The first resolution formally creating the Texas Rangers is approved

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-first-resolution-formally-creating-the-texas-rangers-is-approved

On October 17, 1835, Texans approve a resolution to create the Texas Rangers, a corps of armed and mounted lawmen designed to “range and guard the frontier between the Brazos and Trinity Rivers.”

In the midst of their revolt against Mexico, Texan leaders felt they needed a semi-official force of armed men who would defend the isolated frontier settlers of the Lone Star Republic against both Santa Ana’s soldiers and hostile Indians; the Texas Rangers filled this role. But after winning their revolutionary war with Mexico the following year, Texans decided to keep the Rangers, both to defend against Indian and Mexican raiders and to serve as the principal law enforcement authority along the sparsely populated Texan frontier.

Although created and sanctioned by the Texas government, the Rangers was an irregular body made up of civilians who furnished their own horses and weapons. Given the vast expanse of territory they patrolled and the difficulty of communicating with the central government, the government gave the men of the Rangers considerable independence to act as they saw fit. Sometimes the Rangers served as a military force, taking on the role of fighting the Indians that in the U.S. was largely the responsibility of the Army. At other times the Rangers mainly served as the principal law enforcement power in many frontier regions of Texas, earning lasting fame for their ability to track down and eliminate outlaws, cattle thieves, train robbers, and murderers, including such notorious bandits as John Wesley Hardin and King Fisher.

Even as late as the first two decades of the 20th century, the state of Texas continued to rely on the Rangers to enforce order in the wilder regions of the state, like the oil boomtowns along the Rio Grande. Increasingly, though, some Texans began to criticize the Rangers, arguing that they used excessive violence and often failed to observe the finer points of the law when apprehending suspects. As a result, in the 1930s, the state won control over the Rangers, transforming it into a modern and professional law enforcement organization.

President Ford explains his pardon of Nixon to Congress

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/ford-explains-his-pardon-of-nixon-to-congress

On October 17, 1974, President Gerald Ford explains to Congress why he had chosen to pardon his predecessor, Richard Nixon, rather than allow Congress to pursue legal action against the former president.

Congress had accused Nixon of obstruction of justice during the investigation of the Watergate scandal, which began in 1972. White House tape recordings revealed that Nixon knew about and possibly authorized the bugging of the Democratic National Committee offices, located in the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C. Rather than be impeached and removed from office, Nixon chose to resign on August 8, 1974.

When he assumed office on August 9, 1974, Ford, referring to the Watergate scandal, announced that America’s “long national nightmare” was over. There were no historical or legal precedents to guide Ford in the matter of Nixon’s pending indictment, but after much thought, he decided to give Nixon a full pardon for all offenses against the United States in order to put the tragic and disruptive scandal behind all concerned. Ford justified this decision by claiming that a long, drawn-out trial would only have further polarized the public. Ford’s decision to pardon Nixon was condemned by many and is thought to have contributed to Ford’s failure to win the presidential election of 1976.

From his home in California, Nixon responded to Ford’s pardon, saying he had gained a different perspective on the Watergate affair since his resignation. He admitted that he was “wrong in not acting more decisively and more forthrightly in dealing with Watergate, particularly when it reached the stage of judicial proceedings and grew from a political scandal into a national tragedy.”

READ MORE: The Watergate Scandal: A Timeline

Olympic protestors stripped of their medals

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/olympic-protestors-stripped-of-their-medals

On October 17, 1968, Olympic gold medalist Tommie Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos are forced to return their awards because they raised their fists in a black-power salute during the medal ceremony. In a press conference the next day, International Olympic Committee President Avery Brundage deplored the athletes’ “outrageous stance”—it repudiated, he said, “the basic principles of the Olympic games.” The AP photograph of the ceremony is one of the most familiar and enduring images of a tumultuous era.

On October 16, Smith and Carlos finished first and third in the 200-meter dash at the Mexico City Olympics. Smith set a new world record: 19.83 seconds. Their medal-ceremony protest was relatively spontaneous—the pair decided what they’d do while they waited in the athletes’ lounge for the ceremony to begin–but the sprinters had been active in the civil rights movement long before they arrived in Mexico City. Along with Harry Edwards, one of their professors at San Diego State University, Smith and Carlos had organized a group called the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) that tried to encourage African-American athletes to boycott the Games. (Even if you won the medal,” Carlos said,” it ain’t going to save your momma. It ain’t going to save your sister or your children. It might give you 15 minutes of fame, but what about the rest of your life?”)

When they got to the podium for the medal ceremony, Smith and Carlos were wearing OPHR badges on their tracksuits. (Silver medalist Peter Norman, an Australian, wore one too.) They wore no shoes, to symbolize the poverty that plagued so many black Americans. Carlos wore a necklace of black beads, he said, “for those individuals that were lynched or killed that no one said a prayer for, that were hung tarred. It was for those thrown off the side of the boats in the middle passage.” Smith wore a black scarf. Both bowed their heads, raised their gloved hands and remained silent while “The Star-Spangled Banner” played.

People in the crowd booed and cursed at the athletes. The IOC convened the next day and determined that Smith and Carlos would have to forfeit their medals and leave the Olympic Village—and Mexico—immediately. Brundage even threatened to boot the entire American team as punishment. “The untypical exhibitionism of these athletes violates the basic standards of good manners and sportsmanship, which are so highly valued in the United States,” the U.S. Olympic Committee said “Such immature behavior is an isolated incident” and “a willful disregard of Olympic principles.”

Even after the athletes had been disciplined, the backlash continued. Newspapers compared the men to Nazis—Brett Musburger, a sportscaster for ABC, called them “black-skinned storm troopers.” Time called their act “nasty” and “ugly.” His “un-American activities” got Smith discharged from the Army, and someone threw a rock through a plate-glass window at his baby’s crib. The two men received death threats for years.

In some quarters, at least, public opinion has recently begun to shift, and many people now celebrate the sprinters’ courageous and principled act. In 2005, San José State University unveiled a 20-foot-tall statue honoring the two men.

Al Capone goes to prison

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/capone-goes-to-prison

On October 17, 1931, gangster Al Capone is sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax evasion and fined $80,000, signaling the downfall of one of the most notorious criminals of the 1920s and 1930s.

Alphonse Gabriel Capone was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1899 to Italian immigrants. He was expelled from school at 14, joined a gang and earned his nickname “Scarface” after being sliced across the cheek during a fight. By 1920, Capone had moved to Chicago, where he was soon helping to run crime boss Johnny Torrio’s illegal enterprises, which included alcohol-smuggling, gambling and prostitution. Torrio retired in 1925 after an attempt on his life and Capone, known for his cunning and brutality, was put in charge of the organization.

Prohibition, which outlawed the brewing and distribution of alcohol and lasted from 1920 to 1933, proved extremely lucrative for bootleggers and gangsters like Capone, who raked in millions from his underworld activities. Capone was at the top of the F.B.I.’s “Most Wanted” list by 1930, but he avoided long stints in jail until 1931 by bribing city officials, intimidating witnesses and maintaining various hideouts. He became Chicago’s crime kingpin by wiping out his competitors through a series of gangland battles and slayings, including the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929, when Capone’s men gunned down seven rivals. This event helped raise Capone’s notoriety to a national level.

Among Capone’s enemies was federal agent Elliot Ness, who led a team of officers known as “The Untouchables” because they couldn’t be corrupted. Ness and his men routinely broke up Capone’s bootlegging businesses, but it was tax-evasion charges that finally stuck and landed Capone in prison in 1931. Capone began serving his time at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta, but amid accusations that he was manipulating the system and receiving cushy treatment, he was transferred to the maximum-security lockup at Alcatraz Island, in California’s San Francisco Bay. He got out early in 1939 for good behavior, after spending his final year in prison in a hospital, suffering from syphilis.

Plagued by health problems for the rest of his life, Capone died in 1947 at age 48 at his home in Palm Island, Florida.

OPEC enacts oil embargo

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/opec-enacts-oil-embargo

The Arab-dominated Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) announces a decision to cut oil exports to the United States and other nations that provided military aid to Israel in the Yom Kippur War of October 1973. According to OPEC, exports were to be reduced by 5 percent every month until Israel evacuated the territories occupied in the Arab-Israeli war of 1967. In December, a full oil embargo was imposed against the United States and several other countries, prompting a serious energy crisis in the United States and other nations dependent on foreign oil.

OPEC was founded in 1960 by Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and Venezuela with the principle objective of raising the price of oil. Other Arab nations and Third World oil producers joined in the 1960s and early 1970s. For the first decade of its existence, OPEC had little impact on the price of oil, but by the early 1970s an increase in demand and the decline of U.S. oil production gave it more clout.

In October 1973, OPEC ministers were meeting in Vienna when Egypt and Syria (non-OPEC nations) launched a joint attack on Israel. After initial losses in the so-called Yom Kippur War, Israel began beating back the Arab gains with the help of a U.S. airlift of arms and other military assistance from the Netherlands and Denmark. By October 17, the tide had turned decisively against Egypt and Syria, and OPEC decided to use oil price increases as a political weapon against Israel and its allies. Israel, as expected, refused to withdraw from the occupied territories, and the price of oil increased by 70 percent. At OPEC’s Tehran conference in December, oil prices were raised another 130 percent, and a total oil embargo was imposed on the United States, the Netherlands, and Denmark. Eventually, the price of oil quadrupled, causing a major energy crisis in the United States and Europe that included price gouging, gas shortages, and rationing.

In March 1974, the embargo against the United States was lifted after U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger succeeded in negotiating a military disengagement agreement between Syria and Israel. Oil prices, however, remained considerably higher than their mid-1973 level. OPEC cut production several more times in the 1970s, and by 1980 the price of crude oil was 10 times what it had been in 1973. By the early 1980s, however, the influence of OPEC on world oil prices began to decline; Western nations were successfully exploiting alternate sources of energy such as coal and nuclear power, and large, new oil fields had been tapped in the United States and other non-OPEC oil-producing nations.

Bitter Fruits of “A Merry Life?” Survival Chances of Children Born Out of Wedlock in Nineteenth-century Rural Estonia

Previously posted at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0363199019881476?ai=2b4&mi=ehikzz&af=R

Journal of Family History, Ahead of Print.
The article explores the survival chances of children born out of wedlock in the Russian Baltic province of Livland from 1834 to 1891 and is based on court records as well as individual-level vital events data. The absence of a consistent mortality penalty for illegitimate infants and the considerable proportion of single mothers who went on to marry point to the lack of a strong social stigma. Other indicators, such as rates of stillbirths and early childhood mortality, mother’s age and socioeconomic status, and the time span between the birth and marriage, give evidence of marginalization.

Marie Antoinette is beheaded

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/marie-antoinette-is-beheaded

Nine months after the execution of her husband, the former King Louis XVI of France, Marie Antoinette follows him to the guillotine.

The daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I, she married Louis in 1770 to strengthen the French-Austrian alliance. At a time of economic turmoil in France, she lived extravagantly and encouraged her husband to resist reform of the monarchy. In one episode, she allegedly responded to news that the French peasantry had no bread to eat by callously replying, “Let them eat cake.” The increasing revolutionary uproar convinced the king and queen to attempt an escape to Austria in 1791, but they were captured by revolutionary forces and carried back to Paris. In 1792, the French monarchy was abolished, and Louis and Marie-Antoinette were condemned for treason.

READ MORE: How Marie Antoinette’s Legacy Was Sullied By Vicious Songs About Her Death

Nazi war criminals executed

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/nazi-war-criminals-executed

At Nuremberg, Germany, 10 high-ranking Nazi officials are executed by hanging for their crimes against humanity, crimes against peace, and war crimes during World War II.

Two weeks earlier, the 10 were found guilty by the International War Crimes Tribunal and sentenced to death along with two other Nazi officials. Among those condemned to die by hanging were Joachim von Ribbentrop, Nazi minister of foreign affairs; Hermann Goering, founder of the Gestapo and chief of the German air force; and Wilhelm Frick, minister of the interior. Seven others, including Rudolf Hess, Adolf Hitler’s former deputy, were given prison sentences ranging from 10 years to life. Three others were acquitted.

The trial, which had lasted nearly 10 months, was conducted by an international tribunal made up of representatives from the United States, the USSR, France, and Great Britain. It was the first trial of its kind in history, and the defendants faced charges ranging from crimes against peace, to crimes of war and crimes against humanity. On October 16, 10 of the architects of Nazi policy were hanged one by one. Hermann Goering, who at sentencing was called the “leading war aggressor and creator of the oppressive program against the Jews,” committed suicide by poison on the eve of his scheduled execution. Nazi Party leader Martin Bormann was condemned to death in absentia; he is now known to have died in Berlin at the end of the war.

Baby Jessica rescued from a well as the world watches

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/baby-jessica-rescued-from-a-well-as-the-world-watches

On October 16, 1987, in an event that had viewers around the world glued to their televisions, 18-month-old Jessica McClure is rescued after being trapped for 58 hours in an abandoned water well in Midland, Texas.

The drama unfolded on the morning of October 14, 1987, when McClure fell through the 8-inch-wide opening of an abandoned well while playing with other children in the backyard of her aunt’s home day-care center. After dropping about 22 feet into the well, the little girl became stuck. Over the next two-and-a-half days, crews of rescue workers, mining experts and local volunteers labored around the clock to drill a shaft parallel to the one in which McClure was trapped. They then tunneled horizontally through dense rock to connect the two shafts. A microphone was lowered into the well to keep tabs on the toddler, who could be heard crying, humming and singing throughout the ordeal.

On the night of October 16, a bandaged and dirt-covered but alert Baby Jessica, as she became widely known, was safely pulled out of the well by paramedics. By that time, scores of journalists had descended on Midland, a West Texas oil city, and the rescue was carried out on live television before a massive audience.

After her rescue, McClure was hospitalized for more than a month and lost a toe to gangrene. She and her family were flooded with gifts and cards from well-wishers, and received a visit from Vice President George H.W. Bush and a phone call from President Ronald Reagan. Once out of the hospital, McClure went on to lead a normal life, spent largely out of the public spotlight. She graduated from high school in 2004, married two years later and became a mother. In 2011, at age 25, she gained access to a trust fund—reportedly worth at least $800,000—that was established following her rescue and made up of donations from people around the world.

Life proved more challenging for others involved in the Baby Jessica saga. McClure’s parents divorced several years after her accident, rescue workers in Midland feuded over a potential Hollywood movie deal and in 1995, a paramedic who played a key role in helping to save McClure committed suicide, possibly as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Stampede kills 84 at World Cup match

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/stampede-kills-84-at-world-cup-match

A stampede of soccer fans before a World Cup qualifying match in Guatemala City kills 84 people and seriously injures more than 100 on October 16, 1996.

The Guatemala national team was set to face off against Costa Rica on a Wednesday night in Guatemala City. Approximately 60,000 fans, most dressed in blue and white, the country’s traditional colors, came to the stadium, which has a capacity of only 45,000. Apparently, counterfeiters had sold thousands of fake tickets to the event.

Although the stadium was already full to capacity about an hour before the match was scheduled to begin, fans continued to push their way into the venue through a narrow passage. As those in front of them had nowhere to go, people began to be crushed and suffocated. Fist fights that broke out in the crowd exacerbated the situation, which ended in a panicked stampede.

Guatemala’s President Alvara Arzu witnessed the chaos from a box seat and called off the match. However, it was too late for 83 people, including many children. The bodies of the victims, some with their clothes torn off, lined the grounds of the stadium afterward as scores of injured received medical treatment.

Pope John Paul II sent a message of condolence to the relatives of the victims. President Arzu declared three days of national mourning. “What does football matter now?” said Guatemala’s head coach, Horacio Cordero.

The Guatemala City stampede was not unique; there were at least four stampedes at soccer matches that killed more than 40 people in the 1980s and 1990s.