Today In History – February

February 29

1504 Columbus uses a lunar eclipse to frighten hostile Jamaican Indians

1692 Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne & Tituba, an Indian servant first people to be accused of witchcraft in Salem.

1784 Marquis de Sade transferred from Vincennes fortress to the Bastille

1880 Gotthard railway tunnel between Switzerland & Italy completed

1908 Dutch scientists produce solid helium

1944 Karol Wojtyla, future Pope John Paul II, is run down and injured by a Nazi truck in Krakow

1960 1st playboy club, featuring bunnies, opens in Chicago

1968 US end regular flights with nuclear bombs

1984 Pierre Trudeau announces he is stepping down after 15 years as Canadian Prime Minister

1988 Mark Greatbatch scores 107* v England on Test Cricket debut


February 28

1730 Tsarina Anna Ivanovna leads autocracy

1784 John Wesley charters Methodist Church

1826 M Biela, an Austrian officer, discovers Biela’s Comet

1849 1st boat load of gold rush prospectors arrives in San Francisco from the east coast

1925 Theatre Museum of Amsterdam forms

1939 The erroneous word “Dord” is discovered in the Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition, prompting an investigation.

1968 Pirate Radio Hauraki, off NZ, returns to the air

1970 Bicycles permitted to cross Golden Gate Bridge

1977 1st killer whale born in captivity (Marineland, Los Angeles California)

2013 The brains of two rats successfully connected so that they share information


February 27

837 15th recorded perihelion passage of Halley’s Comet

1557 1st Russian Embassy arrives in London

1827 1st Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans

1854 Composer Robert Schumann saved from suicide attempt in Rhine

1879 Constantine Fahlberg discovers saccharin (artificial sweetener)

1922 US Supreme Court unanimously upheld 19th amendment to the US Constuituent – women’s right to vote

1956 Female suffrage in Egypt

1964 The government of Italy asks for help to keep the Leaning Tower of Pisa from toppling over.

1990 Final day of the rum ration in the Royal New Zealand Navy

1998 Britain’s House of Lords agrees to end 1,000 years of male precedence by giving a monarch’s first-born daughter the same claim to the throne as any first born son


February 26

1616 Spanish Inquisition delivers injunction to Galileo

1794 Christiansborg Castle, Copenhagen burns down.

1893 Two Clydesdale horses set record by pulling 48 tonnes on a sled

1907 Royal Oil & Shell merge to form British Petroleum (BP)

1914 HMHS Britannic, sister to the Titanic, is launched at Harland & Wolff, Belfast.

1916 Mutual signs Charlie Chaplin to a film contract

1919 Congress forms Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona

1933 Golden Gate Bridge ground-breaking ceremony held at Crissy Field

1952 PM Winston Churchill announces Britain has its own atomic bomb

1987 1st release of Beatles compact discs


February 25

1570 Pius V excommunicates Queen Elizabeth I of England, absolves her subjects from allegiance

1751 1st performing monkey exhibited in America, NYC (admission 1 cent)

1836 Samuel Colt patents 1st revolving barrel multishot firearm

1859 1st use of “insanity plea” to prove innocence

1862 Paper currency (greenbacks) introduced in US by Pres Abraham Lincoln

1912 Marie-Adélaïde, the eldest of six daughters of Guillaume IV, becomes the first reigning Grand Duchess of Luxembourg.

1932 Immigrant Adolf Hitler gets German citizenship

1964 Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) TKOs Sonny Liston in 7 for his first world heavyweight championship title

1969 West Germany gives $5 million to an Arab terrorist as ransom for the passengers and crew of a hijacked jumbo jet.

1986 Corazon Aquino becomes President of the Philippines, Marcos flees the country


February 24

1208 St Francis of Assisi, 26, received his vocation in Portiuncula Italy

1582 Pope Gregory XIII announces New Style (Gregorian) calendar

1804 London’s Drury Lane Theatre burns to the ground

1924 Mahatma Gandhi released from jail

1969 Mariner 6 launched for Mars flyby to study planet’s atmosphere

1981 Britain’s Prince Charles announces engagement to Lady Diana Spencer

1986 Voyager 2, 1st Uranus flyby

1989 150-million-year-old fossil egg (oldest dinosaur embryo) found

1998 Elton John knighted

2008 Fidel Castro retires as the President of Cuba after nearly fifty years.


February 23

1822 Boston, Massachusetts, is incorporated as a city

1874 Mjr Walter Winfield patents game called “sphairistike” (lawn tennis)

1886 Aluminum manufacturing process developed

1886 London Times publishes world’s 1st classified ad

1903 The US and Cuba sign an agreement by which Cuba releases Guantanamo and Bahia Hondo to the US for naval stations

1905 First Rotary Club formed by 4 men in the Unity Building, Chicago

1940 Walt Disney’s animated movie “Pinocchio” released

1941 Plutonium was first produced and isolated by Dr. Glenn T. Seaborg.

1954 1st mass inoculation against polio with Salk vaccine (Pittsburgh)

1970 Holy Eucharist given by women for 1st time in Roman Catholic service

1987 Supernova 1987A in LMC 1st seen; 1st naked-eye supernova since 1604


February 22

1630 Indians introduce pilgrims to popcorn, at Thanksgiving

1876 Johns Hopkins University opens

1879 1st 5 cent & 10 cent store opened by Frank W Woolworth (Utica NY)

1900 Hawaii became a US territory

1903 Due to drought the US side of Niagara Falls runs short of water

1907 1st cabs with taxi meters begin operating in London

1920 1st artificial rabbit used at a dog race track (Emeryville, California)

1923 Transcontinental airmail service begins

1928 1st solo England to Australia flight lands (Bert Hinkler)

1935 Airplanes are no longer permitted to fly over the White House

1997 Dolly the Sheep, world’s first cloned mammal (from an adult cell) is announced by the Roslin Institute in Scotland


February 21

1431 Joan of Arc’s first day of interrogation during her trial for heresy

1613 Michael Romanov, son of Patriarch of Moscow, elected first Russian Tsar of the house of Romanov

1858 Edwin T Holmes installs 1st electric burglar alarm (Boston, Mass)

1878 World’s 1st telephone directory issued, 50 subscribers (New Harbor, Connecticut)

1902 Dr Harvey Cushing, 1st US brain surgeon, performs his 1st brain operation

1916 Battle of Verdun in WW I begins (1 million casualties)1931 Alka Seltzer introduced

1953 Francis Crick and James Watson discover structure of DNA-molecule1965 Rights activist Malcolm X is shot dead by Nation of Islam followers at Audubon Ballroom in New York City

2014 US President Barack Obama meets with the Dalai Lama


February 20

1673 1st recorded wine auction held (London)

1811 Austria declares bankruptcy

1872 Hydraulic electric elevator patented by Cyrus Baldwin

1872 New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art opens

1943 New volcano Paracutin erupts in farmer’s corn field (Mexico)

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

1944 Batman & Robin comic strip premieres in newspapers

1960 Jimi Hendrix, rock and roll guitarist, plays his first gig.

1975 Margaret Thatcher elected leader of British Conservative Party

2013 Kepler-37b, the smallest known exoplanet, is discovered


February 19

1878 Thomas Edison patents gramophone (phonograph)

1906 WK Kellogg & Ch Bolin found Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Co (later Kelloggs)

1942 About 150 Japanese warplanes attack the Australian city of Darwin

1949 1st Bollingen Prize for poetry awarded to Ezra Pound

1987 Anti-smoking ad airs for 1st time on TV, featuring Yul Brynner: he died of smoking-induced lung cancer on 10th October 1985

1995 Linford Christie runs world record 200m indoor (20.25 sec) and European record 60m indoor (6.47 sec)

2001 An Oklahoma City bombing museum is dedicated at the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

2002 NASA’s Mars Odyssey space probe begins to map the surface of Mars using its thermal emission imaging system.

2004 Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal is awarded an honorary knighthood in recognition of a “lifetime of service to humanity.”


February 18

1503 Henry Tudor created Prince of Wales (later Henry VIII)

1876 Direct telegraph link established between Britain & New Zealand

1879 Sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi is awarded a patent for his design for the Statue of Liberty

1885 Mark Twain publishes the “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” in the US

1896 Cave of Winds at Niagara Falls goes almost dry for first time in 50 yrs

1901 Winston Churchill makes his maiden speech in the British House of Commons.

1911 The first official flight with air mail takes place in Allahabad, British India, when Henri Pequet, a 23-year-old pilot, delivers 6,500 letters to Naini, about 10 km away.

1929 The first Academy Awards are announced.

1930 US astronomer Clyde Tombaugh discovers Pluto

1978 1st Iron Man Triathlon (swim, bike ride, marathon) held, Kona, Hawaii


February 17

1837 Charles Lyell makes his presidential address to the Geographical Society, London and announces that Richard Owen has concluded from Darwin’s fossils that extinct species were related to current species in the same locality

1867 1st ship passes through Suez Canal

1876 Sardines 1st canned (Julius Wolff-Eastport, Maine)

1882 1st Test Cricket match played at Sydney Cricket Ground

1904 Giacomo Puccini’s opera “Madama Butterfly” premieres in Milan

1933 US Senate accept Blaine Act: ending prohibition

1959 1st weather satellite launched, Vanguard 2, 9.8 kg

1985 1st day/night game at the MCG, Australia v England

1989 6-week study of Arctic atmosphere shows no ozone “hole”


February 16

374 9th recorded perihelion passage of Halley’s Comet

600 Pope Gregory the Great decrees saying “God bless You” is the correct response to a sneeze

1659 1st known cheque (£400) (on display at Westminster Abbey)

1840 American Charles Wilkes discovers Shackleton Ice Shelf, Antarctica

1859 The French Government passes a law to set the A-note above middle C to a frequency of 435 Hz, in an attempt to standardise the pitch.

1923 Howard Carter opens the inner burial chamber of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s tomb and finds the sarcophagus

1937 DuPont Corp patents nylon, developed by employee Wallace H Carothers

1959 Fidel Castro names himself Cuba’s premier after overthrowing Batista

1983 The Ash Wednesday bushfires in Victoria and South Australia claim the lives of 75 people in Australia’s worst ever fires.

2005 The Kyoto Protocol comes into force following its ratification by Russia.


February 15

1882 1st cargo of frozen meat leaves NZ for Britain, on SS Dunedin

1906 British Labour Party founded

1910 The Boy Scouts of America founded.

1927 Silent film “It Girl” is released in the US starring Clara Bow

1932 US bobsled team member Eddie Eagan becomes only athlete to win gold in both Summer & Winter Olympics (1920 boxing gold)

1933 Pres-elect Franklin Roosevelt survives assassination attempt

1965 Canada replaces Union Jack flag with Maple Leaf

1971 After 1,200 years Great Britain abandons 12-shilling system for the decimal currency

1995 Population of People’s Republic of China hits 1.2 billion

2001 First draft of the complete Human Genome is published in Nature

2013 Over 1,200 people are injured after a meteor breaks up over Chelyabinsk, Russia


February 14

1009 First known mention of Lithuania, in the annals of the monastery of Quedlinburg.

1849 In New York City, James Knox Polk becomes first serving US President to have his photograph taken (by Matthew Brady).

1894 Venus is both a morning star & evening star

1895 Oscar Wilde’s “Importance of Being Earnest,” opens in London

1919 United Parcel Service forms

1924 IBM Corporation founded by Thomas Watson

1929 St Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago, 7 gangsters killed, allegedly on Al Capone’s orders

1931 The original “Dracula”, starring Bela Lugosi as the titular vampire, is released

1962 US 1st lady Jacqueline Kennedy conducts White House tour on TV

1966 Australian currency is decimalised, and decimal currency postage stamps introduced


February 13

1633 Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei arrived in Rome for trial before Inquisition for professing belief that earth revolves around the Sun

1777 Marquis de Sade arrested without charge, imprisoned in Vincennes fortress

1832 First appearance of cholera in London

1861 Abraham Lincoln declared US president in Washington, D.C.

1866 Jesse James holds up his 1st bank, Liberty, Missouri ($15,000)

1867 Johann Strauss’ “Blue Danube” waltz premieres in Vienna

1959 Barbie doll goes on sale

1979 Formation of Guardian Angels crime fighters in New York City

1981 Longest sentence published by NY Times – 1286 words

2000 The last original “Peanuts” comic strip appears in newspapers one day after Charles M. Schulz dies.


February 12

1554 Queen of England for nine days, Lady Jane Grey is executed for treason.

1832 Ecuador annexes Galapagos Islands

1876 Al Spalding opens his sporting good shop

1912 Last Ch’ing (Manchu) emperor of China, Hsuan T’ung, abdicates

1924 George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue” premieres at Aeolian Hall, NYC

1947 Daytime fireball & meteorite fall seen in eastern Siberia

1947 French fashion designer Christian Dior presents his first influential collection, named the “New Look”

1957 Researchers announce Borazan (harder than diamonds) been developed

1994 “The Scream” by Norwegian painter Edvard Munch (1893 pastel version) is stolen in Oslo

2010 21st Winter Olympic Games open at Vancouver, Canada


February 11

660 BC Traditional date for the foundation of Japan by Emperor Jimmu

1794 1st session of US Senate open to the public

1878 1st weekly weather report published in UK

1926 Tokelau (Union) Islands in South Pacific transfers to NZ

1929 Vatican City (world’s smallest country) made an enclave of Rome

1950 4th British Empire Games close in Auckland, New Zealand

1963 Julia Child’s show The French Chef premieres.

1978 China lifts a ban on Aristotle, Shakespeare, & Dickens

1987 British Airways begins trading stocks

1990 Nelson Mandela released after 27 years imprisonment in South Africa

1995 Danyon Loader swims world record 400m freestyle (340.46)


February 10

1720 Edmund Halley appointed 2nd Astronomer Royal of England

1774 Andrew Becker demonstrates diving suit

1879 1st electric arc light used (California Theater)

1916 Military conscription begins in Britain

1940 “In The Mood” by Glenn Miller hits #1

1949 Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” opens at Morosco Theater, NYC

1961 Niagara Falls hydroelectric project begins producing power

1990 South African President de Klerk announces Nelson Mandela will be freed on Feb 11th

1996 IBM computer Deep Blue becomes the first computer to win a game of chess against a reigning (human) chess champion, Gary Kasparov

2005 His Royal Highness Charles, Prince of Wales announces engagement to Camilla Parker Bowles


February 9

1825 House of Representatives elects John Quincy Adams 6th US president

1861 Confederate Provisional Congress declares all laws under the US Constitution were consistent with constitution of Confederate states (US Civil War)

1885 1st Japanese arrive in Hawaii

1893 Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “Falstaff” premieres in Milan

1895 Volleyball invented by W G Morgan in Massachusetts

1900 Dwight Davis established a new tennis trophy, the Davis Cup

1964 GI Joe character created

1969 Boeing 747 made its first commercial flight

1986 Halley’s Comet reaches 30th perihelion (closest approach to Sun)

1986 Tomb of Tutanchamon’s treasurer Maya found in Egypt


February 8

1672 Isaac Newton reads 1st optics paper before Royal Society in London

1855 The Devil’s Footprints mysteriously appear in southern Devon.

1883 Louis Waterman begins experiment to invent the fountain pen

1895 Tchaikovsky/Petipa’s “Swan Lake” premieres in St Petersburg

1910 The Boy Scouts of America is incorporated by William D. Boyce.

1922 Radio arrives at the White House

1926 Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio becomes Walt Disney Studios

1933 1st flight of all-metal Boeing 247

1969 Meteorite weighing over 1 ton falls in Chihuahua, Mexico

1971 The Nasdaq stock market index debuts.

1992 16th Winter Olympic games opens in Albertville, France


February 7

1301 Edward of Caernarion (later Edward II) becomes first (English) prince of Wales

1639 Academie Francaise begins Dictionary of French Language

1812 Poet Lord Byron (6th Baron Byron) makes his maiden speech in House of Lords

1928 1st solo England to Australia flight takes off (Bert Hinkler)

1964 Cassius Clay converts to Islam, and is renamed Muhammad Ali

1971 Switzerland votes in women’s suffrage

1984 Bruce McCandless makes 1st untethered space walk (US)

1985 “New York, New York” became the official anthem of NYC

1986 Corazon Aquino defeats incumbent Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos but fraudulent returns gave the election to Marcos

2014 22nd Winter Olympic Games open at Sochi, Russia


February 6

1778 France recognises USA, signs Treaty of Alliance in Paris; 1st US treaty

1819 Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles founds freeport harbor Singapore

1832 1st appearance of cholera in Edinburgh, Scotland

1836 HMS Beagle/Charles Darwin reach Diemen’s Land (Tasmania)

1840 The Treaty of Waitangi is signed between 40 Māori Chiefs (later signed by 500) and representatives of the British crown in Waitangi, New Zealand. The treaty was designed to share sovereignty between the two groups.

1891 1st great train robbery by Dalton Gang (Southern Pacific #17)

1911 Great fire destroys downtown Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey)

1935 “Monopoly” board game goes on sale for 1st time

1952 Queen Elizabeth II succeeds King George VI to the British throne

1971 1st time a golf ball is hit on Moon (by Alan Shepard)

2012 Queen Elizabeth II marks the 60th anniversary of becoming British monarch, becoming only the second to do so


February 5

1825 Hannah Lord Montague of NY creates 1st detachable shirt collar

1850 Adding machine employing depressible keys patented, New Paltz, NY

1887 Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “Otello” premieres at La Scala in Italy

1922 Reader’s Digest magazine 1st published

1937 1st Charlie Chaplin talkie, “Modern Times,” released

1962 Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter & Saturn within 16 degrees

1969 US population reaches 200 million

1972 US airlines begin mandatory inspection of passengers & baggage

1996 British supermarket chains stock genetically modified tomato puree – the first GM food to be sold in the country

1997 OJ Simpson found liable in the deaths of Ron Goldman & Nicole Simpson in a civil court action.


February 4

1824 J W Goodrich introduces rubber galoshes to public

1936 1st radioactive substance produced synthetically (radium E)

1939 Glenn Cunningham (top miler) says 4-min mile beyond human effort

1950 4th British Empire Games open in Auckland, New Zealand

1971 British car maker Rolls Royce declared itself bankrupt

1974 Patricia Hearst (19), daughter of publisher Randolph Hearst, kidnapped by Symbionese Liberation Army

1980 Studio 54 holds its grand closing party on its last night in business

1990 Richard Hadlee takes his 400th Test Cricket wicket (Sanjay Manjrekar)

2004 Mark Zuckerberg launches Facebook from his Harvard dormitory room

2014 Same-sex marriage is legalised in Scotland


February 3

1690 1st paper money in America issued (colony of Mass)

1815 World’s first commercial cheese factory established, in Switzerland

1876 Albert Spalding with $800 starts sporting goods co, manufacturing 1st official baseball, tennis ball, basketball, golf ball, & football

1882 Circus owner PT Barnum buys his world famous elephant Jumbo

1928 Paleoanthropologist Davidson Black reports his findings on the ancient human fossils found at Zhoukoudian, China in the journal Nature and declares them to be a new species he names ‘Sinanthropus pekinensis’ (now known as ‘Homo erectus’)

1931 The Hawke’s Bay earthquake, New Zealand’s worst natural disaster, kills 258

1959 “The Day the Music Died” plane crash kills musicians Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, J. P. Richardson and pilot near Clear Lake Iowa.

1966 1st soft landing on Moon (Soviet Luna 9)

1967 Ronald Ryan, the last person to be executed in Australia, is hanged in Pentridge Prison, Melbourne.

1986 The Pope and Mother Teresa meet in Calcutta

1998 Stamps commemorating Diana, Princess of Wales, go on sale in Britain


February 2

1653 New Amsterdam becomes a city (later renamed New York)

1709 British sailor Alexander Selkirk is rescued after being marooned on a desert island for 5 years, his story inspires “Robinson Crusoe”

1852 1st British public men’s toilet opens (Fleet St London)

1863 Samuel Clemens first uses the pen name Mark Twain in a Virginia City newspaper, the “Territorial Enterprise”

1880 SS Strathleven arrives in London with first shipment of frozen Australian mutton

1901 Queen Victoria’s funeral takes place.

1932 Al Capone sent to prison (Atlanta, Georgia)

1959 Buddy Holly’s last performance

1983 Pope John Paul II names 18 new cardinals

1990 South Africa’s Pres FW de Klerk promises to free Nelson Mandela & legalises ANC & 60 other political organisations


February 1

1587 Queen Elizabeth I of England signs death warrant for Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots

1814 Lord Byron’s “Corsair” sells 10,000 copies on day of publication

1884 1st volume of the Oxford English Dictionary, A-Ant, published

1892 Mrs William Astor invites 400 guests to a grand ball at her mansion thus beginning use of “400” to describe socially elite

1896 Giacomo Puccini’s Opera “La Boheme,” premieres in Turin

1949 RCA releases 1st single record ever (45 rpm)

1965 Dutch Queen Juliana opens Brienenoord Bridge in Rotterdam

1972 1st scientific hand-held calculator (HP-35) introduced ($395)

1991 President F W de Klerk, says he would repeal all apartheid laws

2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrates during reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts aboard.