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 9-15, 2020
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). The Monitor sank during a storm in December 1862 and the wreckage was finally discovered off the coast of Cape Hatteras in 1973. The Merrimack was scuttled by Confederate soldiers when the Union took over the port at Norfolk in April 1862.
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 86 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.
1789 – Benjamin Banneker, the son of a freed slave, and Pierre L’Enfant, who came from France to fight in the Revolutionary War, begin laying out the plans for Washington, DC.
1823 – Concord Academy of Concord, Vermont, opens as the first normal school (training school for teachers) in the U.S. It was founded by Samuel Read Hall. It is now a college-prep high school.
1841 – The first continuous filibuster in the U.S. Senate ends. It began on February 18th. It started over Senator Henry Clay’s bill to charter the Second Bank of the United States. The word “filibuster” is derived from the French word meaning “pirate.”
1918 – The first confirmed cases of the Spanish Flu are observed at Fort Riley, Kansas, starting the 3-year global flu pandemic that killed 3 to 5 percent of the world’s population after the soldiers were deployed overseas.
1953 – An American B-47 aircraft accidentally drops a nuclear bomb on Mars Bluff, South Carolina. The bomb didn’t detonate, but the hole it made is still visible.
1958 – Herb Stempel finally loses on the TV game show “Twenty-One.” It was later revealed that the show’s producers provided competitor Charles Van Doren with the correct answer and told his Herb Stempel to give the wrong answer, resulting in one of the biggest game show scandals. Watch the full episode:
1982 – Senator Harrison Williams (D-NJ) resigns rather than face expulsion following his 1981 conviction for taking bribes in the ABSCAM sting.
1986 – The National Football League adopts the instant replay rule. The first instant replay in baseball was used in 2008. Instant replay became official in major league baseball in 2014.
1997 – The ashes of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry are launched into space on the Voyager Memorial Spaceflight Service arranged by the Houston-based firm Celestis, Inc. The ashes of his wife were also launched into space after her 2012 death.
2002 – Two columns of light are pointed skyward from ground zero in New York as a temporary memorial to the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
1664 – The first naturalization act is passed in American colonies. The first Oaths of Allegiance were also taken.
1789 – The U.S. Post Office is established. Ben Franklin served as the first Postmaster General.
1912 – Juliette Gordon Low forms the Girl Scouts in Savannah, Georgia. There are about 2.5 million Girl Scouts.
1933 – FDR conducts his first “fireside chat” on the radio. Listen to the chat:
1980 – A jury finds John Wayne Gacy guilty of murdering 33 men and boys in Chicago. Gacy was executed by lethal injection in 1994 at age 52.
1986 – Susan Butcher wins the first of her four 1,158-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Races (1986, 1987, 1988, and 1990). She ran the race 18 times. Butcher died of leukemia in 2006 at age 51. Only Rick Swenson has won more Iditarod races (5). The first Iditarod race was run in 1973. It recreated the dog-sled relay that transported the antitoxin serum to treat a diphtheria epidemic in Nome, Alaska, in January of 1925. Twenty mushers, using 150 dogs, covered 674 miles in 5 ½ days in brutal winter conditions. Watch a brief bio of Butcher:
1989 – About 2,500 veterans and supporters march at the Art Institute of Chicago to demand that officials remove an American flag placed on the floor as part of an exhibit. The exhibit was closed for only a short period of time, then reopened.
2003 – Elizabeth Smart is found after having been missing for 9 months. She was kidnapped from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah, by Brian David Mitchell. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2011. Smart is now 32 years old.
2003 – The U.S. Air Force announces that it will resume reconnaissance flights off the coast of North Korea. The flights stopped on March 2 after an encounter with four armed North Korean jets.
1868 – The Senate begins President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment trial. The Senate failed by one vote to impeach Johnson.
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 was estimated at $300 million. That’s about $9 billion in today’s dollars.
1925 – Tennessee passes the “Butler Act,” making it unlawful to teach evolution. High school teacher John Scopes was tried in July for violating that act. He was found guilty and fined $100, but the verdict was overturned on a technicality. It was later revealed that town leaders convinced Scoped to plead guilty for the publicity after the ACLU offered to defend anyone accused of teaching evolution.
1963 – Ernesto Miranda is arrested in Phoenix, Arizona, and interrogated by police until he signs a confession. The Supreme Court ruled in 1966 that Miranda had not been informed of his legal rights and his conviction for kidnapping and rape was overturned. Miranda was stabbed to death in a bar fight in 1976. He was 34 years old.
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 a news report:
2012 – After 244 years of publication, Encyclopedia Britannica announced it is discontinuing its U.S. print edition.
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 has been called fiat currency, meaning it is not backed by a physical commodity (gold), and is only worth the paper it is printed on.
1923 – President Warren G. Harding becomes the first President to file an income tax report and pay taxes.
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:
1967 – In the first NFL-AFL football common draft, the Baltimore Colts pick defensive lineman Bubba Smith. Smith won the 1971 Super Bowl with the Baltimore Colts. Smith turned to acting after a career-ending knee injury.
1989 – Imported semi-automatic “assault” rifles 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 required knee surgery.
2018 – NASA reports the results of their twin study with astronaut Scott Kelly and his brother. After one year in space, Scott is no longer identical to his twin brother because 7% of his genes had been altered.
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 was 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 was assigned to each candidate and the voter pulled 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 has been given annually to the best pitcher starting in 1956, the year after Young’s death.
1916 – General Pershing and 15,000 troops, on orders from President Wilson, chase Pancho Villa into Mexico after Villa repeatedly attacked American interests in New Mexico. Villa was never captured but was assassinated in Mexico in 1923.
1945 – Billboard publishes its first top album chart with “The King Cole Trio” as its first #1 album. The album included “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 pitched in one game on August 4th. Shepard died in 2008 at age 87.
1954 – “CBS Morning Show” premieres with Jack Paar and Walter Cronkite. Paar died in 2004 at age 85 and Cronkite died in 2009 at age 92.
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”:
1977 – The U.S. House of Representatives begins a 90-day test of televising its sessions.
1985 – The first Internet domain name, symbolics.com, is registered.
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 was billed as the first veggie burger to be sold nationally by a fast food chain. Many fast food restaurants now sell meatless burgers.
Image from: caranddriver.com