This Week in History: May 15-21, 2023

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This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann

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

May 15-21, 2023




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. 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

1643 – Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Harbor form the United Colonies of New England.

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.

1865 – Confederate President Jefferson Davis is captured by the Union Cavalry in Georgia. Davis held at Fort Monroe, Virginia, but he was released after two years.

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.

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.


May 20

1639 – Dorchester Massachusetts, forms the first school funded by local taxes.

1874 – Levi Strauss markets blue jeans with copper rivets at the price of $13.50 a dozen.

1916 – The Saturday Evening Post features its first Norman Rockwell painting on the cover, entitled “Boy with Baby Carriage,” for which Rockwell was paid $75. Rockwell painted 321 covers over the next 47 years.

1926 – Congress passes the Air Commerce Act, which licenses pilots and planes.

1927 – Charles Lindbergh takes off from New York to cross the Atlantic Ocean in the “Spirit of St. Louis.” He landed in Paris the following afternoon.

1932 – Amelia Earhart leaves Newfoundland to become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean when she landed in Ireland the following day. She scheduled her flight to coincide with the 5th anniversary of Lindbergh’s flight.

1939 – The first regular airmail and passenger service across the Atlantic Ocean begins when the “Yankee Clipper” takes off from Port Washington, New York.

1959 – Ford wins the battle with Chrysler to call its new car “Falcon.” Ford produced the Falcon from 1960 to 1970. Watch the 1961 Ford Falcon commercial featuring the Peanuts gang.



1985 – The FBI arrests John A. Walker, Jr. His brother, son, and friend were all recruited in the spy ring. They were all convicted of spying for USSR. John would have been eligible for parole, but he died in prison in August 2014 at age 77.

2013 – Yahoo purchases Tumblr, a social networking website created by David Karp in 2007, for $1.1 billion.

2015 – David Letterman hosts the “Late Show with David Letterman” for the last time after 33 years on TV.


May 21

1881 – The American Red Cross is founded by Clara Barton in Washington, DC. Barton, who served as a nurse in the Civil War, led the Red Cross for 23 years. She died in 1912 at age 90.

1918 – The House of Representatives passes the 19th Amendment allowing women to vote. The bill was first introduced in Congress in 1878.

1922 – The cartoon, “On the Road to Moscow,” by American political cartoonist Rollin Kirby wins a Pulitzer Prize. It was the first cartoon awarded the Pulitzer.

1924 – Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb kidnap 13-year-old Bobby Franks for fun. Franks was murdered by teenagers Leopold and Loeb, and both were sentenced to life in prison. Loeb was killed in prison in 1936. Leopold was paroled in 1958 and died in 1971 at age 66.

1956 – The U.S. detonates the first airborne hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean over Bikini Atoll. A B-2 bomber dropped the bomb from 55,000 feet and it detonated at 15,000 feet. The resulting explosion was estimated to be four miles in diameter. Watch a newsreel report of the historic test.



1998 – An expelled student, Kipland Kinkel, in Springfield, Oregon, kills 2 people and wounds 25 others with a semi-automatic rifle. Police also discovered that he killed his parents before the rampage.

2013 – Microsoft announces the release of Xbox One. Global sales are estimated at 49 million units.



Image from: usgs.gov


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