This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“History is a vast early warning system.” Norman Cousins
May 8-14, 2023
1792 – The U.S. establishes the military draft.
1861 – Richmond, Virginia, is named the capital of the Confederacy. Richmond is about 100 miles south of Washington, DC.
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.
1754 – The first political cartoon in America, “Join, or Die,” is printed in Benjamin Franklin’s newspaper.
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.
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.
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.
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.
1828 – The U.S. passes the Tariff of Abominations, so called by Southerners because of the adverse effects it had on their economy. The Tariff of 1828 was designed to protect northern industries from low priced imported goods.
1865 – The last land engagement of the Civil War is fought at the Battle of Palmito Ranch in south Texas, more than a month after Gen. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Virginia.
1911 – The New York Giants set a major league baseball record when ten runners cross home plate before the first out of the game against St. Louis.
1950 – Diner’s Club issues its first credit cards. In 1949, businessman Frank McNamara forgot his wallet while dining out at a New York City restaurant. He started the restaurant credit card company with his partner Ralph Schneider.
1960 – The first launch of a Thor-Delta rocket carrying the Echo-1 series satellite fails to reach orbit after the second-stage control system failure. The satellite was destroyed. Watch a newsreel of the launch.
1992 – Three astronauts simultaneously walk in space for the first time. Richard Hieb, Pierre Thuot, and Thomas Akers conducted an 8 ½-hour spacewalk outside Space Shuttle Endeavor.
2003 – The U.S. government unveils the newly designed version of the $20 bill. It was the first bill to be colorized in an effort to stop counterfeiters.
2021 – The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can stop wearing masks.
1804 – Lewis and Clark set out from St. Louis for the Pacific Coast. Their expedition reached the Pacific Ocean in November 1805.
1897 – “The Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Philip Sousa is performed for the first time at a ceremony when a statue of George Washington is unveiled.
1904 – The Olympic Games are held in St. Louis, Missouri. It was the first time the Olympic Games were played in the U.S.
1942 – The U.S. Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs) forms after Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts introduces a bill in Congress. The Corps became a permanent part of the Army from 1948 until 1978, when women were assimilated into all but the combat branches of the Army.
1945 – Dr. Joseph G. Hamilton injects misdiagnosed cancer patient Albert Stevens with 131 kBq of plutonium without his knowledge. Stevens lived for another 20 years until his death at age 79, surviving the highest known accumulated radiation dose in any human. Dr. Hamilton died in 1957 at age 49.
1948 – The U.S. grants Israel de facto recognition by President Harry Truman after Israel’s proclamation of independence.
1949 – Harry Truman signs a bill establishing a rocket test range at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The space center was renamed Cape Kennedy, following the assassination of President Kennedy, from 1963 to 1973.
1973 – The Supreme Court issues its decision in Frontiero v Richardson that provides the same rights to women as men in the military.
1999 – North Korea returns the remains of six U.S. soldiers who were killed during the Korean War. The Department of Defense estimated there are still over 7,000 U.S. personnel unaccounted for (missing in action) in Korea.
2005 – The USS America, a decommissioned Navy supercarrier, is deliberately sunk in the Atlantic Ocean after four weeks of live-fire exercises. It was the largest ship ever to be disposed of as a target in a military exercise. Watch the sinking.
Image from: nps.gov