Every Thursday, we will use an event that occurred on this date to discuss an important moment in international history. This week: The Zeppelin’s maiden voyage (1900), Walmart opens its first store (1962), and President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act (1964).
The First Zeppelin Airship Takes Flight (1900)
German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin conducted the first test flight of a rigid airship near Lake Constance, Germany on July 2, 1900. Unlike earlier versions of hot air balloons and blimps, Zeppelin’s airship featured a rigid frame that encased gas-filled bags within the aircraft. Such a design enabled the construction of enormous vessels that could fly faster, higher, and further than ordinary balloons. During the 1910s, Zeppelin paved the way for international air travel with the creation of specialized Zeppelins designed for civilian passengers. During the First World War, Germany used Zeppelins for bombing raids in Europe, which redefined the concept of 'total war' and expanded the scope of military engagement to include targets on the home front. Although the Zeppelin quickly became obsolete with the advent of ‘heavier-than-air’ airplanes, the airship endures in popular memory as both a symbol of the promise of air travel, but also as a grim reminder of the origins of aerial warfare.
Walmart Opens its First Store (1962)
Sam Walton opened the first Walmart Discount City store in Rogers, Arkansas on July 2, 1962. During the 1960s, Walmart expanded into neighboring states and incorporated as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. By 1980, the company operated 276 stores in the United States and employed 21,000 people. In 1988, Walmart introduced its first Supercenter, a large shopping center featuring both a supermarket and conventional department store. Drawing customers with its wide variety of merchandise and low prices, Walmart continued to occupy an immense presence in the global economy. Today, Walmart is the largest corporation in the world by revenue, operating over 5,000 stores and employing over two million associates.
President Johnson Signs Civil Rights Act (1964)
U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act at the White House shortly after it passed in the U.S. Congress on July 2, 1964. President John F. Kennedy first called for the bill after the 1963 Birmingham movement. After President Kennedy's assassination, President Johnson urged congress to pursue “the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill.” The Civil Rights Act passed in 1964 after decades of social mobilization and resistance against segregation and discrimination in the United States.
The Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex, barring unequal application of voter registration requirements and ending segregation in schools, the workplace, and all public accommodations. The Civil Rights Act paved the way for the passage of Executive Order 11246, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which outlined further provisions to end discrimination in the workplace, voting registration practices, and housing. Today, discussions continue in the United States about expanding the Civil Rights Act and subsequent laws to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.