This Week in History

PHOTO: President Richard Nixon answers questions about the Watergate scandal in the East Room of the White House on Oct. 1973 in Washington, D.C.
David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

From Watergate to the postage rate, this week in history includes the establishment of the postal system and the destruction of a presidency. Check out what happened this week in history:

PHOTO: Jessica Lynch speaks to press July 22, 2003 in Elizabeth, W.V.
John Himelrick/Getty Images
July 22

2003: Jessica Lynch Returns Home

Ten years ago today, U.S. Army Private Jessica Lynch returned home to Palestine, W.V., after her capture by Iraqi forces and her later rescue by U.S. Special Forces.

Lynch's supply convoy was overtaken by Iraqi forces and crashed on March 23, 2003, four days after President George W. Bush addressed the nation to announce the beginning of America's invasion of the Middle Eastern nation.

U.S. Special Forces rescued Lynch from the Iraqi hospital where she was recovering from multiple broken bones and various other injuries from the convoy's crash on April 1, 2003. She was flown to Germany to fully recover and then returned home more than three months later to a hero's welcome.

Lynch later claimed that the American government had exaggerated her capture and rescue to bolster support of the Iraq war. While testifying before Congress, she said, "The truth of war is not always easy to hear but is always more heroic than the hype."

PHOTO: Downtown Detroit is shown July 19, 2013.
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
July 23

1967: 12th Street Riot Begins

On July 23, 1967, Detroit's 12th Street broke out in a riot that lasted until July 27 and resulted in 43 deaths.

The pressure in this packed district of Detroit's inner city had been building for some time due to two factors: a low living standard and the force of Detroit's predominantly white police department over the residents, who were largely African American.

At 3:35 a.m. on Saturday, July 23, police arrived to break up an illegal club held after hours at the office of the United Community League for Civic Action, organized by William Scott.

Residents gathered outside the club as police attempted to arrest its customers, and they began throwing bottles into the street and at the police cars.

By 4:30 a.m., police had fled and thousands had joined the riot. The first fire—of many—started two hours later.

The riot ended after President Lyndon B. Johnson sent in 2,000 U.S. paratroopers to Detroit, as well as tanks and armored carriers to patrol the neighborhood.

In total, the 12th Street riot caused 43 deaths, 7,000 arrests, and $50 million in property damage, making it the worst U.S. riot in a hundred years.

PHOTO: American Mormon leader Brigham Young.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
July 24

1847: Mormons Settle Salt Lake Valley

On July 24, 1847, Brigham Young and his 148 Mormon followers chose Salt Lake City, Utah, as the site for their new religious settlement after 535 days of travel.

Young and his followers decided set out for a new land after the assassination of Mormonism's founder, Joseph Smith, in 1844. Young told his people that together they would search for "a place on this earth that nobody else wants."

Upon sighting the desolate and parched Valley of the Great Salt Lake, Young declared, "This is the place." The settlers immediately began planting and irrigating the site.

Mormons continued to migrate to Utah over the following decades, and, by 1869, Salt Lake was the home of 80,000 of Young's followers.

But the religious leader ran into trouble with the U.S. government when they discovered that his community held a certain disregard for federal law, and some believers practiced polygamy—including Young, who had 20 wives.

In 1857, President Buchanan removed Young from his post as governor of the Utah territory and sent U.S. troops to the site to restore order.

Largely due to Mormonism's profound influence over its communities, Utah did not become a U.S. state until 1896, nearly 20 years after Young's death in 1877.

PHOTO: Cambridge physiologist, Dr. Robert Edwards holds the worlds first test tube baby, Louise Joy Brown, and (on the right) gynecologist, Patrick Steptoe.
Keystone/Getty Images
July 25

1978: World's First Test-tube Baby Is Born

On July 25, the first human being to be successfully born using in-vitro fertilization entered the world. Louise Joy Brown's birth marked a landmark event for many couples unable to give birth naturally.

About 80 attempts at creating a "test-tube" baby all had failed to take in the mother's womb. Louise was the first.

The procedure involve removing a woman's eggs from her body, fertilizing them outside of the body, and the reinserting the egg back into the womb.

The inventors of the procedure, gynecologist Dr. Patrick Steptoe and physician Dr. Robert Edwards, had tried keeping the egg out of the womb for several days, but Louise was the first time they had put the egg in sooner than normal.

Several weeks and months went by without any complications, while the world debated this controversial procedure. Was this ethical? Was the baby healthy? Are human's playing God? What if the baby wasn't healthy? Would it be the fault of the procedure?

All these questions were asked and debated for nine months until the five-pound 12-ounce baby girl was born.

The success gave hope to hundreds of thousands of couples who were unable to conceive.

PHOTO: U.S. Postal Service delivery trucks sit at the Brookland Post Office in Washington, D.C., May 9, 2013.
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
July 26

1775: U.S. Establishes Postal System

In 1775, the Second Continental Congress established the first official U.S. postal system, appointing Benjamin Franklin as its first postmaster.

Congress hoped to create a more formal system of postage that, at the time, was dominated by informal routes and pit stops and took months to reach people. Often, taverns or inns would hold the mail when it was travelling from place to place.

Franklin established many changes that are still evident in today's postal system, including the use of a rate chart which regulated delivery costs based on distance and weight.

He also set up more efficient routes that took less time for mail to be delivered, and made it possible to transport mail from Maine to Florida. There were 75 post offices in 1789.

Today, the postal system has 40,000 post offices and delivers 212 billion pieces of mail to over 144 million homes annually.

The post office's future is in jeopardy, though, with the institution losing almost $16 billion annually and having a projected debt of $45 billion by 2017.

Patrick Donahoe, the postmaster general, issued a rule stating that the post office would stop Saturday delivery in an attempt to reduce costs, but Congress passed a law prohibiting such action after outcry by the American public.

PHOTO: President Richard Nixon answers questions about the Watergate scandal in the East Room of the White House on Oct. 1973 in Washington, D.C.
David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images
July 27

1974: Nixon Impeachment begins

In 1974, the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives officially recommended that President Richard Nixon be impeached and removed from office.

The investigative hearings were executed by Congress after revelations of presidential misconduct revealed many scandals of Nixon's presidency. The scandals became collectively known as Watergate.

Watch the video of Nixon's resignation HERE.

In June of 1972, a group of men were arrested in connection with a break in at the Democratic Party's national headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. The men were linked to the White House.

Nixon initially denied any involvement but many White House staffers were implicated in connection to the break in and were forced to resign. The existence of tapes recording conversations within the White House was revealed and a judge forced Nixon to turn them over for an investigation.

Many of the tapes were not turned over, and the ones that were seemed to have been tampered with. A Supreme Court ruling forcing Nixon to turn over transcripts of the tapes revealed that Nixon had direct involvement with the break ins.

Congress began passing formal articles of impeachment on July 27, including being held in contempt of Congress and abuse of power.

On August 8, Nixon officially resigned from the presidency was succeeded by his vice president, Gerald Ford, who later pardoned him from all wrongdoing.

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