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 Sept. 16-22, 2019
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. James Mattis is the current Defense Secretary.
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 is asked to resign and is allowed to keep her crown, title, and scholarship money but loses millions of dollars in endorsements. Williams, now 56, 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 is 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. Watch young people trying 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).
1793 – President George Washington lays the cornerstone of the Capitol building. It wasn’t completed until 1826 because of construction issues and the War of 1812.
1850 – Congress passes the Fugitive Slave Acts as part of the Compromise of 1850. It allowed for the capture and return of escaped slaves. Congress repealed the laws in 1864.
1891 – Harriet Maxwell Converse is the first white woman to become an Indian chief and is given responsibility of the welfare of the Seneca Nation. She was given the name “Gaiiwanoh” meaning “The Watcher.”
1932 – Actress Peg Entwistle commits suicide by jumping from the letter “H” in the Hollywoodland sign in California. She was 24 years old. The letters “land” were removed during renovations in 1949.
1947 – The United States Air Force becomes a separate branch of the military.
1955 – The “Ed Sullivan Show” premiers on TV and airs until 1971. The show had been called “The Toast of the Town” since 1948. Watch an act from one of the earliest shows:
2001 – The first in a series of anthrax letters is mailed from Trenton, New Jersey, in the anthrax attacks. Five people died and 17 others were infected from anthrax exposure.
1778 – The Continental Congress passes the first budget of the U.S.
1928 – Mickey Mouse makes his screen debut as Steamboat Willie at New York City’s Colony Theater. Watch the primitive animated movie:
1934 – Bruno Hauptmann is arrested for the 1932 kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby. The body of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s baby was found two months after the kidnapping. Hauptmann was convicted and then executed in 1936.
1947 – Jackie Robinson is named baseball’s “Rookie of Year.” In 1949, he was named the most valuable player (MVP). Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. Robinson died in 1972 at age 53.
1959 – Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev is denied access to Disneyland during his visit to the U.S. Watch Walt Disney describe what the tour would have included:
1961 – Betty and Barney Hill claim they saw a mysterious craft in the sky and that the UFO abducted them. The Hills were interviewed extensively by the Air Force and the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. They were also hypnotized by Boston psychiatrist Benjamin Simon, who concluded their case was a singular psychological aberration.
1982 – Scott Fahlman is the first person to use the sideways smiley face 🙂 in an online message.
1988 – U.S. Olympic diver Greg Louganis cuts his head on diving board at the Seoul Summer Olympics, causing a concussion. Louganis did not reveal at the time that he was HIV positive. Louganis is now 59 years old. Watch the accident:
1995 – The Senate passes the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act welfare overhaul bill. President Clinton signed the bill in 1996 fulfilling his 1992 campaign promise to “end welfare as we have come to know it.”
1797 – The U.S. frigate Constitution (Old Ironsides) is launched in Boston.
1814 – “The Star Spangled Banner” is published as a song. Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics and John Stafford Smith wrote the tune.
1884 – The Equal Rights Party is the first political party to nominate female candidates for both President (Belva Ann Lockwood) and Vice President (Marieta Stow). Belva Ann Lockwood, a lawyer, was also the first woman to argue before the Supreme Court.
1924 – Carl Mays becomes the first pitcher to win 20 games in each season for 3 different teams. He also holds the dubious distinction of being the only player to cause the death of another player. In 1920, Mays hit batter Ray Chapman in the head with a pitch and Chapman died the next day.
1973 – Billie Jean King (age 29) beats Bobby Riggs (age 55) in the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match. King is now 75 years old. Riggs died in 1995 at age 77. Watch a report about the match:
1985 – Walt Disney World admits its 200-millionth guest. The park opened on October 1, 1971. Disneyland/ Disney World is the #1 theme park in the world by attendance. Over 150 million guests attended Walt Disney parks in 2017.
2001 – President George W. Bush declares a “war on terror” in an address to a joint session of Congress and the American people. Watch part of the speech:
2011 – The U.S. ends its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, allowing gay men and women to serve openly in the military for the first time. The policy was initiated by the Clinton Administration in 1994.
2013 – “Grand Theft Auto V” becomes the entertainment product to reach $1 billion in sales the fastest. (3 days)
1780 – Benedict Arnold gives British Major John Andre the plans for an attack on West Point. Major Andre is captured and is hanged on October 2nd. Benedict Arnold escapes and becomes an officer in the British Army.
1827 – According to Joseph Smith, Jr., the Angel Moroni gave him a record of gold plates, one-third of which Joseph translated into The Book of Mormon.
1897 – The New York Sun runs the famous “Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus” editorial in response to a letter written by 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon. Virginia met Santa Claus in 1969. She died in 1971 at age 81. Santa Claus is still living.
1922 – President Warren G. Harding signs a joint resolution of approval to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
1954 – The first nuclear submarine, USS Nautilus, is commissioned under the Command of Eugene P. Wilkinson. It was named for Jules Verne’s fictional submarine in “Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea.” The Nautilus was the first vessel to navigate the North Pole. It was decommissioned in 1980.
1970 – “Monday Night Football” premieres on TV. The Browns beat the Jets 31-21.
1981 – Sandra Day O’Connor becomes the first female Supreme Court Justice. She served until retirement on January 31, 2006. O’Connor is now 89 years old. Watch a brief bio:
1981 – The IBM-PC computer is introduced. When it went on sale to the public in August it cost $1,565.
2008 – Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, the two last remaining independent investment banks on Wall Street, become bank holding companies as a result of the subprime mortgage crisis.
1789 – The Office of Postmaster General is created under the Treasury Department. Ben Franklin was the first Postmaster General.
1863 – President Lincoln makes his Emancipation Proclamation speech. It was published in Northern newspapers the following day.
1893 – The Duryea brothers build America’s first automobile in Springfield, Massachusetts. It had a one-cylinder engine, three speeds, and traveled at 10 miles an hour.
1911 – Baseball pitcher Cy Young, age 44, wins his 511th and final game. The best pitcher of the year award is named for Cy Young, who died in 1955. Don Newcombe was first Cy Young winner in 1956.
1922 – Congress passes the Cable Act, under which an American woman who marries an “alien” will not lose her citizenship, neither will a women marrying an American automatically become a U.S. citizen.
1966 – The unmanned spacecraft Surveyor 2, launched on September 20th, crashes on the Moon in a failed landing attempt.
1975 – Sara Jane Moore tries to assassinate President Gerald Ford in San Francisco, California, just 17 days after Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme’s assassination attempt. Moore was convicted and given a life sentence. She was released in 2007 after serving 32 years. Moore is now 89 years old.
1985 – Willie Nelson’s first Farm Aid concert is held in Champaign, Illinois. The concert was attended by 80,000 people and raised $9 million. Watch Willie perform at the first concert:
1993 – Nolan Ryan pitches his last game at age 46. He holds the record for the most strikeouts of all time (5,714), the most no-hitters of all time (7), and the fastest “officially recorded” pitch thrown in a baseball game (100.9 miles per hour). Ryan is the only player to have his number retired by three baseball teams (Angels, Astros, and Rangers). He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999 with the second highest percentage of votes of all time (98.7% of ballots). Amazingly, Nolan Ryan never won the Cy Young Award.
2016 – Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby is charged with manslaughter for fatally shooting Terence Crutcher during a traffic stop. Autopsy results showed Crutcher had PCP and TCP in his system. Shelby was found not guilty of “unlawfully and unnecessarily” shooting Crutcher. She later resigned from the Tulsa Police Department and became an Oklahoma Sheriff’s Deputy.
Image from latimes.com