This Week in History: May 10-16, 2021

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This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann

“If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall
possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in
need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.” Samuel Adams


May 10-16, 2021




May 10

1752 – Benjamin Franklin tests the lightning rod. He never filed for a patent on any of his inventions. He said, “As we benefit from the inventions of others, we should be glad to share our own … freely and gladly.”

1775 – The 2nd Continental Congress names George Washington as the supreme commander.

1869 – The Golden Spike is driven, completing the Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Point, Utah. It marked the meeting of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads.

1877- President Rutherford B. Hayes has the first telephone installed in the White House. The White House phone number was #1.

1924 – J. Edgar Hoover is appointed head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He remained the FBI director until his death in 1972.

1969 – The National and American Football Leagues announce their plans to merge for the 1970-71 season.

2011 – It is announced that Microsoft closed a deal to purchase the Internet phone service Skype for $8.5 billion.

2013 – Crane operators in New York City hoist the final pieces of the spire atop One World Trade Center (formerly called the Freedom Tower), making it the tallest building in the U.S. and the 4th tallest building in the world. Watch it from ground level.




May 11

1751 – The first hospital in America’s 13 Colonies is founded as the Pennsylvania Hospital.

1904 – Andrew Carnegie donates $1.5 million to build the Peace Palace in The Hague, Holland. Construction was completed in 1913. It houses the International Court of Justice. Watch the actual footage of the 1913 opening (no sound).



1927 – Louis B. Mayer forms the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences with 35 other founding members. Membership is now by invitation only based on earning an Oscar nomination or sponsorship by two current Academy members. The first Academy Awards ceremony was held in 1929.

1973 – Citing government misconduct, charges are dismissed against Daniel Ellsberg for his involvement in releasing the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times. The Pentagon Papers showed that the Johnson administration lied about America’s involvement in Cambodia and Laos during the Vietnam War.

1995 – At the UN in New York City, more than 170 countries decide to extend the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty indefinitely and without conditions.

2015 – Picasso’s “The Women of Algiers” sells for $160 million (not $179 million) at Christie’s in New York City, setting a new record price for a work of art at auction. Watch the final moments of the auction.




May 12

1932 – The decomposed body of Charles Lindbergh’s son, kidnapped on March 1st, is found in the woods near the Lindbergh’s New Jersey home. It was believed the baby had been dead since the night of the kidnapping.

1949 – Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit of India is the first foreign woman ambassador to be received in the U.S. She was also the first female president of the UN General Assembly (1953).

1967 – H. Rap Brown replaces Stokely Carmichael as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and becomes a prominent figure in the Black Panther Party.

1970 – Harry A. Blackmun is confirmed by the Senate as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. He authored the Roe v Wade decision in 1973 and served on the court until 1994. Blackmun died in 1999 at age 90.

1978 – The Commerce Department says hurricane names will no longer be only female names.

2002 – Former President Jimmy Carter arrives in Cuba for a visit with Fidel Castro. It was the first time a U.S. head of state, in or out of office, had visited the island since Castro’s 1959 revolution. Watch a series of video clips of the visit.



2003 – Fifty-nine Democrat lawmakers flee the Texas Legislature and go into hiding to prevent a quorum in a dispute over a Republican congressional redistricting plan. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the plan.


May 13

1828 – The U.S. passes the Tariff of Abominations, so called by Southerners because of the adverse effects it had on their economy. The Tariff of 1828 was designed to protect northern industries from low priced imported goods.

1865 – The last land engagement of the Civil War is fought at the Battle of Palmito Ranch in south Texas, more than a month after Gen. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Virginia.

1911 – The New York Giants set a major league baseball record when ten runners cross home plate before the first out of the game against St. Louis.

1950 – Diner’s Club issues its first credit cards. In 1949, businessman Frank McNamara forgot his wallet while dining out at a New York City restaurant. He started the restaurant credit card company with his partner Ralph Schneider.

1960 – The first launch of a Thor-Delta rocket carrying the Echo-1 series satellite fails to reach orbit after the second-stage control system failure. The satellite was destroyed. Watch a newsreel of the launch.



1992 – Three astronauts simultaneously walk in space for the first time. Richard Hieb, Pierre Thuot, and Thomas Akers conducted an 8 ½-hour spacewalk outside Space Shuttle Endeavor.

2003 – The U.S. government unveils the newly designed version of the $20 bill. It was the first bill to be colorized in an effort to stop counterfeiters.


May 14

1804 – Lewis and Clark set out from St. Louis for the Pacific Coast.

1897 – “The Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Philip Sousa is performed for the first time at a ceremony when a statue of George Washington is unveiled.

1904 – The Olympic Games are held in St. Louis, Missouri. It was the first time the Olympic Games were played in the U.S.

1942 – The U.S. Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs) forms after Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts introduces a bill in Congress. The Corps became a permanent part of the Army from 1948 until 1978, when women were assimilated into all but the combat branches of the Army.

1945 – Dr. Joseph G. Hamilton injects misdiagnosed cancer patient Albert Stevens with 131 kBq of plutonium without his knowledge. Stevens lived for another 20 years until his death at age 79, surviving the highest known accumulated radiation dose in any human. Dr. Hamilton died in 1957 at age 49.

1948 – The U.S. grants Israel de facto recognition by President Harry Truman after Israel’s proclamation of independence.

1949 – Harry Truman signs a bill establishing a rocket test range at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The space center was renamed Cape Kennedy, following the assassination of President Kennedy, from 1963 to 1973.

1973 – The Supreme Court issues its decision in Frontiero v Richardson that provides the same rights to women as men in the military.

1999 – North Korea returns the remains of six U.S. soldiers who were killed during the Korean War. The Department of Defense estimated there are still over 7,000 U.S. personnel unaccounted for (missing in action) in Korea.

2005 – The USS America, a decommissioned Navy supercarrier, is deliberately sunk in the Atlantic Ocean after four weeks of live-fire exercises. It was the largest ship ever to be disposed of as a target in a military exercise. Watch the sinking.




May 15

1817 – The Asylum for the Relief of Persons Deprived of the Use of Their Reason (now Friends Hospital) opens in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as the first private mental health hospital in the U.S.

1869 – The National Woman Suffrage Association is founded by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, with Stanton serving as its first president.

1911 – The Supreme Court dissolves Standard Oil Company using the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, which was passed by Congress to combat monopolies.

1928 – Mickey Mouse makes his first appearance in the cartoon short “Plane Crazy.” Watch the primitive animation classic.



1934 – The Department of Justice offers a $25,000 reward for John Dillinger, dead or alive. Dillinger was shot and killed by FBI agents on July 22nd in Chicago.

1944 – President Eisenhower, General Montgomery, Winston Churchill, and King George VI meet to discuss D-Day, which was planned for June 6th.

1963 – Weight Watchers is founded by New York homemaker Jean Nidetch. She died in 2015 at age 91.

1972 – Presidential candidate and former Governor George Wallace is shot and left paralyzed by Arthur Bremer in Laurel, Maryland. Bremer was convicted and sentenced to 63 years in prison. He was paroled in 2007 at age 57 after serving 35 years. Gov. Wallace died in 1998 at age 79.

1991 – President Bush takes Queen Elizabeth to an Oakland A’s / Baltimore Orioles baseball game. Watch some of the pomp and circumstance.



2014 – The National September 11 Memorial Museum is dedicated in New York City.


May 16

1868 – President Andrew Johnson is acquitted of “high crimes and misdemeanors” during a Senate impeachment by 1 vote. The impeachment stemmed from Johnson’s attempt to replace Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. This was the first impeachment trial of a president. President Nixon resigned during Watergate impeachment proceedings in 1974. President Clinton was impeached by the House in 1999, but acquitted by the Senate, as was President Trump in 2020.

1918 – The Sedition Act of 1918 (during WWI) is passed by Congress, making “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive” language about the government, flag, or armed forces an offense punishable by imprisonment. Since the act was passed near the end of WWI, only a handful of people were ever charged with sedition. Congress repealed the Sedition Act in 1920.

1929 – The first Academy Awards is held in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. “Wings” won for Best Picture, Emil Jennings won for Best Actor (“The Way of All Flesh”), and Janet Gaynor won for Best Actress (“7th Heaven,” “Street Angel,” and “Tempest”). In 1934, Gossip columnist Sidney Skolsky was the first to call the Academy Award the “Oscar” in print.

1988 – Surgeon General C. Everett Koop reports that nicotine is as addictive as heroin.

1991 – Queen Elizabeth becomes the first British monarch to address the U.S. Congress. Watch a behind-the-scenes British report on the Queen’s visit.



2000 – First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton is nominated to run for Senator in New York. She was the first former first lady to run for public office and later the first woman of a major party to run for president.

2015 – Victor Espinoza, riding American Pharoah, wins the 140th Preakness in 1:58.46 on his way to the Triple Crown. Espinoza also won the Preakness in 2002 and 2014. The last Triple Crown winner was Justify 2018.




Image from: independent.co.uk


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