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Today in History for May

May 02

Who created the city plan for Washington, DC?

May 2, 1783 — Today, architect and civil engineer Pierre Charles L’Enfant was promoted to major of engineers in recognition of his work in service to Colonial America. The most famous was his city plan for Washington, DC. L'Enfant was chosen by President George Washington in 1791...

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May 04

Which American institution was founded today by John Adams?

May 4, 1780 — The American Academy of Arts and Science was established today by our second president John Adams (in office from 1797–1801) — and James Bowdoin, a wealthy merchant and American political and intellectual leader from Boston, Massachusetts, during the...

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May 06

Where was the first US railroad disaster?

May 6, 1853 — A train traveling at 50 mph plunged through an open drawbridge into the Norwalk Harbor in Norwalk, Conn. today. The accident, in which 48 of the 200 passengers died, occurred on the New York and New Haven Route where the train crossed...

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May 07

Where was the first US Presidential Inaugural Ball held?

May 7, 1792— The first Presidential Inaugural Ball was hosted by sponsors today in New York City, one week after the swearing in of George Washington. Such an event did not become tradition until 1809, when Dolley Madison hosted a gala at Long's Hotel in Washington...

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May 08

Why were the Militia Acts of 1792 created?

May 8, 1792 — The second part of the Militia Act was passed today, enabling the president to take command of the state militias in times of imminent invasion or insurrection. The two Acts were passed in response to the overwhelming US losses at St....

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May 08

Where is “Victory in Europe Day” celebrated today?

May 8, 1945 — Great Britain and the United States celebrated "Victory in Europe Day" today, as citizens of both countries put out flags and banners to mark the occasion as German troops throughout Europe finally laid down their arms. On 30 April, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler...

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May 09

Who designed the first American flag?

May 9, 1791 — Today marks the death of Francis Hopkinson, an American author, attorney, and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence — whom scholars believe designed the first American flag. He died suddenly of a massive epileptic seizure...

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May 11

Where was the first US hospital located?

May 11, 1751 — A charter is granted today by the Pennsylvania legislature to establish a hospital "to care for the sick, poor, and insane who wandered the streets of Philadelphia," according to the history of Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's...

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May 14

Who administered the first inoculation against smallpox today?

May 14, 1796 — English country doctor Edward Jenner administered the first inoculation against smallpox today in Berkeley, Gloucestershire. The patient was an 8-year-old boy, who was the son of Jenner's gardener. Jenner successfully tested his hypothesis on 23 additional subjects. Jenner's continuing...

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May 16

What pre-War battle for Independence took place today?

May 16, 1771 – A North Carolina governor's militia quelled a rebellion called the Battle of Alamance today. Waged by a patriotic group known as “The Regulators,” they were fighting against abuse by royal government officials. Largely composed of low-income men from the Western part of...

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May 19

What was “the dark day of New England?”

May 19, 1780 – Around 10 a.m. today, an unexplained darkness crept in from the west and descended over New England as though it were nighttime. The darkness subsisted until the next day, and at the time had no explainable...

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May 20

What popular article of clothing was patented today?

May 20, 1873 – Businessman Levi Strauss and tailor Jacob Davis are granted a patent on this date for their pants reinforced with metal rivets, marking the official birthday of what we know today as blue jeans. Originally, Strauss made...

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May 22

Which famous American was tried for treason today?

May 22, 1807 – Aaron Burr, the 3rd vice president of the United States, was tried today for treason. The former New York State senator is perhaps best known for killing fellow founding father Alexander Hamilton in a duel three years earlier. He...

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May 23

Which state ratified the US Constitution today in 1788?

May 23, 1788 — Today, South Carolina became the 8th state to ratify the US Constitution. The assembly was held in Charleston; delegates Pierce Butler, John Rutledge, Charles Pinckney, and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney represented the state. Because the state's wealth depended on slavery, ratification...

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May 25

Which scientist presented his famous theory about sound today?

May 25, 1842 – Mathematician and physicist Christian Doppler presents his idea of frequency in relation to velocity, now known as the Doppler Effect. His breakthrough idea explained why continuous noises, such as police sirens, sound different when they are coming toward you versus...

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May 26

Who helped incorporate the first bank in Philadelphia?

May 26, 1781 — The Bank of North America incorporated in Philadelphia today, thanks to the help of a wealthy delegate to the Continental Congress named Robert Morris. The Philadelphian was not a military strategist, but he recognized that the Continental Army...

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May 28

What was the first steamboat to travel the Great Lakes?

May 28, 1818 — The steamer Walk-in-the Water is believed to be the first steamer to sail the Great Lakes, though two previous steamers — one Canadian and one American — plied Lake Ontario in 1616. Walk-in-the-Water weighed 328 tons and was launched...

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May 29

Who is the author of the Virginia Plan?

May 29, 1787 — Drafted by James Madison, the Virginia Plan was presented it to the delegates of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia by Virginia Governor Edmund Randolph. The 15 resolutions outlined a new form of government with three brances of government...

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May 30

Which two treaties ended the Napoleonic Wars?

May 30, 1814 — There were two versions of the Treaty of Paris, and both were necessary to end the Napoleonic Wars. The first was signed today between France and the Allies — which included Austria, Great Britain, Prussia, Russia, Sweden, and Portugal....

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May 31

What was the penalty in Pennsylvania for putting on a play?

May 31, 1759 — Based on religious and moral grounds, many Colonists in early America were bitterly opposed to acting, and to the concept of the theater in general. But some states took it further when their legislatures passed laws outlawing theater performances: + In 1750...

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May 31

Which president signed the first US copyright into law?

May 31, 1790 — President George Washington signed the first federal copyright legislation in the United States into law on this date. The purpose of the Copyright Act was the “encouragement of learning,” which it did by protecting books, maps, and...

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May 31

When did the game of modern baseball begin?

May 31, 1859 — What is now considered the national pastime began as a bat-and-ball game commonly known as “town ball” in several states, but played with many local variations. The Athletic Base Ball Club was founded in Philadelphia on...

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