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
Nov 2-8, 2020
1783 – General George Washington bids farewell to his troops at Fraunces Tavern in New York City after winning the American Revolutionary War. He ordered the Continental Army disbanded the following day. Washington was elected president in 1789.
1898 – Cheerleading is started at the University of Minnesota when Johnny Campbell leads the crowd in cheering on the football team.
1947 – Howard Hughes flies his H-4 Hercules “Spruce Goose,” a large wooden flying boat aircraft of his own design, on its first and only flight. Only one was ever built by Hughes. It was made of birch, not spruce. Watch the silent video of the flight.
1948 – President Harry Truman is re-elected in an upset over Republican Thomas Dewey. Newspapers had already been printed with “Dewey defeats Truman” as the headline.
1954 – Strom Thurmond (D-SC) is the first Senator elected by write-in vote. State Democrat leaders blocked him from receiving the party’s nomination. Thurmond switched to the Republican Party in 1964. At age 100 he was the oldest person to serve in Congress. Thurmond died in 2003 at age 100.
1959 – Contestant Charles Van Doren confesses that the popular TV quiz show “21” is fixed. Van Doren died in 2019 at age 93. Watch a short newsreel film.
1984 – Velma Barfield becomes the first woman executed in the U.S. since 1962 after her conviction of murder. She was convicted for one murder but admitted to six. She was the first woman executed by lethal injection. Since the Supreme Court lifted the moratorium on capital punishment in 1976, sixteen women have been executed.
2000 – The first crew arrives at the International Space Station. One American and two Russians stayed on board the ISS for 136 days.
1883 – Charles Bowes, known as “Black Bart the poet” is wounded and leaves incriminating clues at his last stagecoach robbery that eventually leads to his capture. Bowes robbed his first stagecoach in 1875. Wells Fargo only pressed charges on the last robbery. Bowes served four years of a six-year sentence. He was shadowed by Wells Fargo after his release and disappeared in February of 1888. Bowes was never seen again.
1936 – FDR (D-NY) is elected president for a second term in the most lopsided Electoral College vote. He won 523 of the 531 votes.
1952 – Clarence Birdseye markets frozen peas using his invention for the flash freezing process of foods. Birdseye died in 1956 at age 69. Watch a “Sunday Morning” report on his life.
1994 – Susan Smith, who claimed her two sons were carjacked, is arrested for their murder after her car was found in John D. Long Lake with her children still strapped in their seats. Smith, now 49, is serving a sentence of life in prison after confessing to their murder. She will be eligible for parole in 2024.
2014 – New York’s 104-story One World Trade Center officially opens 13 years after the September 11 attacks.
2016 – Collins Dictionary selects “Brexit” the word of the year. Previous words of the year are “Fake News” in 2017, “Single-Use” in 2018, and “Climate Strike” in 2019. The 2020 Word of the Year is “Confidence.”
1646 – Massachusetts uses the death penalty as punishment for people denying that the Holy Bible is God’s word.
1845 – The first nationally observed uniform Election Day is held in the United States. Election Day is now the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
1862 – Dr. Richard Gatling of Indianapolis, Indiana, patents the Gatling machine gun. It could fire 200+ rounds per minute with 6-10 rotating barrels using a manually operated hand crank. In contrast, the modern Gatling gun fires thousands of rounds per minute.
1879 – James Ritty patents the first cash register to combat stealing by bartenders in his Dayton, Ohio, saloon. It registered the time and amount of the sale, but it had no cash drawer.
1960 – “The Misfits” premieres as the final movie for both Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe. Gable died less than two weeks later on November 16 at age 59, and Monroe died in August of 1962 at age 36. (Monroe started filming “Something’s Got To Give” in 1962, but she was fired before its completion.) Watch the official “Misfits” trailer.
1970 – Genie Wiley, a 13-year-old feral child is found in Los Angeles, California, after having been locked in her bedroom, strapped to a bed, isolated, and malnourished for most of her life. She was institutionalized and treated in various hospitals, then placed in a number of foster homes. Wiley, now 63 years old, is a ward of the state of California and living in an undisclosed location.
1981 – Dr. George Nichopoulos is acquitted of overprescribing addictive drugs to Elvis Presley and 13 other patients. In 1993, Nichopoulos had his license permanently revoked after it was revealed he had been overprescribing medications to patients for years.
1991 – Ronald Reagan opens his presidential library in Simi Valley, California. The dedication ceremony was attended by three other former presidents – Jimmy Carter, Gerald R. Ford, and Richard M. Nixon – and President H.W. Bush. It was the first time five presidents (former and current) had ever met together. There are currently four living former presidents – Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. Take a tour of the Reagan Library with actor Gary Sinese.
2008 – Barack Hussein Obama becomes the first bi-racial person to be elected President of the U.S. He was re-elected in 2012.
1639 – The first post office in the colonies is set up in Massachusetts. Ben Franklin was the first Postmaster General.
1781 – John Hanson is elected the first “President of the U.S. in Congress assembled” (Continental Congress).
1895 – George B. Selden is granted the first U.S. patent for an internal-combustion gasoline fueled automobile.
1917 – The unanimous Supreme Court decision of Buchanan v Warley strikes down a Louisville, Kentucky, ordinance requiring blacks and whites to live in separate areas.
1940 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt (D-NY) wins an unprecedented third term by beating Wendell Willkie (R). He was elected to a fourth term on November 7, 1944, but FDR died in April of 1945 at age 63. FDR is the only president to serve more than 2 terms.
1956 – Nat King Cole launches a weekly TV show making him the first black person to host his own show on a major national TV network. Cole died in 1965 at age 45. Watch Cole sing on his show.
2009 – U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan kills 13 and wounds 43 at Fort Hood, Texas, in the largest mass shooting ever at a U.S. military installation. He was convicted and sentenced to death by a military jury in August 2013. He is still awaiting execution.
2015 – Collins Dictionary names “binge-watch” the word of the year. It defined the verb binge-watch as “watching a large number of TV programs in succession.” The 2014 word of the year was “photobomb.”
1789 – Pope Pius VI appoints Father John Carroll as the first Catholic bishop in the U.S.
1861 – Jefferson Davis is elected to a 6-year term as Confederate president. Davis graduated from West Point in 1828. Col. Davis was a hero of the Mexican-American War in 1847. He served as a U.S. Senator from Mississippi (1847-1851 and 1857-1861) and the U.S. Secretary of War (1853-1857). He died in 1889 at the age of 81.
1938 – The three DiMaggio brothers (Vince, Joe, and Dominic) play baseball together in a west coast charity game. They are the only trio of brothers to have been All-Stars. Over 350 sets of brothers (including sets of twins) have played major league baseball.
1947 – NBC’s “Meet the Press” debuts and is now the longest running TV show in the U.S.
1952 – The first hydrogen bomb is exploded at Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. A total of 43 nuclear tests were conducted between 1948 and 1958.
1986 – President Reagan signs a landmark immigration reform bill. It made it illegal to knowingly hire illegal immigrants and legalized illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. before January 1, 1982 under strict conditions. The INS estimated that about 4 million illegal immigrants would apply and about half would be eligible.
1990 – A fire destroys some of Universal Studios stages and causes $25 million in damage. A security guard, who had been on the job less than two months, was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to arson. Watch a report on the fire.
2012 – The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico votes in favor of becoming a U.S. state. It was the fourth statehood referendum, but the first in which a majority voted for statehood.
1805 – Lewis and Clark first view the Pacific Ocean. The Corps of Discovery left Missouri in May of 1804.
1872 – The cargo ship Mary Celeste sails from New York to Italy. It was mysteriously found abandoned in the Bermuda Triangle four weeks later with all the crew’s effects, cargo, and 6-month’s food supply intact. The crew was never found, although a lifeboat was missing. The Mary Celeste was sold several times and made Atlantic voyages over the next 12 years, until it was deliberately run aground for the insurance. The wreck has never been found.
1874 – Thomas Nast creates the first cartoon depicting an elephant as the symbol for the Republican Party. He also created the modern version of Santa Claus.
1910 – The first air freight shipment is undertaken by the Wright Brothers and department store owner Max Morehouse. A Wright brother’s pilot flew 200 pounds of silk worth $800 from Dayton to Columbus, Ohio. Philip Parmelee flew the 65-mile route in 66 minutes at an altitude of 2,000 to 3,000 feet in freezing temperatures by following railroad tracks. Parmelee was killed at an airshow two years later. He was 25.
1932 – “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” is broadcast as the first science fiction program on the radio. It aired until 1936, but was revived several times. It debuted as a comic strip in 1929. An 8-minute Buck Rogers’ film was made for the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair. Buck Rogers was a 12-part movie serial starring Buster Crabbe starting in 1939 and a short-lived TV series in 1950-51. Most recently it aired as a TV show starring Gil Gerard from 1979 to 1981.
1940 – The Tacoma Narrows Bridge (aka Galloping Gertie) collapses in Washington four months after it opened to traffic. Watch actual footage of the bridge collapse, filmed by Barney Elliott, a local camera shop owner.
1973 – Congress over-rides President Nixon’s veto of the War Powers Act, which limits a chief executive’s power to wage war without congressional approval.
1991 – Magic Johnson announces he has the HIV virus and retires from the LA Lakers basketball team. Johnson is now 61 years old. Watch his announcement.
2000 – The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration discovers an LSD lab inside a converted military missile silo in Wamego, Kansas. William Leonard Pickard, now 75, was released after serving 17 years of his two life sentences following his conviction in the largest LSD manufacturing case in U.S. history. He continued to conduct research, write, and advocate for psychedelics. His partner, Clyde Apperson, now 65, was sentenced to serve two life sentences in prison without the possibility of parole. He was paroled on July 27, 2020.
1731 – Benjamin Franklin opens the first U.S. library in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
1933 – The Civil Works Administration is created by executive order by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The organization was designed to create jobs for more than four million unemployed people in the U.S. during the Great Depression.
1956 – After turning down 18,000 names, the Ford Motor Company decides to name its new car the “Edsel,” after Henry Ford’s only son. The Ford Edsel was in production for only three years.
1966 – Movie actor Ronald Reagan is elected governor of California. He first appeared in a movie in 1937 and finished his acting career in 1965 in the TV series Death Valley Days. He was elected president in 1980 and 1984. He died in 2004 at age 93. Watch Reagan in Death Valley Days.
1988 – George H. W. Bush is the first vice president since Martin Van Buren (1837) to be elected president of the U.S.
2000 – Waco special counsel John C. Danforth releases his final report that absolves the government of wrongdoing in the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Texas that ended in the death of 76 people, including 25 children.
2000 – A statewide recount begins in Florida to decide the winner of the U.S. presidential election. George Bush beat Al Gore by a hanging chad.
Image from: trumanlibarayinstitute.org