This Week in History May 18 -24 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 18-24, 2015


May 18

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

1860 – The Republican Party nominates Abraham Lincoln for president at its convention in Chicago.

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

1918 – A TNT explosion in a chemical factory in Oakdale, Pennsylvania, kills 200 people.

1926 – Evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson vanishes while swimming near Venice, California. She shows 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 dies in a second bombing later that day aimed at the school’s superintendant. He is 55 years old.

1933 – Tennessee Valley Act (TVA) Act is signed by FDR to build dams.

1933 – The first major league baseball All-Star Game is announced for July 6 at Comiskey Park. The game is played as part of the Chicago World’s Fair.

1934 – Gossip columnist Sidney Skolsky is the first to call the Academy Award the “Oscar” in print.

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


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

1972 – John Sebastian of Maine East High School makes a record 63 consecutive free throws while blindfolded. Fred Newman breaks the record with 88 at the Central YMCA in San Jose, California.

1980 – Mt. Saint Helens erupts in Washington state. Fifty-seven people are killed and 3 billion in damage is done. Watch a USGS video of the eruption:

1982 – Unification Church founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon is convicted of tax evasion, is fined $15,000, and serves 13 months of his 18-month sentence. Moon died in 2012 at age 92.

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

1992 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules that states could not force mentally unstable criminal defendants to take anti-psychotic drugs.

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


May 19

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

1749 – King George II grants a charter to the Ohio Company to settle the Ohio Valley.

1828 – U.S. President John Quincy Adams signs the Tariff of 1828 into law to protect industry in the North. Southerners call it the Tariff of Abominations.

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 claim 420,000 square miles of government land.

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

1884 – The Ringling Brothers circus premieres in Wisconsin. The circus is started by the 5 Ringling Brothers. Ringling Brothers Circus merges with Barnum and Bailey Circus in 1907.


1892 – Charles Brady King invents the pneumatic hammer.

1906 – Federated Boys’ Club (Boys’ Club of America) organizes in Boston with 53 member organizations.

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

1935 – The National Football League adopts an annual college draft to begin in 1936.

1958 – The U.S. and Canada form the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD).

1960 – Alan Freed and eight other disc jockeys are accused of taking radio payola.

1976 – The Senate establishes a permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

1987 – The first American Comedy Awards is held to recognize performers or performances in the field of TV or film comedy. The first funniest male and female performers are Robin Williams and Bette Midler. Watch the first intro:

1989 – The Dow Jones average passes the 2,500 mark for the first time.

1992 – Amy Fisher shoots Mary Jo Buttafuoco in the face at her Massapequa Long Island, New York home.

1993 – The Dow Jones average closes above 3,500 for the first time.

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 complete gentleman:


2000 – The bones of the most complete and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton go on display in Chicago.

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


May 20

1704 – Elias Neau forms school for slaves in New York.

1868 – The Republican National Convention meets in Chicago and nominates former Union General Ulysses S. Grant for president.

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

1892 – George Sampson patents for the clothes dryer.

1895 – The first commercial movie performance is in a storefront theater in New York City. It is an 8-minute black & white silent film.

1916 – Codell, Kansas, is hit by tornado on this date for three consecutive years (also 1917 and 1918).

1916 – Saturday Evening Post cover features Norman Rockwell painting entitled “Boy with Baby Carriage.” Rockwell was paid $75 for the cover.


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 lands in Paris the following afternoon.

1932 – Amelia Earhart leaves Newfoundland to become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She flies on 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.

1961 – A white mob attacks the Freedom Riders in Montgomery, Alabama. The event prompts the federal government to send U.S. marshals.

1978 – Mavis Hutchison, at age 53, becomes the first woman to run across America. It takes Hutchison 69 days to run the 3,000 miles. Hutchison is now 90 years old.


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

1986 – The Flintstones’ 25th Anniversary Celebration airs on CBS-TV as a live-action and animated show. Watch the star-studded intro:


1996 – The Supreme Court strikes down a Colorado measure banning laws that would protect homosexuals from discrimination.


May 21

1832 – The first Democratic National Convention is held in Baltimore.

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

1914 – Greyhound Bus Company begins when Swedish immigrant Carl Eric Wickman begins transporting miners from Hibbing to Alice, Minnesota, for 25¢ round trip.

1917 – Leo Pinckney is the first African-American drafted during WW I.

1918 – The House of Representatives passes the 19th Amendment allowing women to vote. The bill is 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 is the first cartoon awarded the Pulitzer.


1924 – Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb kidnap 13-year-old Bobby Franks for fun. Franks is murdered by teenagers Leopold and Loeb, and both are sentenced to life in prison.

1927 – Lindbergh lands in Paris, completing the first solo air crossing of Atlantic Ocean.

1932 – Amelia Earhart completes a flight that makes her the first woman to fly solo cross the Atlantic. She schedules her flight to coincide with the 5th anniversary of Lindbergh’s flight.

1945 – Lauren Bacall (age 20) and Humphrey Bogart (age 44) get married. They are married until Bogart’s death in 1957.


1956 – The U.S. detonates the first airborne hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean over Bikini Atoll. A B-2 bomber drops the bomb from 55,000 feet and it detonates at 15,000 feet. The resulting explosion is estimated to be 4 miles in diameter. Watch a newsreel report of the historic test:

1968 – The nuclear-powered U.S. submarine Scorpion, with 99 men aboard, is last heard from. The remains of the sub are later found on the ocean floor 400 miles southwest of the Azores.

1980 – The third in the Star Wars movies, “The Empire Strikes Back,” is released.

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

1999 – “All My Children” soap opera star Susan Lucci finally wins a Daytime Emmy award after being nominated 19 times, the longest period of unsuccessful nominations in television history. Watch her stunned reaction:


May 22 

1807 – Former Vice President Aaron Burr is tried for treason in Richmond, Virginia. It is alleged that Burr plotted to annex Spanish territories in Louisiana and part of Mexico to establish an independent territory. Burr is acquitted for lack of evidence that he acted on his plot.

1819 – The first steam-propelled vessel to cross Atlantic leaves Savannah, Georgia.

1842 – Farmers Lester Howe and Henry Wetsel discover Howe Caverns in Schoharie County, New York, when they stumble upon a large hole in the ground. Howe opens the cave to tours in 1843.

1849 – Abraham Lincoln patents a buoying device. Lincoln is the only president to hold a patent.

1872 – The Amnesty Act removes voting and office-holding restrictions to secessionists who participated in the Civil War, except for 500 military officers. Congress passes the original restrictive act in May 1866.

1892 – Dr. Washington Sheffield invents the toothpaste tube.

1906 – The Wright brothers receive a patent their flying machine.

1928 – The U.S. Congress passes Jones-White Merchant Marine Act, which provides subsidies to shipping companies to stay competitive.

1953 – President Eisenhower signs the Offshore Tidelands Bill, giving Texas the right to oil off its shores.

1962 – Roger Maris walks 5 times (including a record of 4 intentionally) in a 9-inning baseball game. Barry Bonds now holds the record for most intentional walks (career 668).

1967 – “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” premieres on PBS. Fred Rogers died in 2003 at age 74. Watch the show’s opening scene:


1967 – The final “To Tell the Truth” program airs on CBS-TV.

1977 – Janet Guthrie sets the fastest time of the second weekend of qualifying, becoming the first woman to earn a starting spot in the Indianapolis 500 since its inception in 1911.

1980 – TV show’s “That Girl” Marlo Thomas and talk show host Phil Donahue get married. Watch their second meeting on his show:


1985 – U.S. sailor Michael L. Walker, the 22-year-old son of spy John Walker, Jr., is arrested for spying for USSR. He is convicted of spying and serves 15 years of a 25-year sentence.

1992 – Johnny Carson makes his final appearance as host of the Tonight Show. Watch Johnny’s final monologue:


2002 – Chandra Levy’s remains are found in Washington, DC’s Rock Creek Park. She is last seen on April 30, 2001. California Congressman Gary Condit is questioned in the case due to his relationship with Levy. An illegal immigrant is arrested, convicted, and sentenced to 60 years in prison in Levy’s murder.

2011 – An EF5 Tornado strikes Joplin, Missouri, killing 161 people, making it the single deadliest U.S. tornado since modern record keeping began in 1950.


May 23

1785 – Benjamin Franklin announces his invention of bifocals.

1863 – Organization of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Battle Creek, Michigan.

1873 – In the first Preakness horse race, George Barbee rides Survivor to win in 2:43. The Preakness is the second jewel of the Triple Crown, between the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes.

1900 – Associated Press News Service forms in New York.

1908 – The 450’ Morrell dirigible collapses over Berkeley, California, 16 passengers fall, but none die.


1923 – A team of police officers, led by Texas Ranger Cordell Walker, ambush bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow near their hide-out in Black Lake, Louisiana, killing them both.

1958 – School students first use the iconic yellow and black Cliffs Notes study guides.


1982 – Colin Wilson rides a surfboard 294 miles.

1985 – Thomas Patrick Cavanagh is sentenced to life in prison for trying to sell Stealth bomber secrets to the Soviet Union.

1990 – The cost of rescuing savings and loan failures is put at up to $130 billion.

1991 – The U.S. Supreme Court bars subsidized clinics from discussing abortion.

1992 – In Lisbon, Portugal, the U.S. and four former Soviet republics sign an agreement to implement the START missile reduction treaty that had been agreed to by the Soviet Union before it was dissolved.

1992 – President Bush orders Coast Guard to intercept boats with Haitian refugees.


May 24

1738 – John Wesley is converted, essentially launching the Methodist movement. The day is celebrated annually as Aldersgate Day by Methodists.

1883 – President Chester A. Arthur and Governor Cleveland open the Brooklyn Bridge, which spans the East River. The bridge takes 14 years to build, uses 600 workers, and costs $15 million.

1899 – The first auto repair shop opens in Boston.

1916 – U.S. pilot Lt. Col. William Thaw II shoots down a German Fokker during World War I, becoming the first American to engage in aerial combat in the war.

1931 – The first air-conditioned train is installed on the B&O Railroad.

1935 – The Cincinnati Reds play the Philadelphia Phillies in the first major league baseball game at night. President Franklin Roosevelt throws the switch to turn on the floodlights.

1954 – IBM announces vacuum tube “electronic” brain that could perform 10 million operations an hour.

1958 – Unites Press and International News Service merge into United Press International.

1962 – The officials of the National Football League rule that halftime of regular season games would be cut to 15 minutes.

1976 – In the Judgment of Paris, wine testers rate wines from California higher than their French counterparts, challenging the notion of France being the foremost producer of the world’s best wines.

1981 – Bobby Unser wins, loses, and wins the controversial Indianapolis 500 auto race. Race officials issue a penalty against Unser for illegally passing under a caution, but reverse their decision on appeal. Mario Andretti wins second place. Watch the controversial move by Unser:


1994 – The four men convicted of bombing the New York’s World Trade Center are each sentenced to 240 years in prison.

2000 – A Democrat Party event for Al Gore in Washington brings in $26.5 million. The amount sets a new record, which had just been set the previous month by Republicans for Texas Governor George W. Bush.

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