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Moments In Time




 

 

• On Feb. 4, 1789, 69 members of Congress cast their ballots to elect George Washington the first president of the United States. After months of appearing to sidestep, and even outright rejecting, the idea of assuming the presidency, Washington reluctantly accepted Congress’ decision.

• On Feb. 7, 1812, the most violent of a series of earthquakes near Missouri causes a so-called fluvial tsunami in the Mississippi River, actually making the river run backward for several hours. One of the tremors in the series caused church bells to ring in Boston, more than a thousand miles away.

• On Feb. 6, 1820, the first organized immigration of freed slaves to Africa from the United States departs New York harbor on a journey to Sierra Leone in West Africa. The expedition was partially funded by the U.S. Congress, which had appropriated $100,000 to be used in returning displaced Africans to Africa.

• On Feb. 2, 1887, Groundhog Day, featuring a rodent meteorologist, is celebrated for the first time in Punxsutawney, Pa. According to tradition, if a groundhog comes out of its hole on this day and sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather; no shadow means an early spring.

• On Feb. 8, 1924, the first execution by lethal gas in American history is carried out in Carson City, Nev. The executed man was Tong Lee, a member of a Chinese gang who was convicted of murdering a rival gang member.

• On Feb. 5, 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt announces a controversial plan to expand the Supreme Court to as many as 15 judges. Critics immediately charged that Roosevelt was trying to “pack” the court and thus neutralize Supreme Court justices hostile to his New Deal.

• On Feb. 3, 1959, rising American rock stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson are killed when their chartered Beechcraft Bonanza airplane crashes in Iowa a few minutes after takeoff from Mason City on a flight bound for Minnesota. (c) 2009 King Features Synd.

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