Christopher Columbus lands in the New World, Oktoberfest finds its roots, Sid is arrested for allegedly killing Nancy, and Matthew Shepard dies, all on this day.
1492: Christopher Columbus' expedition makes landfall in The Bahamas during the first of his journeys to the New World. The explorer believes he has reached the East Indies and the Indian Ocean.
1692: The Salem witch trials are ended by a letter from Massachusetts Gov. William Phips.
1773: Eastern State Hospital, America's first insane asylum, opens for "Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds" in Williamsburg, Va. By 1968, all of the hospital's patients had been moved to a newer facility on the outskirts of the city, but in 1985 the original hospital was rebuilt on its excavated foundations and now operates as a museum.
1792: Columbus Day is celebrated for the first time in the United States, with New York City and other cities marking the 300th anniversary of his landing in the New World.
1810: The Bavarian royalty invites the citizens of Munich to join the celebration of the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen, starting the tradition of Oktoberfest. The highlight of the celebration wasn't beer tents like today's tradition, but rather a horse race.
1823: Charles Macintosh of Scotland, who invented waterproof fabric, sells the first raincoat, which becomes known as a Mackintosh.
1870: Gen. Robert E. Lee, best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War, dies at the age of 63 in Lexington, Va., from the effects of pneumonia two weeks after suffering a stroke.
1892: The Pledge of Allegiance is first recited by students in many U.S. public schools, as part of a celebration marking the 400th anniversary of Columbus's voyage.
1901: President Theodore Roosevelt officially renames the "Executive Mansion" to the White House.
1915: Ford Motor Company manufactures its 1 millionth Model T automobile.
1928: An iron lung respirator is used for the first time at Children's Hospital in Boston. The subject was an 8-year-old girl who was nearly dead as a result of respiratory failure due to poliomyelitis (often called polio or infantile paralysis). Her dramatic recovery, within less than a minute of being placed in the chamber, helped popularize the new device.
1932: Comedian and activist Dick Gregory, an outspoken supporter of the civil rights movement and African American causes, is born in St. Louis, Mo.
1933: The United States Army Disciplinary Barracks on Alcatraz Island is acquired by the United States Department of Justice. The island would become a federal prison in August 1934 and was designed to hold prisoners who continuously caused trouble at other federal prisons.
1933: Members of John Dillinger's gang impersonate Indiana State Police officers to break Dillinger out of the Allen County jail in Lima, Ohio. Claiming they had come to extradite Dillinger to Indiana, they shoot Sheriff Jess Sarber when he asks for their credentials and then release Dillinger from his cell. Sarber was the gang's first police killing of an estimated 13 lawmen deaths by Dillinger gang members.
1935: Operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti, one of The Three Tenors and one of the most commercially successful tenors of all time, is born on the outskirts of Modena in Northern Italy.
1964: The Soviet Union launches the Voskhod 1 into Earth orbit as the first spacecraft with a multi-person crew and the first flight without space suits.
1968: Actor Hugh Jackman, best known for his role as Wolverine in the "X-Men" film series and for his roles in other movies such as "The Prestige," "Australia" and "Real Steel," is born in Sydney, Australia.
1969: Figure skater and film star Sonja Henie, who won more Olympic and World titles than any other ladies figure skater, dies from leukemia at age 57 in 1969 during a flight from Paris to Oslo.
1970: Actor Kirk Cameron, best known for his role as Mike Seaver on the TV sitcom "Growing Pains," is born in Panorama City, Calif.
1971: Rock musician Gene Vincent, who pioneered the styles of rock and roll and rockabilly and is best remembered for his 1956 top 10 hit "Be-Bop-A-Lula," dies at the age of 36 from a ruptured stomach ulcer while visiting his father in California.
1973: President Richard Nixon nominates House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford, R-Mich., to succeed Spiro T. Agnew as vice president.
1975: Track star Marion Jones is born in Los Angeles. Jones won five medals at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, but forfeited all medals and prizes dating back to September 2000 after admitting in October 2007 that she took performance-enhancing drugs.
1977: Alpine ski-racer Bode Miller, an Olympic and World Championship gold medalist and a two-time overall World Cup champion in 2005 and 2008, is born in Easton, N.H.
1978: Sid Vicious, former bassist with the Sex Pistols, is arrested for the murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, after he wakes to find her dead from a stab wound on the bathroom floor of their room in the Hotel Chelsea in Manhattan. Vicious would die of a heroin overdose before his murder trial could begin.
1979: "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," the first of five books in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy comedy science fiction series by Douglas Adams, is published. It sells 250,000 copies in the first three months.
1984: The Provisional Irish Republican Army attempt to assassinate Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet at a Brighton, England, hotel. Thatcher escapes but the bomb kills five people and wounds 31.
1989: Animator Jay Ward, best known as the creator of "Rocky and Bullwinkle," dies of kidney cancer at age 69 in Hollywood, Calif. Ward was also known for producing animated series based on characters such as Dudley Do-Right, Crusader Rabbit, Peabody and Sherman, and George of the Jungle.
1992: Actor Josh Hutcherson, best known for his roles in such movies as "The Hunger Games," "Bridge to Terabithia," "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and "Zathura," is born in Union, Ky.
1997: Singer-songwriter John Denver is killed at the age of 53 when his experimental aircraft crashes into the Pacific Ocean near Pacific Grove, Calif., while making a series of touch-and-go landings at the nearby Monterey Peninsula Airport. Denver earned 12 gold and four platinum albums over a 35-year career with his signature songs "Thank God I'm a Country Boy," "Take Me Home, Country Roads," "Rocky Mountain High" and "Sunshine on My Shoulders."
1998: Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming, dies at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colo., five days after he was beaten, robbed and left tied to a wooden fence post outside of Laramie, Wy. Police arrested Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson shortly after the attack, finding the bloody gun and Shepard's shoes and wallet in their truck. The two would eventually each be sentenced to two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. Shepard's murder brought national and international attention to the contention of hate crime legislation at the state and federal levels.
1999: Basketball Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain, widely considered one of the greatest and most dominant players in NBA history, dies of congestive heart failure at the age of 63 in Bel Air, Calif. Chamberlain holds numerous NBA all-time records in scoring, rebounding and durability categories and is the only player to score 100 points in a single NBA game or average more than 40 and 50 points in a season. He also won seven scoring, nine field goal percentage and 11 rebounding titles and won two NBA titles and four regular season MVP awards in his career.
2000: The USS Cole is badly damaged in Aden, Yemen, by two suicide bombers, killing 17 crew members and wounding at least 39. The terrorist organization al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack, which was the deadliest attack against a United States Naval vessel since 1987.
2002: In Bali, Indonesia, 202 people are killed and 209 are injured when bombs are detonated in a nightclub district. Various members of Jemaah Islamiyah, a violent Islamist group, would be convicted in relation to the bombings, including three individuals who were sentenced to death.
2007: Former Vice President Al Gore and the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change win the Nobel Peace Prize for sounding the alarm over global warming.
2011: The "underwear bomber," Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, pleads guilty to attempting to blow up an airplane en route from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 using explosives sewn into his underwear. Abdulmutallab, who had told authorities he had been directed by al-Qaeda and that he had obtained the device in Yemen, would be sentenced in February 2012 to four consecutive life sentences plus 50 years.
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