This Week In History – July 12, 2017

July 12


       1856: William Walker, originally of Tennessee, led a revolution and declared himself president of Nicaragua; he was court-martialed and executed in 1860.

1910: The Hon. Charles Stewart Rolls of Rolls Royce fame became the first Briton to be killed in a flying accident, when the tail of his Wright Flyer broke off during a flying display in the Southbourne district of Bournemouth, England. He was age 32.

1934: Born this day: American cellist and fiddler Lee Tonner.

1973: A fire destroyed the entire sixth floor of the National Personnel Records Center of the United States.


July 13


  1923: A sign made of 50-foot-tall wooden letters spelling out “HOLLYWOODLAND” was dedicated in the Hollywood Hills to promote a subdivision. The final four letters were taken down in 1949.

1924: Mr. and Mrs. Earl Dunn of Minneapolis died when Mr. Dunn backed their car off the rim of the Yellowstone Grand Canyon. The car bounced and rolled and got stuck on a ledge 200 feet below. Their bodies were recovered 800 feet below.

1932: Joy Myrlene Hanny, age 3, of Firth, Idaho, slipped away from her mother and fell neck-deep into a boiling hot spring in Yellowstone National Park. She died the next night.

1942: Born this day: Actor Harrison Ford, and singer/guitarist Roger McGuinn (The Byrds).

  1977: A 24-hour electrical blackout in New York City caused $1 billion in damage or lost revenue.


July 14


1798: The Sedition Act became law in the United States, making it a federal crime to write, publish, or utter false or malicious statements about the United States government. (It was later repealed.)

1853: The first major U.S. world’s fair, the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations, opened in New York City.

1865: The Matterhorn was ascended for the first time by Edward Whymper and party, four of whom died on the descent.

1874: The Chicago Fire of 1874 burned down 47 acres of the city, destroyed 812 buildings and killed 20 people.

1881: Billy the Kid was shot and killed by Pat Garrett outside Fort Sumner, New Mexico.


July 15


1838: Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered the Divinity School Address at Harvard Divinity School, discounting Bible miracles and declaring Jesus a great man, but not God. The Protestant community reacted with predictable outrage.

1870: Georgia became the last of the former Confederate states to be readmitted to the Union.

1910: In his book Clinical Psychiatry, Emil Kraepelin gave a name to Alzheimer’s disease, naming it after his colleague, Alois Alzheimer.

1916: William Boeing and George Conrad Westervelt incorporated Pacific Aero Products (later renamed Boeing) in Seattle.

  1922: The duck-billed platypus was displayed publicly for the first time.

  1974: Christine Chubbuck, a television news reporter, committed suicide during a live broadcast. At 9:38 a.m., eight minutes into her talk show on WXLT-TV in Sarasota, Fla., she drew out a revolver and shot herself in the head.

2006: Twitter was launched; it would become one of the largest social media platforms in the world.


July 16


  1769: Father Junípero Serra founded California’s first mission, Mission San Diego de Alcalá. (It evolved into the city of San Diego.)

  1790: Washington DC became the nation’s capital.

1862: David Farragut was promoted to rear admiral, becoming the first officer in U.S. Navy to hold the rank of admiral.

1935: The world’s first parking meter was installed in Oklahoma City, Okla.

1945: The Atomic Age began when the United States successfully detonates a plutonium-based test nuclear weapon near Alamogordo, New Mexico.

1948: The first hijacking of a commercial airplane occurred when five men stormed the cockpit of the Miss Macao passenger seaplane over the China Sea, for robbery and ransom.

1951: The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger was published for the first time by Little, Brown and Company.

1956: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus held its last “Big Tent” show in Pittsburgh, Pa. (All subsequent circus shows would be held in arenas.)

1969: Apollo 11, the first mission to land astronauts on the Moon, was launched from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Kennedy, Fla.

1973: During the Senate Watergate hearings, former White House aide Alexander P. Butterfield publicly revealed the existence of President Nixon’s secret Oval Office taping system.

1981: Singer Harry Chapin (“Cat’s In The Cradle”) was killed when his car was struck by a tractor-trailer on New York’s Long Island Expressway.

1999: John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife Carolyn and her sister, Lauren Bessette, died when their single-engine plane plunged into the ocean near Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.


July 17


1856: Two passenger trains collided head-on near Fort Washington, Pa., killing over 60 people.

1867: Harvard School of Dental Medicine was established in Boston. It was the first U.S. dental school affiliated with a university.

1902: Willis Haviland Carrier began operating the first air conditioning system—which he invented, designed and built—at a printing company in Brooklyn, N.Y.

1918: At a house in Ekaterinburg, Siberia, Tsar Nicholas of Russia, his wife, son and four daughters were huddled together against a wall and shot hundreds of times by their Bolshevik guards under the command of Yakov Yurovsky. Their bodies were burned and buried in a pit behind the house. The RMS Carpathia, the ship that rescued the 705 survivors from the RMS Titanic, was sunk off Ireland by the German submarine U-55, with five lives lost.

1938: Douglas Corrigan took off from Brooklyn and flew the “wrong way” to Ireland, to become known as “Wrong Way” Corrigan.

1944: Two ships laden with ammunition for the war in the Pacific exploded in Port Chicago, Calif. (near San Francisco) and killed 320 mostly black U.S. sailors.

1945: The victorious Allies (United States, Britain and France) met in Potsdam, Germany, and abolished Nazism and Nazi organizations.

1955: Disneyland opened on 55 acres in Anaheim, Calif.

1962: Major Robert Michael White flew the X-15 rocket jet to an altitude of 314,750 feet (59 miles, 96 km). This qualified him for an Astronaut Badge, becoming the first “Winged Astronaut,” one of few who have flown into space without a conventional spacecraft.

1981: A walkway at the Hyatt Regency in Kansas City, Mo., collapsed; 114 people were killed and over 200 injured.

1996: TWA Flight 800, a Boeing 747, took off from New York’s JFK airport and exploded 13 minutes later, killing 230 people on board. The cause of the crash has never been determined.


July 18


  1895: Born this day: gangster Machine Gun Kelly (died 1954), and Russian ballerina Olga Spessivtseva (died 1991).

  1909: Born this day:  Soviet leader Andrei Gromyko (died 1989), and singer/actress Harriet Nelson (Ozzie and Harriet, died 1994).

  1913: Born this day: comedian Red Skelton (died 1997), and actor Marvin Miller (voice of Robby the Robot in the movie Forbidden Planet, died 1985).

  1925: Adolf Hitler published his personal manifesto, Mein Kampf.

  1950: Born this day: Virgin Airways founder Richard Branson; entertainer Glenn Hughes (Village People, died 2001); and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.

  1968: The Intel Corporation was founded in Santa Clara, Calif.

1969: After a party on Chappaquiddick Island, U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., (1932-2009) drove an Oldsmobile off a bridge and left the scene of the accident. His passenger and mistress, Mary Jo Kopechne, died at the scene.

1976: Nadia Comăneci became the first person in Olympic Games history to score a perfect 10 in gymnastics at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Quebec.

1979: Born this day: WWE wrestler Adam Birch; New England Patriots football player Deion Branch; director Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite); actor Jason Weaver (Smart Guy, The Jacksons: An American Dream).

1984: The McDonald’s massacre in San Ysidro, Calif., happened when James Oliver Huberty opened fire inside the fast-food restaurant, killing 21 people and injuring 19 others before being shot dead by police.

1995: On the Caribbean island of Montserrat, the Soufriere Hills volcano began erupting. (Over the course of several years it devastated the island, destroyed the capital and forced most of the population to flee.)

2013: The government of Detroit, with up to $20 billion in debt, filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.