This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past,
for human events ever resemble those of preceding times.”
Week of May 22-28, 2017
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.
1900 – The Associated Press organizes in New York City as a non-profit news cooperative.
1906 – The Wright brothers receive a patent their flying machine.
1928 – Congress passes the Jones-White Merchant Marine Act, which provides subsidies to shipping companies to stay competitive.
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.
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.
1979 – The first ACE Cable Awards are presented. The last ACE (Award for Cable Excellence) presentation was in 1997.
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. 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’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.
1785 – Benjamin Franklin announces his invention of bifocal glasses.
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-foot-long Morrell dirigible collapses over Berkeley, California, and 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. 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 are rescued from a depth of 243 feet by divers using the newly developed Heliox air systems (helium and oxygen). The divers are later awarded the Medal of Honor.
1958 – School students first use the iconic yellow and black Cliffs Notes study guides.
1963 – NBC purchases the TV rights to the 1963 AFL championship football game for $926,000. (In contrast, in 2005 ESPN acquires the rights to Monday Night Football and pays over $1 billion to air 17 regular season games over 8 years.)
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 the U.S. savings and loan failures is put at up to $130 billion.
1991 – The 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 the Coast Guard to intercept boats with Haitian refugees.
2000 – Rapper Eminem releases his 3rd studio album “The Marshall Mathers LP” and it becomes the fastest selling studio album ever. He wins a Grammy for Best Rap Album in 2001.
1738 – John Wesley is converted, essentially launching the Methodist movement. Methodists celebrate the day annually as Aldersgate Day.
1883 – President Chester A. Arthur and Governor Grover 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, Massachusetts.
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 that the 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 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 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.
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. Cosby is 79 years old.
1787 – The Constitutional Convention opens in Philadelphia with George Washington presiding.
1793 – Father Stephen Theodore Badin is the first Roman Catholic priest ordained in the U.S.
1844 – The first telegraphed news dispatch is published in the Baltimore Patriot.
1927 – Henry Ford stops producing Model T car and begins producing the Model A.
1928 – Amelia Earhart (as a passenger) is the first woman to fly across Atlantic Ocean.
1935 – Babe Ruth hits his final homerun, his 714th, and sets a record that would stand for 39 years.
1961 – President J. F. Kennedy sets the goal of putting a man on Moon before the end of decade. Watch Kennedy’s speech at Rice University:
1964 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules that closing schools to avoid desegregation is unconstitutional.
1977 – The original “Star Wars” movie is released, taking in $1.5 million on the opening weekend.
1983 – “Return of the Jedi” movie (Star Wars 3) is released. It sets a new opening weekend box office record of over $23 million.
1986 – In “Hands Across America,” 7 million people hold hands across 4,152 miles from Long Beach, California, to Battery Park in New York to raise money for local charities. Watch the official video:
1992 – Jay Leno becomes the permanent host of “The Tonight Show.”
1999 – The U.S. House of Representatives releases the Cox Report, which details the People’s Republic of China’s nuclear espionage against the U.S. over the prior two decades.
2001 – Erik Weihenmayer, age 32 of Colorado, becomes the first blind person and Sherman Bull, age 64 of Connecticut, becomes the oldest climber, to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
2006 – In Houston, former Enron Corp. chiefs Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling are convicted of conspiracy and fraud for the downfall of Enron.
2011 – Oprah Winfrey airs her last show, ending her twenty-five year run of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
2012 – The SpaceX Dragon becomes the first private commercial spacecraft to dock at the International Space Station.
1637 – The battle between the Pequot Indians and a military force of settlers at Mystic, Connecticut, kills 500 Indians. Many other members of the Indian tribe are captured and sold as slaves in the West Indies, destroying the Pequot Nation.
1647 – Alse Young becomes the first person executed as a witch in the American colonies when she is hanged in Hartford, Connecticut.
1781 – The Bank of North America incorporates in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
1857 – The U.S. slave Dred Scott and his family are freed by owner Henry Taylor Blow three months after the U.S. Supreme Court rules against Dred Scott’s bid for freedom. Scott died the following year at age 63.
1896 – Dow Jones begins an index of 12 industrial stocks. It closes is 40.94.
1911 – The first Indianapolis 500 auto race is run. Ray Harroun wins the inaugural race in 6 hours and 42 minutes. Watch the original footage:
1924 – President Calvin Coolidge signs an immigration law restricting immigration.
1927 – The Ford Motor Company produces the last (and 15 millionth) Model T Ford / Tin Lizzie.
1938 – The House Committee on Un-American Activities begins its work of searching for subversives in the U.S.
1941 – The American Flag House (Betsy Ross’ Home) is given to the city of Philadelphia.
1946 – Manhattan Project scientists Klaus Fuchs and John von Neumann file for a secret patent in the U.S. for the H-Bomb.
1959 – The word “Frisbee” becomes a registered trademark of Wham-O.
1972 – President Nixon and Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev sign the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) accord.
1977 – George H. Willig “The Human Fly” is arrested after he scales the South Tower of New York’s World Trade Center. It takes him 3 1/2 hours. Watch two news reports about the iconic climb:
1978 – The first legal gambling casino opens in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
1994 – Michael Jackson, age 35, marries Elvis’ daughter Lisa Marie Presley, age 26. They are divorced in 1996.
2004 – The New York Times publishes an admission of journalistic failings, claiming that its flawed reporting and lack of skepticism towards sources during the buildup to the 2003 war in Iraq helped promote the belief that Iraq possessed large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.
2004 – The U.S. Army veteran Terry Nichols is found guilty of 161 state murder charges for helping carry out the Oklahoma City bombing.
1692 – The Court of Oyer and Terminer is established by the Governor of Massachusetts to hear the excessive amount of accusations of witchcraft.
1813 – American forces capture Fort George, Canada, near Niagara-on-the-Lake during the War of 1812.
1844 – Samuel F.B. Morse completes the first telegraph line.
1873 – The first Preakness Stakes race is won by Survivor by 10 lengths in 2:43. Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore is the second oldest trace track in the U.S. behind Saratoga in New York.
1916 – President Wilson addresses the League to Enforce Peace, founded in 1915, and gives public support to the idea of a league of nations.
1930 – The 1,046-foot Chrysler Building in New York City, the tallest man-made structure at the time, opens to the public. Watch a short documentary about the building:
1930 – Richard Drew invents Scotch tape. Five years earlier he invents masking tape.
1935 – The Supreme Court declares FDR’s National Recovery Act unconstitutional.
1937 – San Francisco Bay’s Golden Gate Bridge opens to pedestrian traffic. It opens to vehicular traffic the following day.
1958 – Ernest Green, one of the Little Rock Nine, and 600 white students graduate from Little Rock’s Central High School.
1969 – Construction begins on Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The theme park opens in October 1971.
1981 – John Hinckley, Jr. attempts suicide by overdosing on Tylenol while awaiting trial for his assassination attempt on President Reagan.
1988 – The Senate ratifies a treaty eliminating medium-range nuclear missiles.
1995 – Actor Christopher Reeve is paralyzed from the neck down after falling from his horse in a riding competition in Culpeper, Virginia. Reeve died in 2004 at age 52. Watch a news report about Reeves (starts at 21 seconds):
1998 – Michael Fortier is sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined $200,000 for failing to warn authorities about the Oklahoma City bombing terrorist plot.
2010 – Universal Studios reopens its back lot that had been destroyed by a fire two years before.
1539 – Hernando de Soto lands in what is now Florida.
1664 – The first Baptist Church is organized in Boston.
1774 – The first Continental Congress convenes in Virginia.
1863 – The first black regiment (54th Massachusetts) leaves Boston to fight in the Civil War.
1892 – The Sierra Club is organized in San Francisco, California.
1915 – John B. Gruelle, a political cartoonist, develops and patents the Raggedy Ann doll.
1928 – Dodge Brothers Inc. is sold to the Chrysler Corporation. Both founding Dodge brothers, John and Horace, die in 1920. Their widows sold the company to Dillon, Reed & Company in 1925 for $146 million, the largest cash transaction in history to date.
1929 – Warner Brothers debut “On With The Show” in New York City. It is the first all-color talking picture.
1937 – The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco opens to vehicular traffic.
1952 – The Memphis Kiddie Park opens in Brooklyn, Ohio. The park’s Little Dipper roller coaster is the oldest steel roller coaster operating in the same location in North America. Watch kids enjoy the less than thrilling ride:
1956 – President Eisenhower signs a farm bill that allows the government to store agricultural surplus.
1957 – National League baseball club owners vote to allow the Brooklyn Dodgers to move to Los Angeles and the New York Giants to move to San Francisco.
1959 – Space monkeys Able and Baker fly 300 miles into space on the Jupiter missile, becoming the first animals safely retrieved from a space mission. Baker died in 1984 at the age of 27.
1972 – White House “plumbers” break into the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel during the Nixon administration. The scandal eventually leads to President Nixon’s resignation in 1974.
1974 – The first Daytime Emmy Award presentations are held at Rockefeller Center in New York City. Barbara Walters and Peter Marshall host the Emmys. Watch part of the outdoor event:
1996 – President Bill Clinton’s former business partners in the Whitewater land deal, James and Susan McDougal, and Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker, are all convicted of fraud. James McDougal died in 1998 at age 58 while in solitary confinement, Susan McDougal was pardoned by Bill Clinton in 2001, and Jim Guy Tucker, sentenced to four years of probation, is now 73 years old.
1997 – Linda Finch completes Amelia Earhart’s attempted around-the-world flight in a restored 1930s Electra 10E. Watch a video about the historic flight recreation:
2006 – Barry Bonds hits his 715th career home run, passing Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list.
2016 – Harambe, a 17-year-old Lowland Gorilla in the Cincinnati Zoo, is shot and killed by zoo staff after dragging around a 3-year-old boy who had slipped into its enclosure. Watch the frantic moments after the child falls in: