Tuesday, May 31, 2005
1469: Manuel I, the king who will do as much as anyone for Portuguese commerce, is born at Alcochete. He’ll commission the trading and exploration voyages of Vasco de Gama, who finds the route to India, and Pedro Cabral, who finds Brazil.
1753: Pierre Victurnien Vergniaud, another one of the French lawyers who will be guillotined by the Revolution they lead, is born at Limôges.
1757: Pennsylvania passes a ban on theatrical performances. The governor holds the bill up just long enough for Lewis Hallam’s prominent Philadelphia troupe to finish its five-month season.
1775: The Citizens Committee of Charlotte, North Carolina, issues the Mecklenberg Declaration, which disimisses all crown-appointed office-holders from their jobs. Today, of course, they’d be protected by Civil Service laws.
1838: Philosopher Henry Sidgewick is born at Skipton, Yorkshire.
1884: John Henry Kellogg of Battle Creek, Michigan, receives a patent for corn flakes.
1889: A dam owned by the South Fork Fishing & Hunting Club collapses under an unprecedented downpour, and a wall of water 60 feet high and moving at 40 miles an hour rips through Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
1913: The Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is passed, requiring the direct election of U.S. Senators. This explains why the Senate works so much better today than when political hacks like Clay, Webster, and Calhoun were running it.
1930: Clinton Eastwood, Jr., is born at San Francisco, California. He’s won twice as many Best Director awards as Stanley Kubrick, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Altman, Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese combined.
1977: The 800-mile, $8 billion Trans-Alaska Pipeline is completed, bring oil from Prudhoe Bay to the lower 48 states.
1996: The Age of Aquarius official yields to the Postmodern Era, as Dr. Timothy Leary’s final dementia and planned live Internet suicide is short-circuited when he dies in his sleep.
2004: A computer foul-up causes the Royal Bank of Canada to misplace about 10 million accounts. They are found shortly thereafter.