This Week in History

May 13


1787: Eleven ships full of convicts left Portsmouth, England, to establish a penal colony in Australia.

1880: In Menlo Park, New Jersey, Thomas Edison performed the first test of his electric railway.

1888: Brazil abolished slavery.

1939: The first commercial FM radio station in the United States was launched in Bloomfield, Conn. The station later became WDRC-FM.

1942: Aeronautical engineer Igor Sikorsky began his four-day flight from Stratford, Conn., to Dayton, Ohio (760 miles), in a newly designed, single-rotor aircraft called a helicopter.

1994: Johnny Carson made his last television appearance on Late Show with David Letterman.

2004: The final episode of “Frasier” on NBC is watched by 33 million people.

2014: Unidentified shipwreck is discovered off the northern coast of Haiti by marine archaeologist Barry Clifford.

2019: American diver Victor Vescovo makes the deepest dive ever to the bottom of the Mariana trench at 10,927m (35,849ft), and finds a plastic bag.

2019: New study on the moon shows it is still shrinking with recent moonquakes as it cools, published in journal “Nature Geoscience”.


May 14


1607: Jamestown, Virginia, was settled as an English colony.

1787: Delegates convened a constitutional convention in Philadelphia to write a new constitution for the United States. George Washington presided.

1796: Edward Jenner administered the first smallpox vaccination, to 8-year-old James Phipps, in Berkeley, Gloucester, England.

1804: The Lewis and Clark Expedition departed from Camp Dubois, near present day Wood River, Ill., and began its historic journey by traveling up the Missouri River.

1897: “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” a patriotic American march widely considered to be the magnum opus of composer John Phillip Sousa, was first performed in public near Willow Grove Park, Philadelphia. (Congress declared it the official National March of the United States of America in 1987.)

2009: The U.S. Mint issued the second of four new Lincoln pennies. This design features a young Lincoln reading while taking a break from rail splitting in Indiana. It was designed and sculpted by Charles Vickers.


May 15


1602: Bartholomew Gosnold became the first recorded European to see Cape Cod.

1718: The world’s first machine gun was patented by James Puckle, a London lawyer.

1817: The first private mental health hospital in the United States opened in Philadelphia.

1899: Inventor Gustav Whitehead and his assistant Louis Darvarich successfully flew the first airplane (powered by a steam engine) a distance of one-half mile in Pittsburgh.

1905: Las Vegas, Nev., was founded when 110 acres in what later would become downtown were auctioned off.

1928: The Walt Disney character Mickey Mouse premiered in his first cartoon, Plane Crazy, in Burbank, Calif.

1940: The first McDonalds restaurant, owned by brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald, opened at 1398 N. E St., San Bernardino, Calif. Born this day: Roger Ailes, U.S. businessman (Fox News) and Lainie Kazan, U.S. actress and singer.

1970: President Richard Nixon appointed Anna Mae Hays and Elizabeth P. Hoisington the first female U.S. Army generals.

2002:  “Bowling for Columbine”, a documentary directed by Michael Moore has its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

2010: Jessica Watson at age 16 becomes the youngest person to sail solo, non-stop and unassisted around the world.


May 16


1843: The first major wagon train heading for the Pacific Northwest set out from Elm Grove, Missouri, on the Oregon Trail with 1,000 pioneers.

1866: Congress eliminated the half dime coin and replaced it with the five cent piece, or nickel.

1868: President Andrew Johnson was acquitted in his impeachment trial by one vote in the U.S. Senate.

1918: The Sedition Act of 1918 was passed by Congress, making criticism of the government during wartime an imprisonable offense. (It was repealed less than two years later.)

1929: The first Academy Awards were awarded, in Hollywood, Calif.

1960: Theodore Maiman operated the first optical laser (a ruby laser), at Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, California.

1966: Bob Dylan released the first ever double album in popular music history.

1975: Junko Tabei became the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

1988: A report by U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop stated that the addictive properties of nicotine are similar to those of heroin and cocaine.

1990: Died this day: Muppets creator Jim Henson, 53, of pneumonia in New York, and; entertainer Sammy Davis Jr., 64.

1991: Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom became the first British monarch to address the U.S. Congress, in joint session.

2019: New DNA research showing bedbugs are older than humans – 115 million years old and outlived dinosaurs, published in “Current Biology”.

2019: Last episode of TV sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” starring Jim Parson, Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco after 12 seasons.


May 17


1792: The New York Stock Exchange was formed.

1875: Aristides won the first Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

1902: Greek archaeologist Valerios Stais discovered the Antikythera mechanism, the remains of what was a complex mechanical analog computer designed to calculate astronomical positions, built in by Archimedes in the first century B.C.

1933: Vidkun Quisling and Johan Bernhard Hjort formed Nasjonal Samling, the national-socialist party of Norway that would ultimately collaborate with Nazi Germany during the occupation of Norway in World War II.

2018: Gina Haspel confirmed as the first female director of the CIA by the US Senate.

2019: Tyler, the Creator releases his fifth studio album “Igor” which becomes his first number-one album in the United States.


May 18


1652: Rhode Island outlawed slavery.

1910: The Earth passed through the tail of Halley’s Comet.

1980: Mount St. Helens in Washington erupted, destroying several square miles of forest and blanketing the Pacific Northwest with ash, causing $3 billion damage.

1995: Shawn Nelson, 35, went on a tank rampage in San Diego, Calif., causing millions of dollars in damage before being killed by police.

     2010: Police officer James Crooker is asked to leave the Red and Black Café in Portland, Oregon after co-owner John Langley claimed Crooker’s uniformed presence made him uncomfortable

2014:  Swiss voters reject a $25 per hour minimum wage.


May 19


1743: French physicist, mathematician and astronomer Jean-Pierre Christin developed the centigrade temperature scale.

1780: A combination of thick smoke and heavy cloud cover caused complete darkness to fall on Eastern Canada and New England of the United States at 10:30 a.m.

1950: A barge containing munitions destined for Pakistan exploded in the harbor at South Amboy, N.J., devastating the city. Egypt closed the Suez Canal to Israeli ships and commerce.

1961: Venera 1 became the first man-made object to fly-by another planet when it passed Venus. (The probe had lost contact with Earth a month earlier and did not send back any data.)

1962: A pre-birthday salute to U.S. President John F. Kennedy was held at Madison Square Garden, New York City. The highlight was Marilyn Monroe’s rendition of “Happy Birthday.” Kennedy’s birthday was May 29.

     2018: American actress Meghan Markle marries Prince Harry at a ceremony in Windsor Castle, making her a member of the British royal family.

     2019: US billioniare Robert F. Smith announces he will pay off college loans of nearly 400 students of the graduating class of Morehouse College, Atlanta.