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• On July 30, 1619, in Jamestown, Virginia, the first elected legislative assembly in the New World — the House of Burgesses — convenes in the choir of the town’s church. Its first laws included prohibitions against gambling, drunkenness and idleness. Sabbath observance was made mandatory.
• On Aug. 2, 1776, members of Congress affix their signatures to an enlarged copy of the Declaration of Independence. Fifty-six congressional delegates in total signed the document. John Dickinson of Pennsylvania and James Duane, Robert Livingston and John Jay of New York refused to sign.
• On Aug. 22, 1776, the British arrive at Long Island, between Gravesend and New Utrecht, with 24,000 men. They captured New York City on Sept. 15. It would remain in British hands until the end of the war.
• On Aug. 20, 1804, Sgt. Charles Floyd, quartermaster of the Lewis and Clark expedition, dies near present-day Sioux City, Iowa, becoming the first U.S. soldier to die west of the Mississippi. Floyd likely died from acute appendicitis.
• On Aug. 16, 1841, President John Tyler vetoes a second attempt by Congress to re-establish the Bank of the United States. In response, angry supporters of the bank, many from his own party, the Whigs, burned an effigy of Tyler outside the White House.
• On Aug. 9, 1854, Henry David Thoreau’s classic “Walden; or, A Life in the Woods” is published. The book is Walden’s account of his experimental time of simple living in a cabin at Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts, starting in 1845. The book sold just 300 copies a year when it was published.
• On Aug. 3, 1861, the last entry of Charles Dickens’ serialized novel “Great Expectations” is published in his literary circular, “All the Year Round.” The novel tells the story of young Pip, a poor orphan who believes he will inherit a fortune.
• On Aug. 13, 1878, Kate Bionda, a restaurant owner, dies of yellow fever in Memphis, Tennessee, after a man who had escaped a quarantined steamboat visited her restaurant. The disease spread rapidly, and the resulting epidemic emptied the city. An average of 200 people died each day through September.
• On Aug. 6, 1890, at Auburn Prison in New York, the first execution by electrocution in history is carried out against murderer William Kemmler. When the current failed after 17 seconds, a second charge was required for two minutes before Kemmler was declared deceased.
• On Aug. 5, 1914, the world’s first electric traffic signal is installed, in Cleveland, Ohio. It consisted of four pairs of red and green lights on corner posts. A gas traffic light, in 1860 in the U.K., exploded after being used for a month.
• On Aug. 15, 1914, the Panama Canal, the American-built waterway across the Isthmus of Panama, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, is inaugurated. U.S. engineers moved nearly 240 million cubic yards of earth and spent more than $10 billion in today’s dollars in constructing the 40-mile-long canal.
• On Aug. 18, 1920, a dramatic battle in the Tennessee House of Representatives ends with ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving women the right to vote. The decisive vote was cast by a 24-year-old representative, who changed his vote after receiving a note from his mother.
• On Aug. 11, 1921, author Alex Haley is born in Ithaca, New York. His novel “Roots” (1976) was a fictionalized account of his family’s history, traced through seven generations. It won a special Pulitzer Prize.
• On Aug. 14, 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt signs into law the Social Security Act, which guaranteed an income for the unemployed and retirees. The Social Security system has remained relatively unchanged since 1935.
• On Aug. 4, 1936, American Jesse Owens wins gold in the long jump at the Summer Olympics in Germany. It was the second of four gold medals Owens won in Berlin. Owens would win his third gold medal in the 200 meters the next day.
• On July 31, 1937, Charles Martine, an Apache scout who played an important role in the surrender of Geronimo, dies on the Mescalero Reservation in New Mexico.
• On Aug. 8, 1942, six German saboteurs who secretly entered the United States on a mission to attack its infrastructure are executed for spying. On June 12, the German team had buried explosives on Long Island to use later. On July 18, a second team had successfully landed in Florida.
• On July 26, 1948, President Harry Truman signs Executive Order 9981, banning discrimination in the military. It ended a long-standing practice of segregating Black soldiers and relegating them to more menial jobs. African Americans had been serving in the U.S. military since the Revolutionary War.
• On Aug. 19, 1953, the Iranian military, with U.S assistance, overthrows the government of Premier Mohammed Mosaddeq and reinstates the Shah of Iran. As thanks, the Shah signed over 40% of Iran’s oil fields to U.S. companies. The Shah was toppled from power in 1979.
• On Aug. 12, 1964, Charlie Wilson, part of the gang who pulled off the 1963 Great Train Robbery, one of the biggest heists of its kind, escapes from the maximum-security Winson Green Prison in Birmingham, England. Wilson remained on the loose until 1968.
• On July 29, 1967, a fire on the USS Forrestal stationed off the coast of Vietnam kills 134 service members. The deadly fire on the Navy carrier began with the accidental launch of an F-4 Phantom-jet rocket, which hit a parked A-4 Skyhawk jet.
• On Aug. 17, 1969, the Woodstock Music & Art Fair ends after three days of peace, love and rock ‘n’ roll in rural New York. Promoters expected no more than 200,000 people, but almost half a million showed up, with most getting in free when the gates had to be opened.
• On July 28, 1978, “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” a movie spoof about 1960s college fraternities, starring John Belushi, opens in U.S. theaters. “Animal House” became a huge box-office hit, spawned a slew of cinematic imitations and became part of pop-culture history.
• On Aug. 1, 1981, “MTV: Music Television” goes on the air for the first time, with the words “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll.” The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” was the first music video on the new cable TV channel.
• On Aug. 10, 1981, Pete Rose of the Philadelphia Phillies gets the 3,631st hit of his baseball career, breaking Stan Musial’s record, in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Musial had spent his entire career with the Cardinals, and he was on hand to congratulate Rose.
• On Aug. 7, 1987, Lynne Cox braves the freezing waters of the Bering Strait to make the first recorded swim from the U.S. to the Soviet Union. Her swim took 2 hours and 16 minutes.
• On July 27, 1996, in Atlanta, the XXVI Summer Olympiad is disrupted by the explosion of a nail-laden pipe bomb in Centennial Olympic Park. Police were warned of the bombing in advance, it exploded before the anonymous caller said it would. Attention eventually turned to Eric Robert Rudolph, who was captured in 2003 after hiding in the mountains for five years.
• On Aug. 21, 2004, American swimmer Michael Phelps wins his eighth medal of the Athens Olympics, six gold and two bronze, tying him with Soviet gymnast Aleksandr Dityatin for the most individual medals won at a single Olympic Games.
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