October 17


1888: Thomas Edison filed a patent for the Optical Phonograph (the first movie).

1931: Gangster and murderer Al Capone was convicted of income tax evasion.

1933: Albert Einstein fled Nazi Germany and moved to the United States.

1938: Stunt motorcyclist and daredevil icon Evel Knievel was born Robert Craig Knievel in Butte, Mont. (Died Nov. 30, 2007.)

1974: President Gerald Ford pardoned his predecessor Richard Nixon for crimes he committed in connection with the Watergate scandal.

1979: Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.


October 18

1648: Shoemakers in Boston formed the first American labor organization.

1867: The United States took possession of Alaska after purchasing it from Russia for $7.2 million. (This day is celebrated every year in the state as Alaska Day.)

1898: The United States took possession of Puerto Rico from Spain.

1954: Texas Instruments unveiled the first transistor radio, a pocket-sized device that superseded heavy, cumbersome, tube-type radios and revolutionized how the world listened to music.

1967: The Soviet space probe Venera 4 reached Venus and became the first spacecraft to measure the atmosphere of another planet.


October 19


1814: The first documented public singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” occurred when Baltimore actor Ferdinand Durang sang it at Captain McCauley’s tavern.

1914: The U.S. Post Office began delivering mail using government-owned vehicles for the first time, instead of contracted vehicles.

1943: Streptomycin, the first antibiotic treatment for tuberculosis, was isolated by researchers at Rutgers University in Newark, N.J.

1987: The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 22 percent, 508 points.

1991: Fire swept through the Oakland (Calif.) Hills, destroying thousands of homes and killing 25 people.

2003: Mother Teresa was beatified by Pope John Paul II.


October 20

1818: The Convention of 1818 between the United States and the United Kingdom settled the U.S.-Canada border on the 49th parallel for most of its length.

1944: Gen. Douglas MacArthur waded ashore in the Philippines, two years after fleeing the Japanese invasion where he famously vowed, “I shall return.” Liquid natural gas leaked from storage tanks in Cleveland, Ohio, and then exploded; the explosion and fire leveled 30 blocks and killed 130 people.

1973: After 15 years of construction, the Sydney Opera House was dedicated by Queen Elizabeth II; the $80 million structure, designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon and funded by the profits of the Opera House Lotteries, was built on Bennelong Point, in Sydney, Australia.

1977: An airplane carrying the band Lynyrd Skynyrd crashed near Baton Rouge, La. Band members Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray were killed on impact. Six other band members and road crew suffered serious injuries.


October 21


1921: President Warren G. Harding delivered the first speech by a sitting President against lynching in the deep south.

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.

1959: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, opened to the public in New York City.

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.)

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.

1914: Congress enacted the first U.S. income tax.

1926: McGill University student J. Gordon Whitehead (age unknown) sucker punched magician Harry Houdini (born 1874) in the stomach in Montreal, Quebec. (Houdini died of peritonitis on Oct. 31.)

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).

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


October 23


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.

1946: The United Nations General Assembly convened for the first time, at an auditorium in Flushing, Queens, New York City.

1947: On a cloudless day, thousands of freshwater fish fell from the sky in Marksville, La.