October 21


1824: Joseph Aspdin patented Portland cement in England.

1921: President Warren G. Harding delivered the first speech by a sitting President against lynching in the deep south. The silent movie The Sheik, starring Rudolph Valentino, premiered in New York.

1940: The first edition of the novel For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway was published in New York by Charles Scribner’s Sons. Born this day: musician Manfred Mann (Manfred Mann’s Earth Band), and  actress Rhoda Gemignani (Ghostbusters, Who’s the Boss, The Bob Newhart Show).


1966: A slag heap in the village of Alberfan, Wales, collapsed onto the village, killing 116 schoolchildren and 28 adults.

1973: Fred Dryer of the then-Los Angeles Rams became the first player in NFL history to score two safeties in the same game. The ear of John Paul Getty III was cut off by his kidnappers and sent to a newspaper in Rome. (It arrived on Nov. 8.)

1976: Born this day: actor Jeremy Miller (Growing Pains); singer-songwriter Josh Ritter (The Royal City Band); and Irish actor Andrew Scott (Lennon Naked, Sherlock, Dead Bodies).

1978: Australian student pilot Frederick Valentich vanished in a Cessna 182 over the Bass Strait south of Melbourne, after reporting contact with an unidentified aircraft. (Neither he nor his airplane have ever been found.)

1980: Born this day: model and actress Kim Kardashian, and bass player Brian Pittman (Relient K, Inhale Exhale).

1983: The 17th General Conference on Weights and Measures in Sèvres, France, defined the meter as the distance light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second.


October 22

1746: The College of New Jersey received its charter. (It was later renamed Princeton University.)

1797: André-Jacques Garnerin (1769-1823) performed the first parachute jump from a hot air balloon, 3,200 feet above Paris, France.

1836: Sam Houston (1793-1863) was inaugurated as the first president of the Republic of Texas.

1844: Millerites, followers of evangelist William Miller (1782-1849) in upstate New York, anticipated the end of the world in conjunction with the Second Advent of Christ, in what they called The Great Anticipation. (The following day became known as the Great Disappointment.) Born this day: French stage and early film actress Sarah Bernhardt (“the most famous actress the world has ever known,” died 1923), and Louis Riel, founder of Manitoba, Canada  (died 1885).

1879: Inventor Thomas Edison (1847-1931) tested the first practical electric incandescent light bulb using a filament of carbonized thread. (It lasted 13½ hours before burning out).

1883: The Metropolitan Opera House in New York City opened with a performance of Gounod’s Faust.

1948: Born this day: prolific romance novelist Debbie Macomber, and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, member of the infamous Manson Family, and attempted assassin of President Gerald Ford.

1952: Born this day: filmmaker Julie Dash (Daughters of the Dust, The Rosa Parks Story), actor Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park, Law & Order), and musician Greg Hawkes (The Cars).

1962: President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) went on TV to announce that the Soviets were building missile bases in Cuba that could house missiles capable of striking many major cities in the United States. He ordered a naval quarantine of Cuba and told the Soviet Union to dismantle the program or face war.

1966: The Supremes became the first all-female music group to attain a No. 1 selling album (The Supremes A-Go-Go).

1976: Red Dye No. 4 was banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after it was discovered that it causes tumors in the bladders of dogs. (The dye is still used in Canada.)

1978: Pope John Paul II (1920-2005) was inaugurated.

1981: The U.S. Federal Labor Relations Board voted to decertify the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization for its strike the previous August, precipitating the demise of American union power that continues to this day.


October 23

1861: President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) suspended the writ of habeas corpus in Washington, D.C., for all military-related cases.

1899: The first stage play featuring the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), opened at the Star Theatre in Buffalo, NY.

1911: An Italian pilot took off from Libya to observe Turkish army lines during the Turco-Italian War, in what was the first use of an aircraft in war.

1918: Born this day: actor James Daly (Twilight Zone, Star Trek, Medical Center, died 1978), and actress Peggy Moran, (King of the Cowboys, The Mummy’s Tomb, One Night in the Tropics, died 2002.)

1958: The Smurfs, a fictional race of blue dwarves, later popularized in a Hanna-Barbera animated cartoon series, appeared for the first time in the story La flute à six schtroumpfs by Peyo (1928-1992), which was serialized in the weekly Spirou magazine in Belgium.

1959: Born this day: abrasive TV host Nancy Grace; director Sam Raimi (Oz the Great and Powerful, Spider-Man trilogy, Evil Dead); and musical satirist Alfred Matthew “Weird Al” Yankovic.


October 24

1861: The first transcontinental telegraph message was transmitted from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco, bringing the end of the 18-month-old Pony Express.

1891: Born this day: Dominican Republic dictator and mass murderer Rafael Trujillo (assassinated 1961), and author Brenda Ueland (If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit, died 1985).

1960: In what became known as the Nedelin Catastrophe, more than 100 Soviet rocket technicians and officials died when a switch was accidentally turned on, causing the second stage engines of a rocket to ignite, directly above the fully fueled first stage. The casualties included Red Army Marshal Nedelin (age unknown), who was sitting just 40 meters away overseeing launch preparations.

1977: Veterans Day was observed on the fourth Monday in October for the seventh and last time. (The holiday was once again observed on Nov. 11 beginning the following year.)

1992: The Toronto Blue Jays became the first Major League Baseball team based outside the United States to win the World Series.

2002: Spree killers John Allen Muhammad (1960-2009) and Lee Boyd Malvo (born 1985) were arrested in Myersville, Md., ending the Beltway sniper attacks in the area around Washington, DC.

2003: The last passenger flight of the Concorde jet airliner took place from New York to Paris.

2008: Many of the world’s stock exchanges experienced the worst declines in their history, with drops of around 10 percent, in what became known as

“Bloody Friday.”


October 25

1764: Abigail Smith (1744-1818) married John Adams (1735-1826), who later became the second U.S. president, from 1797 to 1801.

1881: Pablo Picasso, one of the most prolific and influential artists of the 20th century, was born in Málaga, Spain. (Died 1973.)

1912: Born this day: Jack Kent Cooke, owner of the Washington Redskins (NFL), Los Angeles Lakers (NBA), and the Los Angeles Kings (NHL) (died 1997); and Grand Ole Opry comedienne Minnie Pearl (died 1996).

1924: Born this day: actor and singer Billy Barty (Frankenstein, Gold Diggers of 1933, Spike Jones show, Billy Barty’s Bigtop, UHF, died 2000); and rock drummer Earl Palmer (Fats Domino, Little Richard, The Wrecking Crew, died 2008).

1928: Born this day: actors Jeanne Cooper (The Young and the Restless, died 2013), Anthony Franciosa (City Hall, Mafia Wife, Backstreet Dreams, died 2006), and Marion Ross (Happy Days).

1938: The Archbishop of Dubuque, Iowa, Francis J. L. Beckman (1875-1948), denounced swing music as “a degenerated musical system… turned loose to gnaw away at the moral fiber of young people.” He warned that it leads down a “primrose path to hell.” (His warning was not widely heeded.)

1940: Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. (1877-1970), was appointed as the first general of African-American descent in the U.S. Army.

1941: Born this day: singer Helen Reddy (I Am Woman, I Don’t Know How to Love Him, Angie Baby), and author Anne Tyler (The Accidental Tourist, Breathing Lessons).

1945: Vidkun Quisling (born 1887), the infamous Norwegian traitor who seized power in Norway during a Nazi-backed coup and appointed himself minister-president in collaboration with occupying Nazi forces, was executed by firing squad for high treason, at Akershus Fortress in Oslo.

1960: Archibald J. Turner (age unknown) was granted a patent for the football shoulder pad.

1995: A commuter train slammed into a school bus in Fox River Grove, Ill., killing seven students.

2004: Cuban dictator Fidel Castro (born 1926) announced that transactions using the U.S. dollar would be banned.


October 26

1775: King George III (1738-1820) of Great Britain appeared before Parliament to declare the American colonies in rebellion, and authorized a military response to quell the American uprising.

1776: Benjamin Franklin (1706-1791) departed from America for France on a mission to seek French support for the American Revolution.

1825: The Erie Canal opened, connecting the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean via the Hudson River at Albany, N.Y.

1946: Born this day: pop musician Keith Hopwood (Herman’s Hermits), and game show host Pat Sajak (Wheel of Fortune).

1953: Born this day: rock musician Keith Strickland (The B-52’s), and actresses Maureen Teefy (Fame, Grease 2, Supergirl), and Lauren Tewes (The Love Boat).

1955: The last allied troops withdrew from Austria, 10 years after the final battle of World War II, and the country declared permanent neutrality.

1958: Pan American Airways made the first commercial flight of the Boeing 707 from New York City to Paris, France.

1964: Serial murderer Eric Edgar Cooke (born 1931) became last person in Western Australia to be executed.

1965: John Lennon (1940-1980) created a worldwide furor when he declared, “We [the Beatles] are more popular than Jesus Christ right now.”

October 27

1682: Philadelphia, Pa., was founded.

1787: New York newspapers began publishing the Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804), James Madison (1751-1836) and John Jay (1745-1829), calling for ratification of the

U.S 1992: U.S. Navy radioman Allen R. Schindler Jr. (born 1969) was brutally murdered by shipmate Terry M. Helvey (age unknown) for being gay, precipitating first military, then national, debate about gays in the military that resulted in the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy.

2011: A 16-foot-long Burmese python was captured in the Everglades.


October 28

1492: Christopher Columbus (1450-1506) “discovered” Cuba.

1886: The Statue of Liberty, a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States commemorating the Franco-American alliance during the American Revolution, was dedicated in New York Harbor by President Grover Cleveland (1837-1908).

1942: The Alaska Highway (Alcan Highway), connecting Dawson Creek, British Columbia, to Fairbanks, Alaska, was completed.

1948: Swiss chemist Paul Müller (1899-1965) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of the insecticidal properties of DDT.

1955: Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and world’s richest individual, was born.

1958: Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (1881-1963) was elected Pope and took the name John XXIII.

2009: Canadian folk singer Taylor Mitchell, 18, was attacked and killed by two coyotes while she was hiking in Cape Breton. (Mitchell was the second fatal coyote attack on a human ever recorded in North America. The first occurred in the United States in August 1981, when 3-year-old Kelly Lynn Keen was attacked by a coyote outside her home in Glendale, Calif.)

2014: Chief Warrant Officer 5 Ralph Rigby, 62, a native of Auburn, N.Y., retired from the U.S. Army after 42 years of continuous service, to become the last active-duty person drafted during the Vietnam era.