This Week in History

News

This Week in History, Jun 17 - Jun 23

Jun 17, 1885
Statue of Liberty arrives in New York Harbor. Lady Liberty was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of America. She arrived in New York Harbor after being shipped across the Atlantic Ocean in 350 individual pieces packed in more than 200 cases. The copper and iron statue, which was reassembled and dedicated the following year in a ceremony presided over by U.S. President Grover Cleveland, became known around the world as an enduring symbol of freedom and democracy.

Jun 18, 1812
War of 1812 starts. The day after the Senate followed the House of Representatives in voting to declare war against Great Britain, President James Madison signed the declaration into law--and the War of 1812 starts. The American war declaration, opposed by a sizable minority in Congress, had been called in response to the British economic blockade of France, the induction of American seaman into the British Royal Navy against their will, and the British support of hostile Indian tribes along the Great Lakes frontier. A faction of Congress known as the "War Hawks" had been advocating war with Britain for several years and had not hidden their hopes that a U.S. invasion of Canada might result in significant territorial land gains for the United States.

Jun 19, 1953
Rosenbergs executed. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of conspiring to pass U.S. atomic secrets to the Soviets. They were executed at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York. Both refused to admit any wrongdoing and proclaimed their innocence right up to the time of their deaths, by the electric chair. The Rosenbergs were the first U.S. citizens to be convicted and executed for espionage during peacetime and their case remains controversial to this day.

Jun 20, 1975
Jaws released. Jaws, a major motion picture, which was directed by Steven Spielberg. The film made countless viewers afraid to go into the water. The story of a great white shark that terrorizes a New England resort town became an instant blockbuster and the highest-grossing film in movie history until it was bested by 1977's Star Wars. Jaws was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Picture category and took home three Oscars, for Best Film Editing, Best Original Score and Best Sound. The film, a breakthrough for director Spielberg, then 27 years old, spawned three sequels.

Jun 21, 1788
U.S. Constitution ratified. New Hampshire becomes the ninth and last necessary state to ratify the Constitution of the United States, thereby making the document the law of the land.
By 1786, defects in the post-Revolutionary War Articles of Confederation were apparent, such as the lack of central authority over foreign and domestic commerce. Congress endorsed a plan to draft a new constitution, and on May 25, 1787, the Constitutional Convention convened at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. On September 17, 1787, after three months of debate moderated by convention president George Washington, the new U.S. constitution, which created a strong federal government with an intricate system of checks and balances, was signed by 38 of the 41 delegates present at the conclusion of the convention. As dictated by Article VII, the document would not become binding until it was ratified by nine of the 13 states.

Jun 22, 1944
U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the G.I. Bill, an unprecedented act of legislation designed to compensate returning members of the armed services--known as G.I.s--for their efforts in World War II. As the last of its sweeping New Deal reforms, FDR's administration created the G.I. Bill--officially the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944--hoping to avoid a relapse into the Great Depression after the war ended. FDR particularly wanted to prevent a repeat of the Bonus March of 1932, when 20,000 unemployed veterans and their families flocked in protest to Washington. The American Legion, a veteran's organization, successfully fought for many of the provisions included in the bill, which gave returning servicemen access to unemployment compensation, low-interest home and business loans, and--most importantly--funding for education.

Jun 23, 1992
Teflon Don sentenced to life. Mafia boss John Gotti, who was nicknamed the "Teflon Don" after escaping unscathed from several trials during the 1980s, is sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty on 14 accounts of conspiracy to commit murder and racketeering. Moments after his sentence was read in a federal courthouse in Brooklyn, hundreds of Gotti's supporters stormed the building and overturned and smashed cars before being forced back by police reinforcements.