Today in History: May 20

1609 – Shakespeare’s sonnets were first published in London, perhaps illicitly, by the publisher Thomas Thorpe.

1631 – The city of Magdeburg in Germany was seized by forces of the Holy Roman Empire and most of its inhabitants massacred in one of the bloodiest incidents of the Thirty Years’ War.

1775 – The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence was allegedly signed in Charlotte, North Carolina.

1802 – By the Law of 20 May 1802, Napoleon Bonaparte reinstated slavery in the French colonies, revoking its abolition in the French Revolution.

1813 – Napoleon Bonaparte led his French troops into the Battle of Bautzen in Saxony, Germany, against the combined armies of Russia and Prussia. The battle ended the next day with a French victory.

1861 – American Civil War: The state of Kentucky proclaimed its neutrality, which lasted until September 3 when Confederate forces entered the state. Meanwhile, the State of North Carolina seceded from the Union.

1862 – U.S. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act into law which opened 84 million acres of public land to settlers.

1864 – American Civil War: Battle of Ware Bottom Church: In the Virginia Bermuda Hundred campaign, 10,000 troops fought in this Confederate victory.

1873 – Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis received a U.S. patent for blue jeans with copper rivets.

1875 – Signing of the Metre Convention by 17 nations which led to the establishment of the International System of Units.

1883 – Krakatoa began to erupt; the volcano exploded three months later and killed more than 36,000 people.

1891 – History of cinema: The first public display of Thomas Edison’s prototype kinetoscope.

1902 – Cuba gained independence from the United States. Tomás Estrada Palma became the country’s first President.

1927 – At 7:40 AM, Charles Lindbergh took off from New York to cross the Atlantic for Paris, aboard Spirit of St Louis (1st non-stop flight).

1932 – Amelia Earhart took off from Newfoundland and began the world’s first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean by a female pilot.  She landed in Ireland the next day.

1939 – “3 Little Fishies”, a song by Kay Kyser, reached #1 on the charts.

1940 – The Holocaust: The first prisoners arrived at a new concentration camp at Auschwitz.

1942 – The US Navy permitted black recruits to serve for the first time.

1949 – In the United States, the Armed Forces Security Agency, the predecessor to the National Security Agency, was established.

1956 – In Operation Redwing, the first United States airborne hydrogen bomb was dropped over Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

1959 – Ford won the battle with Chrysler to call its new car the “Falcon.”

1967 – BBC banned the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” because of drug references.

1969 – The Battle of Hamburger Hill (Hill 937) in Vietnam ended with a US victory.

1970 – The Beatles’ “Let it Be” movie premiered in the UK.

1980 – Drummer Peter Criss quit the rock band KISS.

1983 – The first publications of the discovery of the HIV virus that causes AIDS in the journal Science by a team of French scientists including Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, Jean-Claude Chermann, and Luc Montagnier.

1983 The single “Every Breath You Take” was released by The Police (Billboard Song of the Year, 1983).

1993 – The 274th & final “Cheers” episode aired on NBC.

1996 – Civil rights: The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Romer v. Evans against a law that would have prevented any city, town or county in the state of Colorado from taking any legislative, executive, or judicial action to protect the rights of gays and lesbians.

2013 – An EF5 tornado struck the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore and killed 24 people and injured 377 others.


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