1253: Death of Clare of Assisi (b.1194). She was an early follower of the “joyous poverty” of Francis of Assisi, and founded her own monastery as a place where women could join her in a Franciscan style enclosure of worship and poverty (as opposed to male Franciscan’s gyrovague practices). She was canonized in 1255 by Pope Alexander IV, a mere two years after her death. If you’ve ever visited a city named Santa Clara or St. Claire, this is who they are named after.
1483: Consecration Mass is held in the newly completed Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.
1519: Five ships under the command of Ferdinand Magellan set sail from Seville on what will become a three year voyage of discovery, death, endurance and eventual triumph as the first circumnavigation of the globe.
1754: Birth of French architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant (d.1825), best known for creating the broad streetscapes and architectural standards for the new capital city of the United States: Washington, District of Columbia.
1776: Six weeks after it left the printer, news of our Declaration of Independence makes it to London.
1792: Three years into the increasing chaos of the French Revolution, a mob finally storms the Tuileries Palace and arrests King Louis XVI.
1861: Death of Eliphalet Remington (b.1793), an upstate New York blacksmith who designed and hand-made a new style of sporting rifle that became wildly popular with hunters moving into the Old Northwest. He formed the E. Remington and Sons company to manufacture low cost but highly effective rifle barrels that were then mated with receivers and stocks made by other gunsmiths. Remington’s line eventually expanded into the full range of firearm manufacturing. Its high quality machining also made it a natural fit for other precision equipment, most particularly typewriters, in 1873.
1874: Birth of 31st President of the United States, Herbert Hoover (d.1964).
1881: Birth of pioneering and flamboyant filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille (d.1959).
1892: Death of German aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal (b.1848), whose nominal successes with gliders was a major inspiration to the Wright Brothers’ development of systematic and incremental advances in their flying machine project. He died when one of his gliders stalled and he fell from about 60 feet, breaking his back. Wilbur Wright visited his widow during his 1909 aviation tour de force in Europe.
1898: The United States and Spain agree to an armistice, ending hostilities of the four-month long Spanish-American War. The two sides agree to send five commissioners each to a peace treaty negotiation in Paris by the first of October.
1914: Completing Europe’s descent into the maelstrom of the Great War, Great Britain declares war on Austria-Hungary.
1919: The Constitution of the Weimar Republic is adopted by the post-revolutionary German Reichstag. It is designed to create a vibrant, multi-house, representative democracy, but it never lived up to its promise. Coming as it does on the heels of centuries of autocratic government, the physical and spiritual exhaustion of the Great War, and the suffocating provisions of the Treaty of Versailles, the newly-created government cannot cope with the economic and political upheavals that surge through Europe in general, and Germany in particular. The Weimar period becomes an archetype for well-meaning but dithering leadership, perfectly setting the conditions for the rise of a far more assertive autocracy in 1933.
1932: Death of the original Rin Tin Tin.
1933: Birth of American race car driver Parnelli Jones, winner of the 1963 Indy 500, and the near-winner again in 1967, driving the radical STP turbine car, which dominated the race until three laps to go, when a transmission bearing failed.
1934: Opening day for Alcatraz Federal Prison, a.k.a “The Rock” in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Given the perpetually frigid water and surging currents, no-one ever escaped and lived to tell about it.
1942: At the Battle of Savo Island, a combined Anglo-American force of cruisers and destroyers under the command of Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner is all that stands between a powerful Japanese cruiser fleet and the otherwise undefended transport ships offloading food and supplies to the Marines who stormed the island of Guadalcanal two days prior. In a desperate night action, Turner’s fleet suffers 4 heavy cruisers sunk, an additional cruiser and two destroyers heavily damaged. 3 Japanese cruisers are moderately damaged. The Japanese were well-practiced at nighttime gunnery, which came as an unwelcome surprise to the Americans, who withdrew what remained of the fighting fleet from the waters around the Solomon Island chain. 1st Marine Division ashore, Brigadier General Alexander Vandegrift, was the withdrawal a day earlier of Vice Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher’s carrier task force, which on the 8th suffered from the loss of two squadrons’ worth of fighter aircraft to land-based Japanese planes launched from nearby Rabaul. The victorious Japanese task force commander decided to not press his advantage to destroy the transport ships offloading their critical cargo. The Marines considered themselves alone and unsupported against a foe who was re-supplied nightly from the island garrison on Rabaul. The ocean channel leading to the northern reaches of Guadalcanal became known as The Slot, and later Iron Bottom Sound as American counter-attacks began to take their own toll on the Japanese forces.
1945: A lone B-29 Superfortress nicknamed “Bockscar” delivers a second atomic strike on the Japanese mainland, on the backup target of Nagasaki. The bomb, nicknamed “Fat Man” (Hiroshima’s was “Little Boy”) was a plutonium implosion device identical to the one detonated at White Sands during the Yalta conference earlier in the year.
1969: Death of actress Sharon Tate (b.1943), pregnant with husband Roman Polanski’s son; brutally murdered along with four house guests by Charles Manson and his “family”. Manson convinced his cult that it would be “cool” to start a race war under his loosely described “philosophy” of Helter-Skelter. All of the perpetrators have died or will die in prison.
1974: Under the cloud of an impending impeachment trial, President Richard M. Nixon resigns from the presidency, sending a short resignation note to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Vice President Gerald Ford, himself appointed to the position from the House of Representatives after the earlier resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew, becomes the first U.S. President not directly elected to the executive office.
1977: First free-flight of prototype Space Shuttle Enterprise, which made a series of five atmospheric glides to verify flight control systems and algorithms, among other shuttle systems tests.
1990: The Magellan space probe reaches the planet Venus.
1995: Death of guitarist Jerry Garcia (b.1942), who we believe is still “…ridin’ that train…” At least Dead Heads probably think so.