August 17, 2005
Today in History: August 17
1601: Lawyer Pierre de Fermat is born at Beaumont-de-Lomagne, France. As a hobby he’ll play a major role in the development of differential calculus and invent the most famous mathematical puzzle in history.
1807: Robert Fulton’s Clermont leaves New York City for Albany, inaugurating the world’s first regularly scheduled steamboat service. Cheaper competition will eventually drive him to bankruptcy.
1879: Schmuel Gelbfisz is born at Warsaw, Poland. As “Samuel Goldwyn,” the former garment salesman is credited with, “A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”
1893: Actress Mae West is born at Brooklyn, New York. She’ll start in burlesque doing a sexy “shimmy dance” as “Baby Vamp” at age 12.
1896: Bridget Driscoll becomes the first person to be killed by an automobile when she’s run over by a car on the grounds of the Crystal Palace. Says the coroner: "This must never happen again."
1915: Pencil factory manager Leo Frank is lynched by a mob in Atlanta, Georgia, after he's convicted of rape. Frank’s dream team of eight lawyers claim the actual rapist was the black janitor, but the crowd doesn’t buy it.
1945: Indonesia declares itself independent of the Netherlands, kicking off a four year war of independence.
1962: An 18-year-old brickmaker, Peter Fechter, becomes the first person to be killed attempting to climb the Berlin Wall. After being shot he is left to lie without medical attention, and bleeds to death in about an hour.
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