This Week In History – August 2, 2017

August 2


           1790: The first U.S. Census was conducted.

    1873: San Francisco’s famous cable car system began operating.

       1876: Frontiersman “Wild Bill” Hickock was shot to death while playing poker in a saloon in Deadwood, Dakota Territory.

1909: The Lincoln penny was issued by the U.S. Mint to commemorate the 100th year since President Abraham Lincoln’s birth. The coin contained 95 percent copper with other minerals. As of 1982 the coin is copper-plated zinc (97½ percent zinc).

1934: German President Paul von Hindenburg died, paving the way for Adolf Hitler’s complete takeover of Germany’s government.

1937: The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 rendered marijuana and all its by-products illegal in the USA.

1939: Albert Einstein and Leó Szilárd wrote a letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt, urging him to begin the Manhattan Project to develop a nuclear weapon.

1943: PT-109, commanded by Lt. John F. Kennedy, sank after being rammed by a Japanese destroyer off the Solomon Islands. The future president was credited with saving all but two members of the crew and was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroism, and a Purple Heart for injuries he suffered.

1990: Iraq invaded Kuwait, leading to the Persian Gulf War.


August 3


1492: Christopher Columbus set sail from Palos de la Frontera, Spain.

1678: Robert LaSalle built the Le Griffon, the first known ship built on the Great Lakes.

1900: The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company was founded.

1934: Adolf Hitler became the supreme leader of Germany by joining the offices of president and chancellor into Führer.

1946: Santa Claus Land, the world’s first theme amusement park, opened in Santa Claus, Indiana.     1958: The nuclear submarine USS Nautilus traveled beneath the Arctic ice cap.

  1977: Tandy Corporation announced the TRS-80, one of the world’s first mass-produced personal computers.


August 4


    1821: The Saturday Evening Post was published for the first time as a weekly newspaper. (The magazine went out of business in 1969.)

    1944: A tip from a Dutch informer led the Gestapo to a sealed-off area in an Amsterdam warehouse, where they found and arrested Jewish diarist Anne Frank, her family, and four others.

1958: The Billboard Hot 100 was published for the first time.

  1964: Civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney were found dead in Mississippi after disappearing on June 21. (Their murderers were members of the Ku Klux Klan who displayed Confederate flags on their cars and homes as a symbol of their hatred for blacks, Jews and Catholics.)

1987: As part of President Ronald Reagan’s  deregulation of government, the Federal Communications Commission rescinded the Fairness Doctrine that required radio and television stations to present controversial issues “fairly,” paving the way for the likes of Rush Limbaugh.


1993: A federal judge sentenced Los Angeles Police Department officers Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell to 30 months in prison for violating motorist Rodney King’s civil rights.


August 5


  1305: William Wallace, who led the Scottish resistance against England, was captured by the English near Glasgow and transported to London. (He was put on trial and executed.)

    1858: Cyrus West Field and others finished laying the first transatlantic telegraph cable after several unsuccessful attempts. (It operated for less than a month.)

  1861: In order to help pay for the Civil War, the United States government levied the first income tax, 3 percent of all incomes over US $800. (It was rescinded in 1872.) The U.S. Army abolished flogging.

  1884: The cornerstone for the Statue of Liberty was laid on Bedloe’s Island (now Liberty Island) in New York Harbor.

1914: The first electric traffic light was installed, in Cleveland, Ohio.

    1926: Harry Houdini performed his greatest feat, spending 91 minutes underwater in a sealed tank before escaping.

1944: The biggest prison breakout in history occurred during World War II when 545 Japanese POWs attempted to escape outside the town of Cowra, New South Wales, Australia. The Nazis begin a week-long massacre of between 40,000 and 100,000 civilians and prisoners of war in Wola, Poland.

  1949: The Mann Gulch fire in Montana killed 13 ‘hot shot’ firefighters.

  1957: American Bandstand, a show dedicated to the teenage “baby-boomers” by playing the songs and showing popular dances of the time, debuted on the ABC television network.

  1962: Sex symbol Marilyn Monroe (real name Norma Jean Baker) was found dead in a bungalow in Hollywood, Calif. Authorities said she committed suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills. Nelson Mandela was jailed in South Africa. (He would not be released until 1990.)

2010: The Copiapó mining accident occurred, trapping 33 Chilean miners approximately 2,300 feet underground. (The were successfully retrieved 69 days later, setting a record for longest underground survival after a cave-in.)

2012: The Oak Creek shooting took place at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., killing six people. Perpetrator Wade Michael Page, 40, shot himself in the head after being shot in the stomach by police.


August 6


  1787: Sixty proof sheets of the U.S. Constitution were delivered to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pa.

  1819: Norwich University was founded in Vermont as the first private military school in the United States.

  1890: At Auburn Prison in New York, murderer William Kemmler became the first person in the world executed by electric chair.

1926: Gertrude Ederle (1905-2003) became the first woman to swim across the English Channel. In New York, the Warner Bros. Vitaphone movie sound system premiered with the movie Don Juan starring John Barrymore.

1945: The first atomic bomb to be used against an enemy was dropped by the United States on Hiroshima, Japan. Around 70,000 people were killed instantly, and tens of thousands more died in subsequent days, weeks and years from burns and radiation poisoning. (This bomb, and one dropped on Nagasaki three days later, ended World War II.)

1964: Prometheus, a bristlecone pine and the world’s oldest tree at 4,862 years, was cut down on Wheeler Peak in Nevada by researchers who did not know its record-setting age.

1991: The World Wide Web made its public debut on the internet, introduced by its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee.

2012: NASA’s Curiosity rover landed on Mars.


August 7


1782: George Washington ordered the creation of the Badge of Military Merit to honor soldiers wounded in battle. It was later renamed the Purple Heart.

1789: The U.S. Department of War was established.

1794: President George Washington invoked the Militia Acts of 1792 to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania.

1890: Anna Månsdotter became the last woman in Sweden to be executed (by beheading with an ax), for murdering her son’s wife in 1889.

1909: Alice Huyler Ramsey and three friends became the first women to complete a transcontinental auto trip, taking 59 days to travel from New York, N.Y., to San Francisco, Calif.

1944: IBM dedicated the first program-controlled calculator, the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (known best as the Harvard Mark I).

1959: The first photograph of the earth was taken by a camera aboard Explorer 6, launched by the United States. The Lincoln Memorial design on the U.S. penny went into circulation. It replaced the “wheat back” design, and was minted until 2008.

1965: The first Reyes party between Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters and the Hells Angels motorcycle gang took place at Kesey’s estate in La Honda, Calif., introducing psychedelics to the gang world and forever linking the hippie movement to the Hell’s Angels.

1970: California Superior Court judge Harold Haley was taken hostage in his courtroom in Marin County, California, and killed during an unsuccessful attempt to free several Black Panther members in police custody.

1974: French high-wire artist Philippe Petit gained worldwide fame after he performed an unauthorized high-wire act between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, 1,368 feet in the air.

1978: President Jimmy Carter declared a federal emergency at Love Canal, a neighborhood in Niagara Falls, N.Y., due to toxic waste that had been negligently disposed of.

1981: The Washington Star newspaper declared bankruptcy and ceased operation after 130 years in business. (The paper was most famous for its 1907 cartoon by Clifford K. Berryman of President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt that spurred the creation of the teddy bear.)

1989: U.S. Rep. Mickey Leland (D-Texas) and 15 others were killed in a plane crash in Ethiopia.

1998: The U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, were simultaneously bombed by members of al-Qaida, killing about  212 people.

2007: San Francisco Giants left-fielder Barry Bonds broke baseball icon Hank Aaron’s record by hitting his 756th home run.


August 8


1844: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, headed by Brigham Young, was affirmed as the leading body of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church, “Mormons”).

1863: After his defeat in the Battle of Gettysburg, Gen. Robert E. Lee sent a letter of resignation to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who refused to accept it.

  1876: Thomas Edison received a patent for his mimeograph, a type of copying machine.

1885: The funeral of President Ulysses S. Grant at Riverside Park in New York City was attended by 1.5 million people.

  1929: The German airship Graf Zeppelin began its around-the-world flight. Born this day: English criminal Ronald Biggs (committed the “Great Train Robbery,” died 2013).

    1963: Fifteen robbers led by Ronald Biggs robbed a British mail train of 2.6 million pounds in the “Great Train Robbery.”

1969: Photographer Iain Macmillan took a photo of the Beatles at a crosswalk in London that became the cover of the album Abbey Road, one of the most famous record album covers in music history.

1990: Iraq invaded and annexed the tiny country of Kuwait. This led to the Persian Gulf War shortly afterward.

1991: The Warsaw radio mast, at one time the tallest structure in the world, collapsed during guy wire maintenance.