This Week in History: Aug 14-20, 2023


This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann

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

Aug 14-20, 2023

August 14

1911 – Senate leaders begin rotating the office of President pro tempore of the Senate among leading candidates to fill the vacancy left by the death William P. Frye.

1935 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act into law, creating unemployment insurance and pension plans for senior citizens.

1936 – Rainey Bethea is hanged in Owensboro, Kentucky, in the last public execution in the U.S. Bethea was convicted of rape and murder based on his fingerprints, a new identification technique.

1941 – President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill issue the joint declaration that later becomes known as the Atlantic Charter. Although not a treaty, it was an affirmation “of certain common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they based their hopes for a better future for the world.” Watch a Discovery video with actual footage.

1945 – In what is called V-J Day, Japan surrenders unconditionally to end World War II after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on August 6th and 9th respectively.

1966 – The first U.S. lunar spacecraft, Lunar Orbiter 1, begins orbiting the Moon. It crashed on the far side of the moon on October 29th after 577 moon orbits.

1974 – Congress authorizes U.S. citizens to own gold again. The Gold Reserve Act of January 1934 outlawed most private possession of gold.

2015 – Patrick Hardison receives the most extensive full face transplant surgery ever performed. The surgery was done by Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez at New York University Langone Medical Center. Hardison was a volunteer firefighter who was severely burned in a 2001 fire. Watch a graphic documentary by the Medical Center.

August 15

1635 – The first recorded hurricane in the U.S. hits the Plymouth Colony.

1824 – Freed American slaves form the country of Christopolis in Africa. The settlement was renamed Monrovia after the American president James Monroe. It claimed its independence in 1847. The colony, now formally called Liberia, is the oldest democratic republic in Africa.

1914 – The Panama Canal opens to trans-oceanic traffic. Work began on the canal in 1904. The grand opening procession that was planned was cancelled after the outbreak of World War I. In 1977, President Carter signed the Panama Canal Treaty, which returned control of the canal to Panama in 1999.

1969 – Woodstock Music & Art Fair opens in New York State on Max Yasgur’s 600-acre Dairy Farm. Thirty-two musical acts performed at the outdoor concert. An estimated 400,000 people attended the 3-day event. (Woodstock 50, scheduled for 2019, was cancelled due to permit issues, venue relocations, and artist cancellations.) Watch Max welcome the crowd.

1970 – Patricia Palinkas becomes the first woman professional football player. She was the holder for the Orlando Panthers in the Atlantic Coast Football League.

1995 – Shannon Faulkner becomes the first female cadet in the history of The Citadel, South Carolina’s state military college, when she won her battle for admission in a Supreme Court decision. She quit the school after five days. The Citadel dropped its gender requirements for admission in July 1996 and admitted four women in August 1996. Shannon Faulkner Marshall is now 45 years old. Watch her interview with Oprah then and now.

2017 – A tweet by former president Obama becomes the most liked tweet in history. He tweeted, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion.”

August 16

1829 – Conjoined twin brothers Chang and Eng Bunker of Siam arrive in Boston to be exhibited in the circus. The Siamese twins married two sisters in 1843 and had 21 children between them. The twins died on the same day in 1874 at age 62.

1863 – President Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation.

1898 – Edwin Prescott patents the “Loop-the-Loop” roller coaster. The first roller coaster in the U.S., however, is built by L. A. Thompson and opened at Coney Island, New York, in June of 1884. It was based on railway designs. It closed in 1910.

1920 – Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians is hit in the head by a pitch from New York Yankees pitcher Carl Mays. Chapman died the next day and is the only major league baseball player game fatality.

1949 – During the Truman Administration, U.S. General Omar Bradley becomes the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On September 22, 1950, Congress officially promoted Bradley to General of the Army with five stars. He was the last officer promoted to that rank, and the only one since World War II.

1954 – “Sports Illustrated” publishes its first magazine. Milwaukee Braves baseball player Eddie Mathews was on the cover.

1960 – Joseph Kittinger, Jr. sets the free-fall world record from 19 ½ miles. He fell more than 16 miles (over 102,000 feet) before opening his parachute over New Mexico. In 2012, Kittinger served as the capsule communicator for Felix Baumgartner’s record-setting free-fall from 24 miles. Kittinger died in 2022 at age 94. Watch a news report of Kittinger jump.

2003 – Representative Bill Janklow (R-SD) runs a stop sign and hits and kills a motorcyclist at a rural intersection near Trent, South Dakota. He was eventually convicted of manslaughter and resigned from Congress in January 2004. Janklow died of brain cancer in 2012 at age 72.

August 17

1859 – The first airmail flight takes off from Lafayette, Indiana, in a hot air balloon.

1903 – Journalist and publisher Joseph Pulitzer donates $1 million to Columbia University to begin the Pulitzer Prizes. The first Pulitzer Prizes were awarded in 1917 to Herbert Bayard Swope of the New York World newspaper for his articles entitled “Inside the German Empire” and the biography Julia Ward Howe by Laura E. Richards and Maude Howe Elliott. The New York Tribune received an award for an editorial on the first anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania.

1945 – At the end of World War II North and South Korea are divided along the 38th parallel, also known as the DMZ, or demilitarized zone. The U.S. occupied the area south of the 150-mile-long 38th parallel and the Soviet Union occupied the area north of the parallel.

1958 – The U.S. attempts to launch the world’s first Moon probe, Thor-Able, which fails when it explodes at T+77 seconds (77 seconds after takeoff).

1960 – The U-2 spy trial of downed American pilot Francis Gary Powers begins in Moscow. Powers pleaded guilty to espionage and was sentenced to three years in prison and seven years hard labor. He served 21 months and was exchanged for convicted KGB spy Rudolph Abel in February 1962, who served 4 years of his 45-year sentence. Watch a report including interviews with Powers.

1992 – Actor Woody Allen admits to being romantically involved with 21-year-old Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of Mia Farrow, who is Allen’s longtime companion. Allen and Previn were married in 1997 and are still married. Allen is now 87 and Previn is 52 years old.

1996 – Ross Perot is announced as the Reform Party’s first-ever presidential candidate. He garnered 19 percent of the popular vote in the November election. Perot died in 2019 at age 89.

1998 – President Bill Clinton admits in taped testimony that he had an “improper physical relationship” with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. He admitted before the nation that he “misled people” about his relationship with her. Watch Clinton’s public mea culpa.

2017 – The US-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) witnesses the first collision of two neutron stars.

August 18

1735 – The Boston Evening Post newspaper begins publishing in Boston, Massachusetts. It is among the oldest newspapers published in America. The last issue was published in April of 1775.

1872 – Aaron Montgomery Ward issues the first mail-order catalog from his Chicago-based company. It offered 163 products. In 1875, Ward announced his products come with “satisfaction guaranteed.” All Montgomery Ward stores were closed by 2001, but relaunched as an online business in 2004.

1914 – President Woodrow Wilson issues The “Proclamation of Neutrality.” Wilson declared that the U.S. would remain “impartial in thought as well as in action,” an attempt at keeping the U.S. out of World War I.

1920 – The 19th Amendment is ratified, giving women the right to vote. A women’s suffrage amendment was first introduced in the Senate in 1872 by Aaron Sargent (R-CA).

1956 – Elvis Presley’s double-sided record “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel” reach #1 and #2 on the music charts and stay there for over a year.

1997 – Beth Ann Hogan becomes the first female coed in the Virginia Military Institute’s 158-year history. Hogan dropped out of VMI in January 1998.

2000 – A Federal jury finds the EPA guilty of discrimination against Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, later inspiring passage of the No FEAR Act. The No FEAR (Federal Antidiscrimination and Retaliation) Act is intended to reduce the incidence of workplace discrimination within the federal government by making agencies and departments more accountable.

2004 – Donald Trump re-releases his board game (TRUMP the Game) where players bid on real estate, buy big-ticket items, and make billion-dollar business deals. Watch the original 1989 commercial for the game featuring the future president.

August 19

1791 – Benjamin Banneker, born a free black in Maryland, publishes his first almanac. He published the Farmer’s Almanac from 1792 to 1797. He was a self-taught astronomer and mathematician.

1812 – The U.S. warship Constitution defeats the British warship Guerriere 400 miles southeast of the British base at Halifax, earning the nickname “Old Ironsides.”

1895 – American frontier murderer and outlaw John Wesley Hardin, age 42, is killed by an off-duty policeman in a saloon in El Paso, Texas. Hardin claimed to have killed 42 men. He served 17 years of a 25-year sentence for one of the murders and obtained a law license after being released from prison in 1894.

1934 – The first All-American Soap Box Derby is held in Dayton, Ohio. The following year the race was moved to Akron because of the central location and hilly terrain. The Derby has run continuously except during World War II. Watch a short film about the first derby.

1940 – The new Civil Aeronautics Administration awards honorary license #1 to 68-year-old Orville Wright.

1984 – Ronald Reagan is nominated for president for a second term at the Republican National Convention in Houston, Texas. He was re-elected in November, winning 49 of the 50 states (all but Walter Mondale’s home state of Minnesota), and the most electoral votes in history (525).

2004 – Google Inc. stock begins selling on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The initial price is set at $85 and ends the day at $100.34 with more than 22 million shares traded. Google reorganized in 2015 to become Alphabet.

2011 – The West Memphis Three are released from prison after 18 years when they negotiate Alford plea deals. The Alford plea allows a defendant to admit the prosecution has enough evidence for a conviction without admitting guilt. In 2007, DNA evidence and jury misconduct accusations led to a retrial. Then teenagers Damien Echols (now 48), Jessie Misskelley, Jr. (now 48), and Jason Baldwin (now 46) were convicted in 1993 of murdering three 2nd grade students. No one else was ever arrested for the crime.

August 20

1619 – The first black slaves are brought by the Dutch to the colony of Jamestown, Virginia.

1866 – President Andrew Johnson formally declares that the Civil War is over.

1920 – The American Professional Football Association (APFC) forms when Jim Thorpe and six others meet in Canton, Ohio, to organize a professional football league. Thorpe served as its first president. Canton is the location of the Football Hall of Fame.

1964 – President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Economic Opportunity Act, a $1 billion anti-poverty measure.

1977 – NASA launches Voyager 2 toward the outer planets. It explored Jupiter in 1979, Saturn in 1981, Uranus in 1986, and Neptune in 1989. After 40 years, Voyager 2, one of the farthest man-made objects, is still in contact with the Deep Space Network.

1998 – The U.S. military launches cruise missile attacks against alleged al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan and a suspected chemical weapons plant in Sudan in retaliation for the August 7th bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The attack instead destroyed the al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum. The attack occurred during the President Clinton hearings on the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

2000 – Tiger Woods becomes the first and only golfer since Ben Hogan in 1953 to win three major golf tournaments in a calendar year after winning the PGA Championship. He also won the U.S. Open and British Open.

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