Timeline of American History since the Civil War

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A Brief History

This article presents a timeline of American history since the Civil War.  Please click on any of the dates to learn more about that date’s events and please post a comment using the Disqus commenting system on any article you click on to let us know your thoughts about that historic event.

Digging Deeper

I. Reconstruction – 1865-1877

  1. On July 21, 1865, a real life showdown resulting in face to face gunplay happened for the first time, the first of the classic duels we have come to know as a Wild West gunfight.
  2. On November 10, 1865, the long sad saga of the Camp Sumter prisoner of war camp located in Andersonville, Georgia finally came to a conclusion of sorts when the Camp Commandant, Confederate Major Henry Wirz was hanged for the crimes of conspiracy and murder for his terrible treatment of Union soldiers held captive at the camp popularly known as “Andersonville.”
  3. On December 24, 1865, 6 former Confederate veterans of the recently concluded US Civil War formed the first known chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, an organization largely founded on the principles of White Supremacy and violence against African Americans and those not in agreement with Klan beliefs.
  4. On May 16, 1866, the United States congress authorized the elimination of the “half-dime” coin and the minting of a new 5 cent piece, the “nickel.”
  5. On July 28, 1866, Vinnie (Lavinia) Ream, an 18 year old girl became the first woman in the United States to win a commission for a statue, that of the recently deceased President Lincoln.
  6. On December 25, 1868, much maligned and embattled President of the United States Andrew Johnson issued a blanket pardon for all Confederate veterans of the US Civil War.
  7. On July 1, 1874E. Remington and Sons placed the first successful typewriter on the market, a model also known as the Remington No. 1 and invented by Christopher Sholes, Samuel Soule, and Carlos Glidden.
  8. On March 7, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell received a patent for his invention he called the “telephone.”
  9. On November 23, 1876, a public cry for justice was answered when W. M. “Boss” Tweed was turned over to legal authorities in New York city after having been captured in Spain.

II. Expansion of American Civilization – 1877-1898

  1. On February 15, 1879, President Rutherford B. Hayes signed a Bill allowing women attorneys to argue cases before the Supreme Court of the United States.
  2. On August 30, 1879, American Army and Confederate Army General John Bell Hood died of Yellow Fever, only 6 days after his wife and daughter died of that disease, leaving behind 10 orphaned children and a rich heritage as a fighting man.
  3. On April 28, 1881, the notorious outlaw and gunman known as Billy the Kid escaped from his jail cell where he was being held after he was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.
  4. On July 14, 1881, the outlaw known as Billy the Kid was shot and killed by Sheriff Pat Garret in New Mexico.
  5. On October 26, 1881, Tombstone, Arizona saw the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday faced off with the Clantons and  the Cowboys in perhaps the most famous gunfight in US history, The Gunfight at The O.K. Corral.
  6. On April 3, 1882, notorious Wild West train and bank robber Jesse James was gunned down in his own house by a new member of his reconstituted gang, Bob Ford.
  7. On April 4, 1883, Peter Cooper died at the age of 92 in New York City, the same city he was born in.
  8. On November 26, 1883, at the age of 86 Sojourner Truth, perhaps the greatest African-American woman advocate of Civil Rights died of natural causes, ending one of if not the greatest life of fighting for African-American rights.
  9. On April 24, 1885, Phoebe Ann Moses, better known as Annie Oakley, joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and was a star attraction for the next 16 years.
  10. On April 24, 1885, Annie Oakley joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and went on to become America’s first female superstar.
  11. On September 2, 1885, the Wyoming Territory was the scene of a terrible racially motivated riot that resulted in the deaths of a minimum of 28 Chinese immigrants, and possibly as many as 50.
  12. On June 2, 1886, President of the United States, Grover Cleveland, aged 49, married 21 year old Frances Folsom in the White House, a wedding that today may well draw negative comments, but received no particular censure at the time.
  13. On September 4, 1886, after almost 30 years of raiding Mexican and white settlers and battling the U.S. Army, Apache war leader Geronimo finally surrendered in Arizona to U.S. Army General Nelson Miles.
  14. On October 28, 1886, President Grover Cleveland dedicated the Statue of Liberty (Liberty Enlightening the World), that great beacon of freedom welcoming immigrants into New York Harbor, for many, the gateway to a better life in the United States.
  15. On October 29, 1886, the first recorded use of ticker-tape was noted during the parade for the dedication of the Statue of Liberty.
  16. On September 4, 1888, George Eastman patented the first camera that used rolls of film and with it, the trade name Kodak.
  17. On July 3, 1890, Idaho was admitted to the Union as the 43rd US State.
  18. On December 15, 1890, legendary Hunkpapa Lakota (aka, Teton Sioux) leader and holy man, Sitting Bull, was killed by Indian Agency Police at Standing Rock Indian Reservation in the Grand River area of South Dakota.
  19. On December 29, 1890, the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army perpetrated a massacre Native Americans of the Lakota People near Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota.
  20. On December 29, 1890, the United States Army 7th Cavalry Regiment conducted a massacre of about 200 Native Americans at a place called Wounded Knee in South Dakota, (see our article “Wounded Knee Massacre”).
  21. On June 7, 1892, Homer Plessy, an African-American, was arrested for refusing to vacate his seat in a “Whites Only” railroad car.
  22. On February 28, 1893, the United States Navy made an enormous step toward eventually ruling the seas by launching its first ever battleship commensurate with those of other great naval powers.
  23. On June 13, 1893,  President Grover Cleveland was only a few months into his second term when he went to his doctor to complain of soreness and a rough patch in his mouth.
  24. On September 20, 1893, Charles Duryea and his brother, J. Frank Duryea, tested their gasoline powered automobile, the first gasoline powered car in the United States.
  25. On November 17, 1894, the murderous career of H. H. Holmes, one of the first modern documented serial killers, came to an end when he was arrested in Boston, Massachusetts.
  26. On November 5, 1895, an unlikely candidate from Rochester, New York, became the first American to patent an automobile.
  27. On November 22, 1896, George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., the inventor of the Ferris Wheel, died in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania of Typhoid Fever.
  28. On August 21, 1897, Ransom Eli Olds founded the car company that became the first assembly line producer of automobiles in the world.

III. America’s Appearance on World Stage – 1898-1918

  1. On January 4, 1903, Thomas Edison filmed the execution of Topsy the Elephant, the largest casualty in the “War of the Currents”!
  2. On February 23, 1903, the United States signed a lease with Cuba for a 45 square mile chunk of land on Guantanamo Bay on that island, a lease for $2000 per year, payable in gold, and lasting in perpetuity (forever).
  3. On December 10, 1906, President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt became the first American to earn a Nobel Prize when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation of the Russo-Japanese War.
  4. On February 5, 1909, New Yorker Leo Baekeland presented his invention of Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic, to the American Chemical Society.
  5. On February 22, 1909, President Teddy Roosevelt made good on his advice to “carry a big stick.”
  6. On April 23, 1910, President Theodore Roosevelt gave one of his most famous speeches at the Sorbonne in Paris, France.
  7. On November 3, 1911, one of the most iconic American companies was founded when Louis Chevrolet teamed up with former General Motors William Durant to form the Chevrolet Motor Car Company.
  8. On October 14, 1912, a certain bad-ass former U.S. president was shot while giving a speech…and he continued to speak!?
  9. On August 15, 1914, the Panama Canal was opened for traffic, with the SS Ancon making the first transit of the great canal.
  10. On November 16, 1914, The Federal Reserve Bank of the United States officially opened as a series of 12 banks serving 12 Federal Reserve Districts with each bank tasked with implementing the monetary policy of the United States as set forth by the Federal Open Market Committee, all being authorized by the Federal Reserve Act of 1913.
  11. On January 25, 1915, telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell made the first telephone call spanning the continental United States, placing a call from New York to his assistant, Thomas Watson in San Francisco.
  12. On October 16, 1916, Margaret Sanger (nee Higgins), nurse, writer, and sexual educator opened the first family planning (birth control) clinic in the United States.
  13. On February 5, 1917, the Congress of the United States overrode a veto by President Woodrow Wilson and enacted the Immigration Act of 1917, a law that targeted Asians to prevent their immigration to the US.
  14. On July 12, 1917, the local sheriff deputized 2000 men as a posse to do the dirty work for the local mining company, called Phelps Dodge Corporation, and forcibly and illegally “deported” 1300 people to New Mexico.
  15. On January 9, 1918, in Southern Arizona near the border with Mexico at a place called Bear Valley, one of the last battles of the American Indian Wars (1540-1924) was fought.
  16. On March 4, 1918, the USS Cyclops kept a date with destiny!
  17. On August 8, 1918, the Allied offensive known as the “Hundred Days Offensive” began with the start of the Battle of Amiens.
  18. On August 13, 1918, Opha Mae Johnson became the first of 305 women to enlist in the United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, proving that women can do and be just about anything!
  19. On October 8, 1918, United States Corporal Alvin C. York killed 28 German soldiers and captured 132 in France’s Argonne Forest during World War I making York one of America’s most decorated soldiers of the war.
  20. On October 8, 1918, 2nd Lt. Ralph Talbot of Massachusetts earned the coveted Medal of Honor, the highest American military honor.
  21. On November 11, 1918, Germany signed an armistice agreement with the Allies in a railroad car in the forest of Compiègne, France, officially ending fighting at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day in the eleventh month, but fighting did not actually end at that exact time and nor did the war!

IV. Inter-war period – 1918-1945

  1. From October 2, 1919 and for some weeks afterwards, First Lady Edith Wilson (October 15, 1872 — December 28, 1961) unofficially ran the U.S. government following her husband’s (then President Woodrow Wilson’s) life-changing stroke.
  2. On October 28, 1919, The U.S. Congress passed the Volstead Act over President Woodrow Wilson’s veto, paving the way for Prohibition to begin the following January and setting the stage for the eventual production of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.
  3. On December 26, 1919, the owner of the Boston Red Sox gave the owner of the New York Yankees probably the greatest Christmas gift in history when he sold Babe Ruth, the greatest baseball player of all time to him.
  4. On January 20, 1920, a new organization devoted to the freedoms guaranteed to all Americans by the Constitution of the United States (and its amendments) was formed from the National Civil Liberties Bureau, an organization formed in 1917 to protect the Freedom of Speech, mainly by those Americans opposed to the US joining in World War I.
  5. On February 13, 1920, the Negro National League of professional baseball was founded, not the first all African American baseball league, but the first to last more than one season and the foundation for African American professional baseball in the United States.
  6. On August 18, 1920, the United States ratified the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
  7. On September 16, 1920, years before the great stock market crashes of 1929 and 2008, some unknown, disaffected malcontents showed the fat cats of Wall Street some serious financial terrorism of their own by setting off a bomb in a horse-drawn wagon in front of J.P. Morgan Bank in New York’s financial district.
  8. On May 3, 1921, the state legislature of West Virginia enacted the first Sales Tax in the United States, although problems in creating the mechanism to administer the tax precluded enforcement for several years.
  9. On May 19, 1921, the Emergency Immigration Act of 1921 became effective, a law also called The Emergency Quota Act, a law specifically designed to limit the immigration of certain people to the United States.
  10. In December 1922, “Winter Dreams”, a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, first appeared in Metropolitan Magazine.
  11. On June 18, 1923, an American legend was born when the first Checker Taxi Cab hit the street in Chicago, the product of a Russian American Jewish immigrant named Morris Markin.
  12. On October 7, 1925, baseball great and Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson died of tuberculosis brought on by a weakening of his respiratory system due to accidental exposure to poison gas during World War I.
  13. On November 28, 1925, a one hour “barn dance” radio show began in Nashville, Tennessee broadcast on WSM that became known as The Grand Ole Opry.
  14. On October 24, 1929, the New York Stock Exchange suffered the catastrophic day of losses known as Black Thursday, the day that for all intents and purposes started the Great Depression.
  15. On January 31, 1930, the 3M Company (then going by the name of Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing) revealed Scotch Tape.
  16. On February 18, 1930, Elm Farm Ollie (Also known as “Nellie Jay,” “Sunnymede Ollie” and “Sky Queen.”
  17. On March 31, 1930, censorship came to Hollywood!
  18. On February 10, 1933, Primo Carnera, a heavyweight boxer called “The Monster” by Time Magazine, dealt Ernie Schaaf fatal blows during a boxing match in New York City.
  19. On December 5, 1933, history was made that would change the United States (back) forever!
  20. On May 23, 1934, waiting policemen ambushed notorious robbers and murderers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, filling them and their stolen car full of holes.
  21. On May 23, 1934, bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde were gunned down by law enforcement.
  22. On August 11, 1934, the Federal Penitentiary located on the island of Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay opened for civilian prisoners.
  23. On October 22, 1934, US FBI agents shot and killed infamous bank robber Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd in East Liverpool, Ohio.
  24. On January 8, 1935, Elvis Aron Presley, the King of Rock and Roll was born in Mississippi.
  25. On January 29, 1936, the first class of baseball “Hall of Famers” was named and was comprised of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson.
  26. On August 3, 1936, James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens  won the 100-meter dash at the Berlin Olympics and blazed into the record books.
  27. On October 14, 1938, the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk made its first flight, leading to an eventual production run of 13,738 of the rugged fighters.
  28. On June 11, 1939, a picnic at which hot dogs were served helped re-establish the political closeness between the United States and Great Britain and introduced the traditionally American food to an international public.
  29. On June 12, 1939, for the first time production began an a horror film filmed in “three strip” Technicolor.
  30. On January 24, 1940The Grapes of Wrath, a  drama film directed by John Ford, was released in theaters in the United States of America.
  31. On October 7, 1940, the Director of the Far East Section of the Office of Naval Intelligence, Lt. Cmdr. Arthur McCollum, sent an infamous memo up his chain of command that seems to recommend the United States provoke Japan into attacking US forces, thus allowing the US an excuse to enter World War II in spite of President Roosevelt’s promise to stay out of the war.
  32. On September 4, 1941, US Navy destroyer USS Greer was attacked by German submarine (U-boat) U-652, and returned the compliment by depth charging the German sub.
  33. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese launched a massive aerial surprise attack against U.S. military forces on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, mainly at Pearl Harbor.
  34. On December 10, 1941, Colin Purdie Kelly, Jr. became the first in a long line of American heroes that flew the great Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, a pairing of the greatest bomber of World War II and the greatest bomber pilots.
  35. On April 18, 1942, Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle led one of the most famous bombing raids in aviation history when he led 16 B-25 medium bombers over Tokyo, Kobe, Nagoya and Yokohama, Japan.
  36. On August 7, 1942, U.S. Marines landed on an island few Americans had ever heard of, Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.
  37. On August 16, 1942, while on routine anti-submarine patrol, the 2 man crew of US Navy Blimp L-8 disappeared without a trace.
  38. On February 19, 1943, the Battle of Kasserine Pass started, the first major American engagement of ground forces with the Axis forces in the Western Theater of World War II.
  39. On June 20, 1943, World War II came to the American heartland when a massive race related riot broke out in Detroit.
  40. On August 17, 1943, the U.S. 8th Air Force, the main American unit of heavy bombers stationed in England, launched 376 B-17 bombers against Schweinfurt and Regensburg in Germany, a raid that came to symbolize the dangers of unescorted bombing.
  41. On August 31, 1943, the Buckley Class destroyer, USS Harmon DE-678 was commissioned, the first American Navy ship named after an African-American person.
  42. On September 3, 1943, the Allies (mainly the United States and the United Kingdom) invaded mainland Europe, thus living up to the promise to Soviet Premier Josef Stalin to invade mainland Europe in 1943.
  43. On January 3, 1944, the top American air combat ace, Pappy Boyington, was shot down.
  44. On March 24, 1944, the hard work of 600 American and British POW’s was ready to pay off, and 200 of them were ready to escape from Stalag Luft III!
  45. On June 6, 1944, American, British, and Canadian forces stormed the heavily defended beaches of Normandy, France, signaling the doom of the Third Reich.
  46. On June 16, 1944 (exact date is unknown, said to be sometime in the Spring of 1944, so we chose this date), American Army Air Force pilot William Overstreet, Jr. was flying his North American P-51 Mustang in pursuit of a German Messerschmitt Bf-109 when the 2 fighter planes amazed onlookers on the ground by flying right under the lower arches of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.
  47. On July 17, 1944, US P-38 fighter bombers dropped napalm bombs on a German Army fuel depot near St. Lo in Normandy, France, one of the earliest uses of napalm.
  48. On September 27, 1944, The Kassel Mission, which resulted in the largest loss by a United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) group on any mission in World War II, was so successfully covered up that even today few non-WWII experts are even aware it occurred.
  49. On October 20, 1944, Army and Naval forces of the United States landed on the Philippine island of Leyte in an amphibious assault to reclaim the islands from the Japanese who had taken the Philippines from the US and Philippine forces led by General Douglas MacArthur in 1942.
  50. On October 25, 1944, the U.S. submarine USS Tang (SS-306), commanded by ace submarine skipper Richard O’Kane, was sunk when a torpedo that it had fired malfunctioned, turned around and struck the hapless submarine.
  51. On November 1, 1944, the first of what would end up to be thousands of missions by the famous Boeing B-29 Superfortress flew over Tokyo, Japan on a reconnaissance mission, the first allied aircraft over Tokyo since the 1942 Doolittle Raid.
  52. On February 13, 1945, bombers from the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the American Air Force (USAAF) struck the eastern German city of Dresden, a city so beautiful it was once known as the “Florence on the Elbe,” incinerating tens of thousands of people.
  53. On February 19, 1945, the most cracked battle in history of the United States Marine Corp (USMC) began with 30,000 Marines hitting a beach.
  54. On February 19, 1945, 30,000 US Marines landed on the Japanese held island of Iwo Jima, part of the Volcano Islands chain.
  55. On March 7, 1945, the fortunes of war cost a German Field Marshall his job, and five German officers a sentence of death!
  56. On March 9, 1945, 324 B-29 bombers of the United States Army Air Force inflicted the deadliest and most destructive single bombing raid in history!
  57. On April 7, 1945, the biggest and most heavily armed battleship created by man was sunk without ever fighting another battleship!
  58. On May 2, 1945, an American Artillery Battalion intercepted a death march of concentration camp inmates being taken from the Dachau concentration camp to the Austrian border, in turn saving the lives of hundreds of the starving inmates.
  59. On July 16, 1945Manhattan Project scientists held their breath as the clock ticked down to the first man-made nuclear blast in history.
  60. On July 26, 1945, the leaders of the major Allied countries fighting Japan in World War II met in Potsdam, Germany to issue the conditions by which the Japanese were to surrender to the Allies.
  61. On August 6, 1945, the American Boeing B-29 Superfortress named Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing about 70,000 people right away and perhaps a few tens of thousands later from wounds, burns, and radiation.
  62. On August 6, 1945, near end of World War II, a modified B-29 dropped a uranium gun-type (“Little Boy”) bomb on Hiroshima.
  63. On August 9, 1945, a Boeing B-29 bomber named “Bockscar” dropped the second atomic bomb on Japan, incinerating 39,000 people within seconds.
  64. On October 12, 1945, Corporal Desmond T. Doss of Lynchburg, Virginia, was awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest award for valor given to only the bravest of our military heroes.

V. America as World Leader – 1945-present

  1. On November 25, 1947, the United States was in the glow of having decisively won World War II and stepping up to become the major economic and military power in the world, the only nation with nuclear bombs.
  2. On August 10, 1948, the American public first heard an unseen television announcer say, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!”
  3. On January 17, 1949, American television audiences were treated to a new form of entertainment, the situation comedy, or more familiarly known as the sitcom.
  4. On March 2, 1949The Old Lamplighter became a memory and a song, but not an occupation, as automatic street lights start to shine, adding to the list of “Famous Inventions by Ohioans”!
  5. On August 1, 1949, T.J. Slowie, a secretary of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), sent a letter to Leroy E. “Ed” Parsons, requesting he “furnish the Commission full information with respect to the nature of the system you may have developed and may be operating.”
  6. On September 4, 1949, after a concert by African American singer, actor and activist Paul Robeson, riots broke out in the Peekskill, New York location of the concert.
  7. On March 3, 1951, music history was made when the first song deemed to be “rock and roll” was recorded.
  8. On December 25, 1951, Civil Rights activists Harry T. Moore and Harriette V. S. Moore were killed by a bomb explosion at their home in Sanford, Florida.
  9. On March 21, 1952, disc jockey Alan Freed (inventor of the term “rock and roll”) and record store owner Leo Mintz staged the first rock concert in Cleveland, Ohio!
  10. On April 15, 1952, a milestone in aviation history was crossed when the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress made its first flight!
  11. On April 10, 1953, moviegoers in the US were treated to the first 3D movie in color released by a major studio: The House of Wax, starring Vincent Price, a remake of the 1933 film, Mystery of the Wax Museum.
  12. On April 13, 1953, Director of the CIA, Allen Dulles signed the order authorizing Project MKUltraresearch into how to use mind control drugs against Soviet and Chinese targets during the Cold War.
  13. On July 26, 1953, the Arizona Department of Public Safety and Arizona National Guard conducted a raid on an enclave of fundamentalist Mormons at Short Creek, Arizona, an enormous law enforcement effort that netted about 400 people taken into custody, including men, women and children.
  14. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, the celebrated civil rights pioneer, triggered the “Montgomery Bus Boycott” in Alabama by refusing to sit in the back of the bus as decreed by segregation laws of that time.
  15. On January 28, 1956, Elvis Aron Presley, all-American boy from Tupelo, Mississippi, made his first television appearance on CBS’s Stage Show, the day after “Heartbreak Hotel” was released as a single.
  16. On June 5, 1956, the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, introduced what would become his top selling hit, Hound Dog, on The Milton Berle Show, an early television favorite.
  17. On February 3, 1959, a Beechcraft Bonanza airplane crashed in Clear Lake, Iowa, a crash that would become one of the most famous plane crashes in aviation and music history.
  18. On May 4, 1959, the first ever Grammy music awards were held, with no category for rock and roll despite the fact that this new type of music had already long taken the country by storm.
  19. On November 21, 1959, music DJ and rock and roll legend Alan Freed was fired by WABC in New York for refusing to sign a statement that he had never taken “payola,” bribes from record companies to play and promote certain records.
  20. On February 16, 1960, the US Navy submarine, USS Triton SSRN-586, set out on a voyage of circumnavigation of the Earth, the first time anyone had made such a voyage completely underwater!
  21. On May 1, 1960, CIA employee Gary Powers was flying a reconnaissance mission over the Soviet Union when his high flying top secret U-2 spyplane was shot down by an SA-2 surface to air missile.
  22. On May 9, 1961, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Newton Minow, shocked Americans by declaring commercial television programming to be a “vast wasteland.”
  23. On November 29, 1961, the US space agency, NASA, launched Mercury Atlas 5, the first mission to send an American into orbit around the Earth in space.
  24. On August 21, 1961, Motown Records of Detroit, Michigan released what became their first #1 hit song, “Please Mr. Postman” by the Marvelettes.
  25. On July 9, 1962, the United States Defense Atomic Support Agency and Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) launched a rocket from a remote Pacific Ocean island called Johnston Island (Or Johnston Atoll), a rocket carrying a thermonuclear bomb (aka, Hydrogen Bomb) into space.
  26. On December 25, 1962, To Kill a Mockingbird, an American drama film directed by Robert Mulligan, opened in theaters.
  27. On June 11, 1963, George Wallace, the governor of Alabama stood in the doorway to the University of Alabama in a vain attempt to block 4 newly admitted African-American students from entering the school.
  28. On November 29, 1963, in the wake of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, President Lyndon B. Johnson formed a committee under the direction of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Earl Warren to investigate the assassination and related events.
  29. On February 1, 1964, the British sensational band, The Beatles, hit the top of the American charts for the first time with their smash hit, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
  30. On June 21, 1964, three civil rights workers were kidnapped and murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi, an event commemorated in the 1988 feature film, Mississippi Burning.
  31. On December 5, 1964, Captain Roger Donlon, US Army Special Forces, became the first Army Special Forces member (ever) and the first US military person to earn a Medal of Honor in the Viet Nam War.
  32. On November 9, 1965, 22 year old American Roger Allen LaPorte, a former Catholic seminarian, sat down calmly, poured gasoline over himself,  and burned himself to death in front of the United Nations in New York in a protest of the Viet Nam War.
  33. On December 16, 1965, General William Westmoreland, the American commander in Viet Nam requested an additional 243,000 US troops to go with the 184,300 US military men already in South Viet Nam.
  34. On June 30, 1966, the Women’s movement took a giant leap forward when the National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded by 28 women’s rights activists.
  35. On July 4, 1966The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was enacted, with an effective date one year later, July 4, 1967.
  36. On September 8, 1966, Americans in love with science fiction were treated to the most iconic space-oriented television show of all time when Star Trek made its debut on NBC.
  37. On October 9, 1966, the war torn nation of South Viet Nam was the scene of not one, but two notable massacres you may never have heard of.
  38. On February 10, 1967, the United States adopted the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, a new national law that deals with the succession to the Presidency of the United States, and a topic of recent debate during the Trump Administration.
  39. On December 12, 1967, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, an American comedy-drama film produced and directed by Stanley Kramer, and written by William Rose, was released in the United States of America.
  40. On February 11, 1968, African-American garbage collection and sewer workers in Memphis, Tennessee went on strike, prompted by the horrible death of two garbage men crushed in the back of a garbage truck.
  41. On October 31, 1968, in a political move intended to help Hubert Humphrey win the Presidential election, President Lyndon Johnson made an announcement that became known as “The October Surprise,” in which he stated that all bombardment of North Viet Nam would be halted.
  42. On April 11, 1970, NASA launched their third moon-landing mission from Cape Canaveral, Florida carrying three astronauts.
  43. On May 4, 1970, the M-1 Garand rifles of the Ohio National Guard were used in combat; against college kids!
  44. On February 9, 1971, baseball pitcher Leroy “Satchel” Paige was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the first player from the Negro Leagues so honored.
  45. On March 22, 1972, the US Supreme Court decided that unmarried Americans were allowed to have sex!
  46. On October 11, 1972, a race riot took place not in a city, but at sea!
  47. On January 14, 1973, the world was treated to Aloha From Hawaii, a concert televised across the world live, in 40 European and Asian countries, via satellite (a first), that was watched by as many as a one and a half billion music fans, making it the most watched televised concert by a single performer in music/television history.
  48. On January 27, 1973, the United States, North Viet Nam and South Viet Nam signed a treaty in Paris, France, effectively ending direct American involvement in the Viet Nam War.
  49. On November 16, 1974, a radio signal was sent from Earth to the star cluster known as M13 in an attempt to communicate with whatever intelligent life forms may exist in that area of the Universe.
  50. On December 19, 1974, Nelson Rockefeller was sworn in as Vice President of the United States, a job he was not elected to, to serve under President Gerald Ford, another guy not elected to the office he held, or even to the vice presidency before that!
  51. On February 21, 1975, the highest ranking culprits in the Watergate Scandal were sentenced, including former Attorney General John Mitchell, and White House aides John Ehrlichman and HR Haldeman.
  52. On January 21, 1977, newly inaugurated President Jimmy Carter created perhaps the biggest controversy of his presidency by pardoning Viet Nam War era draft dodgers.
  53. On December 15, 1978, US President Jimmy Carter announced that the United States would no longer recognize the government of the Republic of China (based on the island of Taiwan) as the legitimate government of China, and instead would recognize the Red Chinese government, The Peoples Republic of China.
  54. On March 30, 1981, only a bit past two months into his presidency, Ronald Reagan was shot by a mentally ill assassin!
  55. On September 15, 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee to become the first female Justice of the Supreme Court.
  56. On November 30, 1982, Michael Jackson, known as “The King of Pop” for good reason, released his 6th solo album, the “monster” hit “Thriller.”
  57. On March 23, 1983, President Ronald Reagan proposed the development and deployment of what he called The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which would become known as “Star Wars” and would cost around one trillion dollars!
  58. On September 26, 1983, the Cold War between the Soviet Union and their allies versus the United States and their allies nearly erupted into full blown nuclear Armageddon when the early warning system employed by the Soviet military falsely reported the launch of United States Air Force Minuteman ICBM’s.
  59. On October 23, 1983, 241 US servicemen (220 Marines of 1 Battalion 8th Marines Regiment, 18 US Navy sailors, and 3 US Army soldiers) were killed when a truck bomb was driven into the building where the men were quartered.
  60. On August 11, 1984, President Reagan caused  the Soviet Union to raise their security and defense levels by joking about bombing Russia.
  61. On December 22, 1984, the tables got turned on criminals when their victim shot them!
  62. On January 28, 1986, the U.S. space shuttle Challenger took off right on schedule, only to explode 74 seconds later, killing all seven crew members on board in front of a horrified live television audience.
  63. On May 19, 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed into law an act of Congress known as the Firearm Owners Protection Act.
  64. On November 21, 1986, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Oliver North, a member of the National Security Council of the Ronald Reagan administration, was busy shredding documents, destroying evidence of criminal activity of the Reagan administration as part of the Iran-Contra Affair.
  65. On March 16, 1988, Marine Lieutenant Colonel (Lt. Col.) Oliver North and National Security Adviser Vice Admiral John Poindexter were indicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government.
  66. On April 18, 1988, the US Navy retaliated against the Navy of Iran in response to the USS Samuel Roberts being damaged by a mine.
  67. On October 27, 1988, President Ronald Reagan made one of his most shocking Cold War related announcements while President when he decided to have the newly completed US Embassy in Moscow mostly destroyed and started over again!
  68. On July 21, 1989, Do the Right Thing, an American comedy-drama film produced, written, and directed by Spike Lee, who also played the part of Mookie in the film, was released in the United States of America.
  69. On September 29, 1990, the prototype jet fighter plane designated YF-22 Raptor, built by a powerful consortium of American airplane manufacturers, Lockheed, Boeing and General Dynamics, made its maiden flight.
  70. On November 11, 1993, a sculpture honoring the women that served in the Vietnam War was dedicated at the site of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C..
  71. On November 18, 1993, the US House of Representatives passes the North American Free Trade Agreement that had been negotiated by President George H. W. Bush in 1992
  72. On August 24, 1994, an extraordinary American warrior was posthumously commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.
  73. On September 22, 1995, a United States Air Force Boeing E-3B Sentry (AWACS, early warning spy in the sky type aircraft) flew into a flock of birds immediately after taking off from Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, putting 2 of the 4 jet engines out of commission and causing a crash of the big plane, killing all 24 crewmen aboard.
  74. On January 21, 1997, an historic event took place when the sitting Speaker of the US House of representatives, Newton Leroy “Newt” Gingrich of Georgia, was reprimanded by his peers by a vote of 395 to 28 for “ethics violations.”
  75. On November 19, 1998, the United States House of Representatives began hearings on the Monica Lewinsky-President Bill Clinton sex scandal that would result in Clinton being impeached for lying about the affair.
  76. On June 12, 1999, the next day after the end of the Kosovo War, some 250 Russian peacekeeping troops occupied the Pristina International Airport ahead of the arrival of NATO troops and were to secure the arrival of reinforcements over the air.
  77. On January 16, 2001, President Bill Clinton, in one of his final remaining acts as President of the United States, posthumously awarded former President Theodore Roosevelt the Medal of Honor, the highest military honor in the United States.
  78. On June 11, 2002, the House of Representatives of the United States Congress officially recognized Italian American inventor Antonio Meucci as the inventor of the telephone.
  79. On December 25, 2009, one of the most bizarre terrorist plots to destroy an airliner and its passengers failed when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was unable to get his bomb hidden in his underwear to explode.
  80. On February 27, 2011, Frank Buckles died at 110 years old, just one of the many fascinating things about his life!
  81. On August 26, 2018, a nation mourns the loss of US Navy veteran John McCain, a prominent US Senator from Arizona and former Presidential candidate who finally succumbed to brain cancer on August 25, 2018, after a courageous fight.

Questions for students: What was the most interesting event in American history since the Cold War and why?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Foner, Eric.  Give Me Liberty!: An American History (Seagull Fourth Edition) (Vol. 2).  W. W. Norton & Company, 2013).

The featured image in this timeline, an 1872 painting by John Gast titled American Progress depicting Columbia as the “Spirit of the Frontier” carrying telegraph lines across the Western frontier to fulfill Manifest Destiny, is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 70 years or less.  This image is available from the United States Library of Congress‘s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID ppmsca.09855.

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About Author

Dr. Zar

Dr. Zar graduated with a B.A. in French and history, a Master’s in History, and a Ph.D. in History. He currently teaches history in Ohio.