This Week in History: Sept. 18-24, 2023


This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann

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

Sept. 18-24, 2023

September 18

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 Congress repealed the laws in 1864.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 Bo Diddley from one of Ed’s 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.

2009 – The soap opera “The Guiding Light” airs its final episode after 72 years (19 years on the radio before airing on TV in 1956).

September 19

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 63 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.”

2017 – President Trump, in a speech at the United Nations, vows to “Totally destroy North Korea” if they threaten the U.S. The same day, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani in his speech criticized comments Trump also made about Iran.

September 20

1797 – The U.S. frigate Constitution (Old Ironsides) is launched in Boston. The Constitution was retired from service in 1881 and designated a museum ship in 1907. It sailed under its own power in 1997 to commemorate its 200th anniversary and is berthed in Boston.

1814 – “The Star Spangled Banner” is published as a song. Francis Scott Key wrote the poem “The Defence of Fort McHenry” during the War of 1812. John Stafford Smith wrote the tune. It became our National Anthem in 1929.

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 79 years old. Riggs died in 1995 at age 77. Watch a report about the match.

2001 – President George W. Bush declares a “war on terror” in an address to a joint session of Congress and the American people.

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.

September 21

1780 – Benedict Arnold gives British Major John Andre the plans for an attack on West Point. Major Andre was captured and was hanged on October 2nd. Benedict Arnold escaped and became an officer in the British Army.

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.

1981 – Sandra Day O’Connor becomes the first female Supreme Court Justice. She served until retirement on January 31, 2006. O’Connor is now 93 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.

September 22

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 93 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. There have been a total of 35 concerts with various performers at different venues. The next one is scheduled for September 23rd. 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.

September 23

1806 – Meriwether Lewis and William Clark return to St. Louis from the first overland journey from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Northwest and back.

1845 – The first official baseball team, the New York Knickerbockers, organizes and adopts a 20-rule code. The club started playing in Manhattan in 1842.

1938 – A time capsule is buried at World’s Fair in New York City. It is to be opened in 6939, some 5,000 years after it was buried. The capsule contained such items as a Life Magazine, kewpie doll, slide rule, Sears Roebuck catalog, a pack of Camel cigarettes, seeds, and microfilm. Watch the burial.

1961 – “How to Marry a Millionaire” airs on TV as the first movie to become a TV series. The movie starred Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, and Lauren Bacall. The TV show starred Barbara Eden, Merry Anders, and Lori Nelson and lasted for two seasons.

1992 – Manon Rheaume, at age 20, is the first female to play in a National Hockey League exhibition game. She played goalie for the Tampa Bay Lightning and gave up 2 goals on 9 attempts in 1 period. Watch her debut in a regular season game.

2002 – The first public version of the web browser Mozilla Firefox (“Phoenix 0.1”) is released.

2012 – Twenty Iranian visas are denied by the U.S., including diplomats and ministers, ahead of the UN general assembly meeting in New York City.

September 24

1657 – The first autopsy and coroner’s jury verdict in the U.S. is recorded in the colony of Maryland.

1789 – President George Washington nominates John Jay as the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He served until 1795, when he resigned to become the second governor of New York.

1869 – Panic on Wall Street results from Jay Gould and Jim Fisk’s attempt to corner the gold market on the New York Gold Exchange. The price of gold plummeted in what is referred to as Black Friday.

1929 – Lt. James H. Doolittle flies a Consolidated N-Y-2 Biplane over Mitchell Field in New York in the first all-instrument (IFR) flight, using aeronautical technology he developed. Doolittle received the Medal of Honor for planning and leading bombing raids over Tokyo, Japan, during WWII, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1989. Doolittle was the first American to receive both awards.

1960 – The first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise, launches from Newport News, Virginia. It was the oldest active ship in the U.S. Navy until it was decommissioned in December 2014.

1969 – The trial of the “Chicago 8” begins (protesters at the 1968 Democrat National Convention). The case of Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panthers, was declared a mistrial and the remaining group becomes the “Chicago 7.” On February 19, 1970, they were found not guilty of conspiracy, five were convicted of lesser crimes, and all (plus two of their attorneys) were cited for criminal contempt and sentenced to anywhere from three months to four years in prison.

2007 – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gives a controversial speech on the campus of Columbia University in New York City. His comments included, “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals, like in your country.” The university defended its decision citing “free speech.” Watch an AP report on the speech and protests.

Image from:



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here