February 20th in History

This day in history

February 20 is the 51st day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 314 days remaining until the end of the year (315 in leap years).



In 1339,  The Milanese army and the St. George’s (San Giorgio) Mercenaries of Lodrisio Visconti clashed in the Battle of Parabiago.

In 1472,  Orkney and Shetland are pawned by Norway to Scotland in lieu of a dowry for Margaret of Denmark.

In 1547,  Edward VI of England is crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey.

In 1648, The House of Commons votes the House of Lords as “useless and dangerous”

In 1674, The American Dutch colonies are returned to British rule under the Treaty of Westminster.

In 1685,  René-Robert Cavelier establishes Fort St. Louis at Matagorda Bay thus forming the basis for France‘s claim to Texas.

In 1700, Last day of the Julian calendar in Denmark.

In 1725, The first known Indian scalping by white men was reported on this day in the New Hampshire colony.

Philadelphia Contributionship.jpgIn 1768, Benjamin Franklin helped to popularize and make standard the practice of insurance, particularly Property insurance to spread the risk of loss from fire, in the form of perpetual insurance. In 1752, he founded the Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire. Franklin’s company refused to insure certain buildings, such as wooden houses, where the risk of fire was too great. It was incorporated in 1768. It is the oldest property insurance company in the United States.

In 1790, Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor, died and was succeeded by Leopold II of Austria.

In 1792, President Washington signed an act creating the U.S. Postal Service; postage 6 to 12 1/2 cents, depending on distance. Unfortunately, the act does not include a clause mandating anger-management workshops for postal employees.

In 1798,  Louis Alexandre Berthier removes Pope Pius VI from power.

In 1807, Former Vice President Aaron Burr was arrested in Alabama for organizing an expedition to invade Mexico. (He was subsequently tried for treason and acquitted.).

In 1810,  Andreas Hofer, Tirolean patriot and leader of rebellion against Napoleon‘s forces, is executed.

In 1811, Austria declared itself bankrupt.

In 1813,  Manuel Belgrano defeats the royalist army of Pío de Tristán during the Battle of Salta.

In 1816,  Rossini’s opera The Barber of Seville premieres at the Teatro Argentina in Rome.

In 1831, Polish revolutionaries defeat the Russians in the Battle of Growchow.

In 1835, Concepcion, Chile destroyed by earthquake; 5,000 die.

In 1839, Congress prohibited dueling in the District of Columbia.

In 1846,  Polish insurgents lead an uprising in Kraków to incite a fight for national independence.

In 1846, the Texas state government was formally installed in Austin.

In 1859, Dan Sickles was acquitted of murdering his wife’s lover, Philip Barton Key II, who was the son of Francis Scott Key on grounds of temporary insanity. His case was the first time this defense was used successfully in the U.S.

In 1861, Dept of Navy of Confederacy is established.

In 1861, Russian Tsar Alexander II abolishes serfdom (3/3 NS).

In 1862, President Lincoln is struck with grief as his beloved eleven year old son, Willie, dies from fever, probably caused by polluted drinking water in the White House.

In 1864, In the American Civil War, 5,000 Confederates under General Joseph Finnegan beat 6,000 Federal forces under General Truman Seymour at the Battle of Ocean Pond.

In 1872, Metropolitan Museum Of Art opened in New York City.

In 1872, Cyrus Baldwin receives a patent for a vertical geared hydraulic electric elevator which is installed in a hotel in New York City.

In 1872, Luther Crowell received a patent for a machine for manufacturing square-bottom paper bags. Patent #123-811 allowed for the bags to have two longitudinal inward folds.

In 1872, Silas Noble and James P. Cooley of Granville, MA. patented the toothpick manufacturing machine.

In 1873, University of California gets its first Medical School (UC/SF).

In 1877, Tchaikovsky‘s ballet Swan Lake receives its première performance at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.

In 1881, Kansas became the first state to prohibit all alcoholic beverages.

In 1884, tornadoes in Mississippi, Alabama, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana caused estimated 800 deaths.

In 1887, Germany, Austria-Hungary & France end Triple Alliance.

Pgt beauregard.jpgIn 1893,  P. G. T. Beauregard, American general (b. 1818) dies. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard (/ˈbɔərɨɡɑrd/; May 28, 1818 – February 20, 1893) was a Louisiana-born American military officer, politician, inventor, writer, civil servant, and the first prominent general of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. Today he is commonly referred to as P. G. T. Beauregard, but he rarely used his first name as an adult. He signed correspondence as G. T. Beauregard. Trained as a civil engineer at the United States Military Academy, Beauregard served with distinction as an engineer in the Mexican-American War. Following a brief appointment at West Point in 1861, after the South seceded he resigned from the U.S. Army and became the first brigadier general in the Confederate States Army. He commanded the defenses of Charleston, South Carolina, at the start of the Civil War at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. Three months later he won the First Battle of Bull Run near Manassas, Virginia. Beauregard commanded armies in the Western Theater, including at the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee, and the Siege of Corinth in northern Mississippi. He returned to Charleston and defended it in 1863 from repeated naval and land attacks by Union forces. His greatest achievement was saving the important industrial city of Petersburg, Virginia in June 1864, and thus the nearby Confederate capital of Richmond, from assaults by overwhelmingly superior Union Army forces. But, his influence over Confederate strategy was lessened by his poor professional relationships with President Jefferson Davis and other senior generals and officials. In April 1865, Beauregard and his commander, General Joseph E. Johnston, convinced Davis and the remaining cabinet members that the war needed to end. Johnston surrendered most of the remaining armies of the Confederacy, including Beauregard and his men, to Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman. Following his military career, Beauregard returned to Louisiana, where he served as a railroad executive. He became wealthy because of his role in promoting the Louisiana Lottery.

In 1895, Congress authorizes a U.S. mint at Denver, Colorado.

Frederick Douglass (circa 1879).jpgIn 1895,  Frederick Douglass, American author and activist (b. 1818) dies. He was an African-American social reformer, orator, writer and statesman. After escaping from slavery, he became a leader of the abolitionist movement, gaining note for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writing. He stood as a living counter-example to slaveholders’ arguments that slaves did not have the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens. Many Northerners also found it hard to believe that such a great orator had been a slave. Douglass wrote several autobiographies, eloquently describing his experiences in slavery in his 1845 autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, which became influential in its support for abolition. He wrote two more autobiographies, with his last, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, published in 1881 and covering events through and after the Civil War. After the Civil War, Douglass remained active in the United States’ struggle to reach its potential as a “land of the free.” Douglass actively supported women’s suffrage. Without his approval, he became the first African American nominated for Vice President of the United States as the running mate of Victoria Woodhull on the impracticable and small Equal Rights Party ticket. Douglass held multiple public offices.

In 1900, J.F. Pickering received a patent for his airship invention.

In 1901, First territorial legislature of Hawaii convenes.

In 1903, Pope Leo XIII celebrates 25 years as the Pope.

In 1909,  Publication of the Futurist Manifesto in the French journal Le Figaro.

In 1913King O’Malley drives in the first survey peg to mark commencement of work on the construction of Canberra.

In 1918, The Soviet Red Army seizes Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine.

In 1919, the first Pan-African Congress, organized by W E B Du Bois, was held in Paris, France.

In 1920, Netherlands joins League of Nations.

In 1921,  The Young Communist League of Czechoslovakia is founded.

In 1922, independence day of Vilnius Lithuania, votes for to separate of Poland.

In 1929, American Samoa was organized as a territory of the U.S.

In 1931, The Congress of the United States approves the construction of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge by the state of California.

In 1933, The Congress of the United States proposes the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution that will end Prohibition in the United States.

In 1933, Adolf Hitler secretly meets with German industrialists to arrange for financing of the Nazi Party‘s upcoming election campaign

In 1935, The first woman set foot on Antarctica was Mrs. Caroline Mikkelsen.

In 1936, Switzerland bars all Nazis from entering the country.

In 1937, First automobile/airplane combination was tested in Santa Monica, Ca.

In 1938, Anthony Eden resigned as British foreign secretary in a dispute with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.

In 1941, Nazis order Polish Jews barred from using public transportation.

In 1942, Lieutenant Edward O’Hare single-handedly shoots down 5 Japanese heavy bombers. Becomes America’s first World War II flying ace.

In 1943, New volcano Paracutin erupts in farmer’s corn patch (Mexico).

In 1943,  American movie studio executives agree to allow the Office of War Information to censor movies.

In 1943,  The Saturday Evening Post publishes the first of Norman Rockwell‘s Four Freedoms in support of United States President Franklin Roosevelt‘s 1941 State of the Union address theme of Four Freedoms.

In 1944, World War II: The “Big Week” began with American bomber raids on German aircraft manufacturing centers.

In 1944,  World War II: The United States takes Eniwetok Island.

In 1949, The first International Pancake Race was staged between competitors at Olney, Buckinghamshire (which had started the tradition in 1445) in England, and in Liberal, Kansas, in the United States. The President of the Jaycees service club in Liberal had read about the race and had written to the vicar of St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s Church in Olney, with the housewives in both towns trying to make the best time in the race. The two towns have competed on every Shrove Tuesday since then. Wearing dresses and aprons, their heads covered in scarfs, the women run a 415-yard, “S” shaped course. Each woman also carries a pancake in a skillet and must toss the pancake three times. The fastest pancake carrier ran the race in 58.5 seconds in 1975. This record was set by Liberal’s Sheila Turner. Pass the syrup, please!

In 1950, U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy elaborated on his charges of Communism in the U.S. State Department, giving a five-hour speech on the floor of the Senate in Washington, D.C. In the speech read into the Congressional Record, McCarthy revised his charge of 205 or 57 Communists in the State Department, to 81

In 1952,  Emmett Ashford becomes the first African-American umpire in organized baseball by being authorized to be a substitute umpire in the Southwestern International League.

In 1953, The State of Georgia approved the nation’s first literature censorship board. Newspapers were excluded from the new legislation. A frightening concept in any state; especially the state of the mind.

In 1959, An agreement was signed by Britain, Turkey and Greece granting Cyprus its independence.

In 1962, Astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth after blasting off aboard the Friendship VII Mercury capsule. He spots Perth, Australia, when that city’s residents greet him by switching on their house lights in unison.

In 1965, The “Ranger Eight” spacecraft crashed on the moon after sending back thousands of pictures of the lunar surface.

In 1966, Robert F. Kennedy suggests the U.S. offer the Vietcong a role in governing South Vietnam.

In 1976, Patty Hearst invoked the Fifth Amendment nineteen times at her bank-robbery trial in San Francisco.

In 1976, Iceland broke off diplomatic relations with Britain after the two countries failed to agree over fishing rights in disputed waters. The dispute became known as the “Cod War.”

In 1977, President Ford pardons Iva Toguri D’Aquino (“Tokyo Rose”).

In 1978, Egypt announces it is pulling its diplomats out of Cyprus.

In 1979, The Sinira volcano in Indonesia erupted, killing 175.

In 1980, Actress Susan Dey (LA Law) weds producer Bernard Sofronski.

In 1981, The space shuttle Columbia cleared the final major hurdle to its maiden launch as the spacecraft fired its three engines in a 20-second test.

In 1983, Israel’s Cabinet, at the request of Prime Minister Menachem Begin, voted to retain former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon as a member of two key government bodies involving defense and Lebanon.

In 1984, Democratic presidential hopeful Walter F. Mondale claimed victory in the lead-off Iowa caucuses, predicting, “This is the beginning of the end of the Reagan administration”; yeah, sure.

In 1985, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher addressed a joint meeting of Congress in which she praised the U.S. administration’s policies and endorsed President Reagan’s Strategic Defense

In 1985, Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister, becomes the first British leader since Churchill to address Congress.

In 1985, The sale of contraceptives was made legal in Ireland.

In 1986, President Reagan visited Grenada, scene of the 1983 U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Caribbean island’s Marxist government.

In 1987, Bomb blamed on Unabomber explodes by computer store in Salt Lake City.

In 1988, 500 die in heavy rains in Rio de Janeiro Brazil.

In 1988, Peter Kalikow purchased the N.Y. Post from Rupert Murdoch for $37.6 million.

In 1989, members of the European Economic Community decided to withdraw their top diplomats from Iran to protest Ayatollah Khomeini’s order for Muslims to kill author Salman Rushdie.

In 1989, Total eclipse of Moon.

In 1990, President Bush welcomed Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel to the White House, promising trade rewards for Prague’s moves toward democracy.

In 1991,  the United States approved a $400 million loan guarantee to Israel for housing Soviet Jewish immigrants, but banned use of the money in the occupied territories.

In 1991, In the Persian Gulf War, Baghdad radio said President Saddam Hussein would be sending Foreign Minister Raeiq Aziz back to Moscow with a reply to a Soviet peace plan.

In 1991, U.S. troops penetrated Iraq, capturing as many as 500 Iraq soldiers.

In 1992, an FDA panel urged limiting access to silicone gel-filled breast implants.

In 1992, Texas billionaire Ross Perot, interviewed on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” said he would run for president if his name was placed on the ballot in all 50 states.

In 1992, Israeli armored ground forces withdrew from Lebanese villages following a one-day strike. Israel defended the incursion as necessary, but the U.N. secretary general protested the assault.

In 1993, Police in Liverpool, England, charged two 10-year-old boys with the abduction and slaying of toddler James Bulger, a crime that shocked the country and terrified parents. Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were later convicted.

In 1993, the hijacking of a Russian jetliner finally ended in Stockholm, Sweden. The Azerbaijani who commandeered the plane after it departed from Siberia gave up his demand to go to the U.S. and surrendered.

In 1994, Pope John Paul II demands juristic discrimination of homosexuals.

In 1994, Bosnian Serbs, faced with the threat of air strikes, pulled back most of their heavy guns from around Sarajevo as a NATO deadline approached.

In 1995, A U.S. Marine, Sgt. Justin A. Harris, died in a helicopter crash during the evacuation of United Nations forces from Somalia.

In 1996, Patrick Buchanan won the New Hampshire Republican primary by a slim margin over Bob Dole.

In 1996, a federal court said it would move the Oklahoma City bombing trial to Denver.

In 1997, The National Transportation Safety Board called for a speedup in the redesign of the rudder controls on Boeing 737’s, citing potential problems suspected in a pair of deadly crashes.

In 1997, the Trinity Broadcasting Network cancelled Pat Boone’s weekly “Gospel America” program until he explained why he showed up at the American Music Awards dressed as a heavy metal rocker. The 62-year- old Boone said he was spoofing his squeaky-clean image and promoting his latest album — a cover of heavy metal classics.

In 1998, Two charged with attempting to sell transplant organs harvested from prisoners executed in China.

In 1998, with the U-S military poised to attack Iraq, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan began a final campaign to end the crisis over UN weapons inspections without bloodshed.

In 1998, Prosecutor Kenneth Starr defended his aggressiveness in probing the White House sex scandal, and suggested he was ready for a court fight with President Clinton over the limits of White House secrecy.

In 1998, Brown & Williamson executive says tobacco giant adds genetically altered, high-nicotine tobacco to export cigarettes.

In 1998, The crew of Mir celebrated the 12th anniversary of the space station by flying their escape capsule around the aging, accident-prone ship.

In 1999, The United States and five other nations agreed to extend by three days a deadline for a Kosovo peace agreement. (NATO had threatened airstrikes against the Serbs if they did not reach an agreement with Albanian insurgents.)

In 2006, In South Korea the United Liberal Democrats, the three top political parties was merged into Grand National Party.

In 2008, Former Knox County Clerk Mike Padgett decided to run against Senator Lamar Alexander in November assuming that Padgett can get past Democrat Chris Lugo in the August primary. Some other Democrats – including Mike McWherter, son of former Gov. Ned McWherter, and former state Democratic Chairman Bob Tuke – once indicated an interest in the Senate seat but decided against running.

In 2008, A proposal that would have banned teaching about homosexuality in public schools failed in a House subcommittee mainly because state officials say it’s not necessary.

In 2008, Consumer Prices Rose 0.4% in January – Rising food costs helped push prices up for a second straight month, more than offsetting a moderation in energy price increases as inflation showed signs of gaining steam.

In 2008, Montana Leads Resistance to Real ID – On January 18, Democrat Montana governor Brian Schweitzer sent a letter to the governors of Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Maine, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Arizona, Hawaii, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington, asking them to join him “in resisting the DHS [Department of Homeland Security] coercion to comply with the provisions of REAL ID.”

In 2008, Former president Bill Clinton lashed out at pro-life advocates over the issue of abortion during an appearance in Ohio. But the lack of news coverage of this outburst compared to other prior comments he’s made on the campaign trial prompts one observer to chastise the mainstream media. Clinton yelled at pro-life advocates and accused them of wanting to put women in jail who have had abortions. Tim Graham, the director of media analysis for the Media Research Center noted the lack of coverage and said what little attention the outburst received downplayed Clinton’s anger. “Bill Clinton’s yelling at pro-life protesters in Steubenville, Ohio didn’t get processed by the networks as a sign of bad temper, or of sour and hyperbolic attacks on pro-lifers,” Graham said.

In 2008, An ailing, 81-year-old Fidel Castro resigned as Cuba’s president Tuesday after nearly a half-century in power, saying he will not accept a new term when parliament meets Sunday. The end of Castro’s rule – the longest in the world for a head of government – frees his 76-year-old brother Raul to implement reforms he has hinted at since taking over as acting president when Fidel Castro fell ill in July 2006. President Bush said he hopes the resignation signals the beginning of a democratic transition.

In 2009,  Two Tamil Tigers aircraft packed with C4 explosives en route to the national airforce headquarters are shot down by the Sri Lankan military before reaching their target, in a kamikaze style attack.

In 2010,  In Madeira Island, Portugal, heavy rain causes floods and mudslides, resulting in at least 43 deaths, in the worst disaster in the history of the archipelago.

In 2013,  The smallest Extrasolar planet, Kepler-37b is discovered.

David S. McKay, a NASA scientist, led the team that announced the discovery of possible microfossils in a Martian meteorite from Antarctica.

In 2013, David S. McKay, American biochemist and geologist (b. 1936) dies of heart disease in Houston, TX. He was Chief Scientist for astrobiology at the Johnson Space Center. During the Apollo program, McKay trained the first men to walk on the Moon in geology. McKay was the first author of a scientific paper postulating past life on Mars on the basis of evidence in Martian meteorite ALH 84001, which had been found in Antarctica. This paper has become one of the most heavily cited papers in planetary science. The NASA Astrobiology Institute was founded partially as a result of community interest in this paper and related topics. He was a native of Titusville, Pennsylvania. As a graduate student in geology at Rice University, McKay was present at John F. Kennedy’s speech in 1962 announcing the goal of landing a man on the Moon within the decade. Inspired by Kennedy’s speech, McKay as a NASA scientist trained the Apollo astronauts in geology. He was a chief trainer for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin during their last geology field trip in West Texas. On July 20, 1969 in Houston McKay was the only geologist present in the Apollo Mission Control Room when Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the Moon, serving as a resource. He was named principal investigator to study the samples which they brought back from the Moon.

In 2014, Dozens of Euromaidan anti-government protesters died in Ukraine’s capital Kiev, many reportedly killed by snipers.

In 2015, Two trains collide in the Swiss town of Rafz resulting in as many as 49 people injured and Swiss Federal Railways cancelling some services.

In 2015,  John C. Willke, American physician, author, and activist (b. 1925) dies at the age of 89. He was an American author, physician, and anti-abortion activist. Along with his wife Barbara, he authored a number of books on abortion and human sexuality. Willke was an obstetrician in Cincinnati, Ohio, but ceased practicing medicine in 1988 in order to devote himself full-time to the anti-abortion movement. He was president of National Right to Life from 1984 through 1991. He co-founded the Life Issues Institute in 1991. Wilke was a proponent of the concept that women’s bodies can resist conception resulting from sexual assault. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in 2012 disagreed.

In 2016,  Six people are killed and two injured in multiple shooting incidents in Kalamazoo County, Michigan.

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