The human race tested its limits this week in history, with the explosion of atomic bombs on two Japanese cities and a feat of acrobatic skill atop the World Trade Center. Cultural investment and debaucherous murder also characterize this historical week.
Massachusetts merchant Andrew Borden and his wife Abby Borden died in their home on this date in 1892, both murdered with a hatchet. Borden’s daughter Lizzie found her father and called for help. Authorities found a hatchet with a broken handle in the basement of the house. Lizzie Borden was suspected of the crime, but evidence to prove her guilt was insufficient; she was acquitted. Speculation continues as to her involvement.
“American Bandstand’ Premiere”:
Rock and roll took a seat in the living room with the introduction of “American Bandstand” on this day in 1957. The show—the longest-running music program in television history—began in Philadelphia in 1952 and went national soon after. Dick Clark introduced songs and listed the top hits of the week while teenagers danced to live performances of the latest rock tunes. The show was cancelled in 1989.
Voting Rights Act of 1965 Signed:
On this day, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a key piece of Civil Rights legislation. The act worked against discriminatory tactics at the ballot box, such as literacy tests, allowed for federal investigations of questionable polls and provided for more protection of voter registration. The bill has been renewed in 1975, 1984, 1991, and 2006.
World Trade Center Tightrope:
The World Trade Center cemented its place in architectural history on this day in 1974 because of a daring French tightrope walker. Early in the morning, after a night of preparation and evading security guards, Philippe Petit stepped onto a steel wire strung between the twin towers. 1,350 feet above the ground, Petit crossed the 130-foot space between the towers eight times in 45 minutes. People watched from the ground in amazement. Petit was charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct, but the charges were dropped. The documentary ‘Man on Wire’ chronicles this event.
Russell Markert Birthday:
The father of the Rockettes was born today in 1899 in Jersey City, N.J. Markert served in the army in World War I and performed in shows during down time. After the war, Markert worked with a few other female dance troupes until the Radio City Music Hall opened in 1932. He formed the Rockettes then and worked as director and chief choreographer until his retirement in 1971. Markert died in 1991.
Atomic Bomb Dropped on Nagasaki:
Three days after dropping the first atomic bomb Hiroshima, the U.S. dropped a second bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. The bomb was intended for the city of Kokura, but weather conditions prevented a drop there. The plutonium bomb explosion killed an estimated 60,000-80,000 people. The Japanese formally surrendered on Sept. 2.
James Smithson, a wealthy British scientist, left a fortune to the United States after his death. Though Smithson had never set foot on American soil, he wanted to establish an institution of learning in the states. President James K. Polk honored his request on this day in 1836. The Smithsonian now includes 19 museums, the National Zoo, and nine research facilities.