This Week In American History: July 3rd - July 9th

July 3


George Washington rode out in front of the American troops gathered at Cambridge common in Massachusetts and drew his sword, formally taking command of the Continental Army. Washington, a prominent Virginia planter and veteran of the French and Indian War, had been appointed commander in chief by the Continental Congress two weeks before. In agreeing to serve the American colonies in their war for independence, he declined to accept payment for his services beyond reimbursement of future expenses.


The U.S. Congress approved the Idaho constitution, making Idaho the 43rd state in the Union. Even as late as 1805, Idaho Native Americans like the Shoshone had never encountered Europeans. That changed with the arrival of the American explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark that summer. British fur traders and trappers followed a few years later, as did missionaries and a few hardy settlers. As with many remote western states, large-scale settlement began only after gold was discovered. Thousands of miners rushed into Idaho when word of a major gold strike came in September 1860. By 1880, Idaho boasted a population of 32,610.


In his first year of eligibility for the Baseball Hall of Fame, Jackie Robinson was elected on the first ballot, becoming the first black player inducted into the Cooperstown museum. When the Brooklyn Dodgers signed Robinson to play first base on April 15, 1947, it heralded the end of racial segregation in professional baseball that had relegated black players to the Negro leagues since the 1880s. During his 10-year MLB career, Robinson won the inaugural Rookie of the Year in 1947, was an All-Star for six consecutive seasons from 1949 through 1954, and won the National League Most Valuable Player in 1949—the first black player so honored. Robinson played in six World Series and contributed to the Dodgers' 1955 World Series championship.

July 4


In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims the independence of the United States of America from Great Britain and its king. The declaration came 442 days after the first volleys of the American Revolution were fired at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts and marked an ideological expansion of the conflict that would eventually encourage France’s intervention on behalf of the Patriots. In 1783, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris with Britain, the United States formally became a free and independent nation.



Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the last surviving members of the original American revolutionaries who had stood up to the British empire and forged a new political system in the former colonies, die on the same day within five hours of each other. Adams preceded Jefferson as president; it was during this time that their ideas about policy-making became as distinct as their personalities. The irascible and hot-tempered Adams was a firm believer in a strong centralized government, while the erudite and genteel Jefferson believed federal government should take a more hands-off approach and defer to individual states’ rights.


The completed Statue of Liberty was formally presented to the U.S. ambassador as a commemoration of the friendship between France and the United States. In October 1886, the Statue of Liberty was formally dedicated in a ceremony presided over by President Grover Cleveland. Six years later, the inspection station on neighboring Ellis Island opened, welcoming more than 12 million immigrants to the U.S. between 1892 and 1954. Above them, the Statue of Liberty brandished her torch, embodying the most famous words from Emma Lazarus’ 1883 poem “The New Colossus,” written to raise funds for the pedestal and later inscribed on a plaque at its base: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

July 5


Chicago White Sox players, including stars Shoeless Joe Jackson, Buck Weaver and Eddie Cicotte, are accused of throwing the 1919 World Series. The White Sox, who were heavily favored at the start of the World Series, had been seriously underpaid and mistreated by owner Charles Comiskey. The conspiracy to fix the games was concocted by a gambling syndicate preying on the players' discontent. The scandal came to light when the players openly complained after not being paid. The ensuing publicized trial against the players was actually just for show as the players had agreed not to denigrate major league baseball or Comiskey in return for an acquittal. However, the new commissioner of baseball permanently barred the players from professional baseball.


To protest inaccessibility on the city’s bus system, 19 disabled activists in wheelchairs known as the "Gang of 19" occupied a Denver intersection. Two Regional Transportation District (RTD) buses were surrounded and unable to move for 24 hours. At the time, very few Denver buses were wheelchair accessible. Atlantis, a group dedicated to providing free, individualized care to those in need, recognized the importance of challenging the status quo and did so via an offshoot, ADAPT (American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today). Led by Presbyterian minister Wade Blank, it was ADAPT members who staged the protest, disrupting downtown traffic during rush hour and refusing to budge until RTD agreed to install lifts in at least a third of its fleet.


Seinfeld, created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, aired its pilot episode on NBC. Over nine seasons and 180 episodes, it starred Seinfeld as a fictionalized version of himself and focused on his personal life with three of his friends: best friend George Constanza (Jason Alexander), former girlfriend Elane Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and his neighbor from across the hall, Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards). Set mostly in an apartment building in Manhattan's Upper West Side in New York City, it has been described as "a show about nothing", often focusing on the minutiae of daily life. Seinfeld is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential sitcoms of all time. In 2013, the Writers Guild of America voted it the No. 2 Best-Written TV Series of All Time (second to The Sopranos).

July 6


Althea Gibson claimed the women's singles tennis title at Wimbledon and became the first African American to win a championship at London's All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. After winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open again in 1958, Gibson retired from amateur tennis. In 1960, she toured with the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, playing exhibition tennis matches before their games. In 1964, Gibson joined the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour, the first Black woman to do so. The trailblazing athlete played pro golf until 1971, the same year in which she was voted into the National Lawn Tennis Association Hall of Fame.


In Annapolis, Maryland, the United States Naval Academy admitted women for the first time. On Oct. 7, 1975, President Gerald Ford signed legislation permitting women to enter the military academies. With male chauvinism and bias working against them in addition to the mental and physical challenges of military training, the women had to work hard to prove themselves — which they quickly did, nailing academics at a higher rate than their male counterparts and slowly earning the respect of their brothers in arms. 55 women from that first class graduated, paving the way for all female cadets, who now comprise more than a quarter of the student body.


The movie Forrest Gump opened in U.S. theaters. A huge box-office success, the film starred Tom Hanks in the title role of Forrest, a good-hearted man with a low I.Q. who winds up at the center of key cultural and historical events of the second half of the 20th century. Forrest Gump received 13 Academy Award nominations and took home six Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Hanks) and Best Director (Robert Zemeckis). The film also won an Oscar for its then-cutting-edge computer-generated imagery (CGI) special effects, which incorporated Forrest Gump into existing news footage with famous world figures including JFK, John Lennon and Richard Nixon.

July 7


Construction of the Hoover Dam began. Over the next five years, a total of 21,000 men would work ceaselessly to produce what would be the largest dam of its time, as well as one of the largest manmade structures in the world. Once preparations were made, the Hoover Dam’s construction sprinted forward: The contractors finished their work two years ahead of schedule and millions of dollars under budget. Today, the Hoover Dam generates enough energy each year to serve over a million people, and stands, in Hoover Dam artist Oskar Hansen’s words, as “a monument to collective genius exerting itself in community efforts around a common need or ideal.”


President Ronald Reagan nominated Sandra Day O'Connor, an Arizona court of appeals judge, to be the first woman Supreme Court justice in U.S. history. On September 21st, the Senate unanimously approved her appointment to the nation's highest court. O'Connor emerged as a moderate and pragmatic conservative. On social issues, she often voted with liberal justices, and in several cases she upheld abortion rights. During her time on the bench, she was known for her dispassionate and carefully researched opinions and was regarded as a prominent justice because of her tendency to moderate the sharply divided Supreme Court. O’Connor announced her retirement from the Supreme Court on July 1, 2005.


After a dominating tournament showing, the U.S. women's national team brought home a record fourth FIFA World Cup title - its second in a row. The team set a women’s World Cup record with 26 goals and 12 straight wins, tying Germany as the only teams to score repeat championships. With four World Cup wins—in 1991, 1999, 2015 and 2019—the U.S. is the only team to have won more than two titles. At the end of the final, fans chanted “Equal pay!” in support of an ongoing gender discrimination lawsuit by players Morgan, Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn against the U.S. Soccer Federation.

July 8


A 2,000-pound copper-and-tine bell now know as the "LibertyBell" rang out from the tower of the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, summoning citizens to the first public reading of he Declaration of Independence. Four days earlier, the historic document had been adopted by delegates to the Continental Congress, but the bell did not ring to announce the issuing of the document until the Declaration of Independence returned from the printer on July 8. 


Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry, representing the U.S. government, sailed into Tokyo Bay, Japan, with a squadron of fur vessels. For a time, Japanese officials refused to speak with Perry, but under thread of attack by the superior American ships they accepted letters from President Millard Fillmore, making the United States the first Western nation to establish relations with Japan since it had been declared closed to foreigners two centuries before. Only the Dutch and the Chinese were allowed to continue trade with Japan after 1639, but this trade was restricted and confined to the island of Dejima at Nagasaki.


General Douglas Macarthur was appointed supreme commander of the U.S.-led U.N. forces sent to aid South Korea after being invaded by the North. In September, he organized a risky but highly successful landing at Inchon, and by October North Korean forces had been driven back across the 38th parallel. When China intervened and forced U.N. forces into a desperate retreat, MacArthur pressed for permission to bomb China. President Truman, fearing the Cold war implications of an expanded war in the Far East, refused. MacArthur then publicly threatened to escalate hostilities with China in defiance of Truman’s stated war policy, leading Truman to fire him on April 11, 1951.

July 9


US troops secured Saipan after three weeks of fighting during the Battle of Saipan. Known as the Pacific D-Day, the battle was launched nine days after Operation Overlord in Europe. The loss of Saipan, with the deaths of at least 29,000 troops and heavy civilian casualties, precipitated the resignation of Prime Minister of Japan Tōjō Hideki and left the Japanese archipelago within the range of US Army Air Forces B-29 bombers. Four months after capture, more than 100 B-29s from Saipan's Isley Field were regularly attacking the Philippines, the Ryukyu Islands and the Japanese mainland. In response, Japanese aircraft attacked Saipan and Tinian on several occasions between November 1944 and January 1945. The U.S. capture of Iwo Jima (19 February – 26 March 1945) ended further Japanese air attacks.


In a ceremony held at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, General Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Florence Blanchfield to be a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, making her the first woman in U.S. history to hold permanent military rank. A member of the Army Nurse Corps since 1917, Blanchfield secured her commission following the passage of the Army-Navy Nurse Act of 1947. Blanchfield served as superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps during WWII and was instrumental in securing passage of the Army-Navy Nurse Act, which was advocated by Representative Frances Payne Bolton. In 1951, Blanchfield received the Florence Nightingale Award from the International Red Cross. In 1978, a U.S. Army hospital in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, was named in her honor.


Bob Dylan recorded "Blowin' in The Wind," the eloquent protest song that would make him a star and go on to be one of the top 20 songs of all time. Dylan’s recording of “Blowin’ In The Wind” would first be released nearly a full year later, on his breakthrough album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. This was not the version of the song that most people would first hear, however. That honor went to the cover version by Peter, Paul and Mary—a version that not only became a smash hit on the pop charts, but also transformed what Dylan would later call “just another song” into the unofficial anthem of the civil rights movement.