1784: John Wesley chartered the Methodist Church.
1827: The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was incorporated.
1844: A gun aboard USS Princeton exploded while the ship was on a Potomac River cruise, killing eight people, including two U.S. Cabinet members. President John Tyler barely escaped death in the accident.
1935: DuPont scientist Wallace Carothers invented nylon.
1939: The erroneous word “dord” was discovered in the Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition, page 771, prompting an investigation.
1953: Scientists James D. Watson and Francis H.C. Crick discovered the double helix structure of DNA, the molecule that contains the human genes.
1954: The first color TV sets were offered for sale.
1983: The last episode of M*A*S*H, which ran 11 seasons, aired and was watched by 77 percent of TV viewers, the third largest audience in TV history after Super Bowl XLV in 2011.
1986: Swedish Prime Minister Olaf Palme was shot to death as he walked down a street in central Stockholm. The assassin was never caught.
1993: In Mount Carmel near Waco, Texas, agents of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) launched a raid against the Branch Davidian compound as part of an investigation into illegal possession of firearms and explosives by the Christian cult. A standoff lasted seven weeks and ended April 19 when the federal government set fire to the compound, killing leader David Koresh and 80 others, including 22 children.
2013: Jeff Bush, 37, of Seffner, Fla., died when a large sinkhole opened beneath his bedroom. The room’s floor, furniture and bed, with Bush in it, fell in. Bush’s body was never recovered. Pope Benedict XVI resigned as the pope of the Catholic Church, becoming the first pope to do so since 1415.
1565: The city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was founded.
1642: Georgeana, Mass., (now known as York, Maine), became the first incorporated city in what would become the United States.
1692: The first three women in Massachusetts were charged in what would be known as the Salem witch trials.
1790: The first U.S. census was conducted.
1845: President John Tyler signed a bill authorizing the United States to annex the Republic of Texas.
1872: Yellowstone National Park was established as the world’s first national park.
1893: Electrical engineer Nikola Tesla gave the first public demonstration of radio in St. Louis, Mo.
1910: The worst avalanche in U.S. history buried a Great Northern Railway train in northeastern King County, Wash., killing 96 people.
1912: Albert Berry made the first parachute jump from a moving airplane over Jefferson Barracks, Mo.
1936: Hoover Dam was completed.
1953: Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin suffered a stroke and collapsed. (He died four days later.)
1954: Puerto Rican nationalists attacked the U.S. Capitol, injuring five representatives.
1961: The Peace Corps was established by President John F. Kennedy.
1971: A bomb planted by the Weather Underground exploded in a men’s room in the U.S. Capitol.
1995: Yahoo! was incorporated in Sunnyvale, Calif.
1998: Titanic became the first film to gross over $1 billion worldwide.
2005: U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the execution of juveniles found guilty of murder is unconstitutional.
1807: Congress outlawed the African slave trade.
1903: The Martha Washington Hotel opened in New York City, becoming the first hotel exclusively for women.
1933: The film King Kong opened at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
1949: The first automatic street light was installed in New Milford, Conn.
1962: Wilt Chamberlain set the single-game scoring record in the National Basketball Association by scoring 100 points.
1983: Compact discs and players were released for the first time in the United States and other markets. They had previously been available only in Japan.
1987: American Motors Corporation was purchased by Chrysler Corporation and the AMC name was discontinued in the United States.
2005: Microsoft founder Bill Gates was named an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.
1284: The principality of Wales was incorporated with England.
1776: The first amphibious landing of the U.S. Marine Corps began the Battle of Nassau in the British Bahamas during the American Revolutionary War.
1887: Anne Sullivan began teaching deaf and blind Helen Keller in Tuscumbia, Ala.
1904: Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany became the first person to make a sound recording of a political document, using Thomas Edison’s phonograph cylinder.
1915: NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics), the predecessor of NASA, was founded.
1923: Time magazine was published for the first time.
1927: J. G. Parry-Thomas, a Welsh racing driver, was decapitated when his car’s drive chain snapped and whipped into the cockpit. He was the first driver killed in pursuit of a land speed record.
1931: Congress passed a resolution naming “The Star-Spangled Banner” the national anthem. (Hail Columbia had been considered the unofficial national anthem before then.)
1938: Oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia.
1980: The USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register.
1991: An amateur video captured the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers.
2005: Steve Fossett became the first person to fly an airplane solo non-stop around the world without refueling.
1519: Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico in search of the Aztec civilization and their wealth.
1789: The first Congress of the United States met In New York City, putting the U.S. Constitution into effect. The U.S. Bill of Rights was written and proposed to Congress.
1853: Abigail Powers Fillmore, the first lady of outgoing President Millard Fillmore, contracted pneumonia at the inauguration of President Franklin A. Pierce; she died 26 days later.
1917: Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first female member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
1918: The first case of Spanish flu occurred, the start of a devastating worldwide pandemic; the disease sickened 500 million people and killed 100 million, or 5 percent of the world’s population, and is considered the worst natural disaster in human history.
1933: Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated as America’s 33rd president. His inaugural speech included the line, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” 1960: Opera singer Leonard Warren, 48, died of cerebral hemorrhage onstage just as he completed his Act III aria in Verdi’s La Forza del Destino (The Force of Destiny) at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. The aria begins “Morir, tremenda cosa” (“to die, a momentous thing”).
1974: People magazine was published for the first time in the United States as People Weekly.
1985: The Food and Drug Administration approved a blood test for AIDS infection, used since then for screening all blood donations in the United States.
1770: The Boston Massacre occurred when five Americans, including Crispus Attucks and a boy, were killed by British troops in an event that would contribute to the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War five years later. (At a subsequent trial, the soldiers were defended by future U.S. President John Adams.)
1836: Samuel Colt patented the first production-model revolver, the .34-caliber.
1872: George Westinghouse patented the air brake.
1946: Winston Churchill coined the phrase “Iron Curtain” in a speech at Westminster College, Missouri.
1953: Joseph Stalin, dictator of the Soviet Union since 1924, died. (He killed 20 million of his own people, compared to Hitler’s six million.)
1960: Elvis Presley was given an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army.
1975: The Homebrew Computer Club met for the first time in Silicon Valley, California, signaling the advent of the personal computer revolution.
1977: Tom Pryce, a Formula One driver at the 1977 South African Grand Prix, was killed when he was struck in the face by a track marshal’s fire extinguisher. The marshal, Frederik Jansen van Vuuren, was running across the track to attend to Pryce’s teammate’s burning car when he was struck and killed by Pryce’s car. Van Vuuren was literally torn in half as the car ploughed into him at speeds exceeding 170 mph.
1981: The ZX81, a pioneering British home computer, was launched by Sinclair Research and would go on to sell over 1.5 million units around the world. It was sold as the Timex Sinclair 1000 in the U.S. The computer used cassette tapes for data storage and had 1 kB of memory.
1475: Michelangelo Buonarroti, the great Italian Renaissance artist, was born in the small village of Caprese.
1836: The Alamo in San Antonio fell to 3,000 Mexican soldiers after a 13-day siege. All 187 Texas defenders were killed, including frontiersman Davy Crockett and Col. Jim Bowie.
1869: Dmitri Mendeleev presented the first periodic table to the Russian Chemical Society.
1899: Bayer registered “Aspirin” as a trademark. (The company lost the trademark to the United States as part of its reparations for its involvement with the Nazi government during World War II.)
1964: Nation of Islam’s Elijah Muhammad officially gave boxing champion Cassius Clay the name Muhammad Ali.
1967: Joseph Stalin’s daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva defected to the United States. Famous actor and singer Nelson Eddy, 65, suffered a fatal stroke while performing onstage at the Doral Country Club in Miami, Fla.
1975: The Zapruder film of the assassination of John F. Kennedy was shown in motion for the first time to a national TV audience by Robert J. Groden and Dick Gregory.
1990: Ed Yielding and Joseph T. Vida set the transcontinental speed record flying a SR-71 Blackbird from Los Angeles to Virginia in 64 minutes, averaging 2,124 mph.
1992: The Michelangelo computer virus, discovered in 1991, began to affect computers on the 517th anniversary of the birth of the artist after whom it is named.