This Week In History, March 10 – 16, 2014


by Dianne Hermann

“The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.”
– Winston Churchill

Week of March 10-16, 2014

March 10

1849 – Abraham Lincoln applies for and receives (on May 22nd) a patent for his invention of a device to lift boats over shoals. Although his device is never manufactured, Lincoln is the only U.S. president to hold a patent.


1876 – Alexander Graham Bell makes the first telephone call. The call is to his assistant Thomas Watson.

1969 – James Earl Ray pleads guilty of the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. Ray died in prison in 1998 at age 70.

1971 – The U. S. Senate approves the 26th Amendment lowering the voting age from 21 to 18.

1980 – Willard Scott becomes the weather forecaster on the “Today Show.” He is also the first Ronald McDonald. Scott just turned 80 years old.


March 11

1789 – Benjamin Banneker, the son of a freed slave, and Pierre L’Enfant, who came from France to fight in the Revolutionary War, begin laying out the plans for Washington, DC.


1841 – The first continuous filibuster in the U.S. Senate, which begins on February 18th, ends. It starts over Senator Henry Clay’s bill to charter the Second Bank of the United States. The word “filibuster” is derived from the French word meaning “pirate.”

1897 – A meteorite enters the earth’s atmosphere and explodes over New Martinsville, West Virginia. The debris causes damage, but no human injuries are reported.

1918 – The first confirmed cases of the Spanish Flu are observed at Fort Riley, Kansas, starting the 3-year global flu pandemic that kills 3-5% of the world’s population.

1953 – An American B-47 aircraft accidentally drops a nuclear bomb on Mars Bluff, South Carolina. The bomb doesn’t detonate, but the hole it made is still visible.

1958 – Charles Van Doren finally loses on the TV game show “Twenty-One.” It is later revealed that the show’s producers provided Van Doren with the answer and told contestant Herb Stempel to give the wrong answer, resulting in one of the biggest game show scandals.


1982 – Senator Harrison Williams (D-NJ) resigns rather than face expulsion following his 1981 conviction for taking bribes in the ABSCAM sting.


March 12

1664 – The first naturalization act is passed in American colonies. The first Oaths of Allegiance are also taken.

1912 – Juliette Gordon Low forms the Girl Scouts in Savannah, Georgia.

1933 – FDR conducts his first “fireside chat.”

1956 – The Dow Jones closes above 500 for the first time (500.24).

1980 – A jury finds John Wayne Gacy guilty of murdering 33 men and boys in Chicago. Gacy is executed by lethal injection in 1994 at age 52.

1986 – Susan Butcher wins the first of her four 1,158-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Races (1986, 1987, 1988, and 1990). Only Rick Swenson has won more Iditarod races (5). The first Iditarod race is run in 1973.


2003 – Elizabeth Smart is found after having been missing for 9 months. She is kidnapped from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah, by Brian David Mitchell. He is sentenced to life in prison in 2011.


March 13

1868 – The Senate begins U.S. President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment trial. The Senate fails to impeach Johnson by one vote.

1884 – The U.S. adopts Standard Time.

1925 – Tennessee passes the “Butler Act,” making it unlawful to teach evolution. High school teacher John Scopes is tried for violating that act in July. He is found guilty and is fined $100, but the verdict is overturned on a technicality. It is later revealed that town leaders convinced Scoped to plead guilty for the publicity after the ACLU offered to defend anyone accused of teaching evolution.

1960 – The National Football League’s Chicago Cardinals move to St Louis. (See March 15, 1988)

1963 – Ernesto Miranda is arrested in Phoenix, Arizona, and interrogated by police until he signs a confession. The Supreme Court rules in 1966 that Miranda had not been informed of his legal rights and his conviction for kidnapping and rape is overturned. Miranda was stabbed to death in a bar fight in 1976. He was 34 years old.


1987 – John Gotti is acquitted of racketeering. Gotti is finally convicted of murder and racketeering in 1992 and sentenced to life in prison. Gotti died of throat cancer at a medical center for prisoners in 2002 at age 61.


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 are now a hotly debated controversy.


March 14

1794 – Eli Whitney patents the cotton gin.

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 is called fiat currency, meaning it is not backed by a physical commodity (gold), and is only worth the paper it’s printed on.

1937 – In the Battle of the Century, Fred Allen and Jack Benny meet on the radio on what becomes a decade-long faux feud.


1958 – The Recording Industry Association of American is created and certifies its first gold record (Perry Como’s “Catch A Falling Star”).


1964 – A Dallas jury sentences Jack Ruby to death for the murder of Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. Ruby died of lung cancer and a stroke in 1967 at age 55.

1967 – President JFK’s body is moved from a temporary grave to a permanent memorial at Arlington National Ceremony.

1967 – In the first NFL-AFL football common draft, the Baltimore Colts pick defensive lineman Bubba Smith.


March 15

1869 – The Cincinnati Red Stockings become the first professional baseball team.

1875 – John McCloskey of New York City is selected as the first U.S. cardinal of the Catholic Church.

1892 – The first escalator is patented by inventor Jesse W. Reno. It is 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 is assigned to each candidate and the voter pulls 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 is given annually to the best pitcher starting in 1956, the year after Young’s death.


1913 – Woodrow Wilson holds the first presidential press conference.

1916 – General Pershing and 15,000 troops, on orders from President Wilson, chase Pancho Villa into Mexico after Villa repeatedly attacks American interests in New Mexico. Villa is never captured but is assassinated in Mexico in 1923.

1945 – Billboard publishes its first top album chart and “The King Cole Trio” is its first #1 album. The album includes “It’s Only A Paper Moon.”


1968 – LIFE magazine calls Jimi Hendrix the “most spectacular guitarist in the world.”

1977 – The U.S. House of Representatives begins a 90-day test of televising its sessions.

1985 – The first Internet domain name,, is registered.

1988 – NFL’s St Louis Cardinals officially move to Phoenix. The Los Angeles Rams move to St. Louis for the 1995 season.


March 16

1830 – The New York Stock Exchange has its slowest day ever when only 31 shares are traded.

1861 – Edward Clark becomes Governor of Texas, replacing Sam Houston, who is evicted from the office for refusing to take an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy.

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.


1912 – First Lady Helen Herron Taft plants the first cherry trees in Washington, DC. The first Cherry Blossom Festival is held in 1935.

1941 – The National Gallery of Art opens in Washington, DC.

1968 – Robert Kennedy announces his presidential campaign. Kennedy is assassinated on June 6th in Los Angeles. He is 42 years old. His older brother, President John F. Kennedy, is assassinated 5 years earlier.

1974 – The first performance is held at the new Grand Ole Opry House at Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee.

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 is convicted in 1990 of five counts of lying to Congress and obstructing the investigation, but his conviction is overturned on appeal in 1991.

1994 – Figure skater Tonya Harding pleads guilty to the January felony attack on fellow skater Nancy Kerrigan. Kerrigan won the silver medal at the 1994 Winter Olympics. Harding is fined, gets probation, and receives a lifetime ban on U.S. skating competitions.


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