This Week in History: Nov 30-Dec 6, 2020

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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 30-Dec 6, 2020




November 30

1753 – Benjamin Franklin receives the Godfrey Copley Medal from the Royal Society of London “on account of his curious Experiments and Observations on Electricity.”

1782 – The U.S. and Britain sign the Preliminary Peace Articles in Paris, signaling the end the Revolutionary War. The Treaty of Paris was signed in September 1783.

1866 – Work begins on the first U.S. underwater highway tunnel near Chicago. The Winston Tunnel was built by hand and took 23 years and $500,000 for workers to complete the 1,500-foot tunnel beneath the Chicago River. It was abandoned in 1972.

1967 – Julie Nixon (daughter of the president) and David Eisenhower (grandson of the former president) announce their engagement. They were married on December 22, 1968, and are still married. They have 3 children. Watch their wedding (no sound).



1993 – President Clinton sighs the Brady gun Control bill into law.

2004 – Longtime “Jeopardy!” champion Ken Jennings of Salt Lake City, Utah, finally loses. He left the show with $2,520,700, television’s all-time biggest game show winnings. Long-time host Alex Trebek died November 9th at age 80. Ken Jennings will temporarily replace Trebek as host. Watch Jennings’ surprise loss.



2007 – Leeland Eisenberg enters the presidential campaign office of Hillary Clinton in Rochester, New Hampshire, with a device suspected of being a bomb. He held three people hostage for five hours. Eisenberg spent about 2 years in jail for the incident. He had a long criminal and mental health history.


December 1

1891 – James Naismith of Springfield, Massachusetts, creates the game of basketball as a way to motivate and inspire young men that “should be of a recreative nature, something that would appeal to their play instincts.” Two peach baskets were nailed to each end of the lower balcony of the gymnasium at Springfield College and Naismith wrote the 13 original rules for the game. The Basketball Hall of Fame, founded in 1959, is located in Springfield, Massachusetts.

1913 – Henry Ford introduces the continuous moving assembly line, producing a car every 2 hours and 38 minutes. By 1927, Ford factories built a Model T every 24 seconds and accounted for half of all cars sold worldwide.

1913 – The first drive-up gasoline station opens in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. On the first day of business, the Gulf station sold 30 gallons of gas at 27 cents a gallon.

1917 – Boys Town is founded by Father Edward Flanagan near Omaha, Nebraska. The first five boys to live there were homeless and were sent by the courts on December 12th. The events in the 1938 movie “Boys Town” were mostly fiction, but Spencer Tracy’s character was based on Father Flanagan.

1929 – Toymaker Edwin S. Lowe invents the game “Bingo” when he is 18 years old. Lowe bought the rights to the game “Yahtzee” in 1956. Lowe died in 1986 at age 75.

1941 – The U.S. Civil Air Patrol (CAP) organizes. After the Pearl Harbor attack the following week, thousands of CAP civilian volunteers log more than 500,000 hours performing critical wartime missions.

1955 – Rosa Parks is arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to move to the back of the bus, triggering the Montgomery bus boycott.

1969 – The U.S. government holds its first draft lottery since WW II. The first number drawn is 258 (matching the birth date of September 14) so all men born between 1944 and 1950 who share that birth date are called to serve at once.

1981 – The AIDS virus (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is officially recognized. The cause was later discovered to be a human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV.

1982 – Michael Jackson releases his “Thriller” album and it becomes, and remains, the best-selling album of all time. Jackson died at age 50 in 2009.

1987 – NASA announces four companies (Boeing Aerospace, G. E.’s Astro-Space Division, McDonnell Douglas Aeronautics, and Rocketdyne Division of Rockwell International) have been given contracts to help build a space station. Construction began in 1988. The International Space Station has been continuously inhabited for over 18 years. Watch the continuous live feed from the ISS.



1998 – Exxon announces that it will buy Mobil for $73.7 billion creating the largest company in the world to date. Walmart is now the largest. Three of the top five companies are Chinese.

2001 – The 76 years of TWA airline operations comes to an end when Captain Bill Compton lands Trans World Airlines Flight 220, an MD-83, at St. Louis International Airport. American Airlines acquired TWA.


December 2

1816 – The first savings bank in the U.S. opens as the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society (PFSF). By the late 1910s, PSFS had the most depositors of any savings bank in the U.S.

1823 – President James Monroe declares his “Monroe Doctrine.” Monroe stated during a message to Congress that, “The American continents … are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.”

1845 – U.S. President James K. Polk announces to Congress that the United States should aggressively expand into the West in what became known as “Manifest Destiny.”

1942 – Dr. Enrico Fermi and his staff produce the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction at the University of Chicago. Fermi described the Chicago Pile-1 apparatus as “a crude pile of black bricks and wooden timbers.”

1954 – The U.S. Senate censures Senator Joe McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) for “conduct that tends to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.” McCarthy claimed that communists had infiltrated the U.S. State Department. He became chair of the Senate’s subcommittee on investigations. He continued to serve in the Senate until his death in May of 1957 at age 48.

1957 – The first nuclear power plant in the world opens in Shippingport, Pennsylvania, and remained operational until 1982. There are currently 60 commercially operating nuclear power plants in the U.S. in 30 states.

1982 – The first permanent artificial heart is successfully implanted in retired dentist Barney Clark. He lived 112 days with the Jarvic-7 heart.

2014 – Stephen Hawking claims that Artificial Intelligence could be a “threat to mankind” and spell the end of the human race. Hawking, who from suffered from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) died in 2018 at age 76. Watch a report on the claim.




December 3

1868 – The first blacks are selected to serve on a U.S. jury in preparation for the trial of Confederate President Jefferson Davis for treason. They never served on the jury because Davis, after 2 years of imprisonment at Fort Monroe, Virginia, was released in $100,000 bail.

1923 – The first Congressional open session is broadcast via radio from Washington, DC.

1950 – Paul Harvey begins his national radio broadcast. Harvey started his radio career with a local broadcast in Chicago in 1944. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. His final broadcast was on February 7, 2009. Harvey died three weeks later at age 90. Good day!

1989 – Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President George H. W. Bush declare that the Cold War is over. It started after the end of World War II amid geopolitical uncertainties. The term Cold War was coined by author George Orwell in an essay written in 1945.

2012 – The Voyager 1 spacecraft, launched in 1977, reaches the end of our solar system and enters interstellar space. Voyager’s mission is expected to continue until about 2025, when its generators will no longer be able to supply enough power to operate the onboard instruments.

2015 – Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announces that all combat roles in U.S. armed forces will be open to women. Watch Carter’s announcement from the Pentagon.




December 4

1872 – The American merchant ship Mary Celeste is discovered mysteriously abandoned in the Atlantic Ocean. There were no signs of foul play and her crew was never found.

1918 – President Wilson sails for the Versailles Peace Conference in France at the end of World War I, becoming the first chief executive to travel outside U.S. while in office. The Conference set the terms for peace.

1920 – In the first pro football playoff game, the Buffalo All-Americans beat the Canton Bulldogs 7-3 at the Polo Grounds. The undefeated Akron Pros go on to beat the Buffalo All-Americans.

1964 – Baseball approves a free-agent draft. Rick Monday was the first pick in the first free agent draft on June 8, 1965. Monday is most well-known for rescuing the American flag from fans trying to burn it during a 1976 game at Dodger Stadium. Watch the heroic incident with player interviews.



1978 – Dianne Feinstein becomes San Francisco’s first woman mayor when she is named to replace Mayor George Moscone, who was murdered. Feinstein, now in her sixth term in Congress, is the oldest Senator at 87 years of age. She is also listed as the second-wealthiest Senator.

1991 – Pan American World Airways, founded in 1927, ceases operations. Pan Am was the largest U.S. international air carrier. Delta, founded in 1924, is the oldest airline company still operating in the U.S.

1998 – Unity Module, the first U.S.-built module for the International Space Station, is launched on board the Space Shuttle Endeavor. The main construction of the ISS was completed in 2011. It has been continuously occupied since November 2000.

2017 – The Supreme Court allows President Trump’s travel ban for six mostly Muslim nations to go into effect.


December 5

1792 – George Washington is re-elected President, with John Adams as his Vice-President.

1848 – President Polk triggers the Gold Rush of ’49 when he confirms the discovery of gold in Sutter’s Mill, California. About 300,000 people went to California and extracted more than 750,000 pounds of gold.

1933 – The 21st Amendment is ratified as the only amendment adopted to repeal an earlier amendment (18th Amendment – Prohibition).

1945 – The “Lost Squadron” disappears east of Florida in the Bermuda Triangle. Five bombers of Flight 19 reported problems with their instruments. Search aircraft also disappeared, for a total loss of 27 men.

1955 – The AFL (founded in 1886) and CIO (founded in 1935) unions merge. The AFL-CIO represents 55 national and international unions with about 12.5 million active and retired members. Membership peaked in 1979 with 20 million members.

1964 – Captain Roger Donlon is awarded the first Medal of Honor of the Vietnam War for his heroism in battle earlier in the year. Watch Cpt. Donlon’s story in his own words.



1985 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average rises above 1,500 for the first time. It recently 30,000.

1998 – James P. Hoffa becomes the president of the Teamsters union, 23 years after his father, Jimmy Hoffa, was the head of the Teamsters. His father disappeared in 1975 and is presumed dead.

2008 – OJ Simpson is sentenced to 33 years in prison for kidnapping and armed robbery. He was paroled in 2017 after serving 9 years.


December 6

1790 – Congress convenes in Philadelphia, the new temporary U.S. capital, after leaving New York City. Washington, DC became the permanent capital of the U.S. in 1800.

1884 – Construction of the Washington Monument is completed. The project took 34 years to build and was interrupted by financial problems and the Civil War. The marble used for upper two-thirds of the monuments came from a different quarry and is a different color.

1907 – A coal mine explosion in Monongah, West Virginia, kills 362 miners in the worst mine disaster in U.S. history. It was one of four deadly coal mine disasters in 1907.

1923 – President Calvin Coolidge makes the first presidential address on the radio. The broadcast to a joint session of Congress was the first of what is now known as the State of the Union Address.

1957 – The first U.S. attempt to launch a satellite fails when the Vanguard rocket blows up. Only 3 of the 11 Vanguard rockets were successfully placed in orbit from 1957 to 1959.

1964 – “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” a stop-action animation movie, airs for the first time on TV (and every year since). The title song was written by country music legend Gene Autry. Listen to the title song with images from the movie.



1969 – About 300,000 people attend the Altamont Speedway Free Concert in California, four months after Woodstock. The rock concert, featuring the Rolling Stones, was marred by violence.

1992 – San Francisco 49er Jerry Rice catches an NFL record 101 touchdowns. Rice still holds the record with 208 touchdowns. Watch one of Rice’s amazing TD catches.



1994 – The Maltese Falcon is auctioned for $398,590. In 2013, it sold at auction for over $4 million, becoming one of the most expensive movie props ever sold.

2006 – NASA announces that photographs taken by Mars Global Surveyor suggests the presence of liquid water on Mars.


Image from: foxnews.com

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