On This Day in History

On This Day, Jan 24, 1956 – Emmett Till Murderers Make Magazine Confession

On January 24, 1956, Look magazine publishes the confessions of J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, two white men from Mississippi who were acquitted in the 1955 kidnapping and murder of Emmett Louis Till, an African-American teenager from Chicago. In the Look article, titled “The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi,” the men detailed how they beat Till with a gun, shot him and threw his body in the Tallahatchie River with a heavy cotton-gin fan attached with barbed wire to his neck to weigh him down. The two killers were paid a reported $4,000 for their participation in the article. In August 1955, 14-year-old Till, whose nickname was Bobo, traveled to Mississippi to visit relatives and stay at the home of his great-uncle, Moses Wright. On August 24, Till went into Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market in Money, Mississippi, to buy candy. At some point, he allegedly whistled at...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 23, 1941 – Lindbergh to Congress: Negotiate with Hitler

On this day in 1941, Charles A. Lindbergh, a national hero since his nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic, testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Lend-Lease policy-and suggests that the United States negotiate a neutrality pact with Hitler. Lindbergh was born in 1902 in Detroit. His father was a member of the House of Representatives. Lindbergh’s interest in aviation led him to flying school in Lincoln, Nebraska, and later brought him work running stunt-flying tours and as an airmail pilot. While regularly flying a route from St. Louis to Chicago, he decided to try to become the first pilot to fly alone nonstop from New York to Paris. He obtained the necessary financial backing from a group of businessmen, and on May 21, 1927, after a flight that lasted slightly over 33 hours, Lindbergh landed his plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, in Paris. He won worldwide...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 22, 1973 – Roe v. Wade

The Supreme Court decriminalizes abortion by handing down their decision in the case of Roe v. Wade. Despite opponents’ characterization of the decision, it was not the first time that abortion became a legal procedure in the United States. In fact, for most of the country’s first 100 years, abortion as we know it today was not only not a criminal offense, it was also not considered immoral. In the 1700s and early 1800s, the word “abortion” referred only to the termination of a pregnancy after “quickening,” the time when the fetus first began to make noticeable movements. The induced ending of a pregnancy before this point did not even have a name–but not because it was uncommon. Women in the 1700s often took drugs to end their unwanted pregnancies. In 1827, though, Illinois passed a law that made the use of abortion drugs punishable by up to three years’...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 21, 1924 – Vladimir Ilyich Lenin Dies

In Moscow, on the evening of January 21, 1924, shock and near-hysterical grief greets the news that Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, leader of the radical socialist Bolshevik movement that toppled the czarist regime in 1917 and head of the first government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.), had died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Influenced early on by Karl Marx s seminal text Das Kapital, Lenin was radicalized further by the execution of his older brother, Alexander, for conspiring to kill Czar Alexander III in 1887. The brooding, fiercely intellectual Lenin married the principles of Marxist thought to his own theory of organization and the reality of Russian demographics, envisioning a group of elite professional revolutionaries, or a “vanguard of the proletariat,” who would first lead the agrarian masses of Russia to victory over the tyrannical czarist regime and eventually incite a worldwide revolution. He laid out this...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 20, 1981 – Iran Hostage Crisis Ends –

Minutes after Ronald Reagan’s inauguration as the 40th president of the United States, the 52 U.S. captives held at the U.S. embassy in Teheran, Iran, are released, ending the 444-day Iran Hostage Crisis. On November 4, 1979, the crisis began when militant Iranian students, outraged that the U.S. government had allowed the ousted shah of Iran to travel to New York City for medical treatment, seized the U.S. embassy in Teheran. The Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran’s political and religious leader, took over the hostage situation, refusing all appeals to release the hostages, even after the U.N. Security Council demanded an end to the crisis in a unanimous vote. However, two weeks after the storming of the embassy, the Ayatollah began to release all non-U.S. captives, and all female and minority Americans, citing these groups as among the people oppressed by the government of the United States. The remaining 52 captives...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan. 19, 1966: Indira Gandhi Elected

Indira Gandhi became the first female head of government after the death of Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri.  She was a controversial figure in Indian politics.  She was the second longest serving Prime Minister in India’s history. Indira Gandhi was born on November 19, 1917.  She was the daughter of Jawawarharlal  and Kamala Nehru, who had also served as Prime Minister.  She served as the Chief of staff of her father’s administration and was later offered the premiership to succeed her father to which she refused.  Choosing instead to become a cabinet minister in the government. She finally consented to become Prime Minister in 1966. Gandhi served from 1966  to 1977 and was elected again in 1980, she served until she was assassinated in 1984 reportedly by a Sikh member of her bodyguard. There have been recent claims that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain may have helped...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 18, 1803 – Jefferson Sets Stage for Lewis & Clark Expedition

1803 – Thomas Jefferson, in secret communication with Congress, sought authorization for the first official exploration by the U.S. government. Three months later, with the Louisiana Purchase in place, Congress officially funded what would become the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the first American expedition to cross what is now the western portion of the United States, departing in May 1804, from near St. Louis on the Mississippi River, making their way westward through the continental divide to the Pacific coast. The expedition consisted of a select group of U.S. Army volunteers under the command of Captain Meriwether Lewis and his close friend Second Lieutenant William Clark. Their perilous journey lasted from May 1804 to September 1806. The primary objective was to explore and map the newly acquired territory, find a practical route across the Western half of the continent, and establish an American presence in this territory before Britain...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 17, 1961 – Ike Warns Nation of Rise of the ‘Militarty-Industrial Complex’

1961 – In his farewell address, President Dwight Eisenhower warned against the rise of “the military-industrial complex.” On Jan. 17, 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower gave the nation a dire warning about what he described as a threat to democratic government. He called it the military-industrial complex, a formidable union of defense contractors and the armed forces. Eisenhower, a retired five-star Army general, the man who led the allies on D-Day, made the remarks in his farewell speech from the White House. As NPR’s Tom Bowman tells Morning Edition co-host Renee Montagne, Eisenhower used the speech to warn about “the immense military establishment” that had joined with “a large arms industry.” Here’s an excerpt: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.” Since...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 16, 1919 – 18th Amendment’s Ratification Leads to Prohibition

1919 – The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibited the sale or transportation of alcoholic beverages, was ratified. It was later repealed by the 21st Amendment. Prohibition in the United States was a nationwide constitutional ban on the sale, production, importation, and transportation of alcoholic beverages that remained in place from 1920 to 1933. It was promoted by “dry” crusaders movement, led by rural Protestants and social Progressives in the Democratic and Republican parties, and was coordinated by the Anti-Saloon League, and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Prohibition was mandated under the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Enabling legislation, known as the Volstead Act, set down the rules for enforcing the ban and defined the types of alcoholic beverages that were prohibited. For example, religious uses of wine were allowed. Private ownership and consumption of alcohol was not made illegal under federal law; however, in many...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan. 15, 1870 – The Donkey and the Democrats Join Hands

1870 – A cartoon by Thomas Nast titled “A Live Jackass Kicking a Dead Lion” appeared in “Harper’s Weekly.” The cartoon used the donkey to symbolize the Democratic Party for the first time. The donkey was labeled “COPPERHEAD PAPERS” – copperheads were Northern Democrats and the lion was inscribed with “HON. E.M. STANTON” who was Lincoln’s Secretary of War. Lincoln was the first Republican president. Nast was born in Landau, Germany in 1840 and his parents moved the family to New York when he was six. He and his sister were enrolled in public school and Nast’s performance was dismal. He did not speak English and was in danger of failing. His neighbor gave him crayons, seconds from his own manufacturing effort, and Nast learned to draw beautifully. He was basically illiterate and remained so all his life. He was enrolled in art school at age 12 but was...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 14, 1943 – FDR Becomes First Sitting US President to Take to the Air

1943 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first U.S. President to fly in an airplane while in office, arriving in Morocco to join British Prime Minister Winston Churchill for a 10-day conference in Casablanca that mapped the course the allies would pursue in fighting World War II and that demanded the “unconditional surrender” of their enemies. In crossing the Atlantic in a Boeing 314 Flying Boat dubbed the Dixie Clipper, Roosevelt became the first president to travel on official business by airplane. At the time, FDR was a frail 60 years old, with little more than two more years to live. He was persuaded to make the arduous 17,000-mile round trip by air because Nazi U-boats still remained on the prowl. The secret presidential flight took more than four days to allow for refueling and rest stops. Although transferred to the U.S. Navy and designated C-143, the huge...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan. 13, 1943 – Henry Ford Patents ‘The Soybean Car’

1942 – Henry Ford patented the plastic automobile referred to as the “Soybean Car.” The car was 30% lighter than the average car. The Soybean car, more recently referred to as the Hemp body car, was a car build with agricultural plastic. Although the formula used to create the plasticized panels has been lost, it is conjectured that the first iteration of the body was made partially from soybeans and Hemp. The body was lighter and therefore more fuel efficient than a normal metal body. It was made by Henry Ford’s auto company in Dearborn, Michigan, through the work of scientist/botanist George Washington Carver and was introduced to public view on August 13, 1941. Because of World War II all US automobile production was curtailed considerably, and the plastic car experiment basically came to a halt. By the end of the war the plastic car idea went into oblivion. According...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan. 12, 1966 – LBJ Says We’re Staying in Vietnam

1966 – President Lyndon Johnson said in his State of the Union address that the United States should stay in South Vietnam until Communist aggression there was ended. “How many times–in my lifetime and in yours–have the American people gathered, as they do now, to hear their President tell them of conflict and tell them of danger? Each time they have answered. They have answered with all the effort that the security and the freedom of this Nation required. And they do again tonight in Vietnam. Not too many years ago Vietnam was a peaceful, if troubled, land. In the North was an independent Communist government. In the South, a people struggled to build a nation, with the friendly help of the United States. There were some in South Vietnam who wished to force Communist rule on their own people. But their progress was slight. Their hope of success...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 11, 1927 – Charlie Chaplin’s Assets Frozen

On January 11, 1927, Charlie Chaplin’s $16 million estate is frozen by court receivers after his second wife, Lita Grey Chaplin, sues for divorce. Lita was a 16-year-old hopeful actress when the 35-year-old Chaplin married her in 1924. The bitter and prolonged divorce ended a three-year marriage with a $1 million settlement. Chaplin, one of the most financially successful stars of early Hollywood, was introduced to the stage when he was five. The son of London music hall entertainers, young Chaplin was watching a show starring his mother when her voice cracked. He was quickly shuffled onto the stage to finish the act. Chaplin’s father died when Chaplin was a toddler, and when his mother had a nervous breakdown Chaplin and his older half-brother, Sydney, roamed London, where they danced on the streets and collected pennies in a hat. They eventually went to an orphanage and joined the Eight...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 10, 2000 – AOL-Time Warner Formed

On this day in 2000, in one of the biggest media mergers in history, America Online Inc. announces plans to acquire Time Warner Inc. for some $182 billion in stock and debt. The result was a $350 billion mega-corporation, AOL Time Warner, which held dominant positions in every type of media, including music, publishing, news, entertainment, cable and the Internet. The AOL Time Warner merger came at the height of the so-called “Internet bubble,” when dot-com businesses were on a meteoric rise and their future seemed limitless. The idea was to combine Time Warner’s impressive book, magazine, television and movie production capabilities with AOL’s 30 million Internet subscribers to form the ultimate media empire. Under the terms of the merger, which was cleared by the Federal Trade Commission in December 2000 and formally completed in January 2001, AOL shareholders owned 55 percent of the new company while Time Warner...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 9, 1976 – Stallone Starts Filming Rocky

The classic rags-to-riches story got a macho spin in the Oscar-winning Rocky, which was written by its star, Sylvester Stallone, and began filming on this day in 1976. Stallone had his own rags-to-riches tale: Born in the gritty Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City, he was a juvenile delinquent who was kicked out of a number of schools before he turned 15. After attending high school in Philadelphia and studying drama at the University of Miami, Stallone moved back to New York and later to Los Angeles, with dreams of becoming an actor. When the idea for Rocky came to him, Stallone was living in a seedy apartment in Hollywood with his wife and dog; he began writing scripts so that he would have better roles to play. According to a profile in the New York Times, published November 28, 1976, he wrote the entire Rocky script in...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 8, 1916 – Allies Retreat From Gallipoli

On January 8, 1916, Allied forces stage a full retreat from the shores of the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, ending a disastrous invasion of the Ottoman Empire. The Gallipoli Campaign resulted in 250,000 Allied casualties and greatly discredited Allied military command. Roughly an equal number of Turks were killed or wounded. In early 1915, the British government resolved to ease Turkish pressure on the Russians in the Caucasus front by seizing control of the Dardanelles channel, the Gallipoli Peninsula, and then Istanbul. From there, pressure could be brought on Austria-Hungary, forcing the Central Powers to divert troops from the western front. The first lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, strongly supported the plan, and in February 1915 French and British ships began bombarding the Turkish forts guarding the Dardanelles. Bad weather interrupted the operation, and on March 18, six English and four French warships moved into the Dardanelles. The...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 7, 1999 – Clinton Impeachment Trial Begins

On January 7, 1999, the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, formally charged with lying under oath and obstructing justice, begins in the Senate. As instructed in Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution, Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist was sworn in to preside, and the senators were sworn in as jurors. Congress had only attempted to remove a president on one other occasion: the 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, who incurred the Republican Party’s wrath after he proposed a conservative Reconstruction plan. In November 1995, Clinton began an affair with Monica Lewinsky, a 21-year-old unpaid intern. Over a year and a half, the president and Lewinsky had nearly a dozen sexual encounters in the White House. In April 1996, Lewinsky was transferred to the Pentagon. That summer, she first confided in Pentagon co-worker Linda Tripp about her sexual relationship with the president. In 1997, with the...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 6, 1994 – Skater Nancy Kerrigan Attacked

Olympic hopeful Nancy Kerrigan is attacked at a Detroit ice rink following a practice session two days before the Olympic trials. A man hit Kerrigan with a club on the back of her knee, causing the figure skater to cry out in pain and bewilderment. When the full story emerged a week later, the nation became caught up in a real-life soap opera. One of Kerrigan’s chief rivals for a place on the U.S. Figure Skating Team was Tonya Harding. In mid-December 1993, Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, approached Shawn Eckardt about somehow eliminating Kerrigan from the competition. Eckardt set up a meeting with Derrick Smith and Shane Stant, who agreed to injure Kerrigan for a fee. On December 28, Stant went to Massachusetts, where Kerrigan was practicing. However, he couldn’t carry out the attack so he followed her to Detroit, where Smith met him. After hitting Kerrigan, Stant fled...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 5, 1976 – Pol Pot Renames Cambodia

On this day in 1976, Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot announces a new constitution changing the name of Cambodia to Kampuchea and legalizing its Communist government. During the next three years his brutal regime sent the nation back to the Middle Ages and was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1 to 2 million Cambodians. Pol Pot, who was born Saloth Sar in 1925 to a relatively well-off Cambodian family, became involved in the Communist movement as a young man studying in Paris. After he returned home to Cambodia, which gained its independence from France in 1954, he rose through the ranks of his homeland’s small, underground Communist Party. Influenced by China’s Mao Zedong, by the mid-1960s, Pol Pot, also known as Brother Number One, was heading up Cambodia’s Communist movement and living in a remote part of the country with a band of supporters. Cambodia’s ruler, Prince Norodom...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan. 4, 1965 – LBJ Reveals Vision for ‘The Great Society’

1965 – In his State of the Union address, President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed the building of the “Great Society.” The Great Society was a set of domestic programs in the United States launched by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964-65. The main goal was the elimination of poverty and racial injustice. President Johnson first used the term “Great Society” during a speech at Ohio University, then unveiled the program in greater detail at an appearance at University of Michigan. New major spending programs that addressed education, medical care, urban problems, and transportation were launched during this period. The program and its initiatives were subsequently promoted by him and fellow Democrats in Congress in the 1960s and years following. The Great Society in scope and sweep resembled the New Deal domestic agenda of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Some Great Society proposals were stalled initiatives from John F. Kennedy‘s New Frontier. Johnson’s...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan. 3, 1521 – Martin Luther Excommunicated for Heresy

1521 – Pope Leo X excommunicated Martin Luther for heresy. Ordinarily, those condemned as heretics were apprehended by an authority of the secular government and put to death by burning. In Luther’s case, however, a complex set of factors made such punishment impossible. The new German king (and Holy Roman emperor), Charles V, had agreed as a condition of his election that no German would be convicted without a proper hearing; many, including Luther himself, were convinced that Luther had not been granted this right. Others noted various formal deficiencies in Exsurge Domine, including the fact that it did not correctly quote Luther and that one of the sentences it condemned was actually written by another author. Still others thought that Luther’s call for reform deserved a more serious hearing. A proposal was therefore circulated that Luther should be given a formal hearing when the imperial Diet convened in...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan. 2, 1960 – John F. Kennedy Throws His Hat in the Ring

1960 – Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. Kennedy captured the Democratic nomination despite his youth, a seeming lack of experience in foreign affairs, and his Catholic faith. On May 10, he won a solid victory in the Democratic primary in overwhelmingly Protestant West Virginia. His success there launched him toward a first ballot victory at the national convention in Los Angeles — although he did not reach the 761 votes required for the nomination until the final state in the roll call, Wyoming. After choosing Texas Senator Lyndon Johnson as his running mate, Kennedy told the convention delegates that he would get the nation moving again. He declared that the United States would have the will and the strength to resist communism around the world. On November 8, 1960, . Kennedy was elected president in one of the closest elections...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan. 1, 1892 – Ellis Island Starts Processing Immigrants

1892 – Ellis Island Immigrant Station formally opened in New York. In the 35 years before Ellis Island opened, over eight million immigrants arriving in New York had been processed by New York State officials at Castle Garden Immigration Depot in lower Manhattan, just across the bay. The federal government assumed control of immigration on April 18, 1890, and Congress appropriated $75,000 to construct America’s first Federal immigration station on Ellis Island. Artesian wells were dug, and landfill was hauled in from incoming ships’ ballast and from construction of New York City’s subway tunnels, which doubled the size of Ellis Island to over six acres. While the building was under construction, the Barge Office nearby at the Battery was used for immigrant processing. The first federal immigrant inspection station was an enormous three-story-tall structure, with outbuildings, built of Georgia pine, containing all of the amenities that were thought to be...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec. 31, 1879 – Thomas Edison Demonstrates His Light Bulb

1879 – Thomas Edison gave his first public demonstration of incandescent lighting to an audience in Menlo Park, NJ. Edison’s serious incandescent light bulb research began in 1878, filing his first patent later that year…”Improvement In Electric Lights” in October 1878. His experiments involved the fabrication and testing of many different metal filaments, including platinum. Platinum was very difficult to work with, and prone to being weakened by heating and oxygen attack. In addition, platinum was expensive, and too low in resistance; which would require heavy copper conductors in Edison’s electric distribution system he was designing to supply commercial installations of his bulbs. This system would later become the model for our modern electric utility power distribution system of today. Edison then resorted to a carbon-based, high-resistance, filament. One year later in October 1879, Edison successfully tested a filament that burned for 13.5 hours. Continuing to improve his design,...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec. 30, 1980 – NBC Cancels ‘The Wonderful World of Disney’

1980 – “The Wonderful World of Disney” was cancelled by NBC after more than 25 years on the TV. It was the longest-running series in prime-time television history. Originally hosted by Walt Disney himself, the series presented animated cartoons and other material (some original, some pre-existing) from the studio library. For many years, the show also featured one-hour edits of such then-recent Disney films as Alice in Wonderland, and in other cases, telecasts of complete Disney films split into two or more one-hour episodes.Occasionally, a more educational segment, such as The Story of the Animated Drawing, would be featured. The show spawned the Davy Crockett craze of 1955 with the three-episode series (not shown in consecutive weeks) about the historical American frontiersman, starring Fess Parker in the title role. Millions of dollars of merchandise were sold relating to the title character, and the theme song, “The Ballad of Davy...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec. 29, 1170 – Thomas Becket Killed on Orders from Henry II

1170 – St. Thomas à Becket, the 40th archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered in his own cathedral by four knights acting on Henry II’s orders. In 1162, Henry II, king of England, appointed Thomas Becket, as Archbishop of Canterbury. This was the most important religious position in England. No-one was surprised by Henry’s choice as both he and Thomas were very good friends. They enjoyed hunting, playing jokes and socialising together. Becket was known to be a lover of wine and a good horse rider. Henry II loved to ride as well but his personality was troubled by his fearsome temper. He tried to keep his temper under control by working very hard as it distracted him from things that might sparked off his temper. Henry II also controlled a lot of France at this time. William the Conqueror had been his great-grandfather and he had inherited his French...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 28, 1972 – Hanoi Announces Return to the Paris Peace Talks

After 11 days of round-the-clock bombing (with the exception of a 36-hour break for Christmas), North Vietnamese officials agree to return to the peace negotiations in Paris. The Linebacker II bombing was initiated on December 18 by President Richard Nixon when the North Vietnamese, who walked out of the peace negotiations in Paris, refused his ultimatum to return to the talks. During the course of the bombing, 700 B-52 sorties and more than 1,000 fighter-bomber sorties dropped an estimated 20,000 tons of bombs, mostly over the densely populated area between Hanoi and Haiphong. During the ensuing battle, the North Vietnamese launched their entire stock of more than 1,200 surface-to-air missiles against the U.S. planes. Fifteen B-52s and 11 other U.S. aircraft were lost, along with 93 flyers downed, killed, missing or captured. Hanoi claimed heavy damage and destruction of densely populated civilian areas in Hanoi, Haiphong, and their suburbs. The...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 27, 2004 – Peyton Manning Breaks Single-STouchdown Pass Record

On December 27, 2004, in a game against the San Diego Chargers, quarterback Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts finds wide receiver Brandon Stokely in the end zone for his 49th touchdown pass of the season, breaking the previous National Football League (NFL) single-season record held by Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins. Born in 1976, Manning is the son of the former NFL quarterback Archie Manning, who played for the New Orleans Saints, the Houston Oilers and the Minnesota Vikings during the 1970s and early 1980s. His younger brother, Eli, plays quarterback for the New York Giants. After a stellar college career at the University of Tennessee, Peyton Manning was selected by the Colts as the first pick in the 1998 NFL draft. From the beginning, Manning performed at a consistently high level, passing for at least 3,000 yards in every season and becoming the first player to...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 26, 1946 – Bugsy Siegel Opens Flamingo Hotel

On December 26, 1946, in Las Vegas, Nevada, mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel opens The Pink Flamingo Hotel & Casino at a total cost of $6 million. The 40-acre facility wasn’t complete and Siegel was hoping to raise some revenue with the grand opening. Well-known singer and comedian Jimmy Durante headlined the entertainment, with music by Cuban band leader Xavier Cugat. Some of Siegel’s Hollywood friends, including actors George Raft, George Sanders, Sonny Tufts and George Jessel were in attendance. The grand opening, however, was a flop. Bad weather kept many other Hollywood guests from arriving. And because gamblers had no rooms at the hotel, they took their winnings and gambled elsewhere. The casino lost $300,000 in the first week of operation. Siegel and his New York “partners” had invested $1 million in a property already under construction by Billy Wilkerson, owner of the Hollywood Reporter as well as some...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 25, 1962 – To Kill a Mockingbird Debuts

On this day in 1962, To Kill a Mockingbird, a film based on the 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Harper Lee, opens in theaters. The Great Depression-era story of racial injustice and the loss of childhood innocence is told from the perspective of a young Alabama girl named Scout Finch, played in the film by Mary Badham, who lives with her older brother Jem (Phillip Alford) and their widowed attorney father Atticus (Peck). While Scout, Jem and their friend Dill (John Megna) become fascinated by the mysterious shut-in Boo Radley (Robert Duvall), Atticus goes to court to defend a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. Directed by Robert Mulligan (Love with the Proper Stranger, Inside Daisy Clover, Summer of ‘42, The Man in the Moon), To Kill a Mockingbird was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won three Oscars,...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 24, 1865 – KKK Founded

In Pulaski, Tennessee, a group of Confederate veterans convenes to form a secret society that they christen the “Ku Klux Klan.” The KKK rapidly grew from a secret social fraternity to a paramilitary force bent on reversing the federal government’s progressive Reconstruction Era-activities in the South, especially policies that elevated the rights of the local African American population. The name of the Ku Klux Klan was derived from the Greek word kyklos, meaning “circle,” and the Scottish-Gaelic word “clan,” which was probably chosen for the sake of alliteration. Under a platform of philosophized white racial superiority, the group employed violence as a means of pushing back Reconstruction and its enfranchisement of African Americans. Former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest was the KKK’s first grand wizard; in 1869, he unsuccessfully tried to disband it after he grew critical of the Klan’s excessive violence. Most prominent in counties where the races...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 23, 1993 – Hanks Stars in First Major Hollywood Movie About AIDS

On this day in 1993, Philadelphia, starring the actor Tom Hanks in the first major Hollywood movie to focus on the subject of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), opens in theaters. In the film, Hanks played Andrew Beckett, a gay attorney who is unjustly fired from his job because he suffers from AIDS. Denzel Washington co-starred as Joe Miller, a homophobic personal-injury lawyer who takes on Beckett’s case and comes to terms with his own misconceptions about gay people and the disease. Directed by Jonathan Demme (Something Wild, The Silence of the Lambs) and featuring Antonio Banderas as Beckett’s boyfriend, Jason Robards as his boss and Joanne Woodward as his mother, Philadelphia was nominated for five Academy Awards and collected Oscars for Best Actor (Hanks) and Best Original Song (Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia”). During his Academy Award acceptance speech, Hanks thanked his high school drama teacher and a...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 22, 1978 – John Wayne Gacy Confesses

On this day in 1978, John Wayne Gacy confesses to police to killing over two dozen boys and young men and burying their bodies under his suburban Chicago home. In March 1980, Gacy was convicted of 33 sex-related murders, committed between 1972 and 1978, and given the death penalty. At the time, he was the worst serial killer in modern American history. George Ridgway, known as the Green River Killer, overtook Gacy in November 2003, when he admitted to murdering 48 women in the Pacific Northwest. Gacy was born in Chicago on March 17, 1942. Outwardly, he appeared to have a relatively normal middle-class upbringing; however, by some accounts, Gacy had an abusive alcoholic father and also experienced health issues in his youth. In 1964, Gacy married and moved with his wife to Iowa, where he managed his father-in-law’s Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants. The couple had two children. However, Gacy’s...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec. 21, 1620 – Pilgrims Land at Plymouth Rock

1620 – The “Mayflower“, and its passengers, pilgrims from England, landed at Plymouth Rock, MA. One of the greatest twists of fate in human history occurred on that epochal voyage. The Pilgrims were originally bound for Virginia to live north of Jamestown under the same charter granted to citizens of Jamestown. Fate charted a different course. Lost at sea, they happened upon a piece of land that would become known as Cape Cod. After surveying the land, they set up camp not too far from Plymouth Rock. They feared venturing further south because winter was fast approaching. The 102 travellers aboard the Mayflower landed upon the shores of Plymouth in 1620.  The Pilgrims had an important question to answer before they set ashore. Since they were not landing within the jurisdiction of the Virginia Company, they had no charter to govern them. Who would rule their society? In the...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec. 20, 2014 – NASA AMES Center Celebrates 75th Anniversary

2014 – NASA Ames Research Center marks its 75th Anniversary. Ames Research Center (ARC), commonly known as NASA Ames, is a major NASA research center at Moffett Federal Airfield in California’s Silicon Valley. Named after Joseph Sweetman Ames and founded on December 20, 1939, as the second National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) laboratory, ARC became part of NASA in 1958 as part of the turnover from the dissolution of NACA, having (at the last estimate) over US$3 billion in capital equipment, 2,300 research personnel and a US$860 million annual budget. Ames was founded to engage in wind-tunnel research on the aerodynamics of propeller-driven aircraft; however, its role has developed to encompass spaceflight and information technology. Ames plays a role in many of NASA missions in support of America’s space and aeronautics programs. It provides leadership in astrobiology; small satellites; robotic lunar exploration; the search for habitable planets; supercomputing; intelligent/adaptive...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 19, 1777 – Gerorge Washington Sets Up Camp at Valley Forge

1777 – General George Washington led his army of about 11,000 men to Valley Forge, PA, to camp for the winter. For his winter encampment, Washington selected Valley Forge on the Schuylkill River approximately 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia. With its high ground and position near the river, Valley Forge was easily defensible, but still close enough to the city for Washington to maintain pressure on the British. Despite the defeats of the fall, the 12,000 men of the Continental Army were in good spirits when they marched into Valley Forge on December 19, 1777. Under the direction of the army’s engineers, the men began constructing over 2,000 log huts laid out along military streets. In addition, defensive trenches and five redoubts were built to protect the encampment. To facilitate re-supply of the army, a bridge was erected over the Schuylkill. These 100 men were in turn sent out...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec. 18, 1944 – Liberty Falls as High Court Upholds Japanese Internment

1944 – The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the wartime relocation of Japanese-Americans, but also stated that undeniably loyal Americans of Japanese ancestry could not be detained. The relocation of Japanese-Americans into internment camps during World War II was one of the most flagrant violations of civil liberties in American history. Two months after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 ordering all Japanese-Americans to evacuate the West Coast. This resulted in the relocation of approximately 120,000 people, many of whom were American citizens, to one of 10 internment camps located across the country. Traditional family structure was upended within the camp, as American-born children were solely allowed to hold positions of authority. The Supreme Court upheld the legality of the relocation order in Hirabayashi v. United States and Korematsu v. United States. Early in 1945, Japanese-American citizens of undisputed loyalty were...

Read More...


On this Day, Dec. 17,1979 – Death of Black Insurance Exec by 4 White Police Sparks Miami Riots

1979 – Arthur McDuffie, a black insurance executive, was fatally beaten after a police chase in Miami. The Miami race riots (also known as the Arthur McDuffie Riots) of May 1980 were the first major race riots after the end of the civil rights movement. The Miami Black community, long abused and neglected by civic leaders who, among other things, placed I-95 straight through the cultural center of their neighborhoods, was getting angrier by the day. Recently arrived Latin and Haitian immigrants were taking jobs and social benefits that had traditionally belonged to Blacks. Cuban refugees wielding money and power were beginning to take control of the city, and as such were awarding minority contracts and jobs to Cubans instead of African-Americans. This, combined with the continuous poverty and degradation of their neighborhoods, had Miami’s Black community ready to snap. And so it was in this volatile environment that...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec. 16, 1773 – Boston Patriots Dump the Tea

1773 – Nearly 350 chests of tea were dumped into Boston Harbor off of British ships by Colonial patriots. During the 1760s Parliament passed a series of acts designed to reduce the British national debt and to finance the costs of keeping regular soldiers on the American frontier. The most notorious of these was the Stamp Act (1765), which placed a tax on almost every public piece of paper in the colonies, including newspapers, pamphlets, diplomas, licenses, packs of cards, almanacs, and dice. The colonists fiercely resisted these taxes, organizing public protests and intimidating tax collectors. The Stamp Act resistance was the most widespread and best organized inter–colonial protest before the tea crisis of the 1770s. In the face of such widespread opposition the British Parliament backed down. It repealed the Stamp Act and its companion taxes in 1766. The following year Parliament tried another means of raising money,...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec. 15, 1890 – Sitting Bull Killed in Melee with Indian Police

1890 – American Sioux Indian Chief Sitting Bull and 11 other tribe members were killed in Grand River, SD, One of the most famous Native Americans of the 19th century, Sitting Bull (Tatanka Iyotake) was a fierce enemy of Anglo-Americans from a young age. Deeply devoted to the traditional ways, Sitting Bull believed that contact with non-Indians undermined the strength and identity of the Sioux and would lead to their ultimate decline. However, Sitting Bull’s tactics were generally more defensive than aggressive, especially as he grew older and became a Sioux leader. Fundamentally, Sitting Bull and those associated with his tribe wished only to be left alone to pursue their traditional ways, but the Anglo settlers’ growing interest in the land and the resulting confinement of Indians to government-controlled reservations inevitably led to conflicts. Sitting Bull’s refusal to follow an 1875 order to bring his people to the Sioux...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 14, 1977 – Saturday Night Fever Gets its World Premiere and Launches a Musical Juggernaut

In a 2008 interview on BBC Radio 4, Robin Gibb confessed to making it through only the first 30 minutes of the world premiere, and to never having seen the rest of the picture in the decades that followed. Millions of Americans did, however, make it through the film that made a movie star out of 23-year-old John Travolta and propelled the already famous Mr. Gibb, along with his brothers Maurice and Barry, to a level of superstardom rarely achieved before or since. The film, of course, was Saturday Night Fever, a pop-cultural juggernaut that had its world premiere at Mann’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles on this day in 1977. Well-cast, well-acted and well-directed, Saturday Night Fever earned positive reviews from many critics, including the late Gene Siskel, who called it his favorite film ever. But whatever its other cinematic merits, even the film’s strongest proponents would agree...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 13, 2000 – Al Gore Concedes Presidential Election

Vice President Al Gore reluctantly concedes defeat to Texas Governor George W. Bush in his bid for the presidency, following weeks of legal battles over the recounting of votes in Florida, on this day in 2000. In a televised speech from his ceremonial office next to the White House, Gore said that while he was deeply disappointed and sharply disagreed with the Supreme Court verdict that ended his campaign, ”partisan rancor must now be put aside.” “I accept the finality of the outcome, which will be ratified next Monday in the Electoral College” he said.  “And tonight, for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.” Gore had won the national popular vote by more than 500,000 votes, but narrowly lost Florida, giving the Electoral College to Bush 271 to 266. Gore said he had telephoned Bush to offer his...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 12, 1980 – Da Vinci Notebook Sells for Over 5 Million

On this day in 1980, American oil tycoon Armand Hammer pays $5,126,000 at auction for a notebook containing writings by the legendary artist Leonardo da Vinci. On this day in 1980, American oil tycoon Armand Hammer pays $5,126,000 at auction for a notebook containing writings by the legendary artist Leonardo da Vinci. The manuscript, written around 1508, was one of some 30 similar books da Vinci produced during his lifetime on a variety of subjects. It contained 72 loose pages featuring some 300 notes and detailed drawings, all relating to the common theme of water and how it moved. Experts have said that da Vinci drew on it to paint the background of his masterwork, the Mona Lisa. The text, written in brown ink and chalk, read from right to left, an example of da Vinci’s favored mirror-writing technique. The painter Giuseppi Ghezzi discovered the notebook in 1690 in...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 11, 1936 – Edward VIII Abdicates

After ruling for less than one year, Edward VIII becomes the first English monarch to voluntarily abdicate the throne. He chose to abdicate after the British government, public, and the Church of England condemned his decision to marry the American divorcée Wallis Warfield Simpson. On the evening of December 11, he gave a radio address in which he explained, “I have found it impossible to carry on the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge the duties of king, as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love.” On December 12, his younger brother, the duke of York, was proclaimed King George VI. Edward, born in 1894, was the eldest son of King George V, who became the British sovereign in 1910. Still unmarried as he approached his 40th birthday, he socialized with the fashionable London society of the day. By 1934,...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 10, 1967 – Otis Redding Dies in a Plane Crash

When he left his final recording session in Memphis, Otis Redding intended to return soon to the song he’d been working on—he still had to replace a whistled verse thrown in as a placeholder with additional lyrics that he’d yet to write. In the meantime, however, there was a television appearance to make in Cleveland, followed by a concert in Madison, Wisconsin. On its final approach to Madison on this day in 1967, however, the private plane carrying soul-music legend Otis Redding would crash into the frigid waters of a small lake three miles short of the runway, killing seven of the eight men aboard, including Redding. “Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay” would be released in its “unfinished” form several weeks later, with Redding’s whistled verse a seemingly indispensable part of the now-classic record. It would soon become history’s first posthumous #1 hit and the biggest pop...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 9, 1987 – Intifada Begins on Gaza Strip

In the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip, the first riots of the Palestinian intifada, or “shaking off” in Arabic, begin one day after an Israeli truck crashed into a station wagon carrying Palestinian workers in the Jabalya refugee district of Gaza, killing four and wounding 10. Gaza Palestinians saw the incident as a deliberate act of retaliation against the killing of a Jew in Gaza several days before, and on December 9 they took to the streets in protest, burning tires and throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli police and troops. At Jabalya, an Israeli army patrol car fired on Palestinian attackers, killing a 17-year-old and wounding 16 others. The next day, crack Israeli paratroopers were sent into Gaza to quell the violence, and riots spread to the Israeli-occupied West Bank. December 9 marked the formal beginning of the intifada, but demonstrations, small-scale riots, and violence directed against Israelis had...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 8, 1980 – John Lennon Murdered

John Lennon, a former member of the Beatles, the rock group that transformed popular music in the 1960s, is shot and killed by an obsessed fan in New York City. The 40-year-old artist was entering his luxury Manhattan apartment building when Mark David Chapman shot him four times at close range with a .38-caliber revolver. Lennon, bleeding profusely, was rushed to the hospital but died en route. Chapman had received an autograph from Lennon earlier in the day and voluntarily remained at the scene of the shooting until he was arrested by police. For a week, hundreds of bereaved fans kept a vigil outside the Dakota–Lennon’s apartment building–and demonstrations of mourning were held around the world. John Lennon was one half of the singing-songwriting team that made the Beatles the most popular musical group of the 20th century. The other band leader was Paul McCartney, but the rest of...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec. 7, 1941, ‘A Day That Will Live in Infamy . . .’

1941 – The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941. The attack led to the United States’ entry into World War II. The attack was intended as a preventive action in order to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with military actions the Empire of Japan was planning in Southeast Asia against overseas territories of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States. There were simultaneous Japanese attacks on the U.S.-held Philippines and on the British Empire in Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong. From the standpoint of the defenders, the attack commenced at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time. The base was attacked by 353 Japanese fighter planes, bombers, and torpedo planes in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers. All eight U.S. Navy battleships...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec. 6, 1865 – Slavery Ends as 13th Amendment Ratified

1865 – The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. The amendment abolished slavery in the U.S. The history behind this amendment’s adoption is an interesting one. Prior to the Civil War, in February 1861, Congress had passed a Thirteenth Amendment for an entirely different purpose–to guarantee the legality and perpetuity of slavery in the slave states, rather than to end it. This amendment guaranteeing slavery was a result of the complicated sectional politics of the antebellum period, and a futile effort to preclude Civil War. Although the Thirteenth Amendment that guaranteed slavery was narrowly passed by both houses, the Civil War started before it could be sent to the states for ratification. But the final version of the Thirteenth Amendment — the one ending slavery — has an interesting story of its own. Passed during the Civil War years, when southern congressional representatives were not present for debate, one would think today that it must...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec. 5, 1848 – President Polk Helps Trigger California Gold Rush

1848 – U.S. President James Polk triggered the Gold Rush of ’49 by confirming the fact that gold had been discovered in California in his State of the Union address. Some 80,000 immigrants poured into California during 1849. After James Marshall discovered gold in Coloma, he tried to keep his discovery a secret. But the secret was too big to keep. The laborers at the sawmill had close friends working at Sutter’s Fort. As soon as rumors began to circulate around the Fort, the first adventurers made the 40-mile trip to the sawmill. When these men returned to the Fort with samples of gold dust, Sutter’s worst fears were quickly realized. Sutter described it this way: “Everyone left, from the clerk to the cook, and I was in great distress.” Nearly everyone, of course, went to the sawmill to dig for gold. But one enterprising Mormon merchant named Sam Brannan had a...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec. 4, 1875 – NYC’s ‘Boss’ Tweed Escapes from Jail

1875 – William Marcy Tweed, the “Boss” of New York City’s Tammany Hall political organization, escaped from jail and fled from the U.S. He rose to power during a period when New York City was experiencing a huge influx of immigrants and needed to build many public works projects to cope with the increased demand for services. During the 1860s and early 1870s, Tweed and his cronies ran New York City and stole many millions of dollars of public money; by some estimates, as much as $200 million. Tweed bribed officials and openly bought votes to put his cronies into nearly every elected and appointed office in the city and state. New York City was controlled by the “Tweed Ring” consisting of Peter Sweeny, city chamberlain; Richard B. Connolly, city comptroller; A. Oakey Hall, mayor and of course Boss Tweed himself; the man behind the curtain pulling all the...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec. 3, 1984 – Bhopal Gas Leak Kills Thousands

1984 – In Bhopal, India, more than 2,000 people were killed after a cloud of poisonous gas escaped from a pesticide plant. The plant was operated by a Union Carbide subsidiary. Over 500,000 people were exposed to methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas and other chemicals. The toxic substance made its way in and around the shanty towns located near the plant. Estimates vary on the death toll. The official immediate death toll was 2,259. The government of Madhya Pradesh confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release. Others estimate 8,000 died within two weeks and another 8,000 or more have since died from gas-related diseases. A government affidavit in 2006 stated the leak caused 558,125 injuries including 38,478 temporary partial injuries and approximately 3,900 severely and permanently disabling injuries. The cause of the disaster remains under debate. The Indian government and local activists argue slack management and...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec. 2, 1954 – Senate Votes to Censure Joseph McCarthy

1954 – The U.S. Senate voted to condemn Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy for what it called “conduct that tends to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.” The vote was 67 to 22, with all the Democrats and about half the Republicans voting against him. He has been condemned on two counts: Contempt and abuse of a Senate committee that looked into his financial affairs in 1952 Insulting members of this committee on national television thereby bringing the Senate into dishonour and disrepute” and obstructing the constitutional process. In April this year, McCarthy attacked Secretary of the Army Robert T Stevens and General Ralph Zwicker for refusing to help him in an investigation of espionage at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. After years of witnessing his crusade against alleged Communists in government, the entertainment industry, and education, his attack on the army was the final straw and a committee was...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec. 1, 1955 – Rosa Parks Refuses to Yield

1955 – Rosa Parks, a black seamstress in Montgomery, AL, refused to give up her seat to a white man. After a long day’s work as a seamstress at a Montgomery department store, Rosa Parks boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus for home. Though the city’s bus ordinance did give drivers the authority to assign seats, it didn’t specifically give them the authority to demand a passenger to give up a seat to anyone (regardless of color). However, Montgomery bus drivers had adopted the custom of requiring black passengers to give up their seats to white passengers, when no other seats were available. If the black passenger protested, the bus driver had the authority to refuse service and could call the police to have them removed. As the bus Rosa was riding continued on its route, it began to fill with white passengers. Eventually, the bus was full and the...

Read More...


On This Day, Nov 30, 1989 – America’s First Female Serial Killer Strikes

Richard Mallory, a store owner in Palm Harbor, Florida, is last seen taking a ride with Aileen Wuornos. The following day, his car—containing his wallet, some condoms, and an empty vodka bottle—was found abandoned in a remote area of Ormond Beach. Nearly two weeks later, his body turned up in a Daytona Beach junkyard with three bullets in his chest. Mallory’s murder was the first of seven committed by Aileen Wuornos over the next year. Perhaps because she was one of the few women killers to gain widespread fame and notoriety, she was inaccurately dubbed “America’s first female serial killer.” Her case was heavily publicized through television talk show appearances and a documentary, The Selling of a Serial Killer. Wuornos had been the victim of abuse and neglect herself. Her parents split before she was born and her father, who had been arrested for child molesting, killed himself while...

Read More...


On This Day, Nov 29, 1981 – Actress Natalie Wood Drowns

On this day in 1981, the actress Natalie Wood, who starred in such movies as Rebel Without a Cause and West Side Story, drowns in a boating accident near California’s Catalina Island. She was 43 years old. Born Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko on July 20, 1938, in San Francisco, California, Wood began her acting career as a child. She gained acclaim for her role as Susan Walker, the little girl who doubts the existence of Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street(1947). As a teenager, Wood went on to play James Dean’s girlfriend in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), for which she received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. She also earned Best Actress Academy Award nominations for her performances in Splendor in the Grass (1961) with Warren Beatty and Love with the Proper Stranger (1963) with Steve McQueen. Wood’s film credits also include West Side Story (1961), winner of...

Read More...


On This Day, Nov 28, 1520 – Magellan Reaches the Pacific

After sailing through the dangerous straits below South America that now bear his name, Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan enters the Pacific Ocean with three ships, becoming the first European explorer to reach the Pacific from the Atlantic. On September 20, 1519, Magellan set sail from Spain in an effort to find a western sea route to the rich Spice Islands of Indonesia. In command of five ships and 270 men, Magellan sailed to West Africa and then to Brazil, where he searched the South American coast for a strait that would take him to the Pacific. He searched the Rio de la Plata, a large estuary south of Brazil, for a way through; failing, he continued south along the coast of Patagonia. At the end of March 1520, the expedition set up winter quarters at Port St. Julian. On Easter day at midnight, the Spanish captains mutinied against their...

Read More...


On This Day, Nov 27, 1978 – San Francisco Leaders George Moscone and Harvey Milk are Murdered

On this day in 1978, former Board of Supervisors member Dan White murders Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk at City Hall in San Francisco, California. White, who stormed into San Francisco’s government offices with a .38 revolver, had reportedly been angry about Moscone’s decision not to reappoint him to the city board. Firing upon the mayor first, White then reloaded his pistol and turned his gun on his rival Milk, who was one of the nation’s first openly gay politicians and a much-admired activist in San Francisco. Future California Senator and then-Supervisor Dianne Feinstein, who was the first to find Milk’s body, found herself addressing a stunned crowd at City Hall. “As president of the Board of Supervisors, it’s my duty to make this announcement: Both Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk have been shot and killed. The suspect is supervisor Dan White.” White, who was caught...

Read More...


On This Day, Nov 26, 1989 – MTV Unplugged Premieres

The television series MTV Unplugged, featuring stripped-down acoustical performances by a wide range of artists not usually known for such performances, makes its broadcast premiere on this day in 1989. The premiere episode of MTV Unplugged was only lightly promoted by the network, in part because it featured a lineup whose biggest name was the English pop group Squeeze—a band whose greatest popular success was already several years behind it. The episode also featured performances by the relatively unknown singer-songwriter Syd Straw, Cars guitarist Elliot Easton and singer-songwriter Jules Shear, who went on to act as host in the first season of MTV Unplugged. Following this less-than-star-studded debut, subsequent episodes featured a smattering of moderately popular acts like 10,000 Maniacs and Michael Penn along with performers with little or no name recognition among the MTV generation, like Graham Parker and Dr. John. Late in its first season, however MTV...

Read More...


On This Day, Nov 25, 1986 – Iran-Contra Connection Revealed

Three weeks after a Lebanese magazine reported that the United States had been secretly selling arms to Iran, Attorney General Edwin Meese reveals that proceeds from the arms sales were illegally diverted to the anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua. On November 3, the Lebanese magazine Ash Shiraa reported that the United States had been secretly selling arms to Iran in an effort to secure the release of seven American hostages held by pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon. The revelation, confirmed by U.S. intelligence sources on November 6, came as a shock to officials outside President Ronald Reagan’s inner circle and went against the stated policy of the administration. In addition to violating the U.S. arms embargo against Iran, the arms sales contradicted President Reagan’s vow never to negotiate with terrorists. On November 25, controversy over the administration’s secret dealings with Iran deepened dramatically when Attorney General Meese announced that the arms sales...

Read More...


On This Day, Nov 24, 1947 – “Hollywood 10” Cited for Contempt of Congress

The House of Representatives votes 346 to 17 to approve citations of contempt against 10 Hollywood writers, directors, and producers. These men had refused to cooperate at hearings dealing with communism in the movie industry held by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). The “Hollywood 10,” as the men were known, are sentenced to one year in jail. The Supreme Court later upheld the contempt charges. The contempt charges stemmed from the refusal of the 10 men to answer questions posed by HUAC as to whether they were or had ever been members of the Communist Party. In hearings that often exploded with rancor, the men denounced the questions as violations of their First Amendment rights. Albert Maltz, Dalton Trumbo, John Howard Lawson, Samuel Ornitz, Ring Lardner, Jr., Lester Cole, Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Edward Dmytryk, and Robert Adrian Scott were thereupon charged with contempt of Congress. The chairman...

Read More...


On This Day, Nov. 23. 1976 – Jerry Lee Lewis Arrested at the Gates of Graceland

  1976 – Police arrested Jerry Lee Lewis outside the gates of Graceland after he showed up for the second time in 24 hours and made a scene by shouting, waving a pistol and demanding to see Elvis Presley. In the early hours of November 22, 1976, Harold Loyd, the presiding guard on duty at Graceland, was greeted by an unexpected visitor, Jerry Lee Lewis. Jerry Lee, accompanied by his wife, pulled up to the mansion’s front gate in his new Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow. He asked Loyd if he could see Elvis, but was told that the King was asleep. Lewis politely thanked Loyd and drove away without incident. Later that morning, at 9:30 a.m., Lewis flipped his Rolls while rounding the corner at Peterson Lake and Powell Road in Collierville. The police report on the incident stated that the Breathalyzer test yielded negligible results, but that Lewis was obviously...

Read More...


On This Day, Nov. 22, 1963 – The Death of a President

1963 – President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated while riding in a motorcade in Dallas.  On November 21, the president and first lady departed on Air Force One for the two-day, five-city tour of Texas. President Kennedy was aware that a feud among party leaders in Texas could jeopardize his chances of carrying the state in 1964, and one of his aims for the trip was to bring Democrats together. He also knew that a relatively small but vocal group of extremists was contributing to the political tensions in Texas and would likely make its presence felt — particularly in Dallas, where U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson had been physically attacked a month earlier after making a speech there. Nonetheless, JFK seemed to relish the prospect of leaving Washington, getting out among the people and into the political fray. On Nov. 22, his procession left the...

Read More...


On This Day, Nov. 21, 1979 – Protesters Attack and Burn US Embassy in Islamabad

1979 – The US Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, was attacked by a mob that set the building afire and killed two Americans. The five-hour siege began as an organised student protest outside the locked gates of the embassy compound. But the demonstration grew violent as protesters pulled down part of the outer wall and broke into the compound itself. Gunfire broke out, and a marine, who was standing on the roof of the building, was shot. As the protesters began smashing windows and setting fire to the building, more than 100 embassy staff took refuge in a steel-lined and windowless vault on an upstairs floor. Those trapped in the room included US diplomats, Pakistani staff members and a visiting journalist from Time magazine. Ambassador Arthur W Hummel Jr., was outside the building when the attack began. Staff inside were able to contact him, and it was Hummel who raised...

Read More...


On This Day, Nov. 20, 1977 – Anwar Sadat Addresses Israeli Parliament

1977 – Egyptian President Anwar Sadat became the first Arab leader to address Israel’s parliament. In his eleven years as president, he changed Egypt‘s trajectory, departing from many of the political, and economic tenets of Nasserism, re-instituting a multi-party system, and launching the Infitah economic policy. He led Egypt in the October War of 1973 to regain Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, which Israel had occupied since the Six-Day War of 1967, making him a hero in Egypt and, for a time, the wider Arab World. Afterwards, he engaged in negotiations with Israel, culminating in the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty; this won him and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin the Nobel Peace Prize. His address to the Israeli Knesset, Sadat said: “I come to you today on solid ground, to shape a new life, to establish peace. We all, on this land, the land of God; we all, Muslims, Christians and Jews,...

Read More...


On This Day, Nov. 19, 1863 – Lincoln Delivers the Gettysburg Address

1863 – President Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address as he dedicated a national cemetery at the site of the Civil War battlefield in Pennsylvania. Before Lincoln gave the Gettysburg address, Edward Everett gave a long speech. He droned on for 2 hours comparing the Civil War soldiers to Greek gods. In comparison, Lincoln’s speech lasted only 2 minutes. Because it was very short compared to the other speaker, there was silence from the audience afterward. Some said it was because they were not sure that he was done, but others said that the crowd was in awe of what was said. His speech was brief, to the point, and poetic yet understandable. It is a classic piece with famous lines now recognized by people worldwide. “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the...

Read More...


On This Day, Nov. 18, 1903 – Treaty With Panama Gives US Right to Build Canal

1903 – The U.S. and Panama signed a treaty that granted the U.S. rights to build the Panama Canal. Following heated debate over the location of the proposed canal, on June 19, 1902, the U.S. Senate voted in favor of building the canal through Panama. Within 6 months, Secretary of State John Hay signed a treaty with Colombian Foreign Minister Tomás Herrán (at the time, Panama was a province of Columbia) to build the new canal. The financial terms were unacceptable to Colombia’s congress, and it rejected the offer. President Teddy Roosevelt responded by dispatching U.S. warships to Panama City (on the Pacific) and Colón (on the Atlantic) in support of Panamanian independence. Colombian troops were unable to negotiate the jungles of the Darien Strait and Panama declared independence on November 3, 1903. The newly declared Republic of Panama immediately named Philippe Bunau-Varilla (a French engineer who had been...

Read More...


On This Day, Nov. 17, 1968 – Oakland Raiders, NY Jets Get Tackled by Little Mountain Girl

1968 – NBC cut away from the final minutes of a New York Jets-Oakland Raiders game to begin a TV special, “Heidi,” on schedule. In the late 1960s, few professional football games took longer than two and a half hours to play, and the Jets–Raiders three-hour television time slot was thought to be adequate. However, in this instance, a high-scoring contest between the two bitter American Football League rivals, together with a number of injuries and penalties, caused the game to run long. Although NBC executives had originally ordered that Heidi must begin on time, as 7 p.m. approached, and it became clear the exciting game would run long, they decided to postpone the start of the film and continue football coverage. However, when they tried to call the studio to implement their decision, they were unable to get through because so many members of the public were calling NBC...

Read More...


On This Day, Nov 16, 1957 – Ed Gein Kills Final Victim Bernice Worden

Infamous killer Edward Gein murders his last victim, Bernice Worden of Plainfield, Wisconsin. His grave robbing, necrophilia, and cannibalism gained national attention, and may have provided  inspiration for the characters of Norman Bates in Psycho and serial killer Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. Gein was a quiet farmer who lived in rural Wisconsin with an extremely domineering mother. After she died in 1945, he began studying anatomy, and started stealing women’s corpses from local cemeteries. In 1954, Gein shot and killed saloonkeeper Mary Hogan, piled the body onto a sled, and dragged it home. On November 16, Gein robbed Worden at the local hardware store she owned and killed her. Her son, a deputy, discovered his mother’s body and became suspicious of Gein, who was believed to be somewhat odd. When authorities searched Gein’s farmhouse, they found an unimaginably grisly scene: organs were in the refrigerator, a heart sat...

Read More...


On This Day, Nov 15,1943 – Himmler Orders Gypsies to Concentration Camps

On this day in 1943, Heinrich Himmler makes public an order that Gypsies and those of mixed Gypsy blood are to be put on “the same level as Jews and placed in concentration camps.” Himmler was determined to prosecute Nazism racial policies, which dictated the elimination from Germany and German-controlled territories all races deemed “inferior,” as well as “asocial” types, such as hardcore criminals. Gypsies fell into both categories according to the thinking of Nazi ideologues and had been executed in droves both in Poland and the Soviet Union. The order of November 15 was merely a more comprehensive program, as it included the deportation to Auschwitz of Gypsies already in labor camps. That Himmler would promulgate such a program should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his resume. As head of the Waffen-Schutzstaffel (“Armed Black Shirts”), the SS, the military arm of the Nazi Party, and...

Read More...


On This Day, Nov 14, 1982 – Lech Walesa Released From Jail

Lech Walesa, leader of communist Poland’s outlawed Solidarity movement, returns to his apartment in Gdansk after 11 months of internment in a remote hunting lodge near the Soviet border. Two days before, hundreds of supporters had begun a vigil outside his home upon learning that the founder of Poland’s trade union movement was being released. When Walesa finally did return home, on November 14, he was lifted above the jubilant crowd and carried to the door of his apartment, where he greeted his wife and then addressed his supporters from a second-story window. Walesa, born in 1943, was an electrician at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk when he was fired for union agitation in 1976. When protests broke out in the Gdansk shipyard over an increase in food prices in August 1980, Walesa climbed the shipyard fence and joined the thousands of workers inside. He was elected leader of...

Read More...


On This Day, Nov 13, 1974 – Karen Silkwood Dies in Mysterious One-car Crash

On this day in 1974, 28-year-old Karen Silkwood is killed in a car accident near Crescent, Oklahoma, north of Oklahoma City. Silkwood worked as a technician at a plutonium plant operated by the Kerr-McGee Corporation, and she had been critical of the plant’s health and safety procedures. In September, she had complained to the Atomic Energy Commission about unsafe conditions at the plant (a week before her death, plant monitors had found that she was contaminated with radioactivity herself), and the night she died, she was on her way to a meeting with a union representative and a reporter for The New York Times, reportedly with a folder full of documents that proved that Kerr-McGee was acting negligently when it came to worker safety at the plant. However, no such folder was found in the wreckage of her car, lending credence to the theory that someone had forced her...

Read More...


On This Day, Nov 12, 1979 – Carter Shuts Down Oil Imports from Iran

On this day in 1979, President Jimmy Carter responds to a potential threat to national security by stopping the importation of petroleum from Iran. Earlier that month, on November 4, 66 Americans at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran had been taken hostage by a radical Islamic group. The alarming event led Carter and his advisors to wonder if the same or other terrorist groups would try to strike at American oil resources in the region. At the time, the U.S. depended heavily on Iran for crude oil and Carter’s cultivation of a relationship with Iran’s recently deposed shah gave the radicals cause, in their view, to take the Americans hostage. Not knowing if future attacks were planned involving American oil tankers or refineries, Carter agreed with the Treasury and Energy Departments that oil imports from Iran should be discontinued immediately. This ended America’s formerly friendly association with the oil-rich...

Read More...


On This Day, Nov 11, 1918 – World War I Ends

At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the Great War ends. At 5 a.m. that morning, Germany, bereft of manpower and supplies and faced with imminent invasion, signed an armistice agreement with the Allies in a railroad car outside Compiégne, France. The First World War left nine million soldiers dead and 21 million wounded, with Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, France, and Great Britain each losing nearly a million or more lives. In addition, at least five million civilians died from disease, starvation, or exposure. On June 28, 1914, in an event that is widely regarded as sparking the outbreak of World War I, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, was shot to death with his wife by Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Ferdinand had been inspecting his uncle’s imperial armed forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina, despite the threat of...

Read More...