Columbus sets sail, the first American intercollegiate sporting event takes place, Jesse Owens shines in Berlin and a controversial stand-up comic dies, all on this day.
1492: Christopher Columbus leaves Palos de la Frontera, Spain, with three ships. The voyage would lead him to what is now known as the Americas.
1527: The first known letter from North America is sent by John Rut while at St. John's, Newfoundland. Rut had been chosen by Henry VIII to command an expedition to North America in search of the Northwest Passage and sent a letter back to the king after arriving in St. John's harbor.
1769: The La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles are first noticed by a Spanish expedition led by Gaspar de Portola (the first Spanish governor of the California). The name La Brea comes from the Spanish word for "tar."
1783: Mount Asama erupts in Japan, killing 35,000 people.
1852: Harvard wins the first boat race between Yale and Harvard. The race, on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, is also the first American intercollegiate athletic event.
1900: The Firestone Tire & Rubber Company is founded in Akron, Ohio.
1900: John T. Scopes is born in Paducah, Ky. Scopes would go onto become the Tennessee high school teacher found guilty in 1925 of teaching evolution in what is commonly referred to as the Scopes Monkey Trial.
1914: Germany declares war against France during World War I.
1921: Major League Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis confirms the ban of the eight Chicago Black Sox, the day after they were acquitted by a Chicago court for allegedly throwing the 1919 World Series.
1926: Singer Tony Bennett is born in Queens, N.Y.
1933: The Mickey Mouse Watch is introduced at the Chicago Exposition Century of Progress. It's originally priced at $3.25 and later lowered to $2.95.
1936: Jesse Owens wins the first of four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, defeating Ralph Metcalfe in the 100 meter dash.
1940: Actor Martin Sheen ("Apocalypse Now," "The West Wing") is born in Dayton, Ohio.
1941: Business magnate and TV personality Martha Stewart is born in Jersey City, N.J.
1946: Santa Claus Land, the world's first themed amusement park, opens in Santa Claus, Ind.
1949: The National Basketball Association (NBA) is formed. The league was formed by the merger between the Basketball Association of America and the National Basketball League.
1958: The nuclear submarine USS Nautilus becomes the first vessel to travel beneath the North Pole.
1963: The Beatles make their final appearance at Liverpool's Cavern Club, one month after the group recorded "She Loves You", and six months before their first trip to the United States.
1963: Allan Sherman releases "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh," the famous comic novelty song in which a boy describes his summer camp experiences to the tune of Ponchielli's "Dance of the Hours." The song would go on to win a 1964 Grammy Award for comedy.
1966: Comedian Lenny Bruce dies of an accidental morphine overdose.
1971: Paul McCartney announces the formation of his new band Wings.
1972: The United States Senate ratifies the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which limits the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems used in defending areas against missile-delivered nuclear weapons.
1975: The Louisiana Superdome is dedicated.
1977: New England Patriots quarter back Tom Brady is born in San Mateo, Calif.
1979: Actress Evangeline Lilly ("Lost," "Real Steel") is born in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, Canada.
1981: U.S. traffic controllers with PATCO, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, go on strike. Two days later, they are fired just as U.S. President Ronald Reagan had warned.
1984: Mary Lou Retton wins a gold medal in the all-around gymnastics competition at the Los Angeles Summer Olympics, becoming the first female gymnast from outside Eastern Europe to do so. She went on to win four additional medals in Los Angeles: silver in the team competition and the horse vault, and bronze in the floor exercise and uneven bars.
1984: American swimmer and Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte is born in Rochester, N.Y.
1987: Def Leppard releases their album "Hysteria." It is the band's best-selling album to date, selling more than 20 million copies worldwide, and spawning six hit singles.
1994: The movie "Clear and Present Danger," starring Harrison Ford and Willem Dafoe, opens in theaters.
1996: "Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)" by Los Del Rio hits No. 1 on Billboard, where it would stay for 14 straight weeks.
2000: The Republican Party nominates George W. Bush to run for president.
2001: The movie "The Princess Diaries," starring Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews, debuts in theaters.
2004: The pedestal of the Statue of Liberty reopens after being closed since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
2004: NASA launches the spacecraft Messenger to study Mercury's chemical composition, geology and magnetic field. It will successfully enter Mercury's orbit on March 18, 2011, and send back the first photo from Mercury orbit on March 29, 2011.
2005: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad becomes president of Iran.
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