This Week in History

January 12

  1554: Bayinnaung was crowned King of Burma and went on to assemble the largest empire in the history of Southeast Asia.
1900: The Detroit Automobile Company finished its first commercial vehicle, a delivery wagon. The wagon was designed by a young engineer named Henry Ford, who had produced his own first motorcar, the quadricycle, before joining the company. (Frustrated with his employers, Ford soon quit to start his own company.)
1908: A long-distance radio message was sent from the Eiffel Tower in Paris for the first time.
1915: The U.S. House of Representatives rejected a proposal to give women the right to vote.
1921: Acting to restore confidence in baseball after the Black Sox Scandal, U.S. District Court Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis (1866-1944) was elected as the first commissioner of Major League Baseball.
1932: Ophelia Wyatt Caraway, a Democrat from Arkansas, became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate.
1962: Operation Chopper, the first American combat mission in the Vietnam War, took place.
1966: President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that the United States should stay in South Vietnam until communist aggression there was ended.
1967: Dr. James Bedford (1893-1967) became the first dead person whose body was cryonically preserved with the intent of future resuscitation. (His remains are preserved at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz.)
1969: The third AFL-NFL Championship Game became the first contest to be called “Super Bowl,” with Super Bowl III. In it, the New York Jets of the American Football League defeated the Baltimore Colts of the National Football League 16-7, in what is considered to be one of the greatest upsets in sports history.
2004: RMS Queen Mary 2 made its maiden voyage and became the world’s largest ocean liner.
2007: Comet McNaught reached perihelion and became the brightest comet in more than 40 years.

January 13

1864: America’s first professional songwriter, Stephen Foster, died in a charity ward in New York’s Bellevue Hospital at age 37 after falling and striking his head on a wash basin. (Foster wrote over 200 songs, many still sung today, including “Oh! Susanna,” “Camptown Races” and “Beautiful Dreamer.”)
1928: RCA and General Electric installed experimental television sets in three homes in Schenectady, N.Y. The screen on each set was 1½ inches square.
1929: Wyatt Earp, frontier lawman best known for the famous gunfight at OK Corral in Tombstone, Ariz., died in Los Angeles at age 80.
1941: James Joyce, regarded by many as Ireland’s greatest author, died in Zurich, Switzerland, at age 58.

January 14

1943: Franklin D. Roosevelt becomes the first U.S. President to travel by airplane while in office when he flew from Miami to Morocco to meet with Winston Churchill.
1952: NBC’s morning news program Today debuted with host Dave Garroway.
1954: The Hudson Motor Car Co. merged with Nash-Kelvinator, an automaker formed by the merger of the Nash automobile firm and the Kelvinator kitchen-appliance company. The new company was called American Motors Corporation. (It went out of business in 1987.)
1978: Kurt Gödel, the Austrian/American logician and mathematician, died of starvation when his wife was hospitalized. Gödel suffered from extreme paranoia and refused to eat food prepared by anyone else.

January 15

1929: Civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta.
1967: The first Super Bowl game was played at the Los Angeles Coliseum between the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs.

January 16

1786: Virginia adopted the Statute for Religious Freedom, written by Thomas Jefferson, which ended compulsory church support and attendance, and discrimination based on religious affiliation.
1909: Ernest Shackleton’s expedition discovered the magnetic South Pole.
1953: The first Chevrolet Corvette was introduced at a car show in New York.
1973: The final episode of Bonanza aired on NBC.
2003: The Space Shuttle Columbia took off for mission STS-107, which would be its final one. (The craft disintegrated 16 days later during re-entry.)

January 17

1706: Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston.
1893: 19th U.S. President Rutherford Birchard Hayes (1877-1881) died in Fremont, Ohio, at age 70.
1902: Inventor Gustav Whitehead successfully flew an airplane of his own design for about seven miles near Bridgeport, Conn. This was Whitehead’s second flight (the first was in May, 1899 in Pittsburgh). Whitehead’s flights predated the Wright Brothers’ but are not recognized because Whitehead had only one witness, his mechanic, whose name was not recorded.
1949: The first Volkswagen Beetle arrived in the United States from Germany.
1950: Eleven men stole $2.7 million from the Brinks Armored Car Depot in Boston, the largest theft in U.S. history to date. (The culprits were caught in 1956 just days before the statute of limitations for the theft expired, but only a small portion of the money was recovered. The rest is fabled to be hidden in the hills north of Grand Rapids, Minn.)
1961: In a nationally televised speech, Dwight D. Eisenhower addressed the American people for the last time as president. Expressing ideas that seem prophetic in retrospect, Eisenhower offered his fears and hopes for the future, warning against the unchecked growth of the “military-industrial complex,” a term he coined.

January 18

1778: James Cook became the first known European to discover the Hawaiian Islands, which he named the “Sandwich Islands.”
1862: John Tyler, 10th president, died in Richmond, Va. (He had just been elected to the Confederate Congress and was the only U.S. president to also serve in the Confederate government.)
1903: President Theodore Roosevelt sent a radio message to King Edward VII via the first transatlantic radio transmission originating in the United States.
1911: Eugene B. Ely landed on the deck of the USS Pennsylvania stationed in San Francisco Bay, the first time an aircraft landed on a ship.
1912: The expedition of British explorer Robert Falcon Scott arrived at the South Pole only to find that Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian explorer, had preceded them by just over a month. (Scott and his four team members perished on the return trip to their base camp.)
1977: Scientists identified a previously unknown bacterium as the cause of the mysterious Legionnaires’ disease.
1981: Phil Smith and Phil Mayfield parachuted off a Houston skyscraper, becoming the first two people to BASE jump from objects in all four categories: buildings, antennae, spans (bridges), and earth (cliffs).