This Week In History
by Dianne Hermann
“While I take inspiration from the past, like most Americans, I live for the future.”
– Ronald Reagan
Week of September 12-18, 2016
1776 – Nathan Hale, recruited by George Washington, slips behind enemy lines on Long Island, New York, on his first spy mission. Hale is arrested by the British on September 21st and hanged the following day. He is 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.
1916 – Adelina and August Van Buren finish the first successful transcontinental motorcycle tour attempted by two women. They start in New York City on July 5th.
1935 – Millionaire Howard Hughes sets a speed record of 352.46 mph in the H-1 Racer, an airplane of his own design. He goes on to design and build the largest aircraft ever flown, the Spruce Goose, in 1947.
1953 – Senator John F. Kennedy marries Jacqueline Lee Bouvier.
1954 – “Lassie” makes its television debut on TV. The last show airs in 1971. A total of nine collies played Lassie, all males. Watch the preview of the first show:
1959 – “Bonanza” premieres on NBC-TV. The final episode airs in 1973.
1963 – The last episode of “Leave it to Beaver” airs on TV. The show debuted in 1957.
1970 – University professor and activist Timothy Leary escapes from a California jail. He had been convicted following his 1968 arrest for marijuana possession.
1983 – Security guard Victor Gerena robs a Wells Fargo armored car facility of $7 million. He is placed on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list in 1984 but is never captured. Gerena holds the distinction of being on the Most Wanted List for the longest period of time. There is still a $1 million reward for info leading to his capture.
1990 – The U.S., England, France, USSR, East Germany, and West Germany sign agreements allowing the two Germanys to merge.
1994 – Frank Eugene Corder steals a Cessna airplane and crashes it into White House lawn. Corder, age 38, is 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.
2012 – Apple unveils its iPhone 5 and iOS 6.
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 flees to England to avoid prosecution, but 18 others are arrested and convicted of fourth-degree manslaughter. Lilly returns to the U.S., escapes to Honduras, and is 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) 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.
1948 – Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME) is elected as a senator, making her the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress.
1963 – “The Outer Limits” TV show premiers and airs until 1965. Watch the show’s introduction that reaches from the inner mind to the outer limits: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCcdr4O-3gE
1970 – Gary Muhrcke wins the first New York City Marathon in 2 hours 31 minutes 38 seconds.
1977 – The first TV “viewer discretion” warning is issued before the airing of “Soap,” a sitcom featuring Billy Crystal as a gay ventriloquist.
1977 – General Motors introduces the Oldsmobile 88, the first diesel automobile in the U.S.
1983 – The U.S. mint strikes its first gold coin in 50 years. It is the Olympic Eagle.
1998 – The New York Times newspaper closes its website after hackers add offensive material.
2001 – Civilian aircraft traffic resumes in the U.S. after the September 11, 2001 attack.
2008 – Hurricane Ike makes landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast, causing heavy damage to Galveston Island, Houston, and surrounding areas.
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 U.S. Burr is 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 is renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner” and put to music written by English composer John Stafford Smith. The song becomes 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 is struck and killed by a taxi when he steps off a streetcar in New York City. Manslaughter charges against the taxi driver are dropped.
1901 – Theodore Roosevelt, age 42, is sworn in as president after William McKinley dies, becoming the youngest man to serve as U.S. president. McKinley died after Leon Czolgosz shot him on September 6th in Buffalo, New York.
1936 – The first prefrontal lobotomy in the U.S. was performed at George Washington University by the neuropsychiatrist Walter Freeman and neurosurgeon James W. Watts.
1940 – Congress passes the Selective Service Act, providing the first peacetime draft in the U.S.
1948 – The groundbreaking ceremony for the United Nations world headquarters building is held in New York City. The building is completed in 1952. Representatives from 50 member countries sign the U.N. Charter in June of 1945.
1963 – Mary Ann Fischer of Aberdeen, South Dakota, gives birth to America’s first surviving quintuplets, four girls and a boy. Fischer died in 2012 at age 79.
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.
1983 – The House of Representatives votes 416 to 0 in favor of a resolution condemning Russia for shooting down Korean jetliner flight 007 on September 1st.
1984 – Bette Midler and Dan Aykroyd host the first MTV awards (now called the VMAs) at Radio City Music Hall. Michael Jackson takes home 3 awards for “Thriller.” Watch the show’s opening:
1999 – Disney World closes down for the first time in its 28-year history. The closure is due to Hurricane Floyd heading for Florida.
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 turns out to be a hoax. Mark Zuckerberg and President Barack Obama send out tweets supporting the student. The Mohamed family has since moved to Qatar.
1620 – The Mayflower departs Plymouth, England, with 102 pilgrims on board. They arrive at Plymouth Rock on December 21st.
1789 – The Department of Foreign Affairs is renamed the Department of State.
1853 – Antoinette Blackwell becomes the first woman in the U.S. ordained as a minister.
1930 – The first international bridge match is held in London. The U.S. team defeats England.
1949 – “The Lone Ranger” premieres on TV and airs in 1957. The theme song is March of the Swiss Soldiers, Gioachino Rossini’s finale of the William Tell Overture. Watch the intro:
1963 – A church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, kills 4 black girls.
1965 – “Lost in Space” and “Green Acres” premiere on TV. Lost in Space airs until 1968 and Green Acres airs until 1971.
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.
1998 – It is announced that 5.9 million people read The Starr Report on the Internet and 606,000 people read the White House defense of President Clinton.
1998 – Google.com is registered as a domain name.
1782 – The Great Seal of United States is used for first time. In June 1782 Congress commissions Charles Thomson to create the final design after three different committees fail 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.
1919 – The American Legion is incorporated by an act of Congress.
1926 – A hurricane that striles in Florida and Alabama kills 372 people.
1928 – A hurricane that strikes West Palm Beach/ Lake Okeechobee, Florida kills 3,000 people.
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: https://youtu.be/xYRbR4MjhUE
1974 – President Gerald Ford announces conditional amnesty for U.S. Vietnam War deserters.
1983 – Body builder, actor, and future California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger becomes a U.S. citizen. Schwarzenegger is elected governor in 2003 and serves two terms.
1990 – Iraq televises an 8-minute uncensored speech by President George Bush.
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 opens in November 2000 and is 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.”
2013 – Twelve people are killed after a gunman opens fire at a naval yard in Washington, D.C.
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.
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.
1859 – Joshua Norton of San Francisco declares himself Norton I, Emperor of America, after losing his money trying to corner the rice market. Norton died in 1880 at age 61.
1908 – Army Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge becomes the first person to die in a plane crash. He is a passenger with the Wright Brothers.
1911 – The first transcontinental airplane flight from New York to California is completed in 82 hours and 4 minutes.
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 (Beethoven’s 5th).
1947 – The U.S. Department of Defense forms, with James Forrestal as the first Secretary of Defense.
1964 – “Bewitched” premieres on TV and airs until 1972.
1972 – “M*A*S*H” premieres on TV and airs until 1983. The TV show lasts three times longer than the Korean War it represents.
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. Willians, now 53, 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 serves 10 years of a life sentence and is freed after the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the conviction citing the “carnival atmosphere” of the trial. Sheppard is acquitted in a 1966 retrial. The case is the basis for the TV show “The Fugitive.” Sheppard died in 1970 at age 46.
2007 – AOL, once the largest ISP 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.
2010 – The 54-year run of the soap opera “As the World Turns” ends when its final episode is broadcast.
2011 – The Occupy Wall Street movement begins in Zuccotti Park, New York City. Watch a video from the park of people doing nothing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRA25I15bvg
2012 – United States and Japanese government officials agree to put a second missile defence system in Japan.
2015 – The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that the 2015 Northern Hemisphere summer was the hottest on record (only about 150 years of records).
1793 – President George Washington lays the cornerstone of the Capitol building. It isn’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 allows for the capture and return of escaped slaves. Congress repeals the laws in 1864.
1851 – The New York Times starts publishing its newspaper. Each paper sells for 2 cents a copy.
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 is given the name “Gaiiwanoh” meaning “The Watcher.”
1927 – The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) goes on the air with 18 stations.
1932 – Actress Peg Entwistle commits suicide by jumping from the letter “H” in the Hollywood sign in California. She was 24 years old.
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: https://youtu.be/RE8QPLk2zxI
1957 – “Wagon Train” premiers on TV and airs until 1965.
1977 – NASA’s Voyager I takes the first space photograph of the earth and moon together.
1990 – Atlanta is chosen to host the centennial 1996 Summer Olympics.
1997 – Ted Turner announces he will donate $1 billion to the United Nations over the next 10 years.
2001 – The first in a series of anthrax letters is mailed from Trenton, New Jersey, in the anthrax attacks. Five people die and 17 others are infected from anthrax exposure.
2009 – The 59-year run of the soap opera “The Guiding Light” ends when its final episode airs.