This Week in History, March 16 – 22


This Week In History

by Dianne Hermann 

“Educate and inform the whole mass of the people.

They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”

– Thomas Jefferson


Week of March 16-22, 2015



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.


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 when he is 42 years old. His older brother, President John F. Kennedy, is assassinated 5 years earlier. Listen to Robert’s announcement at: 


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


1974 – The first performance is held at the new Grand Ole Opry House 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 at: Billboard


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 at: 



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.


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’s 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. We cast the lone veto regarding the Rhodesian crisis to prevent another resolution relating to Israel.


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


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 at: 



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.



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 – In the largest art robbery in history, 12 paintings valued at $100 million are stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.


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 Maltese. 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 53 years old. Watch interviews and highlights at: NBA


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 at: 


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 one 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 at: 


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.


2013 – NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity discovers further evidence of water-bearing minerals.



March 20


1816 – The U.S. Supreme Court affirms its right to review state court decisions in Martin v Hunter’s lessee involving a land dispute.


1852 – Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is published.


1897 – In the first recorded intercollegiate basketball game, Yale beats the University of Pennsylvania 32-10.


1914 – New Haven, Connecticut, hosts the first international figure-skating tournament held in US.


1952 – The U.S. Senate ratifies the peace treaty with Japan. The treaty goes into effect in April of 1952.


1976 – Patricia Hearst is convicted of the armed robbery she committed while being held captive by the SLA. Hearst is now 61 years old. Watch the actual bank footage of the robbery at: 


1984 – The U.S. Senate rejects an amendment to permit spoken prayer in public schools.


1985 – Libby Riddles is the first woman to win the Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race.


1987 – The FDA approves the sale of AZT for the treatment of AIDS.


1991 The Supreme Court rules unanimously that employers can’t exclude women from jobs where exposure to toxic chemicals could potentially damage a fetus.


1999 – Legoland California, the first and only Legoland outside of Europe, opens in Carlsbad, California.



2012 – Disney movie “John Carter” records one of the largest losses in cinema history with a $200 million dollar write down.



March 21


1843 – Preacher William Miller of Massachusetts predicts the world will end on this day. He is an early pioneer of the Seventh Day Adventist movement.


1891 A member of the Hatfield’s marries a McCoy, ending long and bloody feud in West Virginia that started with an accusation of pig stealing and lasted 20 years.


1924 – Mass Investors Trust becomes the first mutual fund set up in the U.S.


1934 – Female track and field Olympian and future golf legend Babe Didrikson pitches an inning in an A’s-Dodgers exhibition game. The Associated Press declares Babe Didrikson Zaharias to be the “Woman Athlete of the Half Century” in 1950. Zaharias died in 1956 at the age of 45.



1947 – President Truman signs Executive Order 9835 requiring all federal employees to have allegiance to the United States.


1961 – Art Modell purchases Cleveland Browns football team for a (then) record $3,925,000.


1965 – Martin Luther King, Jr. begins the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, a distance of about 50 miles. They arrive on March 25th.



1972 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules that states can’t require a 1-year residency to vote.


1980 – President Jimmy Carter announces the U.S. will boycott the Moscow Olympics.


1980 – J.R. Ewing is shot on the TV show Dallas, sparking the summer-long question, “Who shot JR?” Spoiler Alert – It is revealed in the season premier on November 21st that J.R.’s sister-in-law Kristin Shepard is the one “Who done it” in the highest rated TV show at the time. Watch the event at: 


1983 – All the Time magazines are recalled because of the only known typo on the cover (control is misspelled contol).


1984 – National Football League owners pass the infamous (and short-lived) anti-celebrating rule.


1989 – The first sea test of Trident 2 missile self-destructs over Cape Canaveral. The missile cost $23.7 million.


1994 – Wayne Gretzky ties Gordie Howe’s National Hockey League record of 801 goals on his way to 1.072 goals. Gretzky’s record is considered unbreakable. He is now 54 years old. Watch Gretzky score goals 800 and 801 at: 



March 22


1622 – In the first Indian (Powhattan) massacre of whites in Jamestown Virginia, 347 pilgrims are slain.


1765 The Stamp Act is passed. It is the first direct British tax on colonists.


1790 – Thomas Jefferson becomes the first U.S. Secretary of State under President Washington.


1794 – Congress bans U.S. vessels from supplying slaves to other countries.


1871 – William Holden of North Carolina is the first governor removed from office by impeachment. Holden is charged and convicted of declaring martial law, unlawfully raising troops, illegally declaring counties to be in a state of insurrection, illegally arresting citizens, seizing, detaining, imprisoning, and depriving those citizens of their liberty and privileges as freemen, and refusing to obey a writ of habeas corpus.



1882 – The Edmunds Act is adopted by the U.S. to suppress polygamy. About 1,300 men are later imprisoned under the act.


1903 – Niagara Falls runs out of water because of a drought.



1934 – The first Masters golf championship begins in Augusta, Georgia. Horton Smith wins with two under par.



1935 – Blood tests are authorized as evidence in court cases in New York.


1946 – The WAC rocket, the first U.S. rocket to leave the Earth’s atmosphere, travels 50 miles up. Early rockets are named for enlisted ranks in the Army. WAC stands for Women’s Army Corps.


1990 – An Anchorage jury finds Capt. Hazelwood innocent of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.


2006 – British forces in Baghdad rescue 3 Christian Peacemaker Teams hostages after 118 days captivity. Their colleague, American Tom Fox, is found dead with gunshots through his head and chest.

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