This Week in History: Oct. 28-Nov. 3, 2019


This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann

“No problem of human making is too great to be overcome by
human ingenuity, human energy, and the untiring hope of the human spirit.”
President George H. W. Bush

Week of Oct. 28-Nov. 3, 2019


October 28

1636 – Harvard University is founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts, making it the oldest university in America.

1858 – Macy’s Department store opens in New York City. Rowland Macy opened the store after his first seven business ventures fail. Macy died in 1877 at age 54.

1886 – The Statue of Liberty is dedicated by President Grover Cleveland. The event was celebrated by the first confetti (ticker tape) parade in New York City. The inscription, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses …” is part of the poem “The New Colossus” written by Emma Lazarus in 1883 to raise funds for the statue’s pedestal. A plaque, with the entire poem, was added to the pedestal in 1903.

1904 – The St. Louis Police Department is the first to try a new investigation method when they test for fingerprints.

1919 – Congress passes the Volstead Act over President Wilson’s veto, which starts Prohibition. It lasted 13 years, until the 21st amendment repealed it.

1962 – New York Giant quarterback Y.A. Tittle passes for a record 7 touchdowns against the Washington Redskins, winning 49-34. He shares that record with seven other quarterbacks, most recently Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints vs. New York Giants on November 1, 2015). Watch a video with an interview with YA:

1962 – Soviet leader Khrushchev agrees to remove missiles from Cuba, ending the 13-day Cuban Missile Crisis.

1965 – The Gateway Arch along the waterfront in St. Louis, Missouri, is completed. It is the world’s tallest arch at 630 feet, and the tallest man-made monument in the Northern Hemisphere.

1985 – John A. Walker Jr. and his son Michael Lance Walker plead guilty to charges of spying for the Soviet Union. John A. Walker Jr. was sentenced to life in prison and died in 2014 at age 77. Michael Lance Walker was released from prison in 2000 after serving 15 years of his 25-year sentence.

2005 – Lewis Libby, Vice-president Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, is indicted in the Valerie Plame/CIA case. Libby resigned later that day. Libby, who had nothing to do with the release of Plame’s name as a CIA agent, was convicted of perjury and sentenced to 30 months in prison. President Bush commuted Libby’s sentence, but did not pardon him.

October 29

1682 – William Penn lands in what will become his name sake, Pennsylvania.

1929 – On what is known as “Black Tuesday” the stock market crashes, triggering “The Great Depression.” This is not to be confused with the “Depression of 1893,” which was caused by the Panic of 1893 after the dramatic drop in wheat prices and the receivership of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad.

1940 – The first peacetime military draft begins in the U.S.

1960 – Eighteen-year-old Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) wins his first professional fight, beating Tunney Hunsaker by decision in 6 rounds. Ali died in 2016 at age 74. Watch part of the bout (no sound):

1966 – The National Organization of Women (NOW) is founded by Shirley Chisholm, Betty Friedan, and Muriel Fox.

1998 – The Space Shuttle Discovery blasts off on Mission STS-95 with 77-year old John Glenn on board, making Glenn the oldest person to go into space. Glenn was the first American is space in 1962. Glenn died in 2016 at age 95.

2004 – The Arabic news network Al Jazeera broadcasts an excerpt from a video of Osama bin Laden in which the terrorist leader first admits direct responsibility for the September 11, 2001 attacks and references the 2004 U.S. presidential election.

October 30

1768 – Wesley Chapel in New York City is initiated as the first Methodist church in the U.S.

1873 – The P. T. Barnum’s circus debuts in New York City. In 1919, the Barnum & Bailey Circus merged with Ringling Brothers to become “The Greatest Show on Earth”. The circus closed in May 2017 citing lower attendance and higher operating costs. Watch a CBS This Morning report on the end of an American institution:

1888 – John J. Loud patents the ballpoint pen. On October 29, 1945, the first ballpoint pen went on sale, 57 years after it was patented.

1900 – The first-ever major U.S. auto show opens in Madison Square Garden in New York City. The cars ranged in price from $280 to $4,000. None of the 66 automakers whose cars were on display exist today, including the Electric Vehicle Company, Columbia Automobile Company, Winton Motor Carriage Company, Stanley Motor Carriage Company, Locomobile Company of America, and Oldsmobile. The car show has been held annually in New York since 1900.

1938 – Orson Welles creates a national panic with his radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds.” The radio drama was an adaptation of the 1897 novel “The War of the Worlds” by H.G. Wells. Announcements were made four times during the broadcast that it was an adaptation of a work of fiction. Orson Welles and H.G. Wells met in October 1940 for a radio interview two years after the broadcast. H.G. Wells died in 1946 at age 79 and Orson Welles died in 1985 at age 70.

1945 – Branch Rickey signs Jackie Robinson to the Montreal Royals baseball team to break the major league color barrier.

1974 – California Angels pitcher Nolan Ryan throws the fastest recorded baseball pitch at 100.9 MPH. On September 24, 2010, San Diego Padres pitcher Aroldis Chapman bested that by throwing a 105.1 MPH pitch. Watch a video of the top 5 fastest throwing pitchers in MLB history:

2012 – Walt Disney purchases Lucasfilm Ltd. and its rights for Star Wars and Indiana Jones for $4.05 billion.

October 31

1846 – The Donner party, unable to cross the Sierra Nevada pass, constructs a winter camp. Only 48 of the 90 people who left Illinois arrived in California the following spring after three rescue attempts. Some of them resorted to cannibalism to survive.

1913 – The first U.S. paved coast-to-coast highway, the Lincoln Highway, is dedicated. It ran from Lincoln Park, California, to New York City, New York, and spanned 3,389 miles.

1926 – Magician Harry Houdini dies of gangrene and peritonitis resulting from a ruptured appendix. His appendix had been damaged twelve days earlier when a student unexpectedly punched Houdini in the stomach. Houdini was 52 years old.

1941 – Mount Rushmore in South Dakota is declared complete after 14 years of work. It shows the 60-foot busts of U.S. Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

1950 – Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola of Puerto Rico attempt to kill President Truman at his Blair House residence in Washington, DC. Torresola shot and mortally wounded police guard Leslie Coffelt, but not before the officer shot and killed Torresola. Collazo was captured, tried, and sentenced to death. His sentence was later commuted to life in prison. In 1979, President Carter reduced his sentence to time served (27 years) and Collazo was released. He died in Puerto Rico in 1994 at age 80.

1959 – Lee Harvey Oswald announces from Moscow that he will never return to the U.S. Oswald returned to the U.S. and then assassinated President Kennedy on November 22, 1963.

1968 – President Lyndon B. Johnson orders a halt to all U.S. bombing of North Vietnam, which started in June of 1965.

2002 – A federal grand jury in Houston, Texas, formally indicts former Enron Corp. chief financial officer Andrew Fastow on 78 counts of wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice related to the collapse of his company Enron. In 2006, Fastow was sentenced to only 6 years in prison and was released in 2011. Fastow is now 57 years old.

2003 – Bethany Hamilton, age 13, has her arm bitten off by a shark while surfing in Hawaii. Her story was the basis for the 2011 inspirational movie “Soul Surfer.” Hamilton is now 29 years old. Watch Bethany tell her own story:

November 1

1765 – The Stamp Act goes into effect in the American colonies. The law passed by the British Parliament was a new tax on every piece of printed paper used by the American colonists.

1776 – Mission San Juan Capistrano is founded in California. Swallows return to the mission on March 19th every year.

1800 – John Adams becomes the first president to live in the White House. Construction began in October of 1792.

1870 – The U.S. Weather Bureau makes its first meteorological observations using 24 locations that provided reports via telegraph.

1938 – Seabiscuit beats War Admiral in a match race at Pimlico horse racing track. President FDR paused a cabinet meeting to listen to the race on the radio. Watch the original footage of the exciting race:

1964 – George Blanda of the Houston Oilers throws a National Football League record 37 passes in 68 attempts. (Drew Bledsoe broke the record with 70 in 1994.) Blanda also holds the record as the oldest player to start a game at age 48 and the longest career with 26 seasons. Blanda died in 2010 at age 83. Watch 46-year-old Blanda complete a 28-yard pass for a touchdown:

1968 – The movie rating system of G, M, R, X, PG-13 and NC-17 goes into effect.

1982 – Honda becomes the first Asian automobile company to produce cars in the U.S. when its factory opens in Marysville, Ohio.

1994 – The domain name is registered. Amazon is now one of the top 10 retailers in the world.

2012 – American scientists detect evidence of light from the universe’s first stars, predicted to have formed 500 million years after the Big Bang.

November 2

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 and 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 is now 93 years old. 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.

November 3

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.

1917 – The first class stamp goes up to 3 cents.

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: Clarence Birdseye

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 47, 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 names “Brexit” the word of the year. It defined the noun as “the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.” The 2017 word of the year was “Fake News.” The 2018 word was “Single-Use.” One of the words on the 2018 short list was Flossing (the dance).


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