1832 – The first horse-car (a streetcar drawn by horses) was displayed in New York City. The vehicle had room for 30 people in three compartments. The new service traveled Fourth Avenue between Prince and Fourteenth Streets.
1851 – Moby-Dick, a novel by Herman Melville about the voyage of the whaling ship Pequod, was published by Harper & Brothers. Initially, the book about Captain Ahab and his quest for a giant white whale was a flop, but is now considered a great classic of American literature and contains one of the most famous opening lines in fiction: “Call me Ishmael.”
1862 – President Abraham Lincoln approved General Ambrose Burnside’s plan to capture the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia. This was an ill-fated move, as it led to the disastrous Battle of Fredericksburg in Virginia in December 1862, in which the Army of the Potomac was dealt one of its worst defeats at the hands of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.
1881 – Charles J. Guiteau went on trial for assassinating President James A. Garfield. Guiteau became something of a media sensation during his two-month trial for his bizarre behavior, which included him frequently cursing and insulting the judge, most of the witnesses, the prosecution, and even his defense team, as well as formatting his testimony in epic poems. Guiteau vehemently insisted that while he had been legally insane at the time of the shooting, he was not really medically insane, which was just one of the causes of the many rifts with his defense lawyers. He was convicted in January 1862 and hanged six months later.
1882 – Gunslinger Franklin “Buckskin” Leslie shot the Billy “The Kid” Claiborne dead in the streets of Tombstone, Arizona. Leslie’s reputation as a cold-blooded killer brought him trouble after his drinking companion and fellow gunman John Ringo was found dead in July 1882. Some Tombstone citizens, including a young friend of Ringo’s named Billy “The Kid” Claiborne, were convinced that Leslie had murdered Ringo, though they could not prove it. Probably seeking vengeance and the notoriety that would come from shooting a famous gunslinger, Claiborne unwisely decided to publicly challenge Leslie, who shot him dead.
1889 – New York World reporter Nellie Bly (Elizabeth Cochrane) began her attempt to surpass the fictitious journey of Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg by traveling around world in less than 80 days. She succeeded, finishing the trip in January after 72 days.
1940 – German bombers devastated the English city of Coventry, demolishing tens of thousands of buildings and killing hundreds of men, women, and children. The verb “Koventrieren” (to Coventrate) passed into the German language, meaning “to annihilate or reduce to rubble.”
Almost 500 German bombers unleashed some 150,000 incendiary bombs and more than 500 tons of high explosives on the British industrial city, taking out 27 war factories. Of the 568 people killed, more than 400 were burned so badly they could not be identified. Among the more than 60,000 buildings destroyed or severely damaged was St. Michael’s Cathedral.
1941 – Suspicion, a romantic thriller starring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, premiered. The film, which earned a Best Picture Academy Award nomination and a Best Actress Oscar for Fontaine, marked the first time that Grant, one of Hollywood’s quintessential leading men, and Hitchcock, one of the greatest directors in movie history, worked together. The two would later collaborate on Notorious, To Catch A Thief and North By Northwest.
1951 – In a surprising turn of events, President Harry Truman asked Congress for U.S. military and economic aid for the communist nation of Yugoslavia. The action was part of the U.S. policy to drive a deeper wedge between Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. The aid was granted
1959 – An article written by Massachusetts senator and presidential hopeful John F. Kennedy appeared in an issue of TV Guide. In it, Kennedy examined the influence of television, still a relatively new technology, on American political campaigns.
In the article, Kennedy mused that television had the power to bring political campaigns – and scandals – immediately and directly to the public and illuminated the contrast between political personalities. Kennedy shrewdly noted that a “slick or bombastic orator pounding the table and ringing the rafters” fared poorly against a more congenial candidate and “is not as welcome in the family living room” as a candidate with “honesty, vigor, compassion [and] intelligence.”
1969 – Apollo 12, the second manned mission to the surface of the moon, was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with astronauts Charles Conrad, Jr.; Richard F. Gordon, Jr.; and Alan L. Bean aboard. President Richard Nixon viewed the liftoff from Pad A at Cape Canaveral. He was the first president to attend the liftoff of a manned space flight.
Thirty-six seconds after takeoff, lightning struck the ascending Saturn 5 launch rocket, which tripped the circuit breakers in the command module and caused a power failure. Fortunately, the launching rocket continued up normally, and within a few minutes power was restored in the spacecraft.
1970 – Southern Airways Flight 932, carrying the Marshall University football team clipped a stand of trees and crashed into a hillside just two miles from the Tri-State Airport in Kenova, WV. The team was returning from that day’s game, a 17-14 loss to East Carolina University. The crash claimed the lives of everyone on board: thirty-seven football players, eight members of the coaching staff, twenty-five team boosters – some of Huntington, West Virginia’s most prominent citizens who had traveled to North Carolina to cheer on the Thundering Herd – and five crew members.
The town immediately went into mourning. Shops and government offices closed; businesses on the town’s main street draped their windows in black bunting. The university held a memorial service in the stadium the next day and cancelled Monday’s classes. There were so many funerals that they had to be spread out over several weeks. In perhaps the saddest ceremony of all, six players whose remains couldn’t be identified were buried together in Spring Hill Cemetery, on a hill overlooking their university.
1979 – President Jimmy Carter issued Executive Order 12170, freezing all Iranian assets in the United States in response to the hostage crisis.
1982 – Lech Walesa, leader of communist Poland’s outlawed Solidarity movement, returned to his apartment in Gdansk after 11 months of internment in a remote hunting lodge near the Soviet border. Two days before, hundreds of supporters had begun a vigil outside his home upon learning that the founder of Poland’s trade union movement was being released. When Walesa finally did return home, he was lifted above the jubilant crowd and carried to the door of his apartment, where he greeted his wife and then addressed his supporters from a second-story window.
1986 – Wall Street arbitrageur Ivan Boesky agreed to plead guilty to insider trading and further agreed to pay a $100 million fine and cooperate with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s investigation. “Boesky Day,” as the SEC would later call it, was crucial in exposing a nationwide scandal at the heart of the Wall Street Boom of the 1980s.
1991 – Thomas McIlvane killed five people, including himself, with a .22-caliber rifle in Royal Oak, Michigan’s post office, after being fired from the Postal Service for “insubordination.” He had been previously suspended for getting into altercations with postal customers on his route.
1995 – Does this sound familiar? A budget standoff between Democrats and Republicans in Congress forced the federal government to temporarily (five days) close national parks and museums and to run most government offices with skeleton staffs.
2013 – Massachusetts mobster Whitey Bulger was sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment. He had been found guilty on 31 of 32 counts of racketeering, money laundering, extortion, and firearms possession. The racketeering counts included allegations that Bulger was complicit in 19 murders. He was convicted on 11 of those charges.
Senator Billy Bulger, Whitey’s younger brother, was an influential leader of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, and rose to the position of President of the Massachusetts State Senate. After his retirement he was appointed President of the University of Massachusetts, but after admitting in 2003 to visiting an isolated pay phone in order to speak to Whitey – who had been a fugitive since 1994 – Bulger was forced to resign by then Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney.
Compiled by Ray Lemire ©2014 RayLemire.com. All Rights Reserved.
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