On November 28, 1919, American-born Lady Nancy Astor becomes the first woman to sit in the House of Commons. Her well-publicized election and individual approach to politics earned her quite a following. Her supporters saw her through another 26 years in Parliament, until her retirement in 1945.
On November 24, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald, the man accused of assassinating President John F. Kennedy, is fatally shot.
The event was witnessed by thousands who tuned in to Oswald’s televised departure from Dallas police headquarters. His killer, Jack Ruby, was charged with first-degree murder and sentenced to death. In 1966, the decision was reversed, and Ruby died of lung cancer before he could be retried.
100 years ago this week, the Armistice of November 11, 1918, officially ended the conflict of WWI. On that same day, an American soldier named Henry Gunther was killed one minute before the armistice was to take effect. Gunther’s was the last American death of the war.
Gunther’s was killed when he charged alone into a nest of German machine gunners. The gunners tried to wave him back, knowing peace was so near, but shot him when he came too close with bayonet raised. He died instantly, and his final charge was remembered as a last burst of loyalty. A memorial plaque was unveiled in 2010 at the Gunther family plot where he is buried, commemorating his contributions during the war and the unique circumstance of his death.
On November 7, 1940, just four months after its completion, the world’s third-longest suspension bridge snaps in a 42 mph wind and collapses into the waters below. This was the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, a slender, 2-lane creation whose tendency to visibly sway and wobble earned it the name “Galloping Gertie.”
A single car was on the bridge at the time of the incident, occupied by a newspaper copy editor named Leonard Coatsworth and his cocker spaniel. When the bridge began to violently tip one way and then the other, he abandoned the car—and, after a quick, failed coercion effort, the dog—and crawled his way across the bridge to shore before the bridge snapped. (You can read a full account of his experience in his own words here.)
The dog, still inside the car when it slid off the broken bridge, was the single casualty of the disaster.
Though a firm consensus hasn’t been reached as to the exact reasons for the collapse, the Tacoma Bridge incident led to better aerodynamics in bridge design and, eventually, the implementation of mandatory wind-tunnel testing. In 1950, a new and improved Tacoma Narrows Bridge (nicknamed “Sturdy Gertie”) was constructed with wider lanes and better resistance to wind.
This week in 1881, a brief but deadly shootout between the Earp brothers and the “cowboys” at OK Corral results in three dead and three wounded. It has since become one of the most famous gunfights of the American Wild West.
Among the dead, as stated in the clipping above, were cowboys Tom (erroneously called Jim) McLaury, Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton. Famous lawman Wyatt Earp and his brothers, Morgan and Virgil, along with friend Doc Holliday, survived with wounds.
On October 16, 1793, erstwhile French queen Marie Antoinette is executed by beheading on charges of treason.
Execution of the Queen of France Mon, Oct 21, 1793 – Page 3 · The Evening Mail (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.com
The execution came in the midst of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror. Her famed extravagance, along with the fact that she was a symbolic target on which to pin France’s problems, made her unpopular among those who would come to seal her fate. Contemporary papers describe in detail, though with some clear bias, the scene leading up to her execution and their feelings on the whole affair.
With her beheading, Marie Antoinette followed her husband, King Louis XVI, to the grave. He was executed nine months prior on similar charges.
On October 8, 1871, a devastating fire spreads across the streets of Chicago. It would come to be known as the Great Chicago Fire.The Fire Fiend – Great Chicago Fire 1871 Sun, Oct 8, 1871 – Page 5 · The New York Times (New York, New York, New York, United States of America) · Newspapers.com
With its frequent high winds and countless wooden structures, 1871 Chicago was prone to fires even before the “Great Fire” tore through the city. However, none were so destructive as this one, which killed hundreds of people and cost millions of dollars (billions, today) in damages.
This week in 1927, work began on the ambitious sculpture of Mount Rushmore. The project was the brainchild of sculptor Gutzon Borglum.
Washington’s face was the first to emerge from the stony cliff. The rest of the sculpture would take 14 years to complete, though “complete” may be the wrong term to use. Gutzon planned for the sculpture to not only include the four famous faces we see there today, but also to inscribe a history of the United States into the mountain that would endure through the ages. However, Gutzon’s unexpected death in 1941 led to an early end to the project, and the history portion of the sculpture was never included.
Not everyone was pleased with the decision to use a natural landscape as the canvas for a memorial to presidents past.
Regardless of the controversies it has stirred in past or present, Mount Rushmore has become an internationally recognizable U.S. landmark.
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On September 25,1957, integration in schools begins in Little Rock, Arkansas, when nine black students are escorted into the halls of previously all-white Central High.
The event was preceded by weeks of difficulty with segregationist governor Orval Faubus. Faubus had ordered National Guard troops to surround the school to prevent the students from entering. His stated reasoning was to “prevent disorder and bloodshed” from citizens who opposed integration. When the Guard was withdrawn at the order of Federal Judge Ronald Davies, the students were escorted through an angry mob by armed guards.
The whole process was pretty rough and wouldn’t get much easier over the next few years. Though some of the white students welcomed their new classmates, many were not so friendly. In 1958 Faubus closed Little Rock’s schools to further prevent integration; this decision was overturned after a tense, year-long fight, and the schools were reopened in 1959.
This week in 1976, NASA’s first space shuttle, the Enterprise, was revealed to the public. And it was definitely named after Star Trek.
The Enterprise was not built to withstand the rigors of space, but was used in atmospheric test flights in the late 1970s. It never went through the intended retrofitting that would allow for spaceflight when it became clear that it would be prohibitively expensive to do so. In 2003 the shuttle was fixed up and put on display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. It was moved to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City in 2012 and remains there today.