The Sunday Section: This Week in History - May 10-16

May 10

1497 – Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian navigator, leaves for his first voyage to the New World.

1534 – Jacques Cartier, the French navigator, reaches Newfoundland.

Jacques Cartier

1801 – America experiences its first foreign war when Barbary pirates in Tripoli declare war on the United States.

1818 – Death of Paul Revere, aged 83 in Boston.

Paul Revere

1857 – Beginning of the Indian Mutiny with the uprising of sepoys in Meerut.

1863 – Death of General Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson, aged 39 at Guinea Station, Virginia after the Battle of Chancellorsville.  Jackson and his staff were mistaken for a Union cavalry force and were fired on by the 18th North Carolina Infantry regiment.  Jackson was hit by 3 bullets, and several of his men were killed, including many horses.  His left arm had to be amputated.  His doctors thought he was safe but he had already developed pneumonia, and died of complications.  On his death bed, he remained spiritually strong, saying, “It is the Lord’s Day; my wish is fulfilled.  I have always desired to die on Sunday.” 

His doctor, Hunter McGuire, recorded Jackson’s final hours and words: “A few moments before he died he cried out in his delirium, ‘Order A.P. Hill to prepare for action! Pass the infantry to the front rapidly! Tell Major Hawks …” then stopped, leaving the sentence unfinished.  Presently a smile of ineffable sweetness spread itself over his pale face, and he said quietly, and with an expression, as if of relief, ‘Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.’

When Robert E. Lee learned of Jackson’s death, he told his cook, “William, I have lost my right arm … I’m bleeding at the heart.

General Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson

1869 – The ceremonial ‘Golden Spike’ is driven by Leland Stanford at Promontory Point, Utah, to join the rails of the First Transcontinental Railroad, connecting the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads.  It was later thought that the lack of Chinese workers in the official portrait was due to racism, but their absence was due to the fact that many of the Chinese workers were dining in a boarding car, being honoured by the Central Pacific Railroad management.

'The Last Spike' ~ Thomas Hill

1904 – Death of Henry Morton Stanley, Welsh journalist and African explorer, aged 63 in London.

1915 – A zeppelin drops 100 bombs on Southend-on-Sea.  One person was killed, Mrs Whitwell.  The air raid coincided with the sinking of the ‘Lusitania’, and the publication of the Bryce Report into German atrocities in Belgium.  As a result, there was rioting against several German-run businesses in Southend-on-Sea.  The police had to call in the army to help restore order.

1922 – Dr Ivy Williams is the first woman to be called to the English Bar.

Dr Ivy Williams

1924 – J. Edgar Hoover is appointed head of the FBI.

1933 – Nazis stage public book burnings in Germany.

Book burning in Berlin

1940 – Winston Churchill succeeds Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister.

1977 – Death of Joan Crawford, aged 73 in New York.

Joan Crawford

1994 – Nelson Mandela is sworn in as South Africa’s first black president.

Nelson Mandela being sworn in as president


330 – Byzantium is renamed Nova Roma during a dedication ceremony, but is more popularly referred to as Constantinople.

1310 – 54 members of the Knights Templar are burned at the stake in France as heretics.

1812 – The waltz is introduced in ballrooms in England, where some observers declare it disgusting and immoral.

1812 – Prime Minister Spencer Perceval, aged 49, is assassinated by John Bellingham in the lobby of the House of Commons.  Not only was Perceval the only Solicitor General to have been made prime minister, he is also the only prime minister to have been assassinated.  Ironically, the descendants of both men were later elected to Parliament at the same time.

Spencer Perceval

John Bellingham

1813 – William Lawson, Gregory Blaxland and William Wentworth lead an expedition westwards from Sydney.  Their route opens up inland Australia.

William Lawson

William Wentworth

Gregory Blaxland

1820 – The launch of ‘HMS Beagle’, with a young Charles Darwin on board.

HMS Beagle

1871 – Death of John Herschel, aged 79 in Collingwood, Kent.  A polymath, mathematician, astronomer, chemist, inventor, and experimental photographer, he catalogued the southern hemisphere stars, named 7 moons of Saturn, and 4 moons of Uranus.  Apart from making contributions to the science of photography, he also investigated colour blindness, and the chemical power of ultraviolet rays.

John Herschel

1891 – The Otsu incident, an assassination attempt on Prince Nicholas (who would become Tsar Nicholas II) while visiting Japan.

1941 – The first Messerschmidt 109F is shot down above England.

1949 – The country of Siam renames itself Thailand.

1960 – Death of John D. Rockefeller Jr, aged 86 in Arizona.

John D Rockefeller Jr.

1981 – Death of Bob Marley, aged 36, of brain and lung cancer, in Miami.

Bob Marley

1988 – Death of Kim Philby, aged 76 in Moscow.


1215 – English barons serve an ultimatum on King John, which leads to the signing of the Magna Carta.

1789 – William Wilberforce makes his first major speech in the House of Commons on the abolition of the slave trade, arguing that it is morally reprehensible.

1792 – A patent is issued for a toilet that flushes itself at regular intervals.

1814 – Death of Robert Treat Paine, a Massachusetts lawyer and politician, aged 83 in Boston.  He signed the Declaration of Independence as the representative of Massachusetts, and served as Massachusetts’ first Attorney General.

Robert Treat Paine

1864 – Death of General James Ewell Brown ‘JEB’ Stuart, aged 31 at Richmond, Virginia, having been injured at the Battle of Yellow Tavern.  On horseback, shouting encouragement, and firing his revolver at Union troopers, he was shot by a dismounted Union private, John Huff.  The bullet struck Stuart in the left side, sliced through his stomach and exited his back, one inch to the right of his spine.  He was taken to the home of his brother-in-law, Dr Charles Brewer, to await his wife’s arrival, but he died before she got there.  His last words were, “I am resigned; God’s will be done.”  His death was another blow to Robert E. Lee, after the death of Stonewall Jackson the year before.  Like his close friend, Jackson, Stuart was considered one of the greatest cavalry commanders in American history.

General JEB Stuart

1890 – The start of the first official County Championship cricket match.

1908 – Nathan B Stubblefield patents his Wireless Telephone.

Nathan Stubblefield and his Wireless Telephone

1926 – The airship ‘Norge’ is the first vessel to fly over the North Pole, and the first aircraft to fly over the polar ice cap between Europe and America.  The expedition was the idea of expedition leader, Roald Amundsen.

The 'Norge'

1937 – The coronation of George VI at Westminster Abbey.

Coronation of George VI

1941 – In Berlin, Konrad Zuse presents the Z3, the world’s first working programmable, fully automatic computer.

Konrad Zuse and the reconstructed Z3

1942 – The Nazi U-boat, U-507, sinks the ‘SS Virginia’ in the mouth of the Mississippi, killing 26 sailors.  On this, her second voyage, she was easily able to pick her targets, starting with the unescorted shipping between Cuba and Florida before making her way up the coastline along Western Florida and Alabama.  By the time she swung south into the Caribbean, she had sunk 9 ships.

SS Virginia

1949 – Appointment of the first woman accredited as ambassador to America, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit.  She was the sister of Jawaharlal Nehru, the aunt of Indira Gandhi, and the grandaunt of Rajiv Gandhi, all of whom served as India’s Prime Minister.

Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit


1568 – At the Battle of Langside, the 6,000 Catholic troops of Mary Queen of Scots are defeated by a confederacy of Scottish Protestants under James Steward, the regent of her son, King James VI of Scotland.  The battle was fought in the southern suburbs of Glasgow.  A cavalry charge routed Mary’s forces, and they fled.  Three days later, Mary escaped to England where she sought protection from her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I.

Mary Queen of Scots

1573 – Death of Japanese warlord, Takeda Shingen, known as the ‘Tiger of Kai’.

Takeda Shingen

1643 – At the Battle of Grantham, Oliver Cromwell, in his first independent action as a Parliamentarian cavalry commander, leads a charge that drives the Royalists from the field.

1930 – A farmer in Lubbock, Texas, is killed by hail.

1930 – Death of the Norwegian explorer, Fridtjof Nansen, aged 68 in Norway.  He was also a scientist, diplomat, humanitarian, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate.  A champion skier and skater in his youth, he led the team that made the first crossing of the Greenland interior in 1888.  In 1921, he was appointed as the League of Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on behalf of the displaced victims of the First World War.  Among his initiatives was the ‘Nansen passport’ for stateless persons, a certificate that is now recognised by more than 50 countries.

Fridtjof Nansen

1961 – Death of Gary Cooper, aged 60 in Los Angeles.

Gary Cooper

1969 – Following the general elections, sectarian violence breaks out in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, mainly between the Malays and Chinese.  The Chinese have been increasingly dissatisfied with the higher status that had been granted to the Malays following independence in 1957, and the election results have shown growing support for the new Chinese political parties.  Violence erupted at the victory parade and celebrations held by the Chinese and Malays.  A state of emergency was declared, and Parliament was suspended.  Officially, the number of deaths was played down, but Western diplomatic sources put the toll at close to 600, with the majority of the victims Chinese.

Kuala Lumpur riots

1981 – Pope John Paul II has been shot, and is critically wounded.  He was shot 4 times as he blessed the crowds in St Peter’s Square.  2 bullets struck him in the stomach, one in his right arm, and the fourth hit his little finger.  Police have arrested the assailant, a 23-year-old man, Mehmet Ali Agca.

Pope John Paul II after shooting (Daily Mail)

Mehmet Ali Agca


1264 – At the Battle of Lewes in the Second Barons’ War, Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, defeats Henry II.

1607 – Colonists, including Captain John Smith, sent by the Virginia Company of London, choose Jamestown Island for their settlement in accordance with their instructions to select a location that could be easily defended from attacks by other European states.  Jamestown served as the capital of Virginia until 1699.

John Smith

1643 – Louis XIV becomes King of France at the age of 4.  Of the House of Bourbon, he was known as Louis the Great, and also the Sun King; his reign of 72 years and 110 days is the longest of any monarch of a major country in European history.

Louis XIV

1796 – Edward Jenner has administered the first inoculation against smallpox, using pus from a sore of a cowpox-infected milkmaid, Sarah Nelmes.  He has applied it to a few small scratches on the arm of an 8-year-old boy, James Phipps, who has not contracted smallpox or cowpox.

Edward Jenner

Edward Jenner performing first inoculation on James Phipps ~ Ernest Board

1842 – The world’s first illustrated weekly newspaper, the ‘Illustrated London News’, begins publication.

Illustrated London News, first issue

1919 – Death of Henry John Heinz, the founder of the HJ Heinz Company, aged 74 in Pennsylvania.

Henry John Heinz

1939 – Lina Medina from Lima, Peru has become the youngest confirmed mother in medical history, giving birth at the age of 5 years and 7 months.  Her parents had taken her to hospital, worried about her increasing abdominal size.  At first doctors suspected she had a tumour, but tests showed she was 7 months pregnant.  Medina has a condition known as ‘precocious puberty’, when puberty occurs at an unusually early age.

Her son grew up healthy, believing Medina to be his sister, but found out the truth when he was 10.  He died in 1979, aged 40.

It has been claimed that the whole thing is a hoax, but a number of doctors, over the years, have verified it based on biopsies, X-rays of the foetal skeleton in-utero, and photographs taken by the doctors whose care she’d been under.  Medina herself has never divulged the identity of the father, or how she got pregnant, and has consistently refused to give interviews.  She is married with a second son.

1955 – The Warsaw Pack is signed by the Soviet Union, East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Romania.

1973 – The launch of ‘Skylab’, the space station operated by NASA, and America’s first space station.

1987 – Death of Rita Hayworth, aged 68 in New York; she’d been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Rita Hayworth

1998 – Death of Frank Sinatra, aged 82 in Los Angeles.

Frank Sinatra


1252 – Pope Innocent IV issues the papal bull, ‘Ad extirpanda’, which authorises, but also limits, the torture of heretics in the Inquistion.

1672 – The first copyright law is enacted by Massachusetts, passed by the General Court in Boston.  The penalty for violating the law is triple the cost of the paper and the printing.

1718 – James Puckle, a London lawyer, inventor and writer, patents the world’s first machine gun, which resembles a large revolver.

James Puckle

Puckle's gun

1730 – Robert Walpole becomes Britain’s first prime minister.  He was First Lord of the Treasury, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons.  He effectively shared power with his brother-in-law, Lord Townshend, who was Secretary of State.  By this time, the political power of the monarchy was diminishing while that of the ministers was on the rise.  Walpole and Townshend clashed over foreign policy, and when the latter resigned on this day, it marked the start of Walpole’s unofficial tenure as prime minister.

1858 – The Royal Italian Opera opens in Covent Garden, the third and present theatre on the site.

Royal Italian Opera House 1861

1886 – Death of Emily Dickinson, aged 55.

Emily Dickinson

1902 – Lyman Gilmore is supposedly the first person to fly a powered craft.  The steam-powered airplane that he built and claimed to have flown required a heavy boiler, and depended on coal as a power source, making flights unsustainable.  Records and evidence relating to his claim were lost in a fire in 1935.

Lyman Gilmore

1905 – Las Vegas is founded by ranchers and railroad workers.

1930 – Ellen Church becomes the first airline stewardess, flying for Boeing Air Transport (BAT).  She was a registered nurse and pilot.  BAT would not hire her as a pilot, but took on her suggestion to have nurses on board to calm the public’s fear of flying.  They then hired her as head stewardess, and she recruited 7 others.  BAT’s ‘sky girls’, as they were called, had to be registered nurses.

Ellen Church

1945 – The Battle of Poljana, the final skirmish in Europe, is fought near Prevalje, Slovenia, between soldiers of the Yugoslav army and retreating Germans.

1971 – Elizabeth Hoisington, director of the Women’s Army Corps, and Anna Mae Mays, Chief of the Army Nurse Corps, are named by President Nixon as the first women to be selected for promotion to brigadier general.

(L ro R) Anna Mae Mays, Mrs D Eisenhower, Elizabeth Hoisington

1972 – The island of Okinawa, under US military governance since its conquest in 1945, reverts back to Japanese control.


1703 – Death of Charles Perrault, aged 75 in Paris.

Charles Perrault

1911 – Remains of a Neanderthal man have been found on the Channel Islands, in Jersey.

1920 – Joan of Arc has been canonised a saint.

1943 – ‘Operation Chastise’, an attack on German dams, which later became known as the ‘Dam Busters’ raid, is carried out over 2 days by RAF No. 617 Squadron, using a specially developed ‘bouncing bomb’ invented and developed by Sir Barnes Willis.  The targets are Móhne and Edersee Dams, both considered to be of important strategic importance.  In the attack, both dams were breached, causing disastrous flooding of the Ruhr valley, and of villages in the Eder valley.  Hydroelectric power stations were either destroyed or damaged, as were factories and mines.  An estimated 1,600 people drowned.  But the damage was mitigated by rapid repairs by the Germans, and production was back to normal by September.


1957 – Death of Eliot Ness, aged 54 in Pennsylvania.  A federal agent, he was famous for his efforts to enforce Prohibition in Chicago, and was the leader of a legendary team of agents, nicknamed ‘The Untouchables’.

Eliot Ness

1974 – Helmut Schmidt becomes West German Chancellor.

Helmut Schmidt

1988 – C Everett Koop, the US Surgeon General, reports that nicotine is as addictive as heroin or cocaine.

C Everett Koop

1988 – In ‘California v. Greenwood’, the US Supreme Court decides that the 4th Amendment does not prohibit the warrantless search and seizure of garbage left for collection outside the environs of a home.

1990 – Death of Jim Henson, aged 53 in New York.

Jim Henson

1990 – Death of Sammy Davis Jr., aged 64 in Beverley Hills.

Sammy Davis Jr.

1991 – Queen Elizabeth II becomes the first British monarch to address the US Congress.

Queen Elizabeth II addressing joint session of Congress