Today in History

April 17, 1982: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Queen of Canada, signs the Royal Proclamation in front of Parliament, patriating the Constitution of Canada and ending the remnants of British legislative authority over Canada.

April 18, 1923: The original Yankee Stadium, “The House that Ruth Built”, opens. It is the home ballpark of the New York Yankees from 1923 to 1973, and then from 1976 to 2008. The stadium is to host 6,581 Yankees regular season home games during its 85-year history. It is also known as “The Big Ballpark in The Bronx”, “The Stadium”, and "The Cathedral of Baseball”. The stadium was demolished in 2010, two years after it closed, and the 8-acre site was converted into a park called Heritage Field.

April 19, 1927: Mae West is sentenced to 10 days in prison and given a $500 fine, charged with “obscenity and corrupting the morals of youth” for writing, directing, and performing in the play “Sex.” While in prison at Welfare Island, West dines with the warden and his wife, and is released early due to good behavior, something she remarks to reporters afterwards as “…the first time I ever got anything for good behavior.”

April 20, 1979: President Jimmy Carter is attacked by a swamp rabbit which swam up to his fishing boat in Plains, Georgia. The rabbit that was being chased by hounds jumps into the water near Carter and swims aggressively towards his boat. The President shooes it off with a paddle and the rabbit swims away. Columnist Dave Barry will refer to it as the single most memorable event of Carter’s presidency.

April 21, 1992: The first discoveries of extrasolar planets are announced by astronomers Aleksander Wolszczan and Dale Frail. They discovered two planets orbiting the pulsar PSR 1257+12. In 2003 Maciej Konacki and Wolszczan determined the orbital inclinations of the two pulsar planets, showing that the masses were approximately 3.9 and 4.3 Earth masses respectively.

April 21, 1977: “Annie”, the musical version of the newspaper comic strip opens on Broadway and goes on to win seven Tony Awards and spawn two different feature films. Andrea McArdle stars in the title role, although there will be four other young girls (including Sarah Jessica Parker and Allison Smith) who will also play the red-haired moppet during the show’s run, which spanned six-years and 2,377 performances.


April 22, 1945: Prisoners at the Jasenovac concentration camp revolt. 516 are killed and 84 escape. Before abandoning the camp shortly after the prisoner revolt, the Ustaše killed the remaining prisoners and torched the buildings, guardhouses, torture rooms, the “Picilli Furnace”, and all the other structures in the camp. Upon entering the camp in May, the Partisans came across only ruins, soot, smoke, and the skeletal remains of hundreds of victims.

April 22nd, 1977 The Sun did, in fact, come out…

April 22, 1970: The first ever “Earth Day” is celebrated in America.

US Senator Gaylord Nelson (D - WI) proposed the idea to hold a nationwide environmental teach-in on April 22, 1970. He hired a young activist, Denis Hayes, to be the National Coordinator. Nelson and Hayes renamed the event “Earth Day”. Denis and his staff grew the event beyond the original idea for a teach-in to include the entire United States. More than 20 million people poured out on the streets, and the first Earth Day remains the largest single-day protest in human history.


April 23, 1985: Coca-Cola changes its formula and releases New Coke. The response is overwhelmingly negative, even hostile, and the original formula will be back on the market in less than three months, rebranded as “Coca-Cola Classic”. This leads to speculation by some that the introduction of the New Coke formula was just a marketing ploy to stimulate sales of original Coke. Pepsi-Cola takes advantage of the situation, running ads in which a first-time Pepsi drinker exclaims, “Now I know why Coke did it!”

April 24, 1967: Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov dies in Soyuz 1 when its parachute fails to open. After many, many mechanical problems (Komarov insists before the flight that his funeral be open-casket so that the Soviet leadership could see what they had done.), he successfully re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere on his 19th orbit, but the module’s drogue and main braking parachute fails to deploy correctly. The module crashes into the ground, killing Komarov. He screams until he hits the Earth. He is the first human to die during a space mission.

April 25, 1901: New York becomes the first U.S. state to require automobile license plates. At first, only the owner’s initials must be clearly visible on the back of the vehicle. Then, in 1903, plates with black numerals on a white background will be required. At first, plates are not issued by the state, and motorists are obliged to make their own.

The earliest plates are made of porcelain baked onto iron or ceramic with no backing, which make them fragile and impractical. Few of these early plates survive. Later experimental materials will include cardboard, leather, plastic, and, during wartime shortages, copper and pressed soybeans.

April 25, 1990: The Hubble Space Telescope was deployed in orbit from the space shuttle Discovery.

April 26, 1986: A nuclear reactor accident occurs at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Soviet Union (now Ukraine), creating the world’s worst nuclear disaster. Practically all of the radioactive material goes on to fallout/precipitate onto much of the surface of the western USSR and Europe. Models predict that by 2065 about 16,000 cases of thyroid cancer and 25,000 cases of other cancers may be expected due to radiation from the accident.

April 27, 1667: John Milton, blind and impoverished, sells the publication rights for Paradise Lost to publisher Samuel Simmons for £5 (equivalent to approximately £770 in 2015 purchasing power), with a further £5 to be paid if and when each print run of 1,300-1,500 copies sells out.

April 28, 1967: Muhammad Ali refuses his induction into the United States Army, citing his religious beliefs and opposition to the Vietnam War. He is arrested, found guilty of draft evasion, and stripped of his boxing titles. He will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, which will overturn his conviction in 1971. But he will not have fought for nearly four years, and will lose a period of peak performance as an athlete.

His actions as a conscientious objector to the war will make him an icon for the larger counterculture generation, and he will be a high-profile figure of racial pride for African Americans during the civil rights movement.

April 29, 1945: Adolf Hitler marries his longtime partner Eva Anna Paula Braun in his Berlin bunker, as Red Army troops fight their way into the neighborhood. He is 56 and she is 33. The event is witnessed by Joseph Goebbels and Martin Bormann. Thereafter, Hitler hosts a modest wedding breakfast with his new wife. When Braun marries Hitler, her legal name changes to Eva Hitler. When she signs her marriage certificate she writes the letter B for her family name, then crosses this out and replaces it with Hitler.

After less than 40 hours of marital bliss, Hitler and Braun will both commit suicide, she by biting into a capsule of cyanide, and he by a gunshot to the head. The corpses will be carried up the stairs and through the bunker’s emergency exit to the garden behind the Reich Chancellery, where they’ll be burned. The charred remains will be found by the Soviets, who will secretly bury them in East Germany. In 1970, a Soviet KGB team will thoroughly burn and crush the remains, and dump the ashes into the Biederitz river.

The German public is unaware of Braun’s relationship with Hitler until after their deaths. It seems the German public is unaware of a lot of things.

April 30, 1789: On the balcony of Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York City, the nation’s capitol, George Washington takes the oath of office to become the first elected President of the United States. As judges of the federal courts have not yet been appointed, the presidential oath of office is administered by Chancellor Robert Livingston, the highest judicial officer in the state of New York. Washington takes the oath on the building’s second floor balcony, in view of throngs of people gathered on the streets. The Bible used in the ceremony is from St. John’s Lodge No. 1, Ancient York Masons, and is opened at random to Genesis 49:13. Afterward, Livingston shouts “Long live George Washington, President of the United States!” Historian John R. Alden will indicate that Washington added the words “so help me God” to the oath prescribed by the constitution.

May 1, 1999: SpongeBob SquarePants premieres on Nickelodeon after the 1999 Kids’ Choice Awards.

May 1, 2011: President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden during a U.S. commando operation.