This Week in History: July 31-Aug 6, 2023


This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann

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

July 31-Aug 6, 2023

July 31

1792 – The cornerstone is laid for the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, the first United States government building.

1928 – MGM’s mascot Leo the Lion roars on film for the first time. The lion, whose name was Jackie, introduced MGM’s first talking picture, “White Shadows in the South Seas.” There have been seven “Leos”: Slats (1917-1928); Jackie (1928-1956); George (1956-1957); and Leo (1957-present). Three other lions were also used in cartoons and movies: Telly (1928-1932); Coffee (1932-1935); and Tanner (1934-1956 & 1963-1967). Hear Leo (aka Jackie) roar and watch the movie’s intro.

1953 – The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) is created during the Eisenhower administration. President Harding proposed a department of education and welfare in 1923. HEW was a cabinet-level department until 1979, when it was separated into different departments.

1971 – Astronauts ride in a vehicle on the moon for the first time in a lunar rover vehicle (LRV). Watch the lunar ride.

1987 – Rockwell International is awarded a contract to build a fifth space shuttle, the Endeavor, to replace the Challenger, which exploded on launch in 1986. The Endeavor flew 25 missions from 1992 to 2011.

1991 – The U.S. Senate votes to allow women to fly combat aircraft. Air Force Colonel Martha McSally was the first woman to fly a combat mission after the 43-year ban was lifted. She was a U.S. Representative and Senator (R-AZ).

2014 – The U.S. agrees to resupply arms to Israel – including rocket launchers, mortar rounds, and grenades – despite condemnation of civilian casualties in Gaza.

August 1

1790 – The first U.S. census is taken showing a population of 3,939,214, of which 697,624 are slaves. The current U.S. population is about 340 million, based on the 2023 census estimates.

1855 – Castle Clinton (aka Fort Clinton) in New York City opens as the first U.S. receiving station for immigrants. More than eight million people arrived in the U.S. until Ellis Island opens on January 1, 1892. Castle Clinton is now a national monument.

1907 – The U.S. Army establishes an aeronautical division, which becomes the U.S. Air Force on September 18, 1947.

1943 – The Navy patrol torpedo boat PT-109 sinks near the Solomon Islands after being attacked by a Japanese destroyer. The boat was under the command of future president Navy Lt. John F. Kennedy. The 11 surviving crewmembers swam to Naru Island and were rescued on August 7th. The last surviving crewman of PT-109, Gerard Zinser, died in 2001 at age 82. Watch a short “American Experience” video.

1957 – The Bridgers and Paxton Office Building in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is the first commercial building to be heated by solar energy. It is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

1972 – Carl Bernstein, now 79, and Bob Woodward, now 80, publish their first article exposing the Watergate scandal.

1977 – Gary Powers dies when his news helicopter crashes in Los Angeles. Powers was 48 years old. Powers was the former CIA U-2 pilot who was shot down while on a surveillance mission over Russia in 1960 and held for two years. On August 19, 1960, Powers was convicted of espionage in Russia and sentenced to 10 years confinement. Powers was returned to the U.S. in February 1962 in a prisoner exchange.

2001 – Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has a Ten Commandments monument installed in the judiciary building, leading to a lawsuit to have the monument removed and Moore removed from office. District Court Judge Myron Thompson ordered Moore to remove the Ten Commandments from the courthouse rotunda within fifteen days. Moore refused, but the monument was later moved to a room that was not open for public viewing. On August 23, 2003, a panel of the Alabama Court of the Judiciary unanimously voted to remove Judge Moore from the bench for not renouncing God. In 2012, Moore was re-elected as Alabama’s Chief Justice. In 2016, the Alabama Judiciary Inquiry Commission brought charges of six ethics violations against Moore and he was suspended pending a trial. He was found guilty, lost his appeal, and resigned in April 2017. Moore lost his bid for the U.S. Senate in a special election to replace Jeff Sessions in December 2017. Watch part of the 2003 trial and the verdict to remove Justice Moore.

August 2

1819 – The first parachute jump in U.S. takes place in New York when Charles Guille jumps from a hot air balloon and travels airborne for half an hour over about eight miles before successfully landing in Bushwick.

1921 – A Chicago jury brings back a not guilty verdict against eight Chicago White Sox players for “throwing” the 1919 baseball World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds won the series 5 games to 3. The trial was dubbed the “Black Sox Scandal.” The following day Baseball Commissioner Judge “Kenesaw Mountain” Landis announced that he would banish from baseball for life the eight White Sox players involved in the 1919 World Series scandal, despite their acquittal, including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. Watch an amateur video of the scandal with actual footage.

1939 – President Roosevelt signs the Hatch Act, prohibiting civil service employees from taking an active part in “Pernicious Political Activities.”

1994 – Congressional hearings begin on the Clinton Whitewater scandal. In 1978, Bill and Hillary entered into a land deal in Arkansas with James and Susan McDougal. As a result of the investigation, James was convicted of 18 counts of fraud, sentenced to five years in prison, and died in prison in 1998. Susan was convicted of fraud and sentenced to two years in prison. Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker was convicted of mail fraud but served no jail time. Vince Foster, a friend of the Clinton’s and White House Counsel, “committed suicide” in 1993. Bill and Hillary were implicated in the Whitewater scandal, but avoided any charges of wrongdoing.

2018 – Apple becomes the first American publicly listed company to reach $1 trillion in value.

August 3

1882 – Congress passes the first law restricting immigration. It imposed a 50 cent head tax on non-citizens and restricted “criminals, the insane, or any person unable to take care of him or herself.”

1923 – Vice President Calvin Coolidge becomes our 30th president after the sudden and unexpected death of President Warren Harding following an apparent heart attack the day before.

1952 – Francis the Talking Mule (with Chill T. Wills providing the voice) is the mystery guest on the TV show “What’s My Line?” Francis (in reality a female mule named Molly) was the first recipient of the American Humane Association Annual Patsy Award in 1950. The award is given for an outstanding performance by an animal appearing in motion pictures. Watch the blindfolded “What’s My Line?” judges try to guess the mystery guest (starts at 15:08 of clip).

2004 – NASA launches the spacecraft Messenger. The 6 1/2 year journey was scheduled to arrive at the planet Mercury in March 2011. On April 30, 2015, Messenger crashed into the surface of Mercury after sending back more than 270,000 pictures.

August 4

1892 – The bodies of Andrew and Abby Borden are found in their house in Fall River, Massachusetts. Their daughter (Abby’s step-daughter), Sunday school teacher Lizzie Borden, was arrested for their murders a week later but was subsequently acquitted. No one else was ever charged with the murders. Lizzie died in 1927 at age 66.

1922 – AT&T and Bell Systems recognizes the death of Alexander Graham Bell two days earlier by shutting down all of its switchboards and switching stations. The shutdown affected 13 million phones.

1958 – Billboard Magazine introduces its “Hot 100” chart, which is a barometer of the movement of potential hits. The first Number One song was Ricky Nelson’s “Poor Little Fool.” Listen to Nelson sing it, along with videos of his performances over the years.

1964 – The bodies of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James E. Chaney are discovered in an earthen Mississippi dam. In November the FBI accused 21 Mississippi men, including a county sheriff, of engineering a conspiracy to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney. When Mississippi officials refused to try any of the men for murder the men were charged and convicted of civil rights violations. Seven were convicted, but none served more than 6 years. In 2005, 80-year-old Edgar Ray Killen was tried and convicted of three counts of manslaughter and sentenced to three consecutive terms of 20 years in prison. Killen died in 2018 in prison at age 92.

1987 – The Federal Communications Commission rescinds the 1949 Fairness Doctrine. The doctrine required that radio and TV stations present controversial issues in an “honest, equitable, and balanced” manner.

1988 – Congress votes to award $20,000 to each Japanese-American interned during WW II. President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act (H.R. 442) on August 10th. Rev. Mamoru Eto of Los Angeles, age 107, was the first to receive a check on October 9, 1990.

2015 – Muppets Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog announce on Twitter the end of their relationship. Watch a post-break up interview with the famous Muppets.

August 5

1861 – The U.S. levies its first Income Tax (3% of incomes over $800).

1884 – The cornerstone for the Statue of Liberty is laid on Bedloe’s Island in New York City. The Statue of Liberty, a gift from France, was dedicated in 1886.

1914 – The first traffic light in the U.S. is installed on Euclid Ave and East 105th Street in Cleveland, Ohio. The traffic signal had only a red and green light and a buzzer that was operated by a traffic officer on the corner. Black American inventor Garrett Morgan is credited with adding the yellow warning light in 1923.

1985 – The establishment of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is announced. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum opened in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1995. The first inductees included Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, The Everly Brothers, Alan Freed, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, and 10 others. Watch a video montage of artists and the museum.

1997 – Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of world trade center bombing, goes on trial. He was convicted in 1998 and sentenced to two life terms plus 240 years in prison without parole. He is now 55 years old.

2012 – General Motors (Chevrolet) signs a record breaking seven-year $559 million marketing deal with Manchester (England) United soccer team. In 2008, the Bush administration authorized $13 billion in loans to GM through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). In April and May 2009, the Obama administration provided another $6 billion. GM filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in June. The Obama administration provided a $30 billion debtor-in-possession loan. In July 2009, GM exited bankruptcy and in 2010 GM made its final repayment, with the government still holding 61 percent in GM stocks. In December 2013, the last stocks were sold and the U.S. government no longer owns stock in GM. The government recovered only $70 billion of the $80 billion it lent to the GM and Chrysler in the TARP bailout.

August 6

1890 – The electric chair is first used in U.S. for execution on William Kemmler (aka John Hart) in New York, who was convicted of murder.

1890 – Cy Young pitches and wins his first game. He went on to play baseball for 22 seasons, setting the still unbroken records of most career wins and most complete games. Young died in 1955 at age 88. In 1956, baseball commissioner Ford Frick introduced the Cy Young Award, given every year to the best pitcher in each league.

1930 – Supreme Court Justice Joseph Force Crater disappears in New York City. He was declared legally dead in 1939. The case was officially closed in 1979 and remains unsolved. A letter found among the effects of a woman who died 2005 claimed her late police-officer husband and cab-diver brother-in-law murdered Crater and buried him under the Coney Island Boardwalk.

1945 – The U.S. drops the world’s first atom bomb (Little Boy) on Hiroshima, Japan. Watch a BBC documentary of the bombing and aftermath.

1996 – NASA announces the discovery of evidence of primitive life on Mars based on a meteorite found in Antarctica. The meteorite is believed to have come from Mars and contained a fossil.

2011 – A helicopter carrying 20 members of Navy SEAL Team 6 is shot down in Afghanistan, killing all 31 U.S. specials ops troops and 7 Afghan commandos. The death toll surpassed the worst single day loss of life for the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001. Members of SEAL Team 6 killed Osama bin Laden three months earlier.

2012 – The Mars rover Curiosity lands on the floor of Gale Crater. The Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in November 2011. The most recent mission to Mars is the InSight. It launched in May 2018 and landed on Mars in November 2018.

Image from: Atomic Archive



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