This Week in History: July 7-13

History, This Week in History, Traditions
on July 7, 2013
Lituya Bay after the massive wave. Trees have been stripped away.

New states, tsunamis and large, televised concerts characterize this week in history. Hawaii was annexed on July 7, 1898. The largest tsunami in recorded history hit an isolated Alaskan bay in 1958. Raising funds to help end the Ethiopian famine, Live Aid took place this week in 1985. Read below to find out about this tumultuous week.

July 7:
Hawaii Annexed

U.S. interest in the Hawaiian archipelago grew in the 1890s, as the country was in a position to expand beyond its land borders. The islands provided strategic positioning for military expansion into the Pacific, large supplies of sugarcane and untapped lands for missionaries; the U.S. was fearful that a European empire would claim this land. Hawaii’s Queen Liliuokalani tried to exert her power and retake her kingdom in 1893, but Americans on the island stalled her. There were calls for annexation, but President Grover Cleveland’s anti-imperialist sentiments delayed action. After Cleveland left office, President William McKinley signed a resolution annexing Hawaii on July 7, 1898. Hawaii became a state in 1959.

July 8:
Olive Branch Petition

A little less than a year before the country would declare independence, the delegates of the Continental Congress adopted the Olive Branch Petition. The petition, written by Pennsylvania’s John Dickinson, asked King George III to mend the ties between Britain and the colonies. Aimed to pacify the king by highlighting lower-level incompetence and problems more directly related to the colonies, rather than his wider policies, the Olive Branch Petition can be seen as the colonies’ last attempt at peace with Britain before the eventual break. King George refused to receive it.

July 9:
Russell-Einstein Manifesto

Amid 1955’s Cold War hydrogen bomb hysteria and threats of mutually assured destruction, British philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell pushed forward a doctrine on nuclear weapons. Russell convinced physicist Albert Einstein to lend his name to and sign the pact shortly before Einstein’s death in April 1955. Appealing to a greater sense of humanity, the manifesto urged powers to stop the use of atomic weaponry.

Largest Tsunami in History

After an 8.3 magnitude earthquake caused a landslide of soil, rock and ice, Alaska’s Lituya Bay endured the largest tsunami in recorded history. On July 9, 1958, a wave towering 1,720 feet—as tall as Chicago’s Willis Tower—swept over the bay, stripping the land of trees and vegetation. A 300-foot wave followed. Three boats were anchored in Lituya bay at the time of the tsunami; one sunk resulting in two deaths. The other two boats remained afloat.

July 10:
Boris Yeltsin Inaugurated as Russian President

Reversing the whole of Russian history, Boris Yeltsin became the first popularly elected president on this day in 1991. Yeltsin defeated the Communist candidate handily and set himself up for an eventual showdown with president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev. Yeltsin made a name for himself internationally by fighting against communist forces during the 1991 coup d’état attempt on Gorbachev; Yeltsin stood atop a tank outside the Russian parliament and forced communist troops and sympathizers to stand down. Yeltsin voluntarily resigned the presidency in 1999; current Russian president, Vladimir Putin, succeeded him.

July 11:
“To Kill a Mockingbird” Publication

On this day in 1960, the story of discrimination and growing up in the South, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” was published. Harper Lee’s only book, it sold well and became an instant conversation topic, especially with its dealings on race. The book has been and continues to be challenged in school districts across the country and the world. Lee won the Pulitzer Prize for the novel.

Bowdler’s Day

July 11 celebrates the birth and life of Thomas Bowdler, an English physician most famous for his family-friendly editions of classic works. Bowdler edited the works of Shakespeare, and published “The Family Shakespeare,” removing language that he deemed inappropriate for proper 19th century decorum and class. He did the same with Edward Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” as well as parts of the Bible. He is immortalized in the word “bowdlerize,” which means to censor literary, television or film material of offensive content, resulting in an overall weaker product. Bowdler died in 1825.

July 12:
Turner’s Frontier Thesis

The 1890 census revealed that the once vast, open tracts of land of America’s frontier were now occupied. In short, the frontier was closed; there was nowhere else to go within the country and find new, unoccupied land. Historian Frederick Jackson Turner viewed this as detrimental to the psychology of the nation. Where were Americans to go when there was nowhere else to go? Seen later as a justification for imperialization, the Frontier Thesis—formally called “The Significance of the Frontier in American History”—was presented on this day in 1893 during the Columbian Exposition.

July 13:
Live Aid

One of the largest concerts, with an estimated attendance above 100,000, took place today at London’s Wembley Stadium and Philadelphia’s John F. Kennedy Stadium in 1985. Raising money for famine relief in Africa, Live Aid featured bands and celebrities from across the globe. Notable performers included U2, Queen, Madonna and Elton John. Aside from the London and Philadelphia shows, other concerts took place on the same day in Sydney, Moscow, The Hague and Cologne, Germany. An estimated audience of 1.5 billion viewers watched the main concerts in one of the biggest television events ever. Live Aid raised nearly $100 million.