This Week in History: March 30-April 5, 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 30-April 5, 2020


March 30

1842 – Dr. Crawford Long of Jefferson, Georgia, uses ether as an anesthetic during surgery for the first time.

1867 – The U.S. Secretary of State William Seward agrees to buy Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million, or 2 cents an acre, in what becomes known as Seward’s Folly. Gold was discovered in the Yukon in 1896. Watch a brief history of Alaska’s acquisition:

1870 – Texas becomes the last confederate state readmitted to the Union after the Civil War.

1939 – The comic book “Detective Comics #27” appears on newsstands. This comic book introduced Batman.

1964 – Astronaut John Glenn withdraws from the Ohio senate race because of injuries he suffered in a fall. Glenn finally won his senate seat in 1974 after a third run and served until he retired in 1997. In 1998 John Glenn became the oldest astronaut to go into space. Glenn died in 2016 at the age of 95.

1964 – “Jeopardy” debuts on TV and is hosted by Art Fleming. Merv Griffin created the daytime game show. The nighttime game show debuted in 1984 and is still hosted by Alex Trebek. Watch part an early episode (and notice the dollar amounts of clues):

1981 – President Ronald Reagan is shot and wounded by John Hinckley, Jr. President Reagan recovered while Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Hinckley, now 63 years old, was released in 2016 from of St. Elizabeth’s Mental Hospital in Washington, DC after 35 years.

2012 – The U.S. Mega Millions lottery hits a world record lottery amount of $656 million. There were three winning tickets.

March 31

1870 – Thomas P. Mundy of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, is the first black person to vote in the U.S. Mundy died in 1904 at age 79.

1906 – The Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States is founded to set rules in amateur sports. The organization became the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in 1910.

1918 – Daylight Savings Time goes into effect for the first time in the U.S. during WWI. New Zealand entomologist George Hudson proposed the first modern daylight savings time in 1895 as a way to collect insects after work. Arizona and Hawaii do not observe DST.

1930 – The Motion Pictures Production Code (Hays Code) is instituted, imposing strict guidelines on the treatment of sex, crime, religion, and violence in film for the next thirty-eight years. The new film rating system went into effect in 1968 using G (general), M (mature), R (restricted), and X (sexually explicit).

1948 – Congress passes the Marshall Aid Act to rehabilitate war-torn Europe.

1949 – RCA releases the first single 45-rpm record. It was “Texarkana Baby” and “Bouquet of Roses” by Eddy Arnold. Listen to “Texarkana Baby”:

1980 – President Carter deregulates the banking industry by signing the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act.

1981 – The first Raspberry Awards are held to honor the worst films of the previous year. The 1980 winner (or loser) was “Can’t Stop the Music.”

2008 – Senator and presidential candidate Obama criticizes President Bush for “Trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not going through Congress at all.” Watch his comments and broken campaign promise:

April 1

1778 – New Orleans businessman Oliver Pollock creates the “$” (dollar) symbol.

1866 – Congress rejects a veto by President Andrew Johnson (D-TN) giving equal rights to all people in the U.S. It was the first major piece of legislation passed over a presidential veto.

1889 – The first dishwashing machine is marketed in Chicago, Illinois. Josephine Cochrane patents her invention in 1886. A wealthy socialite, Cochrane designed the dishwasher because she was tired of her best china being chipped by the hired help. Cochrane’s dishwashing machine company eventually became KitchenAid. Cochrane died in 1913 at age 74.

1891 – The Wrigley Company is founded in Chicago, Illinois. At the age of 29 William Wrigley, Jr. left his home in Philadelphia with $32 and started selling his father’s soap in Chicago. In 1893, after giving away chewing gum as a promotion, he introduced a new gum called “Juicy Fruit.” Wrigley died in 1932 at age 70.

1934 – Bonnie and Clyde kill two police officers near Grapevine, Texas. On May 23rd, law enforcement officers killed Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow near Sailes, Louisiana. Bonnie was 23 and Clyde was 25.

1938 – The Baseball Hall of Fame opens in Cooperstown, New York. The first inductees were Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner, and Babe Ruth.

1946 – Weight Watchers is formed by overweight housewife Jean Nidetch in her apartment in Queens, New York. Nidetch died in 2015 at age 91. Watch a brief history of Weight Watchers:

1948 – Ralph Alpher (American), Hans Bethe, and George Gamow propose the Big Bang Theory in Physical Review, a publication organized in 1893 at Cornell University.

1954 – The U.S. Air Force Academy is formed in Colorado.

1992 – The battleship USS Missouri (on which Japan surrendered ending World War II) is decommissioned. It is now a memorial museum at Pearl Harbor. The USS Missouri was used in the 2012 movie “Battleship.” The extras in the movie were actual WWII veterans from the USS Missouri.

2004 – Google introduces Gmail. The launch is met with skepticism because of the launch date.

2009 – President Obama bows when meeting King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Watch the greeting:

April 2

1792 – The Coinage Act is passed establishing the United States Mint.

1870 – Victoria Woodhull is the first woman to be nominated for the U.S. presidency. She ran on the Equal Right Party ticket. Woodhull died in 1927 at age 88.

1917 – President Woodrow Wilson asks Congress to declare war against Germany. Congress declared war on the German Empire on April 6th.

1932 – Charles Lindbergh turns over $50,000 as ransom for his kidnapped son. In April 1936, Richard Bruno Hauptmann was executed for the kidnapping and death of the Lindbergh’s son. Watch a short report about the “crime of the century”:

1978 – The TV show “Dallas” premieres on CBS and airs until 1991. The Southfork Ranch is actually located in Parker, Texas, about 25 miles north of Dallas. “Dallas” launched its new series in 2012. Larry Hagman (JR Ewing) died in 2012 at age 81 after filming just 17 new episodes.

1987 – The speed limit on U.S. interstate highways is increased to 65 miles per hour in limited areas. Speed limits mow vary from state to state.

2014 – The Supreme Court rules (5-4 decision) in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission that limits on the total amount of money individuals can give political candidates and political action committees is unconstitutional.

April 3

1513 – Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon lands at what is now Florida.

1860 – The first Pony Express riders leave St. Joseph, Missouri, for Sacramento, California, on a trip across the country that took about a week. The Pony Express, which advertised for “Young, skinny, wiry fellows, not over 18, must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily, orphans preferred,” only lasted about a year and a half. Buffalo Bill Cody and Wild Bill Hickok were among the riders. Watch a brief history of the Pony Express:

1882 – The outlaw Jesse James is shot in the back and killed by Robert Ford. Jesse James was 34 years old.

1944 – The Supreme Court rules in Smith v Allwright that “all white” primaries are unconstitutional. Lonnie Smith, a black voter in Texas, challenged the Democrat party rules that allowed for only whites to vote in primaries.

1949 – Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis debut on radio on the “Martin and Lewis Show”. The NBC radio program ran until 1953. Martin and Lewis go on to star in a variety of TV shows and movies. Martin died in 1995 at age 78. Lewis died in 2017 at age 91.

1953 – “TV Guide” is published for the first time. Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball’s son Desi Arnaz, Jr. is on the cover. Little Desi is now 67 years old.

1973 – The first mobile phone call is made by Motorola employee Martin Cooper from Manhattan to Bell Labs headquarters in New Jersey.

1991 – Football player Bo Jackson signs a 1-year contract with the Chicago White Sox baseball team. Jackson was the first athlete to play in an All-Star game in two different sports. In 2013, ESPN named Jackson the “Greatest Athlete of All Time.” Watch ESPN’s interview with Bo:

1996 – Unabomber suspect Theodore Kaczynski is arrested. He pleaded guilty in January 1998 to five Unabomber attacks in exchange for a life sentence without the chance of parole. Kaczynski is now 77 years old.

2010 – The first Apple iPad is released.

April 4

1818 – Congress passes a plan that says the U.S. flag will have 13 red and white stripes and 20 stars. It had 15 stripes to represent 15 states, but Congress realized it would be impractical to keep adding stripes. The plan allowed that a new star would be added for the each new state.

1841 – President William Henry Harrison, at the age of 68, becomes the first president to die in office. He took the oath of office only a month before he died of pneumonia. He delivered a 2-hour inaugural address on a cold, wet day without wearing a coat or hat.

1914 – The first known serialized moving picture opens in New York City. It was “The Perils of Pauline.” Watch the first episode (black and white with dramatic piano music):

1949 – The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) treaty is signed in Washington, DC.

1968 – Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, at age 39.

1974 – Hank Aaron ties Babe Ruth’s home-run record by hitting his 714th home run. Watch #714 go over Pete Rose’s head:

1975 – Microsoft is founded as a partnership between Bill Gates and Paul Allen.

2008 – During a raid on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints owned YFZ Ranch in Texas, 401 children and 133 women are taken into state custody. Several male members of the compound were found guilty or plead no contest to sexual assault.

April 5

1792 – President George Washington casts the first presidential veto. He determined that the apportionment bill passed by Congress violated the constitutional guidelines that determined the number of delegates in the House of

1869 – Daniel Bakeman, the last surviving soldier of the U.S. Revolutionary War, dies at the age of 109.

1951 – Americans Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are sentenced to death for committing espionage for the Soviet Union.

1973 – Pioneer 11 launches on its mission to study Jupiter. NASA lost contact with the spacecraft in 1995 after receiving data for 22 years. Watch a video of the space mission:

1974 – The world’s tallest building, the World Trade Center, opens in New York City at 110 stories. We will always remember 9-11-2001.

2009 – The media is allowed to film the return of slain soldiers for the first time when an 18-year ban is lifted. President George H.W. Bush placed the ban on photos and President Obama lifted the ban.

2015 – Rolling Stone Magazine retracts the “Rape on Campus” story it published in 2014 about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. In 2016, the university won a defamation lawsuit against the magazine for the fake news story.

2016 – PayPal announces it is cancelling a $3.6 million investment in North Carolina after the state passes anti-gay legislation, although PayPal continues to do business in communist China.


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