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History.com - This Day in History 

March 1, 1932: Lindbergh baby kidnapped

On this day in 1932, in a crime that captured the attention of the entire nation, Charles Lindbergh III, the 20-month-old son of aviation hero Charles Lindbergh, is kidnapped from the family's new mansion in Hopewell, New Jersey. Lindbergh, who became an international celebrity when he flew the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, and his wife Anne discovered a ransom note demand

February 28, 1953: Watson and Crick discover chemical structure of DNA

On this day in 1953, Cambridge University scientists James D. Watson and Frances H.C. Crick announce that they have determined the double-helix structure of DNA, the molecule containing human genes.Though DNA--short for deoxyribonucleic acid--was discovered in 1869, its crucial role in determining genetic inheritance wasn't demonstrated until 1943. In the early 1950s, Watson and Crick were on

February 27, 1827: New Orleanians take to the streets for Mardi Gras

On this day in 1827, a group of masked and costumed students dance through the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana, marking the beginning of the city's famous Mardi Gras celebrations.The celebration of Carnival--or the weeks between Twelfth Night on January 6 and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian period of Lent--spread from Rome across Europe and later to the Americas. Nowhere in th

February 26, 1919: Two national parks preserved, 10 years apart

On this day in history, two national parks were established in the United States 10 years apart--the Grand Canyon in 1919 and the Grand Tetons in 1929.Located in northwestern Arizona, the Grand Canyon is the product of millions of years of excavation by the mighty Colorado River. The chasm is exceptionally deep, dropping more than a mile into the earth, and is 15 miles across at its widest po

February 25, 1964: Clay knocks out Liston

On February 25, 1964, 22-year-old Cassius Clay shocks the odds-makers by dethroning world heavyweight boxing champ Sonny Liston in a seventh-round technical knockout. The dreaded Liston, who had twice demolished former champ Floyd Patterson in one round, was an 8-to-1 favorite. However, Clay predicted victory, boasting that he would "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" and knock out Liston

February 24, 1836: Alamo defenders call for help

On this day in 1836, in San Antonio, Texas, Colonel William Travis issues a call for help on behalf of the Texan troops defending the Alamo, an old Spanish mission and fortress under attack by the Mexican army.A native of Alabama, Travis moved to the Mexican state of Texas in 1831. He soon became a leader of the growing movement to overthrow the Mexican government and establish an independent

February 23, 1945: U.S. flag raised on Iwo Jima

During the bloody Battle for Iwo Jima, U.S. Marines from the 3rd Platoon, E Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Regiment of the 5th Division take the crest of Mount Suribachi, the island's highest peak and most strategic position, and raise the U.S. flag. Marine photographer Louis Lowery was with them and recorded the event. American soldiers fighting for control of Suribachi's slopes cheered the raisi

February 22, 1980: U.S. hockey team makes miracle on ice

In one of the most dramatic upsets in Olympic history, the underdog U.S. hockey team, made up of college players, defeats the four-time defending gold-medal winning Soviet team at the XIII Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York. The Soviet squad, previously regarded as the finest in the world, fell to the youthful American team 4-3 before a frenzied crowd of 10,000 spectators. Two days la

February 21, 1965: Malcolm X assassinated

In New York City, Malcolm X, an African American nationalist and religious leader, is assassinated by rival Black Muslims while addressing his Organization of Afro-American Unity at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights.Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1925, Malcolm was the son of James Earl Little, a Baptist preacher who advocated the black nationalist ideals of Marcus Garvey.

February 20, 1985: Ireland allows sale of contraceptives

In a highly controversial vote on February 20, 1985, the Irish government defies the powerful Catholic Church and approves the sale of contraceptives.Up until 1979, Irish law prohibited the importation and sale of contraceptives. In a 1973 case, McGee v. The Attorney General, the Irish Supreme Court found that a constitutional right to marital privacy covered the use of contraceptives. Pressu

February 19, 1847: Donner Party rescued

On this day in 1847, the first rescuers reach surviving members of the Donner Party, a group of California-bound emigrants stranded by snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.In the summer of 1846, in the midst of a Western-bound fever sweeping the United States, 89 people--including 31 members of the Donner and Reed families--set out in a wagon train from Springfield, Illinois. After arriving at

February 18, 1885: Twain publishes The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

On this day in 1885, Mark Twain publishes his famous--and famously controversial--novel _The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn_.Twain (the pen name of Samuel Clemens) first introduced Huck Finn as the best friend of Tom Sawyer, hero of his tremendously successful novel _The Adventures of Tom Sawyer_ (1876). Though Twain saw Huck's story as a kind of sequel to his earlier book, the new novel was

February 17, 1904: Madame Butterfly premieres

On this day in 1904, Giacomo Puccini's opera Madame Butterfly premieres at the La Scala theatre in Milan, Italy.The young Puccini decided to dedicate his life to opera after seeing a performance of Giuseppe Verdi's Aida in 1876. In his later life, he would write some of the best-loved operas of all time: La Boheme (1896), Tosca (1900), Madame Butterfly (1904) and Turandot (left unfinished whe

February 16, 1923: Archaeologist opens tomb of King Tut

On this day in 1923, in Thebes, Egypt, English archaeologist Howard Carter enters the sealed burial chamber of the ancient Egyptian ruler King Tutankhamen.Because the ancient Egyptians saw their pharaohs as gods, they carefully preserved their bodies after death, burying them in elaborate tombs containing rich treasures to accompany the rulers into the afterlife. In the 19th century, archeolo

February 15, 1898: The Maine explodes

A massive explosion of unknown origin sinks the battleship USS _Maine_ in Cuba's Havana harbor, killing 260 of the fewer than 400 American crew members aboard.One of the first American battleships, the _Maine_ weighed more than 6,000 tons and was built at a cost of more than $2 million. Ostensibly on a friendly visit, the _Maine_ had been sent to Cuba to protect the interests of Americans the

February 14, 0278: St. Valentine beheaded

On February 14 around the year 278 A.D., Valentine, a holy priest in Rome in the days of Emperor Claudius II, was executed.Under the rule of Claudius the Cruel, Rome was involved in many unpopular and bloody campaigns. The emperor had to maintain a strong army, but was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues. Claudius believed that Roman men were unwilling to joi

February 13, 1633: Galileo in Rome for Inquisition

On this day in 1633, Italian philosopher, astronomer and mathematician Galileo Galilei arrives in Rome to face charges of heresy for advocating Copernican theory, which holds that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Galileo officially faced the Roman Inquisition in April of that same year and agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. Put under house arrest indefinitely by Pope Ur

February 12, 2002: Milosevic goes on trial for war crimes

On this day in 2002, former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic goes on trial at The Hague, Netherlands, on charges of genocide and war crimes in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. Milosevic served as his own attorney for much of the prolonged trial, which ended without a verdict when the so-called "Butcher of the Balkans" was found dead at age 64 from an apparent heart attack in his prison cell on M

February 11, 1990: Nelson Mandela released from prison

Nelson Mandela, leader of the movement to end South African apartheid, is released from prison after 27 years on February 11, 1990.In 1944, Mandela, a lawyer, joined the African National Congress (ANC), the oldest black political organization in South Africa, where he became a leader of Johannesburg's youth wing of the ANC. In 1952, he became deputy national president of the ANC, advocating n

February 10, 1996: Kasparov loses chess game to computer

On this day in 1996, after three hours, world chess champion Gary Kasparov loses the first game of a six-game match against Deep Blue, an IBM computer capable of evaluating 200 million moves per second.  Man was ultimately victorious over machine, however, as Kasparov bested Deep Blue in the match with three wins and two ties and took home the $400,000 prize. An estimated 6 million people worldw

February 9, 1971: Satchel Paige nominated to Baseball Hall of Fame

On this day in 1971, pitcher Leroy "Satchel" Paige becomes the first Negro League veteran to be nominated for the Baseball Hall of Fame. In August of that year, Paige, a pitching legend known for his fastball, showmanship and the longevity of his playing career, which spanned five decades, was inducted. Joe DiMaggio once called Paige "the best and fastest pitcher I've ever faced."Paige was bo

February 8, 1943: Americans secure Guadalcanal

On this day in 1943, Japanese troops evacuate Guadalcanal, leaving the island in Allied possession after a prolonged campaign. The American victory paved the way for other Allied wins in the Solomon Islands.Guadalcanal is the largest of the Solomons, a group of 992 islands and atolls, 347 of which are inhabited, in the South Pacific Ocean. The Solomons, which are located northeast of Australi

February 7, 1964: Beatles arrive in New York

On February 7, 1964, Pan Am Yankee Clipper flight 101 from London Heathrow lands at New York's Kennedy Airport--and "Beatlemania" arrives. It was the first visit to the United States by the Beatles, a British rock-and-roll quartet that had just scored its first No. 1 U.S. hit six days before with "I Want to Hold Your Hand." At Kennedy, the "Fab Four"--dressed in mod suits and sporting their trad

February 6, 1952: Elizabeth becomes queen

On this day in 1952, after a long illness, King George VI of Great Britain and Northern Ireland dies in his sleep at the royal estate at Sandringham. Princess Elizabeth, the oldest of the king's two daughters and next in line to succeed him, was in Kenya at the time of her father's death; she was crowned Queen Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953, at age 27.King George VI, the second son of King Geor

February 5, 1994: Beckwith convicted of killing Medgar Evers

On this day in 1994, white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith is convicted in the murder of African-American civil rights leader Medgar Evers, over 30 years after the crime occurred. Evers was gunned down in the driveway of his Jackson, Mississippi, home on June 12, 1963, while his wife, Myrlie, and the couple's three small children were inside.Medgar Wiley Evers was born July 2, 1925, near Dec

February 4, 1974: Patty Hearst kidnapped

On February 4, 1974, Patty Hearst, the 19-year-old daughter of newspaper publisher Randolph Hearst, is kidnapped from her apartment in Berkeley, California, by two black men and a white woman, all three of whom are armed. Her fiance, Stephen Weed, was beaten and tied up along with a neighbor who tried to help. Witnesses reported seeing a struggling Hearst being carried away blindfolded, and she

February 3, 2005: Gonzales becomes first Hispanic U.S. attorney general

On February 3, 2005, Alberto Gonzales won Senate confirmation as the nation's first Hispanic attorney general despite protests over his record on torture.The Senate approved his nomination on a largely party-line vote of 60-36, reflecting a split between Republicans and Democrats over whether the administration's counterterrorism policies had led to the abuse of prisoners in Iraq and elsewher

February 2, 1887: First Groundhog Day

On this day in 1887, Groundhog Day, featuring a rodent meteorologist, is celebrated for the first time at Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. According to tradition, if a groundhog comes out of its hole on this day and sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather; no shadow means an early spring.Groundhog Day has its roots in the ancient Christian tradition of Can

February 1, 1884: Oxford Dictionary debuts

On this day in 1884, the first portion, or fascicle, of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), considered the most comprehensive and accurate dictionary of the English language, is published. Today, the OED is the definitive authority on the meaning, pronunciation and history of over half a million words, past and presentPlans for the dictionary began in 1857 when members of London's Philologic

January 31, 1950: Truman announces development of H-bomb

U.S. President Harry S. Truman publicly announces his decision to support the development of the hydrogen bomb, a weapon theorized to be hundreds of times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan during World War II.Five months earlier, the United States had lost its nuclear supremacy when the Soviet Union successfully detonated an atomic bomb at their test site in Kazakhstan. The


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