This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall
possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in
need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.” Samuel Adams
May 24-30, 2021
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.
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, now 83 years old, is serving a 3-10 year sentence in prison.
1787 – The Constitutional Convention opens in Philadelphia with George Washington presiding.
1844 – The first telegraphed news dispatch is published in the Baltimore Patriot.
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. Hank Aaron broke Ruth’s record in 1974 and Barry Bonds broke Aaron’s record in 2007. These are the only players to hit more than 700 homeruns in their career.
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 in Griffin v County School Board of Prince Edward County (Virginia) that closing schools to avoid desegregation is unconstitutional. In what was known as “Massive Resistance” U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd (D-VA) declared a strategy of closing Virginia schools to circumvent the Brown v Board of Education ruling of 1954 and block integration.
1977 – The original “Star Wars” movie is released, taking in $1.5 million on the opening weekend.
1983 – The “Return of the Jedi” movie (Star Wars 3) is released. It set a new opening weekend box office record of over $23 million. By contrast, the movie “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” released in December 2017, took in $220 million on opening weekend.
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.
2006 – In Houston, former Enron Corp. chiefs Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling are convicted of conspiracy and fraud for the downfall of Enron.
2012 – The SpaceX Dragon becomes the first private commercial spacecraft to dock with 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 were 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.
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 ruled against Dred Scott’s bid for freedom. Scott died the following year at age 63.
1896 – Dow Jones (Charles Dow and Edward Jones) begins reporting on the average of 12 selected industrial stocks. It closed is 40.94. General Electric is the only original industrial stock.
1911 – The first Indianapolis 500 auto race is run. Ray Harroun won the inaugural race in 6 hours and 42 minutes. The 2020 Indy 500 lasted less than half that time. 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 and begins producing the Model A.
1938 – The House Committee on Un-American Activities begins its work of searching for communists and subversives in the U.S.
1946 – Manhattan Project scientists Klaus Fuchs and John von Neumann file for a secret patent in the U.S. for the H-Bomb.
1972 – President Nixon and Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev sign the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) accord.
1994 – Michael Jackson, age 35, marries Elvis’ daughter Lisa Marie Presley, age 26. They divorced in 1996.
2020 – Twitter puts warning labels on President Trump’s tweets about “inaccuracies.”
1692 – The Court of Oyer and Terminer is established by the Governor of Massachusetts to hear the excessive amount of accusations of witchcraft.
1873 – The first Preakness Stakes race is won by Survivor by 10 lengths in 2:43. The Preakness is the second jewel of the Triple Crown, between the Kentucky Derby (first run in 1875) and the Belmont Stakes (first run in 1867). The term “Triple Crown” was first used when Gallant Fox won all three races in 1930.
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.
1937 – San Francisco Bay’s Golden Gate Bridge opens to pedestrian traffic. It opened to vehicular traffic the following day.
1969 – Construction begins on Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The theme park opened in October 1971.
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.
2020 – The American COVID death toll reaches 100,000, which is equal to the number of servicemen and women killed in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan combined.
1830 – President Andrew Jackson signs into law the Indian Removal Act which allowed for the removal of Indians from tribal lands to federal territory west of the Mississippi River. The forcible removal of about 60,000 Indians became known as the Trail of Tears.
1863 – The first black regiment (54th Massachusetts) leaves Boston to fight in the Civil War.
1928 – Dodge Brothers Inc. is sold to the Chrysler Corporation. Both founding Dodge brothers, John and Horace, died 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 the movie “On With The Show” in New York City. It was the first all-color talking picture.
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. Ride the Little Dipper in the front seat.
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. Able died in 1959 and 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 led to President Nixon’s resignation in 1974.
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, now 66, was pardoned by Bill Clinton in 2001, and Jim Guy Tucker, now 77, was sentenced to four years of probation.
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.
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 fell into its enclosure. Watch the frantic moments after the child falls in and interviews with zoo officials.
1677 – The Treaty of Middle Plantation establishes peace between the Virginia colonists and the local Indians.
1765 – Patrick Henry delivers his historic speech against the Stamp Act, answering a cry of “Treason!” with, “If this be treason, make the most of it!”
1851 – Sojourner Truth addresses the first Black Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. Truth died in 1883 at age 86.
1916 – The official flag of the U.S. president is adopted after President Woodrow Wilson signs Executive Order #2390.
1942 – Bing Crosby records Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” the greatest selling song of all time.
1977 – Janet Guthrie becomes the first woman to drive in the Indianapolis 500. AJ Foyt won it for a record fourth time. Watch a NASCAR video about Guthrie.
2004 – The World War II Memorial is dedicated in Washington, D.C.
2015 – The U.S. removes Cuba from the state-sponsored terrorism list.
1806 – Future president Andrew Jackson kills Charles Dickinson in a duel after Dickinson accuses Jackson of cheating on a horse race and insulting his wife.
1822 – Two slaves betray fellow slave Denmark Vesey in a slave revolt conspiracy. Charleston, South Carolina, authorities charged 131 men with conspiracy. In total, 67 men were convicted and 35 were hanged, including Denmark Vesey.
1848 – Mexico ratifies the treaty giving the United States (what is now) New Mexico, California, and parts of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Colorado in return for $15 million.
1868 – Decoration Day (now Memorial Day) is first observed when two women in Columbus, Mississippi, place flowers on both Confederate and Union graves.
1896 – The first automobile accident occurs when Henry Wells hits a bicyclist in New York City.
1922 – The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC is dedicated and opens to the public. A commission to plan a monument was first proposed in 1867, shortly after Lincoln’s death. Construction began in 1914. Watch actual footage of the dedication (no sound).
1932 – Amelia Earhart is the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.
1958 – The remains of unidentified soldiers killed in World War II and the Korean War are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier sarcophagus was placed above the grave of World War I soldiers that was built in 1921.
1970 – Baseball All-Star Game voting is returned to the fans. From 1958 to 1969 baseball mangers, players, and coaches made the All-Star selections.
1987 – North American Philips Company unveils the compact disc video.
1991 – The Supreme Court rules that prosecutors can be sued for legal advice they give police and can also be held accountable.
2020 – The SpaceX rocket successfully launches astronauts from Florida to rendezvous with the International Space Station. It was the first manned launch from the U.S. since the last Space Shuttle mission in 2011.
Image from: cnn.com