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This Week in History: Feb. 12-18

On Feb. 12, 1987, Mayor Clarence H. “Du” Burns addressed students at Francis M. Wood school for troubled youths: “Don’t let nobody tell you you can’t succeed. Don’t even listen to it. You got to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. That’s all I did.” Burns became Baltimore’s first black mayor in January of that year after William Donald Schaefer was elected Governor of Maryland. Burns later ran for a full term, but lost to Kurt Schmoke in the Democratic primary. (Baltimore Sun files)

Feb. 12, 1914: Hundreds of residents along Reisterstown Road appeared before the Baltimore Country delegation in the House Chamber to ask the state to buy the road and abolish its tollgates.

Feb. 12, 1917: Icy conditions in Baltimore reached their worst point, sinking one Atlantic Transport Company tug and badly damaging another at Curtis Bay. In Annapolis, about 100 bay freight vessels and barges were frozen in.

Feb. 12, 1938: Author Judy Blume was born in Elizabeth, N.J.

Feb. 13, 1899: The Great Arctic Outbreak struck Baltimore, blanketing the city with 15.4 inches of snow. The entire season saw 51 inches of snow, a record that lasted until a recorded 62.5 inches in 1996.

Feb. 13, 1962: Ashford Farms, a government-owned estate on the Choptank River near Bellevue and Oxford in Talbot County, was confirmed as the hideout of Francis Gary Powers. The American U-2 spy pilot was released from imprisonment in Russia just days earlier.

Feb. 13, 1980: The Fonz – also known as actor Henry Winkler – donated the brown leather jacket he wore on ABC’s “Happy Days” to the Smithsonian. “There’s no way to be so overly sophisticated and so cool as to not be touched by this event,” he said.

Feb. 14, 1944: The Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard announced it still had 97 Liberty ships to build before converting to Victory ship production. More than 2,500 of the cargo vessels were built during World War II, with 384 of them coming from Fairfield.

Feb. 14, 1899: Congress approved, and President William McKinley signed, legislation authorizing states to use voting machines for federal elections.

Feb. 14, 1929: The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre took place in a Chicago garage as seven rivals of Al Capone’s gang were gunned down.

Feb. 14, 1910: The Boy Scouts of America was incorporated.

Feb. 14, 1962: First lady Jacqueline Kennedy conducted a televised tour of the White House.

Feb. 14, 1984: The Walters Art Museum named Gary K. Vikan the next curator of medieval art and assistant director for curatorial affairs. He became director of the museum in 1994. Julia Marciari-Alexander succeeded Vikan when he retired in June 2013.

Feb. 14, 1994: Gov. William Donald Schaefer issued a reprieve for Marylanders who forgot Valentine’s Day or were hampered by the icy weather. Schaefer said he would issue a Valentine’s Day proclamation extending the holiday through Feb. 20. “We should help Maryland’s florists … and any romantics who might not have been able to do their Valentine shopping,” he said.

Feb. 15, 1879: President Rutherford B. Hayes signed a bill allowing female attorneys to argue cases before the Supreme Court.

Feb. 15, 1933: President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt escaped an assassination attempt in Miami that mortally wounded Chicago Mayor Anton J. Cermak; gunman Giuseppe Zangara was executed more than four weeks later.

Feb. 15, 1971: Britain and Ireland “decimalised” their currencies, making one pound equal to 100 new pence instead of 240 pence.

Feb. 16, 1937: Dr. Wallace H. Carothers, a research chemist for Du Pont who'd invented nylon, received a patent for the synthetic fiber.

Feb. 16, 1959: Fidel Castro became premier of Cuba a month and a-half after the overthrow of Fulgencio Batista.

Feb. 16, 1968: The nation's first 911 emergency telephone system was inaugurated in Haleyville, Alabama.

Feb. 17, 1953: An 18-alarm fire raged through Canton after a worker from Chesapeake Marine Railway Co. at Philpot and Point streets sent a cloud of sparks into 40-mph winds while using an acetylene torch to repair an oil barge. The first six alarms sounded from Kenwood Avenue and Boston Street, then the next six came from Boston Street and Luzerne Avenue. The final series of alarms was pulled at O'Donnell Street and Linwood Avenue. Although the fire was put out in just over two hours, it caused an estimated $2,000,000 in damages.

Feb. 17, 1817: A street in Baltimore became the first to be lighted with gas from America’s first gas company.

Feb. 17, 1897: The forerunner of the National PTA, the National Congress of Mothers, was founded in Washington.

Feb. 18, 1979: The Sun reported that the first donations made to the Maryland Food Bank included 1,100 servings of crepes filled with chicken and broccoli, 300 cases of frozen doughnuts, 10 cases of soda and more than 1,000 portions of chicken breasts topped with mushroom and cheese sauce.

Feb. 18, 1735: The first opera presented in the United States, “Flora, or Hob in the Well,” was performed in Charleston, S.C.

Feb. 18, 1885: Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”’ was published in the United States for the first time.

Feb. 18, 1930: Photographic evidence of Pluto, now designated a “dwarf planet,” was discovered.

Feb. 18, 1994: The Gyrfalcon and Bohemian Waxwing appeared in Maryland for the first time as low winter temperatures pushed the birds farther south than usual. The Gyrfalcon, which mainly nests on Arctic coasts, was spotted along New Design Road in Frederick.

Compiled by Lori Sears and Paul McCardell.

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