Year
1877

Hayes has first phone installed in White House

On this day in 1877, President Rutherford B. Hayes has the White House’s first telephone installed in the mansion s telegraph room. President Hayes embraced the new technology, though he rarely received phone calls. In fact, the Treasury Department possessed the only other direct phone line to the White House at that time. The White House phone number was “1.” Phone service throughout the country was in its infancy in 1877. It was not until a year later that the first telephone exchange was set up in Connecticut and it would be 50 more years until President Herbert Hoover had the first telephone line installed at the president’s desk in the Oval Office.

In more recent years, presidential phone recordings have given the public insight into the personalities and political maneuvers of the nation’s leaders. On such tapes, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Harry Truman were frequently heard using profanity or openly criticizing political opponents without the constraints of being in the public eye or having to maintain a facade of presidential decorum. Most of the time those on the other end of the White House phone line had no knowledge they were being taped.

Since 1990, the National Archives and Records Administration has released to the public presidential phone recordings regarding subjects such as Kennedy’s handling of the Cuban missile crisis; Johnson’s increase in the number of U.S. troops sent to Vietnam; and Nixon’s appointment of William Rehnquist to the U.S. Supreme Court. American Radio Works® states Nixon left behind more taped phone recordings than any other president, a fact that led to his political undoing in 1973 when Watergate investigators subpoenaed tapes and transcripts of close to 3,700 hours of Nixon s phone recordings. Since Nixon’s administration, declassified transcripts or sound recordings have become increasingly available to the public in print and online.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Jefferson Davis captured

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Nelson Mandela inaugurated

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Churchill becomes prime minister

Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, is called to replace Neville Chamberlain as British prime minister following the latter’s resignation after losing a confidence vote in the House of Commons. In 1938, Prime Minister Chamberlain signed the Munich Pact with Nazi ...read more

Transcontinental railroad completed

On this day in 1869, the presidents of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads meet in Promontory, Utah, and drive a ceremonial last spike into a rail line that connects their railroads. This made transcontinental railroad travel possible for the first time in U.S. ...read more

Operation Apache Snow is launched

The U.S. 9th Marine Regiment and the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division, along with South Vietnamese forces, commence Operation Apache Snow in the A Shau Valley in western Thua Thien Province. The purpose of the operation was to cut off the North Vietnamese and prevent ...read more

Bobby Orr leads Bruins to Stanley Cup title

Bobby Orr scores the winning goal 40 seconds into sudden-death overtime to lift the Boston Bruins over the St. Louis Blues for the Stanley Cup title on this day in 1970. It was the Bruins’ first championship in 29 years. The Bruins had finished dead last in their division in ...read more

Joan Crawford dies

On this day in 1977, the legendary actress Joan Crawford dies of a heart attack in her New York City apartment. Born Lucille Fay Le Sueur (her birth year has been variously recorded as 1904 or 1908), Crawford was a nightclub dancer who broke into Broadway musicals in the Jazz Age ...read more

Death on Mount Everest

Eight climbers die on Mount Everest during a storm on this day in 1996. It was the worst loss of life ever on the mountain on a single day. Author Jon Krakauer, who himself attempted to climb the peak that year, wrote a best-selling book about the incident, Into Thin Air, which ...read more

J. Edgar Hoover begins his legacy with the FBI

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China releases Tiananmen Square prisoners

The government of the People’s Republic of China announces that it is releasing 211 people arrested during the massive protests held in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in June 1989. Most observers viewed the prisoner release as an attempt by the communist government of China to ...read more

Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson dies

The South loses one of its boldest and most colorful generals on this day, when 39-year-old Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson dies of pneumonia a week after his own troops accidentally fired on him during the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia. In the first two years of the war, ...read more