This Week in History, May 11 – 17, 2015


This Week In History

by Dianne Hermann


“Educate and inform the whole mass of the people.

They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”

– Thomas Jefferson

Week of May 11-17, 2015


May 11

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

1752 – The first U.S. fire insurance policy is issued in Philadelphia.

1816 – The American Bible Society is formed in New York City.

1904 – Andrew Carnegie donates $1.5 million to build the Peace Palace in The Hague, Holland. Construction is completed in 1913. It houses the International Court of Justice.

1927 – Louis B. Mayer forms the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

1928 – General Electric opens the first TV station in Schenectady, New York.

1929 – The first regularly scheduled TV broadcasts 3 nights per week.

1947 – B.F. Goodrich Company announces the creation of the tubeless tire.


1951 – Jay Forrester patents the computer core memory.

1973 – Citing government misconduct, the charges are dismissed against Daniel Ellsberg for his involvement in releasing the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times.

1978 – Margaret A. Brewer is the first female general in the U.S. Marine Corps. Brewer died in 2013 at age 82.


1980 – Pete Rose, age 39, steals second, third, and home in one inning for the Phillies.

1987 – The first “domino” heart-lung transplant takes place in Baltimore. A healthy human heart is taken from one living person (whose lungs were destroyed by cystic fibrosis) and transplanted into another human needing a heart transplant. The donor receives the heart and lungs of a deceased accident victim.



May 12

1777 – The first advertisement for ice cream appears in the New York Gazette.

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 is believed the baby has 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 is also the first female president of the UN General Assembly.

1967 – H. Rap Brown replaces Stokely Carmichael as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and is 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 authors the Roe v Wade decision in 1973 and on the court serves until 1994. Blackmun died in 1999 at age 90.


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

1980 – Maxie Anderson and his son Kris complete the first nonstop crossing of the U.S. via a balloon. Maxie dies in 1983 at age 48 in a balloon accident.

1985 – Amy Eilberg is ordained in New York as the first woman Conservative rabbi.

1986 – Fred Markham, unpaced and unaided by wind, is the first person to pedal 65 mph on a level course in Big Sand Flat, California. He wins the $18,000 DuPont Prize. Watch the wild ride:

1993 – The last broadcast of “Cheers” airs on NBC-TV after 10 seasons.

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


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 upholds the plan.



May 13

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

1846 – The U.S. declares war on Mexico, two months after fighting begins.

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.

1946 – The U.S. convicts 58 camp guards of the Mauthausen concentration camp to death as part of the Nuremberg trials following World War II.

1950 – Diner’s Club issues its first credit cards. In 1949, businessman Frank McNamara forgets his wallet while dining out at a New York City restaurant. He starts 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 is destroyed.


1983 – Reggie Jackson becomes the first major league baseball player to strike out 2,000 times.

1992 – Three astronauts simultaneously walk in space for the first time. Richard Hieb, Pierre Thuot, and Thomas Akers conduct an 8 ½-hour space walk outside Space Shuttle Endeavor. Watch an astronaut-narrated video of the flight and spacewalk:

1992 – Frank Stallone beats Geraldo Rivera in boxing on Howard Stern Show billed as “The Scrapple in the Apple.”

2003 – The U.S. government unveils the newly designed version of the $20 bill. It is 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.

1853 – Gail Borden patents his process for condensed milk.

1878 – Vaseline is first sold as a registered trademark for petroleum jelly. Robert Chesbrough creates Vaseline by processing petroleum (oil).


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

1921 – Florence Allen is the first woman judge to sentence a man to death. She sentences gangster Frank Motto to die in the electric chair for the murder of two men.

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 becomes a permanent part of the Army from 1948 until 1978, when women are assimilated into all but the combat branches of the Army.

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.

1951 – Ernie Kovacs TV Variety Show debuts on NBC. Kovacs goes on to star in a variety of TV shows and composes songs for shows. He died in 1962 at age 42.

1973 – Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In last airs on NBC-TV. It premiers in 1967 and is hosted by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin. Dan Rowan died in 1987 at age 65 and Dick Martin died in 2008 at age 86.


1973 – The U.S. Supreme Court approves equal rights to females in military.

1976 – Lowell Thomas ends his 46-year career as radio network reporter.

1980 – The Department of Health & Human Services begins operation.

1998 – The last episode of Seinfeld, which premiers in 1989, airs on NBC. Commercials for the final episode cost $2 million for 30 seconds. Watch the monologue from the last episode:

1999 – North Korea returns the remains of six U.S. soldiers who were killed during the Korean War.

2012 – Stanford University scientists develop a prototype bionic eye.



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 forms. Elizabeth Cady Stanton serves as its first president.

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

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

1933 – The first voice amplification system is used in the U.S. Senate.

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


1940 – Nylon stockings go on sale for the first time in the U.S.

1941 – Joe DiMaggio starts his 56-game hitting streak.

1942 – Gasoline is first rationed in 17 eastern states.

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

1951 – AT&T becomes the first corporation to have one million stockholders.

1963 – Peter, Paul & Mary win their first Grammy for “If I Had a Hammer.”

1963 – Weight Watchers is founded by New York homemaker Jean Nidetch. She is now 91 years old.


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

1981 – “Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island” airs on TV. Watch a portion of the show:

1991 – President Bush takes Queen Elizabeth to an Oakland A’s-Baltimore Orioles baseball game.

2008 – California becomes the second U.S. state (after Massachusetts in 2004) to legalize same-sex marriage after the states own Supreme Court rules a previous ban unconstitutional.

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


May 16

1866 – Congress authorizes the nickel 5¢ piece to replace the silver half-dime.


1868 – President Andrew Johnson is acquitted during a Senate impeachment by 1 vote.

1925 – The Kentucky Derby is first aired during a network radiocast.

1927 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules that bootleggers must pay income tax.

1929 – The first Academy Awards is held in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. “Wings” wins for Best Picture, Emil Jennings wins for Best Actor (“The Way of All Flesh”), and Janet Gaynor wins for Best Actress (“7th Heaven,” “Street Angel,” and “Tempest”).

1939 – Food stamps are first issued.

1948 – CBS news correspondent George Polk’s body is found in Greece while he is covering the Greek civil war. Gregoris Staktopoulos, a Greek journalist, is jailed for 10 years for Polk’s murder.

1965 – Spaghetti-O’s is first sold under the Franco-American brand by Campbell Soup.


1985 – Michael Jordan is named the National Basketball Association Rookie of the Year.

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 is the first former first lady to run for public office.

2013 – Bill Gates becomes the world’s richest man (again) with $72.7 billion after losing the position in 2008.



May 17

1733 – England passes the Molasses Act, putting high tariffs on rum and molasses imported to the colonies from a country other than British possessions.

1792 – The New York Stock Exchange is formed when 24 merchants sign the Buttonwood Agreement at 68 Wall Street.

1875 – In the first Kentucky Derby horse race Oliver Lewis aboard Aristides wins in 2:37.75.

1883 – Buffalo Bill Cody’s first wild-west show premieres in Omaha, Nebraska.


1884 – Alaska becomes a U.S. territory following its purchase from Russia. It is known as Seward’s Folly.

1939 – The first-ever televised baseball game is played between Princeton and Columbia. Princeton beats Columbia 2–1.

1954 – The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rules on Brown v Topeka Board of Education that racial segregation of children in public schools violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, reversing the 1896 “separate but equal” Plessy v Ferguson decision.

1957 – The Supreme Court rules in Brown v Board of Education against school desegregation laws that “Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

1961 – Castro offers to exchange the Bay of Pigs prisoners for 500 bulldozers.

1973 – The Senate Watergate Committee began its hearings.

1975 – NBC pays $5 million for rights to show “Gone with the Wind” one time.

1996 – President Clinton signs a measure requiring neighborhood notification when sex offenders move in. Megan’s Law is named for 7-year-old Megan Kanka, who is raped and killed in 1994 by a repeat sex offender.


2000 – Thomas E. Blanton Jr. and David Luker surrender to police in Birmingham, Alabama. The two former Ku Klux Klan members are arrested on charges from the bombing of a church in 1963 that killed four young black girls.

2004 – Massachusetts becomes the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage.


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