April 1st – This Day in History …

… and all this really happened on April Fools Day!


1700: April Fools Day tradition is popularized.

1789: The first U.S. House of Representatives forms and elects its first speaker.

1800 New York City: The trial of Levi Weeks in New York City ends with his acquittal. The jury, either persuaded by the defense or extremely tired (the trial wrapped up after 2 a.m.), returned with their verdict after only five minutes.

Levi Weeks trial book

The case, known as the Manhattan Well Mystery, had captivated the New York City public. It began on January 2, 1800, when Gulielma Sands was found dead at the bottom of a well. Sands lived in a boardinghouse in lower Manhattan and had been engaged to marry Levi Weeks, who also lived in the building.

Not much is known about what really happened to Sands, but the case provides insight into how trials were conducted 200 years ago. Women attorneys, judges, and jurors were unheard of at the time, and the court had very different rules with regard to the clock: Trials didn’t stop in the late afternoon, or even the early evening. In fact, trials were known to proceed past 2 a.m. Requests for breaks from lawyers claiming fatigue were denied.

In addition, the finer points of evidence and objections were barely developed. In the two-day trial, 75 witnesses appeared and testified. They were generally allowed to tell what they knew without interruption from questions or objections.

Less than five years after defense attorneys Hamilton and Burr teamed up to save Levi Weeks, they fought each other in a duel that left Hamilton dead. Levi Weeks went on to become a respected architect in Natchez, Mississippi. He died in 1819, at the age of 43.

1877 Tombstone: Ignoring the taunts of fellow miners who say he will only find his own tombstone, April1-Tombstoneprospector Edward Schieffelin begins his search for silver in the area of present-day southern Arizona. Schieffelin then found on this date one of the  richest silver veins in the West. He named it the Tombstone Lode.

1945 Okinawa: On this day 50,000 U.S. combat troops of the 10th Army land on Okinawa, 350 miles south of Kyushu, the southern main island of Japan.

1960 Satellite: The first weather satellite was launched.TIROS-1, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The polar-orbiting craft was not constantly pointed at earth and could only operate in daylight, so coverage was not continuous. It functioned for just 78 days, but it sent back thousands of pictures of cloud patterns forming and moving across the face of the planet. And it proved the theory that satellites could effectively survey global weather from space.

1970 Cigarettes: President Richard Nixon signs legislation officially banning cigarette ads on April1-Nixontelevision and radio. Nixon, who was an avid pipe smoker, indulging in as many as eight bowls a day, supported the legislation at the increasing insistence of public health advocates.

1985 College Basketball: One of the greatest upsets in college basketball history, the Villanova Wildcats beat the Georgetown Hoyas, 66-64, to win the NCAA Men’s Division I tournament. The victory was Villanova’s first-ever national championship. Patrick Ewing played center on the losing Georgetown team.

2004 Google’s Gmail: Gmail was launched as an advertising-supported email service provided by Google on an invitation-only beta release.

April 1, 2004: Joseph (Jay) Fleece III, and Hamden Baskin III, formed the law firm of BaskinFleece. They decided to combine their extensive knowledge and experience to create a unique law firm that was focused mainly on contested estate, trust and Jay&Hamdenguardianship matters. Their philosophy was simple: leverage trial skills with the knowledge of probate and trust law to provide consistent, efficient and effective representation for their clients – resulting in positive outcomes.

2013: Congratulations to Jay Fleece, Hamden Baskin and their team for serving the community and its clients since 2004.

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