This Week in History: Oct. 30-Nov. 5, 2023

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This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann

“History is a vast early warning system.” Norman Cousins

Oct. 30-Nov. 5, 2023




October 30

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.



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 United States. 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 six years in prison and was released in 2011. Fastow is now 61 years old.

2003 – Bethany Hamilton, age 14, 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 33 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.

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.



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 Amazon.com domain name is registered. Amazon is now the 2nd largest retailer in the world (after Walmart).

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.

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. Thurmond died in 2003 at age 100 as the oldest person to serve in Congress.

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.


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.

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 52, 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. Subsequent words of the year are “Fake News” in 2017, “Single-Use” in 2018, “Climate Strike” in 2019, and “Lockdown” in 2020. Oxford Dictionary named “vax” the 2021 word of the year and “goblin mode” the 2022 word of the year.


November 4

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 66 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 current president George H.W. Bush. It was the first time five presidents (former and current) had ever met together. There are currently five living former presidents – Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. 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.


November 5

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 7th, 1944, but FDR died in April of 1945 at age 63. FDR is the only president to serve more than two 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.



Image from: nypost.com


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