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Not Your Century
A daily celebration of the news—and the news media—of years gone by. From front page stories to colorful tales from the back pages, Not Your Century from the San Francisco Chronicle takes you on a quick tour of the Bay Area and the world as it used to be, which often colors the world of your century. Hosted by King Kaufman.
History
News
News & Politics
1
1993: Oslo Accords Signed
Not long before Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin accepted the handshake offer of Palestinian Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat during a White House ceremony, it had been illegal for an Israeli to talk to a PLO member.
5 min
2
1940: Lascaux Cave Paintings Discovered
Some teenage boys out for a walk in the woods stumble upon a living museum of prehistoric times, "a cavalcade of animals larger than life," the stunning colors of the drawings preserved by the cave's geology.
5 min
3
1998: The Starr Report
The case for impeachment against Bill Clinton is also a salacious page turner outlining the president's White House affair with intern Monica Lewinsky. The independent counsel says the titillating details are necessary.
4 min
4
1963: Integration War in Alabama
President John F. Kennedy federalizes the National Guard in response to Gov. George Wallace using guardsmen to block black students from enrolling in schools after he'd pledged "Segregation forever."
4 min
5
1986: The First National Oprah Show!
She hadn't worked out as a TV reporter in Baltimore, but when Oprah Winfrey turned a low-rated local talk show in Chicago into a hit, she was on her way to building an empire. Going national was the next big step.
5 min
6
1978: The Top Female Cop in the World
SFPD Officer Dorothy Jorgensen has some wild stories from the mean streets of the Tenderloin after she's named Officer of the Year by an international women's police organization for her work as a decoy.
4 min
7
1975: Squeaky Fromme, Would-be Assassin
The Charles Manson follower has a clear shot at President Gerald Ford as he walks through a park in Sacramento, but her gun doesn't fire. It's the first of two Northern California attempts on the president's life in three weeks.
5 min
8
1977: The Golden Dragon Massacre
Three gang members walk into a crowded Chinatown restaurant in the wee hours with long guns. The worst mass shooting in San Francisco history to date kills 5 and wounds 11 — none of them the intended targets.
5 min
9
1976: Crisis on the Viking 2
The spacecraft has lost radio contact with earth and it's plunging through 1,000 miles of the martian atmosphere. This is not how the mission was planned. Will NASA's Hail Mary work?
4 min
10
Best of NYC: Labor
A collection of episodes with stories about work, workers and organized labor for your Labor Day listening. From the original March on Washington to Jimmy Hoffa's last lunch meeting.
22 min
11
Live! San Francisco History Trivia, Part 2
It’s the rest of the story as King Kaufman regales a live audience at the Betabrand Podcast Theatre in San Francisco with tales of a murderous editor and an animal activist on a moral crusade.
27 min
12
The “Vertigo” Mansion — Live!
That strange rooming house that Kim Novak slips into and disappears from in the movie? It had a strange story in real life. “Cool Gray City of Love” author and Portals of the Past columnist Gary Kamiya tells it to a San Francisco audience.
15 min
13
Reliving the Dotcom ’90s — Live!
Return to those VC-fueled days of yesteryear with Owen Thomas, who pestered his way onto the staff at Suck.com and then became a chronicler of Silicon Valley at Valleywag, Red Herring and, now, the San Francisco Chronicle. Recorded live.
14 min
14
Live! San Francisco History Trivia, Part 1
Join King Kaufman and a living, breathing audience at the Betabrand Podcast Theatre in San Francisco for strange tales of murderous editors and naked mayors. First of four live episodes.
15 min
15
1920: The 19th Amendment
The women's suffrage amendment is quietly certified, a week after the deciding vote was cast in Tennessee by a young legislator who listened to his mom.
5 min
16
1879: San Francisco's Political Gunfight
S.F. Chronicle founder and editor Charles de Young's political beef with Baptist minister and mayoral candidate Isaac Smith Kalloch culminates in a shooting. But that's not where it ends.
6 min
17
1991: Gorbachev Survives Coup Flu
The Soviet president was held prisoner in his vacation home by hardliners who announced he was sick and threatened to remove him — maybe kill him — if he didn't back off his glasnost and perestroika reforms. He didn't.
6 min
18
1911: Mona Lisa Stolen
The Mona Lisa was famous among art lovers when Vincenzo Peruggia walked out of the Louvre with it under his arm. Since that moment, it's been the most famous painting in the world.
6 min
19
1968: Prague Spring Crushed
The Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies invade the capital of Czechoslovakia, bringing a violent end to the eight months of liberalization and reform under Alexander Dubček.
5 min
20
1957: The Giants Are Coming
The board of directors of the New York baseball Giants makes official something the Chronicle had reported three months earlier: The most successful team in National League history was moving to San Francisco for the 1958 season.
4 min
21
1965: A Tense Peace in Watts
The neighborhood south of downtown Los Angeles has been wracked by six days of violence in the wake of a traffic stop of a black man by a white cop. Was the fighting a riot? Or was it a community rising up against its oppressors?
4 min
22
1969: Woodstock, Day 1
We know it as an iconic "three days of peace and music." Early media reports made it sound like a natural disaster had hit Max Yasgur's farm, and barely mentioned what happened onstage.
5 min
23
1962: Crusading Against Animal Nudity
G. Clifford Prout Jr., president of the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals, has toured the San Francisco zoo and discovered a shocking amount of animal nudity there. His group is fighting for the nation's morals!
6 min
24
1961: The Berlin Wall
Germans would come to know it as Barbed Wire Sunday. With a railroad line that bypassed the city complete, East Germany shut down border crossings in Berlin and put up fencing. It was the beginning of what would become the wall.
5 min
25
1964: Great Train Robber Escapes
Charlie Wilson busts out of Winson Green prison in a caper nearly as sensational as the crime that put him there: The Great Train Robbery of 1963 outside London.
5 min
26
1934: Alcatraz Opens for Business
The first federal prisoners arrive by train, then barge, under heavy guard, with prison officials lying about them to throw off any pals with escape plans on their mind. Al Capone and Pretty Boy Floyd will be there soon.
5 min
27
Corrected—1974: Richard Nixon Resigns
Dear Subscribers: Thanks to a file mixup, you got a preview of tomorrow's episode about Alcatraz instead of the correct one about Nixon's resignation. We're republishing the episode with the correct audio. Sorry about the error! The president lost the support of Republicans in Congress following the release of the "Smoking Gun Tape," which revealed him plotting to obstruct the Watergate investigation. Saying "I have never been a quitter," he quits.
4 min
28
1974: Richard Nixon Resigns
The president lost the support of Republicans in Congress following the release of the "Smoking Gun Tape," which revealed him plotting to obstruct the Watergate investigation. Saying "I have never been a quitter," he quits.
4 min
29
1964: Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
President Lyndon Johnson applauds Congress for authorizing him to take all necessary steps to defend Southeast Asia against Communist aggression. It's based on a lie.
3 min
30
1945: Hiroshima
The headlines couldn't have been more stark. The most terrible destructive force ever harnessed by humanity had been unleashed on a Japanese city, with tens of thousands dead.
5 min
31
1981: Reagan Fires 11,000
Ronald Reagan liked to point out that he was the first president who'd been a union chief, and he'd even led a strike. But when air-traffic controllers went out, he fired them. It was a devastating loss for organized labor.
5 min
32
1873: The First Cable Car
The story is that Andrew Smith Hallidie, who manufactured "wire rope," saw horses struggling to pull a streetcar uphill. So he had an idea, and this run up Clay Street was its first test.
5 min
33
1955: L.A.'s First Smog Alert
It wouldn't be the last. People had been donning gas masks in the smoky air for joke photos for a decade, but this was the first official recognition of Los Angeles' signature air pollution.
4 min
34
1996: Clinton Triangulates
Bill Clinton's central campaign promise in 1992 was to "end welfare as we have come to know it." With Election Day looming, he backs ending cash welfare. A Bay Area congressman calls it a "cave" to the GOP.
5 min
35
1975: Jimmy Hoffa Disappears
The former Teamsters president was trying to regain control of the union after serving time in prison. He had what was supposed to be a peace conference with a couple of dangerous enemies. He hasn't been seen since.
5 min
36
1945: Empire State Building Plane Crash
World War II was still being fought in the Pacific, but this wasn't an enemy attack. An American B-25 pilot got disoriented in the fog and slammed into the 79th floor, killing 14. One woman fell from the 80th floor — and lived.
4 min
37
1984: The Original Psycho Checks Out
Ed Gein barely rated a mention in the obituary column when he died in prison, but the psychotic Wisconsin killer launched a Hollywood genre. Norman Bates, Leatherface and Buffalo Bill were all based on him.
4 min
38
1997: Critical Mass Goes Critical
Chaos rules the streets of the Financial District as Mayor Willie Brown's attempt to crack down on the monthly freeform bicycle ride backfires in a big way.
4 min
39
1959: The Kitchen Debate
A grumpy but funny Nikita Khrushchev mixes it up in a model American kitchen in Moscow with a charming — at least on the Nixon scale — Vice President Richard Nixon.
5 min
40
1976: Chowchilla Suspect Surrenders
Richard Schoenfeld and his two accomplices would eventually be convicted of a kidnapping that shocked the nation: 26 children and their schoolbus driver buried alive. Driver Ed Ray led the kids to safety.
5 min
41
1916: Preparedness Day Bombing
Two labor leaders are framed for the worst terrorist act in San Francisco history. They spend 23 years in prison for the parade bombing that kills 10 and wounds 40.
6 min
42
1993: Don't Ask Don't Tell
President Bill Clinton knows you're not going to like the new policy he's announcing on gays in the military. Whoever "you" are. Even the policy's creator didn't think much of it.
4 min
43
1938: Wrong Way Corrigan Lands in Ireland
Douglas Corrigan takes off for L.A. from Brooklyn, and 28 hours later he lands ... in Dublin! He says he misread his compass and couldn't tell because of the heavy clouds. And if you believe that, there's a bridge in Brooklyn he could sell you.
6 min
44
1944: Port Chicago Explosion
The disaster at a munitions depot near Martinez kills 320 sailors, most of them African American, and highlights racial inequality in the Navy.
6 min
45
1969: Apollo 11 Launches
Hundreds of thousands of people crowd the Florida coast to brave traffic jams, parties and the sight of a sweaty Ed McMahon as Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins sit on top of a rocket that hurls them toward the moon.
5 min
46
1997: Gianni Versace Murdered
A shocking, brazen killing on the front steps of the designer's South Beach mansion. Suspicion quickly falls on one of the FBI's 10 Most Wanted — prostitute Andrew Cunanan, already suspected of 4 killings.
5 min
47
1972: Ho-Hum, 2 More Hijackings
After D.B. Cooper, the thing to do was take over a plane and demand half a million bucks and a parachute. It rarely worked, but it sure got tried a lot during the golden age of hijacking.
5 min
48
1967: Ballet Superstars Busted
A complaint in the Haight leads to the cops breaking up a hippie pot party. Among those under arrest: Rudolf Nureyev and Dame Margot Fonteyn. Rudy pouts and tells reporters, "You're all children!"
4 min
49
1925: The Scopes Monkey Trial
The nation is captivated as Clarence Darrow battles William Jennings Bryan over evolution in a — but very real — trial. "Do you think about things you DO think about?"
6 min
50
1893: A Medical Moses
Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, who ran the first African American-owned hospital in the U.S., was sure he'd performed the first successful open-heart surgery. It was actually the second, but he was still a giant.
5 min
51
1987: Oliver North Testifies
The Reagan administration was trading arms for hostages in the Middle East and supporting right-wing rebels in Nicaragua. North's idea was to put the two together, and that was Iran-Contra.
5 min
52
Best of NYC: You'll Get No Theme and You'll Lik...
More of our favorite episodes for your longer-form holiday listening, with stories about banana-smoking hippies, Evel Knievel, Randy Shilts and Herb Caen.
42 min
53
Best of NYC: True Crime!
From the SFPD bunko scandal to the possibly imaginary criminal element of North Beach's topless joints, revisit our favorite law-and-order tales.
24 min
54
1995: Talking With the Unabomber
"I'm just very fortunate that I'm not dead," UC Berkeley professor Tom Tyler said after receiving a letter from the Unabomber. It was his manifesto, not a mail bomb. And Tyler wrote back.
6 min
55
1937: Amelia Earhart Disappears
The press called her Lady Lindy. She looked a little like Charles Lindbergh, but she was also a record-seeting flyer in her own right — an aviatrix, they called her. Now, an around-the-world flight almost done, she went missing.
6 min
56
1946: The A-Bomb at Bikini Atoll
For the first time, the world knows about a nuclear weapon being detonated before it happens. Some of the most brilliant scientists and engineers in the world ... have no idea what they're doing.
5 min
57
1914: Archduke Franz Ferdinand Assassinated
Gavrilo Princip was pouting in a cafe after missing his chance to assassinate the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary. Then the archduke's driver took a wrong turn down a narrow street — right in front of Princip.
5 min
58
1997: Climate Change and Humor
Five years after the heady optimism of Rio, the Earth Summit+5 international conference on climate change is a failure. But a confab on humor in Norway is serious business.
5 min
59
1945: United Nations Charter Signed
As World War II nears its end, Harry Truman announces the dawn of the U.N. in San Francisco. "If we had had this Charter a few years ago," he says, "millions now dead would be alive."
4 min
60
1876: The Battle of Little Big Horn
They used to call it "Custer's Last Stand," thanks to nearly a century of myth-making. But the real story is it was a great victory, but a last stand, for the Lakota Sioux
6 min
61
1977: The President Insists on Paying Taxes
President Jimmy Carter owes nothing on his federal income taxes because of deductions and investments in the family business. So he sends a request to the IRS: Please let me pay $6,000.
5 min
62
1967: Muhammad Ali Appeals
He was undefeated in the ring, but the heavyweight champ was on a losing streak in court. Appealing his conviction for refusing induction into the armed forces, he said there was another possible outcome besides Vietnam or jail: Justice.
5 min
63
1953: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Executed
Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso and Pope Pius XII are among those begging for mercy on their behalf, but the New York couple, convicted of selling secrets to the Soviets, are the first Americans put to death for espionage.
6 min
64
Republish: 1906: San Francisco Rebuilds
Subscribers got the wrong episode yesterday. The correct episode is now in place, but we’re republishing it here as a “bonus” so you don’t have to re-download it yourself. Two months after the earthquake and fire that devastated San Francisco, donations are pouring in from around the country to reopen schools. Dentists are sending tools. The city is digging itself out.
5 min
65
1906: San Francisco Rebuilds
Two months after the earthquake and fire that devastated San Francisco, donations are pouring in from around the country to reopen schools. Dentists are sending tools. The city is digging itself out.
5 min
66
1992: A Win for Prop 13
Proposition 13, the property tax rollback that forced massive government cuts and launched the taxpayer revolt of the '80s, is upheld by the Supreme Court, confirming it as California's political third rail.
5 min
67
1976: Selling off the Oakland A's
All owner Charlie Finley wants to do is get something for his star players who are about to become this new thing, free agents. But commissioner Bowie Kuhn says that kind of deal — now common — is "not in the best interests of baseball."
5 min
68
1996: Herb Caen Day in San Francisco
Robin Williams, Willie Mays, Bill Walsh and Amy Tan are among the throngs celebrating the city's "voice and conscience" — in the words of his Pulitzer Prize — in a downtown celebration. "God, I love this town," he said. It was mutual.
6 min
69
1983: Drug and Alcohol Crowd at the White House!
That's what Interior Secretary James Watt called the audience for the Beach Boys when he banned them from a July Fourth concert at the National Mall. But whoops: The Reagans dug the nostalgia act.
5 min
70
1923: Why Not a Businessman President?
Does this sound familiar? A rich guy who owns a famous company that's popular with consumers talks about running for president. Grab a cup of coffee and listen to the story of ... Henry Ford.
6 min
71
1971: Alcatraz Captured
A 19-month occupation by American Indian activists ends when U.S. marshals take back Alcatraz Island. The protest action has a huge influence on U.S. policy toward native tribes.
5 min
72
1946: Death of a Champion
Jack Johnson was the Jackie Robinson of boxing. He broke the color barrier as the first black man to fight for the heavyweight title, and the first to win it. He died while traveling to see the second black champ, Joe Louis.
7 min
73
1992: Say Goodbye to the Giants
The local 9 lose again at the ballot box in their attempt to get a new publicly funded stadium. They're 0-for-4. They're never going to get a new ballpark, are they?
6 min
74
1944: D-Day by the Bay
As Allied troops storm the beaches of Normandy, a Chronicle reporter patrols the city. He finds a subdued reaction, with scattered rejoicing in the immigrant-heavy produce market and at the French consulate.
5 min
75
1972: Angela Davis Acquitted
"Wild Scene in the Courtroom." The former UCLA professor had been charged with supplying the guns in a 1970 courtroom takeover that left a judge and three others dead.
6 min
76
1986: Crisis at the Mexican Border
The Reagan administration says it's going to get tough and crack down. "The drug trafficking and related violence along the border is a horror story," says one official. Sound familiar?
5 min
77
1913: The Last Horsecar in San Francisco
Mayor Sunny Jim Rolph grabs the reins and drives old Car 45 on its last Market Street run. Horse-drawn streetcars are going the way of, well, horse-drawn streetcars.
4 min
78
1964: The Rolling Stones Invade America
First the Beatles and now these guys. The Chronicle wants to know: When will this British Invasion end? At least they're just bringing music from England, not the battles between gangs of Mods and Rockers.
5 min
79
1911: The First Indy 500
It wasn't just the first Indianapolis 500, it was the first 500-mile race, period. The winner was the only solo driver. Ray Haroun didn't need someone to help watch out for other cars. He used his new invention: A rearview mirror.
6 min
80
1987: The GMO Food War Begins
Activists resort to vandalism to block the University of California from field testing Ice-Minus, the first experiment with genetically modified crops outside a lab.
4 min
81
1975: Evel Knievel Is Through!
The Most Important Man in the World — at least according to the 11-year-old future host of Not Your Century and his bike-jumping friends — says he's retiring after his latest crash, at Wembley Stadium in London.
8 min
82
1943: Inside a Japanese Internment Camp
San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Milton Silverman tours the camp at Tulelake. Though the camps enjoy overwhelming popular support at the time, his report is surprisingly frank.
7 min
83
1967: Sex is Everywhere
With the sexual revolution in full swing, a study says it's having an effect on the mental health of young women. In San Francisco, the obscenity trial over Lenore Kandel's erotic poetry collection "The Love Book" continues.
5 min
84
1956: The Destruction of the Fillmore
The Board of Supervisors approves a plan that will devastate the African-American community of the Fillmore, "the Harlem of the West." It's urban renewal, which James Baldwin says "means moving the Negroes out. It means Negro removal."
6 min
85
1910: The King Is Dead
He wasn't king long, but Edward VII had a whole era named after him. His mother, Queen Victoria, blamed him for the death of his father and never forgave him. But other people liked him. Especially the ladies.
5 min
86
1999: Dan Quayle in San Franciscoe
The former VP, running for president, returns to the scene of his "Murphy Brown" comment, for which he was roasted—but not like he was roasted for spelling potato "potatoe."
5 min
87
1954: Brown vs. Board of Education
The Supreme Court delivers a death sentence for the doctrine of separate but equal, the basis for legal segregation. It's an epochal decision, but not the top headline in the newspaper.
4 min
88
1967: Undercover With the Hippies
A Chronicle reporter spends a month in Haight-Ashbury, living with the flower children, getting high with them and trying to understand their culture of peace, love and psychedelic bananas you heard us psychedelic bananas.
6 min
89
1960: San Francisco Protests HUAC
The anti-Communist House Un-American Activities Committee is holding hearings at S.F. City Hall, and protesters — chanting, singing and comparing the committee to Nazis — are brutalized by police.
5 min
90
1932: Who Killed the Lindbergh Baby?
The search for the missing Charles Lindbergh Jr. had gripped the nation. Now that the 2-year-old has been found dead, the great aviator has recruited some sketchy characters to help find the killer.
6 min
91
1982: Randy Shilts and the Dawn of AIDS
The headline about what would become the AIDS epidemic was buried on Page 6. It was the first story on the disease by the man who would become its voice: Randy Shilts. A special longform edition of Not Your Century.
19 min
92
Bonus: Randy Shilts Biographer Andrew E. Stoner
Host King Kaufman interviews Andrew E. Stoner, the author of “The Journalist of Castro Street: The Life of Randy Shilts,” which is out this month.
23 min
93
1869: The Golden Spike
The transcontinental railroad is completed by the driving of the final spike. It's hooked up to telegraph wires, so Leland Stanford's hammer blow sends a nationwide signal for the celebrations to begin. It's the first mass media event.
6 min
94
1959: Great White Shark Attack
San Francisco teenager Albert Kogler is killed by a "maneater" while swimming in the bay. Shirley O'Neil braves the shark's attack to pull him from the water, then becomes an international sensation when she baptizes her dying friend on shore.
6 min
95
1965: A Surrender to the Fleshpots of North Beach
San Francisco Mayor John F. Shelley has given in. Not to the temptations of the flesh, but to the idea that topless entertainment is here to stay in North Beach.
5 min
96
1942: Japan Routs the U.S. at Corregidor
The last allied stronghold in Southeast Asia falls. General Douglas MacArthur had hoped to hold out for reinfocements, but they never came. Still, the battle had slowed Japan's drive to conquer the Pacific, and the tide would soon turn.
4 min
97
1970: The Kent State Shooting
President Nixon reverses course and escalates the Vietnam War by invading formerly neutral Cambodia, and America's college campuses erupt in protest. In Ohio, National Guardsmen open fire on unarmed demonstrators, killing four.
5 min
98
1945: Adolf Hitler's Suicide
A day after Americans learned that the Nazi leader had died, they learned that Germany's official announcement that Hitler had died in battle was a lie. He had killed himself as the Red Army captured Berlin and closed in on his bunker.
4 min
99
1973: Conspiracy to Obstruct Justice at the Whi...
Investigators have evidence that high-ranking officials of the White House and President Nixon's reelection committee conspired to cover up the Watergate break-in. They haven't figured out Nixon's role yet, but John Dean is about to start talking.
4 min
100
1913: The SFPD Bunko Scandal
Fat envelopes of cash are being handed over the bars of North Beach. To the cops. And they're going down. The real scandal? A century later, not enough people use the word "bunko" anymore.
4 min
101
1986: The Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster
The USSR has finally admitted that something happened, but Western observers are worried it's worse than officials are letting on. The Soviets rarely ask the West for help, announce a problem on Tass, or say a government investigation is underway.
4 min
102
1958: U.S. Space Program Failing
The Soviet Union is sending Sputnik satellites into orbit, but for the United States, it's failure after failure. The latest Vanguard rocket has plunged into the sea from 140 miles up.
5 min
103
1963: Fidel Castro Visits Nikita Khrushchev
In something of a surprise, the Cuban premier heads to the Soviet Union for the first time amid rumors of tensions with the Soviet leader in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Meanwhile, Khrushchev opens a new front in the Cold War: Women's panties.
3 min
104
1894: The First March on Washington
The Butte, Montana, faction of Coxey's Army has stolen a freight train and is headed east, part of a nationwide convergence to demand a jobs and infrastructure program. So who was Coxey? And how'd he get an army?
5 min
105
1957: Failed the Bus Driver Test? Try Cable Cars
If you blow the San Francisco Municipal Railway's bus driver test, don't worry. They'll send you over for cable car training. The Public Utilities Commission thinks that's odd, but Muni defends its policy.
4 min
106
1935: Pan Am Clipper Crosses the Pacific
In the first of four test flights, Pan American's "flying boat" completes a round-trip to Hawaii with a water landing in front of 10,000 spectators at Alameda. It's the first step toward passenger service to Asia.
5 min
107
1993: Hacker Busted, Joe Montana's Farewell
Prosecutors are throwing the book at Kevin Lee Poulsen, a notorious hacker who rigged radio station contests to finance his life on the lam for other crimes. Plus: Joe Montana bids adieu to San Francisco and the 49ers.
5 min
108
1962: The Prehistoric Google Bus
Commuters are taking private luxury buses to their jobs on the Peninsula, and people are fighting mad about it. It's a preview of the Google Bus fights of a later century. But without Wi-Fi.
5 min
109
1912: Scant News from the Titanic
Three days after the great ship sank, news is still scarce. The rescue ship Carpathia has gone silent. But word is filtering in over the wires about who survived — and who didn't.
4 min
110
1990: Chinatown Is Closed
Mayor Art Agnos wants to tear down the Embarcadero Freeway, badly damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake. Chinatown shuts down as its business leaders head downtown to fight for repair of the road they say is their lifeline of customers.
4 min
111
Bonus: Mike Sager on Janet Cooke
Mike Sager worked with and dated Janet Cooke at the Washington Post and later wrote a book about her. The veteran author and magazine writer talks about his friend, "the fabulist who changed journalism."
17 min
112
1981: Space Shuttle Soars, Janet Cooke Crashes
Real news: The inaugural flight of the space shuttle Challenger. Fake news: The Washington Post returns Janet Cooke's Pulitzer Prize after editors discover she made up her story about an 8-year-old heroin addict.
4 min
113
1891: A Lot of Ruckus Over Oranges
The people of Chicago are amazed! They're coming by the trainload to gaze at produce from California. The oranges are the star of the show. It's a precursor to the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, which in turn would lead to a giant fair in Golden Gate Park in 1894.
4 min
114
1923: General Theory of Relativity Confirmed
You'll be glad to know Albert Einstein was right. Astronomers at the Lick Observatory in San Jose confirmed it by examining photos of a 1922 eclipse. How did that confirm Einstein? We asked an astronomer at the Lick Observatory. Plus: The curse of the mummy’s tomb!
6 min
115
1906: Mount Vesuvius Erupts
Untold thousands died when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D., including Pliny the Elder. The death toll wasn't as high in 1906, but it was high. Vesuvius remains an active volcano. How am I going to be an optimist about this?
3 min
116
1952: Nationwide Labor Strife
Big Steel accuses President Harry Truman of being in bed with the labor unions after he nationalizes the industry to ward off a strike by steelworkers. There are huge strikes in industries across the country as labor battles the wage and price controls Truman had put in place at the beginning of the Korean War.
4 min
117
1975: Operation Babylift
85 Vietnamese orphans arrive at Travis Air Force Base in the latest flight of Operation Babylift — the massive, controversial evacuation of children from South Vietnam in the dying days of the Vietnam War. President Gerald Ford is there for a photo op.
3 min
118
1924: Ambushed in Albania—2 San Franciscans Killed
The U.S. Navy would send warships to the area after a pair of American businessmen are killed by a bandit gang. The accused killer claims he was under orders from the prime minister—who would later become king.
4 min
119
1961: Raising Muni Fares and Honoring Hydrant 12
San Francisco bus fares are the lowest in the nation and Muni, facing a deficit, wants to do something about that. Plus: A plaque for the hydrant that saved the Mission District in the 1906 earthquake and fire? Spoiler alert: Yes. You can go look at it.
5 min
120
1910: Teddy Roosevelt vs. the Pope
You've got to be pretty bold to tangle with the pope. Teddy Roosevelt was pretty bold. On a post-presidential world tour, TR wired to ask for an audience with Pius X, but when the Vatican asked him to submit to certain conditions, the old Roughrider got rough. Featuring guest star Jason Feifer, host of the history podcast Pessimists Archive, as Roosevelt.
7 min
121
1954: Last Stand at Dien Bien Phu
Viet Minh forces were laying siege to Dien Bien Phu, which the French had fortified in hopes they could bait the rebels into a battle the French thought they could win. They were wrong about that. Plus: A San Francisco boxing champ wins, and the Army makes a significant hire.
4 min
122
1997: Cult Left an Arsenal Behind
The beatific, peace-loving Heaven's Gate cult, whose members had committed mass suicide, left behind a cache of weapons and ammunition, police find. Plus: On Opening Day for the Giants, Matier and Ross note fans' sticker shock at the concession prices at Candlestick Park. Would you believe $4 for a beer!
3 min
123
1981: "I Am in Control Here, at the White House"
Secretary of State Alexander Haig takes heat for his behavior in the hours after the shooting of President Ronald Reagan, and authorities delve into the bizarre motive of shooter John Hinckley, who wanted to impress teenage actor Jodie Foster.
5 min
124
1981: "Honey, I Forgot to Duck"
President Ronald Reagan and three others are shot as he walks out of a Washington hotel following a speech to the AFL-CIO. The shooter is John Hinckley, who wanted to impress actress Jodie Foster. No one is aware the president has been hit until after he arrives at the hospital.
5 min
125
1928: Hundreds Dead, Mulholland Takes the Blame
You know the name Mulholland from the famous street in the Hollywood Hills. Did you know William Mulholland, who designed the aqueduct system that allowed Los Angeles to grow into a big city, was responsible for the second-worst disaster for loss of life in California history? "Don't blame anyone else," he told a jury. "You just fasten it on me."
3 min
126
1977: The First Female Chief Justice
Rose Bird was used to firsts. She was the first female public defender in Santa Clara County and the first female cabinet secretary in California, and now she was the first female state Supreme Court chief justice in California—and probably the first to get a kiss in public from the governor. But the good times wouldn't last for her.
4 min
127
1935: Fatso Rats Out Baby Face Nelson's Pals
It was dangerous to call George Nelson "Baby Face" to his face, but Baby Face was dead by 1935, when Fatso Negri walked into a San Francisco courtroom to testify against nine locals accused of helping the notorious gangster when he was on the lam out west. Still, Fatso looked plenty nervous.
3 min
128
1949: Anti-Semites in the New York Schools?
A litigious former magistrate is suing to get these purveyors of anti-Jewish feeling out of the curriculum. Their names? William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. Plus: The House Un-American Activities Committee had a book out too. It says there are 825,000 domestic traitors and spies in the U.S., and it didn't pull that number out of thin air at all.
3 min
129
1875: The Best Game of Base Ball Ever
It's a sparkling start to the 1875 season of base ball—which was two words back then. The crack San Francisco Club looks poised to wrest the championship from the Oakland players, having beaten them twice already. Center fielder Murkey is the San Francisco star. In one game, he made two fly-catches!
4 min
130
1946: Axis Sally Captured, Frank Sinatra Conquers
U.S. counterintelligence agents capture American Nazi propagandist "Axis Sally," who'd been hiding out in Berlin since the end of World War II. Back in San Francisco, bobby soxers with notes from their parents skip school to line up for hours to see Frank Sinatra, whom the Chronicle calls an "astonishingly inoffensive and almost colorless young man."
4 min
131
1913: Who Killed King George?
Why was King George I of Greece shot and killed as he walked the streets? Greek authorities have a suspect. His motive was a mystery, they say. And that motive would remain a mystery right up until he "fell" out of a police-station window six weeks later.
3 min
132
1974: The Children of the Divorce Wave
The first comprehensive study of the effect of divorce on children is being conducted as the divorce rate is roughly doubling in a decade. Many of the conclusions seem obvious today, but were anything but 45 years ago. Plus: Rotten advice from columnist Count Marco.
3 min
133
1907: Weigh a Soul? Nikola Tesla Says No
Nikola Tesla says, "It is altogether too absurd for discussion," and he's somehow not talking about Elon Musk. "It" was whether a person's soul can be weighed, which was a debate in 1907. Plus: Upton Sinclair's house burns down as he's researching a book on the steel industry. Suspicious?
4 min
134
1984: Larry Flynt and Dianne Feinstein
They didn't have anything to do with each other except they both were in the news. Flynt for wearing an American flag diaper in court, among other protest moves that got him locked up for contempt, Feinstein for talking, at the start of her second San Francisco mayoral term, about her political future. She says that having worked in both the executive and legislative branches, she sees her future in the executive. Narrator voice ...
4 min
135
1948: A Democratic Party Civil War
Southern Democratic governors, led by Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, vow to oppose the reelection of President Harry Truman, or anyone else who supports Truman's civil rights program. It's the first stirrings of what would become the short-lived Dixiecrat Party, with Thurmond as its nominee.
5 min
136
1976: Gov. Moonbeam Throws His Hat in the Ring
Jerry Brown, the charismatic 38-year-old governor of California, announces that he's running for the Democratic nomination for president. It's a bit late to do that — the primaries are already in full swing. But not to worry, Brown says. He's only running in California.
4 min
137
1924: The President's Plan to Slash Taxes
Sound familiar? President Calvin Coolidge wanted Congress to put aside all its other business and get to work on his proposal to slash income taxes. What was it that Silent Cal wanted Congress to stop doing to work on that tax cut? Investigating corruption in the executive branch.
5 min
138
1916: The U.S. Invades Mexico
In response to a raid on a small New Mexico town by Pancho Villa, President Woodrow Wilson taps Gen. John "Blackjack" Pershing to lead a force across the border to chase the revolutionary leader down. The Punitive Expedition would last until the U.S. entry into World War I the next year.
4 min
139
1964: Civil Rights at the Palace Hotel
After the biggest mass arrests to date in San Francisco history, demonstrators who had shut down the Palace Hotel were victorious: The city's hotels had agreed to fair hiring practices. As the triumphant protesters carried their leader on their shoulders, she shouted, "We got everything we asked for!" Her name was Tracy Sims. She was 18 years old.
5 min
140
1956: Gum Machines: Devil's Spawn
Eldon C. Middleton of King Street, Redwood City, has a clear idea of what lies "at the very foundations of wickedness which are threatening to engulf us all." Gumball machines. And he's letting the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors know the awful truth. Today, gumball machines. Tomorrow? "Pinball machines, slot machines, canasta and even Scrabble."
4 min
141
1913: A Monkey Cage for the Veep
Vice President Thomas Marshall doesn't think much of his new office. History doesn't think much of his tenure as V.P. — neither did the president Marshall served, Woodrow Wilson. But Marshall did leave us with a memorable phrase: "What this country needs is a good 5-cent cigar." Plus: Famous lawyer Clarence Darrow was in court. That certainly wasn't unusual but this was: It was Darrow himself who was on trial!
5 min
142
1896: Do You Poop Out at Parties?
An ad says the cure for "womb trouble" and all sorts of other female maladies is Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound, Blood Purifier and Sensitive Wash, a version of which you can still buy at your local drug store. Plus: The climax of the Italo-Ethiopian War, and Spanish university students burn American flags.
4 min
143
1922: The Whiskey Heist Heroine
At the height of Prohibition, 100 cases of rare whiskey are stolen from a Menlo Park mansion in a daring robbery. The bandits, who tippled as they stole, didn't hurt anyone, thanks to the quick thinking of the family's nanny — also a noted "aviatrix."
3 min
144
1905: "I Am Poisoned!"
Jane Lathrop Stanford, co-founder of the university, survives a poisoning attempt at her palatial home in San Francisco. Devastated, she sails to Hawaii, vowing never to return to her house. She doesn't. A second poisoning kills her—a murder that Stanford's president covers up.
5 min
145
Bonus Episode: Marshall Kilduff
The reporter who exposed the abuses of Jim Jones and the People's Temple in 1977 talks about covering the murder of former temple members Al and Jeannie Mills for the San Francisco Chronicle in 1980.
7 min
146
1980: A Murder in Berkeley
Al and Jeannie Mills are found dead in their home. They had been members of Jim Jones' People's Temple before leaving and becoming fierce critics. Fifteen months after the Jonestown Massacre, had surviving cultists carried out the killing on an order given by Jones before he died?
3 min
147
1919/1969: The More Things Change
A hundred years ago, an education official says wealth inequity is the greatest threat to equal education. Fifty years ago, violent right-wing groups are making surprising appearances in the Bay Area.
3 min
148
1933: "Alfalfa Bill" Murray Empties the Jails
Imagine the surprise for the prosecutor when he looked out at the law class he was teaching and saw the face of the man he'd just put away for murder. Why was Oklahoma's controversial governor freeing so many prisoners?
5 min
149
1942: The Battle of Los Angeles
Weeks after Pearl Harbor—and one night after a minor attack on a Santa Barbara oil field by a Japanese submarine—Los Angeles is thrown into a panic by reports of an air raid on the city. There's no raid, but five people die, and calls for Japanese internment intensify.
4 min
150
Coming Soon: Not Your Century
Not Your Century launches February 25 from the San Francisco Chronicle, celebrating the news—and the news media—of years gone by.
1 min