Morgan, Wyatt Earp’s brother, was killed by outlaws after he played billiards.
1931 – The first electric shavers go on sale in the U.S. They were made by Schick. Army Lieutenant Colonel Jacob Schick invented a new type of safety razor in 1921 and continued to improve on his original invention. Schick died in 1937 at age 59.
1942 – The third military draft in the U.S. begins during World War II. Just over 10 million men were drafted.
1977 – Vietnam hands over 22 sets of MIA remains to the U.S., while 1,584 Americans are still listed as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.
1990 – Two thieves dressed as police officers tie up guards at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and steal 13 pieces of art valued at $500 million. It was the largest art heist in U.S. history. Although the museum offered a $5 million reward and the FBI followed many leads the art has never recovered and the thieves have not been caught.
1995 – Basketball great Michael Jordan announces he is ending his 18-month NBA retirement. He played the 1995-1998 seasons and retired again. Jordan made another comeback 2001-2003 and retired for the 3rd and final time. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009. Jordan is now 60 years old. Watch interviews and highlights.
2014 – The U.S. closes the Syrian embassy in Washington, DC and expels all Syrian diplomats. The Obama Administration ordered the embassy closed “in consideration of the atrocities the Assad regime has committed against the Syrian people.”
1831 – The City Bank of New York is the first U.S. bank to be robbed. Thieves make off with $245,000, valued at over $7 million in today’s money.
1918 – Congress authorizes the use of time zones and approves daylight saving time to save energy during World War I.
1920 – The U.S. Senate rejects the Treaty of Versailles for the second time by refusing to ratify League of Nations’ covenant (maintaining its isolation policy).
1949 – The first museum devoted exclusively to atomic energy opens in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The American Museum of Science and Energy is still open.
1953 – The 25th Academy Awards is the first Oscar ceremony to be televised. Cecil B. DeMille’s “Greatest Show on Earth” beats out Stanley Kramer’s “High Noon” for best picture. Watch the award announcement and presentation for best picture.
1975 – Pennsylvania becomes the first state to allow girls to compete with boys in high school sports. Title IX, passed in 1972, prohibits discrimination in any educational activity or program on the basis of sex.
1979 – C-SPAN (an acronym for Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network, a private, nonprofit American cable television network) is launched.
2009 – President Obama compares his bowling to Special Olympics on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno. Watch Obama without a teleprompter.
2013 – NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity discovers further evidence of water-bearing minerals. Curiosity has covered about 15.5 miles on the surface of Mars.
Image from: The Independent