This Week In American History: July 10th - July 16th

July 10


President Benjamin Harrison signed Wyoming’s statehood bill, making Wyoming the 44th state. Carved from sections of Dakota, Utah, and Idaho territories, Wyoming Territory came into existence by act of Congress on July 25, 1868. Wyoming is known as the "Equality State" because of the rights women have traditionally enjoyed here. In 1869, Wyoming's territorial legislature became the first government in the world to grant "female suffrage" by enacting a bill granting Wyoming women the right to vote. Less than three months later, the "Mother of Women Suffrage in Wyoming"-Ester Hobart Morris-became the first woman ever to be appointed a justice of the peace. Wyoming women were also the first in the nation to serve on juries and hold public office.


The Scopes Monkey Trial, one of the most famous trials in US history, began with John Thomas Scopes, a young high school science teacher, accused of teaching evolution in violation of a Tennessee state law. The law made it a misdemeanor to “teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible." William Jennings Bran, former Democratic presidential candidate and a fundamentalist hero headed the prosecution while the great attorney Clarence Darrow agreed to join the ACLU in the defense. Scopes ended up losing the case and was charged a $100 fine, though the verdict was later overturned on a technicality. The case marked a turning point in the way evolution was taught in schools and more widely acknowledged in the U.S.


The United States Patent Office issue Volvo's Swedish engineer Nils Bohlin a patent for his three-point automobile safety belt. At the time, safety-belt use in automobiles was limited mostly to race car drivers; the traditional two-point belt, which fastened in a buckle over the abdomen, had been known to cause severe internal injuries in the event of a high-speed crash. Consisting of two straps that joined at the hip level and fastened into a single anchor point, the three-point belt significantly reduced injuries by effectively holding both the upper and lower body and reducing the impact of the swift deceleration that occurred in a crash. Volvo released the new seat belt design to other car manufacturers, and it quickly became standard worldwide.


July 11


In one of the most famous duels in American history, Vice President Aaron Burr fatally shot his long-time political antagonist Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton, a leading Federalist and the chief architect of America’s political economy, died the following day. Burr came from an elite New Jersey family while Hamilton was a poor Caribbean immigrant. The duel resulted from Hamilton's thrashing of Burr's character during the election for New York Governor, which Burr lost, and Burr wanting to restore his honor. Though charged with murder, Burr was immune from prosecution due to being the Vice President.


In his major league debut, George Herman “Babe” Ruth pitched seven strong innings to lead the Boston Red Sox over the Cleveland Indians, 4-2. To the great dismay of Boston fans, Ruth’s contract was sold to the New York Yankees before the 1920 season by Red Sox owner Harry Frazee. Ruth switched to the outfield with the Yankees and hit more home runs than the entire Red Sox team in 10 of the next 12 seasons. After getting rid of Ruth, the Red Sox did not win a World Series until 2004, an 85-year drought known to Red Sox fans as “the Curse of the Bambino.” Babe Ruth’s 1914 Baltimore News pre-rookie card sold for just over $6 million in 2021, making it the most expensive card purchase in history.


34-year-old novelist Nelle Harper Lee published her first novel, To Kill a Mockingbirf. Set in Maycomb, Alabama, the novel is populated with indelible characters, including the book's tomboy narrator, Jean Louise Finch (known as “Scout”), the mysterious recluse Boo Radley and Scout’s father, Atticus Finch, an upstanding lawyer who defends a Black man accused of raping a white woman. Now a staple of junior high and high school classrooms and the subject of numerous censorship efforts, it offers a vivid depiction of life in the Jim Crow South during the Great Depression. To Kill a Mockingbird became an immediate success, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961 and eventually selling more than 40 million copies worldwide.

July 12



The Medal of Honor was created when President Abraham Lincoln signed into law a measure calling for the awarding of a U.S. Army Medal of Honor, in the name of Congress, "to such noncommissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other soldier-like qualities during the present insurrection." The first U.S. Army soldiers to receive what would become the nation's highest military honor were six members of a Union raiding party who in 1862 penetrated deep into Confederate territory to destroy bridges and railroad tracks between Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Atlanta, Georgia.


Dwight D. Eisenhower became the first president to ride in the newest advance in aviation technology: the helicopter. Although experimental military helicopters had been tested since 1947, it was not until 10 years later that a president considered using the new machine for short, official trips to and from the White House. Eisenhower suggested the idea to the Secret Service, which approved of the new mode of transportation, seeing it as safer and more efficient than the traditional limousine motorcade. The HMX-1 Nighthawks squadron put into the president’s service was initially administered jointly by the Army and the Marine Corps. In 1976, the Marine Corps took over all helicopter operations.


Walter Monday, the leading Democratic presidential candidate, announced that he had chosen Representative Geraldine Ferraro of New York as his running mate. Ferraro, a daughter of Italian immigrants, had previously gained recognition as a vocal advocate of women's rights in Congress. Ferraro became the first female vice presidential candidate to represent a major political party. President Reagan and Vice President George Bush defeated the Mondal-Ferraro ticket in the greatest Republican landslide in U.S. history. The Republicans carried every state but Minnesota-Mondale's home state. 

July 13


The Hollywood Sign was officially dedicated in the hills above Hollywood, Los Angeles. Harvey and Daeida Wilcox founded Hollywood in 1887 as a community for likeminded followers of the temperance movement. By 1923 Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler had decided to invest in an upscale real-estate development called Hollywoodland, which capitalized on the growing recognition of Hollywood as a movie-industry mecca. Chandler and his partners created the sign as a real-estate advertisement. It originally read "Hollywoodland" but the four last letters are dropped after renovation in 1949.


Frank Sinatra recorded his first song, "From the Bottom of my Heart," with the Harry James Band. The same year, he was signed to a two-year contract of $75 a week by the bandleader. No more than 8,000 copies of the record were sold and further records released also had weak sales. Sinatra would leave the Harry James Band and debut with the Tommy Dorsey Band in 1940. In his first year with Dorsey, Sinatra recorded over forty songs. Sinatra's first vocal hit was the song "Polka Dots and Meanbeams." Sinatra signed with Columbia records as a solo act in 1943. Columbia Records re-released Harry James and Sinatra's 1939 version of "All or Nothing at All," which reached number 2 on June 2, and was on the best-selling list for 18 weeks.


Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts was nominated for the presidency by the Democratic Party Convention, defeating Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas. Four months later, on November 8, Kennedy won 49.7 percent of the popular vote in one of the closest presidential elections in U.S. history, surpassing by a fraction the 49.6 percent received by Vice President Richard M. Nixon, a Republican. During his famous inauguration address, Kennedy, the youngest candidate ever elected to the presidency, declared that “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans” and appealed to Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

July 14


The George Washington Carver National Monument in Joplin, Missouri was founded by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who donated $30,000 to the monument. It was the first national monument dedicated to an African American and first to a non-president. George Washington Carver was an American agricultural scientist and inventor who promoted alternative crops to cotton and methods to prevent soil depletion. He was the most prominent black scientist of the early 20th century. The site preserves of the boyhood home of Carve, as well as the 1881 Moses Carver house and the Carver cemetery. 


Atlanta Braves slugger Henry "Hank" Aaron hit the 500th home run of his career in a 4-2 win over the San Francisco Giants. Starting his career in the Negro Leagues, Aaron became the last former Negro League player to make his debut in the major leagues in 1954. On April 8, 1974, Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s record of 714 career home runs. Aaron retired from baseball in 1976 with 755 home runs. After a career of remarkable offensive consistency, Aaron retired as the all-time leader in runs batted in, extra base hits and total bases. He was named to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.


"The Howard Stern Show," an American late night variety television show hosted by Howard Stern and his radio show staff, namely Robin Quivers, premiered on WWOR-TV (NYC), ushering in a new era of shock jock djs and censorship debates. Bob Woodruff, then WWOR's vice president of program development, approached Stern in 1989 after he had watched him on Late Show with David Letterman. Woodruff was keen on Stern in order to "beat the boredom of summer reruns" that WWOR-TV aired, and that his "provocative commentary should make funny television." The show was nationally syndicated until July 15, 1992 when it was cancelled.

July 15


Die Hard, action film starring Bruce Willis as wisecracking New York City cop John McClane, opened in theaters across the Unite States. A highe box-office hit, the film established Willis as a movie star and spawned numerous sequels. Die Hard also became Hollywood shorthand for describing the plot of other actions films, as in “Speed is Die Hard on a bus.” As played by Willis, McClane was notable as a new type of action hero–funny and flawed. The film, which was directed by John McTiernan, received four Oscar nominations for Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Effects Editing.


World- renowned Italian fashion designed Gianni Versace was murdered on the steps outside his Miami mansion by spree killer Andrew Cunanan. Cunanan had no criminal record before the spring of 1997, when he began a killing spree in Minneapolis. Versace’s killing set off a nationwide manhunt for Cunanan, who was famous for his chameleon-like ability to look different in every picture taken of him. However, on July 23, the search ended just 40 blocks away from Versace’s home on a two-level houseboat that Cunanan had broken into. There, police found him dead from a self-inflicted bullet wound from the same gun that took the lives of two of his victims. He left no suicide note.


The San Francisco-based podcasting company Odeo officially released Twttr -later changed to Twitter- its short messaging service (SMS) for groups, to the public. Evan Williams, founder of Odeo, asked the team of 14 employees to brainstorm their best ideas for the flailing startup, One of the company’s engineers, Jack Dorsey, came up with the concept of a service allowing users to share personal status updates via SMS to groups of people. By March 2006, they had a working prototype, and a name—Twttr—inspired in part by bird sounds, and adopted after some other choices (including FriendStalker) were rejected. Dorsey (@Jack) sent the first-ever tweet (“just setting up my twttr”) on March 21.

July 16


The young American Congress declared that a swampy, humid, muddy and mosquito-infested site on the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia will be the nation's permanent capital. "Washington," in the newly designation federal "District of Columbia," was named after the leader of the American Revolution and the country's first president: George Washington. It was Washington who saw the area's potential economic and accessibility benefits due to the proximity of navigable rivers. George Washington, who had been in office just over a year when the capital site was determined, asked a French architect and city planner named Pierre L Enfant to design the capital.


At 5:29:45 a.m., the Manhattan Project yielded explosive results as the first atom bomb was successfully tested in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Plans for the creation of a uranium bomb by the Allies were established as early as 1939, when Italian emigre physicist Enrico Fermi met with U.S. Navy department officials at Columbia University to discuss the use of fissionable materials for military purposes. That same year, Albert Einstein signed a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt supporting the theory that an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction had great potential as a basis for a weapon of mass destruction. The first mushroom cloud of searing light stretched 40,000 feet into the air and generated the destructive power of 15,000 to 20,000 tons of TNT.


Amazon officially opened for business as an online bookseller. Within a month, the fledgling retailer had shipped books to all 50 U.S. states and to 45 countries. Founder Jeff Bezos' motto was “get big fast,” and Seattle-based Amazon eventually morphed into an e-commerce colossus. Amazon has since acquired a number of companies, including Zappos and Whole Foods. In 2015, Amazon surpassed Walmart as the world’s most valuable retailer. Two decades after its founding and with Bezos still at the helm, Amazon’s market value was $250 billion. In 2017, Bezos was named the richest man in the world. On July 5, 2021, Bezos stepped down as CEO of Amazon to focus on his aerospace company Blue Origin.