1492: Christopher Columbus made landfall on one of the islands of the Bahamas, believing he had reached East Asia.
1773: America’s first insane asylum, The Public Hospital for Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds, in Williamsburg, Va., admitted its first patient.
1933: The U.S. Justice Department acquired the United States Army Disciplinary Barracks on Alcatraz Island for use as a federal prison.
1979: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the first of five books in the comedy science fiction series by Douglas Adams (1952-2001), was published in London. The lowest recorded non-tornado atmospheric pressure (25.69 inches Hg) occurred in the Western Pacific during Typhoon Tip.
1775: The United States Continental Congress ordered the establishment of the Continental Navy, later renamed the United States Navy.
1792: The cornerstone for the White House (then called the Executive Mansion) was laid in Washington, D.C.
1884: Several countries adopted Greenwich longitude as the prime meridian.
1892: Comet D/1892 T1 became the first comet discovered by photographic means, by astronomer Edward Emerson Barnard on the night of Oct. 13-14.
2010: The 2010 Copiapó mining accident in Copiapó, Chile, came to an end as the last of 33 trapped miners arrived at the surface after surviving a record 69 days underground while awaiting rescue.
1656: Massachusetts enacted the first punitive legislation against the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), declaring them “politically subversive.”
1958: The Bar Association of the District of Columbia voted to accept African-Americans as member attorneys.
1968: Jim Hines of the USA became the first man ever to break the so-called “10-second barrier” in the 100-meter sprint, at the Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City, with a time of 9.95 seconds.
1982: President Ronald Reagan proclaimed a “War on Drugs.”
2003: Chicago Cubs fan Steve Bartman became infamous for reaching out to catch a fly ball, causing the Cubs to lose game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series to the Florida Marlins.
2012: Felix Baungartner jumped from the stratosphere and set the world record for longest free fall of 128,018 feet (24¼ miles).
1764: English writer Edward Gibbon observed a group of friars singing in the ruins of the Temple of Jupiter in Rome; this inspired him to begin work on The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
1928: The rigid airship Graf Zeppelin completed its first Atlantic crossing, landing at Lakehurst, N.J.
1951: The first episode of I Love Lucy, starring Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, and William Frawley, aired on CBS.
2008: The Great Recession began as the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 733.08 points, or 7.87 percent, the second worst day in the Dow’s history based on a percentage drop.
1846: William T. G. Morton, a dentist, first demonstrated ether anesthesia at the Massachusetts General Hospital in the Ether Dome.
1860: Grace Bedell, 11, of Westfield, New York, wrote a letter to presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln suggesting that he could improve his appearance if her grew a beard.
1869: The Cardiff Giant, one of the most famous American hoaxes, was “discovered” in Cardiff, N.Y.
1923: The Walt Disney Company was founded in Burbank, Calif., by Walt Disney and his brother, Roy Disney.
1964: China detonated its first nuclear weapon.
1978: Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was elected Pope John Paul II at the Papal Enclave, the first non-Italian pontiff since 1523. Wanda Rutkiewicz became the first Pole and the first European woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
2012: The extrasolar planet Alpha Centauri Bb was discovered.
1771: The opera Ascanio in Alba, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, age 15, premiered in Milan, Italy.
1888: Thomas Edison filed a patent for the Optical Phonograph (the first movie).
1938: Stunt motorcyclist and daredevil icon Evel Knievel was born Robert Craig Knievel in Butte, Mont. (Died Nov. 30, 2007.)
1965: The 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair closed after a two-year run. More than 51 million people attended the event.
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.
1648: Shoemakers in Boston formed the first American labor organization.
1767: The Mason-Dixon line, the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania, was established.
1851: Herman Melville’s ponderous ‘classic’ novel Moby-Dick was first published as The Whale by Richard Bentley of London.
1898: The United States took possession of Puerto Rico from Spain.
1931: Thomas Alva Edison, one of the most prolific inventors in history, with 1,093 patents to his name, died in West Orange, New Jersey, at age 84. Among his notable inventions are the incandescent light bulb, alkaline battery, movie projector, and phonograph.
1967: The Soviet space probe Venera 4 reached Venus and became the first spacecraft to measure the atmosphere of another planet.
ON THIS DAY… OCTOBER 12 – OCTOBER 18
October 12 – NATIONAL FOSSIL DAY
October 13 –
NATIONAL CHESS DAY
October 15 – NATIONAL LEMON BAR DAY
October 16 – GLOBAL CAT DAY
October 17 – NATIONAL PASTA DAY
October 18-NATIONAL CHOCOLATE CUPCAKE DAY