This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“No problem of human making is too great to be overcome by
human ingenuity, human energy, and the untiring hope of the human spirit.”
President George H. W. Bush
Week of March 4-10, 2019
1789 – The House of Representatives has its first meeting in New York City.
1801 – Thomas Jefferson is the first president inaugurated in Washington, DC.
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 five living former presidents: Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush (#41), 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.
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.
1836 – Samuel Colt manufactures the first pistol, a 34-caliber “Texas” model.
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 62 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.
1831 – Edgar Allan Poe is removed from West Point Military Academy after 7 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:
1982 – In the NBA’s highest scoring game to date, the San Antonio Spurs beat the Milwaukee Bucks 171-166 (337 points) in triple overtime. The current record is 370 points when the Detroit Pistons beat the Denver Nuggets 186-184 in triple overtime in December 1993.
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.
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.
1975 – The Senate revises the filibuster rule by allowing 60 senators to limit debate instead of the previous two-thirds.
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.
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.
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:
1776 – The book on economics “The Wealth of Nations” by Adam Smith is published.
1862 – The battle of the “Monitor” (Union) and the “Merrimack” (Confederate) takes place in Hampton Roads, Virginia. It was the first battle between ironclads (submarines).
1933 – Congress is called into special session by President FDR and begins its “100 days.” In all, Roosevelt pushed 15 major bills through Congress in his first 100 days in office.
1959 – The Barbie doll goes on sale. Ruth Handler invented the iconic doll and named it after her own daughter Barbara. Her full name is Barbie Millicent Roberts. Ruth died in 2002 at age 85. Watch an interview with Handler:
1964 – The first Ford Mustang is produced. Introduced mid-year, it was known as the 1964 ½ Mustang. Over one million Mustangs were sold in the first two years of production.
1976 – The first female cadets are accepted to West Point Military Academy. Of the first 119 female cadets, 62 graduated.
1986 – NASA announces that searchers found the remains of the Space Shuttle Challenger astronauts following the January 28th explosion on takeoff.
2007 – The U.S. Justice Department releases an internal audit that finds that the Federal Bureau of Investigation acted illegally in its use of the USA Patriot Act to secretly obtain personal information about U.S. citizens.
2011 – The Space Shuttle Discovery makes its final landing after 39 flights. The last Space Shuttle flight was the Atlantis in July 2011. There were a total of 135 Space Shuttle missions. Watch the Discovery’s landing from space to touchdown:
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 was never manufactured. Lincoln was the only U.S. president to hold a patent.
1862 – The U.S. issues the first paper money ($5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $500, and $1,000 bills).
1951 – FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover declines the job of baseball commissioner. Ford Frick was named baseball commissioner. Hoover remained FBI director until his death in 1972 at age 77.
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 was the first Ronald McDonald. Scott is 84 years old. Watch Scott in a 1987 weather forecast:
1994 – White House officials began testifying before a federal grand jury about the Clinton Whitewater controversy. Although the Clintons were never charged with any crimes, 15 other people were convicted in the land swindle, including the sitting Arkansas governor, Guy Tucker, who was removed from office.
1998 – U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf begin receiving the first vaccinations against anthrax.
Image from mountdavidsoncross.org