On May 21…

You can be good in a good movie, you can be good in a bad movie, you can be bad in a bad movie, but never, ever, be bad in a good movie.”
~Sir John Gielgud


1602 – English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold – days after docking near what is now Provincetown, MA and officially dubbing the land as Cape Cod because of the abundance of cod fish he encountered – discovered an uninhabited island off the southern coast of New England.
He named it Martha’s Vineyard because of the abundance of wild grapes found on the island, and in honor of his daughter who had died in 1598 – although some claim it was named after Martha Judd Golding, his mother-in-law who had helped finance his voyage to America.

The island was spotted from a vessel called the Concord. His first glimpse of Gay Head Cliffs (shown above in what is now Aquinnah) inspired him greatly. In one of his accounts, Gosnold called them Dover Cliffs because they reminded him of the white cliffs of the same name in England.
Gosnold’s adventure wasn’t quite finished. A few days after discovering Martha’s Vineyard, he sailed north to a group of islands he named the Elizabeth Islands (after Queen Elizabeth I) and built a modest fort on Cuttyhunk – the westernmost of those islands – where he and his 32-man crew harvested sassafras, a valuable commodity in Europe at the time.
After exploring the islands – which can be seen in the background of the photo above – for less than a month, the men returned with the Concord to England.


1864 – The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House came to an inconclusive end.
The second major battle in Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s 1864 Overland Campaign of the Civil War, fighting occurred on and off from May 8 through May 21. Grant tried various schemes to break the Confederate line held by Confederate General Robert E. Lee, but in the end the battle was tactically inconclusive, but bloody.
With over 30,000 combined casualties, it was the costliest battle of the Overland Campaign.


1881 – In Washington, D.C., humanitarians Clara Barton and Adolphus Solomons founded the American National Red Cross, an organization established to provide humanitarian aid to victims of wars and natural disasters in association with the International Red Cross.
Barton had worked with the sick and wounded during the Civil War and became known as the “Angel of the Battlefield” for her tireless dedication.
In 1865, President Abraham Lincoln commissioned her to search for lost prisoners of war, and with the extensive records she had compiled during the war she succeeded in identifying thousands of the Union dead at the Andersonville prisoner-of-war camp.


1901 – Connecticut became the first state to pass a law regulating motor vehicles, limiting their speed to 12 mph in cities and 15 mph on country roads.
The legislation did not exactly catch on elsewhere. As late as 1930, a dozen states had no speed limit, while 28 states did not even require a driver’s license to operate a motor vehicle.


1924 – Nathan Leopold Jr. and Richard Albert Loeb, two wealthy students at the University of Chicago, kidnapped and murdered 14-year-old Robert Franks in Chicago.
They committed the murder – characterized at the time as “the crime of the century” – as a demonstration of their perceived intellectual superiority, which, they thought, rendered them capable of carrying out a “perfect crime,” and absolved them of responsibility for their actions.

After the two men were arrested – because there is no such thing as a “perfect crime” – Loeb’s family retained renowned attorney Clarence Darrow as counsel for their defense.
Darrow’s 12-hour-long summation at their sentencing hearing is noted for its influential criticism of capital punishment as retributive rather than transformative justice.

Both men were sentenced to life imprisonment plus 99 years. Loeb was murdered by a fellow prisoner in 1936; Leopold was released on parole in 1958 and died in 1971.


1927 – American pilot Charles A. Lindbergh landed at Le Bourget Field in Paris, successfully completing the first solo, nonstop transatlantic flight and the first ever nonstop flight between New York to Paris.
His single-engine monoplane, The Spirit of St. Louis, had lifted off from Roosevelt Field in New York 33 1/2 hours earlier.

The Ryan Airlines Corporation of San Diego built a single-engine aircraft to his specifications. Extra fuel tanks were added, and the wingspan was increased to 46 feet to accommodate the additional weight.
The main fuel tank was placed in front of the cockpit because it would be safest there in the event of a crash. This meant Lindbergh had no forward vision, using a periscope, instead.
To reduce weight, everything that was not completely essential was left out. There was no radio, gas gauge, night-flying lights, navigation equipment, or parachute.


1932 – Five years to the day after Lindbergh became the first pilot to accomplish a solo, nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean, female aviator Amelia Earhart became the first pilot to repeat the feat, landing her plane in Ireland after flying across the North Atlantic.
Earhart traveled over 2,000 miles from Newfoundland in just under 15 hours.


1945 – Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer of the SS, and one of the Nazi officials most directly responsible for the Holocaust, was captured at a checkpoint set up by former Soviet POWs.
He was disguised in a sergeant’s uniform (minus his mustache) with a patch over one eye.

We’ll have more on him in two days.


1945 – Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were married.


1955 – A relatively unknown singer/guitarist named Chuck Berry paid his first visit to a recording studio and cut the record that would make him famous: Maybellene.
Having managed a face-to-face meeting with Leonard Chess earlier in the week, Berry hoped that Chess would sign him on the strength of one of his blues numbers, but it was a strange rhythm-and-blues/country-western hybrid called Ida Red that caught Chess’s ear.
Before it was recorded at Universal Recording Studios in Chicago, ‘Ida Red’ got new lyrics to go with a new title – Maybellene – and Berry’s career took off.


1979 – Although the prosecutor had asked for a finding of first-degree murder, former San Francisco City Supervisor Dan White was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting deaths of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, who was among the first openly gay elected officials in the United States. White was sentenced to seven years and eight months in Soledad prison.
The lenient sentence outraged the gay community and led to the White Night Riots, which caused hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of property damage to City Hall and the surrounding area. At least 61 police officers and an estimated 100 members of the public were hospitalized in the course of the riots.
White served five years in prison and was released in January 1984. He spent a year in Los Angeles before returning to San Francisco, where he struggled to get his life back on track. On Oct. 21, 1985, he committed suicide.


1990 – The final episode of Newhart (with one of the most memorable final scenes in television history) aired on CBS, ending an eight-year run.


1992 – After 30 seasons Johnny Carson hosted his penultimate episode and the last to feature guests (Robin Williams and Bette Midler) of The Tonight Show.


1992 – Amy Fisher, the so-called “Long Island Lolita,” was arrested for shooting Mary Jo Buttafuoco on the front porch of her Massapequa, NY home.
Fisher, only 17 at the time of the shooting, was having an affair with 38-year-old Joey Buttafuoco, Mary Jo’s husband.

Mary Jo survived the attack but was left with a bullet lodged in her head and a partially paralyzed face. Fisher, who pled guilty to the shooting, was convicted of assault and received a sentence of 5 to 15 years the following year.


1999 – After 18 straight years of being nominated – and losing – Susan Lucci, the star of ABC’s All My Children finally won a Daytime Emmy Award for Best Actress.


2000 – Sir John Gielgud died of natural causes at the age of 96.
One of the greatest actors in stage and film history, Gielgud starred in Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, The Importance of Being Earnest, Julius Caesar, Beckett, Arthur – for which he won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award – and so many, many more.


2005 – Actor Howard Morris, best known for his role of Ernest T. Bass on The Andy Griffith Show, died of heart disease at the age of 85.

Compiled by Ray Lemire ©2024 RayLemire.com. / Streamingoldies.com. All Rights Reserved.

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