A Year In History: 1923

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This Year in History:

1923

Discover what happened in this year with HISTORY’s summaries of major events, anniversaries, famous births and notable deaths.

January 2

Secretary Fall resigns in Teapot Dome scandal

Albert Fall, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior, announces he is resigning in response to public outrage over the Teapot Dome scandal. Fall’s resignation, which took effect two months later, illuminated a deeply corrupt relationship between western developers and the federal government. Born in Kentucky in 1861, Albert Fall moved to New Mexico […]

January 10

President Harding orders U.S. troops home from Germany

Four years after the end of World War I, President Warren G. Harding orders U.S. occupation troops stationed in Germany to return home. In 1917, after several years of bloody stalemate along the Western Front, the entrance of America’s fresh, well-supplied forces into the Great War—a decision announced by President Woodrow Wilson in April and […]

February 13

First all-Black professional basketball team organized

On February 13, 1923, the New York Renaissance, the first all-Black professional basketball team, is organized. The Renaissance, commonly called the Rens, become one of the dominant teams of the 1920s and 1930s. The team’s founder was Robert L. Douglas, whose primary objective was to give New York City’s male, Black athletes opportunities to better themselves. In […]

March 7

Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is published

The New Republic publishes Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” The poem, beginning with the famous line “Whose woods these are, I think I know. His house is in the village though,” has introduced millions of American students to poetry. Like most of Frost’s poetry, “Stopping by Woods” adopts the tone […]

July 23

John Dillinger joins the Navy in an attempt to avoid prosecution

John Herbert Dillinger joins the Navy in order to avoid charges of auto theft in Indiana, marking the beginning of America’s most notorious criminal’s downfall. Years later, Dillinger’s reputation was forged in a single 12-month period, during which he robbed more banks than Jesse James did in 15 years and became the most wanted fugitive […]

August 3

Calvin Coolidge takes oath of office after Warren G. Harding’s death

On August 3, 1923, Calvin Coolidge is sworn in as the 30th president of the United States, hours after the death of President Warren G. Harding. Born July 4, 1872, in Plymouth, Vermont, Coolidge was the son of a village storekeeper. He graduated from Amherst College in Massachusetts and worked his way up in the […]

September 1

Japan’s Great Kanto Earthquake kills over 140,000

On September 1, 1923, a routine lunch hour in Japan’s capital city of Tokyo and neighboring “City of Silk” Yokohama is disrupted when a massive, 7.9-magnitude earthquake strikes just before noon. The shaking causes more than half of Tokyo’s brick buildings, most of Yokohama’s buildings, and hundreds of thousands of homes to collapse, killing tens […]

September 23

“The Prophet,” by Lebanese-American poet-philosopher Kahlil Gibran, is published

On September 23, 1923, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, a Romantic book of prose poetry centered on a prophet who shares wisdom about family, work, death, love and freedom, is published. It sold about 1,200 copies in its first year with little fanfare, but gradually gained readers by word of mouth over subsequent decades, becoming something of […]

November 15

Accused of rape, James Montgomery’s struggle for justice begins

Mamie Snow, a mentally disabled white woman from Waukegan, Illinois, claims that James Montgomery, a Black veteran and factory worker, raped her. Montgomery, who was promptly thrown in jail, spent more than 25 years in prison before his conviction was overturned and he was released. From the start, Montgomery’s trial seemed ill fated. Local Ku […]

November 20

Garrett Morgan patents three-position traffic signal

On November 20, 1923, the U.S. Patent Office grants Patent No. 1,475,074 to 46-year-old inventor and newspaperman Garrett Morgan for his three-position traffic signal. Though Morgan’s was not the first traffic signal (that one had been installed in London in 1868), it was an important innovation nonetheless: By having a third position besides just “Stop” […]