This Week in History: March 2-8, 2020


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

Week of March 2-8, 2020


March 2

1819 – The U.S. passes its first immigration law. A total of 556 people were deported under the Immigration Act.

1877 – Rutherford B. Hayes (R) is declared president despite Samuel J. Tilden (D) winning the popular vote, but Tilden is 1 electoral vote short of victory. The other presidents who received fewer popular votes but more electoral votes, thus becoming president, are John Quincy Adams (over Andrew Jackson), Benjamin Harrison (over Grover Cleveland), George W. Bush (over Al Gore), and Donald Trump (over Hillary Clinton).

1939 – The Massachusetts Legislature votes to ratify the Bill of Rights – 147 years late.

1942 – The Stage Door Canteen opens on West 44th Street in New York City. The canteen provided dancing and entertainment for WWII servicemen. The first canteen could accommodate 500 people. Other canteens opened later in Boston, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Newark. Watch the history of the Stage Door Canteen:

1962 – Wilt Chamberlain, with the Philadelphia Warriors, scores an incredible 100 points in a National Basketball Association game against the New York Nicks. The record still stands. Chamberlain holds 72 NBA record, including the most games scoring 60 or more points (32 games). Chamberlain died in 1999 at age 63. Watch Wilt “The Stilt” score the 100 points:

1994 – Representative William Natcher (D-KY) casts his 18,401st (and last) consecutive vote. He still holds the longest uninterrupted voting record. Natcher died while in office on March 29, 1994 at age 84.

2016 – U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko return to earth after nearly a year (340 days) in space, setting an International Space Station record.

March 3

1812 – The U.S. Congress passes the first foreign aid bill to help Venezuela’s earthquake victims.

1837 – Congress increases the Supreme Court membership from 7 to 9 justices. The Constitution did not establish the number of Supreme Court justices, but it was set at 5 in 1801 and increased to 7 in 1807. In 1937, President FDR attempted unsuccessfully to increase the number of justices by 6 based on the age of the current justices in his Judicial Procedures Reform Bill. It was seen as a plan to pack the court in his favor after the Supreme Court ruled his New Deal unconstitutional.

1845 – The U.S. Senate overrides a presidential veto for the first time. President Tyler vetoed a Congressional bill that would have denied him the power to appropriate federal funds to build ships without Congressional approval.

1887 – Anne Sullivan begins teaching 6-year-old blind and deaf Helen Keller. Sullivan died in 1936 at age 70. Author and lecturer Helen Keller died in 1968 at age 87. Watch the actual newsreel with Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller when Anne explains how she taught Helen to speak:

1931 – The “Star Spangled Banner” officially becomes the U.S. national anthem. Francis Scott Key wrote it as a poem while being held prisoner on a ship near Fort McHenry, Maryland, during the War of 1812.

1972 – Sculpted figures of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson are completed on Stone Mountain in Georgia. The monolith is the largest stone caring in the world at 158 feet tall.

1991 – The Los Angeles Police severely beat motorist Rodney King, which is captured on amateur video. Four LAPD police officers were indicted for assault and using excessive force. Their acquittal resulted in riots where more than 50 people were killed. King was arrested several more times for various offenses. King died in 2012 at age 47 when he drowned in his pool after using drugs and alcohol. Watch a short 1992 ABC news report:

1999 – Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones begin their circumnavigation of the Earth in a hot air balloon non-stop. The flight took 20 days.

2005 – Steve Fossett becomes the first person to fly an airplane solo around the world without any stops and without refueling. The journey of 25,000 miles began and ended in Kansas and was completed in 67 hours and 2 minutes. The first non-stop flight around the world was completed by the team of Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager in 1986. Watch a video about Fossett and the flight:

March 4

1789 – The House of Representatives has its first meeting in New York City.

1841 – William Henry Harrison delivers the longest inauguration speech in history (8,443 words). He died after serving only 32 days in office, making him the president with the shortest term in office.

1849 – The U.S. has no president for one day. James Polk’s term ended at noon on Sunday, but Zachary Taylor refused to be sworn in on Sunday. Senator David Atchison (D-MO), the President Pro Tem, was sworn in for one day and Taylor was sworn in on Monday.

1861 – Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated as the sixteenth president. For the first time the U.S. has five living former presidents: Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan. There are currently four living former presidents: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush (#43), and Barack Hussain Obama.

1917 – Representative Jeannette Rankin (R-MT) becomes the first female member of Congress. She was the only member of Congress to vote against declaring war on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Rankin died in 1973 at age 92.

1934 – The Easter Cross located on Mt. Davidson (the highest natural point in San Francisco) is dedicated. In 1991, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Jewish Congress, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State sued the city over its ownership of the cross. The city lost and in 1997 auctioned the .38-acre and cross to the highest bidder. The Council of Armenian American Organization purchased the cross for $26,000. Watch an aerial view of the cross and surrounding area:

1993 – The first ESPY Awards (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly) are held. The awards recognize individual and team athletic achievement. Michael Jordan and Monica Seles won for Best Male and Female Athletes. The Dallas Cowboys won for Outstanding Team. Coach Jim Valvano received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Watch Valvano’s touching speech:

1998 – The Supreme Court rules in Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services that federal laws banning on-the-job sexual harassment also apply when both parties are the same gender.

2006 – The final attempted contact with Pioneer 10 by the Deep Space Network is unsuccessful when no response is received. Pioneer was launched on 1972 and was over 6 billion miles from earth.

March 5

1770 – During the “Boston Massacre,” British troops shoot and kill five citizens in a crowd. Crispus Attucks, an American of African descent, was the first to die. He was later held up as early black martyr.

1845 – Congress appropriates $30,000 to ship camels to the U.S. for use in the western deserts. The first shipment from Egypt arrived with 33 camels and the second shipment had 41 camels. The camels were used extensively but were scattered during the Civil War. Several camels were reported to have survived and bred, with numerous sightings reported in the desert southwest for decades after.

1925 – South Dakota Governor Gunderson signs a bill establishing a memorial association that will build Mount Rushmore. The faces of presidents Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Lincoln (L to R) were carved under the direction of sculptor Gutzon Borglum. He died before the monument was dedicated in October of 1941.

1946 – Winston Churchill delivers his “Iron Curtain” speech in Fulton, Missouri. Watch part of Churchill’s speech:

1960 – Elvis Presley ends his 2-year hitch in the U.S. Army and resumes his music career.

1984 – The Supreme Court rules in a 5-4 decision in Lynch v Donnelly that a city (Pawtucket, Rhode Island) may use public money for a Nativity scene because it does not violate the Establishment Clause and has “legitimate secular purposes.”

1998 – It is announced that Air Force Lt. Col. Eileen Collins will lead the crew of Columbia on a 1999 mission to launch a large X-ray telescope. She was the first woman to command a space shuttle mission. In 1995, Collins became the first woman to pilot a space shuttle mission. Collins is now 63 years old. Watch a brief biography of Collins:

2013 – The Dow Jones surpasses its 2007 pre-financial crisis levels for the first time when it closes at 14,253.77.

March 6

1831 – Edgar Allan Poe is removed from West Point Military Academy after seven months. Poe was court-martialed in January of 1831 after he stopped attending classes, parades, roll calls, and chapel services.

1836 – Several thousand Mexican soldiers under the command of Santa Anna overrun the Alamo defended by fewer than 200 Americans near modern-day San Antonio, Texas. All defenders were killed, including Jim Bowie and former Congressman Davey Crockett.

1857 – In the infamous Dred Scott Decision, the Supreme Court rules that slaves cannot be citizens or sue in federal court. The Dred Scott decision was overturned by the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution, which were ratified in 1865 and 1868 respectively.

1930 – Clarence Birdseye of Brooklyn develops a method for quick freezing food.

1967 – Joseph Stalin’s only daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, asks for political asylum in U.S. at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India, which is granted. She spent the rest of her life in New Jersey. Svetlana died in 2011 at age 85. Watch her 1967 press conference:

1985 – Yul Brynner appears in his 4,500th stage performance of “The King & I.” He starred in a total of 4,633 performances, the last one just four months before his death. He also starred in the movie of the same name. Brynner won a Tony in 1952 and an Oscar in 1956 for the musical and movie, respectively.

2007 – Former White House aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Jr. is found guilty on four of five counts of perjury and obstruction of justice trial resulting from the Valarie Plame CIA investigation. His 30-month federal prison sentence was commuted by President Bush.

2015 – The U.S. State Department charges two Vietnamese and one Canadian citizen with cyber fraud for stealing 1 billion email addresses for spam. Two of the three men were arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced. One is still at large.

March 7

1644 – Massachusetts establishes the first bicameral (2-chamber) legislature in the colonies.

1908 – Cincinnati Mayor Mark Breith stands before the city council and announces, “Women are not physically fit to operate automobiles.”

1917 – The first jazz record “Dixie Jazz Band One Step” is recorded by Nick LaRocca’s Original Dixieland Jazz Band and released by RCA Victor in Camden, New Jersey. Listen to the original recording:

1942 – The first cadets graduate from flying school at Tuskegee, Alabama. The Tuskegee Airmen, the first black pilots in the U.S. armed forces, distinguished themselves during World War II.

1967 – Teamsters Union president Jimmy Hoffa begins an 8-year jail sentence for defrauding the union and jury tampering. His sentence was commuted on December 23, 1971. Hoffa disappeared in July 1975. His disappearance was never solved and his body was never found.

2002 – A federal judge awards former Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith more than $88 million in damages. The ruling was the latest in a legal battle over the estate of Smith’s late billionaire husband, J. Howard Marshall II, who died in 1995 at age 90. Anna Nicole died in 2007 at age 39.

March 8

1884 – Susan B. Anthony addresses the U.S. House Judiciary Committee arguing for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting women the right to vote. Anthony’s argument came 16 years after legislators had first introduced a federal women’s suffrage amendment. The 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote was not passed until 1919 and was ratified in 1920. The 15th Amendment giving black men the right to vote was ratified in 1870. Anthony died in 1906 at age 86 without ever having legally voted.

1913 – The Internal Revenue Service begins to levy and collect income taxes.

1930 – Babe Ruth signs a 2-year contract for $160,000 with the New York Yankees. General Manager Ed Barrow wrongly predicted, “No one will ever be paid more than Ruth.”

1948 – The Supreme Court rules 8-1 in McCollum v Illinois Board of
Education that religious instruction in public schools is unconstitutional.

1958 – Nobel Prize winning author William Faulkner says U.S. schools have “degenerated to become babysitters.”

1965 – The U.S. lands about 3,500 Marines in South Vietnam. They were the first U.S. combat troops in Vietnam.

1985 – The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reports that 407,700 Americans are millionaires. That is more than double the total from just five years before. By the end of 2016, there were almost 11 million millionaires. By the end of 2019, there were an estimated 18 million millionaires.

1983 – President Ronald Reagan calls the USSR an “Evil Empire.” While in Berlin in 1987, Reagan tells Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” The Berlin Wall is torn down in 1989 and the empire falls in 1991. Watch excerpts of Reagan’s speech:

2014 – Malaysia Airlines flight 370 disappears with 239 passengers on board, including 3 Americans. No sign of the aircraft or wreckage was ever found.


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