January 16: Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act, TWA Flight 3 crash, and other events of the date
A number of important events have taken place on January 16 in U.S. history. Here is our take on the most interesting and valuable of them.
1883 - Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act signed by President
As America is now in the midst of the longest shutdown of state institutions in its history, it wouldn’t be superfluous to remind our dear readers where the modern history of civil service in the U.S. started--with the so-called Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act that was signed into law by President Chester A. Arthur on this date 136 years ago. Although the 21st president, Chester A. Arthur, in office from 1881 to 1885, is considered one of the “forgotten presidents,” this was a very important Act.
The Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act (ch. 27, 22 Stat. 403) mandated that positions within the federal government should be awarded on the basis of merit instead of political affiliation: a right that is violated quite often today.
The act provided for the selection of government employees by competitive exams, rather than ties to politicians or political affiliation, or, at least, this is what it was aimed at. It also made it illegal to fire or demote government officials for political reasons and prohibited soliciting campaign donations on federal government property. Unfortunately this good act seems forgotten today--maybe even moreso than President Arthur himself.
To enforce the merit system and the judicial system, the law also created the United States Civil Service Commission. This board would be in charge of determining the rules and regulations of the act. The act also allowed for the president, by executive order, to decide which positions would be subject to the act and which would not.
The result was the shift of the parties to reliance on funding from business, since they could no longer depend on patronage. At least this was “a result achieved” in theory.
1942 - TWA Flight 3 crash
A tragedy occurred on this date 77 years ago. TWA Flight 3 was a twin-engined Douglas DC-3-382 propliner, registration NC1946. It was operated by Transcontinental and Western Air as a scheduled domestic passenger flight from New York City, to Burbank, CA, via Indianapolis, St. Louis, Albuquerque, and Las Vegas. This was a beloved route to travel for many notable Americans of the time. This was the route of the American Dream!
Unfortunately, on January 16, 1942, at 19:20 PST, 15 minutes after takeoff from Las Vegas Airport (now Nellis Air Force Base) bound for Burbank, the aircraft slammed into a sheer cliff on Potosi Mountain, 32 miles southwest of the airport, at an elevation of 7,770 ft above sea level, and was completely annihilated, resulting in the death of all 22 people onboard — including movie star Carole Lombard, her mother, and three crew members.
The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) later investigated the accident and determined it was caused by a navigation error by the captain.
1964 – Hello, Dolly opens on Broadway
January 16 marks an important date in the history of American culture, as the musical Hello Dolly!, directed and choreographed by Gower Champion and produced by David Merrick, opened at the St. James Theatre on Broadway on this date 55 years ago. It ran until December 27, 1970 and was closed after a remarkable 2,844 performances!
Carol Channing starred as Dolly, with a supporting cast that included David Burns as Horace, Charles Nelson Reilly as Cornelius, Eileen Brennan as Irene, Jerry Dodge as Barnaby, Sondra Lee as Minnie Fay, Alice Playten as Ermengarde, and Igors Gavon as Ambrose.
This was “the Silver Era” of American musicals. Although facing competition from Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand as the main star, Hello, Dolly! swept the Tony Awards that year, winning awards in ten categories out of eleven nominations, tying the previous record holder, South Pacific. The record remained unbroken until The Producers took 12 Tonys in 2001.
These are the most notable events in the U.S. history that occurred on January 16, at least in our view.