Monday, May 30, 2005
1416: Alarmed by revolutionary currents in Bohemia stirred up by Jan Hus, the Imperial Government burns his friend Jerome of Prague at the stake for heresy.
1539: A mercantile colonization mission under Hernando de Soto lands in what is now Bradenton, Florida. De Soto is looking for gold, but finds swamp and mosquitoes, it being still 400 years before people start liking beautiful beaches.
1806: At Nashville, Tennessee, lawyer Andrew Jackson fights a duel with Charles Dickinson. When the handkerchief is dropped, Dickinson fires first, hitting Jackson in the chest and breaking two ribs; he must stand there, 24 feet away, while the wounded Jackson takes slow, careful aim and drops him dead.
1854: Shepherded by Senator Stephen Douglas, the disastrous Kansas-Nebraska Act, which abrogates both the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850, passes the U.S. Congress.
1778: François-Marie Arouet, who wrote under the name "Voltaire," dies at Paris. He's one of those writers everyone has heard of but hardly anyone has got around to reading.
1865: U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Catron, another Nashville lawyer, dies in Washington, D.C. Congress abolishes his seat, leaving only nine on the Court.
1899: Film exec Irving Grant Thalberg, later known as the "Boy Wonder" when he takes over Universal's production at age 21, is born at New York City.
1902: Actor Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry is born at Key West, Florida. He'll become the first black actor to become a millionaire, in his character as "Stepin Fetchit."
1911: Eighty thousand spectators gather for the initial Indianapolis 500 motor race. Ray Harroun, in a Mamson Wasp fitted with the newfangled "rear-view mirror" takes the checkered flag.
1935: With no designated hitter rule in place to keep his career going, Babe Ruth plays his final baseball game, for the Boston Braves.
1967: Twenty years too early to enjoy the later fad of local self-determination, the Republic of Biafra declares itself independent from Nigeria. A million Biafrans will be killed, with U.N. approval, before it is stamped out.