Historic October Firsts

Historic October Firsts

by Shauna Heller, September 2010

From first frosts to the first color change of the season, October is known for its bounty of fall firsts. But beyond Mother Nature's spectacular contributions, October is known for many landmark achievements that helped shape the history—and future―of America. 

As temperatures begin to dip and leaves start to change, discover historic advancements in civil rights, medicine, education, culture, communication, law, and invention that all find their origins in October.

October 1, 1962

James Meredith becomes the first African-American student to attend the University of Mississippi.

October 2, 1950

Good grief! American cartoonist Charles M. Shulz's beloved classic comic strip, Peanuts, debuts.

October 2, 1967

Thurgood Marshall is sworn in as an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court.  Marshall becomes the first African-American to hold this position.

October 4, 1870

The first solicitor general, Benjamin Helm Bristow, is appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant. The solicitor general position was created so that the Government of the United States would have representation before the US Supreme Court.

October 6, 1927

Al Jolson stars in the release of the first motion picture to use sound-on-film process, The Jazz Singer.

October 11, 1984

American Mission Specialist Astronaut Kathy Sullivan becomes the first woman to walk in space.

October 14, 1964

Thirty-five-year-old leader of the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr., wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

October 16, 1847

William T.G. Morton, a Boston dentist, gives the first public demonstration of anesthesia before other doctors. Morton administered sulfuric ether during an operation performed by John Collins Warren at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

Oct 17, 1978

Learning becomes a fundamental when the bill creating the Department of Education is signed by President James Carter.

October 20, 1803

The United States Senate ratified the Louisiana Purchase. Including 14 current states (and two Canadian providences), the purchase doubled the size of America and cost $11.25 million.

October 21, 1879

American inventor Thomas Alva Edison gets a bright idea and perfects the first working electric light, using a carbonized cotton filament light bulb.

October 23, 1910

Blanche Scott takes flight as the first woman to solo in an airplane. Not lacking in courage, Scott was also the first woman to drive an automobile coast to coast—also in 1910.

Oct 24, 1940

Working for the weekend becomes official as the first 40-hour workweek, part of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, goes into effect.

October 24, 1861

The first transcontinental telegraph system is completed, making it possible to transmit messages rapidly from coast to coast. The Pony Express galloped permanently into history two days later.

October 25, 1972

Susan Lynn Roley and Joanne E. Pierce become the first female FBI agents. Completing their training in Quantico, VA, the special agents graduated after a 14-week course with a group of 45 men.

October 31, 1864

The state of Nevada has a lucky streak, officially becoming the 36th state to enter the Union.