This Week In American History: February 25th - March 2nd

This Week In American History: February 25th - March 2nd

February 25


Samuel Colt received US patent number 138 for a “revolving gun," later known as 9430X. His improvement in fire-arm design allowed a gun to be fired multiple times without reloading and helped usher in the era of the multi-shot pistol, effectively replacing the single shot devices of the day. It marked the transition from single- and double-barrel flintlock pistols to a multiple shot pistol. This patent gave us the famous saying: “God made man, but Samuel Colt made man equal."


22-year-old Cassius Clay shocked the odds-makers by dethroning world heavyweight boxing champ Sonny Liston in a seventh-round technical knockout. The dreaded Liston, who had twice demolished former champ Floyd Patterson in one round, was an 8-to-1 favorite. However, Clay predicted victory, boasting that he would “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” and knock out Liston in the eighth round. Muhammad Ali would go on to become one of the 20th century’s greatest sporting figures, as much for his social and political influence as his prowess in his chosen sport. At a White House ceremony in November 2005, Ali was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. On June 3, 2016, Ali passed away after a period of failing health.


The NCAA suspended the Southern Methodist University football program for 1987 season for repeated rules violations, the most serious violation being the maintenance of a slush fund used for "under the table" payments to players and their families to entice them to come to SMU to play, but stopped short of imposing the so-called "death penalty." Still, the sanctions were the most severe levied by the NCAA against a major college football program. The sanctions crippled the school's football program for more than a decade. In its first season back, in 1989, SMU finished 2-9. The following two seasons, SMU won two games, and the program did not have another winning season until 1997.


February 26 


In a controversial move that inspired charges of eastern domination of the West, Congress established Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Today, Grand Teton National Park encompasses 309,993 acres and lies at the heart of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which is considered one of the few remaining, nearly intact, temperate ecosystems on Earth. Though initially hesitant to be part of the national park, Jackson Hole was eventually incorporated. Successful working ranches still exist, but the local economy is increasingly dependent on services provided to tourists and the wealthy owners of vacation homes.


The last U.S. Marines sent to Lebanon as part of a multinational peacekeeping force left Beirut, the war-torn Lebanese capital where some 250 of the original 800 Marines lost their lives during the problem-plagued 18-month mission. During the mission on October 23, a Lebanese terrorist drove a truck packed with explosives into the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 U.S. military personnel. After the barracks bombing, many questioned whether President Ronald Reagan had a solid policy aim in Lebanon. In a national address on the night of October 23, President Reagan vowed to keep the Marines in Lebanon, but just four months later he announced the end of the American role in the peacekeeping force.


At 12:18pm, a bomb exploded in the basement parking garage below the World Trade Center. The massive explosion killed six people and wounded more than 1,000. The bombing brought home the shocking new reality of radical Islamic terrorism as a global phenomenon that directly impacted the US and its citizens. The planned scale of the attack dwarfed previous terrorist plots, as the plot’s leader, Ramzi Yousef, later told the FBI he had hoped to topple one tower into the other, killing some 250,000 civilians. Tragically, the 1993 bombing foreshadowed the much larger attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, in which a different group of Muslim extremists would achieve at least part of Yousef’s horrific goal.

February 27


A group of masked and costumed students danced through the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana, marking the beginning of the city’s famous Mardi Gras celebrations. The celebration of Carnival—or the weeks between Twelfth Night on January 6 and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian period of Lent—spread from Rome across Europe and later to the Americas. Nowhere in the United States is Carnival celebrated as grandly as in New Orleans, famous for its over-the-top parades and parties for Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday), the last day of the Carnival season.


In Washington, D.C., the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, providing for female suffrage, was unanimously declared constitutional by the eight members of the U.S. Supreme Court. The 19th Amendment, which stated that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex,” was the product of over seven decades of meetings, petitions, and protests by women suffragists and their supporters.


Baseball pioneer Effa Manley became the first woman elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Manley, who died in 1981, was a woman ahead of her time. In an era when few women were involved in sports management, Manley was the do-everything business manager for the Newark (New Jersey) Eagles of the Negro National League. In the 1930s and '40s, when she and her husband owned the Negro League team, she challenged fellow owners, who were all male. Later, she confronted Major League Baseball, pushing it to recognize Negro League players, who had been ignored by the Hall of Fame.

February 28


With the region’s population booming because of the Pike’s Peak gold rush, Congress created the new Territory of Colorado. When the United States acquired it after the Mexican War ended in 1848, the land that would one day become Colorado was nearly unpopulated by Anglo settlers. Ute, Arapaho, Cheyenne, and other Native Americans had occupied the land for centuries, but the Europeans who had made sporadic appearances there since the 17th century never stayed for long. It was not until 1851 that the first permanent non-Indian settlement was established, in the San Luis Valley.


The J. Paul Getty Museum became the most richly endowed museum on earth when it received a $1.2 billion bequest left to it by the late J. Paul Getty. The American oil billionaire died in 1976, but legal wrangling over his fortune by his children and ex-wives kept his will in probate until 1982. The $1 billion complex opened in December 1997. Fourteen years in the making, the Getty Center includes a large museum, a research institute and library, an art conservation institute, a digital information institute, an arts education institute, a museum management school, and a grant program center. The buildings were designed in a modernist style by American architect Richard Meier.



The celebrated sitcom M*A*S*H bowed out after 11 seasons, airing a special two-and-a-half hour episode watched by 77 percent of the television viewing audience. It was the largest percentage ever to watch a single TV show up to that time. Set near Seoul, Korea, behind the American front lines during the Korean War, M*A*S*H was based on the 1968 novel by Richard Hooker and the 1970 film produced by 20th Century Fox and directed by Robert Altman. Its title came from the initials for the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, an isolated compound that received wounded soldiers and was staffed by the show’s cast of doctors and nurses.


February 29


The first people are accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts - Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne and Tituba, a West Indian slave. So began the infamous Salem Witch Trials. Over the following months, more than 150 men and women in and around Salem were jailed on charges of exercising “Certaine Detestable Arts called Witchcrafts & Sorceryes.”



Hattie McDaniel won the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of “Mammy,” a housemaid and former enslaved woman in Gone with the Wind. She was the first African American actress or actor ever to be honored with an Oscar. The movie swept the prestigious Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Cinematography, Art Direction, Film Editing, and Actress categories.



Future Baseball Hall of Fame right fielder Hank Aaron became the first player to earn $200,000 average annual salary when he signed a 3-year deal with Atlanta Braves after one of his best seasons – .327 average, 47 HRs and 118 RBIs.

March 1


In a crime that captured the attention of the entire nation, Charles Lindbergh, Jr., the 20-month-old son of aviation hero Charles Lindbergh, was kidnapped from the family’s new mansion in Hopewell, New Jersey. After a ransom of $70k was paid and an exhaustive search, the baby’s body was found less than a mile from home. In 1934, a suspect was eventually charged and convicted of the crime. In the aftermath of the crime—the most notorious of the 1930s—kidnapping was made a federal offense.


President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order #10924, establishing the Peace Corps as a new agency within the Department of State. The same day, he sent a message to Congress asking for permanent funding for the agency, which would send trained American men and women to foreign nations to assist in development efforts. The Peace Corps captured the imagination of the U.S. public, and during the week after its creation thousands of letters poured into Washington from young Americans hoping to volunteer.March 2


New York Yankees center fielder Mickey Mantle announced his retirement from baseball. Mantle was an idol to millions, known for his remarkable power and speed and his everyman personality. While “The Mick” patrolled center field and batted clean-up between 1951 and 1968, the Yankees won 12 American League pennants and seven World Series. Mantle’s penchant for drink led to debilitating alcoholism as he grew older, and he died of liver cancer on August 13, 1995, at age 63. At the time of his death he held many of the records for World Series play, including most home runs (18), most RBIs (40) and most runs (42). Mantle was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974 in his first year of eligibility.

March 2


Theodor Geisel, better known to the world as Dr. Seuss, the author and illustrator of such children’s books as “The Cat in the Hat” and “Green Eggs and Ham,” was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. Geisel, who used his middle name (which was also his mother’s maiden name) as his pen name, wrote 48 books—including some for adults—that have sold well over 200 million copies and been translated into multiple languages. Dr. Seuss books are known for their whimsical rhymes and quirky characters, which have names like the Lorax and the Sneetches and live in places like Whoville.


Philadelphia Warriors center Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points against the New York Knicks during a home game in Hershey, Pennsylvania. It was the first time that a professional basketball player had scored 100 points in a single contest; the previous record, 78, had been set by Chamberlain earlier in the season. During the game, Chamberlain sank 36 field goals and 28 foul shots, both league records.


Pioneer 10, the world’s first outer-planetary probe, was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a mission to Jupiter, the solar system’s largest planet. In December 1973, after successfully negotiating the asteroid belt and a distance of 620 million miles, Pioneer 10 reached Jupiter and sent back to Earth the first close-up images of the spectacular gas giant. In June 1983, the NASA spacecraft left the solar system and the next day radioed back the first scientific data on interstellar space. NASA officially ended the Pioneer 10 project on March 31, 1997, with the spacecraft having traveled a distance of some six billion miles.

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