This Week in History: March 13-19, 2017


This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann

“Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past,
for human events ever resemble those of preceding times.”

Week of March 13-19, 2017

March 13

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

1884 – The U.S. adopts Standard Time.

1901 – Andrew Carnegie announces that he is retiring from business and that he will spend the rest of his life giving away his fortune. His net worth is estimated at $300 million.

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.

1930 – It is announced that the planet Pluto has been discovered by scientist Clyde Tombaugh at the Lowell Observatory.

1951 – The comic strip “Dennis the Menace” by Hank Ketcham appears for the first time in newspapers across the country.

1960 – The National Football League’s Chicago Cardinals move to St Louis. The Cardinals then move to Phoenix in 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.

1974 – The U.S. Senate votes 54-33 to restore the death penalty.

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 continue to be a hotly debated controversy. Watch this amateur video (no sound):

2012 – After 244 years of publication, Encyclopedia Britannica announced it is discontinuing its U.S. print edition.

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.

1903 – The first national bird reservation established in Sebastian, Florida.

1913 – John D. Rockefeller gives $100 million to the Rockefeller Foundation.

1923 – President Warren G. Harding becomes the first President to file an income tax report and pay taxes.

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

1943 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt becomes the first President to fly in an airplane while in office.

1948 – The Freedom Train that toured the lower 48 states arrives in San Francisco.

1958 – The Recording Industry Association of American is created. Perry Como’s “Catch a Falling Star” is certified as its first gold record. Watch Como perform his hit song in England:

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.

1989 – Imported assault guns 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 requires knee surgery.

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.

1937 – The first blood bank is established in Chicago, Illinois.

1945 – Billboard publishes its first top album chart with “The King Cole Trio” as its first #1 album. The album includes “It’s Only a Paper Moon.” Listen to the original song with still photos:

1945 – Bert Shepard, a WWII veteran with an artificial leg, tries out as a pitcher for Washington Senators. He pitches in one game on August 4th. Shepard died in 2008 at age 87.

1954 – “CBS Morning Show” premieres with Walter Cronkite and Jack Paar. Cronkite died in 2009 at age 92 and Paar died in 2004 at age 85.

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”:

1969 – Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas asks President Lyndon B. Johnson to remove his name from consideration to replace retiring Chief Justice Earl Warren when Fortas fails to receive Congressional approval. Fortas becomes the first nominee since 1795 to fail to win Senate approval. He resigns from the Supreme Court in May. Fortas died in 1982 at age 71.

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.

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 is billed as the first veggie burger to be sold nationally by a fast food chain.

March 16

1641 – The general court declares Rhode Island a democracy and adopts a new constitution.

1802 – Thomas Jefferson signs legislation establishing the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

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.

1915 – The Federal Trade Commission organizes.

1926 – Rocket scientist Robert Goddard launches the first liquid fuel rocket. It goes up 184 feet.

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

1948 – Billie Holiday is released from prison early because of good behavior. She is convicted in 1947 of drug possession. Holiday died of liver and heart disease in 1959 at age 44.

1968 – Robert Kennedy announces his presidential campaign. Kennedy is assassinated on June 6th in Los Angeles when he is 42 years old. His older brother, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated 5 years earlier. Listen to Robert’s announcement:

1968 – The My Lai massacre occurs during the Vietnam War and 450 die.

1974 – The first performance at the new Grand Ole Opry House is held at Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee. President Nixon and his wife Pat are the first presidential couple to attend the Opry. Nixon is still the only president to perform at the Opry when he plays “God Bless America” on the piano. He also plays “Happy Birthday” to First Lady Pat Nixon. Watch Nixon play:

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.

1995 – The Mississippi House of Representatives ratifies the 13th Amendment, formally abolishing slavery.

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:

March 17

1753 – The first official St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in the U.S.

1854 – Worcester, Massachusetts, is the first U.S. city to purchase land for a park.

1884 – John Joseph Montgomery makes the first glider flight in Otay, California.

1894 The U.S. and China sign a treaty preventing Chinese laborers from entering the U.S.

1912 – Mrs. Luther Halsey Gulick announces the organization of Camp Fire Girls.

1927 – The U.S. government does not sign the League of Nations disarmament treaty after World War I.

1941 – The National Gallery of Art is officially opened by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Washington, DC.

1942 – U.S. General Douglas MacArthur arrives in Australia after leaving the Philippines to become supreme commander during World War II where he makes his “I shall return” promise.

1958 – The Navy launches Vanguard 1 into orbit to measure Earth shape.

1963 – Elizabeth Ann Seton, the founder of the first Catholic School in the U.S., is beatified by Pope John XXIII. She is canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1975.

1970 – The U.S. casts its first UN Security Council veto. The U.S. casts the lone veto regarding the Rhodesian crisis 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.

1994 – The Cleveland Indians announce the no smoking in their new ballpark.

1995 – The FDA approves the first chicken pox vaccine.

2008 – New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer resigns after a scandal involving a high-end prostitute. David Paterson becomes the acting New York State governor. Spitzer loses his bid for mayor of New York City in 2013. Watch his resignation speech:

March 18

1543 – Hernan de Soto observes the first recorded flood in America (Mississippi River).

1818 – Congress approves the first pensions for government service workers.

1834 – The first railroad tunnel in the U.S. is completed in Pennsylvania. The Staple Bend Tunnel is 900 feet long.

1850 – Henry Wells and William Fargo form American Express in Buffalo, New York.

1877 – President Rutherford B. Hayes appoints Frederick Douglass as the U.S. Marshal of Washington, DC.

1882 – Morgan Earp is assassinated in Tombstone, Arizona, two months after the gunfight at the OK Corral. Wyatt Earp’s brother is killed by outlaws after he played billiards.

1910 – The first opera by a U.S. composer (Converse) is performed at the Met, New York City.

1930 – Pluto discovered by Clyde Tombaugh of the U.S.

1931 – The first electric shavers go on sale in the U.S. They are made by Schick. Army Lieutenant Colonel Jacob Schick invents a new type of safety razor in 1921 and continues to improve on his original invention. Schick died in 1937 at age 59.

1942 – The third military draft in the U.S. begins because of World War II.

1954 – RKO Pictures is sold to Howard Hughes for $23,489,478. It is the first motion picture studio to be owned by an individual.

1959 – President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs the Hawaii statehood bill making Hawaii the 50th state.

1961 – “Poppin’ Fresh” the Pillsbury Dough Boy is introduced.

1977 – Vietnam hands over 22 sets of MIA remains to the U.S. while 1,642 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 $15 million. It is 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. Watch a recent on the investigation:

1992 – Leona Helmsley is sentenced to 4 years for tax evasion. The “Queen of mean” died in 2007 at age 87. She left $12 million to her pet Maltese dog. The dog died in 2011.

1995 – Basketball great Michael Jordan announces he is ending his 18-month NBA retirement. He plays 1995-1998 and retires again. Jordan makes another comeback 2001-2003 and retires for the 3rd and final time. He is elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009. Jordan is now 54 years old. Watch interviews and highlights:

2014 – The U.S. closes the Syrian embassy in Washington and expels all Syrian diplomats.

March 19

1831 – The City Bank of New York is the first U.S. bank to be robbed. Thieves make off with $245,000.

1917 – The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Adamson Act, allowing an 8-hour workday for railroad employees.

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).

1928 – “Amos & Andy” debuts on NBC radio in Chicago featuring white actors Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll. Black actors Alvin Childress and Spencer Williams play Amos and Andy on TV from 1951 to 1953. Watch a 1950 screen test:

1931 – Nevada legalizes gambling.

1942 – FDR orders men between the ages of 45 and 64 to register for non-military duty during World War II.

1949 – The first museum devoted exclusively to atomic energy opens in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

1953 – The 25th Academy Awards is the first 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.

1979 – C-SPAN (an acronym for Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network, a private, nonprofit American cable television network) is launched.

1987 – Televangelist Jim Bakker resigns from the PTL due to a scandal involving Jessica Hahn.

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.

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