This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann
“History is a vast early warning system.” Norman Cousins
Sept. 11-17, 2023
September 11 (National Day of Service and Remembrance)
1941 – Construction begins on the Pentagon and it is completed on January 15, 1943. The Pentagon is actually located in Northern Virginia just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC.
2001 – Two passenger planes hijacked by terrorists crash into New York City’s World Trade Center Towers, causing the collapse of both buildings and killing of 2,752 people. Terrorists hijacked another passenger plane and crashed it into the Pentagon, killing of 125 people. A fourth hijacked airplane crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after passengers and crew attempted to regain control of the aircraft. All 64 people on board were killed. Let’s roll!
2002 – The Pentagon is rededicated after repairs are completed, exactly one year after the terrorist attack on the building.
2011 – The Memorial Plaza at the National September 11th Memorial in New York City opens for the first time during a ceremony at the World Trade Center site.
1776 – Nathan Hale, recruited by George Washington, slips behind enemy lines on Long Island, New York, on his first spy mission. Hale was arrested by the British on September 21st and hanged the following day. He was 21 years old. Hale is credited with saying, “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”
1910 – Alice Stebbins Wells is appointed the world’s first female police officer by the Los Angeles Police Department.
1935 – Millionaire Howard Hughes sets a speed record of 352.46 mph in the H-1 Racer, an airplane of his own design. He went on to design and build the largest aircraft ever flown, the Spruce Goose, in 1947. The aircraft is on display at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon.
1954 – “Lassie” makes its television debut on TV. The last show aired in 1974. A total of nine collies played Lassie, all males, and all descendants of the original Lassie, named Pal, who died in 1958. Watch the preview of the first show.
1983 – Security guard Victor Gerena robs a Wells Fargo armored car facility of $7 million. He was placed on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list in 1984 but was never captured. Gerena holds the distinction of being on the Most Wanted List for the longest period of time, although he was removed from the list in 2016. There is still a $1 million reward for information leading to his capture.
1994 – Frank Eugene Corder steals a Cessna airplane and crashes it into White House lawn. Corder, age 38, was killed in the crash.
2001 – Article V of the NATO agreement is invoked for the first and only time in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks against the U.S. Article V states that an attack against one NATO member country is an attack against them all and allows for the use of armed force.
2003 – The U.N. lifts sanctions against Libya after it accepts responsibility for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 and agrees to compensate the families of the victims, including 35 students from Syracuse University.
1788 – New York City becomes the capital of the United States. Washington, DC, becomes our nation’s capital in 1790.
1842 – Tom McCoy becomes the first recorded U.S. boxing fatality. His opponent, Christopher Lilly fled to England to avoid prosecution, but 18 others were arrested and convicted of fourth-degree manslaughter. Lilly returned to the U.S., escaped to Honduras, and was executed in 1857.
1934 – Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, baseball’s first commissioner, sells the rights to the World Series broadcast rights (for the first time ever) to the Ford Motor Company for $100,000.
1939 – Igor Sikorsky makes the first (tethered) flight of the Vought-Sikorsky VS-300, one of the first viable U.S. helicopters. Watch a newsreel of the helicopter being flown to the Henry Ford Museum in 1943.
1948 – Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME) is elected as a senator, making her the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress.
1977 – The first TV “viewer discretion” warning is issued before the airing of “Soap,” a sitcom featuring Billy Crystal.
2001 – Civilian aircraft flights resume after the 9-11 attacks.
2017 – The International Olympic Committee announces that Los Angeles will host the 2028 Summer Olympics. The last two Summer Olympics held in the U.S were in Atlanta in 1996 and Los Angeles in 1984. The last Winter Olympics held in the U.S. was in Salt Lake City in 2002.
1752 – Britain and the American colonies adopt the Gregorian calendar. There is no September 3 – September 13.
1807 – Former Vice President Aaron Burr is acquitted of treason and misdemeanor charges for trying to “raise and levy war” against the United States. Burr was also acquitted of murdering Alexander Hamilton in an 1804 duel.
1814 – Francis Scott Key is inspired to write the poem “Defense of Fort McHenry” while he is a prisoner on board a ship near Fort McHenry outside Baltimore, Maryland. The poem was renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner” and put to music written by English composer John Stafford Smith. The song became our national anthem in 1931. That original flag, now restored, is on display of the Museum of American History in Washington, DC.
1872 – Britain pays the U.S. $15 ½ million for damages done to Union ships during the Civil War by ships built by the British for the Confederacy.
1899 – Henry Bliss becomes the first automobile fatality in the U.S. He was struck and killed by a taxi when he stepped off a streetcar in New York City. Manslaughter charges against the taxi driver were dropped.
1940 – Congress passes the Selective Service Act, providing for the first peacetime military draft in the U.S.
1948 – The groundbreaking ceremony for the United Nations world headquarters building is held in New York City. The building was completed in 1952. Representatives from 50 member countries signed the U.N. Charter in June of 1945.
1964 – Walt Disney is awarded the Medal of Freedom at the White House by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
1975 – Pope Paul VI canonizes Mother Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton as the first U.S.-born saint. She was the founder of the first American group of religious nuns, the Sisters of Charity.
1984 – Bette Midler and Dan Aykroyd host the first MTV awards (now called the VMAs) at Radio City Music Hall. Michael Jackson took home 3 awards for “Thriller.” Watch the show’s opening. First MTV awards
2001 – An historic National Prayer Service is held at the Washington National Cathedral for victims of the September 11 attacks.
2015 – Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old Texas student, is arrested at school when his home-made clock is thought to be a bomb. It turned out to be a hoax. Mark Zuckerberg and President Barack Obama sent out tweets supporting the student. The Mohamed family moved to Qatar a month later.
1620 – The Mayflower departs Plymouth, England, with 102 pilgrims on board. They arrived at Plymouth Rock on December 21st.
1789 – The Department of Foreign Affairs is renamed the Department of State.
1949 – “The Lone Ranger” premieres on TV and airs until 1957. The theme song is “March of the Swiss Soldiers,” Gioachino Rossini’s finale of the William Tell Overture. Watch the intro.
1966 – President Lyndon B. Johnson, responding to a sniper attack at the University of Texas at Austin, writes a letter to Congress urging the enactment of gun control legislation.
1982 – The Gannett Company publishes the first issue of the USA Today newspaper. It is now available in print or online.
1998 – Google.com is registered as a domain name.
2008 – Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc. filed for Chapter 11 protection with $691 billion in assets. It is still the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.
1782 – The Great Seal of United States is used for first time. In June 1782 Congress commissioned Charles Thomson to create the final design after three different committees failed to agree on a design.
1863 – American philanthropist Christopher Robert becomes the founder of Robert College of Istanbul-Turkey, the first American educational institution outside the U.S.
1908 – Carriage-maker William Durant becomes the founder of General Motors with $2,000 of his own money.
1940 – Samuel T. Rayburn of Texas is elected Speaker of House of Representatives, where he serves until his death in 1961. The Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC, completed in 1965, is named for him.
1968 – Presidential candidate Richard Nixon appears on the “Laugh-in” TV show. Watch the 6-second video.
1974 – President Gerald Ford announces conditional amnesty for U.S. Vietnam War deserters.
1994 – Exxon Corporation is ordered by a federal jury to pay $5 billion in punitive damages to the people harmed by the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.
1998 – Universal pays $9 million for the rights to the Dr. Seuss classics “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.” The Grinch movie opened in November 2000 and was directed by Ron Howard.
2008 – The failure of numerous U.S. financial institutions is a result of the subprime loans and credit defaults and leads to the “Panic of 2008.”
1778 – The first treaty between the United States and an Indian tribe is signed at Fort Pitt, Pennsylvania, with the Lenape Indians.
1787 – The U.S. constitution is adopted by the Philadelphia Convention. The Constitution was ratified in June 1788 and became effective May 1789.
1849 – Harriet Tubman escapes slavery in Maryland with two of her brothers. Over a ten-year time span Tubman makes 19 trips to the South and escorts over 300 slaves to freedom.
1908 – Army Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge becomes the first person to die in a plane crash. He was a passenger on a flight with Orville Wright.
1911 – Pilot Calbraith Perry Rodgers completes the first transcontinental airplane flight from New York to California is in 82 hours and 4 minutes. He was killed in a plane crash the following April at age 33.
1920 – The National Football League organizes in Canton, Ohio. Twelve teams pay $100 each to join American Professional Football Association. The NFL Hall of Fame opens in Canton in 1963.
1934 – RCA Victor releases the first 33 1/3 rpm recording. It was Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.
1947 – The U.S. Department of Defense is formed, with James Forrestal as the first Secretary of Defense. Lloyd Austin, the current Secretary of Defense, is a West Point Graduate who served in the military 41 years, retiring as a 4-star general.
1983 – Twenty-year-old Vanessa Williams (Miss New York), crowned the 56th Miss America, is the first black Miss America. In July 1984, nude photos taken of Williams in her freshman year of college are published in Penthouse Magazine. She was asked to resign and is allowed to keep her crown, title, and scholarship money but loses millions of dollars in endorsements. Williams, now 60, has a successful music, TV, and movie career. Watch the crowning.
1997 – Dr. Sam Sheppard’s body is exhumed for DNA test, which proves he did not murder his pregnant wife in 1954. Sheppard served 10 years of a life sentence and was freed after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the conviction citing the “carnival atmosphere” of the trial. Sheppard was acquitted in a 1966 retrial. The case was the basis for the TV show “The Fugitive.” Sheppard died in 1970 at age 46.
2007 – AOL, once the largest Internet service provider in the U.S., officially announces plans to refocus the company as an advertising business and to relocate its corporate headquarters from Dulles, Virginia, to New York City, New York. Now, AOL doesn’t even crack the top 20 ISP list.
2011 – The Occupy Wall Street movement begins in Zuccotti Park, New York City. The idea was proposed by Adbusters, a Canadian group. Watch young people try to explain what they are doing.
2015 – The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that the 2015 Northern Hemisphere summer was the hottest on record (based on only 150 years of records). NOAA has since reported that 2020 was the hottest meteorological summer on record. NOAA also reported that July 2023 was the hottest month on record.
Image from: 911memorial.org