This Week in History: May 13-19, 2024

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This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate
their own understanding of their history.” George Orwell

May 13-19, 2024




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.

2021 – The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can stop wearing masks.


May 14

1804 – Lewis and Clark set out from St. Louis for the Pacific Coast. Their expedition reached the Pacific Ocean in November 1805.

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 7,400 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.



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. Bremer, who was paroled in 2007 at age 57 after serving 35 years, is now 73 years old. 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. Hillary ran for president twice and lost twice.

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.


May 17

1733 – England passes the Molasses Act, doubling the tariffs on rum and molasses imported to the colonies from countries 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 wins aboard Aristides in 2:37.75. The Derby was founded by Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr, the grandson of William Clark (Lewis & Clark Expedition).

1883 – Buffalo Bill Cody’s first wild-west show premieres in Omaha, Nebraska. Cody died in 1917 at age 70.

1884 – Alaska becomes a U.S. territory following its purchase from Russia for $7 million. It was known as Seward’s Folly after Secretary of State William H. Seward signed the treaty with Russia.

1954 – The Supreme Court unanimously rules in 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.

1973 – The Senate Watergate Committee began its hearings. Watch the opening remarks of the committee.



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

2000 – Thomas E. Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry surrender to police in Birmingham, Alabama. The two former Ku Klux Klan members were convicted of murder in the bombing of a church in 1963 that killed four young black girls. Cherry died in prison in 2004 at age 74. Blanton died in prison in 2020 at age 82.

2018 – Michigan State University will pay $500 million in claims to 300 survivors of sexual abuse involving Larry Nassar. It is the largest sexual abuse case in U.S. sports history. Nassar was sentenced to life without parole for federal sex crimes, including those involving the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team.


May 18

1652 – Rhode Island enacts the first law declaring slavery illegal.

1896 – The Supreme Court affirms race separation in Plessy v Ferguson. Homer Plessy was arrested in New Orleans for sitting in a “whites only” railroad car. The Supreme Court ruled that separate facilities were constitutional as long as they are equal. Justice John Harlan was the lone dissenter on the Court.

1926 – Evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson vanishes while swimming near Venice, California. She showed up a month later in Senora, Mexico, saying she had been kidnapped. Watch a video of McPherson’s speech on prohibition.



1927 – Andrew Kehoe blows up Bath Consolidated School in Michigan, killing 38 children and 2 teachers after killing his wife and setting their home on fire. Kehoe died in a second bombing later that day aimed at the school’s superintendent.

1953 – Jacqueline Cochran is the first woman to break the sound barrier, flying an F-86 Sabre fighter plane. She set more than 200 aviation records. Cochran died in 1980 at age 74.

1967 – Tennessee Gov. Ellington repeals the “Monkey Law,” upheld in the 1925 Scopes Trial.

1980 – Mt. Saint Helens erupts in the state of Washington. The eruption caused the deaths of 57 people and $3 billion in damage. Watch a USGS video of the eruption. Mt. Saint Helens eruption

1983 – The Senate revises U.S immigration laws, gives millions of illegal aliens legal status under an amnesty program.

1998 – The U.S. Department of Justice and 20 U.S. states file an anti-trust case against Microsoft. Microsoft and the DOJ reached a settlement in 2001.

2010 – A Portland, Oregon, police officer was asked to leave the Red & Black Café by the co-owner who felt uncomfortable having a uniformed officer in his vegan restaurant. The café closed down in 2015.


May 19

1848 – Mexico signs the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, giving Texas to the U.S., and ending the Mexican-American War.

1862 – The Homestead Act is signed into law by President Lincoln, providing up to 160 acres of free land for settlement of West. A total of 1.6 million people claimed 420,000 square miles of government land.

1884 – The Ringling Brothers circus premieres in Wisconsin. The circus was started by the five Ringling Brothers. Ringling Brothers Circus merged with Barnum and Bailey Circus in 1907, and the circuses closed in 2017.

1913 – The California Alien Land Law passes, forbidding “aliens ineligible for citizenship” from owning agricultural land. The bill was primarily directed at Japanese immigrants.

1921 – Congress sharply curbs immigration through the Emergency Quota Act by setting a national quota system. Based on the quota formula, the number of immigrants fell from about 800,000 in 1920 to about 300,000 in 1921-1922.

1958 – The U.S. and Canada form NORAD (North American Air Defense Command). NORAD has tracked Santa at Christmas annually since 1955.

1999 – Rosie O’Donnell and Tom Selleck have an uncomfortable verbal conversation concerning gun control on Rosie O’Donnell’s talk show. Watch a video of Selleck being a total gentleman.



2005 – “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” brings in $50 million on its opening day. By comparison, “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” brought in a (then) record $28.5 million when it opened on this day in 1999. Star Wars: The Force Awakens brought in $529 million on its opening day in 2015.

2018 – American actress Meghan Markle marries Prince Harry, youngest son of England’s Princess Diana and Prince Charles. The banished couple and their children live somewhere in California.




Image from: americanheritage.com


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