History By the Week: July 15-21

CSS Arkansas

July 15, 1862—The Confederate ironclad ship, CSS Arkansas, did severe damage to three Union ships at the mouth of the Yazoo River. The Arkansas, one of the first ironclad ships, went on to damage 16 additional ships, boosting Rebel hopes on the Mississippi River—but only temporarily.

July 16, 1935—The world’s first parking meter, Park-O-Meter No. 1, was installed at the corner of First Street and Robinson Avenue, Oklahoma City, OK. The parking meter was the idea of Carl C. Magee, a journalist who helped uncover the Teapot Dome Scandal.

July 17, 1794—The Martyrs of Compiègne—11 nuns, 3 lay sisters, and 2 “externs”—went to the guillotine. The French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, in which tens of thousands of people were executed, ended only days later, and some say the nuns helped to end the bloodshed. They all went to the scaffold singing hymns.

July 18, 1953—Elvis Presley paid $3.98 to record his first demo acetate at the Sun Record Company. The double-sided acetate featured two songs: “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin.” He supposedly gave the one-off acetate to his mom as a gift, but some say he really used it to get noticed by Sun Records. (His mom didn’t own a record player.)

July 19, 1799—A French soldier discovered the Rosetta Stone. The stone contained ancient passages written in three languages—Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and Egyptian demotic. It unlocked the secret to deciphering hieroglyphics, dramatically expanding our knowledge of ancient Egyptian culture.

July 20, 1969—Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon. It sounded like he said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” According Armstrong, a technical glitch prevented people from hearing him actually say “one small step for a man…” I was in 8th grade, and I remember watching the moon landing with a group of people in the gym of St. Alexander’s School.

July 21, 1588—The English fleet engaged the Spanish Armada. The English eventually defeated the “invincible” armada, which aimed to overthrow Elizabeth 1 of England. However, if you believe The Simpsons, Homer Simpson defeated the Spanish Armada when he accidentally set his own ship ablaze, and the fire spread to the entire Spanish Armada.

Doug Peterson

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History by the Slice