This Week in History: May 6-12, 2024


This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate
their own understanding of their history.” George Orwell

May 6-12, 2024

May 6

1833 – Blacksmith and inventor John Deere makes its first steel plow. His company was founded in 1837.

1882 – Congress passes the Chinese Exclusion Act. The act, signed by President Chester A. Arthur, placed a moratorium on Chinese immigration to the U.S. for 10 years.

1937 – The Dirigible Hindenburg explodes in flames at Lakehurst, New Jersey. Although 36 people were killed, 62 passengers survived the crash. Watch a newsreel of the historic tragedy.

1941 – Bob Hope performs in his first USO show at California’s March Field. Hope headlined a total of 57 tours during every war from World War II to Operation Desert Shield in 1991. Hope died in 2003 at age 100.

1957 – Senator John F. Kennedy is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for book “Profiles in Courage.” In 2008, Kennedy speechwriter Ted Sorenson acknowledged that he wrote most of the book.

1981 – A jury of international architects and sculptors unanimously selects Maya Ying Lin’s entry for the design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. It is the second most visited monument in Washington, after the Lincoln Memorial. Watch a 2008 talk by Lin about the memorial.

1996 – The body of former CIA director William Colby is found washed up on a riverbank in southern Maryland, eight days after he disappeared in an apparent boating accident. He was 47 years old.

2013 – Wal-Mart becomes (and still remains) the largest company by revenue on the Fortune 500 list.

May 7

1789 – The first inaugural ball is held after George Washington is sworn in as president in New York City.

1847 – The American Medical Association (AMA) organizes in Philadelphia. Its headquarters is now in Chicago.

1912 – Columbia University approves plans for awarding the Pulitzer Prize in several categories. The award was established by Joseph Pulitzer as part of his will. The first prize was awarded in 1917.

1915 – The Lusitania ocean liner is torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine off the coast of Ireland. The ship was on its way from New York to England. About 1,200 lives were lost. This event subsequently led to the U.S. declaring war against Germany and entering WWI.

1942 – In the Battle of the Coral Sea, American and Japanese navies attack each other with carrier planes. It was the first time in the history of naval warfare where two enemy fleets fight without seeing each other.

1975 – President Ford declares an end to the “Vietnam Era.”

1984 – A $180 million out-of-court settlement is announced in the Agent Orange class-action lawsuit brought by Vietnam veterans who claimed they suffered injuries from exposure to the defoliant while serving in the armed forces.

1992 – A Constitutional amendment barring mid-term congressional raises is ratified. James Madison proposed in 1789 what became the 27th Amendment.

1992 – The U.S. Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-49) launches on its maiden voyage. It was built to replace the Challenger, which was destroyed in a launch accident in January 1986.

1999 – A jury finds “The Jenny Jones Show” and Warner Brothers liable in the shooting death of Scott Amedure after the show purposely deceives Jonathan Schmitz into appearing on a secret same-sex crush episode. Schmitz killed Amedure days after the show’s taping. A jury awarded Amedure’s family $25 million. Schmitz was sentenced to 25-50 years in prison. Watch the never-aired episode and interviews.

2013 – The Dow Jones industrial average closes over 15,000 for the first time. The Dow is now over 38,000.

May 8

1792 – The U.S. establishes the military draft.

1861 – Richmond, Virginia, located 100 miles south of Washington, DC., is named the capital of the Confederacy.

1879 – George Selden files the first patent for a gasoline-driven automobile. The witness for his patent was bank teller, and future camera entrepreneur, George Eastman. In 1903, Selden filed a patent infringement suit against Henry Ford and four other car makers. Although Selden won the case, Ford prevailed on appeal in 1911. Selden then focused on his truck company.

1886 – Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta sells Coca-Cola for the first time. The carbonated soft drink, invented by John Pemberton, actually contained cocaine.

1919 – Edward George Honey first proposes the idea of a moment of silence to commemorate the Armistice of World War I, which later results in the creation of an international Remembrance Day. It is now known as Veterans Day in the U.S.

1945 – President Harry Truman announces victory in Europe and that World War II has ended.

1958 – President Eisenhower orders the National Guard out of Little Rock, Arkansas, as Ernest Green, one of the Little Rock nine, becomes the first black person to graduate from an Arkansas public school. In 1957, Governor Guy Faubus refused to comply with the 1954 Brown v Board of Integration Supreme Court decision and ordered the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the nine students from entering Little Rock High School.

1973 – A group of about 200 American Indians holding the South Dakota town of Wounded Knee for 71 days surrender after protesting corruption and treaty violations.

1987 – Democrat presidential candidate Gary Hart quits the race after his affair with Donna Rice is revealed.

1994 – The Colorado Silver Bullets, an all-female pro baseball team, play their first game. They played their last game in 1997. Watch a report about the team.

1999 – Nancy Mace becomes the first female cadet to graduate from The Citadel military college. Mace (R) was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2017.

2014 – Snapchap (mobile messaging app) settles with the FTC on complaints that it deceived consumers about promises that messages would disappear and misrepresented its security measures. A breach allowed hackers to compile a list of 4.6 million Snapchat usernames and passwords.

May 9

1754 – The first political cartoon in America, “Join, or Die,” is printed in Benjamin Franklin’s newspaper. It is also called the Gadsden flag, named for the South Carolina delegate to the Continental Congress and general in the Continental Army who designed the flag.

1913 – The 17th Amendment passes, providing for the election of senators by popular vote instead of selection by the state legislators.

1926 – Americans Richard Byrd and Floyd Bennett make the first flight over the North Pole. They circled the North Pole to verify their location and take photos.

1934 – The first of many “Black Blizzard” storms hits the Midwest. Watch a video description of what caused the Dust Bowl.

1939 – The Catholic Church beatifies Kateri Tekakwitha as the first Native American saint. Born in 1656 in New York, Tekakwitha was known as the “Lily of the Mohawks.”

1946 – “NBC’s Hour Glass” premieres as the first hour-long variety show on TV. The show lasted until March of 1947. No videos of the shows exist. Audio recordings of the show are archived in the Library of Congress.

1950 – A 5-pound bear cub is rescued during a New Mexico forest fire and named Smokey the Bear. Smokey died in 1976 at the National Zoo in Washington and buried in New Mexico. Watch a video of the history of Smokey.

1996 – In video testimony at a courtroom in Little Rock, Arkansas, President Clinton insisted that he had nothing to do with a $300,000 loan in the criminal case against his former Whitewater partners. Fourteen of Clinton’s friends and business associates were convicted or pleaded guilty to various charges related to the Whitewater land scandal. Clinton avoided any prosecution.

2005 – The liberal commentary website The Huffington Post is launched by Arianna Huffington.

May 10

1752 – Benjamin Franklin tests the lightning rod. He never filed for a patent on any of his inventions. He said, “As we benefit from the inventions of others, we should be glad to share our own … freely and gladly.”

1775 – The 2nd Continental Congress names George Washington as the supreme commander.

1869 – The Golden Spike is driven, completing the Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Point, Utah. It marked the meeting of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads. Immediately after the ceremony, the Golden Spike was removed to keep it from being stolen and replaced with a regular iron spike.

1877 – President Rutherford B. Hayes has the first telephone installed in the White House. The White House phone number was #1.

1924 – J. Edgar Hoover is appointed head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He remained the FBI director until his death in 1972.

1969 – The National and American Football Leagues announce their plans to merge for the 1970-71 season.

2003 – A series of tornados begins and lasts until May 10th. The same storm system produced over 400 tornadoes, caused 50 deaths, and led to over $4 billion in damages. The tornado outbreak covered the Great Plaines and eastern U.S.

2011 – It is announced that Microsoft closed a deal to purchase the Internet phone service Skype for $8.5 billion.

2013 – Crane operators in New York City hoist the final pieces of the spire atop One World Trade Center (formerly called the Freedom Tower), making it the tallest building in the U.S. and the 4th tallest building in the world. Watch it from ground level.

May 11

1751 – The first hospital in America’s 13 Colonies is founded as the Pennsylvania Hospital.

1904 – Andrew Carnegie donates $1.5 million to build the Peace Palace in The Hague, Holland. Construction was completed in 1913. It houses the International Court of Justice. Watch the actual footage of the 1913 opening (no sound).

1927 – Louis B. Mayer forms the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences with 35 other founding members. Membership is now by invitation only based on earning an Oscar nomination or sponsorship by two current Academy members. The first Academy Awards ceremony was held in 1929.

1973 – Citing government misconduct, charges are dismissed against Daniel Ellsberg for his involvement in releasing the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times. The Pentagon Papers showed that the Johnson administration lied about America’s involvement in Cambodia and Laos during the Vietnam War.

1995 – At the UN in New York City, more than 170 countries decide to extend the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty indefinitely and without conditions.

2015 – Picasso’s “The Women of Algiers” sells for $160 million (not $179 million) at Christie’s in New York City, setting a new record price for a work of art at auction. Watch the final moments of the auction.

May 12

1784 – The U.S. and Great Britain exchange ratified copies of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War.

1932 – The decomposed body of Charles Lindbergh’s son, kidnapped on March 1st, is found in the woods near the Lindbergh’s New Jersey home. It was believed the baby had been dead since the night of the kidnapping.

1949 – Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit of India is the first foreign woman ambassador to be received in the U.S. She was also the first female president of the UN General Assembly (1953).

1967 – H. Rap Brown replaces Stokely Carmichael as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and becomes a prominent figure in the Black Panther Party.

1970 – Harry A. Blackmun is confirmed by the Senate as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. He authored the Roe v Wade decision in 1973 and served on the court until 1994. Blackmun died in 1999 at age 90.

1978 – The Commerce Department says hurricane names will no longer be only female names.

2002 – Former President Jimmy Carter arrives in Cuba for a visit with Fidel Castro. It was the first time a U.S. head of state, in or out of office, had visited the island since Castro’s 1959 revolution. Watch a series of video clips of the visit.

2003 – Fifty-nine Democrat lawmakers flee the Texas Legislature and go into hiding to prevent a quorum in a dispute over a Republican congressional redistricting plan. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the plan.

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