This Week in History

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Cat Madish, Editor-in-Chief

  • On Oct. 18, 1867, The United States bought Alaska from Russia for less than two cents per acre. The full purchase was $7.2 billion for all 586,412 square miles that made up Alaska. Russia didn’t want Alaska; it was undeveloped, unpopulated, difficult to attend to, and in the middle of nowhere. At the time, many Americans thought that this purchase was useless. Alaska was eventually recognized for its vast resources and great beauty. Although it’s still sparsely populated, 25% of America’s oils and 50% of America’s seafood comes from Alaska.
  • On Oct. 24, 1901, Annie Edson Taylor became the first person to survive a barrel ride down Niagra falls. Being a 63-year-old school teacher as well as a widower, she wished to secure her financial future by attempting this dangerous but attention-getting stunt. She ended up with a gash on her hand, and she advised no one else to try the same thing. Despite this, 15 people in the next 100 years attempted the same stunt; only 10 of which survived.
  • On Oct. 22, 1962, JFK went on TV and notified Americans of what became known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Soviet Union was building a missile site in Cuba, and they were almost done. This dramatic speech shocked the public as he urged Nikita Krushchev to remove the threat of nuclear war. Thankfully JFK and Khrushchev were able to find common ground, and by Oct. 28, the threat of Soviet weapons in Cuba was erased.
  • On Oct. 21, 1967, a famous anti-war demonstration “The March on the Pentagon” became a defining event for the antiwar movement. In opposition to the Vietnam War, around 100,000 people—mostly young, white college students—descended onto the Pentagon. People were upset; they didn’t want more American deaths (which were nearing 20,000), and President Johnson was going to raise taxes to pay for the war. The day after this march, almost 700 people had been arrested for charges including attempted trespassing. It wasn’t until 1975 that America withdrew.
  • On Oct. 19, 1985, the first Blockbuster opened in Dallas, Texas. At the time, most video-rental stores were small businesses that only had a select few titles on hand. However, Blockbuster opened up with around 8,000 tapes lining the shelves. It was a huge success, and by the 1990s they opened more than 1,000 stores. This success ran out when they filed for bankruptcy in 2010. Today, there are no company-owned Blockbusters left.