This Week in History – August 9, 2017

August 9


        1173: Construction began on what is now known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa (it took two centuries to complete).

1483: Catholic Mass was held for the first time in the  Sistine Chapel in Rome.

        1842: The U.S.-Canadian border east of the Rocky Mountains was established with the signing of the The Webster-Ashburton Treaty.

1854: Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau published his famous treatise, Walden; or; Life in the Woods, a reflection on simple living in natural surroundings.

1892: Inventor Thomas Edison received a patent for a two-way telegraph.

1930: Betty Boop made her cartoon debut in Dizzy Dishes.

1936: At the Summer Olympic Games in Berlin, Jesse Owens won his fourth gold medal and became the first American to win four medals in one Olympiad.

1944: The U.S. Forest Service and the Wartime Advertising Council released posters featuring Smokey Bear for the first time.

1965: Singapore was expelled from Malaysia and became the first country in history to gain its independence unwillingly.

1969: Followers directed by Charles Manson murdered pregnant actress Sharon Tate (wife of Roman Polanski), coffee heiress Abigail Folger, Polish actor Wojciech Frykowski, men’s hairstylist Jay Sebring and recent high-school graduate Steven Parent, in Los Angeles.


August 10


  1675: The foundation stone of the Royal Greenwich Observatory was laid in London, England.

  1846: James Smithson donated $500,000 and Congress chartered the Smithsonian Institution.

1948: Candid Camera made its television debut after being on radio for a year as Candid Microphone.

1981: The head of John Walsh’s son was found, inspiring Walsh to become an outspoken advocate for victims, and creator the television series America’s Most Wanted. and The Hunt.

1988: President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, providing $20,000 payments to Japanese Americans who were either interned or relocated by the United States during World War II.

1995: Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were indicted for the Oklahoma City bombing. Michael Fortier pleaded guilty in a plea-bargain for his testimony.


August 11


1858: The climbing team of Charles Barrington, Christian Almer and Peter Bohren ascended the Eiger in the Bernese Alps, the first successful attempt in recorded history.

1929: Babe Ruth became the first baseball player to hit 500 home runs in his career, with a home run at League Park in Cleveland, Ohio.

1934: The federal prison on Alcatraz Island began receiving prisoners.

1942: Actress Hedy Lamarr and composer George Antheil received a patent for a frequency-hopping, spread-spectrum communication system that later became the basis for modern technologies in wireless telephones and Wi-Fi.

1943: Born this day: Coffee heiress and activist Abigail Folger (murdered by Manson family in 1969); bass player Jim Kale (The Guess Who); Pervez Musharraf (Pakistani general and 10th president of Pakistan); saxophonist Denis Payton (The Dave Clark Five, died 2006).

1946: Born this day: Country singer John Conlee (“Rose Colored Glasses”), and Marilyn vos Savant (Guinness Book of World Records “highest IQ”).

1965: The Watts race riots began in the Watts area of Los Angeles, Calif. Born this day: actress Embeth Davidtz (Mathilda); actress  Viola Davis (The Help); actor Duane Martin (White Men Can’t Jump); and Japanese video game designer Shinji Mikami (created Resident Evil).

1984: President Ronald Reagan, while preparing to make his weekly Saturday address on National Public Radio, quipped, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”

  1997: Jack Housel of Libby, Mont., caught the world’s largest wild rainbow trout (33 pounds, 1 ounce) using a pole and line on the Kootenai River near Libby. (The fish is on display at DeShazer-Ryan Realty in Libby.)

1999: A tornado ripped through downtown Salt Lake City, killing one person.

2011: Richard Turner, 27, trumpet player in the band Friendly Fires, died of cardiac arrest, joining The 27 Club.


August 12


30 BC: Cleopatra VII Philopator, the last ruler of the Egyptian Ptolemaic dynasty, committed suicide. Tradition says she did it by making a poisonous asp bite her breast.

1779: The Royal Navy defeated the Penobscot Expedition, inflicting the most significant loss of U.S. naval forces prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

1851: American inventor Isaac Singer was granted a patent for his sewing machine.

1898: The Republic of Hawaii ceased to exist when the island archipelago became a territory of the United States.

1939: The City of San Francisco passenger train from Chicago to Oakland, Calif., derailed while crossing a bridge near Carlin, Nev., killing 24 and injuring 121. (The wreck appeared to have been caused by sabotage, but despite a major manhunt, offers of reward, and years of investigation by Southern Pacific Railroad, the case remains unsolved.)

1944: Waffen-SS troops massacred 560 men, women and children in Sant’Anna di Stazzema, Tuscany, Italy. Nazi German troops ended the week-long Wola massacre in Wola, Poland, during which time at least 40,000 people were killed indiscriminately or in mass executions.

1953: The Soviet Union detonated its first thermonuclear weapon.

1960: NASA launched Echo 1A, the agency’s first successful communications satellite.

1964: South Africa was banned from the Olympic Games due to the country’s racist policies.

  1974: Wallace Yohn, 27, organist in the band Chase (No. 1 hit “Get It On”), died in a plane crash, joining The 27 Club.

1981: IBM released the first personal computer.

1982: Mexico announced it was unable to pay its enormous international debt, marking the beginning of a debt crisis that spread to all of Latin America and the Third World.

1988: Jean-Michel Basquiat, 27, graffiti artist, songwriter and founder of the band ‘Gray,’ died of a heroin overdose in New York City, joining The 27 Club.


August 13


1831: Black slave Nat Turner saw a solar eclipse and thought is was a sign from God. Eight days later, he and 70 other slaves killed approximately 55 whites in Southampton County, Va.

1888: Born this day: Scottish engineer John Logie Baird (invented television, died 1946); and Russian-American sculptor Gleb W. Derujinsky (sculpted Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, many others, died 1975).

1898: The first near-Earth asteroid, 433 Eros, was discovered by German astronomer Carl Gustav Witt in Berlin.

1918: Opha Mae Johnson of Kokomo, Ind., became the first woman to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps. Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) was established as a public company in Germany.

1930: Born this day: singer and ukulele player Don Ho, and English comedian  Bernard Manning (both died 2007).

1942: Bambi was released to theaters. It was Walt Disney’s fifth full-length, animated film.

1948: Born this day: operatic soprano Kathleen Battle, and singer Scott Powell (Sha Na Na).

1952: Born this day: singer-songwriter Dave Carter (Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer, died 2002); actor Tom Davis (“Franken & Davis” on Saturday Night Live, died 2012); musician Hughie Thomasson (Lynyrd Skynyrd, died 2007).

1964: Petty thieves Peter Allen and Gwynne Evans were hanged for murdering John Alan West, a laundry van driver, during a botched robbery. The two were the last people executed in the United Kingdom.

1969: The Apollo 11 astronauts (Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins) were released from a three-week quarantine and given a ticker-tape parade in New York City. That evening, at a state dinner in Los Angeles, Calif., they were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon.

1972: Born this day: Saudi Arabian terrorist Hani Hanjour (hijacker of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon, died 2001), and; businessman Kevin Plank (founded Under Armour); French-U.S. voice actor Michael Sinterniklaas (Leonardo in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 2003).

  2001: The last original episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was broadcast on TV.


August 14


  1040: King Duncan I of Scotland was killed in battle against his first cousin and rival Macbeth, who ascended to the throne.

1816: The United Kingdom formally annexed the Tristan da Cunha archipelago, ruling it from the Cape Colony in South Africa.

1842: The Second Seminole War ended, forcing the Seminoles from Florida to Oklahoma.

1885: Japan issued its first patent, to the inventor of a rust-proof paint.

  1888: Oliver B. Shallenberger received a patent for the first electric meter. An audio recording of English composer Arthur Sullivan’s “The Lost Chord,” one of the first recordings of music ever made, was played at a press conference introducing Thomas Edison’s phonograph in London, England.

1893: France became the first country to introduce motor vehicle registration.


1935: The Social Security Act was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

1941: Born this day: Lynne Cheney, wife of Dick Cheney, 32nd second lady of the United States; musician David Crosby (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young), and country western singer Connie Smith.

1947: Born this day: TV producer Bruce Nash (Modern Marvels), and author Danielle Steel.

1959: Born this day: actress Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock, Into the Wild) and basketball player Magic Johnson.

1975: The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the longest-running release in film history, opened at the USA Theatre in Westwood, Los Angeles, Calif.

2001: Chuay Kotchasit, 65, of Thamuang, Thailand, walked into the local branch of Government Savings Bank, tore open a bag filled with human excrement and smeared it all over himself to protest the losses in his retirement account at the bank.


August 15


  1927: Rollo Gallagher, age unknown, of Salt Lake City, Utah, died when he broke through a thin crust of mud and fell into a boiling hot spring in Yellowstone National Park.

1944: Allied forces launched “the other D-Day,“ Operation Dragoon, the invasion of the French Riviera.

1977: The Big Ear, a radio telescope operated by Ohio State University as part of the SETI project, received a radio signal from deep space. The event was named the “Wow! signal” from the notation made by a volunteer on the project.