This Week In American History: January 22nd - January 28th

January 22

  

1968

"Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin released her twelfth studio album, Lady Soul. The masterpiece includes some of her biggest hit singles: "Chain of Fools", (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" and "(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone." The album reached number 2 on the Billboard 200 upon its release and, in 2020, it ranked at number 75 on Rolling Stone's "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list. Album personnel included Cissy Houston (mother of Whitney Houston) and Eric Clapton.

1973

Former President Lyndon Baines Johnson died in Johnson City, Texas, at the age of 64. After leaving the White House in 1968, L.B.J. returned to his beloved home state, Texas, with his wife, Lady Bird Johnson, and immersed himself in the activity dearest to him: ranching. Although retired, L.B.J. kept up a busy daily schedule reminiscent of his days in the White House. Beneath the bustle, Johnson remained, in his own words, miserable. For a man who had wanted to carve out a legacy as the creator of a Great Society in America, his disappointment that his part in escalating the Vietnam War overshadowed his other accomplishments was immense. Johnson’s impressive record included successful social and economic reforms such as the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, improvements in housing and urban development and strong support for America’s space program.

1998

In a Sacramento, California, courtroom, Theodore J. Kaczynski plead guilty to all federal charges against him, acknowledging his responsibility for a 17-year campaign of package bombings attributed to the “Unabomber.” In 1995, the Washington Post (in collaboration with the New York Times) published a 35,000-word anti-technology manifesto written by a person claiming to be the Unabomber. Recognizing elements of his brother’s writings, David Kaczynski went to authorities with his suspicions, and Ted Kaczynski was arrested in April 1996. In his cabin, federal investigators found ample evidence linking him to the bombings, including bomb parts, journal entries and drafts of the manifesto.

January 23

1849

At a graduation ceremony at a church in Geneva, New York, Geneva Medical College bestowed a medical degree upon Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman in the United States to receive one. Blackwell faced discrimination and obstacles in college, but she eventually earned the respect of professors and classmates, graduating first in her class. She continued her training at London and Paris hospitals, though doctors there relegated her to midwifery or nursing. In 1868, Blackwell opened a medical college in New York City. A year later, she placed her sister in charge and returned permanently to London, where in 1875, she became a professor of gynecology at the new London School of Medicine for Women. She also helped found the National Health Society and published several books, including an autobiography, Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession to Women (1895).

  

1941

Charles A. Lindbergh, a national hero since his nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic, testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Lend-Lease policy-and suggests that the United States negotiate a neutrality pact with Hitler. After the kidnapping of his son, Lindbergh moved to Europe and found himself enamored of the Germany national “revitalization” he encountered, and allowed himself to be decorated by Hitler’s government, which drew tremendous criticism back home. He eventually contributed to the war effort, though, flying 50 combat missions over the Pacific. His participation in the war, along with a popular Pulitzer Prize-winning book and a movie based on his exploits all worked to redeem him in the public’s eyes.

1957

Machines at the Wham-O toy company rolled out the first batch of their aerodynamic plastic discs—now known to millions of fans all over the world as Frisbees. The story of the Frisbee began in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where William Frisbie opened the Frisbie Pie Company in 1871. Students from nearby universities would throw the empty pie tins to each other, yelling “Frisbie!” as they let go. In 1948, Walter Frederick Morrison and his partner Warren Franscioni invented a plastic version of the disc called the “Flying Saucer” that could fly further and more accurately than the tin pie plates. In 1967, Ed Headrick, a designer for Wham-O, patented the design for the modern Frisbee, adding a band of raised ridges on the disc’s surface–called the Rings–to stabilize flight. By aggressively marketing Frisbee-playing as a new sport, Wham-O sold over 100 million units of its famous toy by 1977.

January 24

1781

Patriot commanders Lieutenant Colonel Light Horse Henry Lee and Brigadier General Francis "Swamp Fox" Marion of the South Carolina militia combined forces and conduct a raid on Georgetown, South Carolina, which was defended by 200 British soldiers. Marion won fame and the Swamp Fox moniker for his ability to strike and then quickly retreat into the South Carolina swamps without a trace. His military strategy is considered an 18th-century example of guerilla warfare and served as partial inspiration for the film The Patriot, starring Mel Gibson. The Patriots under Marion and Lee managed to arrive at Georgetown undetected and captured at least three officers, including the British commander. .

1847

Gold was found on Sutter's Creek in California, igniting the world's largest gold rush and changing the course of history in the American West. The 1850 census showed California with a population of 93,000 whielthe Oregon and Utah territories had about 12,000 each. The gold rush “jump-started” California’s incredible growth over the next century, eventually making it the largest state in the nation. The rush also made it the most ethnically diverse state, a position it still maintains. The $2 billion worth of gold produced over the century following its discovery represents less than half the value of a single year of California’s agricultural output in the mid 20th century. The soil itself turned out to be a greater treasure than all the gold extracted from it.

   

1935

Canned beer makes its debut when, in partnership with the American Can Company, the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company delivered 2,000 cans of Krueger’s Finest Beer and Krueger’s Cream Ale to faithful Krueger drinkers in Richmond, Virginia. 91% of the drinkers approved of the canned beer, driving Krueger to give the green light to further production. The response was overwhelming. Within three months, over 80% of distributors were handling Krueger’s canned beer, and Krueger’s was eating into the market share of the “big three” national brewers–Anheuser-Busch, Pabst and Schlitz. Competitors soon followed suit, and by the end of 1935, over 200 million cans had been produced and sold. Today, canned beer accounts for approximately half of the $20 billion U.S. beer industry.

January 25

  

1949

The first Emmy Awards ceremony was held at the Hollywood Athletic Club. The awards recognize excellence in television (which in the 1940s was a novel medium). At a time when only about 50,000 American households had TV sets, Sid Cassyd, a former film editor for Frank Capra who later worked as a grip at Paramount Studios and an entertainment journalist, saw the need for an organization that would foster productive discussion of the fledgling entertainment medium. The academy’s membership grew quickly, despite the lack of support from the Hollywood motion-picture establishment, which perhaps understandably felt threatened by TV and its potential to keep audiences entertained at home (and away from the theaters). The name “Emmy” was a feminized version of “immy,” the shorthand term for the image orthicon tube that was used in TV cameras until the 1960s.

  

1961

President John F. Kennedy became the first U.S. president to hold a live televised news conference.From a podium in the State Department auditorium, Kennedy read a prepared statement regarding the famine in the Congo, the release of two American aviators from Russian custody and impending negotiations for an atomic test ban treaty. He then opened the floor for questions from reporters, answering queries on a variety of topics including relations with Cuba, voting rights and food aid to impoverished Americans.

1993

American Chad Rowan was titled a “yokozuna,” the first non-Japanese sumo wrestler to attain the sport's highest rank. Rowan, a 23 y/o Hawaii native who stands 6' 8" and weighs 455 pounds, is the 64th person to hold the top rank in sumo, Japan's national sport. Rowan initially faced skepticism upon his promotion. "I don’t have any complaints about [his] ability," former grand champion selection committee chairman Yoshitaka Takahashi told the Associated Press. "But I don’t feel good about this.” In response to the criticism, Rowan simply said, “I’ll do my best to train well and fulfill everyone’s expectations.” When Rowan retired in 2001, he was sixth on the all-time list with 11 championships.

January 26

  

1970

U.S. Navy Lt. Everett Alvarez Jr. spent his 2,000th day in captivity in Southeast Asia. First taken prisoner when his plane was shot down on August 5, 1964, he became the longest-held POW in U.S. history. Alvarez was downed over Hon Gai during the first bombing raids against North Vietnam in retaliation for the disputed attack on U.S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin in August 1964. Alvarez was released in 1973 after spending over eight years in captivity. After retirement from the Navy, he served as deputy director of the Peace Corps and deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration during the Reagan administration, before founding his own military consulting firm.

1986

The Chicago Bears scored a Super Bowl record number of points to defeat the New England Patriots, 46-10, and win their first championship since 1963. Led by Coach Mike Ditka, a tight end for the Bears during their 1963 NFL Championship win, Chicago won 17 of 18 games to reach the championship match-up. The Bears' defensive end Richard Dent, who contributed one and a half of Chicago’s record seven sacks, was named the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XX, becoming only the fourth defender to win the honor.

2005

President George W. Bush appointed Condoleezza Rice to the post of Secretary of State, making her the highest ranking African American woman ever to serve in a presidential cabinet. Dr. Rice’s credentials included advanced degrees in political science and international relations from prestigious schools, followed by a post as Stanford University provost. At Stanford, she honed her reputation as an expert in Soviet affairs, catching the attention of the Reagan administration. She served in various roles within the Reagan and both Bush administrations focusing on national security affairs. At Rice’s swearing-in ceremony as secretary of state, both President Bush and Dr. Rice praised the efforts of her predecessor Colin Powell, who had been the first African American to serve as secretary of state.

January 27

  

1888

The National Geographic Society was founded in Washington, D.C., for “the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge.” Nine months after its inception, the Society published its first issue of National Geographic magazine. The Society used its revenues from the magazine to sponsor expeditions and research projects that furthered humanity’s understanding of natural phenomena. To date, it has given out more than 1,400 grants, funding that helped Robert Peary journey to the North Pole, Richard Byrd fly over the South Pole, Jacques Cousteau delve into the sea and Jane Goodall observe wild chimpanzees, among many other projects.

1943

Future President Ronald Reagan, an Army Air Corps first lieutenant during WWII, was on an active-duty assignment with the Army’s First Motion Picture Unit, which produced military training, morale and propaganda films to aid the war effort. Warner Brothers Studios and the American Army Air Corps had tapped him the previous year to star in a motion picture called Air Force. To allow filming to go forward, Reagan was transferred from his cavalry unit to the Air Corps’ motion-picture. Reagan went on to narrate or star in three more shorts for FMPU including For God and Country,Cadet Classification, and the The Rear Gunner. Reagan also appeared as Johnny Jones in the 1943 full-length musical film This is the Army.

1965

The Shelby GT 350, a version of a Ford Mustang sports car developed by the American auto racer and car designer Carroll Shelby, was launched. The Shelby GT 350, which featured a 306 horsepower V-8 engine, remained in production through the end of the 1960s and today is a valuable collector’s item. Carroll Shelby was born in Texas in 1923 and gained fame in the racing world in the 1950s. Among his accomplishments was a victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959, making him just the second American ever to win the iconic endurance race. After retiring, he began designing high-performance cars. Along with the Shelby GT 350, his designs include the Cobra and the Ford GT40. Shelby partnered with other automakers, including Chrysler, for whom he designed the Dodge Viper sports car, which launched in 1992.

January 28

1915

President Woodrow Wilson signed the Coast Guard Act of 1915, which merged the Revenue Cutter Service with the U.S. Life-Saving Service, and was officially renamed the Coast Guard, making it the only maritime service dedicated to saving life at sea and enforcing the nation's maritime laws. The Coast Guard's roots lie in the Revenue Cutter Service, which was founded on August 4, 1790 as part of the Department of the Treasury. The United States Lighthouse Service was merged into the Coast Guard in 1939. Upon the declaration of war or when the President directs, the Coast Guard operates under the authority of the Department of the Navy. The Coast Guard later moved to the Department of Transportation in 1967, and on February 25, 2003 it became part of the Department of Homeland Security.

1985

Quincy Jones convened the marathon recording session of “We Are the World”, hit written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie that would eventually go on to sell more than 7 million copies and raise more than $60 million for African famine relief. The special instruction Jones sent out to the several dozen stars invited to participate in the recording, which included Bob Dylan, Cyndi Lauper, Kenny Rogers, Tina Turner, Paul Simon, Diana Ross, Bruce Springsteen and more, was this: “Check your egos at the door.” Egos fully in check, the group laid down the chorus and solos before sunrise on the 29th, and “We Are the World” was in the stores and on the airwaves just five weeks later.

1986

The space shuttle Challenger lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and Christa McAuliffe was on her way to becoming the first ordinary U.S. civilian to travel into space alongside six other NASA astronauts. Seconds later, hundreds on the ground, including Christa’s family, stared in disbelief as the shuttle broke up in a forking plume of smoke and fire. Millions more watched the wrenching tragedy unfold on live television. There were no survivors. The investigation determined that the disaster was caused by the failure of an “O-ring” seal in one of the two solid-fuel rockets. As a result, NASA did not send astronauts into space for more than two years as it redesigned a number of features of the space shuttle.