This Week in History: May 1-7, 2023

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This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann

“History is a vast early warning system.” Norman Cousins

May 1-7, 2023




May 1

1841 – The first emigrant wagon train leaves Independence, Missouri, headed for California.

1883 – “Buffalo Bill” Cody puts on his first Wild West Show. Cody died in 1917 at age 70.

1898 – U.S. Admiral George Dewey gives the famous command, “You may fire when you are ready, Gridley.” He sank or captured the entire Spanish fleet at Manila Bay. Dewey is the only person in U.S. history to achieve the rank of Admiral of the Navy.

1931 – The Empire State Building opens in New York City as the tallest building in the world at 103 stories. It now ranks as the 43rd tallest building in he world.

1940 – The 1940 Tokyo Summer Olympics are cancelled due to the outbreak of World War II. The 1940 Winter Olympics and 1944 Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics were also cancelled. (Note: The 1916 Summer Olympics was cancelled due to World War I. The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo was postponed due to COVID-19.)

1960 – Russia shoots down U.S. pilot Francis Gary Powers in his U-2 spy plane 15 days before President Eisenhower is scheduled to attend an East-West Summit in Paris. Powers plead guilty and was convicted of espionage in August and sentenced to three years imprisonment and seven years of hard labor. He served one year and nine months of the sentence before being exchanged for Rudolf Abel in February of 1962. Powers died in 1977 at age 47 in a helicopter accident.

1961 – The first U.S. airplane is hijacked to Cuba. A National Airlines plane was hijacked from Miami to Cuba by Antulio Ramirez Ortiz, a Puerto Rican born American citizen.

1962 – The first Kmart department store opens in Garden City, Michigan, selling a range of clothes, shoes, housewares, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, and electronics.

1971 – Amtrak (National Railroad Passenger Corp.) begins operation.

2003 – In what becomes known as the “Mission Accomplished” speech, President George W. Bush, on board the USS Abraham Lincoln off the coast of California declares that, “major combat operations in Iraq have ended.” Watch part of the speech.



2012 – Occupy Wall Street protesters gather across the U.S. to stage a day of protest for International Workers’ Day. Thousands of people marched in New York, Oakland, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Chicago in protest, which ended up lasting for weeks.


May 2

1865 – President Johnson offers a $100,000 reward for capture of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Davis was captured by the Union Army on May 10th in Irwinville, Georgia.

1916 – President Woodrow Wilson signs Harrison Drug Act, which regulated and taxed the production and distribution of opium and cocaine products.

1927 – The Supreme Court rules 8-1 in Buck v. Bell that forced sterilizations of various “unfit” people by state authorities for eugenic reasons does not violate the 14th Amendment right to due process. The Supreme Court decision has never been overturned. Adolph Hitler uses this law as a model for his “Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring.”

1939 – Lou Gehrig ends his 2,130 consecutive games streak. He died of ALS (now called Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 1941 at age 37.

1941 – The Federal Communications Commission agrees to allow the scheduling of TV broadcasts by commercial TV stations beginning on July 1, 1941. This was the start of network television.

1970 – Diane Crump is the first woman jockey to race in the Kentucky Derby. Watch an interview with Crump about the future of thoroughbreds.



2011 – Osama bin Laden, the suspected mastermind behind the September 11 attacks and the FBI’s most wanted man, is killed by U.S. Special Forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

2012 – Edvard Munch’s famous painting ‘The Scream” sells at auction in New York City for a record $119,922,500. The painting was stolen twice from Oslo, Norway, museums in 1994 and 2004, and recovered both times.


May 3

1919 – America’s first passenger flight takes off from New York City and lands in Atlantic City.

1923 – The first nonstop transcontinental flight (New York to San Diego) is completed.

1952 – The first airplane lands at the geographic North Pole. It was flown by U.S. Air Force pilots Joseph O. Fletcher and William P. Benedict.

1997 – Garry Kasparov begins a 6-game chess rematch with the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue in Pennsylvania, winning 3 ½ to 2 ½. Watch a diagram and a move by move explanation of the game.


1999 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes above 11,000 for the first time. The Dow is now around 34,000.

2001 – The U.S. loses its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission for the first time since the commission was formed in 1947. The U.S. was reinstated in 2022.

2006 – Al-Quaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui is given a sentence of life in prison for his role in the terrorist attack on the U.S. on September 11, 2001. Moussaoui is currently serving his sentence in a maximum-security penitentiary in Colorado.


May 4

1780 – The American Academy of Arts & Science is founded by the Massachusetts legislature when 62 people sign the charter, including John Adams, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock. Its purpose was “to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.” The Academy is headquartered in Cambridge.

1893 – Cowboy Bob Pickett, the son of former slaves, invents the rodeo sport of bulldogging. Pickett died in 1932 at age 69 after being kicked in the head by a horse.

1904 – Construction on the Panama Canal is taken over by the United States from France, who started the project in 1881. The 48-mile-long canal was completed in 1914.

1932 – Al Capone, convicted of income tax evasion, enters the Atlanta Penitentiary. He was paroled in 1939 and died in 1947 at age 48.

1959 – The first Grammy Awards are held. Perry Como and Ella Fitzgerald win as best male and female vocalists. Henry Mancini wins album of the year for “The Theme from Peter Gunn.”

1970 – Four students were killed and nine were injured on the campus of Kent State when Ohio National Guard troops fired on students protesting the Vietnam War. John Filo, a university photojournalism student, took the Pulitzer Prize winning photo of 14-year-old runaway Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the dead body of 20-year-old student Jeffrey Miller.

1975 – Houston Astros’ Bob Watson scores baseball’s one-millionth run of all time. He is awarded $10,000 and 1 million Tootsie Rolls. Watson served as Major League Baseball’s vice president in charge of discipline and vice president of rules and on-field operations until 2010. Watch a report on the big hit.



1998 – A federal judge in Sacramento, California, gives “Unabomber” Theodore Kaczynski four life sentences plus 30 years after Kaczynski accepts a plea agreement sparing him from the death penalty. He is now 80 years old.

2013 – Harper Lee files a lawsuit against her literary agent over the copyright of her Pulitzer Prize winning book “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Rights to the book were returned to Lee, who died in 2016 at age 89.


May 5

1809 – Mary Kies is the first woman issued a U.S. patent. It was for a technique of weaving straw with silk and thread in making hats.

1865 – About one dozen men tear up tracks in the first U.S. train robbery. Over 100 passengers were robbed near North Bend, Ohio. The robbers were never caught.

1893 – In the wake of the Panic of 1893 the New York Stock Exchange crashes, leading to the Depression of 1893. This is why the subsequent stock market crash of 1929 is called the Great Depression.

1925 – John T. Scopes is arrested for teaching evolution in Tennessee. Scopes is tried, convicted, and fined $100. His conviction was overturned on a technicality by the Tennessee Supreme Court.

1943 – Postmaster General Frank C. Walker develops the Postal Delivery Zone System.

1961 – Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space when he is launched aboard Freedom 7. (John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth.) Shepard went to the moon on Apollo 14 in 1971. Shepard died in 1998 at age 74. Watch a 10-minute biography.



1965 – U.S. Army ground units arrive in South Vietnam for the first large-scale mission.

1979 – Voyager 1 passes Jupiter. It was launched by NASA in September 1977. In 2012 Voyager I passed into interstellar space. The probe continues to send information back to earth.

2018 – A Florida man dies when his E-cigarette explodes. It was the first death attributed to a vaping product.


May 6

1833 – Blacksmith and inventor John Deere makes its first steel plow. His company was founded in 1837.

1861 – Jefferson Davis approves the bill declaring war between the United States and the Confederacy.

1882 – Congress passes the Chinese Exclusion Act. The act, signed by President Chester A. Arthur, placed a moratorium on Chinese immigration to the U.S. for 10 years.

1937 – The Dirigible Hindenburg explodes in flames at Lakehurst, New Jersey. Although 36 people were killed, 62 passengers survived the crash. Watch a newsreel of the historic tragedy.



1941 – Bob Hope performs in his first USO show at California’s March Field. Hope headlined a total of 57 tours during every war from World War II to Operation Desert Shield in 1991. Hope died in 2003 at age 100.

1957 – Senator John F. Kennedy is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for book “Profiles in Courage.” In 2008, Kennedy speechwriter Ted Sorenson acknowledged that he wrote most of the book.

1981 – A jury of international architects and sculptors unanimously selects Maya Ying Lin’s entry for the design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. It is the second most visited monument in Washington, after the Lincoln Memorial. Watch a 2008 talk by Lin about the memorial.


1996 – The body of former CIA director William Colby is found washed up on a riverbank in southern Maryland, eight days after he disappeared in an apparent boating accident. He was 47 years old.

2013 – Wal-Mart becomes (and still remains) the largest company by revenue on the Fortune 500 list.


May 7

1789 – The first inaugural ball is held after George Washington is sworn in as president in New York City.

1847 – The American Medical Association (AMA) organizes in Philadelphia. Its headquarters is now in Chicago.

1912 – Columbia University approves plans for awarding the Pulitzer Prize in several categories. The award was established by Joseph Pulitzer as part of his will. The first prize was awarded in 1917.

1915 – The Lusitania ocean liner is torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine off the coast of Ireland. The ship was on its way from New York to England. About 1,200 lives were lost. This event subsequently led to the U.S. declaring war against Germany and entering WWI.

1942 – In the Battle of the Coral Sea, American and Japanese navies attack each other with carrier planes. It was the first time in the history of naval warfare where two enemy fleets fight without seeing each other.

1975 – President Ford declares an end to the “Vietnam Era.”

1984 – A $180 million out-of-court settlement is announced in the Agent Orange class-action lawsuit brought by Vietnam veterans who claimed they suffered injuries from exposure to the defoliant while serving in the armed forces.

1992 – A Constitutional amendment barring mid-term congressional raises is ratified. James Madison proposed in 1789 what became the 27th Amendment.

1992 – The U.S. Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-49) launches on its maiden voyage. It was built to replace the Challenger, which was destroyed in a launch accident in January 1986.

1999 – A jury finds “The Jenny Jones Show” and Warner Brothers liable in the shooting death of Scott Amedure after the show purposely deceives Jonathan Schmitz into appearing on a secret same-sex crush episode. Schmitz killed Amedure days after the show’s taping. A jury awarded Amedure’s family $25 million. Schmitz was sentenced to 25-50 years in prison. Watch the never-aired episode and interviews.



2013 – The Dow Jones industrial average closes over 15,000 for the first time. The Dow is now around 34,000.



Image from: britannica.com


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