Hoosier History: On This Day, December 17

Airmail Pilot Wesley L. Smith, who flew the mail from 1919 to 1927. (Photo courtesy: USPS)

Today is Monday, Dec. 17, the 351st day of 2018. There are 14 days left in the year.

Today’s Hoosier Highlights in History:

On Dec. 17, 1927, the inauguration of air mail service to Indianapolis takes place. Postal planes began arriving daily from Cincinnati at 2:45pm, depart at 3pm, and arrive in Chicago at 5pm. The planes, using Wright Whirlwind Motors, could carry 2 passengers as well as mailbags.

On Dec. 17, 1904, the newspaper comic strip character Abe Martin of Brown County first appears in The Indianapolis News. Created by artist Kin Hubbard, Abe was a country philosopher famous for his wisecracker “sayings.” By 1910, over 200 newspapers nationwide would carry the strip. It ended in 1930. Today, Indiana’s Brown County State Park pays tribute to Hubbard and his characters. (Source: Hoosier History Highlights from the Indiana Department of Administration; Photo courtesy: State of Indiana)

On Dec. 17, 1954, the nation’s 1st fully automated railroad freight yard goes into operation in Indiana. Equipment installed at Gary’s Kirk Yard by General Railway Signal Co. sorted and assembled freight cars by radar and electronic brain circuits. (1956 Kirk Yard tower view photo courtesy “Friends of The EJ&E RR”)

On this date elsewhere:

In 1777, France recognized American independence.

In 1865, Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8, known as the “Unfinished” because only two movements had been completed, was first performed publicly in Vienna 37 years after the composer’s death.

In 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright of Dayton, Ohio, conducted the first successful manned powered-airplane flights near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, using their experimental craft, the Wright Flyer.

In 1944, the U.S. War Department announced it was ending its policy of excluding people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast.

In 1957, the United States successfully test-fired the Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time.

In 1967, Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt, 59, disappeared while swimming in the ocean off Cheviot Beach in Victoria state; despite an extensive search, his body was never found (Holt was succeeded as premier by John McEwen).

In 1969, the U.S. Air Force closed its Project “Blue Book” by cocluding there was no evidence of extraterrestrial spaceships behind thousands of UFO sightings. An estimated 50 million TV viewers watched singer Tiny Tim marry his fiancee, Miss Vicky, on NBC’s “Tonight Show.”

In 1975, Lynette Fromme was sentenced in Sacramento, Calif. to life in prison for her attempt on the life of President Gerald R. Ford. (She was paroled in Aug. 2009.)

In 1979, Arthur McDuffie, a black insurance executive, was fatally injured after leading police on a chase with his motorcycle in Miami. (Four white police officers accused of beating McDuffie were later acquitted, sparking riots.)

In 1992, President George H.W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney (muhl-ROO’-nee) and Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari (sah-LEE’-nuhs deh gohr-TAHR’-ee) signed the North American Free Trade Agreement in separate ceremonies. (After approval by the legislative bodies of the leaders’ respective countries, the treaty came into force on Jan. 1, 1994.)

In 1996, Peruvian guerrillas took hundreds of people hostage at the Japanese embassy in Lima (all but 72 of the hostages were later released by the rebels; the siege ended April 22, 1997, with a commando raid that resulted in the deaths of all the rebels, two commandos and one hostage). Kofi Annan of Ghana was appointed United Nations secretary-general.

In 2000, President-elect George W. Bush named Stanford professor Condoleezza Rice his national security adviser and Alberto Gonzales to the White House counsel’s job, the same day he was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year.’

In 2011, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il died after more than a decade of iron rule; he was 69, according to official records, but some reports indicated he was 70.

Ten years ago: President-elect Barack Obama named former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary and Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado to head the Interior Department. OPEC agreed to slash 2.2 millio barrels from daily production _ its single largest cut ever. Pro Football Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh died in Rotan, Texas at age 94.

Five years ago: Germany’s Parliament elected Chancellor Angela Merkel (AHN’-geh-lah MEHR’-kuhl) to a third term as the leader of Europe’s biggest economic power, nearly three months after an awkward election result forced her to put together a new governing coalition. A suicidal gunman opened fire at a Reno, Nevada, hospital campus, killing one person and critically wounding two others before ending his own life.

One year ago: Facing an investigation of allegations of sexual misconduct and using racist language, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced that he would sell the NFL team after the season. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” took in $220 million in its debut weekend in North America, good for the second-best opening ever and behind only its predecessor, “The Force Awakens.” French sailor Francois Gabart broke the record for sailing around the world alone, circumnavigating the planet in just 42 days and 16 hours.

Today’s Birthdays: Actor Armin Mueller-Stahl is 88. Pope Francis is 82. Singer-actor Tommy Steele is 82. Rock singer-musician Art Neville is 81. Actor Bernard Hill is 74. Actor Ernie Hudson is 73. Political commentator Chris Matthews is 73. Comedian-actor Eugene Levy is 72. Actress Marilyn Hassett is 71. Actor Wes Studi is 71. Pop musician Jim Bonfanti (The Raspberries) is 70. Actor Joel Brooks is 69. Rock singer Paul Rodgers is 69. Rhythm-and-blues singer Wanda Hutchinson Vaughn (The Emotions) is 67. Actor Bill Pullman is 65. Actor Barry Livingston is 65. Country singer Sharon White is 65. Producer-director-writer Peter Farrelly is 62. Rock musician Mike Mills (R.E.M.) is 60. Pop singer Sarah Dallin (Bananarama) is 57. Country musician Tim Chewning is 56. Country singer Tracy Byrd is 52. Country musician Duane Propes is 52. Actress Laurie Holden is 49. DJ Homicide (Sugar Ray) is 48. Acor Sean Patrick Thomas is 48. Actress Claire Forlani is 47. Pop-rock musician Eddie Fisher (OneRepublic) is 45. Actress Sarah Paulson is 44. Actress Marissa Ribisi is 44. Actor Giovanni Ribisi is 44. Actress Milla Jovovich (YO’-vuh-vich) is 43. Singer Bree Sharp is 43. Singer-songwriter Ben Goldwasser (MGMT) is 36. Rock singer Mikky Ekko is 35. Actress Shannon Woodward is 34. Actress Emma Bell is 32. Actress Vanessa Zima is 32. Rock musician Taylor York (Paramore) is 29. Actor Graham Rogers is 28. Actor-singer Nat Wolff is 24.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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