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August 25, 1916: The National Park Service was created when President Woodrow Wilson signed legislation that mandated the agency "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."
August 26, 1789: The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen is approved by the National Constituent Assembly of France. The fundamental document of the French Revolution defined the individual and collective rights of all the estates of the realm as universal. Influenced by the doctrine of "natural right", the rights of man are held to be universal: valid at all times and in every place, pertaining to human nature itself.
August 27, 410 CE: The Sack of Rome which had begun on August 24, 410, came to an end. The city was attacked by the Visigoths, led by Alaric I. This was the first time in almost 800 years that Rome had fallen to an enemy. The previous sack of Rome had been accomplished by the Gauls under their leader Brennus in 387 BCE. The sacking of 410 is seen as a major landmark in the fall of the Western Roman Empire. St. Jerome, living in Bethlehem at the time, wrote that "The City which had taken the whole world was itself taken."
August 28, 1565: Pedro Menéndez de Avilés sighted land near St. Augustine, Florida and founds the oldest continuously occupied European-established city in what would become the continental United States.The Spanish crown had approached Menéndez to fit out an expedition to Florida on the condition that he explore and colonize the region as King Philip's adelantado, and eliminate the Huguenot French settlers, whom the Catholic Spanish considered to be dangerous heretics. Menéndez was in a race to reach Florida before the French captain Jean Ribault, who was on a mission to secure Fort Caroline, near present day Jacksonville. The two fleets met in a brief skirmish off the coast, but it was not decisive. On 28 August 1565, the feast day of St. Augustine of Hippo, Menéndez's crew finally sighted land. They landed shortly after to found the settlement they named St. Augustine.
August 29, 1949: The Soviet Union tested its first atomic bomb, known as First Lightning or Joe 1, at Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan. The explosion yielded 22 kilotons of TNT, similar to the American Gadget and Fat Man bombs. In order to test the effects of the new weapon, workers constructed houses made of wood and bricks, along with a bridge, and a simulated metro in the vicinity of the test site. Armoured hardware and approximately 50 aircraft were also brought to the testing grounds, as well as over 1,500 animals to test the bomb's effects on life. The resulting data showed the explosion to be 50% more destructive than originally estimated by its engineers.
August 30, 1967: Thurgood Marshall was confirmed as the first African-American Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Before becoming a judge, Marshall was a lawyer who was best known for his high success rate in arguing before the Supreme Court and for the victory in Brown v. Board of Education, a decision that desegregated public schools. He served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit after being appointed by President John F. Kennedy and then served as the Solicitor General after being appointed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965.
August 31, 1876: The Ottoman Sultan Murat V was deposed and succeeded by his brother Abd-ul-Hamid II, who would be the last Sultan to exert effective control over the Ottoman Empire. Abd-ul-Hamidd II oversaw a period of decline in the power and extent of the Empire, until he was deposed on 27 April 1909. During his tenure, he was responsible for both modernization of the Ottoman Empire, as well as exerting maximum control over its affairs. Changes included: rationalization of the bureaucracy; the ambitious Hijaz Railway project; the creation of a modern system of personnel records (1896); establishment of an elaborate system for population registration and control over the press; systematization of officials salaries (1880); first modern law school (1898).
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August 18, 1920: The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, prohibiting any United States citizen from being denied the right to vote on the basis of sex. The Constitution allows the states to determine the qualifications for voting, and until the 1910s most states disenfranchised women. The amendment was the culmination of the women's suffrage movement in the United States, which fought at both state and national levels to achieve the vote. The Nineteenth Amendment's ratification effectively overturned Minor v. Happersett, in which a unanimous Supreme Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment did not give women the right to vote.
August 19, 1612: The "Samlesbury witches", three women from the Lancashire village of Samlesbury, England, were put on trial, accused of practicing witchcraft, one of the most famous witch trials in British history. The charges against the women included child murder and cannibalism. The case against the three women collapsed "spectacularly" when the chief prosecution witness, Grace Sowerbutts, was exposed by the trial judge to be "the perjuring tool of a Catholic priest." The trial of the Samlesbury witches is one clear example of what has been described as "largely a piece of anti-Catholic propaganda," and even as a show-trial, to demonstrate that Lancashire, considered at that time to be a wild and lawless region, was being purged not only of witches but also of "popish plotters."
August 20, 1882: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture debuted in Moscow, Russia. The overture written in 1880 to commemorate Russia's defense of its motherland against Napoleon's invading Grande Armée in 1812. It has also become a common accompaniment to fireworks displays, including those which occur in the United States in association with its Fourth of July celebrations. The piece has no connection to the War of 1812 between the United States and Britain, but was personally conducted by Tchaikovsky in 1891 at the opening of Carnegie Hall in New York City.
August 21, 1831: Nat Turner led a deadly slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia on August 21, 1831 that resulted in 60 white deaths and at least 100 black deaths. The rebellion was ultimately suppressed within two days, but Turner would elude capture until October 30. Upon his arrest, he was quickly tried and convicted for "conspiring to rebel and making insurrection." He was executed on November 11, 1831, in the town of Jerusalem, Virginia (now known as Courtland)
August 22, 1485: The Battle of Bosworth Field was fought in what would be was the last significant battle of the Wars of the Roses, the civil war between the Houses of Lancaster and York that raged across England in the latter half of the 15th century. The battle was won by the Lancastrians. Their leader Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, by his victory became the first English monarch of the Tudor dynasty. His opponent, Richard III, the last king of the House of York, was killed in the battle. Historians consider Bosworth Field to mark the end of the Plantagenet dynasty, making it a defining moment of English and Welsh history.
August 23, 1839: The United Kingdom captured Hong Kong as a base as it prepared for war with Qing China. The ensuing 3-year conflict will later be known as the First Opium War. Trade with China was heavily regulated and could only be conducted with silver, Growing demand in England for tea created significant trade deficits. However, in 1817, the British hit upon counter-trading in a narcotic drug, Indian opium, as a way to reduce the trade deficit. The Qing Administration originally tolerated opium importation, because it created an indirect tax on Chinese subjects, while allowing the British to double tea exports from China to England—which profited the monopoly for tea exports of the Qing imperial treasury and its agents. However, by 1820, China's accelerated opium consumption reversed the flow of silver, just when the Imperial Treasury needed to finance suppression of rebellions against the Qing. The Qing government began its efforts to end the opium trade, which would ultimately lead to conflict.
August 24, 1991: Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as the head of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Hardliners in the Soviet leadership, calling themselves the 'State Emergency Committee', launched the coup in 1991 in an attempt to remove Gorbachev from power. During this time, Gorbachev spent three days (19, 20 and 21 August) under house arrest at a dacha in the Crimea before being freed and restored to power. However, upon his return, Gorbachev found that neither union nor Russian power structures heeded his commands as support had swung over to Boris Yeltsin, whose defiance had led to the coup's collapse. For all intents and purposes, the coup was the end politically for Gorbachev. On August 24th, he advised the Central Committee to dissolve, resigned as General Secretary and disbanded all party units within the government. Shortly afterward, the Supreme Soviet suspended all Party activities on Soviet territory. In effect, Communist rule in the Soviet Union had ended—thus eliminating the only unifying force left in the country.
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August 11, 1942: Actress Hedy Lamarr and composer George Antheil received a patent for a Frequency-hopping spread spectrum communication system that later became the basis for modern technologies in wireless telephones and Wi-Fi. The early version of frequency hopping used a piano roll to change between 88 frequencies and was intended to make radio-guided torpedoes harder for enemies to detect or jam. However, the idea was not implemented in the USA until 1962, when it was used by U.S. military ships during a blockade of Cuba after the patent had expired. Consequently, the patent was little known until 1997, when the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave Lamarr a belated award for her contributions.
August 12, 30 BCE: Cleopatra VII Philopator, the last ruler of the Egyptian Ptolemaic dynasty, committed suicide. Formerly involved with Julius Caesar, after Caesar's assassination in 44 BC, she aligned with Mark Antony in opposition to Caesar's legal heir, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (later known as Augustus). With Antony, she bore the twins Cleopatra Selene II and Alexander Helios, and another son, Ptolemy Philadelphus. After losing the Battle of Actium to Octavian's forces, Antony committed suicide. Cleopatra followed suit, according to tradition killing herself by means of an asp bite.
August 13, 1918: Opha May Johnson (2 Feb 1900 – Jan 1976) was the first woman to enlist officially in the United States Marine Corps,
when she joined the Marine Corps Reserve during World War I. Johnson was the first of 305 women to join up with the United States Marine Corps Women's Reserve that day.
August 14, 1952: Three-time Olympic champion, and a former world record-holder at three distances, Deborah Meyer was born in Annapolis, Maryland. Meyer won the 200-, 400-, and 800-meter freestyle swimming races in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. While she was still a 16-year old student at Rio Americano High School in Sacramento, California, she became the first swimmer to win three individual gold medals in one Olympics. Meyer is still the only woman Olympian to win three individual freestyle swimming gold medals in one Olympics, namely the 200-, 400- and 800-meter freestyle events. No swimmer has ever done this in any other combination of distances
August 15, 1970: Patricia Palinkas became the first woman to play professionally in an American football game. She was a placekick holder for her husband Steven Palinkas for the minor league Orlando Panthers in the Atlantic Coast Football League. On her first play, against the Bridgeport Jets, Palinkas was attacked by Jets defenseman Wally Florence, who admittedly attempted to "break her neck" as punishment for what he perceived to be "making folly with a man's game." Palinkas went on to appear four more times: three consecutive successful extra point kicks, and a field goal attempt that was blocked.
August 16, 1902: Georgette Heyer was born in Wimbledon, London. She was named after her father, George Heyer. Her mother, Sylvia Watkins, studied both cello and piano and was one of the top three students in her class at the Royal College of Music. Heyer became a prolific and commercially successful historical romance and detective fiction novelist. Her writing career began in 1921, when she turned a story for her younger brother into the novel The Black Moth. Heyer essentially invented the historical romance and created the sub-genre of the Regency romance. At the time of her death, in 1974, forty-eight of her books were still in print, including her first novel.
August 17, 1953: Herta Müller, a German-Romanian novelist, poet, essayist and recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature. was born in Nițchidorf, Romania. Müller is noted for her works depicting the effects of violence, cruelty and terror, usually in the setting of Communist Romania under the repressive Nicolae Ceaușescu regime which she has experienced herself. Many of her works are told from the viewpoint of the German minority in Romania and are also a depiction of the modern history of the Germans in the Banat, and Transylvania. Her much acclaimed 2009 novel The Hunger Angel (Atemschaukel) portrays the deportation of Romania's German minority to Stalinist Soviet Gulags during the Soviet occupation of Romania for use as German forced labor. In 2009, the Swedish Academy awarded Müller the Nobel Prize in Literature, describing her as a woman "who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed."
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July 28, 1932: President Herbert Hoover orders the United States Army to forcibly evict the "Bonus Army" of World War I veterans gathered in Washington, D.C. The veterans had assembled to demand cash-payment redemption of their service certificates promised with the passage of the World War Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924. Although not redeemable until 1945, each service certificate issued to a qualified veteran soldier, bore a face value equal to the soldier's promised payment plus compound interest. The principal demand of the Bonus Army was the immediate cash payment of their certificates.
July 29, 1907: Sir Robert Baden-Powell set up the Brownsea Island Scout camp in Poole Harbour on the south coast of England. The camp ran from August 1 to August 9, 1907, and is regarded as the foundation of the Scouting movement.
July 30, 1619: In Jamestown, Virginia, the first representative assembly in the Americas, the House of Burgesses, convened for the first time. The House was established by the Virginia Company, who created the body as part of an effort to encourage English craftsmen to settle in North America and to make conditions in the colony more agreeable for its current inhabitants. The House's first session accomplished little, as it was cut short by an outbreak of malaria.
July 31, 1703: Daniel Defoe is placed in a pillory for the crime of seditious libel after publishing a politically satirical pamphlet entitled The Shortest-Way with the Dissenters; Or, Proposals for the Establishment of the Church. In it he ruthlessly satirized both the High church Tories and those Dissenters who hypocritically practiced so-called "occasional conformity." Though it was published anonymously, the true authorship was quickly discovered and Defoe was arrested and charged with seditious libel. Defoe was found guilty. He was fined, sentenced to public humiliation in a pillory, and to an indeterminate length of imprisonment which would only end upon the discharge of the punitive fine. According to legend, the publication of his poem Hymn to the Pillory caused his audience at the pillory to throw flowers instead of the customary harmful and noxious objects and to drink to his health.
August 1, 1960: Dahomey declared independence from France under the presidency of Hubert Maga. For the next twelve years, ethnic strife contributed to a period of turbulence, as there were several coups and regime changes. On October 26, 1972, Lt. Col. Mathieu Kérékou overthrew the ruling triumvirate to become president and stated that the country would not "burden itself by copying foreign ideology, and wants neither Capitalism, Communism, nor Socialism". Later he announced that the country was officially Marxist, nationalized the petroleum industry and banks, and renamed the country to the People's Republic of Benin.
August 2, 1923: Warren G, Harding died unexpectedly in San Francisco, California, and Vice President, Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as the 30th President of the United States. Doctors issued a release stating that the cause of Harding’s death was "some brain evolvement, probably an apoplexy." Mrs. Harding refused to allow an autopsy. In retrospect, scholars speculate that Harding had shown physical signs of cardiac insufficiency with congestive heart failure in the preceding weeks. Naval medical consultants who examined the president in San Francisco concluded he had suffered a heart attack. Dr. Wilbur included in his memoirs a letter from Dr. Charles Miner Cooper in support of their cerebral apoplexy diagnosis, based on Harding's last observed condition, while acknowledging that no final determination could be made.
August 3, 1678: Robert LaSalle completed construction of the Le Griffon, the first known ship built on the Great Lakes. The explorer sought a Northwest Passage to China and Japan in order to extend France's trade. Creating a fur trade monopoly with the Native Americans would finance his quest and building Le Griffon was an "essential link in the scheme."
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May 26, 1897: Dracula, a novel by the Irish author Bram Stoker, was first published in London, England. Famous for introducing the vampire, Count Dracula, the novel tells the story of Dracula's attempt to relocate from Transylvania to England, and the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing. The novel continues to inspire numerous adaptations and Dracula remains an iconic literary figure.
May 27, 1930: The 1,046 feet Chrysler Building in New York City, the tallest man-made structure at the time, opened to the public. Designed by architect William Van Alen, the the ground breaking occurred on September 19, 1928, in the midst of an intense competition in New York City to build the world's tallest skyscraper.
May 28, 1830: The Indian Removal Act was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson on May 28, 1830. The act authorized him to negotiate with the Indians in the Southern United States for their removal to federal territory west of the Mississippi River in exchange for their homelands and paved the way for the tragic event widely known as the "Trail of Tears."
May 29, 1660: After the death of Oliver Cromwell and the political unrest that followed, Charles II was restored to the throne of England, Scotland and Ireland. Charles agreed to give up feudal dues that had been revived by his father; in return, the English Parliament granted him an annual income to run the government of £1.2 million, generated largely from customs and excise duties.
May 30, 1989: Near the end of the student-led demonstrations against the Communist hardliners in China, the 33-foot high "Goddess of Democracy" statue was unveiled in Tiananmen Square by the demonstrators.The statue was constructed in only four days out of foam and papier-mâché over a metal armature.
May 31, 1902: The Treaty of Vereeniging was signed thereby ending the Second Boer War. This settlement provided for the end of hostilities and eventual self-government to the Transvaal (South African Republic) and the Orange Free State as colonies of the British Empire.
June 1, 1921: The black community of Tulsa, Oklahoma, located in the Greenwood District, also known as "the Black Wall Street," was burned to the ground by white vigilantes. An estimated 10,000 black residents of the wealthiest black community in the United States were left homeless, as 35 city blocks were destroyed by fire.
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May 19, 1536: Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII of England, was beheaded for adultery, treason, and incest. Despite having been condemned and abandoned by her husband, moments before her execution, she reportedly said, "I pray God save the king and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never: and to me he was ever a good, a gentle and sovereign lord."
May 20, 1802: By the Law of 20 May 1802, Napoleon Bonaparte reinstated slavery in the French colonies, thereby revoking the Law of 4 February 1794 passed during the French Revolution which had abolished the practice.
May 21, 1881: Inspired by the work of the International Red Cross, Clara Barton and Adolphus Solomons established the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C. to provide humanitarian aid to victims of wars and natural disasters. in congruence with the International Red Cross.
May 22, 1964: U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson announced the goals of his Great Society social reforms to bring an "end to poverty and racial injustice" in America.
May 23, 1951: Tibetans signed the Seventeen Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet with the People's Republic of China. The terms of the agreement had not been cleared with the Tibetan Government before signing and the Tibetan Government was divided about whether it was better to accept the document as written or to flee into exile. The Dalai Lama, who by this time had ascended to the throne, chose not to flee into exile, and formally accepted the Seventeen Point Agreement in October 1951.
May 24, 1738: John Wesley was converted, essentially launching the Methodist movement; the day is celebrated annually by Methodists as Aldersgate Day and a church service is generally held on the preceding Sunday
May 25, 1935: Jesse Owens of Ohio State University broke three world records and tied a fourth at the Big Ten Conference Track and Field Championships in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A year later, Owens would go on to participate in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany, where he achieved international fame by winning four gold medals. He was the most successful athlete at the 1936 Summer Olympics.