847 AD – St Leo IV begins his reign as Catholic Pope. He is crowned as co-emperor the Frankish emperor Lothar I’s son Louis II. In church affairs, Leo took a firm hand against abuses by important ecclesiastics. He censured the powerful archbishop Hincmar of Reims for excommunicating an imperial vassal without papal approval, and he excommunicated Cardinal Anastasius of San Marcello (later the antipope Anastasius Bibliothecarius), in 853, to enforce ecclesiastical obedience to Rome.
1407 Lama Deshin Shekpa visits the Ming Dynasty capital at Nanjing and is awarded the title Great Treasure Prince of Dharma.
1682 – The French explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, becomes the first known European to explore the Mississippi River all the way to the Gulf of Mexico in 1682.
1767 – Republican Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman elected to Congress, winning a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
1790 – The U.S. patent system is established.
1821 – Patriarch Gregory V of Constantinople is hanged by the Ottoman government from the main gate of the Patriarchate and his body is thrown into the Bosphorus.
1865 – At Appomattox Court, Va, General Robert E. Lee issues his last orders to the Army of Northern Virginia.
1895 – Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen discovered X-rays – the ‘X’ signified their unknown origin.
1890 – Marjory Douglas, a writer, suffragist, and environmentalist, was born today in 1890. Her most influential work was the book The Everglades: River of Grass (1947), which redefined the popular conception of the Everglades as a treasured river instead of a worthless swamp. Its impact has been compared to that of Rachel Carson’s influential book Silent Spring (1962). Her books, stories, and journalism career brought her influence in Miami, enabling her to advance her causes.
1902 – South African Boers accept British terms of surrender. In 1899, the conflict between the British and the Boers burgeoned into a full-fledged war that was fought in three stages: a Boer offensive against British command posts and railway lines, a British counteroffensive that brought the two republics under British control, and a Boer guerrilla resistance movement that prompted a widespread scorched-earth campaign by the British and the internment and deaths of thousands of Boer civilians in British concentration camps.
1915 – Legendary blues singer Billie Holiday was born today in 1915. Nicknamed “Lady Day” by her friend and music partner Lester Young, Holiday had an innovative influence on jazz music and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. She was known for her vocal delivery and improvisational skills.
1923 – Adolf Hitler launched his first attempt at seizing power in Germany with a failed coup in Munich that came to be known as the “Beer-Hall Putsch.”
1925 – F. Scott Fitzgerald publishes the great American novel, The Great Gatsby.
1931 – 17-year-old Jackie Mitchell, the second woman to play baseball in the all-male minor leagues, pitched an exhibition game against the N.Y. Yankees and struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The next day, the Baseball Commissioner voided her contract, claiming baseball was too strenuous for women. The ban was not overturned until 1992.
1934 – Jane Goodall is born. Primatologist and conservationist, she is still considered the world’s foremost authority on chimpanzees.
1941 – U.S. troops occupy Greenland to prevent Nazi infiltration.
1945 – Allied troops liberate the Nazi concentration camp of Buchenwald north of Weener, Germany.
1947 – Jackie Robinson becomes the first African American to play in Major League Baseball (MLB) in the modern era. Robinson broke the baseball color line when he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. When the Dodgers signed Robinson, they heralded the end of racial segregation in professional baseball that had relegated black players to the Negro leagues since the 1880s.
1960 – Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kennedy defeated Vice President Richard M. Nixon for the presidency.
1872 – Great Fire of Boston destroyed nearly 800 buildings in Boston.
1967 – A Saturn V rocket carrying an unmanned Apollo spacecraft blasted off from Cape Kennedy on a successful test flight.
1989 – Communist East Germany threw open its borders, allowing citizens to travel freely to the West; joyous Germans danced atop the Berlin Wall.
1970 – Paul McCartney announces that The Beatles have broken up.