This Week in History: Nov 9-15, 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 9-15, 2020




November 9

1857 – The Atlantic magazine is first published, billing itself as a “journal of literature, politics, science, and the arts.” It is the second-oldest continuously published magazine in the U.S., after Scientific American (founded 1845).

1935 – The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) labor union forms. The American Federation of Labor (AFL) was formed in 1886. The two unions merged in 1955 as the AFL-CIO.

1961 – The X-15 rocket plane, piloted by Robert White, sets a world record speed of 4,092 mph (Mach 6.04) and reaches an altitude of 101,600 feet after being launched from under the wing of a B-52. Watch a video with a description of the launch, flight, and landing.



1982 – Sugar Ray Leonard retires from boxing for the first time. He retired again in 1984. He came out of retirement in 1987 to defeat Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Sugar Ray retired again in 1991 only to return to the ring in 1997 at age 40. He retired for the last time in 1997 following a TKO and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame later that same year. Sugar Ray is now 64 years old.

1984 – “The Three Servicemen” Memorial is completed in Washington, DC. It was designed and created to complement the controversial design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

2015 – San Diego’s SeaWorld announces it will overhaul its killer whale show after controversy over the treatment of its whales. Watch a news report on the announcement.




November 10

1775 – Congress forms the U.S. Marine Corps. Major Samuel Nicholas was the first Commandant (1775-1783).

1891 – Granville T. Woods patents the electric railway. Known as the “Black Edison,” Woods received close to 60 patents, 15 for inventions or improvements for electric railroads.

1940 – Walt Disney begins serving as an informer for the Los Angeles office of the FBI. Disney’s job was to report back to the FBI any information on Hollywood political subversives until his death in 1966.

1969 – “Sesame Street” premieres on PBS TV. The show is still on the air and is the longest running children’s show. Its creators included Muppets creators Jim Henson and Frank Oz. Watch the opening of the show.



1982 – The Vietnam Veterans Memorial opens in Washington, DC. The design of 21-year-old Chinese-American Ohio-born Maya Ying Lin was chosen from more than 1,400 submissions.

1993 – The House of Representatives passes the Brady Bill, which calls for a background check and five-day waiting period for handgun purchases. The bill, introduced by Rep. Charles Schumer (D-NY), was named for James Brady, who was wounded in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Reagan. The bill was signed into law on November 30th by President Bill Clinton.

2016 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average sets a new all-time high record of 18,791 just two days after Donald Trump is elected president.


November 11 – Thanks to our Veterans!

1750 – The F.H.C. Society, also known as the Flat Hat Club, is formed at Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was the first college fraternity.

1865 – Mary Edwards Walker, the first female Army surgeon, becomes the first woman to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

1918 – World War I ends at 11 AM with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. President Wilson proclaims November 11 a national holiday as Armistice Day in 1919. The holiday was renamed Veteran’s Day after WWII. In 1954, President Eisenhower made the first Veterans Day proclamation.

1921 – President Harding dedicates the Tomb of Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. The Tomb of the Unknowns has been guarded continuously 24/7/365 since 1937, including during hurricanes when Honor Guards refused to stand down. Guards are volunteers of the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, “The Old Guard,” at Fort Meyer, Virginia. Over 600 Tomb Guard Identification Badges have been awarded since they started counting in 1958.

1926 – U.S. Route 66 is established and, when completed, winds from Chicago to LA, more than two thousand miles all the way. Get your kicks on Route 66. The song of the same name was first recorded by Nat King Cole in 1946.

1939 – Kate Smith makes her first public performance of “God Bless America,” written by Russian-born immigrant Irving Berlin in 1918. Watch the quintessential performance of the patriotic song.



1992 – Russian President Boris Yeltsin tells U.S. senators in a letter that Americans had been held in prison camps after World War II. Some were “summarily executed,” but others were still living in his country voluntarily.

1993 – The Vietnam Women’s Memorial was dedicated in Washington, DC, to honor the more than 11,000 women who served in the Vietnam War.

1998 – Jay Cochrane sets a record for the longest blindfolded skywalk. He walked on a tightrope between the towers of the Flamingo Hilton in Las Vegas, which were 600 feet apart. Watch the death-defying walk.




November 12

1910 – A man jumps into Hudson River from a burning balloon for the first movie stunt.

1920 – District Court Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis is elected as the first baseball commissioner and is still the longest-serving commissioner. He served until his death in 1944 at age 78.

1926 – The first recorded aerial bombing on U.S. soil took place in Williamson County, Illinois, during a feud between rival bootlegger gangs, the Shelton brothers and the Charlie Birger gang. Members of each gang used trucks converted into armored vehicles and bombed their rival’s buildings. Binger was arrested for ordering the murder of Joe Adams, a local mayor. He was convicted and hanged in April of 1928. Two of the Shelton brothers were murdered by another rival gang. Earl, the last surviving brother, died in 1986 at age 96.

1954 – Ellis Island, the immigration station in New York Harbor, closes. It opened in 1892. Over 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island.

1966 – An 18-year-old high school student kills four women and a 3-year-old child in a beauty school to get fame and so people would remember his name. He was convicted of the murders and sentenced to death. His sentence was reduced to two 99-year sentences plus four life sentences. The here unnamed mass murderer is now 60 years old and still in prison.

1969 – The U.S. Army announces it is investigating Lt. William Calley for an alleged March 19th massacre of civilians in the Vietnamese village of My Lai. He was convicted on 22 counts of murder and sentenced to life in prison. President Nixon ordered Calley transferred to house arrest in Fort Benning, Georgia, where he remained for 3 ½ years. Calley is now 77 years old.

1975 – Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas retires after 36 years on the bench. He is still the longest-ever serving Supreme Court Justice. Douglas died in 1980 at age 81. Clarence Thomas is currently the longest-serving Jurist at 29 years.

1981 – Double Eagle V completes the first balloon crossing of Pacific Ocean from Japan to Baja California in 84 ½ hours. It set a new distance record of 5,768 miles. Watch a brief report on the historic flight.

1997 – Ramzi Yousef is found guilty of masterminding the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Yousef was sentenced to life plus 240 years to be served in solitary confinement.

2015 – “Out” Magazine names Barack Obama “Ally of the Year,” making him the first sitting U.S. President to pose for cover of a gay magazine. Watch a Pravda (Russian news) report.




November 13

1789 – Ben Franklin writes, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.”

1927 – The New York-New Jersey Holland Tunnel, the first twin-tube underwater auto tunnel, opens to traffic. Chief Engineer Clifford Holland died before its completion. Watch a documentary on the building of the tunnel.



1942 – The minimum military draft age is lowered from 21 to 18.

1946 – The first artificial snow is produced from a natural cloud in Mount Greylock, Massachusetts. An airplane flew over Mount Greylock and seeded the clouds with super-cooled ice crystals.

2001 – In the first such act since World War II, President George W. Bush signs an executive order allowing military tribunals against foreigners suspected of connections to terrorist acts or planned acts on the U.S.

2006 – A deal is finalized for Google Inc. to acquire YouTube for $1.65 million in Google stock.

2009 – NASA announces that water has been discovered on the moon. The discovery came from the planned impact on the moon of the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS). Watch a NASA press conference, with lunar maps.

2018 – The trial of Mexican drug lord “El Chapo” Guzman begins in New York City. He was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years for drug trafficking and money laundering.


November 14

1832 – The first horse-drawn streetcar (designed by John Stephenson) debuts in New York City. The fare was 12 cents to ride on 4th Avenue between Prince and 14th Streets.

1889 – New York World reporter Nellie Bly (Elizabeth Cochrane) begins her attempt to surpass the fictitious journey of Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg by traveling around world in less than 80 days. She succeeded by finishing the trip in January in 72 days and 6 hours, setting a real world record. In 1887, Bly feigned insanity to have herself committed to the women’s mental institution in New York City. She wrote “Ten Days in a Mad-House” to expose the brutality and neglect at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island. The asylum was closed in 1894.

1910 – The first airplane launches from the deck of a ship. Eugene Ely took off from the USS Birmingham at Hampton Roads, Virginia, and landed at the Willoughby Spit peninsula in Norfolk after a 5-minute flight. In January 1911, Ely became the first pilot to land on a ship when he took off from the Tanforan Racetrack and landed on the USS Pennsylvania anchored in the San Francisco Bay. Ely was killed in October 1911 while flying at an exhibition in Georgia. He was 24 years old.

1972 – Dow Jones closes above 1,000 for first time (1003.16). It took another 15 years to close above 2,000 (in 1987).

1993 – Don Shula becomes (and remains) the winningest coach in NFL history with his 325th victory with the Miami Dolphins in his 31-year career. He passed Coach George Halas’ record of 324 wins during his 40-year career with the Chicago Bears. Shula finished his coaching career with 328 wins. Shula died in 2020 at age 90. Watch an interview with Shula on his coaching career.



1997 – Disney’s “Lion King” sets a Broadway record of $2,700,000 one day sales. It is also the highest grossing Broadway show at $1.4 billion and counting, surpassing “Phantom of the Opera” in 2012.

2001 – The House of Representatives votes not to create an independent commission to investigate the September 11 attacks.


November 15

1763 – Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon begin surveying the “Mason-Dixon Line” to resolve a border dispute among Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. The official report that was issued in 1768 did not even mention their names.

1939 – The Social Security Administration approves the first unemployment check.

1957 – The U.S. sentences Soviet spy Rudolf Ivanovich Abel to 30 years in prison and fines him $3,000. He smuggled coded messages in hollow nickels. He served four years in prison before being exchanged for captured U-2 spy plane pilot Gary Powers. Abel died in 1971 at age 68.

1959 – Richard “Dick” Hickock and Perry Smith murder four members of the Clutter Family at their farm outside Holcomb, Kansas. The murders became the subject of Truman Capote’s book “In Cold Blood.”

1986 – Ivan F. Boesky, reputed to be the highest-paid person on Wall Street, faced penalties of $100 million for insider stock trading. He served 2 years of a 4-year sentence. It was the highest penalty ever imposed by the SEC. In a 1991 divorce, he was reportedly awarded a settlement from his wife of a $20 million lump payment plus $2 million a year for life, about half of what he was seeking. Boesky is now 83 years old.

1990 – Music producers confirm that singing duo Milli Vanilli (Fab Morvan & Rob Pilatus) didn’t sing on their album. Their Grammy Award was withdrawn when it was revealed the duo lip-synched their album. Pilatus died in 1998 at age 32. Morvan is now 54. Watch them perform (sort of) at the Grammys.


1995 – Atlantis becomes the first Space Shuttle to dock with the orbiting Russian space station “Mir.” Watch space cameras capture the docking.



2012 – BP settles with the U.S. Department of Justice for $4.5 billion after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill discharged an estimated 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. As of 2018, cleanup costs and penalties cost BP more than $65 billion.



Image from: nps.gov

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