This Week in History

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Cat Madish, Editor-in-Chief

  • On Sept. 30, 1630, John Billington became the first pilgrim man to be executed after shooting John Newcomen during a quarrel. He was one of the original passengers on the Mayflower. The Billington family was known as a family of troublemakers in the first Colony.
  • On Sept. 28, 1918, Philadelphia held a WWI “Liberty Loan” parade that exposed thousands of onlookers to Spanish flu. Within 4 days, all the beds in Philadelphia’s thirty-one hospitals were filled. Philadelphia officials closed public places, and eventually put the whole city on lockdown. There are many parallels to how COVID-19 is impacting cities. The Smithsonian said, “Understaffed hospitals were crippled. Morgues and undertakers could not keep pace with demand. Grieving families had to bury their own dead. Casket prices skyrocketed. The phrase ‘bodies stacked like cordwood’ became a common refrain.” Despite Influenza usually affecting the elderly and the very young, the Spanish Flu seemed to infect young people in their prime who were considered strong and healthy. By the end of the following summer, around 10,000 people were dead. By the end of this pandemic, it’s estimated that around 675,000 Americans died.
  • An accidental discovery was made on Sep. 28, 1928, when Sir Alexander Fleming left a plate of staphylococcus bacteria uncovered while on vacation with his family. When he came back home, mold had grown on this plate. What was strange was that there were no bacteria around the mold! After multiple experiments with different bacteria, Fleming found a juice that he named Penicillin. While he was unable to isolate the penicillin for mass production, this discovery revolutionized modern medicine and led to the saving of many lives.
  • On Sept 27, 1940, Germany, Italy, and Japan met in Berlin, Germany, and signed the Tripartite Pact. With this, they became known as the Axis Powers and vowed to provide assistance should they be attacked by a country not already involved in the war. As America had not entered the war yet, this pact was designed to warn the United States against siding with the Allies. A year later, on Dec. 7, 1941, The U.S. joined the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
  • On Sept. 29, 1988, Stacy Allison became the first American woman to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, the world’s tallest mountain. Allison is from Portland, Oregon, and began climbing while in college at Oregon State University. It’s estimated that Mt. Everest gets about ¼” higher each year. This means that Mt. Everest has gotten about 8” higher than when Allison conquered the tallest mountain in the world.