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This Month in History


October 1, 1979 - The Panama Canal Zone was formally handed over to Panama after 70 years of American control,

October 2, 1967 - Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as the first African American associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and served until 1991. He was known for opposing discrimination and the death penalty. He was also a champion for free speech and civil liberties.

October 3, 1863 - President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation stating that the last Thursday in November would be Thanksgiving Day.

October 4, 1957 - The Russians launched Sputnik I, which was the first satellite launched into orbit. It weighed just 184 lbs. and transmitted a beeping radio signal for 21 days. The remarkable accomplishment by Soviet Russia inspired American political leadership that resulted in the U.S. efforts to be the first on the moon.

October 5, 1813 - Shawnee Indian Chief Tecumseh was defeated and killed during the War of 1812. He is known as one of the greatest American Indians. He was a powerful orator and powerfully defended his people against white settlement. During the War of 1812, he joined the British as a brigadier general and was killed at the Battle of the Thames in Ontario.

October 5, 1877 - Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Indians surrendered to U.S. Cavalry troops at Bear's Paw, near Chinook, Montana.

October 5, 1986 - Former U.S. Marine Eugene Hasenfus was captured by Nicaraguan Sandinistas after a plane carrying arms for the Nicaraguan rebels was shot down over Nicaragua. This was the beginning of the "Iran-Contra" controversy which ended up being a major scandal for the Reagan White House after it was revealed that money from the sale of arms to Iran was used to fund covert operations in Nicaragua.

October 6, 1949 - Iva Toguri d'Aquino was sentenced in San Francisco to 10 years imprisonment and fined $10,000 for treason after broadcasting music and Japanese propaganda to American troops in the Pacific during World War II. She was pardoned in 1977 by President Gerald Ford.

October 7, 1765 - The Stamp Act Congress met in New York City with representatives from nine colonies protesting the British Stamp Act which imposed the first direct tax by the British Crown upon the American colonies.

October 8, 1918 - During World War I, in the Argonne Forest in France, U.S. Sergeant Alvin C. York single-handedly took out a German machine-gun battalion, killing over a dozen and capturing 132. He was later awarded the Medal of Honor.

October 8, 1998 - The U.S. House of Representatives voted 258-176 to approve a resolution launching an impeachment inquiry of President Bill Clinton. It was the third time in U.S. history that the House launched a formal impeachment inquiry of the President of the United States. The other two Presidents were Andrew Johnson and Richard Nixon.

October 10, 1973 - Spiro T. Agnew resigned as Vice President of the United States amid charges of income tax evasion on illegal payments allegedly received while he was governor of Maryland and also after he became Vice President. He was given a $10,000 fine and sentenced to serve three years’ probation. He was succeeded by Gerald R. Ford, who went on to become President after the resignation of Richard M. Nixon.

October 11, 1939 - Albert Einstein warned President Franklin D. Roosevelt that his theories could possibly lead to Nazi Germany's development of an atomic bomb. He also suggested the U.S. develop its own bomb. This resulted in the top secret "Manhattan Project."

October 12, 1492 - Christopher Columbus, after a 33-day voyage, made his first landfall in the New World in the Bahamas. He named the first land sighted as El Salvador. Columbus was seeking a western sea route from Europe to Asia and thought he had found an island of the Indies. He later called the first island natives that he met, 'Indians.'

October 13, 1775 - The United States Navy was established after the Second Continental Congress authorized the acquisition of a fleet of ships.

October 13, 1792 - The cornerstone of the White House was laid by George Washington. The building, which is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, is three stories tall with over 100 rooms. It was designed by James Hoban. In November of 1800, President John Adams and his family moved in to the "Presidential Palace." It became known as the "White House" about 10 years after its completion. It was burned by British troops in 1814, but was reconstructed, refurbished and reoccupied in 1817.

October 14, 1912 - President Theodore Roosevelt was shot while campaigning in Milwaukee. Roosevelt was saved by his thick overcoat, a glasses case and a speech in his breast pocket, which slowed the bullet. Even though Roosevelt was wounded, he insisted on making the speech with the bullet lodged in his chest and didn’t go to the hospital until after the meeting ended. President Roosevelt was a rugged outdoorsman and fully recovered in two weeks.

October 14, 1947 - U.S. Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager became the first man to break the sound barrier by flying in a rocket-powered research aircraft.

October 14, 1964 - Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He gifted the $54,000 of the prize money to the Civil Rights

October 15, 1991 - The U.S. Senate confirmed Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court by a 52-48 vote, after several days of tumultuous hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee concerning sexual harassment charges had been made by a former aide. He became the second African American to sit on the Court after replacing retired Justice Thurgood Marshall.

October 16, 1859 - Abolitionist John Brown, and 20 followers, seized the Federal Arsenal at Harpers Ferry. After three days, Brown was captured by U.S. Marines under the command of Col. Robert E. Lee. Brown was convicted by the Commonwealth of Virginia of treason, murder, and inciting slaves to rebellion, and was hanged on December 2, 1859.

October 17, 1777 - During the American Revoluitionary War, British General John Burgoyne, along with his army of 5,700 men surrendered to American General Horatio Gates after the Battle of Saratoga. This was the first big American victory.

October 17-25, 1944 - The Battle of Leyte Gulf, which was the largest naval battle in history, took place off the Philippine Islands during World War II. The battle included 216 U.S. warships and 64 Japanese ships and destroyed the Japanese Navy, including the Japanese Battleship Musashi, one of the largest ever built.

October 19, 1781 - As their band played The World Turned Upside Down, the British Army marched out in formation and surrendered to the Americans at Yorktown. Over 7,000 British and Hessian troops, led by British General Lord Cornwallis, surrendered to General George Washington. The war between Britain and the American colonies ended. The final peace treaty was signed in Paris on September 3, 1783.

October 19, 1960 - The U.S. embargo of Cuba began as the State Department prohibited shipment of all goods, except for medicine and food.

October 19, 1987 – On Wall Street, "Black Monday" occurred as stocks plummeted a record 508 points or 22.6 per cent, the largest one-day drop in stock market history.

October 20, 1818 - The U.S. and Britain agreed to define the United States - Canadian border at the 49th parallel.

October 20, 1944 - During World War II, General Douglas MacArthur set foot on Philippine soil for the first time since he had escaped in 1942, fulfilling his promise, "I shall return."

October 20, 1973 - The “Saturday Night Massacre” occurred during the Watergate scandal. President Richard M. Nixon fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, and Attorney General Elliot Richardson resigned. Political protests erupted over the firings, leading to widespread demands for Nixon's impeachment.

October 21, 1879 - Thomas Edison successfully tested an electric incandescent lamp with a carbonized filament in his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, after keeping it lit for over 13 hours.

October 21, 1915 - The first transatlantic radio voice message was sent by the American Telephone and Telegraph Company from Virginia to Paris.

October 21, 1944 – During World War II, American troops captured Aachen in western Germany after a week of hard fighting. It was the first large German city taken by the Allies.

October 21, 1967 - Thousands of anti-war protesters stormed the Pentagon during a Vietnam War rally in Washington, D.C. Around 250 were arrested. There were no shots fired, but demonstrators were struck with nightsticks and rifle butts.

October 22, 1962 - President John F. Kennedy addressed the nation to inform Americans of the existence of Russian missiles in Cuba. Kennedy demanded their removal and announced a naval "quarantine" of Cuba. Six days later, the Russians announced that they would remove the weapons. The U.S. later removed missiles from Turkey.

October 22, 1979 - The exiled Shah of Iran arrived in the United States for medical treatment. A few weeks later, Iranian militants attacked the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took 66 Americans hostage. They demanded the return of the Shah for trial. The U.S. refused and the Shah died of cancer in July of 1980. The hostages were freed in January of 1981.

October 23, 1983 - Terrorists drove a truck loaded with dynamite into the U.S. and French headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon. The explosion killed 241 U.S. Marines and 58 French paratroopers.

October 24, 1861 - The first transcontinental telegram in America was sent from San Francisco to Washington. It was addressed to President Abraham Lincoln from the Chief Justice of California.

October 24, 1929 - "Black Thursday" occurred in the New York Stock Exchange causing 13 million shares to be sold in “panic selling”. Five days later, on "Black Tuesday”, 16 million shares were sold.

October 24, 1945 - The United Nations was founded.

October 25, 1955 - Austria regained its sovereignty with the departure of the last Allied forces. The country had been occupied by the Nazis from 1938-45. After World War II, it was divided into four zones by the U.S., Russia, Britain and France.

October 25-30, 1983 - The Caribbean island of Grenada was invaded by the U.S. to restore "order and democracy." Around 2,000 Marines and Army Rangers seized control after a political group the previous week had made the island a "Soviet-Cuban colony”.

October 26, 1825 - The Erie Canal opened as the first major man-made waterway in America. The waterway joined Lake Erie with the Hudson River, bypassing the British-controlled lower St. Lawrence. The canal cost over $7 million and took around eight years to complete.

October 27, 1787 - The first of 85 Federalist Papers appeared in a newspaper in New York City. The essays argued for the adoption of the new U.S. Constitution, and were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay.

October 27, 1904 - The New York City subway began operation, running from City Hall to West 145th Street. It was the first underground and underwater rail system in the world.

October 28, 1886 - The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on Bedloe's Island in New York Harbor. The statue was a gift from the people of France commemorating the French-American alliance during the American Revolutionary War. It was designed by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. The structure stands 300 feet tall. On the pedestal are the words: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me; I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

October 28, 1919 - Prohibition begins in the U.S. with the passage of the National Prohibition Act by Congress. The sale of drinks containing more than one half of one percent of alcohol becomes illegal. Called a "noble experiment" by Herbert Hoover, prohibition lasts nearly 14 years and becomes highly profitable for organized crime, which manufactures and sells liquor in saloons called speakeasies.

October 28, 1949 - Helen Anderson becomes the first woman ambassador. She is appointed by President Harry Truman to be the Ambassador to Denmark.

October 28, 1962 - The Cuban Missile Crisis ends with the announcement by Soviet Russia's leader Nikita Khrushchev that his Soviet government will halt construction of missile bases in Cuba and will also remove the offensive missiles. President Kennedy immediately accepts the offer and lifts the U.S. naval blockade of Cuba.

October 29, 1929 - The stock market crashes as over 16 million shares are dumped as prices tumble. The Great Depression follows in America, and lasts until the outbreak of World War II.

October 31, 1941 - Mount Rushmore National Memorial is completed after 14 years of work. The memorial consists of 60-foot-tall sculptures of the heads of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, representing America's founding, political philosophy, preservation, expansion and conservation.

October 31, 1968 - During the Vietnam War, President Lyndon Johnson ordered American bombing of North Vietnam to cease.

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