Technology failed this week in history: the Titan II Missile nearly exploded in rural Arkansas and a train lost a race to a horse. But thankfully, the country has advanced from both of those mishaps. More history from this week in history:
‘USA Today’ Founded
On this day in 1982, “USA Today” appeared on newsstands for the first time. With emphasis on graphics, color and easy to digest and read text, the paper grew quickly. It is currently the second-most widely distributed paper in the country, with 1.8 million subscribers. The paper underwent a redesign in 2012, making the crisp style even cleaner and adding more color pages.
B.B. King Birthday
One of the greatest blues singers and guitarists of all time was born on this day in 1925. B.B. King began recording and performing in 1949 and continues to perform at various events with his guitar named “Lucille.” He is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has won numerous Grammy awards, including a Lifetime achievement award. His most famous songs include “Every Day I Have the Blues” and “The Thrill Is Gone.”
The Constitutional Convention passed the law of the land on this date in 1787. Twelve state delegations (Rhode Island was ideologically opposed to a constitution without a bill of rights and did not attend) unanimously voted to approve the document. They agreed to have the constitution take effect when nine states had ratified it. This would not happen until June 21, 1788, with New Hampshire being the ninth state.
Train Loses to Horse
In a testament to the unreliability of technology, on this day in 1830, the nation’s first passenger steam locomotive train lost a race against a horse-drawn train. The steam engine, the “Tom Thumb,” was winning until a pulley broke and the train had to stop. The horse, of course, then won the race.
Harriet Maxwell Converse Becomes Indian Chief
Harriet Maxwell Converse was a political advocate for the Six Nations of American Indian tribes in New York. She had a life-long fascination with Indian culture, having grown up with a father who was an Indian trader. On September 18, 1891, the Seneca Nation’s Snipe Clan adopted Converse under the name Ga-is-wa-noh, meaning “The Watcher.” She continued to protect and advocate for Native Americans until her death in 1903.
Titan II Missile Explosion
The biggest disaster in the U.S. weapons program happened on this day in 1980. After a fuel leak on September 18, an explosion occurred inside the Titan II Missile silo in Damascus, Ark. The explosion jettisoned the silo hatch hundreds of feet into the air and also launched the missile’s warhead for a few seconds. Security measures operated correctly and no radioactive material escaped. One death and 21 injuries came as a result of the explosion. The Titan II is America’s single most powerful weapon.
Disgruntled with higher taxes, lax defense against American Indian tribes, and strict voting laws, frontiersmen led by Nathaniel Bacon took control of colonial Virginia’s capital of Jamestown in 1676. Virginia Gov. William Berkeley continued to denounce the rebels. On September 19, Bacon’s forces surged into the city, defeating Berkeley’s troops and burning the city. Berkeley was exiled. Bacon seized control, but soon died. Berkeley returned and harshly persecuted Bacon’s followers.
Panic of 1873
The greatest depression before the Great Depression started on this day in 1873, when the New York Stock Exchange closed because of the country’s banking crisis. Falling demand for silver across the globe caused the panic. The bank crisis was over in a few days, but this event made a deep impression on the psyche of Americans and Europeans. More conservative fiscal policies followed until World War I.
‘Monday Night Football’ Premiere
On this day in 1970, the country was, indeed, ready for some football. Joining CBS and NBC, ABC began airing football games. “Monday Night Football” was an experiment, but was exceedingly popular. The show moved from ABC to ESPN in 2006. Hank Williams Jr.’s song “All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night” served as the show’s theme song from 1989 until 2011.