After aborting a poorly planned and ill-timed attack on the British-controlled city of Montreal, Continental Army Colonel Ethan Allen was captured by the British. After being identified as an officer of the Continental Amy, Allen was taken prisoner and sent to England to be executed. Although Allen ultimately escaped execution because the British government feared reprisals from the American colonies, he was imprisoned in England for more than two years until being returned to the United States as part of a prisoner exchange.
The Kansas City Athletics started ageless wonder Satchel Paige in a game against the Boston Red Sox. At 59 years, 2 months and 18 days, Paige, a Negro League legend, became the oldest pitcher ever to play a game in the major leagues and proved his greatness once again by giving up only one hit in his three innings of play. Arguably the greatest pitcher of his era, Paige was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971.
Nominated by President Ronald Reagan, Sandra Day O'Connor was sworn in as the first female US Supreme Court Justice and served until 2006. Her appointment to the Supreme Court ended 191 years of the court being an exclusively male institution. In recognition of her lifetime accomplishments, President Barack Obama awarded Justice O’Connor with the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, on August 12, 2009.
West Side Story, composed by Leonard Bernstein, opened at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway. West Side Story transposed Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet to the gang-ridden streets of 1950s Manhattan, dominated by the Sharks and the Jets. Tony, a Polish American, and Maria, a Puerto Rican, meet and fall in love at a fateful gym dance. For the groundbreaking musical, Bernstein provided a propulsive and rhapsodic score that many celebrate at his greatest achievement as a composer. In 1961, a film version starring Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno and Richard Beymer was an enormous hit and took home 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The stage version of West Side Story was soon revived and the musical is still performed today.
American television audiences hear the soon-to-be-famous opening lyrics “Here’s the story of a lovely lady. Who was bringing up three very lovely girls…” as The Brady Bunch, a sitcom that will become an icon of American pop culture, airs for the first time. While panned by critics for its entire run, the program stands as one of the most important sitcoms of American 1970s television programming, spawning numerous other series on all three major networks, as well as records, lunch boxes, a cookbook, and even a stage show and feature film.
U.S. astronaut Shannon Lucid returned to Earth in the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis following six months in orbit aboard the Russian space station Mir. Lucid transferred to Mir from the same space shuttle for planned five-month stay. A biochemist, Lurid shared Mir with Russian cosmonauts Yuri Onufriyenko and Yuri Usachev and conducted scientific experiments during her stay. She was the first American woman to live in a space station.
Rachel Carson’s watershed work Silent Spring is published. Originally serialized in The New Yorker magazine, the book shed light on the damage that man-made pesticides inflict on the environment. Its publication is often viewed as the beginning of the modern environmentalist movement in America. Carson met with staunch criticism, largely from the chemical industry and associated scientists. She was called “a fanatic defender of the cult of the balance of nature” among other things, but the firestorm around her drew attention to a problem Americans were finally ready to acknowledge. Though she died only two years after the book’s publication, her successors fought for the creation Environmental Protection Agency, formed in 1970, and her arguments were instrumental in securing a nationwide phase-out of DDT, which began in 1972.
While on trial, Hollywood socialite Zsa Zsa Gabor stormed out of the courtroom in the middle of the district attorney’s closing argument. Gabor was accused of slapping an officer after being pulled over for expired tags on her Rolls Royce. Gabor drove off as the officer was checking for other violations and slapped him when she was pulled over again. The prosecutor told the jury that Gabor “craves media attention . . . and abused two weeks of this process for her own self-aggrandizement.” Although her attorney objected when the prosecutor said, “the defendant doesn’t know the meaning of truth,” Gabor was already running out in tears. Later that day, Gabor was convicted and sentenced to 72 hours in jail, 120 hours of community service, and $13,000 in fines and restitution. Gabor died in 2016 after nine marriages.
Greg Maddux won his final start of his career playing for the LA Dodgers. Mostly known for his time with the Atlanta Braves, Maddux owns multiple records and achievements including the first pitcher in major league history to win the Cy Young Award four consecutive years (1992–1995), the only pitcher in MLB history to win at least 15 games for 17 straight seasons and the player with the most Gold Gloves with 18. He was inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame in 2014.
General George Washington, commanding a force of 17,000 French and Continental troops, begins the siege known as the the Battle of Yorktown against British General Lord Charles Cornwallis and a contingent of 9,000 British troops at Yorktown, Virginia, the most important battle of the Revolutionary War. Although the war persisted on the high seas and in other theaters, including with Native American and British forces in the west, the Patriot victory at Yorktown ended fighting in the American colonies. Peace negotiations began in 1782, and on September 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed, formally recognizing the United States as a free and independent nation after eight years of war.
A Chicago grand jury indicted eight members of the Chicago White Sox on charges of fixing the 1919 World Series. White Sox owner Charles Comiskey immediately suspended Chick Gandil, Buck Weaver, Happy Felsch, Swede Risberg, Fred McMullin, Eddie Cicotte, Lefty Williams and "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, who are notorious for their involvement in the "Black Sox Scandal." All were later acquitted, but there would be no long-term celebration for any of them. A day after their acquittal, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the Major League Baseball commissioner, suspended all eight from organized baseball for life. Evidence pointer to their guilt, but many have debated the involvement of Jackson, one of the greatest players in MLB history.
Roy Lichtenstein's diptych pop art work Whaam!, depicting in comic-book style a US jet shooting down an enemy fighter, was exhibited for the first time at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York City. It is one of the best-known works of pop art, and among Lichtenstein's most important paintings. Whaam! is based on an image Lichtenstein found in a 1962 DC comic, All American Men of War. Considering Whaam! was created in 1963, just as the Vietnam War was gathering steam, and taking into account Lichtenstein’s own service in the US Army in 1943–6, this deconstruction of military heroism could be read as a statement on the folly of war.
"I Heard it Through the Grapevine" was released by Gladys Knight & the Pips. It went on to be a hit for the group, reaching number one on the Billboard R&B Singles chart and number two on the Billboard Pop Singles chart. The song eventually became an acclaimed soul classic for Marvin Gaye and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in both 1998 and 2008.
Stacy Allison, of Portland, Oregon, becomes the first American woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, which at 29,035 feet above sea level is the highest point on earth. The summit of Everest reaches two-thirds of the way through the air of the earth’s atmosphere–at about the cruising altitude of jet airliners–and oxygen levels there are very low, temperatures are extremely cold, and weather is unpredictable and dangerous. Allison, a member of the Northwest American Everest Expedition, climbed the Himalayan peak using the southeast ridge route. About two dozen climbers died in attempts to reach the top of Everest in the20th century.
Voting rights advocate Willie Velasquez was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Velasquez and the organizations he founded are credited with dramatically increasing political awareness and participation among the Hispanic communities of the Southwestern United States. Though he would not live to see the full effects of his work, he died suddenly of cancer at the age of 44, Velazquez certainly achieved his goal of activating the Hispanic electorate. Hispanic voter turnout has risen sharply in recent decades, increasing tenfold from 1.3 million in the 1994 general election to 13.5 million in 2016. In his White House speech honoring Velasquez, then-President Bill Clinton called Willie "a name synonymous with democracy in America."
The USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear submarine, was commissioned by the U.S. Navy. She was constructed under the direction of U.S. Navy Captain Hyman G. Rickover, a brilliant Russian-born engineer who joined the U.S. atomic program in 1946. Regarded as a fanatic by his detractors, Rickover succeeded in developing and delivering the world’s first nuclear submarine years ahead of schedule. In its early years of service, the USS Nautilus broke numerous submarine travel records and in August 1958 accomplished the first voyage under the geographic North Pole. After a career spanning 25 years and almost 500,000 miles steamed, the Nautilus was decommissioned on March 3, 1980. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1982, the submarine is on exhibit at the Submarine Force Museum in Groton, Connecticut.
24-year-old actor James Dean was killed in Cholame, California, when the Porsche he was driving hit a Ford Tudor sedan at an intersection. Only one of Dean’s movies, “East of Eden,” had been released at the time of his death (“Rebel Without a Cause” and “Giant” opened shortly afterward), but he was already on his way to superstardom–and the crash made him a legend. James Dean loved racing cars, and in fact he and his brand-new Porsche Spyder convertible were on their way to a race in Salinas. Rumor has it that Dean’s car was cursed. The car’s engine, transmission and tires were all transplanted into cars that were subsequently involved in deadly crashes, and a truck carrying the Spyder’s chassis to a highway-safety exhibition skidded off the road, killing its driver.
In Oxford, Mississippi, James H. Meredith, an African American student, was escorted onto the University of Mississippi campus by U.S. Marshals, setting off a deadly riot. Two men were killed before the racial violence was quelled by more than 3,000 federal soldiers. A former serviceman in the U.S. Air Force, Meredith applied and was accepted to the University of Mississippi in 1962, but his admission was revoked when the registrar learned of his race. A federal court ordered “Ole Miss” to admit him, but when he tried to register on September 20, 1962, he found the entrance to the office blocked by Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett. Following the riot, Meredith successfully enrolled and began to attend classes amid continuing disruption. Meredith graduated with a degree in political science in 1963.
An act of Congress created Yosemite National Park. Environmental trailblazer John Muir (1838-1914) and his colleagues campaigned for the congressional action, which was signed into law by President Benjamin Harrison and paved the way for generations of nature lovers, along with countless “Don’t Feed the Bears” signs. Yosemite’s natural beauty was immortalized in the black-and-white landscape photographs of Ansel Adams, who at one point lived in the park and spent years photographing it. Today, over 3 million people visit Yosemite annually and check out such stunning landmarks as the 2,425-foot-high Yosemite Falls, one of the world’s tallest waterfalls; rock formations Half Dome and El Capitan, the largest granite monolith in the U.S.; and the three groves of giant sequoias, the world’s biggest trees.
New York Yankee Roger Maris became the first-ever major-league baseball player to hit more than 60 home runs in a single season. The great Babe Ruth set the record in 1927; Maris and his teammate Mickey Mantle spent 1961 trying to break it. After hitting 54 homers, Mantle injured his hip in September, leaving Maris to chase the record by himself. Finally, in the last game of the regular season, Maris hit his 61st home run against the Boston Red Sox. In 1998, Mark McGwire (70) of the St. Louis Cardinals and Sammy Sosa (66) of the Chicago Cubs topped Maris’ 61. Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants topped McGwire's season mark with 73 home run in 2001. Each was dogged by allegations of performance-enhancing drug use.
Johnny Carson took over from Jack Paar as host of the late-night talk program The Tonight Show. Carson went on to host The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson for three decades, becoming one of the biggest figures in entertainment in the 20th century. After three decades with the hugely successful Tonight Show, Carson decided to retire. He hosted his final show on May 22, 1992. Comedian Jay Leno took over hosting duties the following day. Carson, who was married four times, stayed largely out of the public spotlight after retiring. On January 23, 2005, the late-night TV legend died at the age of 79 of complications from emphysema.