February 14


      1349: In Strasbourg, France, several hundred Jews were burned to death by mobs that blamed them for the Black Death sweeping Europe at that time.

      1471: The first hand-made Valentine’s Day card was given.

1778: The United States flag was formally recognized by a foreign naval vessel for the first time, when French Admiral Toussaint-Guillaume Picquet de la Motte rendered a nine-gun salute to USS Ranger, commanded by John Paul Jones.

1779:  British explorer Capt. James Cook was killed by Native Hawaiians near Kealakekua on the Island of Hawaii.

1924: The Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company changed its name to International Business Machines Corporation (IBM).

1929: Seven people, six of them rivals of Al Capone’s gang, were murdered in Chicago, Ill., in what became known as the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.

1945: Because of a navigational error and bad weather, a squadron of U.S. bombers accidentally bombed Prague, Czechoslovakia, instead of Dresden, Germany.

2005: YouTube was launched by a group of college students, eventually becoming the largest video sharing website in the world and a main source for viral videos.

2009: At a kissing contest in Mexico City, 39,897 couples kissed for 10 seconds, setting a world record for the most simultaneous kisses.


February 15


1815: President James Madison moved into Octagon House while the White House was being rebuilt after being burned by the British in the War of 1812.

1820: American civil rights leader and women’s suffragist Susan B. Anthony was born in Adams, Mass.

1879: U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes signed a bill allowing female attorneys to argue cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

1898: The battleship USS Maine exploded and sank in Havana harbor in Cuba, killing 274 people; this event led the United States to declare war on Spain.

1925: Twenty mushers driving dogsled teams delivered antitoxin to Nome, Alaska, saving the town from a diphtheria epidemic and establishing the historic Iditarod dogsled trail.

1933: In Miami, Florida, Giuseppe Zangara tried to assassinate President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt but shot Chicago Mayor Anton J. Cermak instead, who died of peritonitis as a result of his wounds on March 6, 1933.

2013: A meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, injuring 1,500 people as a shock wave blew out windows and jolted buildings.


February 16


1852: Studebaker Brothers wagon company, precursor of the auto maker, was founded.

1923: English archaeologist Howard Carter unsealed the intact burial chamber of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, “King Tut.”

1937: Wallace Hume Carothers, American chemist, inventor and leader of organic chemistry at DuPont, received U.S. patent No. 2,071, 250 for nylon. (He committed suicide with cyanide dissolved in lemon juice less than three months later, on April 28.)

1960: The U.S. Navy submarine USS Triton left New London, Conn., to begin the first submerged circumnavigation of the globe.

1968: The first 9-1-1 emergency telephone system went into service, in Haleyville, Alabama,

2006: The last Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) was decommissioned by the U.S. Army.


February 17


1621: Myles Standish was appointed as first commander of the English Plymouth Colony in North America.

1753: February 17 was followed by March 1 in Sweden as the country switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.

1863: An organization to aid wounded people, that would later become the Red Cross, was founded in Geneva, Switzerland.

1864: The H. L. Hunley became the first submarine to engage and sink a warship, the USS Housatonic, during the U.S. Civil War.

1865: Union forces led by Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman burned Columbia, South Carolina, after Confederate troops fled the city.

1904: The opera Madame Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini premièred in Milan, Italy.

1933: Prohibition ended in the United States. The first edition of Newsweek magazine hit the streets in New York City. (The magazine ceased its print publication on Dec. 31, 2012.)

1959: Vanguard 2 launched the first weather satellite, which was used to measure cloud-cover distribution.

1965: The Ranger 8 probe launched on its mission to photograph the Mare Tranquillitatis region of the Moon in preparation for the manned Apollo missions. (Mare Tranquillitatis, or the “Sea of Tranquility,” would become the site eventually chosen for the Apollo 11 lunar landing.)

1968: The Basketball Hall of Fame opened in Springfield, Mass.

1972: Cumulative sales of the Volkswagen Beetle exceeded those of the Ford Model-T.

1974: A disgruntled U.S. Army private named Robert K. Preston stole a U.S. Army Bell UH-1 Iroquois “Huey” helicopter at 2 a.m. from Fort Meade, Maryland, and buzzed the White House twice before being forced to land.

1980: The first-ever winter ascent of Mount Everest was accomplished by Polish mountaineers Krzysztof Wielicki and Leszek Cichy.

1996: World chess champion Garry Kasparov beat the Deep Blue supercomputer at a match in Philadelphia.

2004: Bishop Thomas O’Brien, 68, became the first Roman Catholic bishop in

U.S. history to be convicted of a felony (for hitting a pedestrian with his car and driving home without reporting the accident).


February 18


1861: Jefferson Davis was sworn in as president of the Confederate States of America in Montgomery, Ala.

1885: Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” was published for the first time.

1911: The first official flight with air mail took place from Allahabad, United Provinces, British India (now India), when Henri Pequet, a 23-year-old pilot, delivered 6,500 letters to Naini, about 6.2 miles away.

1913: Pedro Lascuráin (1856-1952) became president of Mexico for 45 minutes during a coup, the shortest term to date of any person as president of any country.

1930: Clyde Tombaugh (1906-1997) discovered Pluto, the ninth planet of our solar system (now considered a dwarf planet) while studying photos he had taken in January. “Elm Farm Ollie” became the first cow to fly in a fixed-wing aircraft and the first cow to be milked in an aircraft, at an exhibition in St. Louis, Mo.

1954:  The first Church of Scientology was established in Los Angeles by L. Ron Hubbard.

1969: Hawthorne Nevada Airlines Flight 708, a Douglas DC-3 twin-engine plane, crashed into Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous 48 states (located west of Lone Pine, Calif.) and killed all 35 people on board.

1978: The first Ironman Triathlon competition took place on the island of Oahu and was won by Gordon Haller in 11 hours, 46 minutes, 58 seconds.

1979: Snow fell in the Sahara Desert in southern Algeria for the only time in recorded history.

1998: Eric Bergoust of Missoula won the gold medal in aerial freestyle skiing at the Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan.

2001: Auto racing star Dale Earnhardt Sr., 49, died of injuries sustained in a crash at the Daytona 500. 2010: Amy Rose Coxall, a 15-year-old British schoolgirl studying in Hong Kong, died in a freak accident after her scarf got caught in the wheel of a go-kart she was driving on a karting course and strangled her to death. (This is the same kind of freak accident that killed dancer Isadora Duncan on Sept. 14, 1927.)


February 19


1600: Peruvian volcano Huaynaputina exploded in the most violent eruption in the recorded history of South America.

1674: England and the Netherlands signed the Treaty of Westminster, ending the Third Anglo-Dutch War. (A provision of the agreement transferred the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam to England, and it was renamed New York.)

1847: The first group of rescuers reached the snowbound Donner Party in the Sierra Nevada mountains. (Of the 87 original party members, 48 survived to reach California.)

1859: U.S. Rep. Daniel E. Sickles, R-N.Y. (1819-1914), was acquitted of murdering his wife’s lover on grounds of temporary insanity. This was the first time this defense was successfully used in the United States.

1878: Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) received a patent for his phonograph.

1884: Over sixty tornadoes struck the Southern United States in one of the largest tornado outbreaks in U.S. history.

1985: William J. Schroeder became the first recipient of an artificial heart to leave the hospital (in Lexington, Ky.).


February 20


1472: The island archipelagos of Orkney and Shetland were pawned by Norway to Scotland in lieu of a dowry for Margaret of Denmark.

1685: René-Robert Cavelier claimed Texas for France as he established Fort St. Louis at Matagorda Bay.

1792: The Postal Service Act, establishing the United States Post Office Department, was signed by President George Washington.

1872: The Metropolitan Museum of Art opened in New York City.

1873: The University of California opened its first medical school in San Francisco.

1877: Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake premièred at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.

1912: An F3 tornado tracked 15 miles from Shreveport to Abner, La., killing eight people and injuring 50.

1931: Congress approved the construction of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge by the state of California.

1935: Caroline Mikkelsen, 25, of Denmark, became the first woman in recorded history to set foot in Antarctica.

1946: Born this day: actress Sandy Duncan (The Sandy Duncan Show); and musician J. Geils (The J. Geils Band).

1956: The United States Merchant Marine Academy became a permanent Service Academy.

1967: Born this day: musician Kurt Cobain; actors David Herman, Andrew Shue and Lili Taylor, and; NFL player Tom Waddle.

1971: The United States Emergency Broadcast System was accidentally activated in an erroneous national alert.

1974: Basil Brown, a 48-year-old health food advocate from Croydon, England, drank himself to death with carrot juice.

1985: In a highly controversial vote, the government of the Republic of Ireland defied the Catholic church and allowed the sale of contraceptives.