This Week in History: May 18-24, 2020

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This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann

“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history
is the most important of all the lessons of history.” Aldous Huxley

Week of May 18-24, 2020




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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xP2dreOI8gI



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.

1828 – 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 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 5 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 the Japanese.

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.

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 were Robin Williams and Bette Midler. Watch the first intro.



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. “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 married Prince Harry, youngest son of Princess Diana and Prince Charles, England’s heir to the throne. The young couple and their son 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.

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

1916 – The Saturday Evening Post features its first Norman Rockwell painting on the cover, entitled “Boy with Baby Carriage.” 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

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

1881 – The American Red Cross is founded by Clara Barton in Washington, DC. She served 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.

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.

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.



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. Sales are estimated at 47 million units.


May 22

1807 – Former Vice President Aaron Burr is tried for treason in Richmond, Virginia. It was alleged that Burr plotted to annex Spanish territories in Louisiana and part of Mexico to establish an independent territory. Burr was acquitted for lack of evidence that he acted on his plot. Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804.

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 passed the original restrictive act in May 1866.

1900 – The Associated Press organizes in New York City as a non-profit news cooperative.

1946 – The first U.S. rocket (WAC Corporal) to reach the edge of space is fired from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

1967 – “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” premieres on PBS and airs until 2001. Fred Rogers died in 2003 at age 74. Watch the show’s opening scene.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTevoLkcFdI



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

1985 – U.S. sailor Michael L. Walker, the 22-year-old son of spy John Walker, Jr., is arrested for spying for USSR. He was convicted of spying and served 15 years of a 25-year sentence. He was released from prison in 2000 and is on probation. His father, spy John Walker, died in prison in 2014.

1992 – Johnny Carson makes his final appearance as host of the Tonight Show. Watch Johnny Carson in his own words.



2002 – Chandra Levy’s remains are found in Washington, DC’s Rock Creek Park. She was last seen on April 30, 2001. California Congressman Gary Condit was questioned in the case due to his relationship with Levy. An illegal immigrant was 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

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. Watch a narrated black and white video of the aftermath.



1939 – The USS Squalus submarine sinks in the Gulf of Maine, drowning 26 sailors. The 33 remaining crew were rescued from a depth of 243 feet by divers using the newly developed Heliox air systems (helium and oxygen). The divers were later awarded the Medal of Honor.

1963 – NBC purchases the TV rights to the 1963 AFL championship football game for $926,000. (By contrast, ESPN acquired the rights to Monday Night Football in 2005 and paid over $1 billion to air 17 regular season games over 8 years.)

1985 – Thomas Patrick Cavanagh is sentenced to life in prison for trying to sell Stealth Bomber secrets to the Soviet Union for $25,000. He was paroled in 2001.

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.

2000 – Rapper Eminem releases his 3rd studio album “The Marshall Mathers LP” and it becomes the fastest selling studio album. He won a Grammy for Best Rap Album in 2001. It has since been eclipsed by Adele’s 2015 album “25.”


May 24

1738 – John Wesley is converted, essentially launching the Methodist movement. Methodists celebrate this day annually as Aldersgate Day.

1883 – President Chester A. Arthur and Governor (and next president) Grover Cleveland open the Brooklyn Bridge, which spans the East River. The bridge took 14 years to build, used 600 workers, and cost $15 million.

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.

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

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

1958 – Unites Press and International News Service merge to form United Press International (UPI).

1976 – In the Paris Wine Tasting, dubbed the Judgment of Paris, wine testers rate wines from California higher than French wines, challenging the idea 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 issued a penalty against Unser for illegally passing under a caution, but reversed their decision on appeal. Mario Andretti won second place. Watch the controversial move by Unser.



2000 – A Democrat Party event for Al Gore in Washington brings in $26.5 million. The amount set a new record, which had just been set the previous month by Republicans for Texas Governor George W. Bush. By contrast, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton raised $1.14 billion by September 2016 from Democrats and Clinton super-PACs.

2001 – The Democrats gain control of the U.S. Senate for the first time since 1994 when Senator James Jeffords of Vermont abandons the Republican Party and declares himself an independent. Jeffords died in 2014 at age 80.

2009 – Hélio Castroneves wins the Indy 500 auto race for the 3rd time (2001, 2002). He won “Dancing with the Stars” (Season 5) in 2007. Watch him win Dancing with the Stars and decide which win he enjoyed most.



2016 – Bill Cosby is ordered to stand trial in a sexual assault case. In April 2018, he was convicted on three counts of indecent assault after a mistrial was declared in June of 2017. Cosby is 82 years old.



Image from: volcanoes.usgs.gov


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